November 23, 2021

Episode 13 – “Washing Blood While Singing the Blues” with Ruth Naomi Floyd

When faced with something or someone deemed “different,” why are we so quick to judge? Rather than appreciate what makes us different, we are often quick to rush to misconceptions and misunderstandings. Follow along in this episode with jazz musician Ruth Naomi Floyd as she discusses the importance of remembering the radical truths of the gospel and loving your neighbor.
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Show Notes


Guest Bio:

Ruth Naomi Floyd is a vocalist and composer who has created a discography that highlights theology and justice with a multi-faceted progressive jazz ensemble sound. She lectures and performs her music internationally and has been a presence and is active in the areas of the arts and justice throughout her career.  Ms. Floyd’s recent body of work is the “Frederick Douglass Jazz Works,” and she received a National Endowment of the Arts Project Grant in 2021 for her new body of work, “The Frances Suite.”  She is also a music educator who is the first African American woman to establish a university jazz program. She is currently an artist-in-residence with Temple University. Floyd lives in Philadelphia, where she  continues her creative work and justice work.


Summary of EPISODE:

Music is a universally loved language of expressions and melodies. But what if the music you love, create, and share gets mislabeled by your own church and community? In this episode of Where Ya From?, musician Ruth Naomi Floyd shares her story of growing up in Philadelphia and caring for the wounded and alienated and how that, paired with her faith, led her to unapologetically create jazz music that blends theology and justice.


Notes and Quotes:

  • “I know without a shadow of a doubt if I was firstborn or lastborn, I would not be the artist I am today. Because I was just able to steal away and create in my room, and I’m so grateful.”
  • Speaking about her father, Reverend Melvin Floyd: “We lived and breathed and dealt with the issues that you know the community dealt with. He was really about saving souls while still on earth. He really considered the spiritual, obviously, but then also the physicality of the community, of the young Black brothers and sisters.”
  • “Don’t allow fear to paralyze you, walk towards it. You can be afraid, but walk towards it, and also truth will not always be embraced by your brothers and sisters in Christ. So also take a stand. Then you know the radical approach sometimes is the best approach in some situations.”
  • “He [God] gives us a great gift of His vulnerability, of His transparency, of His humanity.”
  • “I think the root of it goes to loving our neighbor as ourselves. I think the more interesting question is who we as Christians—those followers of Christ—who we deem not our neighbor. And so I think we really need to look with renewed eyes, with the Holy Spirit, and really examine where Jesus went, where He was born, where He escaped to, who He came through, who He spent time with.”
  • Speaking about a friend that died with HIV/AIDS: “He looked at me, and he said, ‘Change this.’ And then I said, ‘By singing?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Change this in the Christian community.’ And that was it. He put his oxygen mask on and it was time to leave. It haunted me, and I was like, ‘How do I do this?’
  • On her work with HIV/AIDS patients: “Then we would know, from the medical and from everything, that the dying actually started. Active dying was starting, you know. It was within 24 or 48 hours, and they would be gone. The number one wish of those dying was that they would not die alone. You have to remember, at this time, families didn’t want to be involved. They were ashamed—not in every case, but the majority.”
  • “The reality is I’m an African American woman living in America, who loves Jesus unapologetically. And so what it means for me is navigating this world, this country, my community, I’ve not known life without the Blues.”
  • “We have that great Scripture that says He sees and He collects our tears in a bottle and He cares for them, and He treasures them. Jesus understands our suffering, and He actively knows what you’re going through.”
  • “I remain the first vocalist to commit a whole discography to the gospel of Jesus Christ in jazz improvisational music.”
  • “At that moment, for the first time in my life, it didn’t matter so much whether I was Black or not, but whether I was French or not.”
  • “Jesus does not introduce Himself to us as Savior, as Lord, as Father, as Deliverer, as Redeemer. He introduces Himself to us first as an Artist.”


Links Mentioned In Show:


Verses Mentioned in Show:

  • Lamentations 3:22–23
  • Genesis 1:1

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