Radicle Sounds is a seasonally-curated playlist and series created in partnership with Black DJs. This fall, we are doing it a little different. The Earth in Color team has created a collaborative soundscape inspired by the writing of bell hooks and our “Touching Earth” collection, which highlights the many ways Black folks have been (and continue to be) in community with the Earth. The team read the chapter “Touching the Earth” in hooks’ book Belonging: A Culture of Place (which, as you might have gathered, inspired the title of the collection), and we picked a handful of songs that spoke to us and touched on the ideas we explore this season.
DAREL SCOTT, Founder and CEO
I read “Touching the Earth” for the first time almost six years ago, and it has inspired so much that I’ve done since—from starting Earth in Color to leaning into a daily practice of connecting to the natural world in some way. I love that bell hooks reminds us that an Earth-connected life allows us to be more full, that Black people are inherently people of the land, and that moving through this world with a heart for nature ultimately contributes to our healing and self-recovery. That’s so beautiful to me. For my playlist picks, I was thinking about a specific scene: you just got a new planter, some starter herbs, and potting soil from your local garden depot. You’ve got your gloves on and are ready to build your herb garden. This is the music you put on—something to play out loud, something you sing along to, something with a little bounce.
“So What” featuring Ciara by Field Mob; “Wetin Dey” by Odunsi; “Wavy (Interlude)” featuring James Fauntleroy by SZA; “POETRY JAM” featuring Foggieraw by Ciscero; and “Persuasive (with SZA)” by Doechii
JUSTICE NAMASTE, Digital Content and Community Lead
I’ve been a musician since I was old enough to hold a tune (one of my early favorites was actually Lena Horne’s rendition of “Stormy Weather,” and although my relationship with the land is newer, there is something so familiar about the ways that being present in nature, like creating art, roots one within their own body. While reading bell hooks’ “Touching the Earth,” I was drawn to the idea that proximity to nature allows Black folks to cultivate what hooks calls “a spirit of wonder and reverence for life”—and on the flip side, the ways that being distanced from the Earth fundamentally alters our relationships to our bodies and affects our ability to experience the sensual world around us. So when choosing these songs, I was inspired by the ways that Black people are able to embody the natural world through our music, both in a literal sense and also through the ways we play with movement and silence/joy and sorrow/light and dark. As Mereba sings, “there are buds on [our] fingertips growing beautiful things.”
“Aye” by Mereba; “Ocean Floor” by Junglepussy; “World on Wheels” by Duckwrth, Kyle Dion; “Stormy Weather” by Gladys Knight; “Marigolds” by Emily King
NIA MCALLISTER, Editorial Lead
Reading “Touching the Earth” felt like a special kind of homecoming. I have always believed that we have so much to learn from the natural world around us, and that our histories can be traced through the spaces we call home. Recalling memory and migration, bell hooks affirms that “when we love the earth, we are able to love ourselves more fully.” With that information, we are tasked with honoring and understanding our ancestral relationships with the land as an essential part of our collective healing as Black people. And what an expansive opportunity that is. So when picking these songs I was thinking about the ways music both grounds us and transports us. I gathered together the sounds that take me to a place where the sun dances upon my face, a breeze blows across my skin, and the smell of soil fills my lungs. In this place I can never be alone, because here I am “touching the earth.”
“Love Supreme” by Eryn Allen Kane, aja monet; “Carry Me Home” by Kokoroko; “Let Me Be Great” by Sampa the Great, Angelique Kidjo; “UMI Says” by Mos Def; “Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti
TALIA MOORE, Design and Production Lead
bell hooks’ chapter, “Touching the Earth” begins with an excerpt from Lorraine Hansberry on living. The gift of life is one often overwhelming for me and rereading hooks’ musings was a needed reminder that nature exists everywhere. We are nature. Even when surrounded by concrete, life finds a way to shine through water and soil. The songs I selected speak both to the politicization of life on Earth and a sonic journey that elevates the sensations of breathing clean air, feeling the wind touch your skin, and smelling foods prepared from the garden outside your kitchen window.
“Prayer Song” by Noname, Adam Ness; “In Bloom” by Moses Sumney; “Wake Up Everybody” (feat. Teddy Pendergrass) by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass; “Due West” by Kelsey Lu; “Mother Nature’s Son” by Ramsey Lewis
CAMERON OGLESBY, Associate Editor
A read of “Touching the Earth” transports me to sunset on my family’s farm. This past summer, after a long commute back from the heavy glass skyscrapers of my office job, I often found myself sitting in my blue folding chair with my uncle’s lab, River Molly, panting at my feet, my bare toes set against the straw grass, and my body facing the deep vibrancy of the agrarian sunset. That was my peace. “Living close to nature, black folks were able to cultivate a spirit of wonder and reverence for life. . .they were witnesses to beauty.” And we still are.
It is a real feeling to live autonomously and freely on your ancestral land. Living off of well water, growing your own food, working the land until your feet are sore or you’re covered in mosquito bites.The joy! I’ve felt pieces of that joy; I’m looking forward to returning to that joy. That is the joy I saw described by bell hooks in this chapter.
I chose these songs because I listened to them while on my family farm this past summer. These songs joined me as I danced in the twilight with fireflies, walked freely barefoot in the tick-infested grasses, ran with River Molly through torrential rains, and strolled alongside my nana to collect our vegetables.
“Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Ray; “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Sway Lee; “Song of the Heart” by Prince