Some Day

“Alexa, play “Some Day” by Louis Armstrong, on repeat,” I say, desperately needing something to bring the gears of my brain that have been constantly fixated on the concept of freedom, to a slow rotation, even better, a complete stop. With a deep inhale, I lay down on the couch, cross my ankles, fold my hands behind my head and exhale, and close my eyes. Images of race riots, freedom marches, and peaceful protest flash through my eyelids as though I was watching a slideshow, moving intro, or in some alternate universe, I was being transported in time. Louis’ trumpet sings to me and the tension in my body begins to release.

“Someday” King LP, 1964

I must have dosed off for about all of five seconds before the blaring of Louis’ raspy voice woke me. With my eyes tightly shut, and my breathing still at a steady, my entire body tingled from his words. “Someday, you’ll be sorry. The way you treated me was wrong.” Before opening my eyes, I could feel my consciousness drift back into my body and the reality of all that was previously burdening me returned. 

Finally sitting up, everything in the room began to come back into focus, Louis’ voice faded in the background and my attention was caught by a walk-man, placed carefully on the table in front of me to be sure it would meet my eyes. I reached forward to pick it up and examine it further, when a small scrap of leaf-like paper slides from beneath it and floats to the floor. Scribbled lightly in ink were the words:

“I will be happy

Because the world is so messed up

The nation is sick

Trouble is in the land 

Confusion all around

But I know somehow that 

Only when it is dark enough

Can you see the stars”

There was a tape already loaded into the walkman and written on it was: “from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1968. Tape: 168.” I placed the headphones over my ears, pressed play and watched as the words on the scrap of paper began to dance through my ears.

excerpt from Reel-to-reel tape recorded by Louis Armstrong – LAHM Tape 468/Louis Tape 168 – Track 1
Object ID: 1987.3.466

“The cry is always the same, we want to be free.” 

I Stop. Rewind, then play it back.

“The cry is always the same, we want to be free.”

Once more. Stop. Rewind. Play.

 “The cry is always the same, we want to be free”

I hear my thoughts echoing “we want to be free.” Perplexedly, I glance back at the scrap of paper in hopes for an answer to its appearance, flipping it over repeatedly only to find nothing but the imprint of letters from the opposite side’s text. I run my fingers across the words, “Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Laying back on the couch, hoping to be able to decipher this new found riddle, I slowly drift into images of Dr. King speaking to crowds. It starts to even feel like he was speaking directly to me.

A startling crash awakens me and I am met with the realization that I had gone back asleep. Whatever I was holding must have fallen out of my hands and woke me when it hit the ground. Trying to recover it, and assuming it was the walkman, I was surprised to find a record titled “The Stars Salute Dr. Martin Luther King.” Where had this come from? Why couldn’t I find the walkman and scrap of paper that came with it? I needed them, they were the answers to freedom, I thought looking back at the record I now held in my hand, “The Stars Salute Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The Stars Salute Dr. Martin Luther King, Object Id: 2005.1.843

The first song on the album was Louis Armstrong’s, Some Day, and just like that my senses began to kick in and I heard his voice singing through the speakers:

“And may your future, you won’t fear, dear 

there won’t be another to treat you like a brother

some day, you’ll be sorry”

…..

Almost like an outer body experience I heard myself say,

“But I know somehow that, only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. The cry is always the same.” 

Louis continues, “Some day, you’ll be sorry. The way you treated me was wrong.”

And just as the trombone resolves the song, I concluded the verse, “The cry is always the same, we want to be free.”

In memory and admiration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong

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