Social movements are stronger when they sing. That’s a lesson that has been amply demonstrated throughout history, and it’s one that I have learned personally in working to develop trainings for activists over the past decade and a half. In Momentum, a training program that I co-founded and that many other trainers and organizers have built over the last seven years, song culture is not something we included at the start. And yet, it has since become so indispensable that the trainers I know would never imagine doing without it again. The person who taught me the most as I came to appreciate the impact that song can have on movement culture is Stephen Brackett, an activist and hip-hop MC known on stage as Brer Rabbit.
On March 15, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the US government agency that funds arts projects, released a report revealing a portion of the financial and job losses sustained by artists and arts organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. The NEA study points out that between 2019 and 2020 the US “arts economy” contracted at almost twice the rate of the economy as a whole. “Arts and cultural production fell by 6.4 percent when adjusted for inflation, compared with a 3.4 [percent] decline in the overall economy.” While the arts and culture sector remained “a major contributor to the economy,” according to the NEA, “certain arts industries saw enormous declines.” The performing arts were the most affected, experiencing devastating losses in 2020 in particular.
Concert operators may like Amazon's palm recognition system, but some performers and activists are less than thrilled. A group of 200 artists and 30 rights groups has penned an open letter demanding the Red Rocks amphitheater, its ticketing provider AXS and AEG (AXS' parent company) "immediately cancel" contracts to use Amazon One scanning at any venue. They also want the firms to ban all biometric surveillance at those events.
The new MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip-hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know — including intelligence, lobby and special-interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. Hollywood is not exactly known for being a hotbed of anti-war, anti-imperialist activism. Indeed, so close is the relationship between the national security state and Tinseltown that the Department of Defense casually tweeted out on Oscar Night that it works closely with its “partners” in Hollywood to ensure the military is presented in a positive light.
During May’s uprising in Palestine against the latest aggression of the apartheid Israeli state, a few students at the Piet Zwart Institute (PZI) in Rotterdam wanted to express their solidarity with the struggle. They hung a banner on the institute’s building that read: “STOP THE ETHNIC CLEANSING; #SaveSheikhJarrah; Free Palestine.” The action took place at a time when the vicious attacks on civilians in Gaza, the ultra-right-wing mob violence against Arabs in Israel and the forced evictions of the settler colonialist system in Jerusalem had resulted in a global show of solidarity. A few hours after the banner was put up, the board of Hogeschool Rotterdam hastily urged the dean of the institute to remove it.
This week, Clearing the FOG speaks with artist and activist Eleanor Goldfield about her new EP, "No Solo." This is her first solo production and it is her most personal and political piece. Goldfield talks about the struggles of artists during the pandemic as they have been left out of the rescue plans. She discusses the role of the arts, particularly in activism, and her involvement in direct action, mutual aid and supporting campaigns to save the forests. Goldfield is journalist, podcaster, documentarian, photographer and more. Her work, as well as her new music video, can be found at ArtKillingApathy.com.
Miwako Sakauchi stands in her studio and brushes spinning swirls on torn cardboard and drawing paper, using the five colors designated as symbols of the modern Olympiad. Titled ‘Vortex’, her paintings show the “anger, fear, sense of contradiction and state violence” over the residents evicted and the trees felled so enormous Olympic stadiums could be built, Sakauchi said. “I can’t think of it as a ‘festival of peace’ in this situation. It’s totally nonsensical.” The Japanese public mostly opposes holding the Tokyo Olympics next month during a pandemic, polls have shown, even though outward dissent such as protests has been small. One little-recognized outlet where people have expressed their frustration and fear over the Olympics has been art.
Over 16,000 artists have signed their names in support of a letter that condemns Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and denounces the country’s apartheid system. The letter also calls on other countries “to cut trade, economic and cultural relations” with Israel. Titled, “A Letter Against Apartheid,” the statement was written by six Palestinian artists, who have asked to remain anonymous. It was initially signed by hundreds of Palestinian artists including filmmakers Annemarie Jacir, Elia Suleiman, and Farah Nabulsi; visual artists Emily Jacir and Larissa Sansour; actress Hiam Abbass; musicians Kamilya Jubran and Sama’ Abdulhadi; and writers Elias Sanbar, Mohammed El-Kurd, Naomi Shihab Nye, Raja Shehadeh, Randa Jarrar, Suad Amiry, and Susan Abulhawa.
The Boston Ujima Project is a community-led organization with a mission of growing a people’s economy in Greater Boston, one that is controlled by the community with neighbors, workers, business owners, and investors all working together on a shared vision of collective work and responsibility. From Ujima’s citywide assembly “Old Roots, New Rules,” October 2018. The idea is to challenge poverty and develop local neighborhoods by organizing individual savings, businesses, and customers to grow their own wealth and meet their own needs. The word ujima is a Swahili word that refers to the Kwanzaa principle of collective wealth and responsibility.
On Tuesday, the music stopped for the Lyric Opera of Chicago just as the company began its 64th season. Orchestra members walked out on strike over a new proposed contract that would cut pay, reduce membership and performances, and cancel radio broadcasts. As a result of the strike, opera performances for the rest of the week have been canceled. Yet the music hasn’t stopped entirely: brass musicians took to the picket line with their instruments on Tuesday afternoon, playing tunes while performers and supporters marched outside the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago. Morale among the strikers has been “tremendous,” says Lewis Kirk, who has played bassoon in the orchestra for 31 years.
Over 100 musicians, artists, scholars, union members and activists, as well as 33 social justice organizations, have called on the Philadelphia Orchestra to cancel its planned June tour in Israel. In a March 21 letter, they explained that the orchestra’s trip is part of “the Israeli government’s Brand Israel propaganda strategy,” and called on the orchestra “not to lend your good name to covering up Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.” The Philadelphia Orchestra’s claim that their performance in Israel is “cultural diplomacy,” not “a political mission,” is undermined by their own admission that the trip is "in celebration of its [Israel’s] 70th anniversary”...
By Lorna Garano for Truthout. L.M. Bogad's artful activism blends the strategies of civil disobedience with heaping doses of Harpo Marx. As a professor and "tactical performer, Bogad says he is committed to "speaking mirth to power." In his long career he has staged outrageous theatrical spectacles to skewer governments, corporations and power brokers of all sorts. Bogad has worked with the Yes Men and with unions and human rights groups on picket lines and occupations around the world. He helped to create and train the spectacular Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) and to make the street theater organization known as Billionaires for Bush -- which calls for "Government of, by, and for the Corporations" -- a fixture at the protests that shadowed George W. Bush's time as president. All of this "serious play" is informed and inspired by constant research into the long history of creative resistance.
Chris Hedges for Truth Dig - America’s refusal to fund and sustain its intellectual and cultural heritage means it has lost touch with its past, obliterated its understanding of the present, crushed its capacity to transform itself through self-reflection and self-criticism, and descended into a deadening provincialism. Ignorance and illiteracy come with a cost. The obsequious worship of technology, hedonism and power comes with a cost. The primacy of emotion and spectacle over wisdom and rational thought comes with a cost. And we are paying the bill. The decades-long assault on the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy is largely complete. All the disciplines that once helped us interpret who we were as a people and our place in the world—history, theater, the study of foreign languages, music, journalism, philosophy, literature, religion and the arts—have been corrupted or relegated to the margins.
By Alexander Billet of In These Times. It’s been a year since the death of Michael Brown, a year since the rebellion in Ferguson, a year since the Black Lives Matter movement began to shift the conversation in just about every avenue of American life. That shift can be seen in politics (from#BowDownBernie to Donald Trump’s threats to beat up protesters) and economics (the Black Youth Project’s embrace of the Fight for 15). It can also be seen, perhaps most obviously, in our culture—and in music, in particular. Not surprisingly, hip-hop has led the way—not just through a predictable barrage of tweets by musicians and artists, but a sustained, meaningful wave of creativity and outspokenness engaging with a bold, sometimes chaotic movement.
By John Kelly in The Washington Post - Don’t call the musical instrument that was stolen last week from Jimmy Betts’s car a “violin.” It’s a fiddle. “Fiddles are meant to be out and about in the world,” Jimmy said. “Fiddles are meant to get down and dirty, creating music. Violins, generally, are meant to be kept in an orchestra pit.” John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. And Jimmy’s fiddle most definitely got around. Jimmy’s a community activist and climate-change protester, and he carried his fiddle with him on a 3,300-mile walk from California to Washington. It accompanied him as he trudged through the Mojave Desert. It was strapped to his back as he dodged thunderstorms in Colorado.