Mahalia Jackson

“I sing because it makes me feel free”

American Singer and Civil Rights activist. Jackson became the voice of so many important anthems of hope during the civil rights era.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang in front of 250,000 people “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned”. Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech there. She also sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at his funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

I heard her voice for the first time in high school.My favorite teacher, and choir director Mrs. Papo played Mahalia’s version of ” His Eye is on the Sparrow”. It hit me in my gut, knowing what that hymn meant to many Black American people at the time.

However, there is still so much more work to do.

But this song ultimately reminds us of the sacredness within every single person on this earth. We need each other to open the cages of hatred, bigotry, and fear that we inherited or create within ourselves or around us.

Thus, I paint Mahalia here below an empty bird cage pointing to a Song Sparrow perched on her hand. Singing its heart out because it is free.

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