by Pearl Mashabane
‘Ladies and gentlemen I have a secret I have kept for a very long time. You wanna know it? My secret is that: I am blind. Yeah, I still can’t believe it too sometimes,” quipped the legendary musician Stevie Wonder to a UN General Assembly hall audience that broke into a hearty laughter.
The world-renowned musician, accompanied by 18 other artists was at the UN Headquarters in New York to celebrate the 67th anniversary of UN Day held annually on Oct 24 in a concert themed “A message of Peace”.
With his trademark songs, unmatched talent and a line up of artists including Sting, WyCleaf Jean, Estelle, Bebe Winans et al, the night was a guaranteed success. It was however the first time I learnt Stevie Wonder is more than just a widely celebrated artist. He was designated a UN Messenger of Peace since 2009 to champion the cause of people with disabilities. He is also lauded for his courageous voice to end apartheid and successfully championing for Martin Luther King Jnr day to be observed as a federal holiday in the US.
This revelation was an eye-opener and it dawned on me than this was not going to be another feel good concert. This was a concert with a penetrating message about equality, personal agency and promoting a message of peace in an increasingly chaotic world.
I thought of the pain sweeping through Syria and the agony of the widows in Libya and Marikana mines, when Stevie and the Wonder Girls sang, “What the world needs now”. I pondered on the futility of our pride and greed when Sting sang “How fragile we are”. Poignant messages reminding us that beyond our differences and disagreements, we all are human and need love and compassion.
Many anecdotes about peace and what it means in a broader and personal context were shared during the show. What stood out for me though that brought me back to this blog was Steve’s personal testimony that he is thankful to God he is blind because it has given him the ability to heighten his other abilities, enabling him to related with others without the prejudice based on external appearances. Now i am sure most of us have been guilty of some form of prejudice at some point. We are also aware of the evils committed against humanity in cases where prejudice and bigotry reached pathological levels. Mr. Wonder quickly cautions us to not go and gouge our eyes out though, there are less drastic measures.
He uses his voice to spread a message of love through songs that transcend language barriers. This is a challenge to all of us, especially women and other minority groups to realize that we have all been given a platform for self-expression. We can all use our voices and unique talents to create change no matter what country or condition of our birth is. Most recently, think of the courage shown by Pakistan’s 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in her advocacy for girls’ rights to education. It almost cost her life but by not cowering into silence, she joins her voice with that of Stevie Wonder to tell us that: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, they are for World Peace.
Now since I will likely be thrown off stage if I attempted to do a Stevie number, I will sign off by saying: “ I just Blogged to say I love you”.
Peace , Uhuru!