SING FOR LIFE:
Tools for Adding Your Voice to the Resistance
These are the songs in the Sing For Life booklet.
We honor these powerful songs, the struggle that bore them, and the people whose lives they changed.
By continuing to sing them we keep ourselves connected to our history and to our communities. These songs come with great power and great responsibility. Share them widely but please remember to acknowledge their origin and history.
One Foot In Front
of the Other
by Melanie Demore
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Melanie is a dynamic choir director, composer, and vocal activist. She wrote "One Foot" the day after the 2016 US presidential election.
3-Canal are recording artists from the Rapso tradition of Trinidad & Tobago. "Rapso is conscious music and is more of a philosophy and stance than an identifiable musical signature."
It has been termed “The Power of the Word in the Rhythm of the Word”, “The Poetry of Calypso” and “The Consciousness of Soca”.
Walk In The Power
by 3 Canal
From their 1999 album The Fire Next Time
We loved singing this at the Women's March "Women walk in the power!" It sustained us for over two hours.
Here's a fantastic video of Vanessa Richards teaching it at PYE song share.
Idle No More
was composed by Pura Fe and performed by Ulali in dedication to the four founding women of the Idle No More Movement.
The movement calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.
to the studio version of Idle No More
Pura Fe's 2015 album Sacred Seed
peace salaam shalom
Words and music by Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow, also known as Emma's Revolution. They wrote this song two days after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in response to the messages of hate and revenge that were already being perpertrated. The words mean "Peace" in three languages: English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
It's great to fit any occasion and purpose because creating new lines is simple. We Believe In Peace, We Protect the Earth, We Will Sing for Peace/Change, etc. We sang it at a rally for our sanctuary city with the words "All Are Welcome Here."
Here's a video of the composer telling the story of singing it with thousands of New Yorkers mourning together in the streets after 9/11
Bele Mama (Call Mama)
is a beautiful song from Cameroon that quickly unites any group in harmony.
The most reliable source of the original melody seems to be from Smithsonian Folkways records.
Community choirs all over the world sing this song, and I've found lots of different versions online. You can search for Mbele Mama as well.
Here's a choir performing a version very similar to the one we sing:
The 1930s hit "My Dog Loves Your Dog" by Ray Henderson, Jack Yellen & Irving Caesar was featured in a film soundtrack recorded by Jimmy Durante, Rudy Vallee & Cliff Edwards.
In 1961 James Bevel & Bernard LaFayette released an adaptation based on their real-life experience of not being allowed to play with neighbor kids because they were white. The kids didn't understand. Their dogs played together... Why couldn't they?
They sing it with the Nashville Quartet on the Smithsonian Folkways album
The album is also available on Spotify.
Sweet Honey In The Rock:
This is a great song for SPONTANEOUS HARMONY.
It's also really fun to get faster and faster with each repetition.
I'm Gonna Lift My Sister Up
Faya Ora Rose Touré is a Harvard-educated Civil Rights activist and litigation attorney who has worked on some of the highest-profile civil rights cases to come before the courts. Touré—who spent most of her career as Rose Sanders until she decided to step away from her "slave name" in 2003—was the first African-American female judge in Alabama and was part of the winning legal team in Pigford vs. Veneman, the largest civil rights case in history. This case led to the payment of a billion dollars in damages to black farmers by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, Touré is founder of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, and a founding partner in the law firm of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway & Campbell, LLC. Intensely passionate about her activism and legal work and the needs of the black community, Touré has founded learning and cultural centers, political and legal organizations, and community initiatives that have benefited Alabamians for three decades. She uses her many talents to further her message and is a prolific songwriter and playwright, as well as the host of a weekly radio show, Faya's Fire.
or purchase sheet music for a beautifully harmonized version of the song.
We shall not be moved
no nos moveran
Watch this video of Rev. Barber using this song in a direct moral action.
(a great example of theomusicology):
is adapted from the African American Gospel song
"I Shall Not Be Moved"
This song has been a powerful tool for change through many social movements. Here's a great article about the history of the song
Pete Seeger sang
I love the way she sings in the verse: "unidos en la vida"
My Dog Loves Your Dog
In March of 1968, over 50 multiracial organizations came together in Atlanta, GA to join Dr. Martin Luther King's Poor People’s Campaign. Organized to address the intersectional evils of systemic racism, poverty, and the war economy, the modern PPC includes the evil of ecological devastation, which also disproportionately hurts the poor.
The Poor People’s Campaign unites all impacted people through intentional, nonviolent direct actions. The PPC also recognizes the vital role of singing powerful, simple songs together. Some of them are historical protest songs, some were written for the original movement, and some are brand new. Here are some of those songs:
A contemporary PPC song
by the Peace Poets
from The Bronx, NY
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round
The quintessential song of the Civil Rights era. This song is loaded with power.
more about the song at a great blogspot called civilrightssongs.
Lots of videos and links.
There are many great recordings online. Here's one of our favorites:
from The Soundtrack For A Revolution
Everybody's Got A Right To Live
Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick and Jimmy Collier wrote "Everybody's Got A Right To Live" for the original Poor People’s Campaign’s March on Washington in 1968.
Today's version has an energizing chant added.
Kirkpatrick came up from the poverty of rural Louisiana...he knew what it means to be poor and black in a land dominated by the white power structure. His father was trying to eke out a living for his wife and 5 children, tenant farming a small patch of land near Haynesville, LA. When Kirk’s mother died, the white owner of the land came first thing and took everything away from them, claiming it was to pay for the mother's doctor bill. Kirk was just 6 years old but recalls it all vividly:
“He hauled away everything — that man took our cow, and he took our pigs and our corn and peas. Everything. Then he told my father to hurry up and get off the place. He didn't care that we had nowhere to go."
We Are A New Unsettling Force
Formed in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King’s original Poor People’s Campaign called for the formation of a “new and unsettling force” capable of disrupting “complacent national life” and achieving an economic bill of rights.
Somebody's Hurting My Brother
PPC theomusicologist, historian, musician and teacher Yara Allen tells the story of how the words to "Somebody's Hurting My Brother" came to her: she had spent the evening with Dr. Barber at a town hall meeting listening to poor rural families describe the harms they had suffered on account of coal ash from a nearby mining operation. One young man was disfigured by a rare form of cancer. Yara says that when Dr. Barber asked her to sing, her first thought was ‘I don’t have the words.’ But as she says, she trusted in the spirit of that moment. And when she stepped up and grabbed the mike, this is what came out:
‘Somebody’s hurting my brother.’
And the audience felt that -
so when Yara continued: ‘And it’s gone on...’
The audience responded: ‘Far too long.’