Local Current Blog

Lady Lark on the fight for racial equity: ‘There’s an opportunity for all of us to speak up’

Lady Lark (right) and Midway Felix (left) in The Current studio in 2019. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

Throughout the events that have unfolded since the killing of George Floyd, Morning Show host Jill Riley has been sharing her platform with numerous musicians and community members to share their perspectives about what has been going on. She connected with local neo-soul musician Lady Lark to talk about what she has witnessed in the last few weeks, her experience growing up in a mixed-race family, and how people can speak up in this fight for racial equity.

Jill Riley: How are you doing?

Lady Lark: I’m doing okay. I’m doing okay. The past few weeks have been, as the saying goes, an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, but in this moment, I’m doing okay. I’m doing alright.

Can you talk about some things that you’ve been observing in the Twin Cities for the past couple of weeks? Did you have an opportunity to get out and march with people?

Yeah. Yeah. It has, again, been such a challenging couple of weeks here, but one of the things, I think, that has helped me get through it is being out there and seeing the level of community, and people coming together and being willing and ready to fight for justice. A couple of Sundays ago, I joined in one of the protests in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a little ironic, I had been walking with them for a while, but I had a Zoom call-date with my family for Sunday night, given this pandemic. I actually live right by 35W, about a block off of the highway, and I was on the phone with my family right when the gas truck came barreling through, and thank goodness, no one was seriously hurt. While I’m on the phone with my family, I start hearing all this commotion outside of my window and see this flood of people running into the streets, up from the highway. I think that moment was probably the highest level of stress and panic that I had experienced, personally, through all of this.

What I appreciated about that moment [was] not only being able to see everyone really working to care for each other and make sure they were okay, [but also] it was interesting to see how people even from my building were activated to bring water downstairs to and make sure everyone was okay, and bring first aid, just in case anybody needed it. I think that’s been the biggest thing for me, really, seeing people come together and work to help each other and be activated to fight against the extreme racial injustice that we have not only in Minneapolis, but across the country.

What are those conversations like with family and friends, right now? What are some things that you’re talking about, if you don’t mind sharing?

No, I don’t mind sharing at all. As a point of clarification, I’m a mixed-race person of color. My dad is black, and my mom is white. I’ve grown up my whole life, [and] we’ve had plenty of conversations about race and the experiences that my father went through throughout his entire life, what it was like for my parents being an interracial couple, and, obviously for us children, the different experiences that we were going to have, especially growing up in a predominantly white area, in the suburbs of St. Paul.

Our conversations have really shifted in the past couple of weeks about our unique voice that we have as – I have this privilege as a person of color, but with much lighter skin. My sister, who looks a lot more like my dad, has much darker skin. She’s had experiences that I’ve never had, and so having this reality of how skin tone really makes such a difference, we talk through a lot of that. The conversation has been mixed with outright anger, frustration, and deep sadness, but also, maybe, just maybe, this will be a big turning point.

Seeing how many of our family members, our friends, and other acquaintances who are not people of color, who are not black or indigenous, who are really starting to get it, and it’s going to be a process. We all know that this is not going to be like, “Oh, sweet. Two weeks from now, everything’s going to be fixed.” We talk about those things, how it’s going to be a process, but [there’s] this optimism that things are moving in the direction that we need them to.

From your point of view, who should be speaking up right now?

I think there’s an opportunity for all of us to speak up. I’ll be completely honest, it’s not something, at least on my social media channels, that I’ve been outright yelling from the mountaintops about, and that is something that I want to change about myself. Being a person of color, and understanding the certain privileges that I have, [and] opportunities that I have, I can also be one to speak out in the moments where I have energy to do so, but what I think a lot of people are realizing is [that] this is not a fight for black people to take on on their own.

We need all of our allies, people who maybe thought they were allies but are now realizing, “Oh, you know what? Maybe I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to do.” and being okay with moving past things that we have done and said in the past. We all truly need to do this together to make real, serious change. It goes from giant corporations down to the little conversations you have with people in your neighborhood, or in your building, or at a family get together. It’s truly going to have to be coming from everyone.

Look, I’ve seen plenty of folks who are somewhat not denying that what happened to George Floyd was wrong, but are still not on board with this level of anger, the reaction that’s come from it, and I’m hopeful that those people will start to hear enough from their close family and friends about just how important this really is. Maybe they don’t have people of color in their family or in their close friend group, but their white friends will be speaking loudly and working to change mindsets, which we know is not an easy thing to do, but we all have to do it together.

I really appreciate you sharing your voice and your perspective, and quite frankly, I can’t wait to see you and your entire band back on a stage in a time where you can bring out that celebratory music.

Yes, absolutely. That’s something I have missed immensely, but that’s the thing. There’s so much power in music, and even in these really difficult times, I know I have taken lots of time to turn to music to help get through this. When we have those opportunities, hopefully sooner than later, where we can all be together dancing and celebrating love and community, I’ll be there for it, for sure.