Monday, January 18, 2010

* "La Baker" sings with a bruised heart for Haiti on MLK Day

Josephine Baker's 1934 film film Zou Zou features La Baker shockingly (for that era) unrobed in gaint a bird cage swinging on a perch, singing a song entitled My Haiti.

Tragically poignant and ironic after last week's Haitian 7.4 earthquake is Zou Zou's refrain, "I sing with a bruised heart for my Haiti."

Today the whole world sings for Haiti with a bruised heart for the staggering numbers of suffering victims and orphans of all ages in that devastated island.

It is telling that three U.S. Presidents (Obama, Clinton, and Bush) have come together to respond to this pain.

La Baker herself became a kind of orphanage in her own right fifty years ago, adopting twelve children from twelve countries, and raising them in a castle in France where she had become the most famous chanteuse of her era, captivating Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dior, and Langston Hughes.

Her humanitarian gesture may provide a premonitory example for the orphans of Haiti this moment. Indeed, actor George Clooney and other entertainers have been organizing a Haiti Benefit Concert which is to occur this Friday.

Later as a singer in America, La Baker refused to sing before segregated audiences, breaking the race barrier for the first time in American entertainment.

After the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, widow Coretta Scott King asked La Baker to assume the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement. She declined.

She died in 1975 at 68 in the third night of the 50th anniversary performance of her famous cabaret act, buoyed by rave reviews and admirers.

With a bruised heart for Haiti, the humanitarian generosity of La Baker sings through us all today as we seek ways to alleviate the suffering of the sricken island nation.

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