A wonderful new resource is available for everyone who works for truth, justice, and healing in the face of the damage inflicted by racism. The film I Can Tell the World: Singing to Heal Our Racial Divide is available for purchase at all the usual places, or for rent on Netflix.
Watch a preview here.
I Can Tell the World is the story of an interracial group of singers–The Spirituals Project Choir–from Denver, Colorado that is committed to the preservation and performance of African American spirituals.
A few weeks after Inheriting the Trade was published in January 2008 I spoke at the wonderful Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. My friend Harold Fields–who I met during the making of the film Traces of the Trade–helped arrange not only my appearance there, but also for the Spirituals Project Choir to sing prior to my presentation. I’d learned more about the history and significance of this special music from Harold–the music librarian for the choir–than I knew previously when he gave a talk about the spirituals at the first Coming to the Table retreat in 2006.
Though some people may believe the spirituals were born during the Civil Rights movement, they were actually reborn then. Harold explained that the spirituals are songs that were created and first sung by enslaved African people in North America. They are songs of community, inspiration, protest, and resistance. Coded messages embedded in the lyrics were sometimes used to to share instructions for escape, revolt, or a secret worship service. Harold said,
The spirituals represent a triumphant spirit from a people that survived and dealt with the most horrible conditions that can be imagined.
And from the film’s website,
Without the spirituals, there would be no gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, or rap. And though many of us are familiar with some of the songs – Wade in the Water, Go Down Moses, This Little Light of Mine, Amazing Grace few understand the spirituals’ deep history, complex origins, and coded messages of a music born of slavery.
As these diverse men and women share their stories of transformation, we learn how the experience of shared songs can help heal a nation still wounded by racism.
I highly recommend this terrific documentary.