When I wrote my final column for The Social Mixtape in April 2018, I really thought we were parting ways for good.
I had used some of my favorite songs as a basis to discuss societal issues, and as a result, had written about the #MeToo Movement, gun violence and mental health, all of which are just a few of the issues I care about. I also said goodbye to the column by way of discussing break-up songs, which was a more lighthearted way to cap off the column’s run.
But over the past two years or so, I had flirted with the idea of bringing the column back. I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to discuss what’s going on in the greater world through music again?’
And quite a lot has happened since myself and The Social Mixtape broke up that spring — although very publicly. However, like any two people in a relationship who care about each other immensely, we took some time apart to learn and grow.
We thought some more about what we wanted our relationship to be — a thing of the past or something that we revive in the present.
And by reading this, I guess you can tell what was the final decision.
2020 was a year that people thought would show great promise. After all, we were entering a new decade. When many of us were young, we saw the 2020s portrayed as a fantastical, futuristic time that would have technological advancements that we would not be able to fathom.
But the 2010s came and went and we greeted 2020 with feelings of, ‘This is going to be my year!’
As we now know, these hopes and wishes would be disproved. When we moved from February to March, murmurs of the coronavirus that began to circulate in late January became whispers and then shouts.
And within the first days of March, the world was unified by a communal sense of uncertainty and worry due to a virus that would take away any semblance of normalcy.
In May, the fervor of the Black Lives Matter movement was reinvigorated due in part to a certain eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Since May 26, 2020, people all over the nation have been protesting in the name of Black liberation while saying the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain and the many others who have been senselessly murdered at the hands of the police.
These protests have continued on for a little over three months now, despite the ongoing pandemic and with more cases of police brutality, specifically the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
It goes without saying that between the coronavirus pandemic, civil rights protests and the 2020 election approaching, a lot has happened this year.
“A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, as well as being a song that relates to the Civil Rights Movement and to the Black experience during that time, is a song that made an appearance during a rather unusual Democratic National Convention when Jennifer Hudson performed it on the night that Kamala Harris formally accepted the nomination for vice president.
Inspired by another song that dealt with social themes, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, Cooke set out to pen a song that would address the racism that he and other Black folks were facing during that time of passionate protest, which is not unlike what we are witnessing today.
In the song, Cooke sings of feeling unsafe as a young Black man in America, particularly in the lines, “I go to the movie and I go downtown/Somebody keep telling me don’t hang around.” He drew from personal experiences, specifically an incident during which he and his band were barred from checking into a hotel in Louisiana. Cooke expressed his frustration with this treatment to which his wife, who advised him to calm down. Despite the notoriety that Cooke felt would protect him, Barbara, his wife, noted that to the staff and others, he was just another Black man.
Cooke only performed the song once live during his life on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1964, but that powerful performance would soon be overshadowed in history by the notable U.S. television debut of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Despite the song’s lack of performances and despite being released as a single two weeks after Cooke was fatally shot in Los Angeles in December 1964, the song became a hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement and has since been performed widely.
While “A Change is Gonna Come” mainly expresses hardship, with Cooke singing of asking for help and being knocked down in return, there is an overall feeling of hoping for hope. In the last few lines, Cooke sings, “There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/ But now I think I’m able to carry on/ It’s been a long, a long time coming/ But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will.”
With uncertain times all around us and what feels like a handful of steps backward in achieving equity in several sectors, hope is something that many are trying to find and hold onto.
We are all trying to keep hopeful while trying to make the best out of what may be the hardest year for many of us. And while businesses, educational institutions and health facilities have adapted their practices to accommodate public health protocols, many are growing tired of restricted life.
But it is clear that with restrictions being lifted and many going back to school and/or work, that there is a long way to go before this period of adaptation is over.
It is the hope of myself and many that at least with the election fast approaching, some positive change is going to come.
So although I won’t be able to write this column and edit it in The Brown and White newsroom, I will be discussing social issues through the vehicle of music while working remotely.
I am hopeful that I will be able to shed some more light on the things that matter to me in this world because as I established earlier, there is much to talk about.
Emily Thampoe, ’21, is a community engagement editor and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]