The Jackson 5, Greatest Hits: The earliest album I can recall having. In kindergarten.
The Mamas & the Papas, Greatest Hits: In high school, I listened to the Oldies station. I loved particularly flower power.
Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert, Lifeline: I was an activist in the peace and anti-nuclear movements as a teen and ended up listening to a lot of activist and women’s music. I had this album.
Whoopi Goldberg, Original Broadway Show Recording: I studied with Whoopi Goldberg in high school.
Joan Armatrading, Walk Under Ladders: I listened to this gorgeous album and tried, unsuccessfully, to work out harmonies.
The Pointer Sisters, Break Out: This album bridged my transition between high school and college.
Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: I began to listen to hip hop in college, mostly black political music.
Queen Latifah, All Hail The Queen: Latifah was the game changer for me. This album shifted my perception of women in hip hop.
Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: By this time, I wasn’t listening to as much hip hop, but her debut album was phenomenal as a break though for women in hip hop.
Conjunto Céspedes, Una Sola Casa: I bought this album as I was reconnecting with my Afro-Latino heritage.
Bishop Yvette Flunder and the Fellowship Mass Choir, We Won’t Be Silent Anymore: Bishop Flunder and the City of Refuge church have been a critical resource in my development as an artist, and a human being. Although I don’t identify as a Christian, I was a weekly guest at her church for over a decade. At a time when I needed spiritual healing, she always welcomed me with open arms. There was always room in her theology for diversity, including non-Christian and indigenous religion.
Bob Marley, Legend: I had listened to his music since I was a toddler. The music is part of my family's Caribbean roots.
The Harder They Come Soundtrack: This album was a part of my early childhood, and a music that my partner and I share a deep nostalgia for.
Mos Def, Black on Both Sides: In his track, “fear not of man,” Mos challenges us to believe that we are hip hop. My answer to this challenge became my solo show, Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip Hop.
India.Arie, Acoustic Soul: This was one of the first albums I got excited about in a long time, as it blended my love of pop/R&B with my path of self-love.
Goapele, Closer: During the years I was touring, this was one of my anthems.
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black: I found this album to be a powerful blending of the sounds of the girl group oldies I grew up with, and the complex truth telling about the craziness of young women’s lives instead of the syrupy false lyrics of the sixties.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Aya de Leon is a writer, poet, and pioneering spoken word artist in the underground poetry scene of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her Puerto Rican and African American heritage has inspired her to explore issues with race, gender, and class.