Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sweet Honey in the White House

Photo of Sweet honey in the Rock in perormance
A story on the Twin Cities Daily Planet brought tears to my eyes. For the most part, the story is about the upcoming visit of the women's a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock as they celerate the group's 35th anniversary. Lots of great events are planned this weekend.

But the part that brought tears to my eyes was the lead to the story, written by Lydia Howell:

On February 18th, first lady Michelle Obama invited six African-American women, dressed in flowing bright colors, to sing to 180 school children in what may have been the first Black History Month event at the White House. Sweet Honey in the Rock taught the children a civil rights anthem, “This Little Light Of Mine”—coming full circle, since the group’s founder Bernice Johnson Reagon, a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers, sang at the 1963 March on Washington.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Sweet Honey in the Rock at the WHITE HOUSE!

I first saw Sweet Honey perform at my college in 1983, so I guess that would have been in their 9th year. I saw their 10th anniversary concert the next year when I lived in Washington. I've been inspired by them forever, it seems. I can't imagine how they must have felt being invited to the White House by an African American First Lady.

As Bernice Johnson Reagon wrote in Ella's Song:

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 me 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 hands 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 survives

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word

[Written about civil rights leader Ella Baker]

1 comment:

elena said...

I saw Bernice Johnson Reagon at CCMA in Atlanta a few years back: that was fantastic, too. Thanks for calling attention to this – yes, a great moment in the White House~!