Esperanza Spalding is a total bad ass.
If you’re not familiar with the Grammy award winning multi-instrumentalist then allow me to help make your Wednesday.
Spalding is an accomplished jazz musician who plays with a lot of heart. She started playing violin at age 5 but she truly found her groove, and subsequently her sound, upon discovering the bass at age 15. A ton of hard work, a Grammy and a few records later, she was doing no big deal things like jamming with Prince and playing with Stevie Wonder at the White House.
Now she’s channeled her musical prowess into an empowering anthem that strives to be for something.
That something being the American values, principles and laws that make the concept of indefinite detention without trial – and thereby the very existence of Guantanamo Bay – completely indefensible on our watch.
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged by her band members, and supported by various human rights organizations Spalding captured her feelings not only through a song but a fact-laced video that spells out what’s going on, why it’s important, and how you can help. The video encourages viewers to contact their representatives and the song is a rousing cry as to why they should.
As Spalding sings
I am America
And my America
It don’t stand for this.
We are America
In our America
We take a stand for this.
Speaking to MSNBC, Spalding clarified that she hadn’t written a protest song– rather she’d created an invitation to participation:
It’s such a gift and a joy to be engaged in the process- in our democratic process, and I think maybe we forget that we each really can do something. You know, it seems like an overwhelming issue and any overwhelming issue gets solved by slow continual person-by-person action so that’s the invitation.
She went on to specifically address personal power and it’s role in this project and others like it:
We’re powerful individuals. Each of us have a lot of power in us to contribute to positive transformation of the world we live in and it’s a celebration of that- a celebration of we don’t have to sit her and let unpleasant things happen under our nose. We can celebrate this freedom and power that we have to make a difference.
Writing in the LA Times Spalding went even further to explain her inspiration as well as her hope for the project getting into the nitty gritty legislative details of how and why that power matters”
If the Senate and the House of Representatives agree to the Guantanamo provisions in the defense act, the few prisoners in the detention center who face charges could be prosecuted where it makes the most sense, in federal courts.
Radio Music Society (and friends) made “We Are America” because we believe that, while not all of us are called to the front lines like Martin Luther King Jr., we can all support our elected officials in doing the right thing.
The entire project is amazing and it accomplishes its job, as described by Spalding, in that it helps to raise consciousness around what’s happening and why it matters. In a little over a decade 779 men have been illegally detained and 164 remain imprisoned despite the fact that well over half of them are cleared to leave. What’s happening is wrong but what happens next has yet to be determined.
The video’s call to action spells out what you can do:
Call the US Capitol Switchboard 1-202-224-3121 to connect you to your two Senators & your Congressional Representative
I am your constituent and I want you to support closing Guantanamo
Indefinite detention and unfair trails are illegal, un-American and unnecessary.
The video, done in collaboration with ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, includes cameos from Harry Belafonte, Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder, while also highlighting statements from President Obama, Senator John McCain, Colin Powell and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen to spell out why closing Guantanamo is the right thing to do.
All that’s lacking is the courage and political will to do it.
That’s where we come in.
I’ve been told and I believe. Aint no justice aint no peace