Fine Arts, Bring Back to Life: Teacher Makella Harris Heals With Music


The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed gave a lot of time to think about it. For Makella Moore Harris, it gave her time to “connect with her creative energy on a different level,” she said.

This energy spawned Fine Arts and Find Life (FAFL), a Birmingham-based nonprofit that aims to improve the mental well-being of children in underserved communities through the expressive arts and education. The group launched their Self-Care Sundays series on July 11. It takes place on the second Sunday of each month.

“Over the course of my career, I frequently meet children and adults dealing with childhood trauma,” said Harris, who was a music teacher at Birmingham City Schools (BCS) for over 16 years and an assistant professor of the humanities. and Music Appreciation at Lawson State Community College for over 13 years.

“Traumatic events, such as the death of a family member or friend, or witnessing or being the victim of sexual abuse, physical violence, car accidents, natural disasters or bullying, are the root of many impulsive behaviors that teachers observe and face on a daily basis. ,” she said.

Harris believes that the fine art has the ability to ignite the imagination and enable the possibility of “learning about life beyond these circumstances.”

Harris would like FAFL to serve as a mental health resource for “underserved and vulnerable communities” and work with other local organizations that serve at-risk students to provide expressive art services, which refer to any combination of dance. , writing, visual arts, theater, music or other creative outlets.

“These are fine art modalities used therapeutically to enhance mental well-being,” she said, adding that she credits students with the inspiration to create the organization.

“I’m always thinking of ways to put positivity and purpose in their life,” Harris said.

Early onset

Harris, 38, was born July 4 and raised in Demopolis, Alabama, with her parents and older sister. Before moving in with her family at the age of 6, she lived in Tucson, Arizona with her birth mother and two younger brothers. She and her brothers had been placed in an orphanage, where they stayed a few weeks before her father and grandparents “heard about it,” she said.

“I always say, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes,’ said Harris. “I am so grateful that I grew up in a home with a healthy and loving environment, a place where I was nurtured and cultivated to be the woman I am today.”

Harris went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Music Commerce from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) and a Master of Arts in Music Education from Alabama State University, in addition to completing the Specialist Program of educational leadership education at the university. from Montevallo. She plans to begin her PhD in Education in Educational and Organizational Leadership this fall at Samford University. Harris’s first experience with music began at age 6, when she was in the choir at Gilfield Baptist Church in Demopolis. She sang the soprano before “giving herself the courage to sing solos,” she said.

As his passion for music grew, Harris joined the group of sixth-grade beginners at US Jones Middle School in his hometown; she was playing the clarinet. Eventually, she received several scholarships, including one following a high school graduation trip to AAMU in the fall of 1999. She auditioned for the music department and received a partial scholarship as a flautist. Soon after, she was invited to a follow-up audition while playing the oboe and was awarded a full scholarship.

Healing through music

Harris believes music can do more than entertain – it has healing power, she said.

“[Greek philosophers] Aristotle and Plato created the “Doctrine of Ethos,” which primarily emphasizes the ability of music to affect character and emotion. … I know this is true firsthand, ”said Harris. “I think music is the purest form of medicine. Mental health is the foundation of a productive life. Good mental health allows us to show ourselves as ourselves and those we love.

“It gives us the necessary bandwidth to deal with the varying amounts of stress brought on by different situations and aspects of our careers and lives. It is so important that we, especially minority populations, dispel the stigma that discourages any effort to use mental health resources.

Harris does not describe what she does as therapy.

“No, I’m not a therapist,” she said. “I am an expressive arts facilitator who brings the creative process and multimodal expressive arts to a variety of environments. … We do not diagnose or suggest solutions; we focus on history and art.

For Harris, music is his safe place, his “therapy”. And the FAFL board is made up of like-minded people.

“It wasn’t difficult to find my team,” said Harris. “These are all people I know and for whom I have a deep respect. I was very strategic about who I invited because it’s important. I wanted them to be masters at their craft, community oriented, professional and sophisticated, but most of all, caring people, able to work well with others. These people have all of these qualities and more. I was honored when they answered the call to join me on this journey to do such important work in the community.

Members of the FAFL Board of Directors include:

Sharifa Wip, Acting President, who is the Mentor Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural and Student Diversity Programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB); Terralance De Shon Thurman, Acting Treasurer, who is Assistant Vice President and System Support Analyst at Wells Fargo; Erica Jewel, founder of Learning Little People, which offers private lessons and enrichment to young people in Birmingham; Roy S. Johnson, columnist and director of content development for Alabama Media Group /; and Aisha Cooper, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of Stevens Home Healthcare Montgomery.

To learn more about Fine Arts Find Life, visit or follow Fine Arts Find Life on Facebook and @fineartsfindlife on Instagram.


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