“The songs tried to encourage us not simply to to be reactors, but to indicate our own initiative and our own power.”

In our interview yesterday morning, Vincent Harding spoke about the galvanizing power of song during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s. He also lamented that today’s “hip-hop young people” have not produced a soundtrack for their generation that can express the “great need and desire for a better world.”

But, for many African youth, Angelique KidjoAngélique Kidjo is helping create this soundtrack. The 50-year-old, Grammy winner is inspiring this rising generation by revisiting music that emerged from the American civil rights movement, namely that of Curtis Mayfield, whose music shaped and was shaped by the struggles of this time.

On her most recent album, Kidjo re-crafted his 1970 hit “Move on Up.” As Kidjo told the New York Amsterdam News in 2010:

“When I first heard this song when I was a child, I couldn’t believe those issues existed in America. When I moved to America, I not only realized he was telling the truth, but that those issues are still relevant. In fact not just America, but the world. When you take a look at the children of Africa, they stopped believing in what their futures could be. None of the leaders of Africa are thinking of creating jobs or creating a place where they can feel safe, confident, proud and dignified to live in, so I wanted to dedicate that song to kids and let them know it was O.K. to dream big.”

Kidjo performed her rendition of this Mayfield classic in South Africa at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As she told the Sowetan in June 2010: “I wanted to do and dedicate this song to the youth of Africa to show that it is possible for us to overcome the challenges. Enough of thinking that what comes from outside is better than what is from here. … Africa is not about misery and poverty, there is joy.”

(photo: Michelly Rall/Getty Images for Live Earth Events)

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