The racist ice cream man song is being replaced with a joyful new one by the Wu-Tang's RZA
via Good Humor and the Library of Congress

Earlier this summer, Upworthy shared a story about the ugly racist past of the seemingly innocuous song played by a lot of ice cream trucks.

"Turkey in the Straw," is known to modern-day school children as, "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" But the melody was also used for the popular, and incredibly racist, 1900s minstrel songs, "Old Zip Coon" and "Ni**er Love a Watermelon."

Zip Coon was a stock minstrel show character who was used as a vehicle to mock free Black men. He was an arrogant, ostentatious man who wore flashy clothes and attempted to speak like affluent white members of society, usually to his own disparagement.


"Old Zip Coon"

OLD ZIP COON - 1834 - Performed by Tom Roush www.youtube.com

In the early 1900s, cards with racist depictions of Black people eating watermelons while making wide-eyed looks, were popular and inspired another racist song that used the melody: "Ni**er Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Ni**er love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!

Ni**er love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!

For here, they're made with a half a pound of co'l

There's nothing like a watermelon for a hungry coon

"Ni**er Love a Watermelon"


The Truth About The Ice Cream Truck Jingle | Ni**er Love A Watermelon www.youtube.com


Minstrel music was popular in ice cream parlors at the turn of the century, so when Americans began moving to the suburbs after World War II, the music was played from ice cream trucks to recreate the feeling of the parlor.

Good Humor started the first ice cream truck in the '20s and had one of the largest fleets until it went retail-only. In 1978, it sold off its iconic trucks to independent contractors, some of which are still operating to this day.

Good Humor is still synonymous with the ice cream man, so the company decided to use its influence to help the ice cream truck industry replace "Turkey in the Straw" with a song that "brings joy to every community."

So it teamed up with RZA, the legendary producer, rapper, composer, and founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA has also scored a number of films, most notably "Kill Bill: Volume 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill: Volume 2" (2004).

The new jingle will be available to ice cream trucks in the U.S. starting in August through music boxes from Nichols Electronics, the sole manufacturer of electronic music boxes for ice cream trucks in the United States.

In the wake of a renewed discussion over the jingle's history, the company's owner, Mark Nichols, told Good Humor it would remove "Turkey in the Straw" from its music boxes.

Here's the new jingle.

Good Humor x RZA: A New Ice Cream Truck Jingle for a New Era www.youtube.com

Upworthy got the chance to talk with RZA about his new jingle, ice cream, and how we should deal with troublesome art and artists from the past.

Upworthy: How did this collaboration with Good Humor come about?

RZA: Since the ice cream truck jingle has a problematic history, Good Humor reached out to me to bring in a new jingle and a new vibe for a new era.

UP: What was your inspiration for the new song?

RZA: First and foremost, I was thinking about ice cream and joy. I wrote it in a major key so when a child and a parent hear it they both feel a sense of joy. I made sure the song was rooted in joy. And so my basic foundation was like, if I can get a joyous vibe in the melody then half of my job would be done. I just kept playing around until something felt joyous to me. I tested it on my wife and my son and they said, "It feels good."

UP: It's like you ran a test on your kid asking, "Will this get you running out of the door?"

RZA: Exactly. Everybody loves ice cream. When the ice cream truck comes to the neighborhood kids stop doing what they're doing, yo. I don't care if it's jump rope, hula-hooping, playing skully, hopscotch, whatever, you would stop, yo.

You'd abandon what you're doing to chase this truck down. And don't let the guy start moving before you get there, that means you gotta run 'til he stops at the next building.

UP: What immediately came to my mind after hearing about the project was the song, 'Ice Cream' by Raekown that you produced. Although, that song has a real minor-key feel.

RZA: I also have the song, "C.R.E.A.M," both of those have melodic piano, but this song had to have a really positive intention. But it's still gotta have some Wu-ism to it. So if you listen to it you'll hear that it is a major-key melody but I still go to the minor chord.

It is similar to a song with a chord progression of [Wu-Tang's] "Can it Be All So Simple?" I wanted to be sure that it had a taste of that Wu-ism in it, but not going dark at all.

The Story Behind the New Ice Cream Truck Jingle from Good Humor x RZA www.youtube.com

UP: Was there any thought given to the sound system that's on the ice cream truck?

RZA: We were privileged to have Nichols Electronics speakers sent to the studio so my mix engineer had a chance to demo it through the speaker so we know how it's gonna sound when these ice cream trucks get it in their hands. What's so funny is the song still has a little bit of bump that the normal jingle couldn't have.

UP: Did you give any consideration to the fact that the ice cream man is going to have to hear this song for eight hours a day while he's driving around?

RZA: I think the way this track was composed it's going to take a long time for him to get bored with it. You listen to my music, don't you notice something like years later?

UP: With every context you hear something different.

RZA: Yeah, so I consciously stuck a few things in there. There's some sound effects and strings underneath that you can't really hear at first listen. But after a while, he'll have fun exploring the track. I think the loop point is fun. It's like a conversation that doesn't end.

UP: I know you're a vegan, but as a kid, when the ice cream man came up the street, what did you line up for?

RZA: For me, strawberry shortcake. You got to imagine a kid who's economically depressed growing up. But I would go to the grocery store and pack bags and you could make yourself a dollar during the summer break. And if that ice cream truck comes, I knew where my dollar was going, yo. I would eat the outside layer first and then eat the ice cream. My buddy Ghost, [rapper Ghostface Killah] he was a toasted almond guy.

UP: Which member of the Wu-Tang has the biggest sweet tooth?

RZA: I still would give it to Ghost. He still has his sweet tooth.

via Good Humor

UP: These days people are reconsidering culture with problematic histories, such as "Turkey in the Straw." As an artist, how do you think society should come to grips with art or artists with questionable pasts?

RZA: I think that if we have a chance to right a wrong, we should. That's a blessing in life to be able to right your wrongs. As an artist myself, I don't think art should be censored, but you've got to be able to evolve.

Think of the guy who had to draw the solar system when we knew about three planets. He only drew from his life experience. Now years later, do we correct him? Yes.

I can look at myself and listen back to my old albums and you can hear the aggression. Later, you hear some of my composed pieces and you hear that I've been to other parts of the world, you hear that I understand other people's experiences.

Art has to evolve. If we made mistakes as artists in the past — and art always comes from the heart — then our hearts should be strong enough to accept our mistakes and focus on making things better for the generation we live in now.

UP: It seems like these days there are a lot of people that won't let people evolve. People get called out for something they did 20 years ago when they aren't the same person anymore.

RZA: You gotta let people evolve. The guy who first came out of the cave, if he would've stayed in we all would've stayed in. But he was smart enough to come out so you have to come out too, man.

UP: The reimagining of the ice cream truck song comes as part of a greater social justice movement. One of the things you're known for is being a strategic thinker. You launched a successful five-year-plan for The Wu, practiced martial arts, love chess, have written a lot on philosophy, and referenced the "Art of War" in your work.

What are your thoughts on how Americans are handling the current social justice movement and what strategies would you suggest?

RZA: I think it's healthy. I think it's a step in the right direction. The more we step in the right direction the further we get away from the wrong direction.

I grew up in school when we had to do a pledge of allegiance to the flag. I'm one of those kids who stood up, put his hand over his heart and did it every morning. And it says, "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." That's the pledge that we all took and we should all live up to that pledge.

To me, the strategy of finding ways to speak out for each other when one of us is being mistreated, I think it's very healthy. I look forward to the day when that pledge is upheld by all of us and enjoyed by all of us.

This interview was edited for time and clarity.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

An assignment on the Trail of Tears has prompted debate about taking historical perspectives.

Helping young people understand the causes and effects of historical events is a formidable task for any educator. History isn't just "what happened and when." There's also a "why," "how" and "who" in every historical happening, and quality history education helps students explore those questions.

Sometimes, however, that exploration can go off the rails.

Most people would agree that understanding different perspectives is an important part of learning history, but there are more and less problematic ways of helping students gain that understanding. We've seen some of the more problematic methods pop up in school assignments before, from asking students to pick cotton like slaves to listing the pros and cons of slavery.

Now an assignment from a school in Georgia is making the rounds, with people calling out issues with the perspective it asked students to take.

Keep Reading Show less
More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less