Jake Blount: A “New” Kind of Fiddle Player

Every year, Dr. Lawing brings several Appalachian and folk-inspired musicians to Davidson for a concert series. This year, as a part of this series, Dr. Lawing invited Jake Blount to perform. And boy was it a treat!

Blount specializes in Black and indigenous music from the southeastern United States. He also has a degree in ethnomusicology from Hamilton college, has toured internationally, presented research at Yale University, and was the first black man to win the Traditional Band category of the famous Appalachian String Band music festival. Blount’s musical repertoire focuses heavily on tunes written by indigenous and black artists and also explores his journey as a black man, queer man, and folk artist. 

As you might have noticed in the title, I put “New” in quotes. I did this because, while Blount is revolutionary in the way he brings minority stories to the forefront of Appalachian music, the stories he is telling aren’t new. Fiddle players like Blount have existed for generations, but it is only in recent times that they have begun to be acknowledged. This ties back to my vision of The New South. New is inaccurate because the revolution will change our interpretation of the past. We aren’t creating a brand new history. Blount changed the way I saw Appalachian music, but all he did was tell the truth. 

His debut album, Spider Tales, can be purchased here: https://jakeblount.com/home

The Cake: A Lesson on Empathy and Bigotry in the South

The Cake is a play written by Bekah Brunstetter in 2017, following the controversy surrounding the Masterpiece Cake Shop. The shop’s owner, a Christian, declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple citing his religious beliefs. The play follows a similar premise. In it, Bekah introduces the audience to Della, a southern, Christian woman who owns a bakery in a small town. Della’s best friend passed away and, as a result, Della has a mother-like relationship with her best friend’s daughter, Jen. Jen approaches Della with fantastic news! Jen is engaged and wants Della to bake her wedding cake. Honored by Jen’s request, Della is thrilled to bake Jen’s cake. That is, until Della realizes that Jen is marrying a woman.

It would be simple for Bekah to cast Della off as a bigot and position her as the antagonist of the show. But rather than do that, Bekah attempts to explore Della’s humanity. What systems lead to Della’s beliefs? Is Della a good person?

We learn that Della’s bigotry stems from various systems. Her beliefs stem from her insecurities. As Della confronts her bigotry, she has to reckon with her sexuality and potential bisexuality. Della has to resist her husband who condemns homosexuality, and she confronts the patriarchy that gives her husband dominion over her personal beliefs. Along the way, her prejudice results in her disqualification from a baking show. Her life-long dream. Despite this disappointment, she can reflect on her beliefs instead of growing angry. And while Della never attends the wedding, she secretly bakes a cake and drops it off at Jen’s wedding against her husband’s will.

As we go through the story, we get a glimpse into critical love. The developments show us Della’s redeeming qualities. They show us that Della deeply loves Jen. But, Bekah never lets Della off the hook. There are real consequences to Della’s bigotry, yet Bekah still gives Della the room for redemption. Bekah’s treatment of Della gives us insight into how we can find redemption in The New South.

What Can “Old Town Roads” Illuminate About Race in Country Music?

Anthony Foxx: Rebuilding Southern Infrastructure

Group photo of Davidson Students with Anthony Foxx

Intimacy and Federalism

Growing up around Charlotte, I was familiar with the name Anthony Foxx, but all I knew about him was that he had been Charlotte’s mayor. Through my involvement with the Davidson Democrats, I heard that he was coming to Davidson. My friend mentioned that he had been head of the Department of Transportation and worked with her dad in the Obama administration. The Department of Transportation doesn’t sound nearly as interesting as, say, the Department of Defense, but I figured I would go because a lot of my close friends were going. Surprisingly, it forced me to change how I thought about transportation, and I rethought how I could make an impact in the medical field. 

Foxx discussed the intersection of transportation infrastructure and city planning with race, healthcare, and the economy. I had never thought of it that way before. The way highways, bridges, and railways are used to segregate races and classes. He also mentioned how the work he did directly impacted the everyday lives of Americans, which was the most salient idea I gleaned from his talk. A lot of policy decisions are so abstract that it can be a while before they impact everyday citizens, but people use roads, trains, hospitals, and sidewalks every single day. 

As a doctor, I am limited to working from within the existing healthcare system. I can only help the patient right in front of me which, while important, is not where my ambitions lie. I had realized this earlier in the semester, so I figured I would pursue working on national healthcare policy. However, this is too impersonal. What Foxx made me realize is that working through city government will allow me to fix intricate systems, while still maintaining an intimate distance with the people I’m trying to help. 

Following his talk, I went back to my dorm and binged city planning videos until 5 A.M., and I had an 8:30 class! I now have realized my love for healthcare isn’t in being a doctor directly but in public health and city government.