Even these days, when poet-singer-songwriter-keyboardist Gil Scott-Heron, one of the greatest songwriters of the past 40 years, performs his song “95 South (All of the Places We’ve Been),” he prefaces it with a dedication to the woman who inspired the 1977 song, which is included on the album Bridges.
During his performance of the song in Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 16, 1978 (a bootleg of which can be found online), Scott-Heron spoke the following intro to the song:
“We did a new song on the new album that we dedicated to a very special sister. The lady’s name was Fannie Lou Hamer. [She] was a voter-registration worker and a civil rights worker down in Mississippi. And I raised not too far from Mississippi and the old joke that used to be in my neighborhood was, ‘What has four eyes but cannot see?’ And the answer was always, ‘Mississippi.’ Because the point was that in Mississippi there seemed to be sort of a hand holding back people, keeping them from progressing. And in Mississippi, as in other parts of this country, when you dedicate your life to black people and when you say that black folks are supposed to have something — opportunity, education, food, whatever — you literally put your life on the line. So what we attempted to do was say something very important to a woman who had dedicated her life to us — sister Fanny Lou Hamer.”
Scott-Heron’s introduction to the song hasn’t changed much over the years, as witnessed during his recent concerts, which have, incidentally, become more frequent as he preps his first studio album in 15 years, I’m New Here, scheduled for release early next year. Hamer, who was born Oct. 6, 1917, will be honored on that same date at Stockton College during the school’s 6th annual Human and Civil Rights Symposium from 2:30-4:30pm in the Performing Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public. Hamer, a major force behind organizing the Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964, later became the vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In 1964, she attended the Democratic National Convention, which was held in Atlantic City.
This year’s theme for the Stockton symposium is “Civil Rights and Social Activism in the Age of Obama: What’s Next?” Gov. Jon Corzine is expected to give a welcoming address and there will be a distinguished panel of experts. The keynote speaker will be Donna Brazile, a political strategist and vice chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee. She has worked on every United States presidential campaign since 1984. Call 652-4609 for more.
Plus, Resorts' new Rewards Program partnership with Mohegan Sun, the Album of the Week (The Wallflowers) and Drew Toonz.
Plus the Album of the Week, Drew Toonz, and this weekend's Jazz Vespers salute to Art Blakey, featuring Keith Hollis.
This past weekend saw peaceful demonstrators standing on the corner of Indiana and Pacific avenues forewarned they would be arrested immediately if a tent were erected on the Pinnacle (former Sands) site they are calling the "sandlot."
Plans were in the works to try to get Scott-Heron to perform in Atlantic City this summer, for one of the city=sponsored concerts at Gardner's Basin. I also suggested to the organizers of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival coming to Atlantic City June 24-26, to reach out to Gil to have him as one of the dozens of artists on the bill.
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