When 3 Black Women Meet Country Music

You get Chapel Hart and it’s Black Joy

Photo Credit: Alexis Carter, Courtesy of Sounds Like Nashville

I am not a fan of America’s Got Talent. I do not watch the show, but I have a very close friend who shares videos of performances with me she believes I’ll love. She is always right. Thanks, Alexainie!

The following performance, which aired on July 19, 2022, led me to view the video not just once, but multiple times. The pure joy that shot through my body while watching these beautiful young ladies give their gift to the hosts and to the crowd is unmatched.

AGT, Chapel Hart, Group Golden Buzzer

This had definitely been a Black Joy moment for me. And my heart was so full and happy — I nearly burst at the seams. To watch these young ladies live out their dream on stage, and tear the house down, too?! There are no words for it — it’s indescribable.

*Black Joy is …
Black Joy possesses a range that is boundless and is not easily defined.

The most accurate definition is:
Black Joy is anything that inspires, supports, and uplifts Black culture.

I can click on the video day-in and day-out and get the same results: a teary-eyed, moved, and emotionally charged Black woman who is incredibly excited and ecstatic for each of them. They knew what they wanted to do — they pursued it, and here they are — living out their dream, despite the hardships and closed doors in their paths.


Exploring the avenues that led to Chapel Hart

Naturally, I wanted to learn more about Chapel Hart, this all-Black woman’s group that leaned toward Country music instead of R&B, Neo-Soul, the Blues, Gospel, etc. All three ladies have amazing voices, but the frontwoman, Danica, belts out notes from the depths of her soul, and when you listen to her, one cannot help but be moved.

The trio is two sisters, Devynn and Danica Hart, and their first cousin, Trea Swindle. They hail from a small town outside of Poplarville, Mississippi, called Hart’s Chapel. According to the group, they are only 3 of 108 grandchildren. Their grandmother had 17 children, and they populated their small town.

Growing up in a family where music had always been present, it seems only fitting they would succumb to music as passionately as they have. Listening to them, I can hear the determination, the pursuit of their dreams, and their backgrounds too.

There is a distinguished tone and a three-part harmony that makes up their unique sound. It’s safe to say they are breaking down doors and stripping away barriers. They are clearly making history, and isn’t it about time?

Chapel Hart, I Will Follow, ©2021

I am not a fan of country music — not really. I like some country music singers, but I can count them on one hand. Chapel Hart entered my world at the right time. I needed something to stir me — lift me from some dark spaces — keep me on my highest points for more than two days in a row. I think I may have found what I had been seeking in their soulful voices.


Catching the eye of Dolly Parton and some other legends

If you took the time to watch the Golden Buzzer video courtesy of America’s Got Talent, you know the ladies are big fans of Dolly Parton. They even say jokingly (but maybe not?) “Dolly Parton for President” in the clip as well.

With their spin on “Jolene,” their original song “You Can Have Him, Jolene (which is #1 on iTunes for Country music),” attracted the ears and eyes of … you guessed it, Dolly Parton.

©July 22, 2022, Graeme O’Neil

And it did not end there. Loretta Lynn chimed in and wondered (out loud) what the group could do with one of her songs. And it just keeps getting better for Chapel Hart, as Darius Rucker announced they will be on his new album, too.

When you have been given shout-outs and acknowledgments from some of the heaviest hitters in the genre of music you have fought to be a part of for so long, the feeling has got to be an unbelievable one. I imagine Chapel Hart constantly pinching themselves to make sure they’re awake.

If the above doesn’t send your heart soaring for this group, maybe the following will:

In 2021, Chapel Hart was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country, the institution that has been known to help up and coming female country artists such as Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBride, & Gabby Barrett… to name a few. This Mississippi trio’s music has reached fans around the globe earning them the title of “International Group of the Year” as well as “International Song of the Year” for the single “You Can Have Him Jolene” in Scotland. — Chapel Hart, Bio

I said I would follow them from the first moment I watched their performance video on America’s Got Talent that catapulted them into the spotlight (where they belong), and I have been.

Their story is an intriguing one, and it gives me hope for various twists and modifications to the expected traditional sound of country music.


We needed a high point, and here it is

After everything we have been through over the past few years, Black people needed a high point — a marked moment of excellence and joy. Here it is.

Chapel Hart may be a country music group, but you can hear Funk, Gospel, Rock & Roll, and Pop. They even put their stamp on the Star-Spangled Banner in 2019 for an Orlando Magic basketball game.

Prior to learning about them, I had said to myself, “How much more bad news can we take? How much more is there?” When all your nation has subjected you to is bad news that leaves a sour taste in your mouth, a little good news is welcome.

I may turn on the TV tomorrow and find another Black man or Person of Color dead by a senseless act of violence committed by someone of authority, children slain within the very walls that were once deemed safe, a baby or pet left in a hot car for ten to thirty minutes while their parent or the owner simply “forgot about them” in the backseat, and the list goes on.

But today, at this very moment, I will leave tomorrow where it is and embrace the excellence that is Chapel Hart.

The group skipped down their very own yellow brick road, locked hands with country music, and created Black Joy.

And it is such a beautiful thing.


Originally published in An Injustice Mag via Medium on Tuesday, August 02, 2022.

The Grieving Room

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Stepping out of my comfort zone and finally feeling free

I have done three different things this week, all of which have taken me out of my comfort zone a bit, and placed me in a space I had not met before. I will start with the why of it all. Why have I done these things? What am I looking to gain from having done them? How will I move forward now with each of them started and a part of who I am?

When you are a fearful person, everything that falls outside of your line of comfort scares you. The dreams you have festering in your mind continue to fester because you fear every move you need to make in order to make those dreams your reality.

I have lived at least twenty years of my life stuck in constant fear of the unknown, yet the unknown is what I am drawn/connected to. It is where I want to be — where I see myself at my happiest. So, how do I get there if I stay stuck in the same spot — afraid to move? I won’t. And that had to change. It is changing.

So, what did I do — which three things?


Others recognize my strength as a writer — this gives me joy

Late last year, I submitted to a publication called The Short of It, which is hosted by editor Susi Bocks. The premise of the online publication is to publish “exquisite expressions in tiny explosions.” I submitted five micro-poems all the while, thinking, as I am often wont to do, they would not be chosen, and they were.

The editor published the feature for the five poems in the wee hours of Friday, July 29, 2022, and you can find each poem here. I want to share one poem with you, though — one that encompasses all that I have been feeling of late about myself and the world at large.

Pressure

she sits on the sea’s floor
shaped by the world
above it–changed forever.
the workers of ancient
tongues sift through
her words, chanting
their dismissals.
the pressure from centuries
ago labels her again
and again.
is this the chosen path
home or not?

To see these poems of mine hosted via The Short of It amongst many other writers whom I read daily and find comfort in doing so gives me an incredible amount of joy. For a couple of years, I’d ceased submitting to both online and print publications because the number of rejections was mounting, and I did not have the strength to scale that mountain any longer.

Braving it once again allowed me not only to submit to The Short of It, but also to write an essay catered to and about Black Joy regarding country music. I had in mind the publication (via Medium) I want this work to be connected to, so I wrote the essay with the publication’s theme sounding off as I typed each word.

I edited, fine-tuned, and combed through every word at different intervals. The time came to apply to be a writer. I did — again, fearful that I would not be their choice. I received the acceptance email also on Friday, July 29, 2022, and had been advised to submit the draft to the publication for continued review.

If you are a writer on/from Medium reading this, or if you have submitted your work to any viable or indomitable publication, whether online or in print, you know this does not mean the work will be published. This means you are IN. The publication will now work with you to bring your best work to their audience or they could decline every new submission if not tailored to their liking/theme accordingly.

I am hopeful the essay will be published, though, and I am optimistic about its chances. Again, there is joy racing through my bones solely about being accepted as a writer for this publication because I had been so afraid to even apply just two years ago.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and walked to exactly where I needed to be. And now, the journey is such a freeing one.


When people connect with your writing — they want to build with you

On Friday — yes, there’s a theme here. Do you see it? A fellow writer who is also an entrepreneur, artist, and creative powerhouse, left a comment on a previous TGR newsletter pertinent to my “dream” job and future goals. I read the comment — reached out to her. This morning, we had an hour-plus-long call that can only breed good things from this moment forward.

I am confident in her vision and in what we discussed as a game plan. It is intentional. It is laser-focused on a certain topic. It is exactly what I believe most of us need right now and in the immediate future — especially me. Prayerfully, early next year will produce more great things because of this interaction.

If I had not been writing my heart out — not sharing my difficulties and breakthroughs with grief — I never would have made this connection. If I had not taken a moment to break away from that pesky comfort zone of mine, I would not have sent the email or hopped on the call.

She saw — has seen something in my writing for years that made her want to build with me. There is no phrase — no way of actually describing this feeling that can do it justice.

When you are doing what your heart pushes you to do, the right people see it.


I whisper these accomplishments to the wind, and she hears them

The one thing that shatters my heart, though, about my newfound freedom is the fact that I cannot verbally share this with my cousin and hear her response. But I whisper it into the open air. I bend the ear of the flirting trees. I allow myself to bounce ideas out loud and nod when I feel like she approves — supports them.

I have learned that freedom from fear comes when the comfort zone is squashed. I am learning to guide myself down paths that speak to me and feel safe with more of an open mind. I am learning that although my cousin is no longer here to experience everything with me as I experience these things in real time — she is in my heart tapping at the center of me, at just the right moment.

And every tear that falls doesn’t come from me being sad anymore — they sometimes come with an undeniable air of joy surrounding me at every turn.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. — Joseph Campbell

Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.

The Things I Am Not

And who I am and who I’d like to be

Simple. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I am an open book with a tired spine. I am not an only child — the eldest of seven. I creep beneath the sun’s shadows on cloudy days and savor a subtle breeze as it blows haphazardly in my direction.

Not a smoker. Not a drinker. Not a person who cares if you do or don’t, as long as you aren’t bringing harm to others — do as you please. I won’t sit back and keep my tongue on pause when a situation/action/ordeal rubs me the wrong way.

I am not your best friend’s best thing. Not a visual artist. Not a fan of everyone merging into one another. Where is the ability to be unique — to stand out from the crowd?

The bandwagon is toppling. We need to lighten the load.

I am not a night owl — not a club-hopper, can’t tell you the last time I’ve allowed someone to get within six feet of me if they weren’t family or a close/best friend.

I am not interested in cryptocurrency, bitcoin, sales & marketing. I don’t want to know how many ways I can flip a house.

I could care less about social media. You won’t find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok; hell, I’m barely tolerating LinkedIn, and it’s lightweight entertainment on a good day.

I still listen to my favorite artists on CDs, others on vinyl. I have zero shame in pulling up YouTube to venture down memory lane.

Nope, I’m not addicted to Spotify, Apple Music, or any other app that gives me hundreds of thousands of artists at my beck and call.

I can write until my fingers bleed. I give birth to stories that have spent more than nine months in my brain. I am a healthcare worker leaning towards 20 years in the field.

I am not heterosexual.
I do not lack love.
I cannot stand what this world is becoming.

I am not in a relationship — don’t want to be “hooked up” with your boy or “set up” with your girl. Keep your friends where they are — they’ll have way too much to deal with as it pertains to who I am now.

I can say that openly without stuttering. I can say that and feel no shame. I know where my lane is and I stay in it.

I am me. Flawed. Fearful. Forgiven. The things I am not are exactly who I am.


This is a response to the CRY “Who Are You” prompt. Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.


N’Dambi, Can’t Hardly Wait

The Grieving Room

Bless and Tre. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Celebrating milestones, spending time with family, and living again

A few months ago, my kid sister decided she wanted to come up for a visit during her summer break. Since she teaches, this is the perfect time to travel, enjoy time away from home, and explore a new environment. Why not venture to North Carolina to make that happen?! I was all for it and scrambled to put in my time on our department’s PTO calendar well in advance so I would have this time with her to celebrate her 23rd birthday the way she intended to have it celebrated.

My dad and stepmom took the five-hour drive up from Georgia along with her. Seeing all three of them at once, and in my place for the first meeting in over 3 years, had been a blessing. I have not been traveling nor have I been venturing too far away from home. (Thanks, global pandemic, you really know how to show a woman a good time.)

Every time I feel as though I should take a road trip at least 3–5 hours away, my body and mind turn against me. I feel physically sick and afraid. There is a fear that has strapped itself to my skin, settled in my bones, and hasn’t released me yet. But slowly, surely, I am wiggling myself free from it.

Having the kid here for the weekend has lifted my spirits. Friday night, we watched Sing 2 on Netflix since she had not seen it. I love a good animated film. I love it even more if it makes me laugh!

There’s a specific scene when Meena is trying to run back into the lobby with her ice cream cone because she has gotten incredibly nervous and flushed from being around her crush. She attempts to push a pull door and lands hard into it — splattering ice cream everywhere.

Meena Falls in Love. Sing 2, 2021

I cannot tell you the number of times I have watched this and laughed until my throat became sore — tears sputtering from my eyes. What gets me, even more, is Alphonso’s reaction to Meena’s misstep: “Whoooaaa! Are you okay?” If you haven’t treated yourself to this movie, do so.


Celebrating a milestone simplistically but in style

23 is a fun age. If you were to ask me if I remember turning 23, nearly twenty years ago, I’d confess — I do not. I remember it was the year I graduated college and I believe much of the month before that was spent preparing myself for what was to come after I walked across that stage.

My sister did not ask for much. She didn’t want to go anywhere major, didn’t want to do anything over-the-top. Her requests: take pictures in the park, have a birthday cake, a hearty lunch, and spend time with us. Not much, right? Nope.

We have done these things, and there is still more to come. In order for me to have this time to spend with her, I took Friday off from work. I’ve also taken this coming Monday off, as I know I will need to rest and recuperate before I “go hard in the paint” again at work. Priorities, people. Priorities.

Why a milestone, you may ask? I had friends who did not make it to this age. They’d died in their early 20s, late teens, or just as we entered high school. So seeing my kid sister, all smiles, living her life to the fullest, and being able to freely, makes me miss those friends more. As I stated several entries back, grief comes in waves.

I feel immense joy witnessing her happiness. I am overwhelmed with elation, however; I think about the loved ones I have lost — those who cannot share these moments with me any longer — those who … had not been given extra time. It hits me like a ton of bricks and I am a puddle of tears once again.

23. Bless Loadholt. Used with her permission. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Although my sister is celebrating a new year simplistically, she did so in style. As we readied ourselves this morning to meet up with my dad and stepmom, the kid wrapped herself in a stunning yellow dress and donned her feet in wedged heels.

I am not dainty by any means. I find comfort in themed t-shirts, sweatpants or jeans, and sneakers. During the winter, themed hoodies or long-sleeved shirts, sweatpants or jeans, and sneakers. The last time I wore heels? Senior prom, maybe?

I admire those who choose to rock them and can make heads turn while doing so. I am proud of my kid sister for having her own sense of style and shining so brightly as she shows it off.


Preparing for the busy weekend and much-needed family time

The workweek had been a short one. I only worked Tuesday through Thursday and Thursday ended up being a shorter day than normal because of system and connectivity issues.

Throughout the week, I was preparing myself for this weekend — getting things in order. I also rested more than usual because I knew I would be busy. Jernee (my dog) is perplexed because we have had back-to-back visitors and not much lazing about.

I appreciate spending time with my family — being able to do so with a few people here and there, and in small doses, has been a gift. I needed this more than I can put into words.

Singing Happy Birthday to someone I love and someone whose diapers I changed sends a slight shiver up my spine. I have watched this person grow from all stages of life and she is still growing. There is a sense of pride welling up within me, awaiting the proper moment to burst out.

I think I’ll hold on to it a little longer.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? — Satchel Paige


Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.

I Want To Be a Lasting Voice

An Audio Flash Nonfiction Piece

I Want To Be a Lasting Voice
Photo by Rene Ferreira via Pexels

I never thought I’d live to see the mass destruction of all things different–but here we are. As many reflect on the 6th anniversary of the Pulse shooting where 49 people were gunned down and killed while 53 others had been wounded, I am sitting with my thoughts on just how insane the world in which we live has become. At the age of 42 and as a Black woman who is bisexual, and also lives in the South, fear and I are “kissing friends.” We have a relationship where she pulls at my hair and I slap her hands away assertively yet with just a bit of caution, too. We are warped bosom buddies–our lives entwined for decades because this has “become the norm.” I can’t slip out of my skin to appease the majority, however, if you asked them if I can, they’d rebut, “Yes, it can be done.”

Someone has poured some type of creamer in their coffee that deteriorates brain cells and as my friend’s mother used to say, “Something in the milk ain’t clean.” Who are we to cast down or out those who do not look, act, agree with, or follow our beliefs? Who are we to denounce a community because we do not understand their lives? Who are we to harbor hate for those with different socioeconomic backgrounds, upbringings, and work ethics? Everyone is so busy playing God they’ve forgotten just who God truly is.

If God IS love, why are so many who claim to follow him displaying the opposite? I want to be a lasting voice. When I am gone, affix my words to my tombstone–compile a few of my most vulnerable pieces and share them with my hurting loved ones. When my body is ash, spread me along the Savannah River, purify its depth. I do not want to be remembered as someone who was merely existing during a time when all hell broke loose and lifted herself in phases because living in whole parts had become too exhausting.

Living now is exhausting. 

And it pains me to reflect on the past, observe the present, and admit that I do not want any parts of the torturous future ahead. Not if there aren’t serious changes. I am one voice. I say to you now, do not let yours go silent–do not allow yours to be stunted. Pull whatever morsel of goodness you have dwelling within the pits of your belly out, and spread it all over this world. 

We are dying by the hundreds. We are hurting by the thousands. We are struggling by the millions. And soon, if we do not become wise, we will all be dead without forgiveness. 

I want to be a lasting voice. Do you?

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published on Simily.