The Presidential Inauguration exercises have been filled with references to the Civil War era, including President Lincoln, Union, the 150th anniversary of emancipation and the unfinished capitol dome. I just saw Frederick Douglass and reenactors from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry march by the president’s reviewing stand. We even heard a reference to Stonewall, though I don’t think it was in recognition of Lee-Jackson Day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make these references and remind the country that our history does include significant progress.
I fell in love with the lyrics and thought it would be a great song to cover. When I discovered the band’s previous connection with the confederate flag, I was even more compelled to re-record this song and give new life to it. Music is so powerful, it’s important for artists such as myself to use our platform to make a positive impact on the world. When I first heard the lyrics in this song, I could relate to its overall message, as I too have the desire to be a “Free Bird.” The beautiful and most riveting thing about Art is that it speaks to the individual and everyone gets something different from it.
To me, the overall message in “Free Bird” is LOVE! Something the world needs more of! Something we ourselves need more of! LOVE is accepting and understanding… It’s healing; amongst many other powerful things…essentially, it’s FREEDOM! Through my expression of “Free Bird,” I wanted to send a visual message to break the chains of negative stereotypes, racism, poverty, war, sexism, self hatred, etc. that hold us back as a people, as a nation. I decided to release this visual during President Barack Obama’s inauguration because the significance of this historic moment aligns with the overall theme of the song. As an artist I’ve always had a perspective and a voice and its important to me that I always be authentic to not only my fans, but myself in my expression.
This photograph was taken in Brooksville, Florida in 1989. The caption reads: “Their backs turned to the Confederate memorial, more than 500 people rally in Brooksville before stepping off for a parade on Martin Luther King Day.” The inscription on the back of the monument reads:
This monument perpetuates the memory of our fallen heroes–We care not whence they came; wether unknown or known to fame; their cause and country still the same; they died and were the gray–leaving to posterity, a glorious heritage–an imperishable record of dauntless valor.
Leave it to Lee-Jackson Day to bring out the crazies. According to Henry Kidd, Robert E. Lee saved this country by agreeing to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox rather than disband it to fight in a guerrilla war that would have turned this country into something like Bosnia. Perhaps I am mistaken, but wouldn’t a Confederate victory also have led to the fracturing of the United States? So much for Lincoln, Grant, and the Union army playing a role in saving this nation. At some point I was hoping to see the interviewer bust out in uncontrollable laughter in response to such a ridiculous statement. That we live in a society that grants any legitimacy to such a position is all the reason I need to continue to teach.
Seriously, I am all for an honest debate about gun control and the Second Amendment, but this isn’t it. There is something incredibly disturbing behind the assumption that Martin Luther King, who gave his life advocating for peace and non-violence, would support something called Gun Appreciation Day. What is even more ridiculous, however, is the claim made by Larry Ward that if blacks had guns than “perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”
I am not sure if Mr. Ward understands that he just made an argument for the strictest gun control legislation possible. Whites exercised a great amount of control – through legal and extra-legal means – to ensure that slaves were not able to arm themselves. They did so because they believed that such a scenario constituted a direct threat to their communities. It goes without saying that they were probably right about that.
Someone should remind Mr. Ward that the slaves eventually did find a way to arm themselves, however, I sincerely doubt that he is looking to see such a scenario play out once again.