• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Raised Voices of Sweet Honey in the Rock

One of the great attributes of stars in the heavens is that as they lose energy in burning, they find new areas to warm and light. Such is the musical phenomena of six women who sing a cappella of love and longing, of sorrow and redemption, of pain and plenty–for thirty years they have called themselves “Sweet Honey in the Rock.”

Founded by singer, musicologist, and civil rights activist Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon in 1973, the group derived its name from a Biblical parable about a land so rich that honey literally flowed from a rock. The music draws upon the heritage of emotional release that has made African-derived songs and dances the strongest contributions offered by African Americans in the United States.

Weaving song formats ranging from spirituals with a call and response format to African nature chants, Reagon and her protégés have expanded the concept of neighborhood to form blocks bounded by rivers and congregations covering oceans.

The timelessness of the group’s music is realized when they take the stage, dressed in black gowns with faces covered with black veils and sing a moving tribute to mothers around the world who have lost children to violence. The dirge, called simply “The Women Gather,” is filmed by director Stanley Nelson in a ninety minute production airing on PBS stations on Wednesday, June 29 at 9 p.m. In the New York City area, the program will appear on Channel 13. In other areas, program information can be obtained on www.pbs.org. This premiere coincides with the release of the DVD and CD version of “Raise Your Voice.”

Nelson’s documentary, “Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice” shown as part of the American Masters series, is the award-winning director’s first attempt to film a music-based subject. His crew toured with the group during their 30th year anniversary tour covering nine American cities and capturing the inner lives and behind the scenes moments which have coalesced into the music that the women singers encourage their audiences to remember because “you might need a song for a demonstration soon.”

Nelson has garnered international recognition for documentaries exploring deceased historical figures including Emmett Till, Marcus Garvey, and Madame C.J. Walker. But his chronicle of Reagon’s notes presented a unique challenge and surprise. In the middle of the tour Reagon announced to her singers that she would retire from the group at the end of their engagements.

The individual and group challenges faced by the remaining singers who had unflinchingly accepted their mentor’s constant admonitions during rehearsals that “we are not getting what we need from you!” can serve as models for students of organizational behavior. The very content of the songs the singers presented to audiences gave them the needed signposts to accept their mandates to carry on the mission of the group and to audition around the country for Reagon’s replacement.

Before she left the group, Reagon told the world’s adults and children: “we spend a lot of time and effort trying to stay on the other side of death. We are all going to die anyway. You might as well make a difference.”

As stars can explode and form other solar systems, Sweet Honey has spun off into other musical groups. One former singer, Edwina Lee Tyler started a group called A Piece of the World which has toured Europe, Canada and the United States. Bernice Reagon’s own daughter Toshi, a former member of Honey in the Rock has started her own group, a rock band called Big Loverly. A reunion concert with Big Loverly is featured in Nelson’s documentary.

These spin-offs of creative energy are not surprising since Bernice Reagon encouraged all the singers in the group to write songs that illuminated their passions. Thus Sweet Honey’s songs have covered terrain as diverse as the plight of a black woman prisoner who killed her jailer who was trying to rape her; an almost forgotten martyred black civil rights leader in Florida who registered more voters in Florida than any other freedom fighter to African chants celebrating the lure and beauty of nature.

The difference the group makes is evidenced by the presence at every performance of an American Sign Language interpreter who signs the words of the songs to the many deaf attendees who feels the energy and power through vibrations that pulse through their bodies. “Raise Your Voice” exhorts the viewer to hold fast to Bernice Reagon’s command to the audiences and singers to “take the song out of my mouth, if you don’t know the words.”

We take a lot more than the song, we take stands, see visions, cross bridges, hold hands, cross galaxies. As one commentator points out in the film: “when my song merges with yours, you lose your loneliness.”

FREDERICK B. HUDSON can be reached at: FHdsn@aol.com

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail