I watched a documentary on Sam Cooke about a year ago but a Netflix recently released a new doc and I was intrigued to see an updated telling of Sam’s persona, music, business, and death. Through this work, I was able to see his “awakening” of his worth as a black man. His music had a message, the kinks in his hair had a purpose, and his business was intimidating to those who did not have the pride he had. Sam created a lane that seems to be duplicated over and over again. Many black artists are taking charge of their careers through their management, ownership of their art, and creating safe spaces to be able to record themselves and help like-minded artists do the same.
Sam was surveilled by the J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI after being associated with the likes of Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, and others who believed in the power of blackness. His soulful voice was only one facet of the man he was. Imperfect and overcome with faults, he still sought to take control the best he could and maintain success. His tragic and sudden death, designed to taint his image, still brings tears to the eyes of those who knew him and knew his potential. The lyrics to his most famous song states,
I was born by the river, in a little tent. And like the river I’ve been running, ever since. It’s been a long, long time comin’, but I know a change is gonna come. Oh yes, it is!
Last year, I wrote about change but after all that has transpired in the last 12 months, I really want to know what change looks like? Is it really a destination? And although Sam sounded hopeful, even after all these years removed since his passing, are we ever going to reach that mountaintop that was promised to us? Reflecting on his life and work made me ponder the progress and wonder if there is hope? In this climate, it is really hard to get one page, much less agree what this change actually looks like. Is it more black artists taking home more awards? or is it an acknowledgment of our slave past and renouncing the confederate past? Is it establishing stiff penalties for a wide-range of hate crimes and domestic terrorism attacks that take place on American Soil? I believe it is all of these things and more. It starts with us, every voice expressing what change looks like for them and then taking action. As I wrote last year, it is a ripple effect, but don’t let it stop at you, cause a ripple that reaches and inspires someone else. Question the change, then make it happen blackbirds.
*Featured image by Kasuma via Nappy.co