End of Year Letter

12/12/2017 12:46 PM | Hali Hammer

(If you want to see photos, email me at halih@yahoo.com and I'll send them to you).

Dear Friends, Family and “Family”,

This may have been the strangest year of my life. While personally things are fine, I feel like a dark cloud passes over my head a few times a day because of the situation in Washington. I try not to let it affect my life, but it’s always there. Randy calls it Continuing Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The flip side is that people who were never active politically have realized that inaction can cause negative reaction and are now getting involved; I truly feel that hope is ahead. I keep thinking about how when you get really ill, then feel better, you feel SO much better! I’m looking forward to us all feeling so much better, though we’ll have to put up with a lot for quite a while longer. With work, we can hopefully get more progressive Democrats into the House and Senate, but they also have to earn their votes.

Of course, this state of affairs has forced me to do even more than usual politically. I’ve joined the Wellstone Club (very progressive Democrats), worked on HB562 for Single Payer in CA (on hold right now in the legislature), tabled for our progressive City Council candidate, Kate Harrison, who won and is making an impact, and I’m also a member of the Berkeley Gray Panthers and the Berkeley Progressive Alliance. My favorite action takes place in front of the Paramount Theater – we register newly inducted U.S. Citizens to vote after they’ve taken their Oath of Citizenship while they are waiting in line to get their passports. It really makes me feel like I’m doing something right when they fill out their voter registration cards. Action is so necessary now – anything you can do, any small bit, is so important.

Occupella has been very busy this year, playing at the Tax the Rich Rally every Monday (in its 6th year!), at BART stations to sing and pass out information about Black Lives Matter/Stand With the Vulnerable, at rallies to save Social Security, to divest from banks whose money goes to Keystone Pipeline, for SURJ (Stand Up for Racial Justice), for Indivisible Berkeley and the People’s Climate Mobilization. We sang as people passed by at the Women’s March in Oakland the day after Inauguration Day, starting at noon and ending at 2:15 when the last of the 100,000 at the march finally passed by. I sang with tears in my eyes, seeing how many people were involved. Millions marched around the world. We are not alone.

Most of the groups I play with have had only had a few gigs each over the past year: Jump-In at Rossmoor, The ReSisters for “World Beyond War” at the SF Main Library (Daniel Ellsberg from the Pentagon Papers was one of the speakers) and of course Hali Hammer & Friends (Randy Berge and Paul Herzoff). The Alouettes just get together for dinner and music. Darn Good Roots (led by Sheila G) played gigs at Campovida Winery (one a benefit for fire victims) and Spasso’s, both in Oakland. I still play every other month at Garfield Nursing Home with Reach Out, and every so often go to other nursing homes in the area. I took part in the annual War Resister’s event and the Judi Bari memorial. A group of us go once a month to sing with Julie Bidou at her nursing home – she’ll be 100 in January, but even with severe cognitive issues, she remembers the words to the songs we sing together.

What would we do without the SF Folk Music Club?! We started the year at Camp Harmony in Santa Rosa, but the 2017 New Year’s camp is moving to Aptos since Camp Newman sustained major damage in the spate of Northern CA wildfires. We camped at Mark Levy’s in Boulder Creek for Memorial Day. The 4th of July and Labor Day campouts were also in Boulder Creek, at the Boy Scout Camp. At the SF Free Folk Festival I led a children’s song workshop, was part of the standing room only Occupella workshop, and performed with Hali Hammer & Friends. Randy and I are both on the El Cerrito Free Folk Festival organizing committee. Aside from running around doing whatever was needed that day, I played a set with Paul and Randy, performed with Paul for the Family Program, and ran the main stage sound for the last 3 acts. We also did some Festival radio promo on KPFA, playing live on Larry Kelp’s Sing Out! and Kevin Vance’s Across the Great Divide.  I also attend monthly board meetings as Vice President of the Club.

Randy and I have our monthly Pot Luck Jams first Sundays, and host the East Bay Pickin’ & Fiddlin’ every

October. We’ve also been hosting the Teton Tea Party (an old Berkeley music tradition) every few months.

We went to the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Laytonville, enjoyed local theater (including a great show about the Temptations at Berkeley Rep), attended an occasional Symphony and La Boheme at the SF Opera House. We saw Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Rodney Crowell and YoYo Ma, went to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Barbara Dane’s 90th Birthday gig. We played with Paul at our neighborhood block party (and I played for his). We’re rehearsing with Powell St. John and will be playing some gigs with him this year (he played with Janis Joplin in Austin and wrote Bye Bye Baby which she recorded.) We made it to a few A’s games, and their fireworks shows are the best around! We took Amtrak to Robin & Kim Sturgeon’s in Ventura, and added Robin and his daughter Molly to some of the backup vocals for the CD with the miracle of modern technology. We also celebrated the 18th anniversary of when we re-met on July 17th.

I’m working on a new CD which will be called “Days of My Life” (the title song). I’ve also put up a few videos on You Tube: Tweetin’ Cheeto and two versions of We Will Rise Together with the help of TD Daniell (the original one about the Berkeley event that inspired the song and the other more national version I wrote after the Women’s March). I attended WoMaMu (Women Making Music) the weekend after my birthday in Healdsburg. I helped put on the People’s Park 48th Anniversary Celebration in April and played a set with Randy and Paul. My grandson Isaiah performed as well with his duo Bayb. And in a totally different vein, I enjoyed belting out show tunes at David Hartsough’s sing-along last month.

I’m now the editor of the Berkeley Retired Teacher’s Association (BRTA) newsletter, which comes out quarterly. It’s a lot of work for about a week or two at a time, but I’m very satisfied with the results and have been getting a great response from the teachers – someone said I “breathed new life” into the newsletter. I attended the CA RTA conference in LA and performed “We Will Rise Together” at its close. I just played at the BRTA Winter Luncheon. I still sub occasionally, but usually just once or twice a month.

With the help of Elly Faden, I set up the Progressive Majority Creative Network - a website for activist performers which can link to their website or be used as their website if they don’t have one. https://progressivemajoritycreativenetwork.wordpress.com/. I attended the People’s Music Network in MA where I passed out info about what we were doing. I also got to spend a few days in NY before the conference, visiting with Marlaina - my best friend since we’re 11 - and staying at my brother’s in Albany on the way back. I got home in time for Amaiya’s graduation from middle school.

As for family: Bonnie got a new job with Kaiser in San Ramon. Adam became the head coach for football at Las Lomas HS, where Amaiya goes. She’s a Freshman, but was accepted onto the Varsity Basketball team. Isaiah still lives with me, is working on his hiphop music and acted in and worked on an independent film that will hopefully be out soon. Quinten is a Senior at Cal Poly studying sports administration. His sister Keira is at Los Medanos College. Daizha still works in LasVegas. Khadejha got married in September on a beautiful day at Briones Park and is now Khadejha Diaz. She met her husband Ricky when they were working at Whole Foods. She’s now at Fieldworks Brewery in Berkeley so I get to see her more. Her daughter Aryvis is a pretty, chatty and precocious 3 year old who already knows scores of songs.

The rest of December will include several holiday parties and gigs including a caroling boat ride around Lake Merritt, our own caroling party on the 20th, John Adam’s new opera, and a trip to the De Young Museum to see the Maori exhibit (I’ll be in Australia and New Zealand next month so I’m really looking forward to it). Have a happy holiday season, hug your loved ones, stay positive and keep on keeping on!

 Love, Hali                                                  www.halihammer.com,    www.occupella.org

WE WILL RISE TOGETHER (Hali Hammer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UPwm0RUjeM

We will rise together, we’ll be wise together

We will watch the winter turn into the spring together

We’ll hold hands together, we will band together

We’ll breathe in and out as one and we will rise, rise, rise

Our hearts will pound as one and we will rise, rise, rise

Millions rose upon their feet as they marched into the street

To stir their souls and make their voices heard

In our cities large and small, young and old answer the call

To show the world the best side of America.     (CHORUS)

We must not yield to fear, we must keep our message clear

We must rise above the darkness to where our love lights beam

  • -          We must protect the rights of all within our sight

 Remember most of us are here because an immigrant had a dream   (CHORUS)

Now all across the country, folks are talking to each other

As we share the need for caring so that we can carry on

            We never will give in, so collectively we’ll win

            For the darkest night becomes the new light of a breaking dawn

We will rise together, we’ll be wise together

We will watch the winter turn into the spring together

We’ll hold hands together, we will band together

We’ll breathe in and out as one and we will rise, rise, rise

Our hearts will pound as one and we will rise, rise, rise

TWEETIN’ CHEETO    (Original “Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day, new words by Hali Hammer)


Tweedely, tweedley-dee..tweedely, deedely-deedely dee...(3x) Tweet, tweet..tweet, tweet.

He rants in the White House all night long,    Stewin’ and a spewin’ ‘bout what’s goin’ wrong.

His fingers fiddlin’ a message indiscreet        His mouth and his brain going tweet, tweet, tweet.

Tweetin’ Cheeto..(tweet, tweet, tweet.) Tweetin’ Cheeto (tweet, tweedeledy .)

Go Tweetin’ Cheeto, who knows what you’re gonna tweet tonight

Every paranoia, every sick decree,    Every little lie in his posting spree.

Alternative facts, he’s so gung-ho     Flapping his mouth, man, he’s gonna blow.

Tweetin’ Cheeto..(tweet, tweet, tweet.)  Tweetin’ Cheeto (tweet, tweedely-dee.)

Go Tweetin’ Cheeto, who knows what you’re gonna tweet tonight

: http://www.guitaretab.com/b/bobby-day

A crazy little message comes at 3am     Is he sleepwalking ‘cause it’s quite a gem

He’s not very steady, easy to cajole       Makes you wonder who is really in control


What’s to come,what unpredictable text?    Who could know what nutty thought is next

How will he leave the White House, what do you think?   In a straight jacket or off to the Clink

Tweetin’ Cheeto..(tweet, tweet, tweet.)  Tweetin’ Cheeto (tweet, tweedely-dee.)

Go Tweetin’ Cheeto, who knows what you’re gonna tweet tonight

Tweedely, tweedley-dee..tweedely, deedely-deedely dee...(3x) Tweet, tweet..tweet, tweet.


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