I’ve been a bit down lately. Work has been stressful; dealing with my Nanna’s illness has been stressful, etc. So I’ve been trying to Turn My Frown Upside Down! by doing things that make me happy, like listening to fun music. Long story short: this morning, we were listening to Stevie Wonder in the car (Songs in the Key of Life), more specifically “Black Man.” If you haven’t heard the song, well, how to describe it? It is more than 8 minutes long, for one thing, and it was written in the mid-70s, at a time in Stevie’s life where he had become hugely commercially successful and also extremely politically conscious.
This is not the strongest song on the album, but I appreciate what Stevie is trying to do here – he is basically giving a shout-out to all the different races that make up America, and describing how individuals of different colors all made significant contributions to our culture. Sample lyrics:
Was first done successfully
By a black man (Dr Daniel Hale Williams)
Friendly man who died
But helped the pilgrims to survive
Was a red man (Squanto)
Farm workers rights
Were lifted to new heights
By a brown man (Cesar Chavez)
Was invented to give sight
By the white man (Thomas Edison)
We pledge allegiance
All our lives
To the magic colors
Red, blue and white
But we all must be given
The liberty that we defend
For with justice not for all men
History will repeat again
It's time we learned
This World Was Made For All Men
Okay, so putting aside for the moment the gender exclusion of the lyrics (and the un-PCness of references to the red and yellow man – yikes), I was trying to explain the core of the song to Viva. I told her why at the time it was written the song was important, and how Stevie was trying to counteract the beliefs of some people in the world who think bad things about whole groups of people simply based on the color of their skin or what country they come from. “That’s called racism,” I said. “Have you ever heard of that word?”
“No,” Viva said. For a second I hesitated. Should I even open up this can of worms? But I want her to know she can talk to me about anything, even the hard stuff, so I continued. The conversation segued into a discussion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work and struggle.
“I bet Martin Luther King would be happy that Barack Obama is president,” Viva said. Oh, my girl – I just love her so.
I said, “Yes, I think he would be very excited, you’re right. This was one of the things he worked for, so that people who look like Barack Obama can have important jobs like being president. That is why it was such a huge deal – you remember how Daddy and I cried when he got elected? It’s because we were so happy to see this day come.”
And I swear to you, I got a lump in my throat and started crying a little as I was saying it. Sometimes I really miss my grandpa, and for whatever reason the election makes me think of him – I’m sad that he didn’t live to see a black man become president. And now, my grandma is ill, and that makes me sadder.
So, yeah, score 1 for substantive morning car conversation, but score 0 for helping my mood lift!
At any rate, I had pushed aside the morning’s conversation and then I happened to read a post at Anti-Racist Parent today, and yes. Tami pretty much said what I was feeling, way better than I could have said it. The Website name will be changing to “Love Isn’t Enough” next week, and here’s why.
Now, that lifted my mood.