Grant Jones knows first-hand the healing potential of Black music. When he was growing up in Boston in the ’90s, pop divas, rap, and R&B ruled the American radio waves. He would imitate Usher, Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah, and now credits these artists as some of his first vocal teachers who introduced him to his own voice and to Black music. “It’s the first contemplative practice that I ever knew.”
Today, Jones is working on an album with Black music culture at its heart and mindfulness instruction on the track list.
With guidance from Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist, singer, songwriter, and composer Esperanza Spalding and contemplative thought leader Lama Rod Owens, the project is part of Jones’ clinical psychology PhD research at Harvard. The album, with the working title HEALING attempt, will be used in a study that tests its healing efficacy for Black folks experiencing elevated stress and anxiety, then be published on major streaming platforms. Jones expects to finish it in 2022. He released an EP called Constellations in summer 2021, which explores similar themes and offers a taste of what’s to come.
For Jones, mindfulness and music are streams that flow to the same river, offering peace, healing, and creative flow. “I can’t make anyone take part, but I can definitely try to invite some folks that have never been invited before because I’m sure that a lot of people would say yes.”
Mindfulness and music are streams that flow to the same river, offering peace, healing, and creative flow.
Jones, who is Black and queer, notes that barriers like cost, availability, and cultural relevance can make mindfulness harder to access for communities of color.
Jones spent his childhood commuting from his mostly Black neighborhood to a predominantly white private school, continuing on to Harvard post-grad. “To exist within these academic institutions that are predominantly white, it has meant to bring certain parts of myself at some times and not at others.”
Succeeding academically for him meant keeping parts of his Blackness siloed, including his love of Black music, and he’s grieved those pieces of himself. “I got so many disinvitations that it made me think, ‘maybe I should do this,’” he says, of HEALING attempt. “I think the way I’m showing up is activating something within the space.”