All human children belong together

** ** I have always liked to bring together people of different races, backgrounds, and cultures... and watch new friendships emerge, beautiful and strong. I believe that we are all the same child, and we all yearn for the same thing: to love and to be loved. We come in different colors, sizes, shapes, sexes, but the spirit within, if we close our eyes, doesn't even know what kind of body is its keeper. We are born in different places, learn different languages, vibrate with different musical sounds, move our limbs in a different kind of dance, inherit a distinct DNA pool, and yet... we are, each of us, marked and moved by the same human feelings. The way I do the bridging is through song. I believe that when a human being hears a beautiful sound, and listens to it, his heart opens up. That sound changes his perception of things around him and a qualitative jump happens in a way that defies intellect and logic. The heart is now able to comprehend and accept things that were threatening just a moment ago. Music is purely divine, it is given to us to make us, in one instant, transcend all divisiveness, all separation. It elevates us from our earthly concerns and it liberates us from our prison of fears. The first time I left my country, to live abroad as an exchange student, I was 17. It was with joy that I shared with all the songs from my faraway land and those songs built us many bridges, so strong that to this day, 40 years later, we are still connected to each other. The second time I left my country, I was 20 years old, and I carried with me a great deal of pain. The secret police had stormed our house with machine guns in the very early morning and taken my 19-year-old bother from his bed. They took our books and our records off the shelf as proof of our dissent and lack of patriotism and, for months, we did not hear a word of my brother's whereabouts. Next, while on the highway to a military prison where my brother might've been kept, a car accident took my mother's life. During my mother's funeral, a group of secret police took my father away and sent him to prison. Under surveillance myself, I arranged for my uncles to care for my younger siblings and I left my homeland again. With the pain, I carried with me hundreds of beautiful songs. I learned to transcend pain through my songs. Everywhere I went, New York, Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, England, I found many people who, just like me, had left a faraway country and many things and people they loved. I sang to all of them. Through my songs we became brothers and sisters and every song brought us closer together. I taught them my songs, and I learned some of theirs. Brazilian culture taught me lessons about peace making and peace keeping. It taught me about forgiveness. It taught me about sadness, about putting it on and wearing it, like a dress, only to take it off and finding joy when it's inside out. With my songs, I teach people to be so quiet that they can hear their own heart whispering its lamentations and its losses, only to rejoice at being alive at last. When I came to Miami, I saw a very fragmented conglomerate of varied ethnicity and I described it as a perfect recipe for a wonderful cake - only there wasn't anyone baking it. I vowed that I was going to bake the cake. That I would put all of my resources into mixing the fine and distinct ingredients until the most beautiful and aromatic and delicious cake would emerge - warm and oozing sweetness, for all to taste. I proposed to the Coral Gables Congregational Church to start a music series that I would call the "Baking-the-Cake Music Series" but my project, 6 years ago, had a much wider scope than just Hispanic and Anglo relations and maybe it was seen as too ambitious. Since then, I have spent the past six years singing, here in Miami, with musicians from all over the world, and have sung to people from all over the world. I have taught Hispanic and Brazilian songs to Haitian, Israeli and Russian children; I have sung Brazilian songs to Haitian audiences and Haitian songs to Brazilians. I have recorded, in Creole, with Manno Charlemagne, a Haitian songwriter. I have sung in Italian to the French. In French, to the Italians. And I have sung in Hebrew to ladies from Iraq. The response is always the same. There is silence and there is communion. Tender smiles and luminous glances. Their eyes say: "I understand, we are all One. When our fathers die, we cry. When our children die, we go mad. We rejoice in finding love, and despair at losing it". But most of all, the eyes say: "I am at peace with you, my friend. My soul is at peace, for we understand each other". p.s. ï‚· Part of my repertoire is Afro-Brazilian, with deep acknowledgement of the experience of slavery, the sadness and the desperation created by the African diaspora, and finally, the birth of a new and creative life in the New World. ï‚· I grieve, with my songs, with all those who have lost their homeland, and their beloved. Through songs, I take them to the point of reconnection with the hope within their hearts. ï‚· When I sing, there's profound synergy between performer and audience, and the songs become a spiritual experience. These experiences prove that "understanding" is much more a matter of the heart than of the intellect. ï‚· The time that I, as the singer, spend together with those who listen to the songs, is like a journey past conditioning, linguistic barriers, cultural mores and attitudes - into the human heart. We reach the end of that journey with the notion that in our emotional core lies the essence of our same exact humanity.