STLT#95, There Is More Love Somewhere

So many choices this morning…

Do I talk about the person for whom this tune is named, Steve Biko, the South African activist who spearheaded the Black Consciousness movement and died from injuries sustained while in police custody?

Do I talk about the handy term zipper song, which indicates a song, often sung a capella, with nearly identical lyrics and one word or phrase changed for each verse?

Do I talk about how this song was the one that led me to another (1002, Comfort Me – which we’ll get to in November), which led me to hear the voice of the Divine calling me to this path?

Or do I talk about how a song like this is incredibly radical, suggesting that what’s in front of us isn’t everything, and there’s always more for us to do, explore, resist, and open ourselves to?  Do I talk about how this song is a song of resistance, from the time of slavery?

There is more love somewhere.
There is more love somewhere.
I’m gonna keep on ‘til I find it.
There is more love somewhere.

There is more hope somewhere…

There is more peace somewhere..

There is more joy somewhere…

Maybe I talk about those things, but what I really want to talk about is the problem of white Unitarian Universalists changing the lyric of this spiritual to “there is more love right here.” It shifts this from a song of lament and aspiration to a song of declaration, and that’s both frustrating and just plain wrong. Peter Boulatta say it best in his blog post “More Love Somewhere: The Unedited Hymn”:

These songs give theological voice to those who endured slavery, making meaning and spurring resistance as they are sung. When (in my case) white people ask for word changes in such a song, my alarm bells start ringing.

Are white Unitarian Universalists not capable of identifying with Black experience? Not willing, perhaps, to imagine the context out of which this song originated?

Glibly rewriting a slavery-era African American expression of hope and determination should give us all pause.

There’s an air of hubris in this wordsmithing, and a lack of insight.

Joining together to sing “there is more love right here” to me smacks of self-satisfaction and self-centredness.

Go read the whole thing – because he’s absolutely right. Now I have sung it in groups with the changed lyrics, and when I have, the entire mood of the room shifts, perhaps more comfortably than I realized. Sure, there’s something to be said for saying “and all that stuff you’re looking for? You might find it here.” But in my experience, that sets up groups, congregations, and individuals for failure – because what if they don’t find it here? And the truth is, even in a loving community, there is ALWAYS more love, peace, hope, and joy to be found, as long as there is hate, oppression, war, and injustice in the world. There are so many other good songs to sing, why change this one?

Let us be careful about what we do with music, especially when it is not our own.

 

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: STLT#185, Your Mercy, Oh Eternal One – Notes from the Far Fringe

  2. A great addition to this songbook! It would be nice to have the text also printed in Arabic, both for: people who aren’t used to seeing Arabic (many of us) and the many people who can recognize it and even read it (quite a few people where I live); It would even be wonderful to have the text translated into languages other than English (even singable translations), although it would be hard to know when to stop, there are now so many languages spoken here in my city and most cities.

    Here in Minnesota there are fair-sized Somali communities even in many smaller towns now (St. Cloud, Willmar, and others) and many other immigrants (e.g. West African), who, even if they do not speak Arabic, have at least studied some Arabic in Koranic school. So a printed Arabic text, or a singable Somali translation, or Wolof, or….like I said, it would hard to know where to stop. Maybe there could be a web site where such further translations could be available? But for this hymn there’s lots of blank space on the second page…..so in the next edition….?

  3. Sorry, my comment above was supposed to be printed with STJ #1032, not the song above? How did I do this. Not sure if I can delete or or not, but I can’t would someone else? I’ll reprint it in the correct place.

  4. Pingback: #95 – Spiral Wound

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