Mark Hardie
Founder, Chairman, CEO of "The Taylor Swift Party" | Attorney | Army Veteran

Ani Difranco: The Inspiration of My Wild Soul

Barack Mandela, a military veteran, was inspired by singer/songwriter Ani Difranco.. (Barack’s Personal Collection)

I converted to Reform Judaism in 1995, and I converted to Orthodox Judaism in 1997. After completing law school, I moved to the Jewish Pico-Robertson community in Los Angeles.

Within my heart, my soul was torn apart between my identity as a black man in America and my newly established Jewish identity. I didn’t know if I belonged in the Jewish community. Deep within my core, I felt that American Jewish identity was a “white identity”. As a black man, I felt I didn’t belong in white Jewish spaces.

As I struggled with the turmoil of my inner struggle, a Jewish friend named “Rena Rothschild” loaned me an album by singer/songwriter Ani Difranco. With enthusiasm, I listened to Difranco’s poem “The Slant”. I was immediately stuck by her honesty, power, and creative genius.

For the next four years, I listened to Ani Difranco’s poems and songs. I felt that Difranco was struggling with her identity as a woman in a world controlled by men. Similarly, I was struggling with my identity as a black man in a white dominated world.

After listening to Difranco, I finally decided to begin writing my own poetry. I started to pour out my thoughts and feelings. I ripped open my inner soul and allowed my vibrant inner child to release his inner pain and anguish.

Now, I’ve published six books and dozens of poems. My journey as a writer began with Ani Difranco’s powerful first album. To this day, this is one of my favorite albums.

In honor of Ani Difranco, I have written this short poem titled “Black Jewish Man”:

I’m supposed to be a strong black man

I’m supposed to do all that I can

To uplift my people

To heal the pain of my people

I’m following Martin Luther King

I’m serving the King of Kings

Without losing the song I sing

Up and Up I go

Following in the footsteps of Ani Difranco

Life is a gift that God has given

I’m a black man who empowers women

White spirits have crushed my voice

White ghosts have stolen my choice

My words are unspoken

I’m a cycle broken

The End

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. I earned a Doctor of Law at the University of California Law San Francisco (Hastings) . I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside. I was an international student at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law, and Bar Ilan University. I am a military veteran of the United States Army. I am a laureate of the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon. I am a financial donor to following: Harvard Law, Yale Law, Stanford Law, Berkeley Law, Harvard Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, UC Hastings College of the Law, UC Davis Law, Columbine High School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, Sidwell Friends School, Viewpoint School, Beverly Hills High School, Eton College in the United Kingdom, Special Olympics, Children's Defense Fund, Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Barbra Streisand Foundation, Princeton University, Florida A&M, Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the British Red Cross. I am former special assistant and staff attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. I was public affairs assistant to US Senator Barbara Boxer. I was public affair assistant for Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert and Jerusalem spokesperson Haggai Elias. I am a former member of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. I am a member of the American Legion and Jewish War Veterans.
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