Big congratulations to the Loomio team, who have met their Crowdfunding target goal + now being 106% funded hours in advance of the end of their campaign! And big thanks to their many generous supporters! If you're reading this now, and still want to participate in this worthy venture, some great things available for donors including obtaining the software early, limited edition artworks, technical support, etc. You can still contribute at https://love.loomio.org/real-democracy-needs-to-include-everyone and find out more about Loomio at https://www.loomio.org/
The great American writer Amiri Baraka died this past January. I have been looking at a lot of material online and thank goodness there is a lot! Baraka was an immensely significant figure in manifold ways: music historian, Beat colleague and publisher, poet, Black Nationalist, Communist, activist, founding member of the Black Arts Movement, and incisive critic and speaker. Despite this (and to a degree because of this) he hasn't always been recognized as widely, because of his allegiance to "subversive" ideas and challenging notions. Baraka's writings are vivid and lively on the page and they will stand, but he was an engaging persona as an interviewee, lecturer, performer so I thought I would collect some links. Democracy Now held an informative panel discussion on Baraka's legacy; and the Hammer Museum hosted a lively conversation between Baraka and his daughter the art historian and curator Kellie Jones; some other interesting talks include a 2011 lecture at the University of Virginia; and a 2008 reading/discussion at the University of Minnesota. He read his poetry on HBO's Def Poetry Jam and heaps of vintage audio on MP3 is posted on ubuweb: sound. Just a start....
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a fascinating chronological collage of 16mm footage originally shot for Swedish television, but left dormant until the director Göran Hugo Olsson reassembled the material as a “Documentary in 9 Chapters” which “does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement, but to show how it was perceived by some Swedish filmmakers.” The film incorporates a funk music soundtrack and new voiceover materials interspersed throughout by Erykah Badu, Robin Kelley, Talib Kweli, Abiodun Oyewole, Harry Belafonte, and Angela Davis, among others. Disarming and intense, it becomes a haunting visual evocation of meaningful responses to a turbulent historical period. A must see.
The great one-man folk music institution Pete Seeger died this past Monday at the ripe young age of 94. He was a powerfully significant individual in American culture, both in terms of his ideas regarding music and his lifelong dedication to progressive politics and activism. He was a friend of such musicians as Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and in his group the Weavers was a pre-Rock and Roll pop star with recordings such as Goodnight Irene. He was blacklisted from broadcast media in the US from the 1950s well into the late-1960s due to his refusal to testify before Congress, to whom he stated: "I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this." Nevertheless his concerts remained popular and he appeared until the end of his life at rallies, protests, and benefits for countless causes. I saw him perform twice, once at a miniscule protest against Pinochet's Chilean government, and once at a considerably larger "No Nukes" rally (both in Washington DC in the late 1980s). He was a stalwart civil rights supporter, popularized the banjo, wrote the song "Turn Turn Turn" which in The Byrds' version would become a classic rock staple, and in the 1960s, Seeger traveled widely, filming all manner of "world music" decades before the term was widely used (and abused). More recently Bruce Springsteen won a Grammy for one of his best records We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006), inspired by Seeger's arrangements of traditional folk songs and ballads. You can read his obituary here, and the Pete Seeger Appreciation Page has a vast amount of material as well. I'm posting below a link to a very good 2007 documentary on Seeger's life and work. In the intro, Bob Dylan states: "Pete Seeger, he had this amazing ability to look at a group of people and make them all sing parts of the song. You know, make an orchestration out of a simple little song with everyone in the audience singing. Whether you wanted to or not you found yourself singing a part! ... and it would be beautiful." Rest in peace, Pete.
My book review of the catalogue on the Wellington Media Collective published last year by Victoria University Press, subsequent to a major exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery has just been posted on EyeContact. As I stated in my introductory paragraph:
"While reading the richly detailed and illustrated retrospective compilation of the Wellington Media Collective‘s activist graphics, mainly consisting of screen-printed posters, handbills, and flyers, I recalled George Orwell’s statement that “all art is propaganda” along with the aphorism of Marshall McLuhan that “art is anything you can get away with.” Both of these came to mind as for two decades it seems that the Collective embodied the lively and irreverent spirit of both these rather tendentious but rousing claims...."
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the feminist Russian activist collective Pussy Riot were released from prison "early" just before Christmas. Their unjust imprisonment for public performances protesting the actions of the Russian government have gained much international attention especially via a widely screened documentary on their work. You can see pictures of them taken after their release here (courtesy Seattle Post Intelligencer) and I've posted the trailer for the must-see film below. (note: if in NZ the good folks at AroVideo just obtained a coupla rental copies.) You also can read an article from Slate.com on their decision to work on drawing attention to the plight of those imprisoned in Russia.