The biggest stage on Mile of Music’s opening day became a platform for peace, justice and a guiding ideal still not consistently realized.
A party atmosphere would wait.
St. Louis’ Rev. Sekou and the Freedom Fighters opened the Houdini Plaza main stage on Thursday evening with a powerful and emotional sermon through song that drove straight into the open wounds on modern American society, touching on topics including police brutality and neo-Nazism.
They drove a message of freedom through their loudspeakers. But far from divisive or damning, Sekou set a tone of empowerment and the responsibility of the individual in bringing forth the solution.
“All we need is love,” he soulfully sang, “to get the world we deserve.”
The Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is a noted activist, theologian, author, documentary filmmaker and musician. The Mile of Music performance marked his sixth show in as many days. It was the band’s lone festival appearance.
Sekou preached on top of a backbone of funk and soul, R&B, reggae and gospel.
Music opens ears to messages that not all would otherwise hear, he said after the show.
“Music is the answer,” Sekou said. “The music makes it a lot easier to digest.”
The crowd raised their hands in solidarity. Haunting lyrics drew tears from some.
Sekou seamlessly transitioned from song to story — sometimes humorous and other times heart wrenching — whether it was memories of his uncle frying up fish or being holed up in a Charlottesville church as neo-Nazis convened beyond the doors.
With dreadlocks flailing, Sekou masterfully utilized call and response to ratchet up the energy in the park as well as songs from the civil rights era: “I woke up this morning with freedom on my mind.”
He led the audience in “This Little Light of Mine.”
And in a musical break, Sekou encouraged the crowd to turn and greet those around them with wishes of peace.
Hugs and handshakes waited for Sekou behind the stage from those who appreciated a firm reminder on the power of music.
Sekou shared a message of “how.”
He had no answer as to when or whether we’ll emerge from an era of division and resentment.
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to quit singing,” he said.