It’s no secret President-elect Donald Trump has had trouble finding people willing to play his inauguration. Nobody, not even country star Garth Brooks, is willing to play for him, to the point that he’s had to reduce the length of the inauguration parade and ceremony so that he can ostensibly “get to work” before the inaugural balls.
Still, his transition team is desperately trying to get anyone of reasonable public presence to perform at the inauguration and assuage the hypersensitive ego of Mr. Trump, who has already petulantly lashed out at A-list celebrities for refusing to play for him. British singer Rebecca Ferguson says that she’s been asked to play and would be happy to do so – but only on one condition:
I’ve been asked and this is my answer. If you allow me to sing “strange fruit” a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington. Best Rebecca X
“Strange Fruit” is a poem originally written by Abel Meeropol under the pseudonym of Lewis Allen in 1937 and was made famous by Billie Holliday’s haunting 1939 rendition. The song is a horrified protest against the wave of lynchings that swept through the United States – the racially motivated vigilante executions of African-Americans by whites, especially by white supremacist terror organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. While the victims were mainly black, abolitionists were also targeted by lynch mobs.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Her request is not likely to be granted, seeing as Donald Trump’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and ordinary racist supporters would be enraged at such a politically provocative song being played. It would also not be a great look to call attention to how Donald Trump’s campaign was fueled by the very hatred and fear that led the killings of tens of thousands of African Americans. But it’s a powerful reminder of how little has changed when it comes to racial relations in the United States since the time this powerful song was originally written – and how important it is that we begin to discuss the mass murder and widespread political disenfranchisement of African-Americans in our country both in the past and in the present era.