BY: Magnus Naabe RexDanquah

…A Song For A Moment & An Era Such As This – Tribute to Sam Cooke & Call for HOPE

The “A CHANGE GONNA COME” song by Sam Cooke was inspired by various events in his life, most prominently when he and his entourage were turned away from a white-only motel in Louisiana. Cooke felt compelled to write a song that spoke to his struggle and those around him, and pertained to the Civil Rights Movement and African Americans.

Sam Cooke wrote the song in 1963, recorded in January of 1964 in Hollywood, CA, and released the song as a single in December, 1964. He performed it live on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson television show and gave testimony to his struggles (shared and personal) for the civil rights and social justice.

As a little boy, when Sam sang in church, everyone made note that his voice had ‘something special’. His refusal to sing at a segregated concert led to what many have described as one of the first real efforts in civil disobedience.

Sam was not only a great soul-singer but he was a civil rights activist in late 50’s and early 60’s America, where he was given a platform for both his music and his opinions and in the eyes of the society then, this made Sam Cooke a very dangerous man.

Thus, the song - “A Change is Gonna Come” is much more than a civil rights anthem. It’s become a universal message of hope, one that does not age. Generation after generation and people all over the globe have heard the promise of it. It continues to be a song of enormous impact.

I am sure some of you would obviously wonder why this song?

To my mind, Sam Cooke wrote the song for such a time as this in Ghana as we traverse the journey towards three decades of the Fourth Republican dispensation in 2023, with the dire challenges of a HUNG PARLIAMENT and with all the issues of ‘uncertainties’ around the 2022 Budget Statement facing us as a Nation and as a People.

Like Sam Cooke, I am relating the challenges he faced with the civil rights movement to the job uncertainties for our youth amidst several insecurity threats and forms, entrenched positions of the two main parties in the Parliament forcing the populace to question whether we have missed the road to the future promised by the parties since the dawn of the 4th Republic in 1993.

The situation we face now is akin to the period of the intense American Civil Rights confrontations of the sixties, when black as well as coloured lives mattered for little.

You see within all the confusions, denials, strives, hunger, joblessness, lack of amenities for the blacks, unequal pay for same jobs, lack of equal opportunities (not on party lines as we witness now) and no housing facilities for majorities of the blacks, ONE SMALL VOICE with so much hope against dire indiscriminate, police brutalities rose up with just the lyrics of a melodious song: ‘CHANGE IS GONNA COME’- to push for a change.

“I was born by the river, in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river
I’ve been running ever since

It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will

It’s been too hard living
But I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there
Beyond the sky

It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will

I go to the movie
And I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me
Don’t hang around

It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know, a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say, brother, help me please
But he winds up, knockin’ me
Back now I think I’m able, to carry on

It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will”

Don’t forget that when Sam Cooke composed the lyrics, he never dreamt beyond the impossibilities to imagine or think, much less, see the election of the first African-American President of the United States of America – Barrack Obama: because he never thought that was going to be the end of the struggles of the black race in America.

It means for us in Ghana, our fight is far more than just a slogan of ‘BREAKING THE EIGHT or the ‘GREAT RETURN OF THE JOHN FROM THE WILDERNESS - Baptist’ or a possibility of an ‘ABABASE IN EAGLE CLOTHING’. Indeed, our fight is even more precarious with the possibility of a ‘THIRD FORCE’ of the ‘Bilson’ stock. Thus, what we are faced with has nothing to do with our individual or collective allegiances to the two main political traditions of the 4th Republic. It has, instead, everything to do with how we can be ‘A BETTER NATION AND A PEOPLE’.

It also has everything to do with how our HONOURABLE Members of Parliament continue to conduct themselves in front of TV cameras for not just us as adults but also before our children and their own children and those of the MPs too.

Otherwise, how on earth will an ‘Honourable Member’ so conduct himself ‘dishonourably’ and we all pretend we did not see anything - from the voting for the SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT; to the whisking away of the Speaker’s Chair; to the rejection of the Government’s Budget Statement; to the inclusion of a budget allocation for the sea defence issues of the Volta Region, especially where ironically, there is an ‘ANLO NEW TOWN’ in a prominent part of the ‘Garden City of Ghana’, Kumasi, where the people are predominantly EWES?

What are we trying to teach our children and their children too? …that lawlessness pays? …for as long as you end up as a Member of Parliament to assume a certain level of immunity? …and from what?

Sam Cooke’s ‘CHANGE IS GONNA COME’ song, no matter how long, should let us all be mindful of the truth of life that NOTHING IS FOREVER and that…”It’s been a long; A long time coming; But I know a change is gonna come; Oh, yes it will.”

I do not want to assume that, there is an existing CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICS at the Parliament House for our Honourable Members of Parliament, on how to go about the business of the House, (or if there are sanctions for dishonourable behaviour in the House) or they are kept away from common men and women like the people who voted and or vote for them every four years?

Otherwise, we would institute a monthly ‘BADGE OF DISHONOURABLE MAN / WOMAN’, where the public would be invited to vote on a Member of Parliament who tops the list of dishonouring himself or herself in any particular month with the support of all media houses in the country.

I am not a ‘prophet’, nor would I, for any reason assume such a position on earth, but as long as night follows day, I know a CHANGE WILL COME SOONER THAN LATER in the way our elected officers are conducting ourselves in public life.

On a personal level, I wish we could amend the 4th Republican Constitution that justifies the appointment of a certain percentage of Members of Parliament as Ministers of State so that they could apply themselves solely to the matters of state as MPs. However, a government could be permitted to nominate any MP for a position but not by a stated quota in the Constitution.

Members of Parliament, Ministers of State and other public office holders should always know that they do not occupy these positions of themselves but because of us as Ghanaians; that we vote them into office as MPs and thereafter, get appointed into those public positions because of us, the people and they should never forget that.

They should also be mindful of the impact their actions and inactions have on the general populace so they ought to act RIGHT ALWAYS WITH HONOUR and nothing else.

By Magnus Naabe RexDanquah is a Land Economist & Appraiser, SportBusiness Consultant and Author – (excerpt from manuscript “NATION ADRIFT AT SEA – Ghana In Search of Her Soul, Identity & Values”).