Sing for freedom

As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought I’d share some extraordinary music, sung by some of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

I recall a moment that made clear to me just how much that movement changed America. At a Noah’s Bagels in Mountain View, California, my father cast a nostalgic glance at a large-format photograph of a packed Coney Island beach from the 1950s, when he was young. I looked at it too. “No black people,” I said.

My father hadn’t noticed. He is not a racist — in fact, he and my mother marched in Civil Rights rallies in the 1960s — but he grew up in a world where segregation was normal. He learned that segregation was wrong, and he fought to wipe it away, but it’s what the world of his childhood looked like. He once told me that the residents of Parkchester, where he grew up in the Bronx, were all white, while the help were all black, and no one thought anything about that.

I didn’t grow up in such a world. Though racism is still a profound problem in many ways in America, that should not take away from the extraordinary achievements of those who fought and too often bled for civil rights in the fifties and sixties and beyond. Because of them, because of their bravery and sacrifice, America is different and better.

I work with people of every skin color and background. I date interracially. My president is biracial, and my mayor is in a marriage that would have been illegal in most states when my father was a boy. These changes did not come by magic. They came with the blood, sweat and tears of heroic ordinary people who said Enough.

And maybe this will even inspire us all to think about those things in our world where we will say Enough, where we will stand for the change that we know in our bones, in our very souls, must come.