Stations Only: July 24 – 30, 2024

Singing with Others as a Force for Spiritual Sustenance with Benjamin Mertz

Program Number: 3817


Planting seeds of hope and compassion is the most important thing we can do in the face of oppression, negativity, terror, and injustice. Little compares to the powerful spiritual force of joining voices to harmonize in songs of freedom. It’s a transformative occasion when done with the fullness of our being that creates a sense of communal solidarity. We become part of something larger than ourselves. When speaking of the Black spiritual musical tradition Mertz says, “You could take away someone’s language, you could take away someone’s clothing, their money, their culture, the world they had come from, but you could never take away the ability to create a song… all of this is about community. It’s also a survival technique… And yet we sing it with joy. And we sing it with ebullience, buoyancy, and abundance. The music teaches us that through adversity there is strength to be found.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Benjamin Mertz is a bi-racial man, who is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute (BECI). He serves on the board of directors of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and is the founder and director of the Joyful Noise! Gospel Singers. He’s a composer, performer, and song leader who specializes in the music of the Black Spiritual tradition and is a human rights and racial justice activist. When not performing music he writes and speaks on issues of racial justice, economic justice and Black History, and he works on creating interfaith and interracial alliances. He can often be found leading songs at benefit concerts, vigils, protest actions, sacred services, and workshops.

Benjamin Mertz’s albums include:

  • Climbing Up the Mountain (Benjamin Mertz 2019)
  • I Dream: Joyful Noise! Gospel Singers (Joyful Noise! Gospel Singers 2020)

To learn more about the work of Benjamin Mertz go to: www.benjaminmertz.com 

Topics explored in this dialogue include:

  • Mertz’s early musical influences
  • How Mertz was leading a choir as a teenager
  • What is the origin of the Black spiritual music tradition
  • How Mertz was influenced by Dr. Ysaye Barnwell to be an ambassador of this musical tradition
  • What is the difference between Black traditional spirituals and gospel music
  • What inspired Mertz’s composition of “Hate Won’t Win”
  • What was Mertz’s experience of traveling to the South for the first time
  • What is Mertz’s work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within corporations
  • How we can learn about our own inner racism in small groups to build trust enough to be vulnerable
  • What was Mertz’s experience when he traveled to Africa for the first time
  • How should we approach singing music from other cultures with an attitude of sacredness
  • What is the true origin of the music Kumbaya

Host: Justine Willis Toms    Interview Date: 5/13/2024   Program Number: 3817


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