Me on the left, with Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leymah_Gbowee) and award-winning Broadway star, Soara-Joye Ross (http://soara-joyeross.com/bio), on November 15th, 2011, at the offices of the FCNY (Funds for the City of New York). On November 1st, I was commissioned by Eliza Ventura at CAP21 (www.cap21.org) to write a song to honor Ms. Gbowee on the 15th at a private fundraiser for her peacekeeping efforts.
It was a humbling assignment. I had no idea where to start. I didn’t even know where to find Liberia on a map, typical American that I was. Lucky for me, Ms. Gbowee wrote a book recently called “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.” On November 1st, I began reading. I was on my way to Los Angeles. My daughter, Chloe (http://chloelear.com/), had bought me the plane ticket for my birthday, and I was thrilled to be going to see her. I was with her for six days, and during that time, I inhaled Ms. Gbowee’s book—and, on the next to last day, the song basically wrote itself, off the power of her own story.
I also viewed the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” (produced by Abigail Disney), which chronicles Ms. Gbowee’s fight for peace. In 2008, it won the Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. Rent this thing. Watch it. It will awaken any of us who think we are powerless to change our deplorable political climate. These women risked their lives by dressing in white and sitting down in the same place together. Their determination, their commitment is mind-boggling once you become aware of what they were up against. Occupy Wall Street is attempting something similar, but there’s a combative quality to their rhetoric, and it tends to dilute the power of their message.
A couple days after returning to New York, the song had gelled enough to send to my good friend (an amazing singer), Soara-Joye Ross, who had about 6 days to learn it. The day of the event came, and we made our way to the FCNY offices. It was a strange venue. Not the most theatrical I’ve ever seen—basically an office space. But the work done by this incredible organization is phenomenal. Mary McCormick (http://www.fcny.org/fcny/about/staff/mccormick/) is as warmhearted as she is capable, and as president of FCNY, she turns dreams into reality for so many different kinds of people and organizations it’s hard to keep count.
She introduced Leymah Gbowee, who gave a searingly direct, down to earth address to the audience. Her remarks can be seen here: http://gallery.me.com/tinabean#100646. After that, Soara-Joye sang my song, and I accompanied her. The video didn’t turn out, unfortunately—but I’m sure there will be other opportunities, so stay tuned.
As I finish this post, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to give my gifts to this woman, this maker of peace in the world. I offer the lyrics to you, here. Be well everyone. Until next time, peace.
BECAUSE OF ONE dedicated to Leymah Gbowee ©Tina Lear 2011
Over and over, they were kicked around
Over and over, they knew that they’d be ground
Down into the dirt. They were broken, they were bound.
And they bore the worst of everything and could not make a sound
She thought that life was over, and that nothing could be done
There was killing in broad daylight, and there was nowhere to run
She fell down on her knees, offering up an anguished prayer.
And the answer came in women that she gathered with her there
And one by one, They prayed hard for peace
Two by two, For the suffering to cease
Three by three, They gathered all their sisters
Four by four, And their numbers did increase
A hundred strong, They sat in white together
A thousand strong, And they would not go away
Unseen hands brought them food, brought them water
Unseen hearts grieved for their mothers and their daughters…
Progress did prevail, didn’t happen overnight.
They bit down on their failures, as they reached out for the light.
Had to summon up such patience, they were moving forward, blind,
But the power of their prayers and of the people helped them find that
One by one, The world began to notice
Two by two, All the women dressed in white
Three by three, The Peace Women, as they showed us,
Four by four, How to sit both day and night
A thousand strong, In the heat and pelting rain
Two thousand strong, They were singing this refrain
“We are tired! We will not suffer anymore
We want peace. We are finished with this war”
And voices long silenced came alive inside their throats.
And women who had thought that they were dead began to vote
What makes me think that that can only happen over there?
If they can do it, surely we can do it here, I swear
yes, one by one, we will teach our little girls
Two by two, to expect a better world,
Three by three, We will teach our little boys
Four by four, To feel tenderness and joy
A billion strong, We won’t wait for someone else
To right the wrongs, To free us from our prison cells
Because of one who’d had enough and stood up tall
She changed her world, And now it’s better for us all
Because of one, Because of one, Because of one.