Mr. Paul Robeson
It was Paul Robeson who realized the role of the artist extended far beyond the stage or the concert hall. As an entertainer, it was Paul Robeson who advised his peers to convey a positive image in plight of his people to change humanity, to fight for equal treatment, and to demand justice & peace with the power in which they possessed.
Robeson wore many hats defying categorization surpassing his role galore as just an actor, athlete, singer, political activist, or freedom writer. “I saw the connection between the problems of all oppressed people and the necessity of the artist to participate fully,” Robeson once said. He also protested, “the artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery.”
Robeson spoke 15 languages, that’s impressive…hell I know plenty of folks that can barely speak one language fluently. Although his fame grew in the United States, he was despised by the conservatives trying to uphold the status quo, yet was well renowned internationally. This was the ongoing theme for all entertainers and public figures of color in the states.
Miles Davis quoted people in Europe treated him as a king because of his talent regardless of his color. Davis found it hard to cope once back to America where he would confront discrimination and injustice in a country where he was revered and looked down upon as a savage and ridiculous excuse for a human being (he also claims this was what drove him to his heroin addiction).
“Paul Robeson was the most persecuted, the most ostracized, the most condemned black men in America, then or ever”- Llyod Brown, writer.
Robeson gave speeches about the sufferings of oppressed, more particularly blacks, in America while on tour abroad. His statements were distorted while dispatched to the United States. When he would return a riot would erupt outside a concert hall in New York in 1949. The white community culminated into outrage and he would receive mixed responses from blacks. Ultimately, the government revoked his passport crippling Paul from leaving the states for nearly eight years. The NAACP openly denounced Robeson while many other black organizations shunned him in fear of reprisals.
He was an impeccable talent, fearless, and absurdly relentless with an unprecedented will to have his voice heard. Paul Robeson was the Renaissance man of the 21st Century.
A friend of mine, Charlie Hustle and his partner, Flux Capacitor collaborated to form dotMental a soulful hip-hop duo from Philly. They contributed to the making of this song and video dedicated to Paul Robeson. The images strongly depict a part of our history where destruction fluttered and prejudice ruled.