Local activist keeps civil rights at forefront through song

CREATED Jan. 21, 2013

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Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Every year, the observance of Martin Luther King Day forces us as a nation to take a look at just how far we have come since the trying times of the Civil Rights movement.

It also compels us to consider just far we still have to go.

Leaders of one local group say the lessons of Dr. King's legacy are still very much at work.

Half a century after their struggles, their screams and their strides were seared into America's memory, 69 year-old Ted Warmbrand still refuses to let those memories and melodies be muted.

“The American civil rights movement is one of the great chapters of the history of this country,” he said.

A longtime local civil rights activist, Warmbrand brings dozens together each month, for socially minded sing-alongs.

Each year on Martin Luther King Day, his sessions carry a special tune, showcasing songs central to the civil rights struggle.

“Songs are opening up between our hearts and our minds, and they connect us with one another,” said attendee Dina Afek.  “They connect us with history."

“Music has always been a way to move people.  It moves the chakras.  It moves the energy,” added Alice Blistein.

“People sang before meetings.  They sang in line at marches,” said Warmbrand.  “Singing was very important and still is important."

Still important, says Warmbrand, since that struggle is not finished.

Whether it's a nationwide debate over same sex rights or a localized fight for Mexican American studies, Warmbrand says these songs serve a purpose.

“These songs have a flexibility,” he said.  “I think if we have them, and we internalize them, and we keep them around, they'll be useful for whatever comes next."

He adds each battle is perhaps best won, when we realize there may be an infinite supply of struggles yet to come.

“Marcel Marceau, the mime, used to have one great routine, where he was in a little box, and he's kind of figuring out how to get out of it, and as soon as he gets out of it, he finds he's in another bigger box, and it's never ending,” said Warmbrand.  “That's life."