A 20-year-old Portland, Oregon native is bringing a fresh voice and vibe to the Tucson desert. Shekinah Camille comes in many forms. They are a singer, songwriter, musician, DJ, burlesque performer and avid voice for the black and queer communities.
Camille recently performed at the Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2019 at the Tucson Convention Center. During the event, which celebrated the abolishment of slavery in Texas and most of America on June 19, 1865, Camille, who identifies as non-binary, brought intersectionality to the black community in Tucson by premiering a self-produced video. This video brought visibility to the queer black Tucson community through interviews with those within the community.
“I was tasked this year, which I thought was really cool, to create a presentation representing black, queer folks in Tucson. And it's because a lot of the time—in the black community—our queerness is kind of silenced and pushed aside and just, like tolerated and not celebrated,” Camille said.
Queer representation is something that hasn’t been introduced to Tucson’s annual Juneteenth festival until now.
“This year they decided that it's a good time to acknowledge and to represent queer voices in the black community. And also a lot of them are my friends.” Camille said. “I got a couple of folks together and we're just going to represent us and represent just beautiful, beautiful black queerness for the first time at Juneteenth.”
Camille brings that representation to their music as well. With influences such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Erykah Badu and Lalah Hathaway, Camille shares their experience through soulful, R&B melodies. Acoustic sounds mix with their voice as they grace the stage with a guitar as well.
“I feel that the way that I approach my music and my art and the things that I do that fill my heart are going to be representative of me. So I'm going to make sure that my children can live in a world where if they are gay, if they are non binary, if they're under the trans umbrella, if they are artists—if they don't want to be—like super rich corporate people and they just want to do like humble community work, I want to create a space for them where they can actually do that,” Camille said. “And it’s neither good or bad. It just is.”
Camille’s music also brings mental health into the picture. In their most recent single, “The Wave,” Camille describes their experience with depression.
“It was about not being able to control how I'm feeling, but letting go of the need to control it, which was causing my suffering ‘cause I knew I couldn't control the thoughts that were coming into my mind,” Camille said. “So essentially just riding the wave of life and of those emotions and taking that and just letting go.”
Kevin Hamilton, founder of the production business Southwest Soul Circuit and producer of “The Wave,” praises working with Camille.
“Shekinah’s one of the best people I’ve ever worked with—very intuitive when it comes to creating,” Hamilton said.
For now, “The Wave” is only available through physical copies. While they plan to release it online eventually, Camille has reasons as to why they’re waiting.
“The decision not to stream it honestly really comes from me looking at the way a lot of artists release their music and the ways in which I value my music,” Camille said. “And the reason I do my music isn't to become famous and to reach success and to reach all these listeners. I just want [to] truly impact every person that hears it.”
Camille is also working on their debut studio album.
“I have technically all of the songs written and the demos are recorded. I just need to get into the studio and you know, record them,” Camille said. “I can't make art that doesn't speak to the humanity of folks because that's where I do it from.”