Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.
Coming up in the African-American culture, we were taught that we belonged to the universe and society was wrong in the way it dealt with us. We had to learn to express and affirm values not from the winning position.
When I started graduate school I was interested in the culture of the Civil Rights Movement.
If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition.
There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. Give it up.
If we dwell in a community that is comfortable, then it's probably not broad enough a coalition.
I think the Civil Rights Movement changed that trajectory for me. The first thing I did was leave school. I was suspended for my participation in Movement demonstrations in my hometown, December, 1961
Well, the first time I ran into the term religion, people were asking whether you had any. You know, some people had religion and some people didn't have religion
If every moment is sacred, and If you are amazed and in awe most of the time, when you find yourself breathing and not crazy, then you are in a state of constant thankfulness, worship and humility.
But I'm a historian. I wasn't interested in just being a producer, I was interested in doing research and presenting that research to a general public
If, in moving through your life, you find yourself lost, go back to the last place where you knew who you were, and what you were doing, and start from there.
Welcome to prekindergarten! You will not die if you discover that there are more lines out there than just your own. In fact, you'll discover that you will have an advantage if you know more of them!
So one of the things that happened with integration in the South is they found that the black teachers were much more educated than the white teachers.
I came out of the Civil Rights Movement, and I had a different kind of focus than most people who have just the academic background as their primary training experience
The first job I had with the Smithsonian was as a field researcher among African American communities in Southwest Louisiana and Arkansas for the festival.
I went to a church where you could not sing out loud in the service until you had been saved
I started graduate school in 1971, I started working at the Smithsonian in the festival in 1972. I went full-time at the Smithsonian in 1974. And I got my doctorate in 1975.
The voice I have now, I got the first time I sang in a movement meeting, after I got out of jail... and I'd never heard it before in my life.
I was at the Smithsonian for twenty years, and I'm still at the Smithsonian as a curator emeritus, and I still plan to figure out what that means for me at this point in my life
The Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, actually, was an effort to put something on the mall in Washington so American tourists could walk through America, and in their minds everything on the mall would be American
In fact when Sweet Honey was ten years old it was too big for me to run, and I knew it, but I ran it for another thirteen years because I couldn't convince other people to really do it. And this year, I'm not running it.
The Civil Rights Movement also reaffirmed me as a singer. It taught me that singing was not entertainment, it was something else.
I organized Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1973. The music was sanity and balance.
At the same time all this was happening, there was a folk song revival movement goingon, so the commercial music industry was actually changed by the Civil Rights Movement.
And I used to think that proof that I had religion was whether I knew how to sing all of the songs.
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