Sweet Honey in the Rock – Would you harbor me?

An internationally renowned all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble: this is Sweet Honey in the Rock, whose name was derived from a song, based on Psalm 81:16, which tells of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed from them.

“Would you harbor me” was written by Ysaye Barnwell and comes from the album “Sacred Ground” (1995). One of their albums “Raise your voices” (2007) has the cover shown at the beginning of the video.

The group was formed in 1973. In 1979, Ysaya Barnwell joined the group. She is a prolific composer who has been commissioned to create music for dance, choral, film and stage productions. She holds a B.S. and an M.S in speech pathology, a Ph.D. in cranio-facial studies and a post-doctoral degree in Public Heath. She also taught in the School of Dentistry for a decade.This woman is extremely multi-talented.

She leads this group who express their history as women of color through song and who address other topics such as motherhoood, spirituality, freedom, civil rights, domestic violence and racism.


Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew,
A heretic, convict, or spy?
Would you harbor a runaway woman or child,
A poet, a prophet, a king?
Would you harbor an exile or a refugee,
A person living with AIDS?
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garret, a Truth,
A fugitive or a slave?
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean, or Czech,
A lesbian or a gay?
Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?

Cultural notes (names referred to in the song):

a Tubman: refers to Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) who was instrumental in rescuing and guiding slaves to freedom. One of her nicknames was “Moses” because she led her people out of slavery towards a “promised land”.

a Garrett: refers to Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), a great humanitarian who helped 2,700 slaves escape to freedom in his career as “station master” of the Underground Railbroad.

a Truth: refers to Sojourner Truth, a woman who championed the cause of equality for black women. Born inbto slavery, she became a remarkable preacher who delivered her most famous speech at a woman’s convention during which she said her legendary phrase, “Ain’t I a woman”

the “Underground Railroad”: refers to a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada.

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