It was July 2016 and we were sitting in a social justice workshop led by Henry Luke as part of the Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute. The partnership between Arts Corps, Youth Speaks Seattle, and Totem Star brought twenty talented youth together from all over the city for a week-long intensive arts summer camp featuring pathways in music, spoken word, and visual art.
Henry had posted quotes in the space and encouraged us to walk around the room, reading the quotes, and forming impromptu collaborative arts teams based on what quote spoke most strongly to us as a means of getting to know one another. Jayla Nickens (Cleveland High School) and I found common interest in a quote with the theme of "standing together" and decided that our impromptu collaborative project would be to co-write a hook for a song. I grabbed a guitar and put some chords together while she wrote:
"If we stand together, it'd be harder for them to tear us apart. It'll only get better. Don't let them break us down."
In just minutes, Jayla had an amazing melody to go with her lyrics and we performed it for everyone. Enthusiastic applause, screaming, and shouting ensued.
Immediately following the workshop, we broke out into our first session as a music pathway, while the poets and visual artists went off to their rooms. Jayla knew rapper King Cobb from Cleveland, but was just meeting rapper/producer Jawzilla and rapper Jewelz Cypher for the first time. The three rappers were all inspired by the hook that Jayla wrote, and they decided right then and there that the best way to get to know each other was to write a song based on the hook.
Jayla and I started to work on the beat and in no time she was in the vocal room laying down the hook while the other three started writing. You could feel the intensity of the creative energy flowing through the room. By the end of the two hour session, we had recorded a rough arrangement of what was to become "Stand Together," released in June 2017 on the Resistance Mixtape.
Royalty would go on to perform "Stand Together" live at the ALLI showcase, Columbia City Beatwalk, and Winter Magic. The song was recently licensed by local documentary filmmaker Devon de Lena for a film she will soon release on the Seattle Channel. Seeing them bond as a newly-formed group, discover collective joy, and develop their live performance skills on stage was truly magical.
Check out "Stand Together" by Royalty - living proof of the power of community building and collaboration.
- Daniel Pak