Posts Tagged ‘Pragmatic Political Action’
“Music hittin’ your heart because I know you got soul” Public Enemy, Fight the Power
Lately I have been in an old school state of mind. My best friend from college convinced me to go see the Brand New Heavies last weekend at the Birchmere. I am so glad I went. It gave me the chance to fall in love all over again with the group’s ability to fill a room with sound and bring voice to everything from the ups and downs of love to the power of following your dreams.
I think my favorite song by Brand New Heavies is Brother Sister. The lyrics move me:
There’s no need to feel you’re on your own
Just let your intuition guide you through
Take one step toward what you believe
Don’t be afraid to make your move …
Don’t be scared go out there
Be strong go out there
To the real things that matter
‘Cause no one’s gonna hand’ em to you
On a silver platter
I left the concert thinking – “boy I need to listen to live music more often.” It inspires me. The right song can make you want to move mountains, save the world, and fight for causes that you believe in. That’s what this blog is really about – music serving as the inspiration or catalyst for individuals and communities to bring about social change.
When I think about social anthems that really were about shaking people up and pushing them towards action, I always come back to Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. Watch Here
The words are so . . . . well, powerful
Fight the Power
As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
From the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange
A couple of days ago, I received an email about tickets for an upcoming Public Enemy benefit concert to benefit a homeless shelter in DC. The group has been on my mind ever since (and in my ears, much love to DJ Dredd for putting PE in the mix at Bhangraween). For my readers that grew up during the height of Public Enemy, you remember how large the group’s presence was. Love them or hate them, the group had the energy and power to light things on fire with their music. I am really excited to see them in DC using their music to call attention to a problem that really needs the full force of America to solve it – youth homelessness.
So let me take a minute to plug the concert and the cause –
“Public Enemy’s Number One - While Public Enemy have made ground-breaking hip-hop since their start over 20 years ago, they’ve also done their fair share of raising awareness for political and social causes. In an effort to help fight youth homelessness, Public Enemy bring their bass-heavy, manic live show to D.C. this November. Those who saw them at this year’s Virgin Mobile FreeFest know that Chuck D, Flavor Flav and crew still dominate socially and sonically. Virgin Mobile Presents PUBLIC ENEMY To Benefit The Sasha Bruce House, a homeless youth shelter. @ G.W. Lisner Auditorium • Washington, D.C. November 18 7pm Doors”
So for $25 (plus all those fees) you can Purchase Tickets and be part of the PE family again while supporting a great cause. The Sasha Bruce Youthwork is a cornerstone of youth services to at risk children in DC. The Sasha Bruce House is the only open access shelter for youth in D.C. For more information on the Sasha Bruce House and other SB Youthwork programs see www.sashabruce.org.
Fight the Power People,
“My daddy was more proud of the kids calling me the book lady than them calling me a star.” Dolly Parton
Everybody that knows me well knows that I adore Dolly Parton. Always have since I was a little girl and my mom would let me listen to her country music collection. It throws people off when I tell them that Dolly’s my role model. HHHM they say. Don’t you write about hip hop? Aren’t you well . … Black? Why yes I am, have been for a very long time. But good music and good examples know no racial or cultural boundaries. Growing up I loved Dolly because she appeared fearless. She spoke how she liked, wore what she liked and she had great big hair. Over the years I have grown to appreciate Dolly’s sense of community and commitment to improving the lives of children.
One of my favorite Dollyisms is: “It makes you feel better about your success if you don’t just hoard all that money. I always pray to God, ‘well, give me enough to share and enough to spare.’”
And that’s what she’s done. Dolly is a well known philanthropist dedicated to improving the quality of life “back home”. Providing jobs is one of the reasons why she placed her Dollywood theme park in the Smokey Mountains. “I knew Dollywood would be a great business for me, but I also knew it would generate a lot of money in that area and provide jobs. That’s true success-when everybody’s making money.”
Even though Dolly and her husband Carl Dean don’t have any children of their own, her dedication and love of children is clear. Perhaps one of Dolly’s most lasting contributions to the world is the founding of the Imagination Library in 1996 to encourage preschool children to love reading. Each month, the Imagination Library mails a brand new age appropriate book to every child under 5 in her home county – starting with The Little Engine that Could until the child receives Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come at age 5.
What I love about the Imagination Library is that Dolly took on providing books to children in one county and then the idea spread around the country and now is being replicated around the world. Now that’s Song-in-Action. Over 6 million books are expected to be distributed to children through the Imagination Library and its local affiliates in 2009. Communities that wish to provide books through the Imagination library first determine their geographic area (town, district, even a whole state) in which they wish to distribute the books. Then they establish their local affiliate, raise funds, and start helping kids love to read for a lifetime.
This blog post was inspired by my mother who turned me on to Dolly when I was little and gave me the great article “How Dolly Does it” by Meg Grant in AARP The Magazine from which I located the quotes above.
Sometimes it seems like good manners are hard to come by. Recently in the US, we have seen a spate of public figures act a fool for no good reason. When watching the news, I would think to myself, didn’t anyone teach Kanye West good etiquette or sit Joe Wilson down with Roberts Rules of Order? While standards of conduct differ around the world, there seems to be a call to action around civility.
Today – October 10, 2009 – The Washington Post featured a project in Iraq that exemplifies Song-in-Action. Karim Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, saw a way to link music and good manners as the country rebuilds. He created the Peace and Music Academy to “study music, and more important, etiquette in a war-ravaged country that at least for now seems to have forgotten some of its manners.”*
In addition to music, the Academy covers manners & etiquette, including how to behave in different social situations, how to dress appropriately, and how to speak and carry oneself.
How important are good manners for the future of Iraq? Consider the words of these Iraqi citizens:
- Hussein Hammoudeh: “Survival has had to come first . . . We forgot all about good manners. It wasn’t easy what we had to go through.”*
- Azal Abdel-Naseer: “People here forgot how to treat each other after the war.”*
My favorite quote about the Academy comes from a blog by the TheCatalystPoet on Current.com:
“In a country full of war and hate, there is a lighthouse of hope shining in the dark seas of uncertainty and unrest. As most change, the youth is bringing this about. Iraqi youth meet in the former embassy to learn about music and better themselves for peace.”
If you would like to learn more about the Peace and Music Academy (also referred to as the Academy of Peace through Art) check out these posts: Current.com, Washington Post, BBC and Christian Science Monitor.
“You have a choice in life. You can choose a weapon, a Kalashnikov, or you can try a musical instrument” Karim Wasfi in “Iraq’s Academy of Peace and Politeness.”
* All quotes in this blog, unless otherwise indicated, are from “After Years of War, a New Decorum” by Washington Post Foreign Service writer Nada Bakri, 10/10/2009.
I was raised in Bowie, Md. Last week, my mom received a call from my high school voice teacher Mrs. G asking if we wanted to join her for a recital today. Mom and I love Mrs. G, we’ve adopted her years ago as an honorary grandmother. So when she called, we said sure we’ll be there, no questions asked. The event turned out to be such a blessing – not only did I get to hear great music, I was able to particpate in an example of Song-in-action. The recital, “Teachers Perform!” was organized by the Music Teachers Association of Bowie. It had a music community (the music teachers) and a cause (raising scholarship funds for students to take music lessons and collecting food for the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Fund).
If you would like to donate to either of these causes, check out their links above. The pantry is currently in need of school supplies, canned foods, and monetary contributions.
P.S. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
I have taught a class on the politics of popular music for almost ten years now – first to freshman at Duke University and most recently to graduate students in the Communications, Culture, and Technology program at Georgetown University. My favorite part of the course is the unit on Music as Political Action. I developed the unit based around Mark Mattern’s book Acting-in-Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action. Mark theorizes that there are three separate, but often overlapping types of music-as-politics or Acting in Concert: confrontational political action (ex. protest music), deliberative political action (i.e. debates/arguments/conversations around important issues) and pragmatic political action (i.e. doing something about it).
Mark’s work on pragmatic political action is the inspiration for this blog. He breaks the concept down as collaborative problem solving. In the case of music-related pragmatic political action, music communities work together to first draw attention to shared interests, problems, or concerns, and then organize to address them.
There are many examples of pragmatic political action within music communities. Mark’s examples include the organization of Cajuns to address “economic marginalization, ethnic stigma, and cultural assimilation.” Years ago in “From the margins to the mainstream: the political power of hip hop,” I wrote about movements like Stop the Violence (STV) which was aimed at discouraging black-on-black crime and Rap-the-Vote .
Since teaching the pragmatic political action concept in my music and politics classes, a thought kept nudging me. How can I improve on an already great concept? Song-in-Action is this attempt. Mark’s work is really community focused and that’s appropriate for his work. But I was struck by the idea that it only takes one person to make a difference. Think about it. If one person can take a stand and make a start, others will follow behind.
The Song-in-action blog will expand pragmatic political action to include the idea that a single song (or person, or dream) can serve as the foundation for community, political, or social change. It’s a work in progress; as the blog evolves let me know what you think. In later blogs, I plan to revisit how different groups within the hip-hop community join forces to become agents of social change. I also plan to highlight the country music community, pop artists, rock stars, music teachers, fans of all sorts, and much more.
P.S. If you know of an example of a single person or groups making a difference through music, email me or tweet me! I would love to write about it or offer the opportunity for you to guest-blog on Song-in-Action.