Yesterday, my husband and I had a great time at our square dance club’s Fourth of July gathering and dance. I love to square dance, and as I turned with “allemande left,” and “promenade home,”I thought “This is white culture.” The Square Dance is descended from dances brought to this country from, with the immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France.
Then I realized I was dancing to When the Saints Go Marching In, first recorded by Louis Armstrong on May 13, 1938, and brought to prominence in Rock by Fats Domino (Wikipedia). This song was first published in 1927 as a Gospel Hymn. I was experiencing in the dance a combination black and white culture. At National Square Dance Conventions, I encounter callers and dancers from around the world, though the calls are always in English, even in other countries, I am told. Dancers come in the many shades of flesh with which humans are born.
Yet, the sad truth of our nation’s history of slavery, then racism, created out of a desire, originally, I think, for low cost labor, must invade even the richness of sharing traditional cultures. I remember doing a paper on hymn origins in a Duke Divinity School class. At the Lilly Library at Duke were several volumes debating whether the various hymn tunes could originally be credited to people of color or whites. In fact, in the Wikipedia article referenced above, there are several links pertaining to another hymn title When the Saints Are Marching In, with words and music written by two Methodist Episcopalians from Pennsylvania in 1896 . One reason for the confusion of hymns is that i the camp meetings of the early 1800’s were attended by white and black. Songs were lined and sung with increasing gusto, reports indicated. Shared talents and shared worship were powerful and positive demonstrations of community
When we argue about cultural reminders such as the Confederate Flag, we are choosing elements of culture hurtful to our neighbor. When we choose to spend time arguing about what belongs to me, my, mine, that excludes you and yours, we diminish the power and strength of a joined community and culture. A pastor at a vigil for the nine killed recently at Mother Emmanuel AME, spoke of a need to join our strengths as individuals and groups together in love instead of hatred. His analogy was that of homemade vegetable soup in which the individual elements never lose their individuality, or contribution to the whole, but together they provide a rich and wonderful feast.