Mavis Staples and Pops

Mavis Staples is another voice of the civil rights movement. She, along with Arcade Fire, was the first to record a song of resistance to the so-called president Trump, releasing it one day before his inauguration.

It is a song in the prophetic tradition, speaking from the viewpoint of God, as a warning. It can also be understood as the inscription on the wall of the Minnesota state house says: “Vox Populi Vox Dei.” “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”

Mavis Staples is no stranger to powerfully speaking truth to the people. She was with her dad, Roebuck Staples, who everyone called “Pops” when he wrote “Freedom Highway” for Martin Luther King, Jr., to start the Freedom March. I painted Mavis on the river stage at the XPoNential Music Festival in July 2016, in Camden, NJ, with the Philadelphia skyline in the background. The festival happened the weekend after the GOP National Convention. Another performer had made the mistake of watching it. Being the sensitive soul that he was, it was more than he could take. He had a full-blown meltdown on stage, and gave a half hour expletive filled rant, instead of performing his set. Well, Mavis took the stage Sunday afternoon and said something along the line of: “Times are looking bad. It’s been a rough week, but I’m here to make you feel good! I’m not promising you it’s going to last, but while I’m up here, you’re going to feel good!” And she said, “Now we’re going to sing a song that we used to sing with Pops and Dr. King in dark times to get to better times.” She started singing, “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”, with some added lyrics that sounded like a socialist platform. I was listening on the radio, because I was grounded, due to complications from my heart-valve replacement surgery. I was in tears of joy. Later in the set, she recalled Pops writing of Freedom Highway, then performed it. I should say, she led it. She was really doing her job as a minstrel and prophet and poet in dark times; enthusiastically bringing hope against all odds, and pointing the way upward. She said she started singing with her sisters in 1966 and wasn’t done yet. at age 77. She’s still going strong, speaking out, and lifting spirits.

Pops passed away in 2000, at age 86. I painted him in this painting (in gray tones), because he was ‘larger than life’ in that concert, in the songs, and in the heart of Mavis.

Painting is 20″ x 16″ acrylic on stretched canvas.

Price: $200 plus postage

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