Let’s face it, 2016 has not been the easiest year for this world. But one thing I am grateful for is our powerful movement of art and resistance, and all that it has brought us this year. It has set the stage for all that we will need as we move into 2017. In fact, we were recently featured as number 2 in a Huffington Post article list of 12 Freedom Fighting Bands to Get You Through the Trump Years. This is an incredible list of artists who I know and love.
As this year comes to a close, I wanted to acknowledge and share all the moments I have been so grateful for this year:
- We fought the TPP and won! From July through October we performed across the country on the Rock Against The TPP tour, a nationwide uprising and concert tour to stop the biggest corporate power grab in history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was organized by Fight for the Future and Firebrand Records, and featured prominent artists such as actress Evangeline Lilly, legendary guitarist Tom Morello, hip hop icons Talib Kweli and Dead Prez, comedians Hari Kondabolu and Eric Andre, Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, legendary punk band Anti-Flag, Danbert Nobacon of the UK sensation Chumbawamba, Grammy winning band La Santa Cecilia, ANTI records songwriter Jolie Holland, and many more grassroots artist family, all coming together to participate in the largest mobilization against the TPP in U.S. history. And the best news about it all was that we won! In November it was announced that the TPP was officially dead. Read this great article in the Guardian by Tom Morello, Evangeline Lilly, and Evan Greer. And watch this awesome video from the tour, with interviews with the artists.
- We performed and connected with some amazing artists and change makers. Listed in photo collage from left to right: Ani Difranco, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Rebel Diaz, Anne Feeney, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Underground System, Cristy Road, Hari Kondabolu, Onakeme Etaghene, Bonfire Madigan Shive, Evangeline Lilly, Amanda Palmer, The Peace Poets, Tom Morello, Anti-Flag, Son of Nun, Lia Rose, Ryan Harvey, Evan Greer, Yasmin Hernandez, Sihasin, Naima Penniman of Climbing PoeTree, Downtown Boys, Makana, Danbert Nobacan of Chumbawamba, and M-1 of Dead Prez.
- We released two music videos, receiving widespread critical acclaim. The first music video we released, “Freedom”, was a song challenging mass incarceration and state violence. The video received lots of media attention including Mic.com, Latina Magazine, The Source, Bitch Magazine and Feministing.com (check out the full list with links here), and was described as a new Black Lives Matter anthem. It was also featured in the Workers Unite! Film Festival in New York City.
Our second music video, “And We Walk”, was filmed in New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Albany, New York, and was featured in Yes! Magazine.
- We did two powerful spring tours on each coast of the U.S. In April we hit up several cities on the east coast with poet Michael Reyes on the Freedom Tour, a tour we organized to raise awareness about political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera and Mumia Abu-Jamal. And in May we joined forces once again with the amazing Evan Greer to play several LGBTQ community shows on the Break the Chains Pacific Northwest tour.
- We performed at several important events calling for justice and healing. 2016 was a whirlwind of emotion as we faced innumerable tragedies and took the streets in prayer and in protest. I am grateful for the opportunities to lend my voice to this powerful work. Photo collage from left to right: BLM Upstate NY vigil in the wake of Orlando shooting, protest against Trump; demonstration calling for justice for the murder of prisoner Samuel Harrell; protest against oil trains in Albany, NY; Pride Center vigil in the wake of Orlando shooting; re-burial of enslaved African ancestors in Albany, NY.
- I was given the Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award by Citizen Action. On October 20th of this year I was honored at 24th Annual Jim Perry Progressive Leadership alongside four other amazing community change makers:Dr. Alice Green, The Center for Law and Justice, Patricia Cumo, CWA, Mark Emanatian, CDALF, Becky Meier and Robert Connors, Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline. The Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Awards are named in honor of Jim Perry, a founding member of Capital District Citizen Action.
- Our music was featured on Democracy Now! four times this year. Our music video “Freedom” was first played on DN in January (at 52:51). Then in April DN covered the rally for Samuel Harrell, and the segment ended with our performance of “Prison Break”. “And We Walk” was played in August (at 42:35) as they opened a segment interviewing actress Emma Thompson about her work to support efforts against the oil industry blasting the Arctic. And on December 28th DN played “And We Walk” again (at 34:28). I had the opportunity to thank Amy Goodman in person at Democracy Now’s 20th Anniversary event in New York City.
- The story of my music career was turned into a comic. Illustrator Ira Marks published Creative Everyday a resource for kids, parents and teachers who wants to know what it’s like to work in a creative industry. Click here to read, download or order this amazing comic book for free.
- We offered workshops at several amazing colleges and community centers across the country. One of my greatest joys in this work is getting to connect one on one with folks in our interactive workshops. This year allowed to connect with some beautiful people. Listed in the photo collage below from right to left: Raizes Collective, Santa Rosa, CA; Willie Mae Rock N Roll Camp For Girls, NY, NY; Adirondack College, Adirondack, NY; Latina American and Caribbean Studies Program Conference, Binghamton University, NY; The Sanctuary For Independent Media, Troy, NY; URI SAGE event, University of Rhode Island.
- I was featured in the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar. For June, you’ll see a conversation between me, Naomi Jaffe, and Sophia Smart about our intergenerational organizing experiences in Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration. The calendar is a fundraising and educational project between organizers in Montreal, Toronto and New York and U.S. political prisoners Robert Seth Hayes, Herman Bell and David Gilbert. Purchase a copy at: http://certaindays.org
May the art and resistance in 2016 keep gathering momentum for the years to come!