Thinking of Prince and his music today. Hard to believe that we lost him right after losing Bowie. But we can still celebrate his beauty through his music every day. So maybe we are the lucky ones after all.
Check out how Prince steals the show from a stage full of musical icons at a 2004 tribute to George Harrison. We might want to weep for Prince now, but better to appreciate and love how his mastered artistry was on view during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Stevens Professor Lindsey Swindall in Princeton to celebrate the birthday of Paul Robeson. Photo by Ed Kaz.
Since the September 2015 release of the paperback edition of her biography Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art, Stevens Professor Lindsey Swindall has been traveling to share the significance of Robeson’s legacy. As noted in a Huffington Post article, Swindall’s book is part of a recent resurgence in public interest about Robeson. “I’m really excited about the release of the paperback edition,” said Swindall, “because the price is very affordable and I hope it will help make Robeson’s story accessible to the broadest audience possible.” Swindall has been reaching out to audiences since the book’s release by developing a multimedia program on Robeson that includes a collaboration with New York City actor Grant Cooper. Swindall explained, “I wanted to find a way to bring Robeson’s words to life and working with an actor enables the spirit of the artist to really shine.”
In October Swindall and Cooper performed at a book signing event at the Samuel C. Williams Library at Stevens. They also took their program to Robeson’s alma mater, Rutgers University, to be part of Paul Robeson Week in December. Berklee College of Music in Boston invited them to do two days of events focusing on Robeson’s musical career in March. Most recently the team went to Princeton, New Jersey, Robeson’s birthplace, to honor his birthday, which is April 9, 1898. The Arts Council of Princeton hosts an annual birthday celebration and Swindall was “thrilled” to participate this year. “The fact that we had a packed auditorium on a chilly and rainy April afternoon speaks to the love and warmth that so many people in the Princeton area feel for Robeson,” Swindall remarked.
The most gratifying part of the day for Swindall was interacting with people who were touched by Robeson. Most memorable, was meeting Laura Kruskal who shared the powerful story of being injured at the Peekskill concert in 1949 when vigilantes violently attacked audience members leaving a Robeson performance. “It was very moving to listen to her story and to see how her own life had been impacted by Robeson’s legacy,” said Swindall. “I will never forget meeting her.”
Celebrating Paul Robeson’s birthday at the Arts Council of Princeton yesterday was a tremendous experience. The fact that we had a packed auditorium on a chilly and rainy April afternoon speaks to the love and warmth that so many people in the Princeton area feel for Robeson.
Our program started with Robeson’s memories of his boyhood in Princeton and highlighted key moments in his career that illustrated the marriage between his artistic life and political activism. Robeson’s words clearly resonated with the crowd as folks laughed and offered comments like “that’s right” or “uh huh” when Robeson’s speeches touched them or reignited specific memories.
The most gratifying part of the day, by far, was meeting people who were connected with Robeson. One lady told me about how her father, a labor union leader, had worked with Robeson. Another lady recalled how her parents had taken her as a small child to hear Robeson sing in Peekskill, NY in 1949. Luckily, her family escaped the melee that ensued after the performance. Another audience member, Laura Kruskal, was not as fortunate. A young college student at the time, she still bears scars on her chest from the glass of a bus window being broken by vigilantes at Peekskill. Laura was the first person to arrive at our show yesterday and was one of the last to leave. It was very moving to listen to her story and to see how her own life had been impacted by Robeson’s legacy. I will never forget meeting her and I feel truly humbled and honored to share in the celebration of Robeson’s legacy with her and all of the people whose lives intersected with his. Laura is pictured below with Grant Cooper.
Many thanks to the Arts Council of Princeton for making this special day possible! Special thanks to Executive Director Jeff Nathanson, pictured below speaking with Grant and Laura.
We are also very grateful to Richard Robinson, Program Director at the Arts Council of Princeton, for all of his efforts doing everything from scheduling the show to setting up lights and media! He is pictured below with Grant, Laura and myself.
It is so heartening to find audiences that are eager to reflect upon and embrace Robeson’s important legacy. One lady from Princeton walked up to me after the show and said simply, “I just want to give you a hug!” Without words, her response communicated everything that the day meant to me. The spirit of Paul Robeson is still bringing people together. Happy Birthday, Paul!