This is a quick message in the midst of our grief, exhaustion, rebellion, strength, protest and outcry to be seen, heard and treated as HUMAN. In this time as we watch metropolitan cities around this country of these United States of America activate in droves to forcefully change the long and racist and unjust narrative of African Americans in this country. The murder of George Floyd by the hands of police, the murder of Breonna Taylor and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery (amongst the other many Black human lives brutally lost within just the past few months, weeks and days of 2020) has surpassed the inflamed tipping point of US. Which has only sparked my memory of a poignant song created over 34 years ago that I learned during my time as a youth leader and teacher for the summer Freedom Schools during undergrad. A song that continues to be justly sound, right now.
“Ella’s Song,” by Sweet Honey in the Rock an all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble, in recognition of the civil rights icon Ella Baker. Using her words from the Civil Rights Era and turning it into a mantra of comfort, solace and hope. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest,” Ella said. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes,” Sweet Honey sings. Listen to the song and read/share the lyrics below as you feel. It’s in these moments of necessary rage where stillness and listening prove most effective.
Ella’s Song, Composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon, copyright Songtalk Publishing Co.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons
And that which touches we most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale
The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hand of the young who dare to run against the storm
Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny
Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot I come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survive
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At time I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word