The movie Selma comes out in theatres this week. Having grown up in Canada, the story seems so far away…and yet so close. Borders are porous and language and music binds us together, no matter how different our laws or legislation might be. Like many Canadians, I have deep roots on both sides of the border, including in the South, where the struggles for basic civil rights were a long time coming, and are still, in many ways, ever present. The senseless killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are reminders of that.
For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired and fascinated by the story of the underground railroad, and African-American history in general (as well as that of African-Canadians, many of whom came north in search of freedom). It’s so funny how that American obsession, “freedom,” has alluded so many of its people for so much of its history. But that is the story of so much of the “new world” in general. Our American continent, for all its beauty, is defined by the genocide of its indigenous people, largely built on the backs of slaves (or in my own first immigrant ancestor’s case, indentured servitude) and injustice.
And so, as the first part of my InterAmerica project, and in recognition of the upcoming film and the work of thousands of activists and freedom fighters, I wanted to post my own version of a very powerful “freedom song,” popularized during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.