Erica Fox is pictured at the Attakapas Collective on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, in downtown Lafayette.

Lafayette R&B artist Erica Fox hopes to give girls and women the tools to express themselves through song in an upcoming workshop at the McComb-Veazey Community House.

Fox has been writing her own music and songs since she was around 3 years old. At 18, she moved to California to pursue her music career and has since honed her musical voice. For Fox, songwriting is a path to spiritual connection and reflection, and she often tries to sit in nature while channeling her ideas.

The singer-songwriter said growing in her craft has built her confidence, making her a stronger communicator who feels more capable when presenting in front of others.

“It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and challenged me and allowed me to do things that I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t have music and those avenues like the arts to pursue those ideas and dreams,” she said.

The artist is now looking for chances to pass her skills down to young people, especially women, in her hometown. Armed with an ArtSpark grant from the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Fox is launching “Griot! The Sister to Sister Project,” an effort to capture the stories of women and girls in the community through a compilation of songs.

A griot is an African storyteller and musician who keeps the oral history of their family and community, passing the tales down to the next generation. Fox said she’s always been called to storytelling in her work.

Offering an outlet for connection and expressing emotions felt more important than ever after the last two years, Fox said, with the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide reckoning with the treatment of people of color, especially Black people. Many women she’s spoken with have been hurting, she said.

Songwriting has been cathartic for Fox, who lost her father last year, and she hopes the experience can be similarly healing and uplifting for others.

Tina Shelvin Bingham, executive vice president of the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood CDC, said women deserve to express themselves and should have as many outlets as possible.

“I think women get beat up enough. We should have every tool in our arsenal available to help us with healing. I think writing and journaling, especially for me, have been very helpful during COVID and even before to get my ideas out and think through things,” she said.

On Dec. 4, Fox will lead a group of girls, primarily ages 12 to 17, in a class at the McComb-Veazey Community House at 419 12th St. Fox will cover how to formulate a song and what it means to convert poetic writing into music, before hosting breakout writing sessions.

At the end, the goal is to combine the girls’ experiences into a couple songs for the compilation album.

While the program is targeted to girls, female relatives and older women can also attend. The R&B artist said she’s planning to have the women and girls record their songs at Maison Fou Entertainment, the independent recording studio owned by Chad Fouquier.

For any aspiring singers and songwriters in the community, Fox said she hopes sessions like the upcoming McComb-Veazey class will act as a leg up to launch their careers.

“Because I’m from Lafayette and I moved away not knowing anybody in Los Angeles, I kind of learned on the job and I didn’t have a mentor. I literally had to bust my butt to figure it out. In whatever small way I can help someone who may be an aspiring poet, writer, or singer, I’d love to just be that mentor and help in whatever aspect I can to give them a shortcut,” she said.

Bingham said the neighborhood coterie plans to host more learning sessions with local artists like Fox in the spring.

Bingham said it’s important to showcase and celebrate talent like Fox’s, especially in communities where there’s been disinvestment, to build further pride in the community’s past, present and future. Preserving the community’s legacy, whether through song, oral stories or the written work, is important, she said.

“One of the things I really appreciate are the stories my grandmother told me about the community and her impact within the community,” Bingham said.

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