It has been 25 years since May of 1989. 1989 was an important year. In January of that year I turned 16, got my drivers License, and had my first official date. May of that year marked the end of my Sophomore year of High and started me on my way to “Upperclassman” status. But as you are all aware, 1989 was not just important because I got the freedom that comes with driving myself and my friends places without needing our parents. It was the year that many of the worlds dictatorships began to crumble and freedom began to break out. It was the year that “The Wall” fell. In may of 1989, as my second year at Provo High School wound down, the world wound up and sat with baited breath as we watched sometimes live round the clock footage of the student lead protests in Tiananmen Square.
Can any of us who were old enough to watch the news reports forget those images? The Goddess of Democracy? The throngs of protestors? “Tank Man”? The aftermath? We all hoped that China would enter a new age of freedom, but alas, it was not to happen. The protest that started out small in mid-April of that year and became full blown in May, was crushed on June 4th and 5th, 1989. To Celebrate and remember the spirit of those who strove for freedom and inspired us all, I will be doing a series of “Hymns of Social Justice” posts about songs that relate to or were inspired by the events of and massacre in Tiananmen Square, 25 years ago.
The video in this first post comes from the album “Innovators” by Utah based Musician Kurt Bestor. I picked this one to start the series for two reasons, first, I love it. Second, I was there at the live for PBS recoding of the concert as a member of the TV Production Crew so I have a personal connection.
The album was originally released in conjunction with Word Perfect 6. The idea was that “Word Perfect” was innovative and they commissioned Bestor to release a CD of music celebrating inspiring and innovative people of the past. According to Bestor the composition “Electric Highways” was inspired by the events of Tiananmen Square and specifically the contributions of one of its leaders, Chai Ling, who helped to use emerging computer/internet/TV technology to spread the word about the protests and keep the world informed about what was happening in the square.
I hope that you enjoy and are inspired by the music and the images. I hope you remember the feelings of those times. And in this time when civil rights for all and world freedom are not a done deal (Kidnapped child brides in Africa, equal marriage rights in the USA, and so many more issues) I hope that we are all inspired to do the right thing and stand up for freedom, and that we remember that doing the right thing comes with a cost. As Alfre Woodard points out in the narration before the song starts, Chai Ling was at one point a Nobel Prize nominee, and China’s #1 most wanted criminal. She fled her country at a great cost, and today, lives in exile.