Passion for Justice

"The Silence of the Good"

New Song and Video, ‘The Silence of the Good, ’Featuring Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Promote Voting ‘Silence’ Backed by Haight Street Art Center Exhibit

by Institute for Social Justice & Nonviolence


Clarence B. Jones, legal adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., takes notes behind King at a press conference regarding in Birmingham, Ala., in February 1963.
Clarence B. Jones, legal adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., takes notes behind King at the press conference announcing the negotiated resolution to the 1963 Birmingham Campaign. Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Ernst Haas / Getty Images

A governor-turned protest songwriter, a jam band, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s former speechwriter have teamed up to get out the vote.

Jack Markell, former Governor of Delaware, and Ann McNamee, a founding member of Moonalice, who created “Charlottesville,” a song celebrating the life of Heather Heyer, announces their second release, a music video, “The Silence of the Good.” Including the lyric, “As history has taught us, the Reverend understood, the bad get their power from the silence of the good,” the song is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s The Letter from Birmingham Jail, where the civil rights leader was detained after a rally in 1963.

The new video features spoken word by Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s legal counsel, strategic advisor and draft speechwriter, along with lead vocals and music by multi-instrumentalists Eric McFadden (from George Clinton, Stockholm Syndrome, Eric Burdon & The Animals) and Jason Crosby (from Phil Lesh & Friends, Full Moonalice & Doobie Decibel System).

The song is rooted in Good Friday, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders were arrested for peacefully protesting in Birmingham, Alabama. While Dr. King sat in jail, eight clergymen published an “Open Statement” that was intended to deter future demonstrations by calling the protests “unwise”, “untimely”, and “unwelcome.” Dr. Jones smuggled in small pieces of paper to Dr. King, then smuggled out his writings. These scraps became Dr. King’s The Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Wrote Dr. King: “We have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

“From the first time I read it,” said former Gov. Markell, “I thought ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ was one of the most important documents in American history.” Said McNamee: “I’m honored to have composed the music for Gov. Jack Markell’s powerful lyrics...Help us break ‘The Silence (and silencing) of the Good.’”

After 57 years, said Dr. Jones, the new music video “has accurately and compellingly captured the essence of what Dr. King said in his Letter. It’s been one of the proudest moments of my life to be associated with this uniquely creative undertaking.”

In conjunction with this release, the Haight Street Art Center, co-founded by Roger and Ann McNamee, has united multiple artists to create a variety of stylistic and powerful posters to promote the importance of voting, along with a careful and critical look at the history of voting in America. The Silence of the Good exhibition features the work of 10 artists including Micah Bazant, DOMO, Emulsify, Alexandra Fischer, Gary Houston, Hundred Storms, John Mavroudis, Julio Salgado, Chris Shaw and Mari Tepper.

With an outdoor and virtual exhibition set for October 10, The Silence of the Good is free of charge and will remain on exhibit through November 15. The exhibition is located in the Alchemy Community Garden at 155 Laguna Street in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, which is open daily from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm. Visitors to the outdoor exhibition will be required to maintain social distancing and wear face coverings.

View the Haight Street Art Center online exhibition