Monday, August 2, 2010

Don't Give Up

Just a few days ago I became aware of the work of Michael Franti, a 44-year-old singer/songwriter from California. He's the founder and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop and a variety of other styles, including funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock. Franti's music can be incredibly moving and quite politically charged.

Franti enlists his deep, edgy voice to advocate for a wide range of peace, justice and environmental issues. For example, to encourage peace in the Middle East, he traveled a few years ago to war-torn Iraq, Palestine and Israel "to explore the human cost of war with a group of friends, some video cameras and his guitar" (see photo below right). (Among others, that "group of friends" included two human rights lawyers, a retired U.S. Army captain and a beauty salon owner.) As Franti explains, the film arose "out of my frustration with watching the nightly news and hearing generals, politicians, and pundits explaining the political and economic cost of the war in the Middle East, without ever mentioning the human cost. I wanted to hear about the war by the people affected by it most: doctors, nurses, poets, artists, soldiers, and my personal favorite, musicians."

From this three-week encounter with people living every day under the harsh conditions of war and occupation, first-time filmmaker Franti created the award-winning documentary I Know I'm Not Alone. You can watch the movie trailer and the music video of the title track on that website.

What I'd like to share with you now, though, is yet another music video by Franti, called "Hey World (Don't Give Up)". As we all know, the difficult work of co-creating a less violent world can be a slow, discouraging slog, sometimes with as many steps and painful slides backward as forward. For today, at least, may this piece by Franti help you keep your chin up and your feet moving.

I'll provide Franti's lyrics beneath the viewer. If for some reason you can't see the viewer below, click here to view the video.

Tell me why the grass was greener
years ago

I swear it used to grow here

but no more here

Tell me why
on this hill
all the birds they used to come to fly here
come to die here

And tell my why I need to know
Sometimes I wish I didn't have to know
all you show me

Hey world
What you say
Should I stick around for another day or two
Don't give up on me
I won't give up on you
Just believe in me like I believe in you

Tell me why on the corner
all the kids that used to come to run here
load their guns here
And tell me why
it's okay
to kill in the name of the gods we pray

Tell me who said it's okay
to die in the name of the lies we say
Tell me why there's child soldiers
Tell me why they close the borders
Tell me how to fight disease
and tell me now won't you please

The only thing I want to do
is to be in the arms of someone
who believes in me

like I believe in you

I try try try try
I try try try try for you
Don't give up on me
And I cry cry cry cry
I cry cry cry cry for you
Just believe in me
like I believe in you

Phyllis Cole-Dai

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