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Jamila Woods to appear in Gardner on Saturday

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By Halley Freger

Grinnell Concerts returns with another stacked lineup this semester. Chicago-based soul singer, songwriter, and poet Jamila Woods kicks things off with a concert this Saturday at 9 p.m. in Gardner Lounge.

A number of artists have featured Jamila Woods, her soulful voice demanding attention on tracks such as Macklemore’s “White Privilege II.” She’s widely known for her collaborations with Chance the Rapper, including “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings.” Last year, Woods released her much-anticipated debut full-length, “HEAVN,” which shows off her gospel and soul infused R&B. The album was critically acclaimed by the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone as one of the best of the year.

“HEAVN” explores black girlhood, presenting self-care as a crucial aspect of the fight against oppression. In her press release for the album, Woods explains, “For black and brown people, caring for ourselves and each other is not a neutral act.” Woods effectively portrays loving and healing, not as antithetical to struggle, but as an intrinsic part of fighting.

In “Lonely Lonely,” the hook builds from a dreamy wash of layered vocals to a powerful version of the chorus to Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait.” Woods sings in a smooth, somewhat melancholy voice, “I don’t wanna wait for my life to be over / to let myself feel the way I feel. I don’t wanna wait for our lives to be over / to love myself however I feel.” Woods reimagines this 90s pop hit in order to express a desire to embrace herself and her emotions. Even her deeply personal and emotional songs pack a political punch.

Through her lyrics, Woods skillfully navigates difficult subject matter with a sense of hope. “LSD,” a song about her hometown of Chicago, exemplifies her poetic lyricism. She sings, “A body of water inside me / reminds me of oceans, though I’ve never known one.” In addition to creating music, Woods is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors the non-profit behind the Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam festival.

In “Blk Girl Soldier,” Woods lists a number of brave black women as freedom fighters who “taught us how to fight,” including Rosa Parks, Audre Lorde, and Assata Shakur. Woods, like these women, is unafraid to address the realities of patriarchy and white supremacy. Now, as our country is rife with these forces of oppression, we need an album like “HEAVN” to remind us to love and to fight. Come to Gardner on Saturday at 9 p.m. to witness the music of Jamila Woods that offers joy and healing in resistance.

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