On My Journey Now
"I do not see a downside to black Americans. All we did was
clear the land, find a way to worship our God, find a way to sing a
song. That song went from the work song, to the spirituals, to
gospel, to blues, to musical theater, to rhythm and blues, to hip-
hop. What is the downside to this story?"
From the time that kidnapped Africans (those who surived the
treacherous ocean voyage) were forced into slavery in America
spirituals helped them to survive and even hope under inhuman living
conditions. Sadly these days few of us grasp their meaning or
significance. Fortunately Nikki Giovanni has studied this subject
extensively. In On My Journey Now she shares her wisdom with readers.
Giovanni beautifully interweaves the words of the songs and the
conditions under which they came into being. She tells us like it was:
"America was looking for very, very, very cheap labor, because
they wanted workers who were even cheaper than indentured servants.
The Africans were taken from their homes, their villages, their
cities. They were chained and lined up, and people who could not keep
up were thrown to the side. So many people dying changed the patterns
of the predators, especially the hyenas, the buzzards, the
My favorite chapter is the one about the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
When Fisk University was founded in 1866 most of its students were
former slaves. It wasn't very long before hostility on the part of
the KKK and financial hardship threatened to do the school in. A
group of students sacrificed their educations to travel around America
singing to raise money. When they sang popular songs of the day
things did not go well. Fortunately they changed over to the
spirituals that told their stories. That was their key to success.
They even toured Europe and performed for Queen Victoria.
The complete lyrics of all the songs are in the back of the
book. You may be surprised how many you find familiar. When I was
reading it we sang "Let Us Break Bread Together" in my church.
On a personal note, the day before my birthday was the last delivery
day for Orono Community Garden. Once again we had a wonderful run
delivering bags of lovely organic veggies to people who otherwise
couldn't afford to them. In addition to melon and juice we had
cookies to celebrate my birthday early.
A great big shout out goes out to my community garden family.
Sent from my iPod