For the past several years, I have been the music teacher at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington, D.C. This has given me the chance to combine two passions: music and social justice activism. I teach students the civil rights songs, peace songs, and union songs that I learned throughout my life. And I make links between the songs and peace and justice movements.
One of my specific objectives is to get the internationally acclaimed singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson into the music textbook used in the D.C. schools.
Decades ago, Paul Robeson was censored from most school books, and it was hard to find his recordings or films. In recent years, Robeson has enjoyed a renaissance of interest and approval; he is even on a U.S. postage stamp. But Paul Robeson is not mentioned in the Making Music text (Silver Burdett/Pearson) used by many school districts.
My students and I have written letters to demand that Pearson include Robeson in its textbook.