Songs of Freedom transcend time

Published 11:50 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Community youths got an education through music Wednesday afternoon at Wallace Community College Selma.

The Freedom Singers, a group from Albany, Ga., taught and performed songs from the civil rights movement.

Rutha Harris, an original member, who traveled 50,000 miles in nine months over 48 states back in the 1960s, directs the group.

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Eartha Watkins, a music educator at Highland Middle School in Albany, and others also performed as part of the Nonviolence Training conference at the community college, which continues today and through Friday.

Sessions start beginning at 8:30 a.m. today in classroom LG 5 on campus.

Today’s featured speaker is Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a veteran of the civil rights movement and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

The group taught the young people songs that included “This Little Light of Mine,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “A Dog A Dig Dog.”

Harris explained the lyrics to the pupils.

“This song means that if dogs can like each other, then humans should be able to like each other,” Rutha Harris said,

The Freedom Singers was formed in 1962 to raise funds for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC was an instrumental organization in the lunch counter sit-ins and the Alabama voter rights movements.

The original singers performed with singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

The songs that they sang in the 1960s that inspired them are the songs that they teach today. They also continue to inspire young people now.

A group of Selma and Uniontown teens heard the Freedom Singers and then went to the Voting Right Museum. They were so inspired that they decided to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, singing the songs they learned that afternoon.

Amanda Jackson felt that today changed her outlook on how she could help to make a better future.

“I learned how I could change to improve the way of life for the future,” Jackson said. “I know now that I can build on where the people before us left off. I can make it even better for my children.”