By Fulterius King, Better Together Interfaith Student Intern
On February 3, 2016, I had the pleasure to share my personal journey of becoming a spiritualist at Coffee and Conversation at UNF Interfaith Center. Co-members of Interfaith Center Better Together Leadership Development program attended along with UNF students and my Better Together mentors. I was happy to take on this opportunity as I felt it was the right time to tell my story and how I got involved with interfaith work. For about a year, I have identified being a spiritual, nonreligious person and have come to learn more about what gives me meaning in life, my values, and worldview perspective. This is an ongoing process as I continue to learn about myself and my purpose. Spirituality consumes my human existence connecting me to a higher power, recognizing the God within me and others.
Of all my identities, being spiritual is more salient. Spirituality is the thread that weaves together my Black, queer, and male identities. The key component that connects me with my spirituality is music. I think of myself as an “old soul” trapped in the body of a millennial. Listening to soul artists from the sixties such as Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye awakens my spirituality and makes me feel empowered. Also, gospel artists like Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin, and Fred Hammond can move me spiritually in ways that make me more determined and optimistic.
During this event, I began talking about my upbringing, being raised in a Christian Baptist church and a traditional family. There was either music playing at home and/or singing from me or my sister. Music has always connected me with other people. Growing up I did not realize how much I depended on music to turn bad days into good days and to remind myself of my inner beauty and strength. As I mentioned during this event, metaphorically speaking, music is the “underground railroad” to my spirituality. Specifically, when I experience distress, confusion, hopelessness, I put my headphones in and let melodic tunes and hymnal testimonies guide me to areas of freedom. This idea is consistent with many Christian leaders letting God “fill their cup” with blessings. Listening to soul music restores my innate ability to feel other’s pain, happiness, and pride. Further, it makes me more of an empathic person reinforcing me to treat others how I would like to be treated in a positive, and respectful way. Soul music makes me more aware of the God within me and others. This is one of the ways I connect with, and support others, who are different than me in regard to religious/nonreligious worldview, race, ethnicity, age, etc.
I ended my discussion by singing “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. When I think about continued discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals, innocent Black men being murdered by police whom are obligated to protect communities, people being killed around the world for identifying with a religious/nonreligious identity, families not having access to clean water and food, it leads me to reflect on lyrics in this song that makes me more connected with the world.