‘When the Waters Get Deep’ on the therapeutic powers of group and music for family members in grief

A healing circle scene from “When the Waters Get Deep.” Image: Courtesy of KQED Arts & Tradition

“When the Waters Get Deep” commences with a close-up of palms flipping via the internet pages of an previous photograph album. Karega Bailey smiles at the memories. On the lookout at photographs of him and his buddies as youthful children in Sacramento during the ’90s — Christmas mornings in entrance of the tree and scenes from the playground — he calls out a number of names. His vitality shifts as he describes that a few of the 9 younger males in the friend group are lifeless. Moments afterwards, the scene cuts to a restricted shot of Bailey’s experience as he begins to recite the following:

This is for Black males who have deemed homicide when they lost somebody they appreciate. 

This is for those people of us who know firsthand that we are all just a person bullet away from staying a hashtag.

As the poem carries on, Bailey, a single-fourth of the Bay Space tunes group SOL Development, talks about sleepless evenings, questioning God and lacking assistance teams.


The documentary, directed by Kelly Whalen, is slated to make its big-display debut as section of Fort Mason Flix’s bought-out Black Historical past Thirty day period program on Tuesday, Feb. 23 (it can also be are living-streamed for totally free that exact evening on KQED Arts’ YouTube channel). The opening scenes hit tough and established audiences up for a significant journey via pain, reduction and healing. But it is the unpredicted, captured while the cameras are rolling, that sets it aside.

In the beginning, the movie was supposed to be a 5-minute piece about a group of Oakland musicians and educators and their impact on the community. But discussions amongst the musicians and filmmakers exposed a tale that would consider additional time.

The SOL Improvement collective consists of Felicia Gangloff-Bailey (still left), Karega Bailey, Brittany Tanner and Lauren Adams. Image: Smeeta Mahanti

In 2014, Bailey’s brother, Kareem Johnson, a coordinator at Sacramento’s Centre for Fathers and Households, was killed. As we satisfy Bailey in the film’s opening scenes, we see how he navigates his grief. He talks about producing the conscious choice not to permit the soreness to try to eat absent at him and how he had to struggle the urge to look for revenge. In its place, Bailey channeled the adverse strength into educating and building music. In 2015, he collaborated with his wife, Felicia Gangloff-Bailey, alongside with friends Lauren Adams and Brittany Tanner, to develop SOL Improvement.

On their debut album, “The SOL of Black People,” produced in February 2019, their songs addressed police violence, the discomfort of dropping loved ones associates to gun violence, a sister’s plea for her brother to abandon road life, and getting peace by way of faith.

But their wish to facilitate healing and develop local community went over and above their perform in the studio. In 2017, they acquired involved with Be-Imaginative, a collective of artists, activists and healers who provide therapeutic place for family members who have lost beloved types to gun violence — the two in the community and at the fingers of law enforcement. Using storytelling as a tool to help approach trauma, the collective hosts art exhibitions, therapeutic circles, local community gatherings and retreats, and makes tunes to lift up the recollections of the individuals who have died and listen to the activities of the people who have survived them.

SOL Development’s work with Be-Imaginative takes center phase in the movie. Intimate footage from the therapeutic circles spotlights moms who share their tales of reduction and how, no make any difference the time that has passed, they nevertheless sense discomfort and sorrow. A single of them is Sharon Bailey, mother to Karega Bailey and Kareem Johnson.

“It’s hard due to the fact of the way we have criminalized and created context of the younger folks who shed their existence to gun violence,” Karega Bailey points out. “There’s constantly this concern of whether or not they could have done anything otherwise. A problem of no matter if or not they had been at any in component liable for their fatalities.”

Benjamin “BJ” McBride, “When the Drinking water Gets Deep” producer and co-founder of Be-Imaginative. Image: Smeeta Mahanti

In addition to issues of the situation, people are frequently left without guidance the moment the social media hashtags are no longer viral and “the information cycle variations,” states Benjamin “BJ” McBride, “When the Waters Get Deep” producer and co-founder of Be-Imaginative.

“But daily life normally takes a distinct type for the men and women who have been in that particular second, the people who are caught with that loss — they’re still grappling with it,” adds McBride. “How can we make neighborhood and a safe and sound house for them to understand from every other? That is definitely what it is about. These moms, they’re at distinct points in their grief, teaching every other how to system and how to navigate these quite hard instances.”

The circles, like those people in the movie, are household members’ opportunity to share their grief and reduction with no panic of judgment or interrogation. As SOL Development performs, the people are inspired to converse the names of the cherished kinds they have missing.

“The operate we do with our moms and families is really vital to us. We also do it for ourselves. We are the men and women that we serve,” suggests one more Be-Imaginative co-founder, Ayesha Walker, who acquired associated in grief work right after she miscarried twins.

Sharon Bailey and her son Karega Bailey are showcased in the documentary “When the Waters Get Deep.” Photo: Smeeta Mahanti

Heading significantly deeper than a common driving-the-scenes songs doc, the film explores each the universality of grief and how the Black group is weighted by the unequal share on its shoulders. But inspite of the presence of so significantly major loss, an undercurrent of elegance, really like and even pleasure operates all through the film. As Karega Bailey moves as a result of grieving his brother, his self-awareness blossoms, and he is intent on sharing the lessons he learns about radical vulnerability and therapeutic with others.

The feeling of growth and advancement is emphasised with the revelation, about halfway by way of the film, that Karega and Felicia are expecting their initial little one. The pleasure of spouse and children and buddies is palpable. Adams sings a exclusive song she wrote for the gender reveal party. Gangloff-Bailey expresses what a joy their daughter is to carry.

Then on Sept. 30, 2019, the couple’s daughter, Kamaiu Sol Bailey, was born — and lived only a few minutes. Their selection to share such an intimate and heartbreaking knowledge (which they and their therapeutic neighborhood refer to as the double transition of their child) with the film crew then, and with the planet due to the fact, is yet another example of the energy of supportive communities. By way of the fog of their personal grief, the Baileys quickly turn into public advocates for other individuals enduring infant reduction.

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey and Karega Bailey in “When the Waters Get Deep.” Photo: Courtesy of KQED Arts & Lifestyle

“I hope that there is a radical gentleness that persons will come to feel to moms who have misplaced youngsters,”  Gangloff-Bailey states, reflecting on the local community response to Kamaiu’s loss of life. “I hope that those people moms who have shed kids to gun violence are held the exact same way that I was held, regarded the identical way that I was regarded. That they are comforted the exact same way that I’m comforted and that they are cherished the exact way I am liked, since they are deserving of all of those matters just as I was.”

Audiences get a glimpse of that treatment in the film through a celebration for Kamaiu. As Gangloff-Bailey recounts the issues of their practical experience, Bailey notes how a great deal they have obtained from the mothers they worked with.

The sentiment is 1 that Tanner shares. She, too, was processing numerous ranges of grief toward the conclude of filming. The rawness we hear in her voice as she sings at Kamaiu’s homegoing, an African American Christian funeral tradition marking the likely house of the deceased to heaven, is the grief of a buddy who was component of the delivery crew. But it is also the grief of a girl who had lost her brother, Demetrius, to gun violence on Oct. 17, 2019 — not even a month soon after the loss of Kamaiu.

“Had I not been in individuals healing circles, I really do not know where I would be mentally,” claims Tanner. “It prepared me to be ready to grieve and to be in a position to hold all of that suffering.”

“A Appreciate Supreme” showcasing “When the Waters Get Deep”: Black Background Month Generate-in presented by KQED. 8-10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23. Register to perspective the free dwell stream on KQED Arts’ YouTube channel at bit.ly/BHMdocfilm.

About this story

This story was created in partnership with Signify Collaborative (Rep Co), a media initiative concentrated on racial and social justice that will work to generate tales about Black and brown communities. Master more at www.representcollaborative.com.

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