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Wanting to Break Free
Wanting to Break Free

"Remember to get carried away. To be grounded is for plants."
—Tarriona "Tank" Ball, Tank and the Bangas

I'm often accused of being “too reserved,” and there’s truth at the heart of that. On the spiciness scale, my expressiveness is on the mild end. I’m sure that stems from my disdain for being the center of attention. Still, I'm frequently advised to "loosen up," and offered the clarification, “That was a joke.”

It makes sense. As children, the older Black folks around would warn us to not “show our color.” Later, I learned to not be too feminine either—whatever that means. These responses are clearly rooted in fear. Just to be clear, I don’t mean to minimize the reality that authentic self-expression is still often bold and dangerous for too many people. But fear, however justifiable, is central. So, here I now am, unable to fully live into the freedom of self-expression for fear that I might not be taken seriously.

Like many people, I discovered Tank and the Bangas through their 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Concert. I immediately fell in love, so when one of my choir members informed me they'd be performing a concert in town, I quickly bought a ticket.

When the concert finally came, I loved it. However, I didn't dance or scream, sing along or… do much of anything beyond standing there and soaking it all in. That didn't feel strange to me, at least not in a conscious way.

At the end of the concert, while saying goodnight to the noisy and appreciative crowd, the band's lead said, “Remember to get carried away. To be grounded is for plants.”

She was speaking directly to me. She clearly wasn't... but she was, and I felt it.

The following Sunday, our congregation opened worship with the hymn “I'm Gonna Live So God Can Use Me.” I wanted so badly to break free and let loose on it. However, looking out at our (we'll call them) upright congregation, I just couldn't. Most of them wouldn't have minded, but still: I was stuck in my own false ideas of their expectations of me.

Luckily, as with many of life’s developments, there’s still time.

Prayer
That which is in us and all around us and which constantly draws us to our holiest selves, remind me that my freedom, fully expressed, gives freedom to others. As I wander among the trees, accept my silent gratitude for not having their stationary life. And, most of all, please remove from me any tendency, by action or in spirit, to quiet the expression of others. Amen.

About the Author

  • DeReau K. Farrar is director of music at First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, and a member of the board and conference planning committee of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. Before moving to Portland in 2016, he served UU congregations in Santa Monica and Los...

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