♫ No Easy Walk To Freedom ♫

Tonight’s song is not one you’re likely to remember, nor one that was on your playlist when it was released back in 1986.  It only made it to #173 in the U.S. and did not chart outside the U.S.  However, it is a song with deep meaning, a song that speaks volumes and is a poignant reminder of where we have been, and where we are today as we celebrate Black History Month.

This is the title song of a 1986 studio album by American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Its release coincided with the group’s 25th anniversary. Produced by John McClure and Peter Yarrow, the album was nominated in 1987 in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.

The album was their first in almost nine years, and this title song was actually written for Nelson Mandela.  The group sought to connect the causes of Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.  A few years later, Peter, Paul and Mary would perform No Easy Walk to Freedom at an event in Tokyo honoring Mandela shortly after his release from prison.

No Easy Walk to Freedom
Peter, Paul and Mary

Brother Martin was walkin with me
And every step I heard liberty
Tho he’s fallin’, come a million behind!
Glory, Hallelujah, gonna make it this time!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Across the ocean, the blood’s running warm
I, I hear it coming, there’s a thunderin’ storm
Just like we lived it, you know that it’s true
Nelson Mandela, now we’re walkin’ with you!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

In our land, not so long ago,
We lived the struggle, and that’s how we know
Slavery abolished, comin’ freedom’s call
Keep on walking and apartheid will fall!

No easy walk to freedom,
No easy walk to freedom,
Keep on walkin’ and we shall be free
That’s how we’re gonna make history

Oh, bread for the body, there’s got to be
But a soul will die without liberty
Pray for the day when the struggle is past!
Freedom for all! Free at last! Free at last!

You and me!

Songwriters: Peter Yarrow / Tabankim Margery
No Easy Walk to Freedom lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

He Had Many Dreams

On Monday, the nation will celebrate the birthday of one of the biggest peacemakers in modern history, Dr. Martin Luther King.  Gunned down on April 4th, 1968, King lived to be only 39, and yet in his 39 years he accomplished more than most of us will accomplish in our much longer lifetimes.  Peacemakers are not popular among racists and bigots, as we have seen many times throughout history.  Many have written about King’s fight against racism and about his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but today Jamelle Bouie, writing for the New York Times, has written about another part of King’s legacy that we should also note and remember …


Martin Luther King Jr.’s other dreams

Jamelle Bouie

14 January 2023

The way most Americans talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 50 years after his assassination, you might think that he gave exactly one speech — on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington — and spoke exclusively about racial harmony and his oft-mentioned dream of integration.

But King, of course, is a more complicated figure than his sanctified image would suggest, and his body of work — his writings, speeches and interviews — is deeper and more wide-ranging than most Americans might appreciate. With our annual celebration of King’s life on the immediate horizon, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at one of his lesser-known, although by no means obscure, speeches, one in which he discusses the struggle for global peace.

King first delivered “A Christmas Sermon on Peace” on Christmas Eve, 1967, at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he served as co-pastor. He begins with an observation and a prophetic warning:

This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we see its ominous possibilities.

“If we don’t have good will toward men in this world,” he goes on to say, “we will destroy ourselves by misuse of our own instruments and our own power.”

King wants his congregants and listeners to experiment with nonviolence in arenas beyond the struggle for racial justice in the United States. But to do that, he says, one’s moral and ethical obligations must become ecumenical rather than sectional or parochial:

Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.

“We must either learn to live together as brothers,” he says, “or we are all going to perish together as fools.”

This sets up the main message of the sermon, which is that all life is interrelated and interconnected. “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny,” King says. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”

This isn’t an idle call for personal decency; it is a reminder that in pursuit of justice, how we relate to each other in our means will affect our eventual ends.

“We will never have peace in this world,” says King, “until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.”

As King continues his sermon, he moves to familiar ground. He emphasizes the necessity of love and compassion in the struggle for equality. “I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansman of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear.”

He also comments on his 1963 speech at the March on Washington, reminding his audience that his famous dream was just that, a dream, and not a reality. “I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare,” he says. “I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my Black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty.”

Nonetheless, King concludes his sermon by reaffirming the dream of his 1963 speech, that “every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality,” that “the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled,” that “men will beat their swords into plowshares” and “justice will roll down like water.”

I think that this is among King’s most powerful sermons, both rhetorically and in the radical humanity of its message. And although he is speaking to questions of war and peace that may not be as acute to Americans in 2023 as they were to Americans in 1967, I think the larger message of obligation and interconnectedness is as relevant today as ever.

Our problems are global problems: a rising tide of chauvinism and authoritarianism; corruption that touches and distorts representative institutions around the world; and, of course, climate change. King’s observation that for any of us to do anything we must rely on the work and labor of someone halfway around the world — “You go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American” — is truer now than it was then, and demands that we recognize the fact, not for self-flagellation but for solidarity.

To connect to laborers around the world, to see that their struggles relate to ours and ours relate to theirs, is to begin to forge the “network of mutuality” that we will need to tackle our global problems as well as to confront the obstacles to our collective liberation from domination and hierarchy.

Most Americans do not think of Martin Luther King Jr. as a democratic theorist, but he is exactly that. And here, in this sermon, he makes clear that what a peaceful and equal society demands — that is, what a truly democratic society demands — is our mutual recognition of each other, here and everywhere.

‘There’s no such thing as them. There’s only us.’

Blogging friend Andrea asks that “if you watch only one video today, please make it this one.” I second her request. This video confirms something I’ve been saying for years … it gives us a perspective that we often forget about as we are so wrapped up in our own lives. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing this one. EVERYONE should see it!

Meeka's Mind

If you watch only one video today, please, make it this one:

love,
Meeks

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Human Rights Day …

Today is Human Rights Day, marking the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt played a key role as chairperson of the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I initially considered using her speech before the United Nations as the basis for this post.  However, the speech is long … over 4,000 words … and I decided instead to listen to some of the voices from the past, including Eleanor Roosevelt, speaking of human rights.  This post is an updated reprisal of my 2019 post on this date.  The theme for Human Rights Day in 2022 is apt for the times, I think:  “Dignity, Freedom and Justice For All”.


11B-Mahatma-Ghandi

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always.” – Mahatma Ghandi


Eleanor-Roosevelt

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


nelson-mandela

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela


Martin-Luther-King

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King


desmond-tutu

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” – Desmond Tutu


cesar-chavez

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” – Cesar Chavez


These are but a few of the thousands of people who have worked tirelessly to bring about equality and fairness for everyone, not just for a select few.  Let us hope that today and into the future, there are many more like them.

♫ People Got To Be Free ♫

As I was writing my earlier post about people being people wherever they are, this song started playing in my head.  I could only recall a snippet of the lyrics, but once again Google came to my rescue and led me right to the song.  I think this is a good day to play this one, don’t you?  As an added bonus, it’s one I haven’t played here before!

This song has a message that resonated loud and clear in 1968:

All the world over, so easy to see

People everywhere just wanna be free

Freedom lost a champion on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down, and when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, it was dealt another devastating blow.

Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals wrote this song in reaction to those murders, condensing King and Kennedy’s message into a simple missive calling for unity and understanding. It’s hard to argue with the song’s message, as it’s not overtly political and doesn’t lash out at any person or organization in particular. Combined with an uptempo rock groove, it had all the makings of a hit.

Felix Cavaliere claimed that he had to fight for this song, since Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records was worried that a message song would hurt the Rascals’ career. Cavaliere prevailed and the song became the group’s biggest hit, reaching #1 in the U.S. in August 1968, where it remained for five weeks.

This was the third #1 hit for the group (after Good Lovin’ and Groovin’), but the first under their original name. In 1966-67 all their singles were credited to the “Young Rascals,” a name imposed upon them by Atlantic Records to avoid confusion with the Harmonica Rascals.

Their followup single, the #24 A Ray of Hope, was written for the Kennedy family after RFK’s death and prompted a thank-you letter from the fallen senator’s little brother, Ted.

It is said that the Rascals would only perform at concerts that featured an African American act; when that condition was not met, the Rascals canceled several shows in protest.

This song went to #1 in the U.S. and Canada, but failed to travel well across the pond, although it did chart in Australia and New Zealand at #11 and #14 respectively.

People Got To Be Free

Rascals

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be
There’s peace in the valley, people got to be free

You should see
What a lovely, lovely world this’d be
Everyone learned to live together, ah hah
Seems to me
Such an itty bitty thing should be
Why can’t you and me learn to love one another?

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free (wanna be free)
I can’t understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free

If there’s a man
Who is down and needs a helpin’ hand
All it takes is you to understand and
To pull him through, ah hah
Seems to me
We got to solve it individually, ah ah
And I’ll do unto you what you do to me
Said, no

Hear the shoutin’ from the mountains on out to the sea
No two ways about it, people have to be free (they gotta be free)
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be
Natural situation for a man to be free

Get right on board now, huh, huh

Yeah oh, what a feelin’s just come over me
Love can move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody sing it now come on let’s go see
Peace in the valley now, we all can be free

See that train over there?
Now that’s the train of freedom
It’s about to ‘rrive any minute, now
You know it’s been’a long, long overdue
Look out ’cause it’s a’comin’ right on through
Ha, ha, yeah, ha, ha, yeah

Writer/s: EDWARD BRIGATI, FELIX CAVALIERE
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

♫ Abraham, Martin and John ♫

Today, in a comment, dear friend Roger sent me this song, and as I listened, something … clicked.  I felt tears welling, wanted to share this beautiful moment.  I realize this is one I have played here before, this is the same version musically, but a slightly different video and a very moving one, I think.  Thank you, Roger, for reminding me of this song … a tribute to some truly great men who helped people, who cared about the nation and its people.


A tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.  This song was written in response to the assassination of King and that of Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968, respectively.  More than 50 years … can it really have been so long ago?  I remember it … truly as if it were just a few weeks ago.  As I listen to this song, I cannot help but choke … remembering … the hope these men brought us … how I wish they were here today … 😢

The original version was recorded by Dion Francis DiMucci, better known simply as Dion.  Although the song has been recorded by many of my favourites such as Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, the Brothers Four, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston, and Smokey Robinson, to name a few, the Dion version remains my favourite.  And so, I bring you, in honour of four truly great men whose lives, because they were great, because they worked tirelessly for equality for all, were cut far too short …

Abraham, Martin And John
Dion DiMucci

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

Songwriters: Richard Holler
Abraham, Martin And John lyrics © Regent Music Corporation, Stonehenge Music

♫ What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John ♫

As I peruse the headlines, read the news stories from the U.S. and around the globe, I am discouraged, ashamed to be a member of the human species at times.  In every ‘corner’ of the globe, hatred is raising its ugly voice:  North Korea, Myanmar, Brazil, and others.  Here in the U.S., we are seeing a surge in racism, mass shooting sprees, and lawmakers who seek to overturn the Constitution, to take away our rights as citizens.  I no longer recognize this world … there are days I no longer wish to be a part of it.  I was thinking tonight of a song, Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now is Love”, and I recalled this one, a compilation of that song and another.  I think we need to keep this song close to our hearts today, tomorrow, and … until we can learn to live together in peace. 


I started looking for the right song for tonight … for once there was none stuck in my head … and happened across Jackie Deshannon’s 1965 hit, What the World Needs Now is Love.  I thought perhaps, in these times of troubles all over the world, in the Middle-East, the UK, the United States, and many more places, this might be an appropriate song to play.

As I looked for a bit of information, a bit of trivia about the song, I was led to another song and it is this that I play for you tonight.  I don’t intend these music posts to be in the least bit political, and my apologies, for this one is, in a sense.  But it is also … it speaks to us today, I think, just as it did in 1971.  Today, some of the issues are different … Vietnam has ended, but Syria and Yemen have not.  And some of the issues are yet the same … racism, prejudice, bigotry.

This is a remix of two songs, the aforementioned What the World Needs Now is Love combined with Abraham, Martin and John, first recorded by Dion in 1968 as a response to the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year.

Tom-Clay.jpgTom Clay was a disc jockey in 1971, working for radio station KGBS in Los Angeles, California when he created this remix.  The narrative includes sound bites from speeches of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., and makes a heartfelt social/political comment.

Again, I apologize for bringing a socio-political statement into my music posts, but when I heard this song … it just … did something to me and I wanted to share it.  I promise a more uplifting music selection tomorrow, but I do hope you will take just a few minutes to listen to this one.  I have included the lyrics to both of the original songs.

What the World Needs Now
Jackie DeShannon

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.

Songwriters: Burt F. Bacharach / Hal David
What the World Needs Now lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Abraham, Martin And John
Dion DiMucci

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

Songwriters: Richard Holler
Abraham, Martin And John lyrics © Stonehenge Music

Black History Month — Maya Angelou

This post is a reprisal of one I wrote last year about a great lady whose voice is still so relevant today and will likely be so long into the future.

Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928 … her given name was Marguerite, but her older brother nicknamed her “Maya”, derived from “Mya Sister”.  Her parents divorced when Maya was just three years old, and when she was eight, she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  She told her brother, her brother told the rest of the family, and the man, whose last name was Freeman, was arrested.  But, though Freeman was found guilty, he was freed after only one day in jail.  Incensed, an uncle or uncles, it is unclear whether it was one or more, beat and kicked Mr. Freeman to death.  Says Maya …

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

And she spoke not a word for nearly the next five years.  Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.

maya-angelouDuring World War II, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California. There she won a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. During this time, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco.

During the 1960s, Maya and her son spent several years in Ghana, where she became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana.  It was in Ghana that she met and became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early 1960s.  Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward.

Maya remained a civil rights activist, and in 1968 Martin Luther King asked Angelou to help organize a march.  She agreed, but before the plan could reach fruition, Martin Luther King was assassinated – on Maya’s 40th birthday, as it happened.  For many years thereafter, Maya refused to celebrate her birthday, but sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, on that day. maya-angelou-2Maya Angelou went on to become one of the greatest writers and poets of our time. Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans’ African heritage, and what Angelou called the “Africanisms still current in the U.S.” for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS.  Also in 1968, she wrote her first of seven autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. This brought her international recognition and acclaim.Maya-caged-birdIn 1993, Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

I came across this quote by Maya regarding writing …

“I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music. I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.”

And now I know what I’ve been doing wrong all this time — I must wear a hat from now on when I write!!!maya-angelou-4There is so much more I could tell you about Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, but there are many, many great books both by and about her.  What I do want to share with you, though, is one of her most famous poems, Still I Rise.  Just as with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, I cannot listen to her recite this without a tear coming to my eyes. In this, she writes about racism and slavery,  about rising above hatred – something that is just as relevant today as it was when she first published it in 1978.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Among other, former President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Michelle Obama both spoke at her funeral.

“And then she developed the greatest voice on the planet. God loaned her His voice. She had the voice of God, and He decided he wanted it back for awhile.” — President Bill Clinton

“For me that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words, words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House.” — First Lady Michelle Obama

During her lifetime, she won Grammy Awards for three spoken-word albums, was a civil rights activist, streetcar conductor, Calypso singer, dancer, movie director and playwright.  She left behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.maya-4

Harry Belafonte Speaks — On The Election

I found it interesting that just yesterday, my music post was The Banana Boat Song, arguably the song that Harry Belafonte is best known for, and then shortly thereafter I came across the following OpEd in the New York Times written by none other than the man himself.

Belafonte, now 93 years of age, is a Jamaican-American singer/songwriter/actor is also known for his activism. He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa.Belafonte-King

Belafonte has won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards.

I was moved by his OpEd and wanted to share it with you.


Harry Belafonte: Trump Is Standing in Our Way

If the president wins again, we have so much more to lose.

Belafonte-1By Harry Belafonte

Four years ago, when Donald Trump first ran for president, he urged Black people to support him, asking us, “What have you got to lose?”

Four years later, we know exactly what we had to lose. Our lives, as we died in disproportionate numbers from the pandemic he has let flourish among us. Our wealth, as we have suffered disproportionately from the worst economic drop America has seen in 90 years. Our safety, as this president has stood behind those police who kill us in the streets and by the armies of white supremacy who march by night and scheme in the light of day.

We have learned other things from this president, too. We have learned the names that we say now, over and over again, at each protest, so that no one will forget them. The names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Atatiana Jefferson and Stephon Clark and so many more. Such killings did not start with Mr. Trump, of course. But he wants us to forget them.

If we do, he has offered us a “Platinum Plan” for “Black Economic Empowerment.” The name is appropriate because Mr. Trump is a man who thinks always in terms of financial transactions and deals. A “Platinum Plan,” as if he is offering to upgrade our credit card status. The plan, which at two pages is derisively brief, offers us a hodgepodge of things that he thinks we would like. He will prosecute the Ku Klux Klan — and antifa activists — as terrorists. He will make Juneteenth a national holiday and lynching a national hate crime. He will create “peaceful” urban, Black neighborhoods, replete with school choice, increased homeownership and the “highest standards” of policing. He will begin “a national clemency project” designed to “right wrongful prosecutions” and “pardon individuals who have reformed.”

In his ignorance or his indifference, or perhaps in his contempt, Mr. Trump does not seem to understand the difference between promises made and promises kept. Another Republican president, Ulysses S. Grant, first suppressed the Klan 150 years ago (and notable by its absence is any Trump promise to suppress the right-wing “militias” of Michigan, the Proud Boys or any of the others). The United States — finally, belatedly — made lynching a federal crime in the civil rights era, almost 60 years ago. Peaceful neighborhoods with affordable homes, good schools, a police force interested in protecting its citizens instead of treating them as an occupied people; safety from domestic terrorists and mob violence, economic opportunity, the celebration of our heritage, and impartial and merciful treatment under the law — these are the rights that most white people in America have long taken for granted, not some sort of concession to be offered as if we were indeed another nation.

Too often, the victories we have won have proved to be ephemeral or incomplete, and our full acceptance as Americans has once again been denied. We have learned to trust only those who will stand with us against the worst storms, who have proved themselves to be our friends not out of electoral expediency but through our shared belief in the best principles of this country and our common humanity.

The polls suggest, we are told, that Mr. Trump has made some small inroads in our vote, that a higher percentage of young Black men will vote for him in 2020 than did in 2016. I have difficulty crediting this. But if it is so, I would urge my brothers to listen better. Not just to the false promises Mr. Trump makes to us, but also at what he says when he is “alone in the room” with his white supporters, promising them at his rallies that if he is re-elected, people of color will not invade their “beautiful suburbs” from our “disgusting cities.”

Mr. Trump is too late. We are everywhere in America. We are in the bone and the blood and the root of the country. We are not going anywhere, certainly not to some fantasy of a new “separate but equal” segregation, we in “our” cities, white people in “their” suburbs.

Perhaps the president is confused by how the Rev. Dr. King Martin Luther King Jr., in his greatest speech, referred to the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as a “promissory note to which every American is to fall heir.” Perhaps that gave Mr. Trump the idea that this was all about money. Surely, money — the household stake, the money with which to buy a home, secure a good education, start a family — was a vital goal of the movement then, just as the need for Black people to be made whole, after all the years of slavery and Jim Crow, is still a pressing need today.

But I was there with Dr. King that day, over a half-century ago, in the shadow of Lincoln’s statue, and what he spoke of was “the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” He quoted the most fundamental promise of the Declaration, that all of us have “certain unalienable Rights” — among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It seems strange that we must still agitate for these basic rights, or that Mr. Trump thinks he is being magnanimous when he offers them to us again as last-minute campaign promises — so long as we stay in our place. In the past, we have turned the wheel in great bursts of energy and faith, and in between, when we stood exhausted and bloodied, there was some sliding back. That is always how it is in a democracy and a people’s movement, but now is the time to move forward again.

Four years ago, faced with the prospect of a Trump presidency, I wrote that what old men know is how quickly things can change. Well, I am still old but I am also still here, at 93, and for all the bitter lessons we have learned from Mr. Trump’s term in office, I can tell you that the wheel is turning again. That we have never had so many white allies, willing to stand together for freedom, for honor, for a justice that will free us all in the end, even those who are now most fearful and seething with denial.

We have learned exactly how much we had to lose — a lesson that has been inflicted upon Black people again and again in our history — and we will not be bought off by the empty promises of the flimflam man.

♫ The Way It Is ♫

I played this song in April 2019 … and tonight as I was seeking a song … a meaningful song for the strife of the moment … I came across this one.  This is one of those songs that speaks of ‘things’ that are wrong in the world, of injustices.  And today, as never before, there are many such ‘things’ wrong in our world.  So, in my angst as I finish my final post for mine and Jeff’s project, as I read the news, as I have a cup (or two) of wine to try to relax enough to sleep, I replay this song.  I know … or at least I believe … that in 50 years this song will still be as relevant as it was when it was first aired in 1986, and as it is today. 

When I posted this last year, my friends in both Canada and the UK were unable to view the video, so I have changed the video in hopes that they, too, will be able to enjoy Bruce Hornsby and the Rain … er, Range!


Sometimes one of you refers to a song when commenting on my music posts, and a 💡comes on … an AHA! moment, as I am reminded of a song I haven’t heard nor thought of in years.  Such was the case yesterday when Roger commented that yesterday’s song reminded him of this one by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.  Well, I remembered the song, always liked the song, but I thought it was ‘Bruce Hornsby and the Rain’.  I went to check and … my bad … Roger was quite right.  Sigh.

The opening verse recounts a story taking place at a line for welfare that illustrates a divide between the rich and poor. The chorus presents several lines insisting that social ills are “just the way it is”, and repeatedly suggests resigning oneself to them as a fact of life—however, the chorus ends with the author rebuking this attitude by insisting “but don’t you believe them.”

The second verse recounts past social issues from the voice of someone supporting racial segregation. The author responds in a narrative voice, insisting his view that if those who make laws took them into careful consideration they would be convinced that laws enforcing principles like racial segregation are morally wrong. The song reminds the listener that it was at one time argued that racial segregation was “just the way it is”, and suggests that legislation and what the author views as progress on current social issues should be pursued without regard to those who insist “some things will never change.”

The third verse recounts the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a victory in the civil rights movement, but insists that more is needed. In particular, the verse highlights individual prejudice and employment discrimination as an enduring form of racism. The third chorus suggests that it only feels like “some things will never change” when we wait for social problems to change themselves rather than taking steps ourselves to actively change them.

The song was released in 1986, and here, 33 years later the song still has relevance, for we are still fighting the same battles.

According to Hornsby, who grew up in Virginia …

“My mother came from the New England area, and she was a little more enlightened about racial subjects than a lot of people in the South. So I had a different attitude to a lot of my friends whose parents were more conservative. When I was brought up, the vibe I got of Martin Luther King in my town was that he was a real evil man – just the vibe in the air, that he was terrible. And if you grow up in that environment you can’t help but be affected by it a little bit. Luckily, I came from a family that guarded us against that conservatism, but sure, I grew up in the thick of all that bad feeling.”

Believe it or not, Sean Hannity used an instrumental portion of this song as his show’s theme for many years. Hornsby, a liberal democrat, had vastly different political views, but there was nothing he could do about Hannity using the song as long as royalties were paid.

The Way It Is
Bruce Hornsby and the Range

Standing in line, marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady’s eyes
Just for fun he says, “Get a job.”

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

Said hey, little boy, you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said hey, old man, how can you stand to think that way?
Did you really think about it before you made the rules?
He said, son

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

Yeah

That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

Songwriters: Bruce Hornsby
The Way It Is lyrics © Zappo Music, Sony Atv Music Publishing France, SONY/ATV TUNES LLC OBO ZAPPO MUSIC