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January 1, 2017 | Category: Blog, News and Events | Author:

We are not afraid

Note from Nick Szuberla of the Working Narratives team:

In my early twenties, I had the opportunity to drive folklorist and civil rights worker Guy Carawan down from his rural home in Tennessee to the South Carolina Sea Islands where he was working with southern organizers.

I knew that Carawan, his wife, and a few musical collaborators, had, in the 1950s, diligently worked to connect a little known folk song to a then nascent civil rights movement. The title of that now iconic song happens to be “We Shall Overcome.”

With roots in American oral tradition, the song had been most often used by workers—from tobacco farmers to coal miners—organizing for labor rights. After the song became a racial justice anthem, one young civil rights worker, who’d attended a meeting raided by white, racist vigilantes, added a potent verse. “We are not afraid.”

As, here in North Carolina, I recently sat at the back of a church listening to a group of young, LGBTQ organizers close out their meeting with their own, modified version of the song, it wasn’t hard for me to feel a deep sense of hope, “to still believe” in the struggle for equality.

It’s clear that this coming year, we’re in for a fight. We’re going to have to dig deep into our traditions of culture, resistance and struggle to prevail.