Her music goes deep. So soulful, so uplifting. I just can’t get enough.
Mavis Staples is a gospel goddess, and an under-celebrated female icon in the struggle for civil rights. She sang with Dr King as child, when she would travel with her father and sisters as the Staples Singers. When I saw her perform last summer at the Blues Fest, she told the story of how King would always ask them to do “Why Am I Treated So Bad” – it was his favorite song. Can you imagine? I, then a 28-year old, was standing in the presence of this woman who used to open the set, so to speak, for Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. What a huge privilege that I’m still alive to see her. It’s hard to comprehend, but especially as a history teacher, that moment was hugely significant for me. Every moment, we are all part of something much, much bigger than we usually realize.
I read that Mavis just performed at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act being passed into law. Presidents Bush (43), Carter, Clinton, and Obama were all there in Austin at the LBJ library. I will be sad when she goes, and am very grateful she still has her health. She’s 74, and last year performed with a cane, but seemed as fiesty as ever. “Next time I see you I’ll have both my hips working” she said with a laugh.
I didn’t intend this to sound like eulogy. I’m just beyond humbled to still be able to see and hear and learn from this incredible woman.