The horns burst, the voices wail and, as if about to launch into a sermon, this author, activist, intellectual, pastor and singer introduces himself: “My name is Rev. Sekou and these are the Seal Breakers, now they from Brooklyn.” He points to his band and continues, “but I was raised in in a little old place called Zent, Arkansas that’s got about 11 houses and 35 people, and they’d work from can’t-see morning to can’t-see night and then they’d make their way to the juke joint. And then early Sunday morning they’d make their way to the church house.” As he stokes up the NPR crowd, mixing church preaching with juke-joint jiving, he adds, “there’s a lot of trouble in the land, but we’ve got one question for you: Do you want to get free? Say Yeah!”
And then Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou tosses off his large-brimmed, black hat, shakes his dreadlocks and demands freedom with these words: “We want freedom and we want it now!”
“Resist,” is just the opener to one of the most rousing Tiny Desk Concerts I’ve seen. During this 20-minute set Rev. Sekou took us all through an even wider range of emotions as he recalled the horrors of the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va. last summer. He said he spent weeks in preparation, organizing clergy for what he says was “the largest gathering of white supremacists in modern history,” then watching the activist “Heather Heyer take her last breath” after she was struck by a car that plowed into a crowd of marchers. The song “Bury Me” is a bluesy anthem to freedom that honors those who have died in that struggle for racial equality and freedom. The touching ballad and a preamble fuels his indignation for President Trump.
I saw Rev. Sekou perform in Austin during this year’s South by Southwest music festival. I believe him when he tells the NPR crowd “I’m Pentecostal, we can go on for two or three hours!” His call to action is fervent and wholehearted, steeped in history with hopes for brighter days.
- “Bury Me”
- “The Devil Finds Work”
Osagyefo Sekou (Vocals), William Gamble (Keys), Reggie Parker (Bass), Cory Simpson (Guitar), James Robinson Jr. (Drums), Gil Defay (Trumpet), Chris McBride (Saxophone), Matia Washington (Background Vocals), Rasul A Salaam (Background Vocals), Craig Williams (Percussions)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Bronson Arcuri, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Bronson Arcuri, Khun Minn Ohn, Beck Harlan, CJ Riculan, Kara Frame; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Eric Lee/NPR.