Paisha Thomas

I talked to Paisha Thomas Summer Jam West 2022.

Paisha Thomas, Summer Jam West 2022, #614whats2love #artmakescbus #columbusmakesart #summerjamwestgate #summerjam #summerjamwest #summerjamwest2022 #hilltopartscollective #summerjamfestivalofficial   #blackwomenmusicians #blackwomenplayguitar
Instagram @iampaisa @hilltopartscollective @our.614hilltop @iampaisha  @summerjam_festival_official
Paisha Thomas, Summer Jam West 2022

Why volunteer or perform at Summer Jam West?

It is important that we don’t have to volunteer. Music is fun; but, it is also work. It was easy to say yes to that experience, not only because it is fun and alcohol free and family friendly but because they respect musicians’ work and they pay us, so we don’t have to volunteer.

Tell me about your music journey.

I grew up in church. The first time I remember wanting to sing in the choir I was about four. I saw this girl, Nicole Burton, she was about eight, leading a solo in the choir. I told my grandma that is what I wanted to do. I had to go about being a kid for a few more years. I had to wait until I was eight to be baptized. That set about a habit of needing to be baptized to get in the choir. My grandma was Baptist. My aunt Peggie, whose church was around the corner, was Apostolic. They don’t recognize baptisms that are not in the same formula. I had to get baptized again to get in their choir. I have been singing since I could talk. Searching to sing in front of people probably started at age eleven. I used to lead praise and worship. I was a choir director. It seems like every church I attended, I ended up leading praise and worship. I lost my faith and quit going to church and quit believing. Then, I didn’t know what to do about music or how I was going to sing. One day at work, (Ohio Department of Job and Family Services) they had a talent competition. I took a chance and competed in that. I caught the bug. I started singing and playing again for audiences.

Sidebar: My heart was heavy when I heard this sentence, “I lost my faith and quit going to church and quit believing.” Enough said.

Paisha Thomas, Summer Jam West 2022, #614whats2love #artmakescbus #columbusmakesart #summerjamwestgate #summerjam #summerjamwest #summerjamwest2022 #hilltopartscollective #summerjamfestivalofficial   #blackwomenmusicians #blackwomenplayguitar
Instagram @iampaisa @hilltopartscollective @our.614hilltop @iampaisha  @summerjam_festival_official
Paisha Thomas, Summer Jam West 2022

How would you describe your musical expression?

I think I fall into a secular gospel sound. Negro spirituals formed a lot of our music. I named my guitar after Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was a black woman in the 1910s and 1920s who was playing the electric guitar in bars (gospel songs). Mahalia Jackson was refusing to play in bars because she had her spiritual values. Because of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, we have rock and roll. Because of rock and roll, we have all these other genres. I do a secular gospel sound. Sometimes it is folk.

When did you start playing guitar?

I was playing an electric guitar. I like it better. I had been playing acoustic guitar because it is easier to transport. The electric feels better. I only play a little bit. That is why I hire band people to fill in the sound.

Sidebar: I love it. This is an example of staying in your lane. Outside looking in, I couldn’t tell they weren’t an established group.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you think I should have asked you? If so, go ahead and answer that question.

The deep question that I ask my self is why do I do this? What is the purpose? And to what end?

I feel like I couldn’t not do it. I have gone through various whys throughout time. First, it was being a child and wanting to hop on stage. Then, it was the performance culture of church that had within it a leadership role. You were seen as someone who ushers us into a frame of mind to receive from God. In the present, what I care about is the liberation of my people. I want to do that through the arts using my voice and music to carry those messages.

Do you have a website where people can purchase your music?

So many of us have to work a few different jobs to pay the bills while we chase our dreams. When my book comes out on August 7, 2022, there will be a website rollout. Until then, I am on iTunes, and Van Camp. There is a song in particular that I want people to get, “I Won’t Be Back.”

What? A book?

It is a collection of stories from times in my life. I had to laugh when I saw you. It reminded me of a chapter in the book about one of the moments in my life where you were in there.

Sidebar: I won’t share the story. You will have to get the book to be in the know.

This is crazy. I was troubled about how I would take care of my grandkids. I asked this little five-year-old girl her opinion. She said, “Write a book.”  I am so proud to show her that I wrote the book. She is ten now.

Anything else?

It seems like all that I do is towards the common goal of liberating my people through story telling. That is what music is as well.

I am one of John Randolph’s freed people. John Randolph of Roanoke inherited my ancestors (an enslaved people). He decided to manumit, which means to set free people who are enslaved when slavery is legal. This is prior to the civil war and the end of slavery. He purchased 3200 acres which is 5 square miles of property in Mercer county, Ohio, for us to live on. His family contested the will for thirteen years. When we finally go to Mercer county, there were German immigrants squatting on the land. They formed an armed militia. They politicize that movement to seize our land by threatening to withhold votes from politicians. The state of Ohio sanctioned that violence against my family. Imagine what generational stability we lost for not being able to have our real estate. And the generation poverty that ensued because of that violence. In my clear view of life, state sanctioned violence against black people has to be abolished. I cofounded “Say it Loud Columbus.” We do music for the movement for social justice causes. We hire artists and musicians to sing at protests and create content against state sanctioned violence. I do pottery using the red clay from the plantation. I am telling my story through a book and through song.

I mentioned earlier that I lost my faith, but I didn’t circle back around and say that I do faith-based advocacy work. I just ended a tenure with an organization called “Faith in Public Life.” People of faith have a lot of influence over policy. I decided to pursue a Master of Divinity and a Master of Art and Social Justice at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. I won a scholarship for those two degrees. I start this fall.