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Kara Jackson performs at NYC's Rough Trade
The singer-songwriter performed from her debut album, "Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?"
On April 19, Kara Jackson performed at Rough Trade in Manhattan.
Jackson is a singer-songwriter and poet from Illinois, and she released her debut album, “Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?” last Friday.
She was, at 19, the 2019 United States National Youth Poet Laureate.
In 2019, she also published Bloodstone Cowboy, a collection of 23 poems that, like her music, are introspective and focused on her identity, womanhood, and mental health. The poems are about her birth name, the women in her family, her body, love, blackness, beauty, and the perception of ugliness.
She writes about her body and virginity and what it means to be perceived as a Black woman by the world around her. The collection begins with “my virginity signed a bad contract,” where the poet personifies virginity, which continues into “happier elsewhere.” Jackson writes, “we put up signs for my virginity, waited for it / to come home like a cat.”
In “mean streak,” Jackson describes wearing meanness like armor, and I think about what it means for Black women to adopt armor against a world that represses and harms us. She writes:
when i speak, i want my mouth attached to a warning, /
like a small thing that can be swallowed /
i want to threaten the way fat does /
a button, hips filling my jeans like ammo.
The 13-track “Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?” explores our desire to be recognized by others, being used in love, her experience with men who describe her as intimidating, and men needing therapy.
Jackson started her show with the album’s last song, “liquor,” followed by “no fun/party,” “pawnshop,” “brain,” and “so weird.” She ended her set with “dickhead blues,” describing how she performed the song last year at the London embassy.
She performed for about 40 or 50 people at Rough Trade, accompanied by only her guitar. She shared with the audience how surreal it feels to see people know her music and lyrics, stating “that wasn’t the case for months.”
Her voice is deep and soothing. There is a calmness and sadness to her music, an awareness of herself and our world, especially what it means to lose people and community we love. Her art is important, healing, and offering us a chance to reflect on ourselves and our place in the world, especially as we continue to mourn the loss of Black lives across the country.