Since its inception in 1926, Black History Month commemorates the valuable contributions, achievements, and the remarkable history of black Americans. In honor of Black History Month, I asked several black Minnesota leaders to share the artists and songs that inspire them.
A trailblazer in Minneapolis, City Council member Andrea Jenkins broke barriers in 2018 when she became the first black openly transgender woman elected to public office. Jenkins passionately talks about Black History Month as “a time to reflect and be proud, but it’s also a time to recognize that there’s still a lot of work and history yet to be made.”
Drawing on history, Jenkins remarks, “Slave songs led to the blues, ragtime, jazz, and hip-hop. Music has been a constant source of expression of pain, joy and communication. It has absolutely been essential to the survival of black people, in my opinion.”
Reminiscing about her own childhood, Jenkins talked about the artists that inspire her. “I was really inspired by the Temptations. I think the first song I ever learned was called ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations,” she said as she sang part of the chorus. Jenkins’s other inspirations include Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Jackson 5.
As for her personal playlist, Jenkins said her choices are songs that “have given me wisdom, songs that have made me think, and songs that have helped me grow up.” Jenkins provides more insight and says the songs on her list have deep meaning to her and provide vision on ways to “live your best life.”
“‘That’s the Way of the World’ by Earth, Wind & Fire is a song that talks about the internal nature of being human and how we can learn through meditation and silence on how to deal with the busy, noisy world around us,” Jenkins said.
In sum, said Jenkins, “I truly believe that music has been one of the things that has helped sustain black people.”
Andrea Jenkins’s Black History Month playlist
Marla Khan-Schwartz is a former Civil Rights Commissioner who finds passion in writing, music and deep conversation accompanied by a glass of French Malbec.