A Fascinating Window into the World of the Poor People’s Campaign

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A Fascinating Window into the World of the Poor People’s Campaign

Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas

On February 8th at 9th, I attended a significant portion of the National Theomusicology and Movement Arts Convening for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. The program brought together about 100 musicians, visual artists, dancers, spiritual leaders, organizers, and documentarians from over 30 states. Participants journeyed from as far as Alaska to join these days of learning, music, and community in Raleigh, NC.

The Convening was a fascinating window into the world of the Poor People’s Campaign, the plans for the 40 continuous days of action beginning on Mother’s Day 2018, and the way they intend for the Movement to have a single sound. It was clear that the PPC deeply values the role that music, arts, and culture play at uniting people and that they intend to use specific music to unite the movement across the nation as they work to shift the national moral narrative this spring.

Three new songs were the primary focus of the Convening and several of the songs from the 1968 campaign were reinforced to participants. The program leadership described three means of dissemination: through the Convening participants, through simple music videos that were filmed during the days in Raleigh, and finally in a forthcoming songbook. The songbook’s release is likely imminent and I believe that they were waiting to see if any new material or new verses for existing songs were developed at the Convening.

Here are the core lyrics of the three new songs, really march chants. They are simple and designed to be repeated over and over again, galvanizing the people singing as they move through their march or action. I have not captured all repeats of the lyrics.

A new unsettling force for liberation, a new unsettling force and we’re here. A new unsettling for liberation, and we’ve got nothing to lose but our chains.

I am not afraid. I would die for liberation, ‘cause I know why I was made.
I am not afraid. I would (march, sing, live…) for liberation, ‘cause I know why I was made.

Somebody’s hurting my brother and it’s gone on far too long. And I won’t be silent anymore.
Somebody’s hurting my (sister, cousin, people…)…

Additionally, there was interesting cross-over between the way that the leaders and other theomusicologists talked about music and how music “works” in the context of a march or rally that is absolutely applicable to the way in which we approach worship. I think that there are potential learnings for our colleagues who lead worship, as well as deepening the way in which we use music to inspire and root social action and justice in our congregations. The facilitators from the Kairos Center and Repairers of the Breech could be valuable professional development presenters to those interested in adding a cross-cultural voice and perspective to the way that they approach worship or music as a tool for justice.

For me, personally, this was a very valuable experience creatively and spiritually. I have many layers of learning and I am eager to continue to debrief and unpack the experience. I have much gratitude for this unique opportunity.

You can view videos from the Poor People’s Campaign here: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=%23poorpeoplescampaign%20Raleigh%...