I have been incorporating songwriting into my day job in every and any way that I can this past year and a half. Recently, the word went out through the National Park Service for park sites to find creative ways to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for the 50th anniversary.
In a conversation with a coworker, I remembered that Frederick Douglass had spoken in lowell on several occasions before and after the Civil War. Perhaps, there was a song to be found in his words.
My coworker found his historic speech from 1894, which he gave in the First Congregational Church, a building in downtown Lowell that is now empty and abandoned, a silent relic of Lowell’s past.
I pored over the words of Douglass’ speech on digital microfiche, taking screen shots page by page. I studied each image, typing phrases and words that seemed to possess song potential.
Slowly, a theme began to arise. Justice and hope in the wake of despair.
Below is a music video that a coworker put together after capturing footage of all our staff singing together and myself and a fiddler on staff performing the song in the very building where Douglass spoke so many years ago.
I continue to perform this song wherever I find myself in the world each year on Martin Luther King Day.