The Power of Music to Unlock Joy

Supporting Golden Flashes in finding joy through the universal language of music

Music can take you back. Music decorates your mind. One second, you’re walking to class, and the next, your playlist serves up a song and instantly you’re in your hometown with your friends, laughing it up on a Friday night.  

On Feb. 28, attendees gathered in the Pepsi Leadership Center to explore the role of music in Black culture and its ability to provoke happiness at the “Empowerment Through the Arts: Black Joy Unlocked” event to create a safe, welcoming community among diverse students at Kent State University.

The event was led by Marquis Davis, director of academic diversity outreach at the College of the Arts, and Janice Johnson, a mental health therapist focusing on Black, Indigenous and people of color communities at Counseling and Psychological Services. The event began with Johnson starting a discussion on the emotional influence of music. She shared her experience of being transported back to her high school days through lyrics, emphasizing the role music plays in evoking memories and reducing stress for her.

Marquis Davis and Janice Johnson at "Black Joy Unlocked" event

“I was just on my way to work today and listening to this one particular song, and it took me right back to high school, hanging out with my best friend,” Johnson recalled. “We were at a park and listening to music with CD players and headphones with mesh over them. I'll never forget that day.”

Davis highlighted the significance of lyrics, and how focusing on these words benefits him far beyond entertainment. For him, the lyrics in Andra Day’s “Rise up” speak to his emotions and motivate him to keep going.  

“When we are talking about lyrics, we're talking about the way that music can help you with certain things unlocking Black joy through music,” Davis said. “Lyrics are such a fundamental piece.”

Following the discussion, attendees were tasked with creating a playlist full of songs that unlock joy and reflect their individual tastes and experiences.

Black Joy Slide
Black Joy Healing Playlist Instructions

As the evening concluded, attendees shared their favorite playlists and discussed the impact music has had on their lives. Songs from every genre danced across the room from “Binatna” by Ahmed Sultan to “I'm Here” by Fantasia Barrino and “New Attitude” by Patti LaBelle.  

The event served as a celebration of Black culture within the music industry and provided a platform for attendees to explore the transformative power of music and discover new artists along the way.   


POSTED: Friday, March 1, 2024 01:22 PM
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2024 02:26 PM
Maddie Goerl, Flash Communications
Maddie Goerl