Black History Interview Series | Mariah Foote

Mariah Foote
Mariah Foote is a Junior at UGA in the Double Dawgs program for HDFS and Nonprofit Leadership and Management. She serves on the Wesley Diversity Outreach team and is a vital voice of love and truth in our body. In this conversation, Mariah tells us about her experiences with Black History Month and a moment she had this semester. 
Wesley Gospel Playlist Explanation
This playlist represents just a small taste of Gospel music and my hope is that by listening you will be able to learn, connect with and celebrate Black culture. Not only this month but for the rest of your life. Many of these songs are upbeat and high energy and rich with instruments. Gospel music has everything so this playlist has everything from deep worship to rap music to high energy anthems, but the common thread is that all these songs are rooted in the truth of the Word of God. So many of the songs are about the triumph, victory and joy we get to have in the Lord as Christians. These are the songs I grew up on, hearing them constantly in church and on CDs and the radio. They have carried me, my family and my friends through the best and worst seasons of life. Gospel music is so central to Black culture and gives you an opportunity to connect with those around you and God in a new way.

I hope that you will get as much joy out of listening to these songs as I do. Know that this playlist was created with you, the body of Wesley especially in mind. We, as Diversity Outreach, handpicked the best and our favorites of Gospel music, which was not easy to do. I hope that this playlist is one of many small opportunities you take to honor and celebrate Black culture, not just in February, but always. But above all, my hope is for you to be encouraged, for you to find a new anthem for this season of your life, for the Holy Spirit to speak to you through these songs and ultimately for you to have a new and different experience with the Lord through Gospel music.
-Mariah Foote

Listen to the playlist here!

Interview with Mariah

How did the playlist start? Did you have a vision for it or a moment?
I was having a moment where you just kind of are spiraling thinking about all of the things in my life that I have to do like my future, my finances and I was like “Okay, I need to get this job” and “I need to get this internship” and just like going down the rabbit hole of “how am I going to make my life great and work?” and “how can I plan out my life right now?” So, I did that for about an hour and afterward, of course, I was just super stressed [thinking] “there’s so much I need to do”. After that, I just said “ I need to stop” and the Holy Spirit reminded me “Hey, you have this grace and goodness from God and His grace and goodness they chase after you and you don’t have to chase after them. You don’t have to be the one to strive to make all of these things happen. I’m going to do that”. I was thinking about how in that hour I had lost so much of my peace and joy that I had. There is a song by Tye Tribbett that’s called I Want It All Back and the Holy spirit brought that song to my mind. Basically the song is talking about how he wants everything back that the devil has tried to steal from him like my joy and my peace like “I want everything back that you tried to steal from me because it’s mine”. There’s this part in the song that’s literally like “Give me my stuff back!” and after listening to that song I was just like “Yeah, this is mine, this joy is mine, this peace is mine, this rest is mine, I want that back” and just that became my mantra. I just started to think about how many situations I’ve been in where I’m having a crisis go on and the Holy Spirit will just remind me of a gospel song. Worship has been such a huge part of my walk with the Lord and connecting with Him - that’s gospel music and contemporary music as well. It’s just really cool because the Holy Spirit brought this song back, it had its own memories attached to it, but it helped me in that moment and I thought wow this is really cool that I have this wealth of knowledge...A lot of the themes of gospel music is triumphant and overcoming just confidence in the Lord so it’s super powerful to sing those songs. Then I thought about this playlist we had talked about making so I said “You know what, I’m going to make this right now!” So, I spent the next two to three hours [just finding] songs ….it was a cool moment because it was all these different songs with individual memories - there’s this one song called He’s Able and my [younger] brother loved this song when he was little and it made me think of him. And there’s another song when me and my sister were kids- back when there were CD players we had a Fred Hammond CD and there’s this song on there called This Is The Day and it’s like ‘this is the day the Lord has made’ but I can remember me and my sister being young and screaming that and jumping on the bed and dancing just like a moment of so much joy. It was a sweet reminder of the Lord and His faithfulness. They are these songs that are still in my heart that the Lord brings back to remind me “Hey, I’m going to do this and you can trust me.”

What is your hope and your heart for our body when listening to these songs?
I tried to be strategic in the order because I think there is such diversity in gospel music and so my hope is that people would be exposed to what it looks like to worship in a different way and maybe to like have a different heart or message behind the songs than maybe what we usually get at Wesley. There are a lot of younger groups that are making gospel music and there’s gospel rap on there so my hope is that they can get a little bit of that spirit of triumph and confidence that comes out of it - that it can be something when they are in the middle of the storm that just fills their soul. Me and my mom have had conversations about this too because going to a lot of different churches [gospel music] just hits in a different way- it fills your soul up listening to it and that’s not to speak badly about any other type of Christian music I think there is a lot of power in declaring over yourself who God is.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
I think it's a celebration of black people, black culture, black power in general. I think that there is a lot of power in knowledge and representation because, you know, slavery and the way that our society has been for so long we don’t always get to learn or black people don’t always get credit in the history books in school and things like that and so just being able to celebrate the accomplishments of those people who didn’t get that spot in the history book or that chapter just raising awareness like that and acknowledging what they did matters.

Growing up, how was Black History Month celebrated in your church?
So, we would have our big events at church, this was my church from home that I went to with my parents and they were very big on giving youth the space to praise God in the way we wanted to. So, we had a dance team, a choir, a step team, there was a kid who liked to rap and he would come out and rap sometimes in a song. There was a guy who really wanted to be a preacher, and a couple other kids too, so they allowed them space on a Sunday to preach a message. So, they were really big on celebrating youth in how we wanted to praise and honor God. I can’t think of exactly what it was called but it was a production where we did a couple of things - we did one where we did a modeling show and we all got to pick somebody and dress up as that person in that profession. I think my person, I used to be really into politics, so my person was Michelle Obama, and so I had a briefcase and political looking dress and then another thing we did was we were able to perform something, I really like poetry, so I did a poem that was, I believe was by Langston Hughes, [called] Kids Who Die, and it was really crazy because it was a poem that was written in the early 1900s but when you compare to the things that are going on in our society today it’s so closely aligned so it was a very interesting point of recognition of “yes, we’ve come far, but we’ve got a ways to go.”

What are some ways that you have personally liked to celebrate Black History Month?
That’s a good question, it’s kind of weird because there’s this month where everyone else is like more aware of black history but being a person that is black it's not something you ever forget. So, I feel like I am celebrating black culture all the time in who I choose to support in the music I listen to and it's just so interwoven in my life that it's hard to separate it - it's hard to say this is Black History Month and we’re going to do these things…

I love kids, so whenever I have an opportunity to talk to kids about what it means to be a Black person in America and how yes that means people will treat you differently in x y z but also that means that you have the power to make change and you have so much power as a black individual and I want kids to know that. I feel just in the regular parts of my life, like being a college student at UGA, or in working for WinShape Camps, just in the things I’m doing I get to model, I get to be a representation for kids that don’t see people that look like them. There’s an after school program in Athens [I volunteer at] called Thomas Lay Afterschool Program - it’s a cool program most of the kids are from Barrow Elementary right by Stegeman and I’m in a class now that's about the school system and communities and how they work together and we look at the statistics of Athens school systems and how tough that is and how they start out, the schools are very diverse but as you move up more people move out to private school and stuff like that and so I feel like I get to represent something that maybe those kids didn’t know or see as yes I am a black woman that loves the Lord that's in college at UGA thats gonna make a difference in the world. I like to take all the opportunities that I have to just speak life over kids and remind them that hey your skin color is different but that's not a limiting factor - you have this whole cool culture that you get to step in to and enjoy and that’s a cool thing so like embrace that.
What are some ways that you would like to see Black History honored by ministries and institutions?
I think that to honor something well we have to look at what’s sustainable. I think that recognizing that the ministry of Wesley, that UGA as a whole has diversity... I think a lot of people when they think about honoring [black history], people that don’t fully understand kind of go with the mantra of like “Oh, we’re all the same” and like no we’re not all the same but we get to celebrate each other’s differences. I love when I see someone or a ministry that’s not trying to push “we’re all the same, we’re all equal” - No, we have diversity; there’s difference within us. We have students that cover all kinds of demographics in our body and they are different and we are going to celebrate those differences rather than be afraid of them or try to push them down and so I think that comes with not being afraid to have events like the movie night coming having events like that and the body not being afraid to come to events like that with an open mind and an open heart and learning so we can have a discussion about it rather than us just saying “yeah we appreciate and love all of our students”, but doing something actively to raise awareness to the dynamic that there still is in America.





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