[saymaListserv] Fw: Poem from Wendy - "Birmingham Sunday" by Richard Farina

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Thu Sep 16 08:36:59 JEST 2004


The following is from a very dear F/friend, Wendy, in Jacksonville (FL) Monthly Meeting.  She sends out poems almost every day.  This one has a special history...for her and for all of us.

Blessed Be,


Dear Poems People, Friends and Kinfolk,

Today is the 41st anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist
Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in which 4 young girls were killed.  Later
in the day, 2 young boys, Virgil Lamar Ware and Johnny Robinson, were
gunned down in Birmingham.  After that profound day, White folk in droves
joined the African American Freedom Struggle.  It's as if the killing of
African American adults - especially, men - was something that could be
avoided, as they knew the risks of activism; but the killing of
"innocent" children is where many White folks drew the line.  --  I had a
mystical experience when I was 13 while listening to a recording of
Richard Farina's sister-in-law, Joan Baez, singing this song to the tune
of the traditional "I Loved a Lass."  At that moment, I knew I'd study
the African American Freedom Struggle and be involved in it for the rest
of my life (not much of a transition since I was born into it).  But,
this song is one I have sung every day or two or three since then, for 27
years.  It centers me.  I sing it in sorrow, in appreciation, in the
shower, but never in indifference.  Sometimes, it is sung through tears;
sometimes, I imagine the children's families listening to me sing it. 
When I barely make it, singing through the tears, I think to myself: And,
here I am White and trying to just sing a song!  Yet, perhaps, through
this practice, I'm expressing or transforming the love, sorrow, hatred,
fear, high blood pressure, and hope I psychically gather from African
Americans who I encounter in another practice of mine: silently taking
into my heart these aspects of racism throughout the days' encounters as
I pass others along the street or in the grocery store, etc.  I do this
with White folks, too. -  By the way, this church has begun a campaign to
raise $2.6 million for structural repairs - from old age and the bombing.

 -- Okay, here's the song.  I don't usually send long poems, but today's
an exception.

"Birmingham Sunday"
by Richard Farina (the n has that wave above it)

Come round by my side and I'll sing you a song.
I'll sing it so softly, it'll do no one wrong.
On Birmingham Sunday the blood ran like wine,
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

That cold autumn morning no eyes saw the sun,
And Addie Mae Collins, her number was one.
At an old Baptist church there was no need to run.
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

The clouds they were gray and the autumn winds blew,
And Denise McNair brought the number to two.
The falcon of death was a creature they knew,
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

The church it was crowded, but no one could see
That Cynthia Wesley's dark number was three.
Her prayers and her feelings would shame you and me.
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

Young Carole Robertson entered the door
And the number her killers had given was four.
She asked for a blessing but asked for no more,
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

The men in the forest they once asked of me,
How many black berries grew in the Blue Sea.
And I asked them right back with a tear in my eye.
How many dark ships in the forest?

On Birmingham Sunday a noise shook the ground.
And people all over the earth turned around.
For no one recalled a more cowardly sound.
And the choirs kept singing of Freedom.

The Sunday has come and the Sunday has gone.
And I can't do much more than to sing you this song.
I'll sing it so softly, it'll do no one wrong.
And the choirs keep singing of Freedom.

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