Police confrontations (174639)
Credit: FILE photos

Tuesday night I had the distinct pleasure to attend a preview performance of the Broadway revival of “Motown: The Musical.” I knew I was in store for an evening of wonderful song, but what I was not expecting was the emotion that came with it.

The scene is between Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye having a discussion about the release of his album “What’s Going On.” As I listened to the lyrics and the discussion that ensued between the two characters, a tear came to my eye. How is it that 45 years later we are talking about the same issues that we were talking about back then? How is it that although so much has changed, so much has stayed the same?

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today—Ya

Immediately my mind flooded with the names of mothers who had lost their sons at the hands of the police: Iris Baez, mother of Anthony; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean; Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham; Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou; Lesley McFadden, mother of Michael Brown; and Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, ad infinitum. These women have all cried for their sons. And these brothers are all dead because they were Black. This year is 45 years later, but the messages are the same. We need to stop the carnage.

Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today

As we look at what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio and the Republican convention, we see that they have basically declared war on people of color. The hate that has come out of the mouths of so many is amplified when it is blasted within the 24-hour news cycle. It is basically a war against us. A war waged to “Make America Great”—in other words, “Make America White.” And no voice has been more divisive and loaded with vitriol than that of Rudy Giuliani. Rather than finding words of healing, words to bring the different communities together, he only deepens the fissures, making it all the more difficult to set aside the brewing confrontations.

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Ya, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

The message is clear. What’s going on is the systematic assault on our communities by the right. Whether it be walls, guns, brutality or laws that will take away our rights and our sanity. In far too many ways, Gaye was prophetic, and the wars abroad, the terrorism here and elsewhere, were issues he valiantly addressed—and they have meaning for us now as we endure similar turmoil and chaos. Our protest lines and protest signs must be amplified as well. We must take to the street, we must go to the polls, we must stop hate in its tracks. But:

In the mean time

Right on, baby

Right on

Right on