Peppering in audio clips from Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls…” and “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval,” throughout a 15-minute set, soul singer KeiyaA delivered a moving display of Black women’s social experiences through her performance at the 2021 Girls United Summit.
The musician released her full-length debut, Forever Ya Girl in 2020, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was heralded by Solange Knowles, included on Jay Z’s end of the year playlist on Tidal, and named Best New Music by Pitchfork upon its release.
For this year’s Girls United Summit, we were live in Atlanta, Georgia. We served up real conversations moderated by, and filled with, Black women who proudly take up space in today’s world.
With repeated declarative lines (among them is “Asè O,” a Yoruba philosophy honoring the power to manifest) and strong themes of self and collective liberation, KeiyaA’s debut album found its orchestrator reflective, poetic and ready for change.
During her set, she revealed the project was a daring move that was meant to establish music as a part of life’s her path.
“I released it as a way to prove myself that music was something I was supposed to do,” she said to the live and virtual audience. “I quit my job with no savings and I needed to figure out a way to pay rent and I was able to do that with this music. This is also music that produced myself,” she said to applause from the live audience.
The Chicago-born singer is prepping to embark on a European tour, hitting Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and more from November 2o21 until June 2022.
Watch KeiyaA’s set during Girls United Summit 2021 above. For more of everything you missed at the 2021 ESSENCE Girls United Summit, head over to ESSENCE Studios.
The 2021 Girls United Summit is presented by CBS Original The Equalizer and sponsored by American Airlines and McDonald’s.