sounds of a blue world
and leaving a legacy of love
June 20, 2022
I wrote last week yearning for a world where all are at home. Safe, supported, and therefore free to express our most creative, compassionate, and genuine selves. This two-hour collection of blue world tunes is what I think that place might sound like.
There’s freedom in the riffs, rebellion in the bars, and power in the anthems. Joy and struggle in the melodies, aspiration and desperation in the lyrics—these songs move me to dance and dream, laugh, think, and cry. They soothe into thought and reflection, and inspire me to write, relate, and create in the best ways I can. Some evoke old, cherished memories. Others stir visions of tomorrows that could be.
It’s hard to even see a better tomorrow, I’m learning, without realizing how we form it today. And it is impossible to build that better tomorrow without accepting the mutual, interdependent, and ongoing responsibilities of its constant creation.
Octavia Butler prophesizes: “all that we touch / we change / and all that we change / changes us.” The consequences of every living action flow beyond our proximity, and into our posterity. People have always known this.Such is the continuity of humanity: present is the legacy we inherit from those before; future is the legacy we leave for those to come.
Given this axiom, “it seems odd that we would just let the world burn.” I sense this strange, corrosive indifference to devastation and displacement of lives and livelihoods, until it comes close. But indifference and inaction guarantee things will get much worse, everywhere. “The world will wind up a hotter, poorer place,” writes Robinson Meyer in The Weekly Planet, the worst effects being felt by colonized, racialized populations. He continues:
The United States, in particular, would be left measurably worse. Although the country has never been a responsible actor on climate change, its peculiar inability to pass any significant legislative climate policy would set back its self-conception, international reputation, and economic mojo. At this point, not having a national energy and climate policy is like not having an internet policy in the 1990s—so strange that it makes the entire system look diseased and antique. While fossil fuels remain essential to today’s economy, the next stage of economic development is unmistakably decarbonized and electrified. Without the kind of robust policy support on offer in Europe or China, America’s climate-friendly companies will not be able to keep up. And so the country will fall behind.
Honestly though, what good are we if we cannot proactively respond to the collapse of our only, earthly home with courage, humility, imagination, and urgency?
Last week, massive floods inundated the Greater Yellowstone Area, sweeping away homes, roads, and bridges—and portending a new climate reality, as Nick Mott wrote in High Country News. These climate-related disasters are growing more frequent and intense everywhere in the world.In southern Spain, where I live, we’re experiencing an extreme heatwave that threatens the water supply and local food production. As the livable space on earth shrinks, more and more people are forced to move. Altogether, climate disasters displaced roughly 24 million people last year—that’s about one person every second. By 2050, as many as 1 billion people will be displaced by such disasters. These numbers tend to render abstract the unique catastrophe that each displaced individual experiences. I cannot really imagine it. Each person forced from their home is a world upended and shattered.
In the aftermath of disaster and displacement, it is our communities that pick up the pieces. Neighbors from near and far who come to the aid of people they may not even know, without question or qualification. In this way, these disasters can demonstrate how the best of us is irrefutably, the sum of us—a phrase Heather McGhee coins in her indispensable book on finding solidarity for mutual benefit.We generate our highest power through connection and cooperation. By making routine practice of this genuine solidarity, we could adapt to changing climates proactively and build resilient, regenerative futures. Thereby, leaving a legacy to be proud of: a legacy of love.
These songs I’ve compiled express love in ways I can’t usually put to words. Music has always moved me in this way, and I think I have my dad to thank for that. Whether humming a tune on the subway as we commuted to school and work, inventing a song about Italian ice to lighten the mood, or belting out “THIS TRAIN” with my sister, Giuliana, as we journeyed from Greenpoint to Missoula (see track #30), he finds truth and power in music. I do too.
Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and to all dads, new and seasoned—to the dads to be, those enduring the pain of their absence, and those who pick up the role with humility and grace. I have nothing but love for you all, and wish you only peace.
Also yesterday, Juneteenth commemorates that day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas (two months after confederate surrender) to inform the enslaved peoples they were free from the shackles of the law. Or so it could have been. The day marks a triumph in the abolitionist freedom struggles directly resisting holy dominion from the beginning. Though still, the racist ideas justifying enslavement and torture of fellow human beings remained, evolved, and pervade our reality today. This too, is our inheritance. So, if we are to leave a legacy of love, it is our responsibility to bear and repair the ongoing plunder of these lies.
Only then / can we be / truly free.
I hope this collection of songs can serve as a reminder that the struggle for freedom is enduring, joyous, usually daunting, always uncertain, but worth living for. This is a collaborative playlist so, por favor, make your thoughtful contributions. Let’s sing, dance, laugh, think, cry, reflect, imagine, and build a new world together. Onward.
Letter updated and republished on June 20, 2022 at 2:42 pm from Mojácar, Almería, España.
Thank you to my friend Madeleine Brink for her vital comments and help editing.
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Leanne Betasamosake Simpson enlightens in her book As We Have Always Done: “the future is here in the form of the practices of the present, in which the past is also influencing.” By shaping the present, we shape the future. And as Orwell reminds: “who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
See IPCC, Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (2022) for regional assessments of changing ecosystems. Available here: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/
Read Harsha Walia, Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (2021). As I said in my previous essay, this is absolutely essential reading. I have Walia to thank for the deep research she compiled in the book. In it, she meticulously connects borders to “the violences of dispossession, accumulation, exploitation, and their imbrications with race, caste, gender, sexuality, and ability.” And she concludes with power and purpose “we can and must embrace a basic yet expansive vision: no human being is illegal.” I’m serious, read it.
Read Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (2021). Through hundreds of conversations and deep research, McGhee analyzes why we can’t unite for mutual benefit. She dissects the zero-sum myth, laying to bear how hierarchies of human value persist, and how they reduce opportunities and possibilities for everyone—while benefiting an increasingly concentrated class of wealth. In this Times article, she summarizes a new path of shared prosperity.
Collaborative Link here. Original Tracklist:
Shine by Cleo Sol
Night Train by Oscar Peterson Trio
SUMMER by The Carters
Nebulosa by Tenorio Jr.
Mystic Brew by Vijay Iyer, Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore
Rainforest by Noname
Ngiculela-Es Una Historia-I Am Singing by Stevie Wonder
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Ms. Lauryn Hill
Smokin’ Out the Window by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic
Mirror by Kendrick Lamar
Blue Nile by Alice Coltrane
A Long Walk by Jill Scott
Fabricando Fantasías - Salsa Version by Tito Nieves
The Groove by Desperate Electric
Pieces of Dreams by Stanley Turrentine
The Heart Part 5 by Kendrick Lamar
One More by Supaman
Strange Overtones by David Byrne
Ave María by David Bisbal
Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean
Señores Ladrones by Tomasito
Roster by Jazmine Sullivan
Woods by Mac Miller
Sound of Rain by Solange
Bring It On Home To Me by Roy Hargrove
Me and My Gin by Dinah Washington and Malcolm Addey
Theme from “New York, New York” - Live at Reunion Arena by Frank Sinatra
Damocles by Shakewell
A Mi Manera by Gipsy Kings
Land of Hope and Dreams - Live at MSG by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band
What is Love? by Haddaway
So true, that the frequency of human caused devastation compels us to collectively work towards equitable solutions....as you said, music is both a rallying cry and a reflective poem. Bravo❤️🌏💦☀️🌿