A luta continua

A luta continua

“Until the Struggle is Won” is a new choral anthem I wrote to honor the struggle of LGBTI persons in Uganda. The words are informed by my years of advocacy alongside LGBTI Ugandans—and shaped in particular by the friendships I made during my 2013 trip to Uganda. These verses are peopled with faces I know and love. (NOTE: you’ll find a PDF of lyrics here and you can WATCH the world premiere here.)

I’m a decent enough poet—but thoroughly bereft of musical aptitude. So typically I select a tune I know well and then weave words to rest on that melody. In this case I was commissioned to write the text and then my lyrics were turned over to Craig Carnahan, a celebrated Minnesota choral composer, who crafted a five-part choral score to really showcase the words. I’ve seen the score, but I can’t “hear” the notes on the page at all—I only see the intricate complexity. So I cannot wait to hear it performed—which it will be on April 9, 2016!

“Until the Struggle is Won” will have its world premiere by The Singers, in concert under the direction of Matthew Culloton, in Sundin Music Hall, Hamline University, April 9, 7:30pm. The Singers’ Composers Lab Choral Concert blends brand new works from Twin Cities composers with pieces premiered by The Singers over the past 11 seasons. My anthem will be performed right before intermission, during which the audience will be encouraged to make donations to The Uganda Project, a ministry of my church that partners with grassroots organizations in Uganda seeking immediate safety, communal empowerment, and social justice for Uganda’s LGBTI people.

Los Angeles music critic Jim Svejda, host of public radio’s The Record Shelf calls The Singers “awe-inspiring … easily one of the best choral ensembles in America, if not the entire world.”

COMPOSERS LAB: BRINGING SCORES TO LIFESaturday, April 9, 7:30pm – Sundin Music Hall, Hamline University. General Admission tickets: $21 in advance (online at www.singersmca.org) or $25 at the door.

Much gratitude goes to my good friend, Leo Treadway, who arranged for this collaboration between Craig Carnahan and myself.


Until the Struggle is Won

Down in the eastern heart of Africa  /  Where the Nile river starts
There’s a land as pretty as a pearl  /  And a people bless-ed dark
And when God looked on Uganda land  /  And proclaimed it “very good”
Well, she destined this diversity  /  But we’ve not yet understood …

A luta continua, a luta continua, a luta continua, and the struggle— carries on!

Then came the missions and the morals  /  In the name of Jesus Christ
Bearing “good news” neither good nor new  /  Yet the people were enticed
Now the fear that spread in Africa  /  Planted long ago in shame
All too lively now on preachers’ lips  /  Has set hatred full aflame …

A luta continua, a luta continua, a luta continua, and the struggle— carries on!

Against the vi’lence and oppression  /  Turned upon your very own
For the exiles now like scattered seeds  /  Of a future not yet sown
Against the mobs, the threats and beatings  /  And the papers cast you out
For the countless lives, like sparrows lost  /  Now in anguished cries we shout:

A luta continua, a luta continua, a luta continua, and the struggle— carries on!

Where it calls for courage just to be  /  Endless spirit just to cope
May your leaders rich with wisdom be  /  As a flowing spring of hope
May the many bless-ed martyred ones  /  Be not silenced by their death.
Lift their voices up, and join with yours  /  And their mem’ries fill your breath

A luta continua, a luta continua, a luta continua, and the struggle— carries on!

From beneath these ruins, rocks and stones  /  May “Hosannas” ring and roam
The day dawn soon, O Uganda land  /  When you call your Kuchus home
Linking arms and lives o’er continents  /  We are pledged to join your strife:
For we’ve heard that God is with you here  /  So we wish to share your life

A luta continua, a luta continu, a luta continua, until the struggle is won!

text by David R. Weiss
music by Craig Carnahan


Refrain: A luta continua (Ah lootah con-tinoo-ah – Portuguese: “the struggle continues”) was the rallying cry during Mozambiques’s war for independence. It became a popular cry in the Ugandan LGBTI community after David Kato’s murder in 2011.

Verse 1: Uganda’s nickname is “the pearl of Africa”; I intentionally name the people “bless-ed dark.”

Verse 2: The seeds of homophobia in Uganda (as throughout Africa) were planted by Western missionaries, but most recently inflamed by a handful of U.S. evangelicals—particularly Scott Lively—linked to the infamous 2009 “Kill the gays” bill. Hence, “lively now on preachers’ lips.”

Verse 3: Many of Uganda’s leading LGBTI activists have fled into exile for their own safety. Several tabloid papers have publically outed LGBTI persons. On sparrows, see Matthew 10:29 | Luke 12:6-7.

Verse 4: As in every struggle for justice, cross-generational inspiration and solidarity is paramount.

Verse 5: On rocks and stones, see Luke 19:38-40. Kuchu (Koo-choo – origin uncertain) is the word chosen by Ugandan’s LGBTI community to name themselves. Roughly synonymous with “queer,” (although, unlike “queer” it seems not to have had a prior negative meaning in the language in general) it encompasses the entire range of LGBTI identities under a single term. On “For we’ve heard …” see Zechariah 8:23.

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