Blackbird Fly: Hope During the Darkest Days of Our Democracy

by Lola E Peters


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

These lyrics from the classic tribute to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s by the Beatles pop into my head every time I see a photo of Stacey Abrams. My throat gets dry, tears well up, and I get goose bumps. How prescient those words are.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
In the midst of some of the darkest days of our democracy, it is the Black bird’s voice that gives us hope, shows us the way. It is the abiding ability of women like Stacey Abrams to remind us day will come and conjure beauty where none can be seen.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly
Having been batted out of the sky on her soaring near-victory for the Georgia governorship, Abrams could have elected to nurse her wounds, find a shady bush where she could hide from predators, and slink back into the shadows. She did none of those things. Instead, she built coalition after coalition. She took lessons learned from her near-perfect flight and honed her skills. She spoke, she gathered, she empowered in the service of others until her song became a chorus.

All your life … You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Abrams poured all the struggles and tribulations of her life into her song, holding nothing back. The more she sang, the more other people recognized themselves and their stories in her tone, her lyrics, her spirit. The more they heard, the more they were convinced. The more they trusted her hope and determination and adopted them as their own. 

You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
And in the dead of our national night, she brought us a spotlight on current-day tactics of voter suppression and white supremacy. With the power of her song, she led a Black man and a Jewish man from Georgia into the sacred halls of the U.S. Senate, showing the entire country what was possible.

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
Through her vision we can see a way forward. 

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
Though surrounded by night, we still fly. As Maya Angelou wrote, “Still, I rise.”

Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded this beautiful song in 1968, inspired by the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black teenagers who in 1957 became the first Black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were spat upon, screamed at, and reviled by adults and youth. For decades the song was celebrated as one of the Beatles’ most beautiful, its imagery interpreted as metaphors for loneliness or as encouragement for women to persevere. Not until 1997, in an interview with author Barry Miles for his biography of McCartney, did the full story come out. Here’s a McCartney quote from the book:

“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith; there is hope.’

“As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place, so rather than saying, ‘Black woman living in Little Rock’ and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.”  

As with the origin of the song, we stand on the verge of obscuring Stacey Abram’s current glorious song, drowned out by the cacophony of squawking crows and screeching peacocks and buried under the fog of Republican riots. That cannot be allowed to happen. 

My birthday is Jan. 21, the day after Inauguration Day. This is the present I would like: On Jan. 21, everyone turn their Facebook profile picture into your favorite photo of Stacey Abrams. Post praises and poems to her on Twitter and Instagram and, if you feel so inspired, record yourself singing or playing Blackbird on an instrument and post it. Use the hashtag #StaceyAbramsDay. Flood social media with recognition of this amazing woman who, despite her own broken wing, sang us “into the light of the dark black night.” Let’s make it Stacey Abrams Day and celebrate her song. Let’s tell her: “We see you. We hear your song. We celebrate your victory!”


Lola Peters is an editor-at-large for the South Seattle Emerald.

Featured Image: Photo of mural by Fabian Williams in Atlanta, courtesy of Elijah Nouvelage.

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