BBC Radio: ‘Strange Fruit’

Sylvia Wong Lewis, Narrative Network founder, is featured on BBC Radio program Soul Music, on an episode called “Strange Fruit.” Producer Maggie Ayre, looks for stories behind music with powerful emotional impact. Concerned that UK audiences may not know about lynching, Jim Crow laws and other harms that resulted from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Maggie decided to take another look at this protest song.

Maggie found me through my slavery group–Coming to the Table, and invited me to join her Soul Music program with Emmett Till’s cousin, Simeon Wright; Robert Meeropol, the adopted son of Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol, author of the poem/song; and April Shipp, a Detroit quilt maker who created the “Strange Fruit” quilt. Each of us was asked to engage about the song, “Strange Fruit.”

“First recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday, the protest song Strange Fruit came to symbolize the brutality and racism of the practice of lynching in America’s South. Now, decades later, such is the song’s enduring power that rapper Kanye West sampled the track on his latest album “Yeezus.” – Maggie Ayre, Producer, Soul Music, Radio 4, BBC News, Entertainment & Arts.

“The smell of the honeysuckle brings all of it back. That’s the smell prevalent in the area where we lived. The honeysuckle was in bloom. Because words can’t describe how we felt that night. How I felt. It was a combination of grief, shock, and fear. You have a sorrow that grips you because of what happened to Emmett.” – Simeon Wright, Emmett Till’s cousin.

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To listen to BBC Radio program, click here for the webpage in advance of the Tuesday, November 26, 2013, broadcast of Soul Music. Look on the Gallery section for photos of radio show guests: