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Grazing in the Grass

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So, in 1968 a hit song called Grazing in the Grass debuted on American radio. The song was an instrumental and was composed by Philemon Hou and first recorded by the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. It quickly climbed the music charts and made it to one of the top spots on the Hot 100 chart. It also ranked as the 18th biggest hit of the year.

But that was not the last Americans heard from Grazing in the Grass. The very next year (1969) a group called the Friends of Distinction released their own version, complete with lyrics penned by member Harry Elston. Harry said he got the inspiration for his lyrics while on tour with Ray Charles. He said he would look out the tour bus window and see cows as the group proceeded to the next stop, and would think, "These cows got it made."

According to an article on Genius.com, the group decided to "kick up the speed and sound of the laid-back original with lush orchestration and rapid-fire vocals." This version was an instant hit. It reached #3 on the Top Ten pop list, and #5 on the R&B list. However, it should be mentioned that the original instrument version by Masekela was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

In any event, we are thrilled to present this version by the Friends of Distinction. Enjoy!

Grazing in the Grass
Instrumental by Hugh Masekela, 1968
Lyric writers (1969): Harry Elston / Philemon Hou
Grazing in the Grass lyrics © Cherio Corporation

[Verse 1]
It sure is mellow, grazin' in the grass
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)
What a trip just watchin' as the world goes past
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)

[Verse 2]
There are so many good things to see, while grazin' in the grass
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)
Flowers with colors for takin', everything outta sight, in the grass
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)

[Verse 3]
The sun beaming down between the leaves
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)
And the bir-ir-ir-irds dartin' in and out of the trees
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)

[Refrain]
Everything here is so clear, you can see it
And everything here is so real, you can feel it
And it's real (Rock it to me, sock it to me, rock it to me, sock it to me), so real (Rock it to me, sock it to me), so real (Rock it to me, sock it to me), so real (Rock it to me, sock it to me), so real (Rock it to me, sock it to me), so real (Rock it to me, sock it to me)
Can you dig it?
(Whooo!) (Whooo!)
I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let's dig it. (Can you dig it, baby?)
I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let's dig it. (Can you dig it, baby!)

[Verse 4]
The sun beaming down between the leaves
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)
And the bir-ir-ir-irds dartin' in and out of the trees
(Grazin' in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?)

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use

This post also appears on You tube at this link - https:// www.youtube. com/watch?v=nNI27KOQoF4

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre

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Have you heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre? If you haven't, author Carole Boston Weatherford's 2021 award-winning picture book is a perfect introduction. The book is called Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, and it is the heart wrenching story of how a prosperous black community -- Black Wall Street -- was completely destroyed and its citizens chased out of town while the police stood by and did, well... nothing.

The book opens to the origin of The Black Wall Street, during a time when prospectors struck it rich in the oil fields. When the new wealth created jobs, a community called Greenwood sprang up. Comprised of formerly enslaved people, Black Indians, etc., this community was one of staggering wealth and resources. It had restaurants, grocery stores, furriers, and pool halls. It had libraries, a hospital, a post office, and a school system (separate from the white school system, of course) where black children reportedly got a better education than whites. It had beauty shops, hotels, movie theaters and confectioneries. It also had two newspapers, fifteen black doctors, and stunning homes that belonged to prominent doctors, lawyers and businessmen. It had all these things and more... and they were all black-owned.

This superior, self-supporting community was a sight to behold. The problem was that those who beheld it were jealous of it. All the white community of Tulsa needed was a convenient "insult" as an excuse to release their wrath. They soon found the perfect insult: a black shoe-shine person supposedly attacked a white person. The white community sprang into action to nab the culprit and give him their own special brand of punishment. The black Tulsa community rushed, armed, to the man's assistance -- which further enraged the white community. Before long, whites were looting, burning, shooting and destroying whatever they could get their hands on. Unfortunately, law enforcement did not come to the people of Greenwood's aide; in some instances, they deputized the white men who attacked the community.

When it was over, businesses were gutted, buildings were demolished, and Greenwood was only a pile of ashes. Over three hundred blacks had been murdered.

Reading The Tulsa Race Massacre is an experience. From the inner sleeve to the end pages to the precious content and illustrations inside, this book is a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the soul. The stories of black wealth, black self-sufficiency, and black pride are the stuff of legends. But recounting the destruction, looting and murder -- all because this black community was doing well and proving that blacks could thrive AND excel, is the stuff of nightmares.

Carole Boston Weatherford's prose is rich and warm in some places, fast-paced and full of danger in others. In every instance, her ability to tell a good story comes across loud and strong, and she holds the reader's interest to the very last page. The late mega-talented artist, Floyd Cooper, offers astonishingly beautiful images of pride, joy, success, fear and stark despair. His colors are the rich caramel and deep browns of the African American community, and his illustrations capture every range of emotion a reader can expect to encounter.

Use this book to open discussions about racial history, prejudice, oppression, citizenship, ownership and civil rights.

Love is Loud

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There are so many stories of unsung heroes out there just waiting to be discovered! A great example is the story featured in author Sandra Neil Wallace's newest picture book, Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement.

Love is Loud is the story Diane Nash, born on the south side of Chicago in 1938. Diane came into the world with two loving parents who were determined to keep her out of the south. They wanted Diane to know only love and acceptance, and for awhile, that is all she knew. But then she moved to her grandmother's home in Tennessee so she could attend Fisk University. Racism was EVERYWHERE, in the restrooms, at the water fountains. Even in places that promoted family fun, like county fairs.

Day by day, Diane's indignation grew. She wanted to help change the social climate, but she did not want to go to jail doing so. So, she took a few church classes during which she and a group of students "prayed and learned about change in a peaceful way." Taking that peace with her, Diane and a few friends stage a sit-in. And then they stage another, and another. Before Diane knows it, she and her few friends are not the only ones fighting for change. Soon there are "one hundred, two hundred, three hundred strong!"

Not long after the sit-in's, a bomb goes off in protest against blacks who yearn for change. This time Diane does not worry about going to jail. She only wants change. She quietly helps lead thousands of marchers who also want peace. The next year, she helps organize the Freedom Riders. She is involved in the 1963 freedom marches in Washington, DC. But it is when a bomb explodes in a Birmingham church and kills four little girls that Diane realizes it is time to march in Alabama.

This is an enlightening book about a quiet woman who learned to speak loudly to fight for equality. The prose is written in 2nd person so that the reader feels the author is speaking to him/her, and the thoughts and actions in the book are his/her own. The illustrations are rich, moving and informational. They also make the reader feel as if he/she is right in the middle of the action.

Use this book to discuss unsung heroes, citizenship, and civil rights.

Standing in the Need of Prayer

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The only thing more lovely than the song, Standing in the Need of Prayer, is the picture book created to accompany it. From amazing picture book author Carole Boston Weatherford and mega-talented illustrator Frank Morrison comes the stunning new picture book, Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual.

The moment readers open this over-sized picture book, their senses are inundated with haunting images of African Americans enduring relentless oppression and refusing to let go of the hope that their prayers will be heard by the living God. There is the image of the haughty slaver wielding a whip as a shackled African American stands before him, head bowed. This is followed by African Americans in despair stand on ships or slave blocks, harnessed and chained as they await their fate.

Thankfully, not all the images are of the enslaved. There are glorious images of early preachers who shared words of comfort and hope, and images of hopeful African Americans gazing at the words included in the Emancipation Proclamation -- words most of them could not even read. There is a cameo of African Americans fleeing the south during the great migration, and other images too, like the Tuskegee Airmen who so bravely served our country, and Duke Ellington, the performer, who paved the way for other African American entertainers.

The illustrations in this lovely book span the history of the African American experience, and include Ruby Bridges making her way through a hostile crowd of whites so she can attend school, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching hope and equality, and even athlete Colin Kaepernick who took a knee to decry police brutality.

The prose in this book is sure to touch children and adults alike. Use this book to discuss everything from citizenship to family to the amazing power of prayer.

Wanda

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Celebrating black hair is becoming a trend, and yet there are still instances in which black girls and boys are bullied and harassed about their glorious curls. Authors Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali's adorable picture book, Wanda, offers a realistic example of how black curls that are celebrated at home are often criticized or laughed at out in the world.

In this richly-illustrated book, a young beauty named Wanda is struggling to come to terms with her curly "cloud" of hair. At home, her Mama teaches her that she is a queen and her hair is a crown. On the school bus, pesky boys call her "Miss Bush" because her hair is so full and curly, and at school, the teacher calls her hair a bird's nest. This negativity toward her hair leads Wanda to begin making the "big switch." In other words, she wears the style Mama gives her but secretly changes her hair the moment she arrives at school.

But one school day, the bus is late and Wanda has no time to make the big switch. Although she remembers the words of affirmation her mother has made her memorize -- "My hair is strong and beautiful, like clouds" -- she feels embarrassed and frightened to hear what the others think of her hair. By the time she returns home, she is so sad she tells her grandmother, "I am NOT a queen. I don't want this hair.
But like grandmothers are prone to do, her grandmother Makhulu tells her she IS a queen and proceeds to prove it.

Wanda is an adorable book about being different, and being beautiful because of this difference. It is a book about culture, pride, and a burgeoning self-love that every mother hopes her little queen-of-color will experience. The authors' prose is so sweet and simple it is as if the words have been written from the innocent heart of a child. Illustrators Chantelle and Burgen Thorne use deep rich browns, hot pink backgrounds, and curly hair as black as night with a few vibrant strands of pale red for good measure.

Use this book in pre-school and elementary classes to open discussions about race, hair, cultural identity, acceptance, and self love. Also, be sure to read Wanda's next adventure, called Wanda the Brave.

Enjoy!

The Black History Channel