Chapter 5: 1960s New Frontier
Just imagine, a new decade had begun;
Kennedy’s New Frontier
Transistor radios were full of rock and roll and Motown songs,
Television connected us to the rest of world,
And riding in a big car with white wall tires was the pinnacle of a Sunday afternoon.
But all was not well;
Four brothers quietly converged on the forbidden stools of the south and turned the city of Greensboro out,
Little Ruby Bridges in her neatly ironed dress and Patent leather shoes
Needed not one, but two
Big men to get her into the New Orleans school;
We had this thing called soul,
Infusing a new sound;
Imported from Memphis, Detroit and Chicago,
Love warriors moaned tear stained notes
Or had us work up a sweat
With spontaneous screams
Dancing all night long, having a good time on the chitlin circuit scene.
Meanwhile, the president didn’t mean any harm, but this Negro problem was just in the way,
He had to address bigger threats,
What was going on in the south didn’t matter just yet because he was worried about the invasion at the Bay of Pigs that failed;
We got word from down the road informing us that the Freedom Riders were burned out of their bus,
They were beaten by angry mobs, then arrested and thrown in jail,
The Berlin Wall was going up, but we hardly cared
Because we had tensions of our own.
Prisons were bursting at the seams,
People were sentenced to hard labor for civil disobedience and bringing attention
To the lie in the American dream.
Stop what you’re doing and come on in here!
We got Negroes on TV!
That was the pride of Africans all over the country
It meant progress was being made
Something had been achieved
To see someone who looked like us with dignity and respect
Gave us hope and enriched our belief that better days were ahead.
Huntley and Brinkley nightly news kept us up to date,
Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show
Kept us up late,
A generation was coming of age,
Determined to change the entire American landscape
Fighting to curtail the power of hate,
We have to remember the sacrifice
We have to learn, remember and most of all,
America was the panacea of freedom all over the world, except for the Deep South,
Where antebellum ideals were preserved;
But it was about to be shaken down to the root
When Black and white dared to sit side by side
Twelve souls from C.O.R.E. challenged the local and federal laws,
It was challenged in 1961 with the Freedom Rides.
Now, the Supreme Court struck down segregated travel in 1944. That was when Irene Morgan won her case in federal court,
But the south didn’t pay it no mind
And that’s why these warriors got on the bus.
They didn’t have any protection or much support,
If anything, they were told not to go
They were warned the Klan was waiting and they would never make it out alive;
But they boarded the bus in Washington D.C.,
Setting out on a freedom journey all the way down to New Orleans.
Black folk were sitting in the front
Right next to white and defied waiting rooms signs,
They hadn’t had too much trouble until they reached the Alabama state line,
Rabid anger infested the Grey hound station.
Rebel mobs surrounded the passengers with shouts of raw hatred,
They flattened the tires and broke out the windows,
Then they threw some kind of bomb inside the bus and it filled with smoke.
Everybody was afraid the bus was gonna blow so the mob dispersed and the riders fell out of the door,
Gasping for air and choked up with fumes at the mercy of demonic rage,
The riders suffered broken bones, concussions and got their teeth knocked out
After what seemed like an eternity,
A patrolman’s warning shot cooled off the fiery, out of control rampage.
Meanwhile the Trailway folks didn’t know what was going on in Anniston,
They made it all the way to Birmingham before they got a taste of southern welcome,
Silence turned to mayhem in a matter of seconds.
Police were told to disappear
So the Klan were free to mutilate, torture and kill
Assured they would not be arrested and charged
Now, these are the same people so worried about violence from black men
When in fact they are the true founders of
The world was watching as foreign affairs were in a fragile condition;
How can America speak and define the parameters of civility with blood flooding down southern streets?
How can Mister President hold his head up and tell us what to do,
When his citizens are dying from domestic tyranny?
Fresh troops from Nashville were on the Freedom Ride tour,
They picked up where the beaten and battered D.C. crew left off,
The roar of greyhound hit the Dixie road
Only to end up stuck at the depot
Because the drivers walked off
It was just too dangerous to carry on.
Mass meetings were held
More fires were set,
Taunting, tears gas, baseball bats and chains,
A foot to the head, an iron pipe across the back,
This was the price they paid!
So, we can ride in peace,
Wouldn’t have to go through all of that.
There was no violence in Jackson,
Cause a deal was made,
The Riders got off the bus and were escorted to the paddy wagon,
From there they went to Parchman prison and that’s where they stayed for at least sixty days,
By now the events were all over the news and more riders came to town,
They packed up the jail cells, packed them tight;
One hundred, two hundred, three hundred strong,
Singing freedom songs
Singing, ‘freedom is coming and it won’t be long’.
Thank the Lord the president finally heard their plea for justice and their cry for help,
Federal troops arrived to control the tension,
Attorney General met with the Interstate Commerce Commission as
Rabbis, priests and all kinds of folks from everywhere both black and white joined in the freedom rides,
Until the twenty second day of September when those signs were removed.
That’s was what it took
Just to ride the bus,
Yes, they did it in the name of freedom
But they also did it for us.
Many more brutal attacks were ahead,
Fighting for the right to exercise what the constitution said was already ours.
Where would we be had it not been for their blood?
Where would we be had they not dared to demand their right to the American dream?
Salute and honor to every single Freedom Rider.
Cecil B. Moore
If you lived when he lived,
You saw troubled times being black and poor,
Even when one was innocent, suspicion loomed
People were attacked and brutalized
Cheated and denied,
Told to shut up and behave
And police aggressively enforced those rules.
We were forced to accept what wasn’t right
Living in a deplorable space
As anger festered and frothed,
Youth stopped crooning on the corner and took to the streets,
And began to fight regardless of the cost.
A power house man was on the scene;
He was a lawyer and a U.S. marine
He was sick of what was going on,
And used his knowledge of the law to rectify what was socially wrong.
He told the truth with no comfortable barriers
Talkin’ loud, but he was saying something.
He made the liberal and the cautious run and hide
Didn’t matter if you were black or white, straight or gay
Jewish, Italian or full of African pride,
He blew the best politicians away
With profane fury and the constitution by his side.
He was defiant because of rampant cruelty,
Because a school was closed off from his people,
The poor could be arrested for doing anything,
Cecil B. Moore had no mercy
Whether a refined African leader or the Top Cop
Be it the mayor or the judge,
This racist mess has got to stop!
He had no patience for negotiation
And he didn’t fit into the crowd,
He was the underdog for the underclass
Because he’d tell the funky truth
And he said it raw and loud.
He was not afraid
To tell the mummers,
’To take that soot off your face
Before you march your next parade.’
’And you! Trade union
high fallutin boss man
Don’t think you gonna shut my people out.’
’I’ll take you to court and gonna shut you down
I’ll tell all your dirt with the fire in my mouth,
Until your construction crews are open to both black and brown.’
’And you! Don’t wanna rock the boat
Bought and paid for refined Uncle Tom’s
You’re no better than the other man
who’s trying to keep your people down.’
Were it not for him, Girard College may still be off limits
Although tax dollars earned from black blood paid its bills,
And were it not for him
Many who couldn’t afford a lawyer may have been imprisoned with no hope for justice,
But that was not his will
He worked for those who were unjustly accused
Marginalized people were vulnerable and easy to abuse
So, Cecil went to work on the powers that be
Right on the courtroom floor for all to hear and see.
His performance shamed status quo,
He made sure everyone would know about institutionalized Jim Crow,
Until the day he died
He worked hard for justice for the poor,
He was a Philadelphia lawyer
Let us all tip our hat
To the late and great
Cecil B. Moore.
The Right to Protest for Right
Stubborn Kinda Fella kept the Continental dance alive,
A middle class was emerging and good living was ours to have,
But no sooner had we read Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham jail,
People were blasted with fire hoses and bitten by dogs,
Every mouth dropped when they saw blatant abuse upon the Children’s Crusade,
Television cameras got it on tape
It was shown overseas,
In some of the same places where segregated troops
Had fought for democracy.
But it didn’t stop there,
Medgar Evers was shot dead right in front of his home
hours after the President appealed to the nation that justice and freedom belonged to every color and creed,
Dr. King brought the collective plea to the nation where he delivered his historical speech, but three weeks later, the thrill was gone,
16th Street Baptist Church was bombed
Four little girls were killed by hate,
No way were we gonna sit still
We gonna fight until the battle is won,
Won’t stop until the justice is done
Yes, Sam we heard you!
A Change is Gonna Come.
Governor Wallace blocked the campus door
To keep Vivian Malone and James Hood from going to school,
Blocked four other doors trying to keep black students from getting through,
James Meredith had to take Ole Miss to court
But the Federal hand of justice had the final say;
Segregation now, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever fell flat on the ground as the students bravely made their way—to class.
Lawd, they done killed the President and then killed the man who did it!
It was too much to process,
Every mouth fell on the floor frozen in disbelief
The entire country was washed down in tears,
As Beautiful Jackie carried dignified grief and wore his blood when Johnson was sworn in,
We pushed our anger aside and wept with the nation wondering what was going to happen next.
America would never be the same,
Trust would wane
As the nation was challenged to live up to the image it claimed.
College students from the north poured into the hottest state festering with historically rooted customs,
Trying to bring justice to forgotten American citizens,
Sternly warned that they threatened white privilege
Which could cost them their lives,
They were told from the start to be ready to be beaten and jailed,
That they had better be ready to die.
Naive and emboldened, they rolled out the platform,
Voter registration, freedom schools and a democratic party that catered to the needs of those left behind;
The summer was barely underway when three men went missing,
They had been arrested and jailed, then released late at night,
Two of them were white and that’s why it made national news,
Trouble was brewing down in the deep,
So the FBI and local police had to act like they were on the case,
A massive search took place,
Teams of patrols searched high and low
The rivers were swept
Bodies were found all along the way,
Some were hanging from trees others in shallow graves
It must have been a sight to see;
A torso here and a leg over there,
Lord knows who they were
Or how long they had been interred
in the pit of despair that nobody knew about.
It was evidence of what had run the south for hundreds of years,
A Bible belt of customs of torture, murder and fear.
As Motown brought youth music to the world
And the Beatles invaded us with their fresh new sound
Volunteers went door to door trying to get people to register to vote,
Reluctance slowly disappeared,
When the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party
Created a platform to teach the dynamics of the democratic process;
Learning about campaigns and elections from the sheriff’s office to the state congress,
White students enjoyed meager vittles with warmth and welcome from impoverished families,
They learned how to dance to Stax soul music,
They earned each other’s respect
But a level of fear was ever present
Because everyone was well aware of what they were up against.
The freedom boys were found in an earthen dam
Suspicions were confirmed,
The Mississippi freedom Democratic Party was on the road for Atlantic City,
Ready to confront the credentials committee in search for delegate seats,
Fannie Lou Hamer challenged the shameful legacy of the state;
‘Is this America?’ she asked as the freedom boys were laid to rest.
And then it was time to say good bye to the student volunteers,
They went back to their campuses with new skills and ideas on how to confront injustice everywhere.
They were empowered but disillusioned
Because they had been lied to by family and State
Trust was gone and a revolution was on
And the painful truth had to be exposed about American dimensions of hate.
The Great Society
Johnny! Johnny Dollar!
Nothing like a rainy afternoon to gather around the Hi-Fi and Cha-cha;
Each one teach one the cool steps of
The Continental, the Madison and the Philly Slop,
Dixie Peach and hot combs were the final touches for the Saturday night dance and Sunday morning praise,
Both kept us strong for harder days that were sure to come.
Sammy Davis hit the Broadway stage with Golden Boy,
Cassius Clay was the most beautiful creature to hit the ring,
James Baldwin gave Mister Charlie the Blues
While the rest of us deeply annoyed the southern way of life,
Three civil rights workers went missing in the month of June.
Johnson’s Great Society was a wonderful idea,
But slow to alleviate the pain of racial traps,
Freedom summer veterans brought their skills back to university grounds launching the Free Speech Movement,
The first of many rounds of protests.
The British invasion was upon us when the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party trekked to Atlantic City soon after the Civil Rights Bill was passed;
It didn’t seem to mean much, because nothing had changed,
We were beaten in the north and killed in the south and nobody was ever charged,
We made half the money for doing the same job
And cheated once again at local stores and shops,
Now, our men were drafted into Viet Nam—wherever that was.
Protesters launched a Wade-In at a Florida hotel,
To defy the whites only rule,
As they splashed around in the water,
The owner dumped acid into the pool that burned their skin, but they didn’t give in,
They fought and suffered so the future generations could be free to enjoy public accommodations.
Nothing but a Man embodied our capacity to love and depicted our depths of our frustration,
Dancing in the Street became our mantra for every American city emitting noxious fumes of rage,
We were redlined out of neighborhoods
Harassed by the police
Sitting dead in the center of affluence,
Yet it was far beyond our reach;
’You can’t have this! You can’t go there!
Don’t you dare talk back!’
For one reason or another it was too much to bear and cities across the country went up in bright flames fueled with corrosive anger and inconsolable despair from North Jersey and New York City,
Followed by Chicago and Philadelphia Pa.,
We talked and we prayed,
Boycotts, protests and marches were brought to the streets,
The smoke and the steam were metaphors of our fight,
As Dr. King won the Nobel Peace prize
We were struggling to capture the essence of his dream;
Trying to find some way to obtain the promise of American peace and democracy.
The Warren Commission tried to put us at ease
That Kennedy’s death was of just one man and not a conspiracy, but it didn’t fly,
We still question what really happened on that day
Still question who, what and the why.
Music lubricates rusty joints weary from tiresome days,
It redefines and rejuvenates,
It’s calling upon the latent spirit suffocating in the trap of routine,
To come on out and play,
The musicians are on the stage
Let’s listen to their story
And dance to their mood,
Dance! Ride the notes
Let the bass man guide your feet until you scuff the floor
And let the high hat catch your hips,
May your head orbit around the melodic pontification in
Baby grand style,
Um, um, um, um, um, um,
Now let it soak in and then ooze from your pores
So we can slow drag when the lights go low,
Don’t be that way, catch this dance floor ride,
You know that night time is the right time
For frim fram sauce with sha fa fa on the side!
Memphis Soul, Kansas City Stomp, Chicago spice, New Orleans hot sauce,
It’s a part of every song we won’t find it old Europe or Africa either
No, this is made from mulattosized American soil and it’s jumpin,
Sing! Hum! Scat if you want,
Take a dip and bring it down front
With the Jersey Bounce,
Let’s Boogaloo down Broadway,
And Drop me off in Harlem
Central Avenue is breaking it down
But you know we can’t stay,
The sky has turned from black to blue,
A hazy sunrise signifies it’s time to don our robes over our party clothes and grab the book of truth,
Time to stomp in the choir loft;
Inspire the pulpit
Energize the altar and the pews
As we shout and sing about the good news!
The same hand clapping soul that burst the beams of the dance hall now has the steeple begging for mercy;
Mercy, mercy, mercy,
Oh, Happy Day! We would’ve never made it this far
Hands in the air, every tear is counted,
Voices reaching the sky
Ray Charles is playing Sweet Sixteen Bars in the back of my mind,
But I’m praising,
Praising the Lord
The wind and the rain shall not be dismayed
Just quietly obey,
Peace be Still.
But you know we can’t,
Not until last minute Sunday when the weekend is officially over
And The Midnight Hour finds us fast asleep.
Draft cards were burning and hippies were disturbing the generation that believed in Roosevelt’s New Deal,
Music changed from Count Basie to The Temptations;
From Benny Goodman to the Grateful Dead,
City streets and dirt road towns raged with discontent,
Universities were breeding grounds for the new radical left,
All of whom were trying to make America true to what the Constitution said.
Women were tired of the kitchen,
Washing and ironing, cooking and cleaning
With a house full of kids,
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was catching on,
And housewives began to quietly ask themselves
Is this all there is?
As the northern migration lingered another exodus was taking place,
We acquired middle class living and block busted neighborhoods,
Buying homes and attending schools
Resisting the onslaught of those who would love nothing more than to bring back the old magnolia tree,
Terror from black blight expedited white flight
There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide,
As jobs and revenue slowly vacated most American cities.
Jr. Walker’s Shot Gun was number one.
Cassius Clay became Mohammad Ali,
Soon after Alabama police killed Jimmie Lee,
Malcolm X was blown away in Harlem.
The Bloody Sunday march from Selma to Montgomery
Strengthened our call and justified our plea,
Of our rightful place in a free society,
The entire country was glued to the TV,
Watching people coming down the road by the bus load
Johnson had called in federal troops,
All kinds of folks marched through Alabama mud
Wearing rain soaked coats,
But they were dedicated to the slogan
One man and one vote.
The voting rights bill was passed; Johnson signed it into law,
But before the ink dried Watts had had enough with police;
They had had enough with poverty and brutality and their fury was released
Onto buildings and into the streets
And the city burned for almost a week
From the same issues that bug us today;
Police brutality, health care and schools, decent housing and living wage jobs,
Playing by the rules didn’t get us very far,
City after city America burned.
And right today, the hunger for power and the lust of greed
Keeps too many people, no matter how hard they work
Trapped in starvation wages
And our children trapped in chronic need.
1966: First Fruits
Our African history buried in the deep black soil of Nubian spirit echoed a call from generations of strength, endurance and transcendence.
Maulana Karanga, a member of the United Slaves,
an organization to promote African culture and raise the conscious level of our people,
Introduced seven principles into a seven-day ritual to underscore our purpose and identity,
Kwanzaa served an imperative need in perilous times,
Kwanzaa celebration to empower our hearts, our spirits and our minds.
Six, Six, Sixty-Six
He was denied admission and had to file a law suit to get into Ole Miss,
And the higher court finally ruled that James Meredith be admitted to school.
Harried and separated he walked the campus alone,
But got his degree making American history by breaking the back of old man Jim Crow.
Legislations had passed and so had time to little avail to ebb the tide of bestiality of old Dixie,
So, he launched a march of his own from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi called March against Fear.
One foot in front of the other,
he began the two-hundred-mile journey with a few of his brothers and was shot on the second day
But that’s okay,
Cause when the word got out,
People from all around came to where he was hurt
And hundreds of feet both black and white packed the dirt roads,
And they marched on.
Just like folks, they fussed and fought, agreed and disagreed but were determined to stay together to achieve the purpose of their walk,
Twenty days later citizens took their place,
Shouting back at the hatred they knew so well,
It was all over T.V. for every American eye to see,
The internal madness of southern style democracy and its slow death occurring on the capitol steps of justice.
March against Fear.
One more battle in the war to fight against what we’re fighting today
Bringing the American narrative closer to American reality,
So, black and white, young and old, rich and poor
Can honestly say
Equality is yours,
Equality is real,
Equality is mine.
The Year of the Black Cat
Prosperity had reached some people,
A steady job, a new car and a color TV,
a telephone with a private line
Owning a home was the middle-class idea of living out the American dream.
However, the black masses were still left out,
The marches and sit-ins didn’t seem to render much
Laws had been passed and public places opened up,
But individual lives were still impoverished
and black neighborhoods were left behind and had become dangerous and tough.
Stricken with high rent in rundown buildings;
Heat and hot water were hard to come by,
Infested with vermin, drugs and crime
Easy credit rip offs seemed to be the only way to buy anything,
courts were biased and unions shut the door,
a slap upside the head by police was getting to be too much to ignore while American said it was getting better,
Claiming a new day had come.
We were still in deep mourning over Malcolm,
As a blizzard of ashes settled upon cities in revolt,
We were torn between nationalism and integration;
Our wounds were raw from the Alabama March
We were torn between liberation and self-preservation
Sometimes not knowing where to start.
We had been weaned from the Republican Party when Roosevelt came in,
George Wallace was lauded by the democrats
So, Mississippians created a party of their own,
Lowndes County Freedom Organization and their symbol was the Black Panther cat.
Stokely was elected to the chair,
White resistance was still up in the air
The right to vote had been passed, but terror hadn’t gone anywhere
The rope and the gun were as strong as ever,
It was during The March against Fear
When Stokely made it clear that we needed power;
Black power! He said,
And that was when the entire movement changed.
Not in the name of freedom,
but power was the new claim.
They finally got to Jackson,
The last march of its kind,
The scared Negros are dead!
We are fearless and black!
No longer asking, but taking
What belongs to us!
And if you start something now,
You can be sure we’re ready to fight back!
James Brown professed this is a man’s world
Kim Weston was in a Helpless situation
The Temps and the Four Tops had the smoothest steps on stage,
Meanwhile, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton were thinking of a name,
For their initiative to address the quandary of urban unrest,
And soon the Black Panther Party of Self Defense was formed,
Borrowing that cat from Lowndes County.
While the hippies were trippin on LSD
We were trippin on the new cat in town.
Self-possessed and sharply dressed
Fear was nowhere around,
Black Panthers brought a brazen new outlook
With rhythm and soul.
No more patient prayer
No more turning the other cheek,
The revolution has come
And it was happening in the streets.
Blood, Sweat and Fire
The Wonderful World of Disney gave us a Sunday evening rest,
We anticipated Ed Sullivan’s line up of guests
Until Huntley and Brinkley had breaking news
Of another bloody episode of what we were going through,
There was a march on the pentagon,
Pressure was mounting and Johnson was sweating.
While the politicians were working to save face
Deafening chants were demanding an end to the war.
Something started with a cab driver in Newark,
Cops didn’t like the way he drove the car,
Said he was driving it up the down street and so they took him in.
Somebody from CORE told somebody from the Freedom Party and they went back to family and friends.
By and by everybody was around the precinct and soon windows were smashed in and that sealed the fate.
Newark had a spell of looting and then it quiet down,
Only to be rallied up by bottles and Molotov’s
At the same time, Cleveland was hot and their issues hit the street,
And just a little more than a week later,
Detroit went up in flames;
An ember flicked over into Milwaukee and they ended up doing the same,
Everybody was on fire,
It seemed like it was the end days
Fear, anger, hatred and power
Was about to bring America down
Something, somewhere had to change.
The Kerner Commission tried to figure out why
We were fussin and fightin and burning down the cities,
Finally, they admitted that there were two different societies.
It was concluded that this great nation of ours
Created, condoned and maintained a system of despair,
And the only way to repair the damage that had been done
Would be a total redistribution of wealth benefitting everyone,
But that wasn’t gonna happen
President Johnson pushed it to the side
Because now, it was about another war,
All attention turned
To injustice, carnage and bombs
Upon the defenseless and the poor
No, not here,
But on the other side of the world,
In South Viet-Nam.
Shattered Dreams of Freedom
We put the hot comb down and raised our fists,
We embraced our Motherland history
Speaking Swahili and wearing vibrant African designs
The old Negro was gone,
We were living in liberated Afro-American times.
Our walk and talk had changed,
We were no longer ashamed of our hips and our lips or
Our brown and black tones,
We wore our beautiful afros because they were ours to own,
Meanwhile, Black Panthers for Self Defense,
Displayed their ten-point program;
Land, bread, housing, clothing, justice and peace
All power to all people,
To meet all the people’s needs.
Poor folks from every direction took heed to what they heard,
Native Americans formed a group to get the police off their back,
Puerto Rican Young Lords and Chicano workers joined in,
Black folks were already mad about being cheated from a decent life and pushed to the side,
Soon, SNCC became another Panther ally,
Along with Chicago youth groups and gangs,
Young Patriots who were Appalachian whites,
There was deep admiration from the progressive left,
That scared Status Quo half to death,
Because there were too many people to control
Too many troops overseas,
The numbers alone would be enough to overthrow and succeed in changing the country that would uphold and enrich the condition of American humanity.
The President had done a lot to help the poor,
Signed the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Act
He established a war on poverty in August 1964,
Dr. King spoke out against Viet Nam
And that closed the white house door,
Something had to be done
There was just too much noise going on
That’s when agents were hard at work
To break down and neutralize
Those who dared to expose
The dark side
But it didn’t stop there,
Armed with unfettered might
Protected by oppressive control,
Surveillance began and telephones were tapped,
People were framed for crimes they never committed
Under silent, vicious attack and infiltrated by agents on the take,
Neutralizing agitators was the mission
Of U.S Officials upon U.S. citizens.
So why don’t we have leaders today?
Who can reach into the inner sanctum of power and make real and sustainable change for the masses?
History is clear,
Those who tried are no longer here,
And the speculation is debated today,
Whether they were killed by a lone sniper
Or a quiet consensus,
That lies under a dark hat sitting just above the light of liberty.
We lost more than fifteen thousand lives,
And almost the entire country was mobilized to stop this awful war.
People were impoverished in the free world.
Hope and rage, accomplishment and defeat pulsated through the streets hungry for equality and starving for peace.
We grew more determined every day,
Elected officials were seriously distressed on how to cope with losing the war and how to deal with an angry population that refused to go away.
Nixon was on his campaign trail
When the Tet offensive took place humbling American hubris;
The Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In were on television
Taking every chance to humiliate the powerful and make fun of the foolish.
On the eighth of February, a massacre took place
On the campus of South Carolina State,
Where students tried to integrate a bowling alley;
Tensions stewed and tempers flared
Bricks and bottles were tossed in the air
Against police fire that killed three and injured twenty-seven more,
Bobby Kennedy was frustrated with the war
Frustrated watching people suffer and then ignored,
He knew he could set America straight,
So, he launched his powerful campaign
And was officially nominated for the white house race
Johnson had a fit,
He was already aggravated with Viet Nam
And his popularity had gone down,
So, he told the country he would not seek another term,
That put hope in the air,
Maybe Kennedy would win and there would be peace in the Far East,
We held that thought during King’s March on Beale Street,
Supporting underpaid garbage men struggling to feed their families.
But it was soon infected by troublemakers, who vandalized shops along the way,
Once it got started, needless to say
Glass, blood and billy clubs filled the streets
People ran for cover and the march fell apart,
What a disaster it was.
Our shows were cut off, the radio stopped the music;
Breaking news reported the Lorraine hotel was stained with the King’s blood,
The last hope for peace was gone
the streets were on fire once more,
Our anger could not be contained
The pain was beyond despair,
Most didn’t know which way to go
Just like times before,
We were lost again.
In the month of June
Bobby Kennedy was struck down in Los Angeles,
Pouring salt into our raw open wound
It was too much to take,
We just lost Dr. King
Every time we build our hopes
A bullet kills our dream.
What are we going to do?
Which way will we go now?
Our leaders are all gone,
But somehow our resilience turned our gloom into hope;
We let it all hang out with miniskirts, go-go boots and hot pants!
Cabarets were our Stoned Soul Picnics.
Everyday People Tightened Up and Danced to the Music,
The Temptations wished it would rain
Aretha proclaimed It Ain’t no Way
Marvin and Tammy testified
Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing
Our freedom was in our spirit
Our spirit was our Soul Serenade.
The year of the student widened the generation gap
Nobody over thirty could be trusted,
Campuses were hotbeds of rebellion
Ironically, education was viewed as a waste of time
Authority was the enemy because of the war, racism and poverty,
Students occupied buildings and tear gas filled the air
Not just here but throughout the world;
Germany, France and Ireland
Were populated with freedom warriors,
In Mexico and Japan rebellions were taking place
Young folks were in global unity,
It was a global outbreak
A global revolutionary storm.
The democratic convention was coming up
Taking place in Chicago,
Protests, concerts and a Lincoln Park sleepover were planned,
But the mayor refused to issue permits
for any radical activities, which began to expand into the streets,
Army troops and the National Guard
were on the scene right about the time the Russians charged into the Czech Republic of Prague.
Billy clubs were swinging and blood flooded the streets,
While the Paris Peace Platform was voted down,
Politicians got to fussin and shovin’
Unarmed protesters were knocked to the ground,
Bloody violence increased,
Everybody was shoutin’,
The whole world is watchin’!
Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics,
Some folks cheered and others exuded rabid foam,
They were expelled from the rest of the games
But their photograph endured as a symbol of what was going on.
The Miss America Pageant was the perfect time for women to express their dissent,
Women wanted to be more than a housewife and mother
Breaking the chains from the kitchen, the bedroom and lesser paid jobs,
Wanting to burn their bras
Wanting to be free,
And in charge of their own lives
To fulfill their own dreams.
Every American eye was stuck on the T.V.,
When Apollo 8 launched into space
We saw our planet for the first time from outside looking in,
We saw history taking place on Christmas eve
While Apollo Eight orbited the moon,
We were trying to figure out how to live on this earth
And how to live in peace.
Let the Sunshine In
It’s been some decade,
One more year to go,
We battled through marches and sit-ins,
Assassinations and jail
Tear gas, riots, fires and the war was still going on.
When Jupiter aligns with Mars,
maybe there will be some peace on the planet
but not yet;
Panther brothers were under siege,
Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were murdered in Campbell Hall,
Conservative Right was frustrated and disgusted
While the New Left was running wild in the streets.
We raised our placards and fists,
We broke the chains from the past to collectively resist
The constraints of the bra and girdle,
Of the suit and tie,
With bell bottoms, blue jeans and tie dye shirts;
Provocative images were decriminalized
Flaunted in movies and magazines,
Black men were no longer a threat to white virginity
They were lovers and leading stars on the liberated silver screen.
U.S. troops began to withdraw from South Vietnam,
Secret attacks were underway in Saigon.
Stonewall patrons created a scene fighting against brutality,
Women had already hit the streets tired of typing up papers and making coffee,
For racist and sexist elites,
Tired of being told what they can and cannot do;
Tired of being told what they can and cannot believe.
Jiffy Pop nights and Sesame Street days
Kept children safe from the fury around them,
Games, toys and dolls kept their imaginations energized,
Puzzles and coloring books developed their young minds.
As Neil Armstrong walked on the moon,
York, Pennsylvania was licking its wounds from an ’us’ against ’them’ melee that left two people dead
Manson’s crew made a bloody mess killing the beautiful actress and innocent folks
Around the same time the Zodiac Killer terrified the entire west coast.
We were young, gifted and black,
but still in Tryin’ Times.
People everywhere just wanted to be free,
New York was landlocked with Woodstock fans.
Hot Fun in the Summertime cooled off when the Chicago Eight trial began,
Bobby Seale insisted on his right to be heard and was gagged instead.
The Weather Underground reacted with Days of Rage,
Moms Mabley took the stage on the Merv Griffin show
Reciting her poignant and relevant prose,
Abraham, Martin and John,
There was lot going on.
Actors hit the streets creating movie scenes capturing the grit and might of the average American fight,
The Age of Aquarius had yet to fill the stars with love
The moon had yet to align with mars
The success of NASA,
The failure of the war
Left the Pepsi generation exuberant and disillusioned
The nation was divided and socially wounded
They killed Fred.
The panther man from Chicago.
Killed in his bed by local police.
Twenty-seven days later, it was New Year’s Eve.
Curtain call of the terrific, turbulent and desperate times
Of the nineteen sixties.