Thursday, September 26, 2013

WI Legislature to Native Tribes: "No Recourse"

Those of you paying attention know that Wisconsin's Native American tribes are involved in a desperate struggle to preserve their land, water, and way of life. To call the proposed 21-mile open-pit iron ore mine genocidal is not hyperbole. Barbara With's excellent piece from February of this year lays out how severely the mine threatens the tribes. Quoting Mike Wiggins Jr., Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa:
Because we’re directly downstream and set to endure the impacts of this project, we view it as an imminent threat. This human threat really manifests itself in a form of genocide. Genocide.

Adding grievous insult to devastating injury, the Wisconsin legislature wants to rewrite the rules regarding school districts' use of Native American mascots, shifting the burden of proof from the schools districts to the complainants, whose number will need to be equivalent to at least 10 percent of the total student body. Also, appealed cases will now be heard by the Department of Administration rather than the Department of Public Instruction. Representative Steve Nass's spokesperson asserted that the DPI is biased in the matter. As if the DoA weren't.

Barbara E. Munson (Oneida), member of the Wisconsin "Indian" Mascot and Logo Taskforce, eloquently makes the case for how "Indian" mascots and nicknames are harmful to children.
Wisconsin Indian educators want school environments where all students can thrive, and we want accurate and authentic historical and contemporary information taught about all people. ... Research shows that "Indian" mascot, logo and name stereotyping is harmful and that it teaches students to stereotype groups of people other than the depicted "Indians."
DPI Secretary Tony Evers asserts that "essentially, [lawmakers are] saying to the American Indian population in Wisconsin, 'There is no recourse here.'" Which, of course, is the point.

In other words, Wisconsin's Native American tribes have no recourse when it comes to the land, the water, and their way of life, and they have no recourse when it comes to their own identity and heritage.

Thing is, essentially the same can be said for rest of the people of Wisconsin. When it comes to what Charles P. Pierce calls "Walker's fire-sale of state assets," when it comes to our civil liberties, the preservation of our natural resources, health care, public education, and our children's future, we have no recourse. Except, possibly, the ballot box.

But to counter the gerrymandering, the voter suppression, the misinformation, and the big money, we're going to have to shake off all that's left over from our post-recall lethargy and marshal our forces as never before. We have no other recourse.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Solidarity Sing Along: One Day More

Yesterday, Friday the 13th
Cymbals and accordion
(Photo by Lisa Wells)
though it was, was one freakin fantastic day. The Learning Curve, the Solidarity Sing Along's amazing pickup band, sported eight (count 'em, eight!) guitars, two trombones, a concertina, an accordion, two fiddles, two basses (one washtub, one ukelele), a tambourine, a drum, cymbals, a bell, an egg (maraca), a more conventional maraca, three vuvuzelas, a Bulgarian tambura fondly known as the "people's tambura," and—of course—a cowbell. We had a great crowd and the weather was Wisconsin at its September finest.

The people's tambura
(Photo by Leslie Amsterdam)
I was excited and a little nervous because I had a new song to share. On Thursday, a friend posted a video of Elaine Purkey's classic labor song "One Day More," which she wrote about the 1980s United Mine Workers struggle against Pittston Coal in West Virginia. "If the company holds out twenty years, we'll hold out one day more." I was so smitten with the song that before I could do anything else (including finishing a work project that was due the next day) I had to write Wisconsin-specific lyrics for it, which I promptly did. "If the governor holds out twenty years, we'll hold out one day more."

Washtub bass
(Photo by Lisa Wells)
I posted the brand-spankin-new lyrics online, got a couple of good suggestions for improvements from friends, and another friend volunteered to make photocopies of the new lyrics for the next day's sing along. There's nothing like being part of a talented, generous community for collaboration, inspiration, and solidarity. Miraculously enough, I even managed to get my work project done. By the time I left for the sing along I'd practiced it just barely enough to be able to teach it to everybody. Here's me practicing just before the sing along started:

Thanks to Judith Detert-Moriarty for the video!

Folks seemed to especially like the line about the bald spot.

Tom Kastle singing "Whose House?" (Photo by Lisa Wells)
It was wonderful to have singer, songwriter, and tall ship captain Tom Kastle back from his recent travels. Tom often plays banjo for us, but he brought his guitar because he wasn't sure we would have enough. Alas, there was nary a banjo to be seen or heard on Friday, but we were very glad to have Tom there with his guitar. He sang his excellent song "Whose House?" which by popular demand is going into the soon-to-be expanded SSA songbook, along with that brand-spankin-new one, "One Day More."

WI State Senator Mark Miller (red shirt, back row) with the Learning Curve
(Photo by Leslie Amsterdam)

More cowbell! (Photo by Lisa Wells)
The highlight of this already fabulous sing along was when my state senator, Mark Miller, showed up. On July 27, 2013, just a few days after the arrests began in the capitol, I sent him a letter asking for his support for the Solidarity Sing Along. I have written him on numerous occasions in the past and have always heard back from him fairly promptly, so I was disappointed not to have heard back from him. Until yesterday, when he joined us in person at the sing along and thanked us for the work we're doing to stand up for free speech in Wisconsin. He stood next to me before he addressed the crowd. When I first saw him, I said, "Oh, Mark! I'm so glad you're here!" And I clasped his hand tightly for several seconds. I think he knew it meant the world to me for him to be there expressing his support.

Photo by Lisa Wells
Here's what he said (video from Leslie Amsterdam here):
The right to petition, to seek redress from government, is a fundamental principle of any kind of a democratic society, and it is contradictory to that principle to have to seek permission [loud cheers from the crowd]. It’s only by the courage you've shown that the rest of us will be able to maintain that privilege of being able to freely and openly petition and seek redress. So I wanted to thank you. Thank you!
Photo by Lisa Wells
After Senator Miller spoke, we recited Article 1, section 4, of the Wisconsin State Constitution:
The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof shall never be abridged.
It was impressive to see how many people didn't have to look at the book. Funnily enough, lots of us have that bit memorized!

Maraca held high (Photo by Lisa Wells)
As if all that weren't enough, then from seemingly out of nowhere, local singer-songwriter Ken Lonnquist materializes, borrows a guitar, and we sing his song "Fourteen Senators," celebrating the Fab14, the senators who fled the state to delay the state legislature's vote on the dreadful 2011 budget-bill-bomb, for Senator Miller. "What's the score? People 14, Governor Walker zero!" It's nice to know that a few of the Fab14 (including Kathleen Vinehout, Jon Erpenbach, and Tim Cullen) are still standing with us, Chris Larson notwithstanding (pun intended).

Festive tambourine (Photo by Lisa Wells)
It's been a wild ride in Wisconsin since the days of the Fab14 and the Wisconsin Uprising. The first Solidarity Sing Along was held on March 11, 2011. Singing citizens began receiving citations from the Capitol Police about a year ago, and now arrests in the rotunda seem commonplace. In all that time, only one charge (for the heinous crime of sidewalk chalking!) has stuck, many have been dropped, and many are still winding their way through the slower-than-molasses courts. (The trial for my citation, for supposedly "conducting" on October 31, 2012, has been postponed about four times.)

In part, thanks to Chief Erwin and his heavy-handed crackdown, and mostly thanks to the stalwart people of Wisconsin, the Solidarity Sing Along is still going full tilt, every damn weekday. We are firmly resolved, joyously united, and altogether unintimidated. If—heaven forbid!—Walker holds out twenty years, we'll sing out one day more!

One Day More (Wisconsin Lyrics)

One Day More
Original lyrics by Elaine Purkey, new lyrics by Mary Ray Worley

One day more, one day more,
People let me tell you what we’re singing for:
We’re singing for our freedom, don’t you understand?
And we don’t need a permit, we just need your helping hand to...

Sing one day more, one day more,
If the governor holds out 20 years,
We’ll hold out one day more.
One day more, one day more,
If the governor holds out 20 years,
We’ll hold out one day more.

If Erwin thinks that he can win, he’ll get a big surprise,
With our civil rights at stake, we won’t compromise.
We’ll stand up to the Palace Guard, keep singing truth to power,
Raise our voice for justice every noon for an hour. And...

We don’t need permission, the constitution makes it clear,
We have the right to sing so the folks in power can hear.
This is the people’s house, and we’re here to take a stand
Because we are free people and we live in a free land. We’ll ...

Pirates in power are plundering our once progressive state,
Selling it out from under us to the lords of greed and hate,
But we’re not gonna let them, won’t take it lying down,
That’s a chair and not a throne, a bald spot and not a crown. We’ll ...

One day more, one day more,
People let me tell you what we’re singing for:
We’re singing for your freedom, don’t you understand?
And you don’t need a permit, you just need our helping hand to ...

Last chorus, last line:
Sing one day more, one day more,
If the governor holds out 20 years,
We’ll hold out one day more.
One day more, one day more,
If the governor holds out 20 years,
We’ll sing out one day more.

New lyrics © 2013 Mary Ray Worley