The Price of Silence

Cool dream of United Nations delegates dancing to a song of freedom. Video is 14 years old or so.

Laurence Fisburne delivered the prologue written by Alicia Partnoy, who survived two years of prison in Argentina during that country’s “Dirty War.”

These are not just words tattooed on paper
No prison cell, no border fence, no torture will stop our plea
No stone, no stain will mar the river of our dignity
My child, for you today our voice befriends the winds-

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Not one nation dissented (though a few abstained). The declaration says that every human being deserves dignity, freedom and respect. There are those who say it’s the first blueprint for global rights, establishing fundamental freedoms for every human being.

In 2008 Amnesty International reminded of that declaration with a multi-cultural video. “The world’s leaders owe an apology for failing to deliver on the promise of justice and equality” in the declaration, according to the organization.

Sixteen international musicians collaborated on a music video in a reminder. The video featues artists who personally fled oppressive regimes:
Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet) was born in a Chinese labor camp and left Tibet in 1989 at the age of 22, trekking across the Himalayas with her two-year old son to escape oppression from the Chinese regime.
Alicia Partnoy is a survivor from the secret detention camps where about 30,000 Argentineans “disappeared.”
Emmanuel Jal was born in during war in Sudan in the early 1980s. He was taken from his family home in 1987 when he was six years old, and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan’s bloody civil war as a child soldier. He recorded the day after appearing at the United Nations General Assembly to speak of his experiences as a youth.
Chiwoniso relocated from Zimbabwe to the United States in August of 2008, removing herself and her two children from the political and economic unrest there.
Other artists include Hugh Masekela, Julieta Venegas, , Angelique Kidjo, Aterciopelados, Yerba Buena, Natacha Atlas, Rachid Taha, Kiran Ahluwalia, Natalie Merchant and Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5.

Link TV, Nacional Records, Aterciopelados, music producer Adres Levin (and his organization Music Has No Enemies) and video director Josh Atesh Litle helped create the video.

“The Price of Silence” was released as Barack Obama was prepared to take the office of President of the United State and for the 60th anniversary of the declaration. It was premiered for the New York Society for Ethical Culture in an evening titled “Every Human Has Rights: Hope for Human Rights in an Era of New Leadership.” On stage were Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 through 2002), Dr. Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Samuel Kofi Woods, labor minister of Liberia.

In the video, actors were intercut with footage from the United Nations delegates opening proceedings in September of 2008. Sixty actors performed in front of a green screen to create a digital UN.

Litle saw hip-hop as the protest music of the new generation. Levin was nominated for a Grammy and was co-founder of Music Has No Enemies.

Amnesty International USA requested a meeting with Obama to discuss the human rights agenda of a new administration. In the first 100 days, Amnesty called for a plan and date for the closure of Guantánamo, an executive order to ban torture as defined under international law, and an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the United States in its “war on terror.”

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

First heard this song at the conclusion of the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five. In the context of the experience of the five falsely imprisoned youths, the tune carries a whole new weight. Performing the Billy Taylor jazz classic with a shout-out to Nina Simone who helped bring the song further into our consciousness is Brittany Howard.

Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky.
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly.
Oh I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea,
And I’d sing ’cause I’d know that
I’d know how it feels to be free.

Gaudete Sunday

And this promise:

The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is risen;
Salvation has been found.

“The closed gate of Ezekiel…”

Reading this mediation, a great mix of melancholy, wish and hope rose.

On this Sunday,
images of past horrors
(gas chambers, behold, thinly disguised as showers),
present wars
(drones piloted from afar exploding in apartments),
individual acts of kindness
(a cup of coffee, a cold drink, good will to a shivering migrant),
snowfall relieving
a parched, drought-ridden earth
(as climate remorselessly shifts out in the fields and towns),
Wishes and hopes well
(Oh, for a cardinal’s red favor on a holiday)
as well as the desire
(a feast, an image, a shout: “Let us go!”)
for more of God to show.
(Come… Let’s see this thing that has happened.)

Let’s work together

Wilbert Harrison got the ball rolling in 1962 with this tune. The message resonated after Harrison’s recording. Canned Heat performed versions in 1970 and again in 1998, as did Bryan Ferry, although Ferry titled it “let’s Stick Together. Ferry’s rendition in 2018 gets the full, glitzy, orchestral treatment.

Together we will stand
Divided we’ll fall
Come on now people
And let’s get on the ball

And work together
Come on come on let’s work together
Now now people
Say now together we will stand
Every boy girl woman and man

Slow change

Its foundation has lost more teeth,
historic bricks gone missing,
spotted in fall inspection.
An old farmhands home
now surrounded by a growing town,
even with a north facelift,
settles in soil first deposited
by glacier and sea,
cold, wind and rain.

Three old evergreens
planted by the builders,
once towering and holding
mourning doves, jays and climbing kids
have been lost to blight.
Bushes and trees planted
according to gardening charts
transformed a spacious lawn
into a pocket park.

Children, now not our own
now delight in dodging
evergreens and ornamentals.
Bird life scatters when raptors fly by.
(Once monarchs animated young maples
and an opossum scavenged for apples.)

Squirrels and rabbits leave tracks
(still hoping for deer)
while a wood stoves ticks and radiates
in another winter of decades in place
warming a home growing old.

The rebel Jesus

The Christmas decorations (a local wit calls them the “holy pretzels”) in my town have been lit, now that Thanksgiving has passed. And, holiday music is filtering through every speaker, everywhere. It sets off a negative vibe with me… for a while. I usually get over it and don the appropriate Christmas spirit. Usually, I’m able to fire off a salvo of dissatisfaction, though, and true to my tradition, here is my contribution for this season:
Bebo Norman performed Jackson Browne’s alternative Christmas carol on a 2017 recording. It’s got a little different slant.

Browne joined the Chieftains on their holiday album The Bells of Dublin to sing the carol, as well. It was a welcome rediscovery for me.

We guard our world with locks and guns,
And we guard our fine possessions.
And, once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations.
And, perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us.
But, if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor,
They get the same as the rebel Jesus.