Songs to help us march towards justice #RefugeesWelcome

By John Clifton

On Friday evening, some of the Match Factory collective went to see The Last Internationale (TLI), a New York rock band with a political edge, play at the Barfly in Camden – a few doors down from Chalk Farm Salvation Army.  At a time when there is a lot of unrest about the insufficient level of action from the UK Government on the refugee crisis, it was helpful to be in a space which both expressed and cultivated anger.  These were truly songs for the journey, written to be worked out in the justice-battles of everyday life.

Prior to the band taking the stage, the scene was set with a recording of Gil Scott Heron’s classic poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” which includes the line:

The revolution will put you in the driving seat

After this bit of ‘pre-meeting music’, the hauntingly earnest song “I’m gonna live the life I sing about in this song” rang out with a bare acoustic accompaniment as a ‘call to worship’.  This song was written by Thomas Dorsey and made famous by the legendary gospel singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson.  Check out the video of TLI’s version.

This was not to be an ordinary gig – where people turn up for their ears to be tickled (or left ringing considering the volume!) but rather it was a space where anger was to be expressed and cultivated.  In other words, I found it was a space where ‘Hot Anger’ could become ‘Cold Anger’.  As Mary Beth Rogers points out, cold anger reflects the hope of change whereas hot anger reflects is an impulse that can’t be controlled.  One of the tasks of community organising is to take this hot anger – the rage – and turn it into something that can be controlled – a tool.  This is when anger becomes useful, when we can be angry but not sin (Ephesians 4:26).

It was also intended to be participative.  The band invited people from the audience onto stage to join in one of their songs.  Later on they passed around the mic giving people the opportunity to vocalise their anger.  It was basically a ‘testimony time’.  Most shouted #RefugeesWelcome.

One particular song from TLI really resonated with me. It is called ‘1968’ and speaks of Love and Revolution, which makes me think of agape and metanoia in the context of Christian social action:

The more I love, the more I feel I can make it – revolution – the more I make revolution,  the more I feel I can make it – love

So – anger, revolution, love – and the greatest of these is love…