Where We Live: ‘You Can’t Kill the Spirit’

Pride Month

Portland musician Naomi "Little Bear" Morena wrote her famous song nearly 4 decades ago

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During this Pride Month, we celebrate a Portland musician whose song has been a protest anthem for nearly 40 years.

Naomi “Little Bear” Morena is a lesbian Mexican American charting the course of her life and her musical career. Morena wrote “Like a Mountain, You Can’t Kill the Spirit” more than four decades ago.

“It was meant to give me hope and ultimately ended up giving hope to many, many people around the world,” Morena said.

It was the anthem at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, England in 1982, which was a protest against nuclear cruise missiles stored there. The encampment lasted nearly two decades.

“At one point, there had been 30,000 women that had surrounded the entire missile base,” said Morena.

The song inspired people during hard times and political unrest.

“People marched to the Pentagon singing my song,” Morena said. “A woman was imprisoned in Nicaragua and her and her cellmates sang my song.”

Morena grew up poor in the barrios of Southern California and felt the sting of discrimination. Music opened up her world.

“It was very difficult for me to let go of some of those cultural restrictions that allow you to feel OK about being gay or being a lesbian,” Morena said.

But as her song proclaims: you can’t kill the spirit.

“I’m so happy that I can be a part of this as part of the pride celebration because that’s one thing I feel proud about,” she said.

Morena stepped away from music for about 20 years to raise her son but is now composing and recording once again.

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