Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Paul Robeson (9/4/29- 23/1/76) - The People of Wales still proudly remember you.

Keep hearing a lot of bad news today, but I am rminded today that the inevitable Paul Robeson was born today. Not only was he an exeptional athlete, cultural scholar, and actor and singer,  he was also a man dedicated to the causes of freedom and social justice, as a political activist he was hounded and persecuted in the U.S for his opinions. His name and historical contribution are still silenced in most textbooks in the U.S.A , where he was was caught up in the midst of the  McCarthy witchhunts.
Yet all around the world, especially here in Wales, his voice still carries much resonance, gives us some hope.
His first contact  with Wales came in 1928, when he was performing in 'Showboat' in the West End. Whilst in his hotel he was attracted  by the sound of singing from outside. The singing was coming from unemployed  miners who had  marched to London to draw attention to the hardship and suffering endured by thousands of mining families in South Wales. He went outside to meet them, listened to their plight, recognised a shared suffering, and a mutual bond was born. He was to visit Wales many times, between 1928 and 1939, performing at Neath, Swansea and Cardiff. In 1940 he starred in the film Proud Valley, set in South Wales, that captured the harsh realities of Welsh coal miners' lives.
Most famously in 1938, he sang and addressed a massed audience in the Pavillion, Mountain Ash, at the International Brigade Memorial Service, organised to commemorate the 33 Welshmen who had been killed in the Spanish Civil War.
He addressed the audience thus :-

' I am here because I know these brave fellows fought not only for me but for the freedom of the people of the whole world. I feel it is my duty to be here.'

Long may he remain an inspiration. His name remembered as one synonomous with equal rights, the search for justice, peace and solidarity,the unquavering thirst for freedom.

Paul Robeson - Land of My Fathers.

Paul Robeson sings for the workers at Sydney Opera House.
Paul Robeson - We are climbing Jacob's ladder.

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