Rosa Sat (A Song for the Day)

Are you surprised that on MLK Day, and the day before Obama’s inauguration, I would be drawn to folk music?

Hope not.

Because there are a couple of folk songs that seem to frame my feelings on this day.

The first is called “Rosa Sat,” and it’s written and performed by Chicago singersongwriter, Amy Dixon-Kolar.

(Click here if you can’t see the media player…)

I’m glad that some one wrote a song (there may be more than one) based on this great quote, because it’s the quote that gave me chills just after the election:

“Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Barack could run.
Barack ran, that our children could fly”

I love how the song is written the style of an old spiritual, and I love the message of this quote. Amy says on her website that the quote stayed with her and she knew she’d write a song using it. I’m grateful she did.

I’ve long been a big fan of the King Holiday, and write something about it almost every year. Last year, I mostly quoted a great piece by my friend, Larry James, who questioned the idea of doing works of “service” on this day.

Larry’s writing was called “Missing the Mark on the MLK Holiday,” and you can read my blog about it here.

I suppose I mostly feel the same way I felt last year. It would be a tragic reduction of King’s legacy for his memory to only be given to acts of charity. King was far more interested in acts of justice. Which is, lest we forget, what led him to opposed the Vietnam War and led him to support the rights of the poor.

OTOH, on this MLK Day, our President-Elect himself is strongly pushing that the day be honored as a “day of service,” and in this he is joined by other respected members of congress. And, locally, Larry James’ own agency is leading the way with a house building project!! So, go figure.

It’s especially gratifying to see a President-Elect issue the call, and see a nation respond. And perhaps one could argue that this year, the sense of justice that is such a necessary component of the King Holiday is, in fact, simply and powerfully incarnated in Obama’s victory itself.

But there was another song sung during yesterday’s concert on the Mall in Washington. (Which was, btw, an amazing event…) The show ended with Bruce Springsteen and none other than Pete Seeger singing “This Land is Your Land.”

(Click here if you can’t see the media player…)

Note George Lucas singing along in a quick crowd shot! That’s certainly a “throwback” song in many ways. But it’s also a folk song, deep in our American tradition, written by an iconic writer. Bruce introduced it as the greatest song ever written about our country.

And perhaps this song, and the verses they sang, were more appropriate than many realized at the time. One commentator noted almost immediately that Bruce and Pete included one verse that often gets left out when the song gets sung at schools and in other settings:

“In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.”

Mike Kazan, the guy who first noted this, goes on to say, “I bet Pete was thinking, “This is the way Woody wrote it and so I’m going to make sure the whole country hears it.”

Maybe so.

Certainly gave me a smile. Given all the crap he’s had to put up with in his life, I would dearly love to know what Pete Seeger is thinking about all of this.

And so, when taken together, perhaps the verse from Amy’s song and the verse from this classic Woody Guthrie standard provide the appropriate sense of both historical optimism and the call to continue the journey of justice?

Yes, on this day we should remember all those who could only sit or walk, in the hopes that one day others could run and fly.

But in these challenging economic times, we must not forget that many are still “wondrin’ if this land’s still made for you and me.”

Optimism and Hope.
A call for continuing justice and change.

Not a bad message on this particular MLK Day.

Leave it to folk music to frame it for us.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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