It seems that President-elect Donald Trump is having a difficult time filling the roster for his inauguration ceremony. In previous years, the inauguration festivities have included extensive and star-studded ceremonies featuring speeches, musical performances, dance numbers, and dramatic readings. But this year, many artists have shown an unwillingness to participate, or have their work featured, in the January 20th proceedings, citing political and ideological differences.
One such performer is Rebecca Ferguson. Or, rather, Ferguson did agree to perform at the inauguration under one condition: that she be permitted to sing Billie Holiday’s 1939 protest song “Strange Fruit.” The song, originally written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1937, is a seering protest of American racism, state-sanctioned violence, and systemic indifference. The song quietly rages against the systems in place at the time that kept races divided and black Americans perpetually behind barriers and (sometimes literally) under the gun. And whether she knew it or not, when Rebecca Ferguson asked to sing that song in Washington, DC this month, she connected the current political climate straight to Greenwich Village and its longstanding history of progressive politics and social justice.
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