We shall not be moved is top-of-mind when I think back on my teen years in Berkeley, CA. In choir at Martin Luther King Junior High, I learned this hymn turned movement anthem with people from many different zip codes. Our tracked school system offered me few opportunities to interact with people from African-American, Asian American and Latinx backgrounds. Choir was one place that reflected the diversity of the student body, and where we built friendships from joy in music.
Sunday January 17 at 4:30 p.m., the Secret Choir will sing together as best as we can on Zoom. Our meeting will be brief (an hour or less) and we will warm up with some creative writing or drawing before singing a handful of songs that to me represent empathy and respect, such as We Shall Not be Moved.
This social change hymn is borrowed from its Spiritual predecessor "I Shall Not Be Moved,” whose seminal words appear multiple times in the Bible, and even in the 1807 London-published excerpt created to maintain the tyranny of slavery. The "Sl*ve Bible" omitted any reference to freedom, equality, or direct communion with the Divine, such as in Psalm 16:8 I keep the L*rd always before me; because They are at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
"I shall not be moved" was and is sung in steadfast resistance to oppression. While, on the surface, the lyrics appear to support staying in a place or station the hymn can be a call to inner fortitude. "I shall not, I shall not be moved. Like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved."
This Mavis Staples Version brings comfort and hope to me. I also relish this Spiritual edition by the Harmonizing Four. For motivation, I like this Uptempo Praise & Worship track by Kenny Bobien.
Elisabeth C. Swim
Playful Mindful Music Guide