By LaKeshia N. Myers
Having grown up in the Baptist church, hearing the music of gospel quartets is just as normal as celebrating Christmas. The songs, most often sung by male choruses, are rich in four-part harmonies and often tell stories of overcoming adversity, hope and salvation. According to Colin Palmer, a gospel music researcher and contributor to the encyclopedia of African American History and Culture, “Gospel quartets sing in four-part harmony, with parts given to a tenor, or highest part; lead, which usually takes the melody; baritone, which blends the sounds and adds richness; and the bass, or lowest part. It is not uncommon for some quartets to switch parts between members for given songs” (Palmer, 2006).
I was reminded of this tradition last week when I learned of the death of Lee Williams, a legendary quartet singer and leader of the Mississippi based group the Spiritual QC’s (Qualified Christian Singers). Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s are arguably one of the most successful quartet groups of all times, filling churches to capacity and touring the country extensively for over 40 years. Upon hearing of Williams’ passing, I immediately asked Alexa (my trusty Amazon device) to play one of my favorite songs by the Spiritual QC’s called “Steal My Joy.” The refrain says it all, “I refuse; I won’t let nobody steal my joy.”
That exclamation, simple, yet so profound, provided the perfect summation to the drama that was last week. As America closed the chapter that was the 20-year-old war in Afghanistan, we could do so, knowing that we did what was necessary to defend our country after being attacked on American soil. While the exit may have posed logistical challenges, it was completed. For those tasked with ensuring the safe passage of Afghan refugees and Americans alike, they did yeoman’s work, which cannot be discounted—no matter what political talking heads or civilians who have neither served nor been in a war zone may have to say.
The state of Texas, whose Republican-controlled legislature passed voter suppression and anti-reproductive freedom legislation last week. They too, won’t steal my joy. I am confident that members of Congress will do what is necessary to protect the whole of America and not allow those who are blinded by misinformation, untruths or skewed religious dogma to go unchecked. I have to remain steadfast in my belief that doing what is equitable will always win.
In listening to “Steal My Joy,” I am reminded that “joy” is both a gift and a choice. I believe it is God’s way of having us self-correct and see things through a positive and proactive lens. What can we do to actualize the change we wish to see? What are we doing to be good stewards over what we have? These are questions we can ask ourselves when we feel like situations and individuals are draining us. I don’t know about you, but I refuse; I won’t let nobody steal my joy.