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Remembering A Forgotten Comrade’s Contribution to the Advancement of Civil Rights by Jonathan V.

March 2, 2011

In a January broadcast of Democracy Now!, presenter Amy Goodman recalled the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage Trial of 1953. The son of the Rosenbergs was on the show, whose surrogate father, was Abel Meeropol, a Communist who wrote poetry for name-brand showtunes. Appalled by a photograph of lynched bodies in the South, Meeropol wrote the poem “Strange Fruit,” which was a devastating social commentary of virulent racism in the South. As usual, Democracy Now! plays a song during the intermission, which was Billie Holiday’s version of the poem.

Below is a re-interpretation of this song applied to a modern day vice: the raiding of houses of peace activists around the United States by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Strange Neighbors

Minnesota and Chicago towns, they’ve got strange neighbors;

who burst their way into the Bernsons’ sacred doors,

faceless troops with their brandished firearms,

strange neighbors visit a town of few alarms.


Scores of skyscrapers and an urban mood;

the ravaged rooms of books and files strewed;

the warm sun stops risin’ and the cool breeze cease;

then the sudden sound of helpless chants for peace.


Here are neighbors for the newspaper to cover,

for the people to read about and tell each other,

for the world to soon forget,

here are strange neighbors who’ve already on their next target set.


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