Silk Road - Part 2: What Peace Looks Like
This is Part 2 of a series of blog posts on my new forthcoming CD, SILK ROAD – Inspirational Journeys Across Planet Earth. If you missed the previous post, please click here to read Part 1.
A quick summary my new CD: SILK ROAD is a project that weaves together music and ideas that are shared by individuals in our own experiences the world over. The Silk Road CD has evolved into a collection of journey songs. Some are solitary journeys of the spirit within. Some are love songs -- journeys of the heart. And others issue songs -- outward journeys, looking at the world as it is and as it could be.
I was going to start this second post by talking about the title song “Silk Road.” That’s where the CD’s concept really began for Peter Link, my producer and main songwriter on the CD. This song really defined the album for him.
But for me, the genesis of another song on the CD, “What Peace Looks Like,” was what gave me initial direction to the SILK ROAD experience.
“What Peace Looks Like” is one of the issue songs, or outward journeys on the CD. It's a joyful, uptempo piece, with Afro-Caribbean music. It has a serious message set to infectious rhythms that give the song both a depth and a certain childlike quality.
That’s the key here: that childlike quality. This song came about as a result of my own direct experience in teaching as well as my response to a lot of incredible reading and documentary viewing that I have done over the past 5 years.
Early in my career I taught music and drama to school age children from all levels of economic strata, including inner city kids. In later years, reading nonfiction and watching thought-provoking movies, especially documentary films, have proven to be two of my best outlets for not only keeping my social conscience vitally aware, but also giving me great spaces of thoughtful meditation in an otherwise hectic lifestyle.
So, to give you a little background, my early teaching experiences proved to be completely transformational to my life and outlook. I was working as an Artist-In-Residence with the Los Angeles Music Center, performing and teaching music/drama workshops all over the greater Los Angeles area, with a particular concentration in WattsandSouth Central.
The defining moment when I was became socially aware happened to me the day the Rodney King Riots broke out. During that time, I was teaching in 3 different schools in South Central, right in the same neighborhood as the riots.
On that Wednesday, April 29, 1992, I had spent the day teaching classes. As I left the area around 5:30, I remember feeling a high level of tension in the air. I still had not heard about the rioting yet as I drove 35 minutes to get home. That night, at a friend’s house high in the Hollywood Hills, I witnessed many fires destroying neighborhood businesses and homes as they glowed eerily throughout South Central LA.
I was afraid for my beloved students in the schools where I was teaching. What were they witnessing? What were they feeling? What were they doing during those three days of destruction? Were they safe? I prayed. I held them and the whole community in my prayers.
By Saturday, the riots had been stopped and most of the fires contained and put out.
On Sunday, I was part of a volunteer crew that went to a community center in the middle of South Central. Along the way, we passed dozens of burned out shops and supermarkets. We brought a yellow Rider moving van completely filled with bags of groceries, blankets, clothing, and water. We set up camp and gave the provisions to long lines of people who had no stores left in their neighborhoods.
Early Monday morning, as I drove south to teach at one of my schools, I passed sandbags and National Guardsmen, complete with all of their tools of war, ready to keep the peace … I had entered, once again, a surreal war zone. The Korean bakery where I had often stopped for a bagel was just a concrete slab and cinders.
The children in my schools were all safe. None had come to any harm. I was very grateful. We moved forward together. We talked about what had happened and how the students felt. We learned songs and dramatized ideas about peace, multiculturalism, living together, and forgiveness. We did it through music and drama and the most important element: childlike, forgiving love.
And I was forever changed. I was forever awakened to the “gaunt want” of this world, but I also was awakened to the great promise as well.
Those years of teaching immediately after college, was my Peace Corps experience. Teaching thousands of children, taught me more about the practicality of love and its healing power. The children taught me how to love them, and how to love myself. They taught me more about my art than my entire college education. The children taught ME. They were MY teachers, and not the other way around. Ultimately, they taught me “What Peace Looks Like.”
I lived the experience of working with kids at risk who had to brave the immediate terrors of the streets right outside their front doors.
These experiences became the foundation for me, in later years, to follow keenly the stories of children all over the world who have and continue to overcome obstacles of poverty, war, abuse and more.
Here’s a verse from “What Peace Looks Like” (lyrics by Peter Link & Julia Wade)
“I wanna to know what peace looks like” The child of the ghetto said, “I wanna go where peace is known I’ve had enough of hopelessness A cracked out mom and fatherless And the gangs that haunt the streets”
This is a good place to pause for today … But the story isn’t over! Tomorrow, I’ll post the rest of the saga of the making of “What Peace Looks Like” from the Silk Road CD.
All but one photo are from an article on the web: http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2012/04/remembering-the-1992-los-angeles-riots/#1