Soteria Shepperson is an artivist, meaning she combines art and activism in her music. For the last 10 years, the performer has been working to fight social and racial injustice, and she has found that poetry is her best way to do it. She says that using her lyrics as a platform to speak on these inequities is more effective than just having a conversation about them, and her song “Redemption,”—released this year on Juneteeth, during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement—is the theme song for the podcast If You Only Knew… with Dr. Debby Stroman.
Why do you make music?
Yeah, so I actually, I was an athlete- probably Debby and I’s first love both is basketball. Before my senior year, I had two ACL tears, one in each knee, and then I tore my rotator cuff. I was just devastated. Basketball for me was like therapy. It was the reason I woke up in the morning. It meant so much to me, and when that was taken from me, I went through this whole identity thing, trying to find my voice through the world, and, in America, a lot of our identity is not just tied to our race, but it’s also tied to our job.
When we think about talking to people, the first thing we say is like, what do you do? Not who you are. And so I really had to struggle with myself and like challenge myself to say, ‘who am I outside of these injuries? Who am I outside of my race?’
And so then, I started writing.
How did your music end up on a podcast?
Well, Dr. Debby and I have been working in a small group for over six months, three of us have different businesses, and we were just like bouncing ideas off of each other. But It was in this conversation about what’s happening around the world, and freedom is not free, especially being a black woman, and I feel like I have a beautiful obligation to hold people accountable.
It was when we were having these heartfelt conversations about, “All right, we’ve got to do this for our website,” then it was just doing those logistical moments and she said “I’ve got this podcast coming, and I need intro music,” and I was going to do it for her. It’s so amazing because it’s the first podcast intro and outro I have, which is just beautiful.
What does it mean to you to have your music featured on a podcast?
I think what Dr. Debby’s doing is phenomenal. I need more people that look like me in these places of leadership so that we can help each other. She’s providing a platform for people to ask questions and to be curious. This is our mission. My philosophy is that we don’t move out of judgment, we move out of curiosity.
I hope the more opportunities I get—and she gets—that people will see how amazing it is to work with people of color and how important it is for us to all remember that we don’t have to have the same sound to share the same language.