All there is to say about Ferguson

People who remember when the song below really meant something–when it so perfectly captured the zeitgeist of that critical moment in the civil rights movement when we thought the change had finally really come–will again by moved (and now, alas, saddened) by its lyrics. Here’s to Ferguson–for what it’s doing that is being televised, and for what needs to happen there that can’t be.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
by Gil Scott-Heron, 1970
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner.
The revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so goddamned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy-armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.


Here’s Gil Scott-Heron doing the song of his which once meant so much to so many fighting so hard against so much that was–and still is–so wrong.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • BarbaraR

    Every bit as truthful and harsh and take-no-prisoners as it was then.

  • same as it ever was …

  • Jill

    Because we haven’t learned the lessons the past is here to teach us. We’ve been waiting for the commercial break.

  • BarbaraR

    And I fear that for people younger than myself (that is to say, almost everyone) – the names in that poem are just people they might have heard in a movie. The words are powerful and evocative of that time when the country was unraveling as it is today – but Roy Wilkins and Jim Webb probably mean little to someone born in 1990.

  • Brandon Roberts

    look i may have the unpopular opinion here…but i think we should wait to see what the evidence says. and let the cop have a fair trial. and i do feel sorry for his family

  • Sure. He needs a fair trail. He needs to go through the prosecution process that the young man he killed was denied, and from what the evidence is saying wasn’t even in need of. Yet, he hasn’t even been arrested, or charged.

    This happens over and over and over. In 2012, 136 unarmed black men lost their lives this way, killed by police, private security, or vigilantes.

    And something depserately needs to change in police practices.
    Yes these are older stories, I posted, but the the trend has continued unabated.

  • Brandon Roberts

    actually that’s a really good point. and if the cop killed him just for being a black kid he deserves to rot in prison forever! and there are too many cops that abuse their power

  • Matt

    With all due respect, Barbara, we have our own names and our own time. It also doesn’t take away from the sheer power of the song. It is timeless because the struggle continues.

  • BarbaraR

    Oh, I agree that the names today are just as vital and powerful as the names back in 1970. And yes – the struggle continues. Those issues were never resolved.

  • lrfcowper

    Simple fact is, cops rarely have a fair trial because police, district attorneys, and prosecutors are all partners in the justice system and, therefore, biased in favour of each other. Very rarely is a cop who has killed someone found guilty. One study I read (which my google fu is failing to locate) found in one year with 400-ish reported police homicides, only 8 of the officers were ever even charged with murder, manslaughter, or excessive use of force. Of those, none of them were convicted. Odds are good that Officer Wilson, if he is tried at all, will be found not guilty.

    Now, this is a high profile case with the world watching and DoJ intervention, so there’s a higher chance that he will be tried than is usually the case, but even then you’ve got to find 12 jurors who are so privileged that they can afford to ignore such a high-profile case to the extent of being theoretically unbiased ahead of time. You aren’t going to find very many black people or people of liberal politics or involved in civil rights activism about whom this is true, so this is likely to be a very white conservative jury not interested in social justice, all of whom are disconnected from social media. This is defacto not an unbiased jury. With the exception of some far-right “the gubmint is coming for my guns!” folks, most conservatives are very much pro-police.

    So, yeah. I’m not holding my breath.

    One final thought: “It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, non-dangerous suspect by shooting him dead.” — Supreme Court Justice Byron White, TENNESSEE v. GARNER, 1985

  • Brandon Roberts

    that’s a fair point. and if he did kill micheal brown just for being black he deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life. but if the cop was defending himself than he should get to go free