Gangstagrass’ Role In Bridging The Religion Divide


Coincidentally, the video didn’t show footage of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol; or the mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. A person watching the video could wonder if violence is condemned only if the people come from a certain demographic or political party. Understandably, many Americans felt some uneasiness over the song. In an Instagram post from Gangstagrass, Rench mocked the song and expressed how “weird” it was. 

Gangstagrass understands the unique position it holds in helping both parties come together and find common ground. In July, the band worked with Braver Angels, a movement that works to bring people of different political views together. Gangstagrass participated in the Breaver Angels national convention. The band attended and held a workshop on depolarizing American music. The group explained that during the Jim Crow era, music started to be separated into White or Black, perpetuating the gap between the races. 

“The artificial segregation of spaces was imposed by record label marketing branches; it’s a whole microcosm of the history (of the music industry),” Whitener told Forbes. “They want to put it in a box and sell it as a product. Initially, putting white and black music together seems like this new thing, but the more you look into the context, you see that we’re really reuniting things that have been pushed apart.”

During the convention, the band got to work with 12 musicians. Half were liberal, the others conservative. They wrote songs about education and democracy. The heartfelt song “I feel like something is broken” was written, and it captured the essence of what both political parties feel.

Some common ground was found among them, but some beliefs remained in stark opposition. The education song faced the most struggles because of the different beliefs surrounding faith. During the brainstorming phase of the song “Marya Djalal,” a teacher suggested a lyric about a child being molded by the maker’s hands. That reference to God set off an intense debate about religion in public schools. In the end, R-son advised that it was best not to promote one faith over another. As a result, the “maker’s hands” line was removed. 

“It’s pretty amazing to see a bunch of people I didn’t know before a few days ago dancing to a band I had never heard of — and now I couldn’t imagine my life without the music and this movement,” said Andrew Garrett, one of the songwriters. “It’s an amazing community that came out of nowhere but actually feels like it’s going to sustain.”

This got me thinking about my conservatism. While I’m more politically conservative on some topics, my political party doesn’t define me. I can see the nuances of the problems in this country. There are many scenarios where some common ground can be found. Faith, however, isn’t an issue where people can find common ground. As a Christian, God and his ways must be central to our lives. That loyalty to God alone causes great opposition from people — especially when beliefs are involved. It does not surprise me that the songwriters had the hardest time once faith was brought up. 

Even though all topics can’t be mended, Gangstagrass is doing good work bringing people together. 

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