The Essence of Hope!


The Essence of Hope

March came in like a wildebeest, and I’ve been on the run ever since! I barely know where to start sharing.  I released a music video of my song “It’s Who We Are!” from my new CD On Solid Ground.

That was quickly followed by a fall on some black ice that led to a fractured wrist. (I’m healing well, thank you). In addition, like so many of you, I’ve had to mourn the deaths of several close friends and associates which is an occurrence that will continue for all the wrong reasons. Due to the fall, my scheduled CD release concert was twice postponed (now rescheduled for May 22nd ( with several great friends in tow. My 2nd COVID vaccine happened against the backdrop of more shootings, scandals, and political upheavals in our divided nation, which only last week culminated in Derek Chauvin’s conviction, which is more accountability than justice. Our world is a mess. The work of change continues and we continue to look for ways to make sense and headway in a true conflicted nation.
Looking back at that full plate, I probably should be depressed. But I’m not, and here’s why:
All spring, I have had multiple opportunities to do one of the things I love the most: spend hours doing Q&A’s and residencies with students of all ages on Zoom. We get to discuss the content of videos I’ve made on the Underground Railroad and Modern Civil Rights Movement and other topics. I love how honest and open those conversations are. The kids ask me questions about myself and of course, about my views on history and the world today. They always want to know how old I am (they often GASP!!) and ask why I love music so much, what inspired me to learn about our topics, and if Harriet Tubman knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One student wanted to know the color of my house! (The he told me what color HIS was!!)
But over the last few weeks as I was balancing my approach to addressing the confusing concerns of the world, one question kept popping up. This question came from youngsters and from college students who asked it with the same intensity: “With all that you know, how do you stay so hopeful?” In each case I had to be honest and say that I’m not always hopeful. I told them that, just like everyone else, I have days when I’m not sure that everything will work out. And I’m a firm believer that you don’t lie to young people! When they ask a serious question, they deserve serious and honest answers. I don’t want to tell them that the world is safe when we all know that it is not. That’s real and it’s our job to help them deal appropriately with what is true. So we go there!!
As part of our discussions, I share that many of the songs I sing or write are aimed at giving us all the strength and power to face dangerous issues and hard times. The spirituals were made up by people who came through times that were just as tough, angry, and uncertain as anything we are presently living through. They created songs that left messages that said, “The essence of hope is that we have each other and together we can change whatever needs changing.” I try to do the same things with my songs.
So as we share the songs and stories of those people from the past, stories of people like Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Frederick Douglass I suggest that they look at those lives as examples of how to shape their own paths in this world we are building. I watch their eyes light up and fill those Zoom boxes as we sing “This Little Light of Mine” in a rowdy, chaotic finish to our glorious time together. They all scream “GOODBYE,” and my heart gets filled with just a little more hope.
You and I, we are older and hopefully a bit wiser. We have our communities, our experiences and memories and more importantly, we have each other. There is work to do, but together, we know that we can change that which needs changing. And like those people from the past, we have music to keep us strong until we do what needs to be done.
In action, love, and song,

In action, love, and song,


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