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What the Civil Rights Movement did for me
By the turn of the century the violence at some of the punk gigs had gotten to be just too scarry for me. I was over fifty years old by then and had lost my sense of indestructableness. I looked to find a kind of music to play that was a little more pacifist. I turned to folk music because I had always been a fan of those inspiring Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie songs and knowing about the protest element punk had in common with folk, the transition seemed logical. "This Machine Kills Fascists" was on my guitar back in 1986 when we were playing in Capitol Punishment.
It's a well-worn path: a lot of other punks have turned folkie over the years. Penelope Houston, lead singer of the Avengers was the first I knew of way back in the early 80s. Kevin Seconds from 7 Seconds has an acoustic album out, the lead singer of Bad Religion has released an album of folk music and the drummer from the Ramones has a trad-folk duo called Uncle Monk:
For the last several years I've been searching out folk music and I found this gem at the FCPL: Sing for Freedom - The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through it's songs on Smithsonian Folkways - http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=206
Link at the FCPL: http://bit.ly/zomNxt
Link to the album at Amazon: http://amzn.to/A7p7EA
And you can double-down that I'm gonna learn a couple of these songs and put 'em in my set.
This Sing for Freedom album is just so inspiring! Authentic recordings from the churches and rallies back in the days of the Civil Rights movement. I had heard several of these songs over the years but not from the freedom marchers that were actually there fighting for their constitutional rights, getting police dogs sicked on them, fire hoses turned on them and even murdered just because they refused to be second-class citizens no more.
"Now, you know what happened last Easter Sunday.... they brought the dogs out.... turned them a'loose on our people." - Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Me and mine never endured such treatment, but it wasn't easy, either. My parent's family came out here to California from the Carolinas in the late 40s. They were like a scene from "The Grapes of Wrath". Dirt poor, they picked fruit and sold fruit and tried to find a better life. And like Woody Guthrie said, it wasn't much better out here than it was back there.
But, when Martin Luther King Jr. won civil rights for blacks, he won it for us poor white's, too. And more importantly, every citizen has benefitted from this advancement of civil rights. When the government stepped in and said you can't treat these people this way I learned to look to the government and the good people there to help me out and protect me from criminals who would do me harm. And for someone to demonize that and tell me not to look to government for justice and equailty makes me a little resentful and suspicious.
This Monday, January 16, 2012 is the march in downtown Fresno at 10am as it is every year. I went for the first time in 2009 and I'll never forget it. It's easy. Just show up and walk with the civil rights leaders of Fresno. It'll make you feel good.
Here's the video I shot of the MLK Day march back in 2009: