Jun. 4th, 2016

zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
There's a feature on Dr. Ysaye Barnwell in the current issue of UU World. It includes this:


She turns solemn and angry talking about how "Kumbaya," which means "Come by Here" in the Gullah language, has become snarky shorthand for feel-good or weak-minded groupthink. A soulful cry sung by the Georgia Sea Island slaves, the song was carried on by Southern blacks in the time of Jim Crow and lynch mobs, and later by the Freedom Riders when they learned three of their workers had been murdered by Klansmen. "When people say, 'It was a Kumbaya moment,' it clearly was not a Kumbaya moment," Barnwell admonished. "It's actually an invocation for God to come by here now because things are needed. If you hear people use it mistakenly, gently correct them."


Barnwell elaborated on this at the end of today's workshop at First UU Nashville, whose members will be singing a half-dozen-plus songs/arrangements by Barnwell tomorrow morning (9 a.m. and 11 a.m.). The Freedom Riders sang "Kumbaya" in their camp at a point where calling to God felt like the only option. Barnwell demonstrated how she sometimes opens concerts with a furious, fast, rough-edged rendition of "Kumbaya" that is nothing like the Girl Scout version -- to get the audience toward hearing it as the bone-deep cry for help the words are to convey.

A recurring theme in the workshop: take time to think about the words of spirituals from the perspective of the enslaved, often after being preached to by so-called Christian masters. What is being taught or signaled?

A book to read: Rising from the Rails -- how the Pullman porters led the creation of the black middle class, all the while navigating social tightropes. Barnwell described how the porters closely observed the lives of affluent white passengers , to then subsequently teach about investing and other skills new to most postbellum communities. How the porters would gather up discarded newspapers in the cars, bundle them up, and toss them into towns where newspapers weren't available.

There was much more. I sat, stood, and danced among and between several different people during the course of the day. The afternoon session included a quolidbet that combined "Honor, Honor," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "I’m a Rollin’," "Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray," "My Good Lawd Done Been Here," and "Please, Lordy," with "Honor, Honor" in harmony.

Something for me to work toward and look forward to: taming my schedule enough to sing more marching songs and quolidbets. Someday.

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