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9/11 and the mission of Freedom Song

9/11 and the mission of Freedom Song

Today is September 11th and I am reminded of the many ways the world changed on that fateful day, 17 years ago.

Mark and I were living in downtown Manhattan at the time, and when we were finally allowed back into our apartment we found it covered in the toxic, white dust that settled all over our beloved city.

The city that we loved, that had provided us with all we needed to make our creative dreams come true, changed almost overnight into a place where scared immigrants displayed the stars and stripes in their front windows, hoping it would be enough to save them from attack.

We read with horror accounts of sikh shop owners who had been killed for wearing turbans and we watched as fear mongering nationalists hijacked the city. 

Within a month of the attacks we decided to return home to New Zealand.

Since then the world has become a darker and more divided place than ever. The fear and division caused on that day has grown so much that when I look at America today I feel desperate about the future.

There are more refugees and displaced people than ever before, (67 million at last count) and new nationalist movements are taking the fear and anxiety of our age and using it to fuel their political ambitions.

I think many of us are feeling apprehensive about the future.

When the attacks happened all those years ago, I took refuge in my faith and in words that helped me to make sense of the chaos all around me. Freedom Song was a touchstone poem that I carried around with me back then, and I remember reading it during my toughest times to bring clarity to the confusion.

And now 17 years later that same poem is now a beautiful hard cover gift book and the message it brings is more relevant than ever. It looks at the world and all its heartbreak and gives a solution for these strange and divided times we are currently navigating.

The message is simple but very important at this time. We know deep in our hearts that our shared humanity is all that really counts, and yet sometimes we need a timely reminder.

People have told me that they have cried or choked up when they first read Freedom Song. This makes me happy because I know that it is doing its work and making us think about the big picture, and more importantly helping us to tap into how we are feeling about the way the world is right now.

Freedom Song didn't spring from a focus group or to plug a gap in the market, the words sprang from the depth of my soul, as it struggled to make sense of the human suffering it encountered.

It brought a message of love and connection to me at a time when I most needed and it and it exists now in the form of this book to connect with your soul in an authentic and healing way.

Freedom Song has changed and evolved with me through the last two decades. I was lucky to find the unique and wonderful paintings of Ewan McDougall to illustrate the deep themes running through the words. 

I wrote the first draft of the poem when I was in my early 20s and working as a journalist on a documentary with Rena Owen from the award winning New Zealand film, "Once Were Warriors". We were talking to people whose lives were similar to those depicted in the movie.

I was shocked when we met a young woman who told us the story of the death of her baby at the hands of her partner and how she had taken the rap and blamed post-natal depression to save her partner the jail time.

I thought I was pretty worldly twenty something but this confession broke my heart. There seemed to be little emotion in the woman's retelling and I was shocked and saddened by the lack of love, and devastating violence that was at the centre of her life. 

I felt helpless to do anything to make this woman's life any better and  her story was only one of many sad stories I heard through my research. I went to bed that night with a very heavy heart.

I fell into a fitful sleep and in the middle of the night woke to a urge to write. What emerged was the first draft of "Freedom Song". The words somehow distilled my distress and pain into a rhyming poem that answered some of the deep questions that I couldn't answer in my woken life. 

The words came from a deep well within that was working hard as I slept to bring meaning to my world. The whimsical tone, and compassionate words brought me peace that night and it has done the same thing on many nights since.

Freedom Song is a celebration of our shared humanity and a song of hope in these strange and uncertain times.

It came to me as a gift of clarity at a time when I really needed it. Now I offer it to the world with the same intention...may it bring peace, clarity and joy to all who come across it.

And in this same spirit I will donate a percentage of profits from Freedom Song to the Save the Children charity.