I Am Somebody.
October 20, 2015 5:25 AM   Subscribe

"I am somebody. I am God's child. I may not have a job, but I am somebody. I may be Black, but I am somebody. I may not have an education, but I am somebody. You may not respect me, but I am somebody. I may be a Puerto Rican, but I am somebody. I may be an Indian and my land was stolen, but I am somebody." The history of the chant.

The chant was popularized by Jesse Jackson and adapted liberally from a poem written in the 1950s by William Holmes Borders, an African American minister and civil rights leader. Full text of the poem.

In 1968, the Poor People's Campaign set up a 3000-person tent city on the Washington Mall, in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination, in order to present their demands to Congress. Jesse Jackson led the crowd in the chant. Audio appears above the fold.

In 1971, Jesse Jackson recited a version adapted for young people on Sesame Street. Video; here is an analysis of the chant's reference to welfare, which was not present in the 1968 version.

It was featured in the 1973 music documentary Wattstax. Video. This version of the chant includes the words "I am Black, beautiful, proud."

The chant continues to be adapted for many uses and protests. The Oakland Freedom School, located in California, has a school chant bears some resemblance to the earlier Jesse Jackson one. Video of Tanzanian students chanting it.
posted by thetortoise (1 comment total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My partner just pointed out that I totally forgot about the Jurassic 5 song of the same name that samples it! So here it is.
posted by thetortoise at 8:24 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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