By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was produced as part of the 2020 Election Reporting Fellowship with NJ ethnic and community media organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.
CAMDEN – Mary Cross had other plans for the tune, but the pandemic and the upcoming election took center stage and with a little bit of rewriting, she and Grammy-nominated producer Donald Robinson hit the right note for the ballot box this season in “You (We) Can Change It Right Now.”
The song received more than 1,100 views and still going strong, Cross said. A video shows images of people lining up to vote along with past heroes of voting rights, like the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and pictures from the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
The song’s catchy, upbeat tune along with its lyrics, “You have the power to change it right now,” would be powerful enough for virtually any polling location.
“It was originally a house club song called, ‘Let’s Get It Started,'” said Cross, who released for first single last year. “I tabled it because when I did my debut single and my fanbase in the UK and Canada were interested in more ballads from me, not dance tunes as a second release. And given the danger of this [coronavirus] pandemic, dancing was not one of the first things folks were interested in doing.”
Cross, the founder and lead singer of the soul band Mary Cross 2NspireU, said she decided to add the message with meaning to the song and she and Robinson sat down to rewrite it. She had her brother help with the video, but didn’t want it to be a partisan message, so she left image of the current presidential candidates out. You will find images of Lewis and late Republican Sen. John McCain in for a bipartisan flair.
Not Voting Not An Option
“Over the past year as the election approached, people from various walks of life and demographics shared their views,” said Cross, who has performed throughout South Jersey and Philadelphia. “Some said they don’t vote because it doesn’t count or the machine chooses who they want, or stated the system is rigged.
“Others were disgusted with both candidates and did not feel they wanted to choose. Some believe neither candidate would make a different, especially those who want the needs of people of color or the systemic racism that has been really obvious in recent years.
“I always see the glass half full and rather than be argumentative, or defensive, I wanted to remember the good that voting allowed and provided in times when so many before us fought for us to have that privilege and right in a democracy,” Cross said.
The singer, who has also uploaded a public service announcement around the song, said people can always find fault with one candidate or the other and voting, but said positive change can always happen if people participate in the system instead of doing nothing and let the system do what it wants to them.
“It is hope that birthed the song,” Cross said. “In the good we have the power to decide to exercise as goodness. kindness, humility. honesty, joy, compassion, empathy, thoughtfulness. and the diversity in the fabric of this nation. I am German and Black. I have a Caucasian daughter-in-law whom I love dearly and friends of various races. I can control the narrative and be the change I want to see in the world. It may not have been easy, but it was worth it.”
Cross said the song has been getting play in other parts of the country and internationally as well. She said DJ Lady RaeJ with St. Louis Radio station TOKOVL, the host of Sheryl Underwood Radio, will be playing a radio drop to promote public service announcement along with airing in Canada and Britain.
Cross’s own story is impressive – living in foster care most of her adult life only to have recently found her mother, beginning a singing career late in life but holding down healthcare jobs at one of the top health institutions successfully for the past two decades.
and her band have performed for many private and public organizations well as healthcare institutions such as Robert Wood Johnson, Our Lady of Lourdes (Virtua), Cooper University Medical Center, Jefferson University Medical Center, Rowan University Alumni Association and the list goes on! I have performed for the Willingboro Jazz Fest and was slated to perform for the Berks Jazz Fest prior to the pandemic.
Her debut single, ‘In Love There’s A Risk,” written and produced by Robinson, was released in November 2019.
“I was honored to have it chart on the UK Soul Charts in Canada, the UK, Japan, and other countries,” Cross said. “I have a fan base, but there are limited radio stations domestic and abroad. A number of independent, Internet and college radio stations have the song in rotation including: Curb Radio, Unsigned Artist, Teerex, TOKOVL, and more.
She said public radio WHYY in Philadelphia debut single and video during its House Concert Series earlier this month. She said her follow-up single is called “Promise,” a tune she cowrote and is produced by Robinson.
The Camden native said the pandemic has its tragedies and some oddities as well, even meeting her birth mother for the first time, who is now 74.
“I had been a ward of the state as a foster child my entire life and at this age, I found my biological mother and half-sister,” Cross said. “My stepfather was the renowned Blues phenomenon Mr. Frank Bey. I never knew any of my relatives, so you can imagine my surprise when I was able to connect through 23andme. I did not see that coming for sure.
It may be where Cross got her singing voice from, a talent she only decided to take up later in life. She continued to work in the healthcare field, the passet 20 at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, formerly UMDNJ-SOM.
“I served as booking manager for NAM Events when they were having shows at the Wyndham, Mt. Laurel, now the Clarion,” Cross said. “In 2018, I won the Willingboro Jazz Fest. I have been married for 25 years and my son just graduated Rowan University in June.”
Cross said if her story of voting and life can tell people anything, is that everyone has meaning and regardless of their lot in life, they can make a difference.
“I want, even moreso in times like these, to remind people of their value, worth and purpose and the importance to keep moving and never give up on your dreams,” Cross said. “Coupled with the importance of spreading love through a kind word, thought, and music — the universal language,” she said.
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