Middle school field trips usually don’t entail a surprise performance by an award winning singer/songwriter such as Erykah Badu. But for students from Prestonwood Elementary, St. Philips School and Holy Trinity Catholic Schools -- Wednesday it did.
After a walking tour of the House of Blues art collection, lucky students sat through a moving musical program tracing the evolution of the blues from its roots in African culture through its emergence and evolution as a unique American musical form. Badu’s non-profit, Beautiful Love Incorporated Development (B.L.I.N.D) teamed up with The Blues School House Program band to carry students through the lyrical journey, which culminated in Badu’s impromptu performance.
“I want them to understand the origins of music. It’s quite impossible to pinpoint the origin of music because music is vibrations, but to give them a brief history of where the music they listen to today comes from," Badu said. "It’s not just as simple as rap and it’s a very intricate art form. If you’re not going to document your own history then someone else will document it for you and you no longer own it.”
The soul singer made her entrance on-stage wearing a white satin jumpsuit and black patent leather pumps singing “Drama” off her debut album Baduizm. You could hear a No. 2 pencil drop as the rambunctious students sat in stunned silence, gazing at Badu almost as though they couldn’t believe it was the Dallas native.
She started to follow up “Drama” with a song titled “Soldier” off of her latest album New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War, and then stopped to explain the meaning of the song.
She said she was inspired to write “Soldier” by the documentary film “The Fourth World War” and its footage of people’s resistance to occupation, namely the Zapatista’s struggles in Mexico.
Badu explained: “Occupation is when the government comes in and takes the land from you without your permission. And what touched me the most was the people’s plight in Mexico -- the Zapatistas. The people were standing outside this barbed wire fence and they were singing a song. But I didn’t have to understand Spanish to know that the people were saying we want our land back. It was children, and mothers, and fathers and neighbors, aunts and uncles, the preacher for the church and workers all standing in unison singing this song. And the soldiers were standing in front of the families -- armed. The funniest thing was that the soldiers looked exactly like the people they were confronting. Somewhere along the way, some of the people had become the soldiers. How about that? So as these soldiers stood face-to-face with their own people, tears streamed down the soldiers' faces because they remembered who they were.”
It seems as though Badu’s prior stint years ago as a teacher still resonates within the artist. At the end of the day, whether she’s teaching, singing or cradling her new daughter, Badu cherishes the significance of educating today’s youth.
She has denied that any teachers, students or parents from Booker T. Washington High School For The Performing and Visual Arts have reached out to her for help in dissuading school officials from cutting funds for magnet schools. But it's pretty far-fletched a scenario to imagine the songstress not having an opinion about threats to cut teachers at some of the districts' 16 magnet schools.
Here’s what Badu had to say about it:
“Art is as essential as water. It’s the most natural form of ownership to what it is that created us. It makes us see, whether it’s visual art, singing or music or sculpting or painting or dance -- that’s the actual visual manifestation of creation, and that keeps us alive. It’s very essential and I think it would be a great mistake for DISD, or any other school system to cut out the art and turn us into robots -- into machines and computers -- and that’s not what we are,” said Badu.