2:45pm

Sat February 16, 2013
The Spotlight

Say it Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity

The sound of James Brown’s raw and soulful voice rumbles through the speaker, carrying on it the words “Say it Loud!” The call & response is followed by the roaring audience: “I’m Black and I’m proud!”

American RadioWorks: Say it Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African-American Identity

It was these words that helped influence an entire generation of African-Americans with a simple, yet powerful message of pride and self-reliance. Imagine the declarative statement Brown was making verbally and symbolically during that time. That was 1968.

Fast forward to today. The country is celebrating the 37th annual black history month, ingeniously themed, At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality. Black History Month, if not for anything else, is a time for reflection on where we’ve been as a country and the monumental steps that have been taken to get us where we are now. Embedded within the language of this year’s theme is the simple question, “Where do we go from here?”

Can we really know where we are headed next if we don’t know from where we have come?

For issues surrounding freedom and equality, it was inspiring and impactful speech that pushed the country into an inclusive direction. Speech in the African-American community has always been the driving force in the movement toward cultural advancement. Echoing the sentiments of Malcolm X, powerful speech during many pivotal moments in America’s history was responsible for changing the philosophy of individuals and consequently their outlook on life.

That same unadulterated speech that is in James Brown’s “Say It Loud,” is also found in the rhetoric of Bayard Rustin, Robert P. Moses, Angela Davis, Dorothy I. Height, and the many other activists in the fight for freedom and equality.

In honor of those landmark speeches, Say it Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African-American Identity highlights many of those recordings that defined an identity, defied ignorance of the struggle, and triumphed by moving to the forefront of the national discourse. It is here where we can find the remnants of our history as an American people, and begin piecing together the road map toward an even brighter future for tomorrow.

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BreOnna Tindall is an intern in the KUNC newsroom from the University of Northern Colorado. ‘Say it Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity’ is a production of American Public Media. You can learn more at americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/

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