April 9, 2008 was the 110th anniversary of the birth of Paul Robeson. In order to recall the old friend who had ever firmly supported the anti-aggression war of the Chinese people with his own voice and action, some Chinese and overseas gathered together in the former residence of Soong Ching Ling to pay tribute to Paul Robeson.
Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a famous American black singer, a civil right campaign leader and a firm world peace defense fighter. During the anti-Japanese war, invited by Soong Ching Ling, he assumed the office of an honorary member of the China Defense League, actively participated in the money raising performances for China Defense League and spared no effort to support the anti-Japanese war of the Chinese people. In America, he sang March of the Volunteers in English and made a record called Chee Lai (Chinese for "Arise"), which made this song that symbolized the spirit of the Chinese people influential in the world. When the People's Republic of China was founded, he and his friends went into the street to sing Arise in Chinese to celebrate this big event. In 1958, when the Chinese people celebrated his 60th birthday, in his letter to the Chinese people, he wrote "Thank all the Chinese people for their contribution to socialism and their defense of world peace". He had hoped to visit China. Due to various reasons, by January 1976 when he passed away, Robeson had not realized his wish to visit China. May 1980, his son, Paul Robeson Jr. and his wife visited China, and Soong Ching Ling met them with hospitality at her residence in Beijing. The Chinese people will never forget Paul Robeson and his songs, which are sung widely. At the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul Robeson, Forbidden City Concert Hall held a memorial concert.
This commemoration activity was organized by China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Center, China Society for People's Friendship Studies and co-organized by Beijing Foreign Studies University, China Daily and Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. Before the activity, Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Center did much preparation: such as sending an invitation in advance to Paul Robeson Jr. And his wife and daughter to visit Beijing and requesting him to provide some original pictures; widely collecting the publications and AV documents of Paul Robeson; tidying and concluding the literatures in relation to the friendship between Soong Ching Ling and Paul Robeson; taking related cultural relics from the former residence; setting up four temporary exhibition booths to exhibit these precious documents; and producing CDs with the songs of Paul Robeson and presenting them to the guests for memory.
On the activity day, He Dazhang, Executive Vice Director of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Center, Chen Xiuxia, Vice Chair of China Society for People's Friendship Studies, Gao Zhendong, Secretary General of China Society for People's Friendship Studies, Chen Lin, professor of Beijing University of Foreign Studies, old friends of Soong Ching Ling and related person, Su Fei, Nakamura Kyoko, Li Mei, Huang Huanbi, Han Chun, Zhang Yan, Chen Yiwen, foreign friends Pat Adler, Michael Crook, Vice Chairman International Committee for the promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, and Chinese and overseas experts, media journalists etc, totaling more than 80 people attended the activity. In addition, Cao Houkang, section chief of China Welfare Institute Science and Education Section, came especially to Beijing from Shanghai and participated in this activity on behalf of China Welfare Institute.
Paul Robeson Jr., although unable to attend the activity himself, sent a letter from New York. In the letter, he wrote "My wife Marilyn, my daughter Susan and I deeply appreciate your invitation to the Tribute honoring the 110th Anniversary of Paul Robeson's birth on April 9. My father, one of the greatest performing artists of the twentieth century, became both a Black symbol of the international peace movement and a staunch fighter for Black freedom in the United States. A firm and dear friend to the Chinese people during your epic struggles against imperialism, he courageously opposed fascism and colonialism. It is fitting that this tribute from the people of China marks the 110th Anniversary of Paul Robeson's birth."
First, the guests watched the documentary Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist in the south building. Then they gathered on the lawn in front of Soong Ching Ling's residence before a huge picture of Paul Robeson to pay tribute to the great man. The weather was gorgeous and the atmosphere was cheerful . The tribute was presided over by He Dazhang and American guest Marni Rosner. He Dazhang, Chen Xiuxia, Vice Chair of China Society for People's Friendship Studies, Chen Lin, professor of Beijing University of Foreign Studies and others gave speeches at the meeting and commemorated Paul Robeson from different angles.
Vice director He recalled the friendship between Soong Ching Ling and Paul Robeson. In his speech, he said, "Although Soong Ching Ling and Paul Robeson had never met each other, they had many qualities in common. They had the same social idealism; they were leaders of international peace campaigns and had the same "inborn strength"; they both had a strong sense of social responsibility and cared for all people in the world; they worked hard at the same time to link the Chinese people and the American people. Today, when paying tribute to Paul Robeson, we would tell this great singer that we never forget, and will never forget, those who have struggled for the happiness of human beings. We will not let fascism revive and the history turn back. We will struggle to build up a harmonious world!"
Vice Director Chen Xiuxia recalled the past when she met Paul Robeson in America; Professor Chen Lin recalled several speeches made by Paul Robeson about China; Wang Xuexin, member of the board of China Society for People's Friendship Studies and National Grade I movie director, narrated the friendship between Paul Robeson and Chinese artists. Between speeches, the gathering heard beautiful renditions of Paul Robeson favorites such as Ol' Man River performed by men's chorus Voice of Science Glee Club of the China Association for Science and Technology, the famous saxophone player Fan Shengqi, the famous singer Li Guangxi, bass singer of China Conservatory, Wu Tianqiu, national Grade 1 actor Du Shengxian - in chorus, saxophone and solo etc, sang the songs of Paul Robeson Wu Tianqiu vividly narrated his feeling upon meeting Paul Robeson in Vienna the first time. Finally, all Chinese and overseas participants sang in chorus an old favorite song of Paul Robeson, Joe Hill.
Media such as People's Daily, Guangming Daily, China Today, China Daily, China.Com.Cn, Voice of Arts of China National Radio, International Online etc interviewed the participants and reporting the event.
The participants were so enthralled that the activity ended one hour later than had been planned. After the activity, people did not leave immediately, and staff cheerfully delayed closing the residence.
Chen Rinong, editor-in-chief of China Today, felt very excited after the commemoration, and that night he immediately wrote in his BLOG "Today, on the lawn of the former residence of Soong Ching Ling, not only his friend representatives but also Chinese and overseas guests recalled and gave speeches about Paul Robeson; several artists gave wonderful and passionate performances. These indicate people's deep feelings for him and the friendship between Chinese and foreigners." The next day, Chen Rinong wrote a letter to China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Center, "Thanks for your invitation. I had participated in a very significant commemorative activity. You have done a good job, which is worthy of reporting. I have suggested reporting this event in the Chinese version and English version of China Today."
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