Social justice is all about education. Not all children’s music has to educate. A new generation of performers is learning how to tailor their music to expand minds as well as teach dance steps. Straight from the Bronx, New York (my hometown), comes Fyütch with Family Tree, his first release of tunes specifically for kids and their extended support systems.
While not as fully vested in the afrofuturism movement as fellow musician Pierce Freelon (who guests on “This Kwanzaa” on this collection), Fyütch seeks to celebrate Black history and its culture. With a host of notable collaborators, he uses hip hop, rap, soul, R&B, reggae, and more. Fyütch also adroitly addresses the climate emergency and recycling (“Pick It Up”), general compassion (“Empathy” with Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari), and appropriation of native lands (“Indigenous Peoples’ Day” with Radmilla Cody, Navajo/African-American musician/activist).
Life lessons are a paramount concern for Fyütch, who has a three-year-old daughter (Aura, pictured with him on the album cover). Stressing that “Black history is American history,” Fyütch turns the spotlight on “Black Women in History,” with Rissi Palmer and Snooknuk, including living honorees include Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, as well as past figures Fannie Lou Hamer, Claudette Colvin, J Frankie Pierce, Rebecca Crumpler, Jane Hinton, and Alfreda Webb. With guidance from historian Dr. Sherri Mehta, Fyütch delivers “Juneteenth” with the Alphabet Rockers, chronicling the emancipation of African-Americans in a post-slavery North America.
“Black Lives Matter” encompasses more than mutual respect with law enforcement. It’s demonstrably more difficult for Black citizens to find success or reach their goals. Fyütch and SaulPaul broach this topic on “Graduation Bop,” pointing out how both of them were the first in their families to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Among the other artists on Family Tree are Divinity Roxx on “Family Reunion,” Uncle Jumbo on “My Crown” (about Black hair styling), and Shine (from the Moonbeams) on the title track. The album features three generations of his family and interstitial conversations with Grandpa Charles, Great Aunt Alberta, and Aunty Sheila.
The year 2021 is harvesting a bumper crop of social justice children’s music projects, resetting the genre from the roots up. Fyütch uses Family Tree to plant the seeds of social justice and activism among his young audiences, while delivering hook-laden music to grow children into Generation C warriors.