Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp is a new resource for music educators, chorus leaders, activists and cultural workers. In it, the nationally admired cultural worker, musician, educator, and activist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, shares her approach to social transformation and its roots in African-American musical traditions. In the book, Jane tells the story of her childhood, nurtured by the Black community while living in the brutal world of the Jim Crow South. She describes her participation in the Black Power movement and introduces us to her mentors. She shares 25 songs she has written with young people and sung with people of all ages, and tells the stories behind each song and offers suggestions or teachers and chorus leaders. The book also includes scores, and all of the songs can be heard on podcasts where Jane’s approach to cultural work is illuminated through conversations with activists, cultural workers, and music educators.
From the introduction, “If You Really Want to Know Me:”
Too often social change work focuses on what communities don’t have: there aren’t enough economic resources; the education system is not responsive; and racism keeps Black people from reaching their full potential. But I began to wonder what would have if we focus on what we do have rather that our deficient. We have each other, our songs, our stories, our imaginations, our experiences surviving and making ugly beautiful. We know how to make a way out of no way. – Jane Sapp, p. 25
The songbook is co-sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation, Brandeis University Library, the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Heller Office of the Dean and Sankofa Events, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Division of Creative Arts, the Department of African and African American Studies, the Department of Politics, and the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice.
Watch a performance by Jane from September 2019 in DeKalb County, Georgia at an Interfaith Reconciliation Service “with roughly 200 people in attendance pledging to tell the truth about DeKalb’s history of racial injustices and to address issues that linger today.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “A choir of 35 people crowded around a piano as Jane Sapp played an old Negro spiritual that she gave modern arrangement. The power of the composition built as the choir blended in four-part harmony. ‘Ain’t you got a right to the tree of life?’ Sapp said before the service that the title of the song, which provides the framework for its repetitive lyrics, has always resonated with her. ‘It’s always been the fundamental question of this country when it comes to race,’ she said. ‘We must answer that question and act on that question and deliver the answer to that question that, ‘Yes, you’ve got a right.’” Watch now.