On Tuesday February 5, about 25 students had the privilege of watching soul singer and activist Ron Paris present a lecture-performance in the Multicultural Center Theater. Paris focused on the development of R&B as well as the contributions of soul music to social justice in the United States.
As a veteran soul singer, Paris has opened for the Jackson Five and Redd Foxx, and performed in clubs and casinos in Las Vegas for some twenty years. In his lecture-performance, Paris spoke about early R&B pioneers whose music helped change US racial relations in the 1950s and 1960s: Charles Brown (the Christmas man), Ruth Brown (â€œMotormouth Maybelleâ€), and Sam Cooke, who said â€œnoâ€ to segregated concerts, the rope that had divided white and black audiences. Paris began his performance mentioning the influence of Dr. Martin Luther King on him personally, expressing his hope in a future society that will no longer have racial distinction. “Songs have the power to overcome the differences between black and whites,” he said. “They give us courage and help us to march together; we have got to thank the first black DJs who brought the first black music into the world in 1949.”
Although Parisâ€™s performance was exceptionally entertaining, it was also extremely touching to realize how people got so carried away with racism in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Paris admitted that there was a time in his life when he hated white people and hated himself as well. He said all that has changed and he is now colorblind and enjoys difference. Paris was born on Valentineâ€™s Day, which parallels his passion for diversity and love. His new CD, Soul Mate, which contains a number of different song-stories that relate mostly to Paris’ life experiences, was released in November of 2005. Paris would like to give special regard and appreciation to Aaron Jones, an advisor to the AS Student Government and activist, and to Julie Carlson, a professor in the English department who has been working with Paris for about seven years in booking and publicity.
Although thrilled to bring his performance to UCSB, Paris admitted that he has never seen such a low student turnout. He said even today people struggle with racism and some would rather not come and hear what he has to say. Paris hoped that UCSB would, â€œspeak to a stranger, outweigh our differences, and always smile and appreciate diversity.â€