Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 15, 2014

BRADBERRY: Dr. King's birthday, artistry of change

Niagara Gazette — We are stardust, we are golden, we’re caught in the devil’s bargain,

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

 Joni Mitchell, Woodstock 1969

Music, poetry, theater ... can reflect the mood of a nation, affect and inspire a nation changing movement. No doubt, the music and literary art of the ‘60s did both.

Listening to her voice takes me back there to those days, reminds me what it was like back then, how far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go. Artists like our own R. Nathaniel Dett, Ma Rainey Joni Mitchell, Zora Neale Hurston, August Wilson and the late Amiri Baraka who died last week, each in their own way, understood and articulated in poetic fashion, the connections between culture and social change; one inspires the other.

Born a Baby Boomer, I was raised on music, nourished and molded by it. Whether it was the haunting Gregorian Chants we sang at Mass in the echo chamber-like walls of Our Lady of the Rosary church, or the blues we heard George Hound Dog Lorenz spinning on the radio, the music did more than make us dance; it made us think.

We listened, we thought about it, we marched; some off to war others in the streets inspired by words written and performed by artists like Buffalo Springfields “Something’s Happening Here”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” and Dylan’s “Blowing In the Wind” or the Beatles, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Like Stevie Wonder’s 1981 “Happy Birthday”,which after years of deliberation, debate and delay, many credit with leading to President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 signing into law, the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday, artists continue to reflect and inspire.

Acclaimed sculptor, Susan Geissler, who’s Freedom Crossing Monument, poised on the banks of the mighty Niagara River in Lewiston stands as testament to this Region’s role in the Underground Railroad, her recently added “Tuscarora Heroes” which pays tribute to the roles of the Tuscarora Nation here during the War of 1812 will continue to arouse and excite for decades to come, hopefully triggering additional inspirational art work along the Niagara Frontier.

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