People's Music Network

for Songs of Freedom and Struggle

2015 Summer Gathering New Freedom Song Challenge

FROM KIM AND REGGIE HARRIS: ON THE PMN “NEW FREEDOM SONG CHALLENGE”

Dear Fellow PMN Singers and Songwriters,We hope you are all still buzzing and excited by the marvelous exchange of energy, songs and ideas we all shared during our “snow anointed” PMN Winter Gathering in January 2015. (Much of the gathering was documented by video.)We’ve been thrilled to receive all the great feedback, from so many of you, regarding the ideas we shared in our keynote. (Listen to an MP3 of the keynote here – sorry the audio is not the best).Our travels, which included the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Jubilee, have only served to highlight what we know: Music Matters!!

Recent events in Selma, Birmingham, Ferguson, Oakland, Cleveland, New York City and beyond have demonstrated that NOW is a critical time to re-energize the use of cultural and musical influences in the efforts to engage and mobilize those who are at the forefront of the new freedom and justice movements.

This is why we “threw down” the New Freedom Song Challenge.

With that in mind, we look forward to the PMN Summer Gathering, June 5-7, as a great opportunity to unveil some new sing-able, accessible songs and to sharpen our song leading skills.

Movements need songs that speak to the heart AND the issue…songs that can be quickly learned… songs that can be integrated into use and then passed along from place to place as we step toward the challenge of networking, marching and organizing.

This is a THREE-PART CHALLENGE. We invite you to take part in any or all parts.

Gathering… Composing… Modifying.

  1. Gathering: Listening and learning to lead old and new songs for political themed community singing.
  2. Composing: Write new songs, suitable for organizing meetings, activist and protest actions, times of reflection (e.g., memorials to protest martyrs)
  3. Modifying: How might an existing song be modified for protest settings? Can it be sung paperless if only the chorus is used? If people know the chorus from radio play, how might it be utilized in activists settings without the more complicated verses? (e.g., “Glory”)

As you gather, write, and modify songs, we invite you to check out these articles by some amazing elder song-leaders and activists, which highlight some of the issues around how and why freedom songs work.

Essential Reading: Bernice Johnson Reagon, “How to Think of Freedom Songs

In-depth Reading: Robert Darden’s latest book, “Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement

Listen to some New Freedom Songs:

This movement song, “Hand In Hand” by a young person connected with the Black Lives Matter Movement in Minneapolis. And yes…if you like it, we encourage you to support her by downloading it for $1.

Prince Wrote “Baltimore“. It’s singable and playable.

The Peace Poet’s wrote “I can’t Breathe“, which has been sung on the front lines of many “Black Lives Matter” actions.

Greg Greenway gave his blessing for PMN members to sing and share his song “From There to Here” which was written in honor of Congressperson John Lewis. He asks only that you attribute it and that no one records it before it comes out on the next CD by Brother Sun, due later this year or early next.

Sincerely,

Kim and Reggie Harris
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Want to Share your Freedom Song?
Kim and Reggie Harris will be leading some sessions at the PMN Summer Gathering dedicated to sharing new Freedom Songs and testing out our song-leading skills with a supportive group. We encourage artists to come ready to share and receive songs, resources, and ideas for the whole PMN community.Following this year’s Summer Gathering, we’ll run an edition of the PMN Song of the Month related to the Freedom Song Challenge. Stay tuned.