Tag Archives: freedom

“for to carry you to freedom”: a remembrance day song

helping hands blog awardin a few days, november 11, it’s remembrance day here in canada, or veterans day in the U.S.

many wars were and are still being fought, and many struggles. writing a novel about a slave on a louisiana plantation, one of the struggles that is foremost in my mind is the one against slavery in the U.S.

may we remember then today the women, children and men who fought against this horrible injustice, starting with capturing people from their homelands, to the unimaginable suffering in the middle passage, to the inhumane exploitation of slavery on farms, in factories, on plantations.

some of these women, children and men fought by jumping on the underground railroad to canada, from where they helped more to escape into freedom.

one of the songs from that era, legend has it, is follow the drinking gourd. the drinking gourd is the big dipper. look up at the sky, it says, and look for the big dipper. follow it north, “for to carry you to freedom”. watch this video and listen to the song. here are the lyrics:

when the sun comes back,
and the first quail calls,
follow the drinking gourd,
for the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
if you follow the drinking gourd.

follow the drinking gourd,
follow the drinking gourd,
for the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
if you follow the drinking gourd.

the riverbank will make a very good road,
the dead trees show you the way.
left foot, peg foot traveling on,
following the drinking gourd.
the river ends between two hills,
follow the drinking gourd,
there’s another river on the other side,
follow the drinking gourd.
when the great big river meets the little river,

follow the drinking gourd.
for the old man is waiting
for to carry you to freedom
if you follow the drinking gourd.

(more renditions and an interesting history of the song here)

i’d like to dedicate this post to sojourner. if you visit here regularly, you already know about her sunday inspirations.

sojourner doesn’t only inspire on sundays. she does it all week long. she inspires and reaches out, reaches out her hand to continue the human chain of peace and compassion that is so strong all throughout the blogosphere, just like less than 200 years ago, our ancestors were giving each other a hand on the way to freedom.

the other day sojourner gave me the huge honour of her helping hands award. this is probably the best blogging award i have ever gotten. today, i just want to shout out a big THANK YOU to sojourner. in the next week or so, i’ll tell you a bit more about the award. it deserves its own post.

this is part of my remembrance day songs series.  interested in more?  

  • the last remembrance day song for 2007: canto libre by victor jara view post
  • remembrance day songs for a different kind of soldier view post
  • remembrance day songs for 2007 view post
  • remembrance day songs, part II view post 
  • remembrance day songs view post

freedom, redemption and inspiration

bob marley, black and whiteone of the people to whom i passed on my “brilliant blog” award, sojourner, has a meme, sunday inspirations. similar to wordless wednesday, it’s a day of the week dedicated to a theme. it was created in honor of sojourner’s mother

and is just one way to help get us through the week ahead, the trials we may face, and yes, to say thank ya … your weekly contribution may very well be the inspiration that someone else may need and has been looking for

sojourner’s place itself is a blog that inspires me, with a great mix of southern graciousness, politics, spirituality and an emphasis on the lives of professional african-american women.

so i’d like to participate today, with an excerpt from the novel i’m working on. it’s about a slave, joe (or kosi, his african name) on one of the first sugar plantations in louisiana. one day he runs away, and dies on his escpape. since i’m writing this novel in the shape of magical realism, it doesn’t end there. after he dies, he meets a cranky entity who offers to show him heaven. heaven turns out to be a bit boring, so they fly on over to africa, where joe/kosi meets animals and people he’s never met before, and is also confronted with becoming a new person. yes, yes, i know he’s dead – but as i said, it’s magical realism. here he sits, among a bunch of people gathered on a sunday evening somewhere in present-day louisiana and talks about his experience of starting to realize that he could become someone else, someone new, someone awakening. the song he refers to is a melody that weaves itself throughout the book.

people, this is hard for me to talk about, even after all this time, 200 years almost, the way you-all count it. so many feelings have left me, and i tell you, that’s a good thing, but sorrow, that’s one i still have. sorrow and joy. it’s not joyful for me to talk about that time but i know i must, i must tell my story, the way we all must. telling our true story, that’s what sets us free. and that’s what it’s all about. freedom.

i have sorrow for that man back there in africa, in dahomey, i know it’s called benin now. he was so sightless. both looking inside himself and looking outside, there was so little he saw. this was the time of his awakening, in his death he awoke, and that’s not an easy thing.

today i sit here, speaking through an old man, dick of all people, i know, that’s funny but who knows what’s going on in a mind? maybe when he wakes up tomorrow from his hangover he’ll remember a tiny bit of this, and maybe it’ll move him along to more freedom?

the song? you want to hear the song? i can’t sing it here, not with dick’s old voice; not because he can’t sing, that doesn’t matter and it’s a crazy notion anyway, that there are people who can’t sing. but his heart isn’t ready yet, it’s not in his heart yet, and that’s the only way it can be sung. where the voice and the heart come together. it’s gotta be not just there in his heart, lying there, it has to take root, that song.

but tell you what. you listen to this other guy, what’s his name, a brother, and i tell you, not just because he’s got dark skin, what’s his name, long hair, from down that other country, jamaica – that’s his song, anyway.

and dick, or joe, or whoever it was, started singing, in a quiet voice …

won’t you help to sing
these songs of freedom? –
cause all i ever have:
redemption songs;
redemption songs.

emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
none but ourselves can free our minds.
have no fear … have no fear … have no fear …

… these songs of freedom …

image by unlockok

the last remembrance day song for 2007: canto libre by victor jara

yesterday i promised you a translation of victor jara’s canto libre. here it is (and here is the MP3 version).

dove of peace

my verse is a dove
looking for a place to nest.
and with a roar it opens its wings
to fly, to fly.


my song is free
and wants to give itself
to whoever opens his hand
yearning to set the world free.


my song is a chain
without beginning, without an end,
and every link contains
the song of everyone else.


let’s never stop singing together
to all humanity.


a song is a dove
who flies so that it may discover.
with a thunder it opens its wings
to fly, to fly.


my song is a free song.

(image by mafleen)

bloggers for burma

Free Burma!

today is a day when worldwide, bloggers blog about burma.

it’s also a day that is so busy that normally, i’d forgo a post. but this is important.

i’ll just leave you with one impression. this event in burma appears to me a manifestation of the old, tragic fight between good and evil, on a scale and with a clarity that i have not seen in a long time.

monks, trained to forgo the ego and live in compassion, are being killed by a regime that is self-serving and brutal. for now, it looks like the regime is winning. but it can’t. just as a monk will not cease to be a monk because he has been derobed, this movement, and any and all movements for peace and freedom, cannot be quashed by killings and imprisonment.

the paradox: it is a fight of good versus evil, and in buddhism, at least at its deepest level, such dualism does not exist.

perhaps it is the ability to consciously live in this paradox that helps forgo the ego, live in compassion, and survive death.


(you’ll notice that this blog looks different than normal. here’s why.)