We shall not, we shall not be moved

We shall not, we shall not be moved

Just like a tree that’s standing in the waters

We shall not be moved

I did not write “We Shall Not Be Moved.” It’s been around since at least the mid-1800’s. While the copyright was granted to two white male gospel composers in the early 1900’s, the standard line is that “nobody knows” exactly how long it has been around. To my ear, “nobody knows” sounds an awful lot like, “this song was written by an enslaved person, but in America we don’t talk about slavery unless there’s no way to avoid it, so we’re just gonna leave it mysterious.”

Barring the discovery of new original documents or the invention of time travel, the name of the original composer is lost to us; but we do know that the lyrics are inspired by Jeremiah 17:8:

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

When I think of the composer, I imagine a black woman sustaining her spirit in the face of the sadistic and dehumanizing conditions of slavery by drawing on the certainty of her immanent human value; just like a tree whose taproot draws on pure, nourishing water from deep beneath the earth. Her voice spread that nourishment to anyone who could hear her. The magic she spun has sustained generations.

While I will never know the horrors she faced, I have often turned to music to save my own soul when faced with dehumanization and objectification, both as a young girl and as an adult woman. I honor the memory of this ancestral songwriter and express gratitude for the gift she gave us in the spirit of human survivorship and commitment to overcoming all forms of oppression.


On August 13, a white supremacist group held a rally at Westlake Park. A group of local activists staged a a huge counterprotest that started at Denny Park. Our plan was to march to Westlake and confront the white supremacists.

We found ourselves in a standoff with Seattle Police Department at the corner of 2nd and Pine. The police did not want us to get to Westlake and began firing off flash bang grenades and pepper spraying people. They threatened to arrest us all if we didn’t clear the intersection.

Instead of obeying, several hundred of us took a knee and began singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” I was completely terrified. It’s not easy to disobey a direct order from a phalanx of heavily armed riot cops, but the act of singing with my fellow activists made the situation not only tolerable, but uplifting.


Over the next few days, with the protest still buzzing in my mind, I began to improvise with the main theme of the song. After several revisions and reflecting on our national moment, I crafted an adaptation of “We Shall Not Be Moved” that I’m very proud of. Here is an early rendition.

I’m proud to be recording my adaptation of “We Shall Not Be Moved” with producer Maurice Jones Jr. of Very Juicy Entertainment. I can’t wait to share the finished version with you.

If you think this is cool and you want to help, your support would be very much appreciated.

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