Michael. Eric. Akai. How many more unarmed men will need die at the hands of police? Why aren’t these officers being charged with excessive force? Trained better? If I was writing this for a newspaper instead of a blog, I’d honestly think I was back in the Civil Rights movement. How have we come so far to slip right back? Why are we so quick to jump to prejudice thinking?
I wrote about it before and how I can see it from many sides, but at this point, there are minor offenses being committed that should, by law, result in a slap on the wrist when compared to being murdered. Choked to death or shot. How insanely barbaric.
The protestors have gotten a lot of flack. “I handed out job applications and they left” seems to be a common, “witty” social media comment. I know some of the protestors. They are in college working an internship on the side or graduates working full time jobs. Quick being so fast to judge.
Some of the methods, like blocking traffic, I don’t agree with. You put yourself at risk and emergency vehicles can be delayed but throughout history, these types of protests have happened to make the needed changes. Perhaps we just need more music to help the voices be heard.
Since protests have actually been such a part of history, there’s a vast history of protest songs. I wanted to focus on the Freedom Songs though since they’re very appropriate for these times unfortunately. Like I said, you’d think it was the damn 1950s or 1960s all over again instead of two thousand and freakin’ fourteen.
Freedom Songs were songs sung by participants in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. They were a way of life during the Movement. The songs contained many meanings for all participants. Songs could embody sadness, happiness, joy, or determination among many other feelings. They served as mechanism for unity among the black community during the movement. The songs also served as a means of communication among the participants when words just were not enough.
Music of the civil rights era was crucial to the productivity of the movement. It communicated unspeakable feelings and the desire for radical change across the nation. Music strengthened the movement.
Music was highly successful in that the songs were direct and repetitive, getting the message across clearly and efficiently. Melodies were simple with repeating choruses, which allowed easy involvement within both black and white communities furthering the spread of the songs message. There was often more singing than talking during protests and demonstrations, showing how powerful the songs really were. Nurturing those who came to participate in the movements was vital, which would be done in the form of song. Participants felt a connectedness with one another and their movement through the songs. Freedom songs were often used politically to grab the attention of the nation to address the severity of segregation.
Songs were often derived from the Christian background. Hymns were slightly altered to incorporate wording reflective upon the protests, and current situations as they were brought out of the churches and into the streets. Although most freedom songs derived from hymns, it was important to include songs from other genres. To accommodate those who were not as religious, rock and roll songs could be altered to become freedom songs, which allowed for a broader amount of activists to partake in the singing.
The most famous of songs with gospel beginnings were “We Shall Overcome,”, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain”. Nina Simone and other professional artists are also known for writing or singing such songs. Two of Nina’s most well known examples are “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”.
Some 100 or so songs were commonly sung on Civil Rights Movement protests during the 1960s. Some of the best-known or most influential are:
“A Change Is Gonna Come (song)” Composed and performed by Sam Cooke
“Oh, Freedom” a spiritual dating back to slavery times
“I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table” Adapted from a Spiritual
“I Woke Up This Mornin'”:Adapted from a Spiritual
“If I Had a Hammer” A labor union song by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.