It’s Time to Rise Up: A New Song for Social Justice
In 2009, during my first year as a rabbi, I wrote a song called “Rise Up.” I wrote it as a celebration of the teachings of the Biblical Prophet Amos, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Theodor Herzl. At the time, I had no idea that the phrase “Rise up” would also soon become the official motto of the Atlanta Falcons, my new hometown football team.
In 2013, The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy, where I have served the first decade of my rabbinate as the director of Jewish and Hebrew studies, helped me to professionally produce the song which we released on our first album of original music, “Be a Blessing.” Since then, “Rise Up” has become a part of Davis’ repertoire and part of the Atlanta faith community’s shared songbook. Most notably, it has been the musical centerpiece of the annual MLK Shabbat service that brings the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and The Temple (a local Reform congregation) together for shared worship and fellowship.
In the fall of 2016, The Davis Academy engaged two of our distinguished alumni to produce a music video of “Rise Up.” Our goal was to share our special school spirit and commitment to tikkun olam (repair of the world) with the rest of the world. During a remarkable visit to Davis, Congressman John Lewis graciously agreed to introduce our video – and at the same time, a series of connections opened doors to some of the most iconic personalities and locations in Atlanta.
All the while, the date of January 22nd, 2017, was circled on our calendar as the date for the ribbon-cutting of The Davis Academy’s Next Stage Grand Opening, which includes a state-of- the-art theatre, dining hall, adaptive learning spaces, and a beautiful chapel – the first formal chapel in the school’s 24-year history. Our “Rise Up” video, as well as our third album of original music, “Menschology,” were scheduled to be released at the grand opening.
There’s much that could be said about the process of “Rise Up,” but hopefully the song and video speak for themselves. A few thoughts, though, about timing: When we set our production schedule last fall, we had no idea what inauguration weekend would mean for America and indeed for the world. We had no idea that millions of hearts and souls would be in search of timeless wisdom and inspiration to strengthen their steps and steady their resolve. We had no idea that there would be marches all across the world in need of a new justice-themed hymn. (And we had no idea that our Atlanta Falcons would be headed to the Super Bowl!)
The time is right for a new playlist of social justice music, and The Davis Academy is proud to offer “Rise Up” not only in honor of Atlanta’s strong commitment to civil rights (and football), but to all who have committed themselves to taking action and making a difference.