In the face of so much violence, folks are taking a stand for social justice. Some of those people happen to be professional athletes, actors, comedians, musicians, and talk show hosts. How many times have you heard those who would have them remain silent tell them to stay in their lane? How often do fans remind them that they are there to be entertained, not preached to?
Roll back the clock to the 1950s and 60s and know that the not so hidden messages in the songs from The Weavers, Woody Guthrie, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Bob Dylan protested war, human rights violations, nuclear power, and inequality. They were both praised and criticized and in the case of The Weavers, were blacklisted as Communists and were denied the ability to work as a result.
As a means of protesting the killing of POC by police officers, most recently, professional sports teams are refusing to play. Although they know that their actions will not cause an immediate change in policy or policing, it will keep the conversation going and ideally influence their fans to come to terms with institutional racism in this country. It may provide a call to action that they will choose to answer.
One of my favorite movies is called Amazing Grace and Chuck. The 1987 film features Jamie Lee Curtis, Gregory Peck, William Peterson, Alex English, and newcomer Joshua Zuelke as Chuck. Chuck is a star Little League pitcher whose father’s (Peterson) congressman friend takes Chuck’s class to see a nuclear missile silo. He is understandably alarmed about the implications and decides to “give up my best thing,” until there are no more nuclear weapons. On game day, he steps off the mound and goes on strike. A local news story ends up on the wire service and a fictional Boston Celtics player named Amazing Grace Smith (English) reads it and decides to join Chuck in his quest. Jamie Lee Curtis plays his skeptical agent who eventually comes around to support the cause as do numerous other professional and Olympic athletes. There are dark forces who don’t like what is going on and a tragic event occurs that only serves to strengthen the movement. Gregory Peck gives voice to the character of the President of the United States who sees the situation through Chuck’s eyes and because he wants a future for the next generations, he negotiates with the Russian Premier.
Initially, he says to the boy, “Now Chuck I can’t deny you the right to protest, that’s in the first amendment and God forbid that should change. But there’s an old saying: “You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell fire!” to which Chuck astutely asks, “But, sir, what if there is a fire?”
At the end of the film, Amazing Grace’s quote, “But wouldn’t it be nice?” is stretched across the screen. It would, indeed.
Would that we have someone like that in the White House, who is forward-thinking and who is moved to prevent or put out fires instead of setting them? Wouldn’t it be something if he stood before the country and declared that the wounds of the past need to be healed and that truly all people, regardless of skin color or country of origin, be treated fairly? How about if he called off the violent assaults on peaceful protestors instead of ramping up the rage?
George Floyd, Antwon Rose Jr., Botham Shem Jean, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Stephon Clark, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake. Saying their names and so many more. One is too many.
In the spirit of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and those mentioned earlier in this piece, a singer-songwriter named John Flynn has the ability to take any topic and turn it into a social justice anthem. This is one such song.
How Many Bodiesby John FlynnFrom someplace inside of me like something in a dreamA question keeps arising and it makes me want to screamHow can we turn our backs again upon these anguished criesHow can we keep denying what we see with our own eyesHow many bodies, how many lives left in tattersHow many more black lives will it take before black lives matterIgnorance breeds fear my friend and fear will lead to hateBut worse than all of this is our indifference to the weightOf this obscene and endlessly repeating déjà vuI'm down on my knees tonight and I am asking youHow many bodies, how many lives left in tattersHow many more black lives will it take before black lives matterWell you raise your eyebrowsAs you close your pink eyelidsYou say, All lives matterI cry, God I wish they didYou say that calling this racism is offending youWell, I’ve got a hunch that being killed offends black people tooThe fact the label seems to bother you more than the crimesMight be worth pondering but answer me in this meantimeHow many bodies, how many lives left in tattersHow many more black lives will it take before black lives matterHow many daughters, mothers and sons and fathersHow many more black lives will we take before black lives matter© 2020 Flying Stone Music
Posted by John Flynn on Thursday, August 27, 2020
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