Tripp Fontane reminds you to rest

Joel Oliphint
Tripp Fontane

Issues of racial justice are not new to Tripp Fontane. The poet and musician has always incorporated those ideas into his art, whether speaking about his own experiences as a Black man or commenting on American society. In that way, Fontane said the protests that erupted over the spring and summer have only brought him closer to his community.

But they’ve also reminded him of an important lesson that he has recently been passing along to those working tirelessly for justice: You need to rest — “especially people protesting, putting their physical bodies out there,” Fontane said. “With any fight, there has to be rest. … A lot of times, we forget to rest.”

While things in the outside world are chaotic, Fontane tries not to let that chaos live inside of him. “As a Black person in America, where the brakes have never been pumped on persecution … you can’t bear all that weight,” he said. “I’m grateful to have safe spaces to not be OK and to grow.”

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Art also provides an outlet for that chaos and those feelings, and over the years Fontane has found a healthy balance between his poetry and his music, which he’ll explore in a livestream performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, as part of the Lincoln Living Room Concert Series. While Fontane misses the creative, life-giving energy of in-person performances, these virtual sets are the next-best thing.

Fontane said the COVID era has exposed some uncomfortable, top-down realities (“The pandemic has shown the priorities of the people we trust to act on our behalf. ... We’ve been hung out to dry at the local and federal level,” he said), but it hasn’t kept the artist from connecting with his community. Still, the way those interactions happen has changed. “There are still ways to [connect]. We just might have to kick it outside, and for 30 minutes instead of four hours,” he said. “It’s harder now to have a relationship out of convenience. … Nothing about this is convenient right now.”

Fontane has also been using this more-isolated existence as an opportunity to work on a new album, as well as an instrumental funk project that pays tribute to his birthplace of Dayton. Along the way, he has found himself inspired by “Blackness as a whole ... and how it plays out in my life,” he said. “I’m working within myself.”