Sorry for the extended silence. Things have been nuts around here this week. We’ll just call the video above a belated Folk Thursday offering. I’m not sure Billie Holiday constitutes “folk,” but this is definitely a protest song, and I would go so far as to say it is quite possibly the most important protest song ever recorded.
It is also part of tomorrow’s lesson plan. The kids are going to start class by writing paragraphs about their perceptions of the media’s impact on race relations, and then we’re going to compare and contrast “Ballad of Birmingham” (a Dudley Randall poem about a church bombing that killed four young girls) with the lyrics to “Strange Fruit.” Powerful, yes, but I think that’s what scares me. I’ve taught “Ballad of Birmingham” before, but I’ve never taught “Strange Fruit.” It’s a pretty unsettling song, and I hope it doesn’t freak the kids out too much. I know they listen to violent music all the time, but this is different. It’s scary. It’s dark. And it elicits some pretty strong emotions.
I’m trusting my kids to turn those emotions into a productive discussion. This is something of a leap of faith, but the poetry unit always is. I think that’s what makes it so magical.
We’ll see how it goes.