Ella’s Song by Bernice Johnson Reagon is The Royal Peace Song of the Day for Tuesday, August 23rd. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest…”
More about this song, and another version…Duchess Susanna writes: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest…” means so much to me. Though, like most pearls of wisdom, it contains a paradox.
I have learned that in the struggle for freedom, peace, and justice, you must be ever aware and ever vigilant. Though, I have also learned that, with human beings, there must be a time to rest.
I learned about the necessity of rest by hearing people counsel pastors and church leaders about the need to create personal space. I also witnessed this lesson by working in a nonprofit, helping agency, where there was a constant struggle to give your best, but not burn out. And, I experienced the lesson of needed rest by realizing how cranky and ineffective I had become by staying in the same project too long. Sometimes for the sake of rest, we must let go. I hope that I am learning more about letting myself rest when needed, and respecting the need of others to rest, take a hiatus, be on sabbatical, or take a vacation.
That said…there is always work to do, if one has the energy to do it. I find that I am excited by the prospect of being revved and ready to work, when the rest of the world might be asleep or on vacation. If the mission is very important, it is fun to inject a message into the universe when all else is quiet. Like, when all the political reporters are on vacation for a holiday, to write a flashy blog post when it might get more attention. Or, that feeling of waking up so early in the morning, you feel the time is truly “found”, and can be used to start something new, or to take a risk.
Writing and performing music is a way to incorporate rest inside the work of peace and justice. Music provides relaxation. Music allows for reflection on the beautiful. And, music is a form of labor that is nonphysical. It is also a way to work and connect with others in a creative and less competitive manner. Here are some words from Ella’s Song that give my soul rest and energy, all at once:
struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
that teaching others to stand up and fight
is the only way our struggle survives
Chorus:We who believe in freedom cannot rest…
I am a woman who speaks in a voice
and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult,
I bow to no man’s word
[The song is written about Civil Rights leader Ella Baker, and it is sometimes performed with the “I” pronoun, and sometimes with the “she” pronoun.]
The video of Ella’s Song at the top of this post is a Sweet Honey in the Rock version, with the new twist of singing it faster. There are also other Sweet Honey in The Rock versions that are slow. And, on Youtube, I found another group who did an excellent, slow rendition, performed at The Oakland Center for Spiritual Living:
Thank you to The Duke, who realized last night that Sweet Honey in The Rock music was a whole treasure trove of potential Royal Songs of the Day.
Sweet Honey in The Rock has a new music video out: