April 22, 2014
Go to any campaign event for either candidate, and you'll hear it.
Both Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber and Chokwe A. Lumumba claim to be the everyman who represents "everyday people." In fact, Yarber incorporates the phrase in his campaign literature and stump speeches. Lumumba has also adopted the mantra, to tie into his family's history of legal and civil-rights activism, especially for the poor.
Inevitably, you'll also hear something else: the familiar chorus of Sly & and the Family Stone's 1969 hit "Everyday People." At Yarber's events, the song plays as if it's on a timer. At Lumumba functions, the song appears in a slightly different form, as a sample in the 1992 song "People Everyday" from hip-hop group Arrested Development.
Both are great songs that celebrate diversity and question racial and ethnic prejudice. The songs also highlight generational differences in the candidates' bases.
The average Yarber voter, I suspect, is older, and maybe of the Motown generation For them, songs like "Everyday People" comprised part of the soundtrack of their youth, a time when the nation was amid cultural upheaval.
The Family Stone sings:
There is a long hair/ That doesn't like the short hair/ For being such a rich one/ That will not help the poor one/ Different strokes/ For different folks
"People Everyday," a Lumumba favorite, on the other hand, is emblematic of the conscious Afrocentricity that permeated hip-hop in the early and mid-90s. For a lot of people, Lumumba's father, the late mayor, embodied a lot of that spirit. I'd guess that the prototypical Lumumba enthusiast is younger, a Generation X-er or millennial, who was drawn to his father's revolutionary political philosophies that rejected bourgeois complacency.
"People Everyday" speaks to this; Arrested Development group member Speech rhymes in the song:
So they came to test Speech cause of my hair-do/ And the loud bright colors that I wear [Boo!]/ I was a target cause I'm a fashion misfit/ And the outfit that I'm wearing brothers dissin' it
It's now been a generation since Arrested Development came on the scene (use the phrase today and people assume you're referring to the cult mockumentary). And they came on the scene a generation after Sly and the Family Stone.
Interestingly, Lumumba and Yarber—31 and 36, respectively—and their candidacies embody the same kind of generational blending, between "old head" and "thundercat," as "Everyday People" and "People Everyday."
Tonight, after the ballots are cast and counted, one the songs and the campaign it represents will be more resonant than the other.