Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Night With Pete Seeger and 40 Friends and a Sense of Activism

The theme I got out of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration last Sunday was that activism is not dead. There is so much to write about, especially Springsteen's amazing speech capturing the essence of Seeger, that I can't really write about any of it. Suffice to say 4 hours with Arlo Guthrie, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Roger McGuinn, Emmylou Harris and Bruce Springsteen and so many others, makes for an amazing evening. I'm not much of a music person and my one regret was that we weren't sitting with our friends who have an in depth knowledge of music and could have guided us through the massive list of performers. It was only after the concert on the way home that we got so many interesting insights. Well, maybe for Pete's 100th.

The NY Times review is here. Naturally it deals only with the music, ignoring the political content. The review makes it seem it was about Obama, but a renewed spirit of activism is fueled as much by the reaction to George Bush as by Obama.

The Garden was filled with a sense of activism. The Seeger concert was the middle event in 3 days of activism, all of which I'll go into further details at other times.

On Saturday, I joined a dozen people at the 2nd session of Teachers Unite teacher activism course. Many of them were young teachers who are anxious to go beyond the classroom in helping create social change. It is good to see they understand the need to focus on making the 800 ground gorilla, the UFT, into a progressive force for change. They are seeing through Weingarten's phony rhetoric that she is a reformer because she supports charter schools and the modification of teacher rights. Some of them are considering running for chapter leader and we are holding an information session for them on May 18.

On Monday, the charter school conference at PACE sponsored by the newly formed Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) of which ICE and Ed Notes are part of, was a resounding success as a mix of experienced and newer teachers turned out to hear a panel discuss the issue of what is really driving the charter school movement. I took video, so more on this event in a few days.

Today Gem meets to take things to the next step- our march up lower Manhattan to Tweed on May 14. We are not concerned about numbers as we are building the movement and expect more events to take place. But if you are a teacher or parent in NYC, you should consider joining us. This is not the UFT type top-down rally, but truly from the grass roots. So 50 or a 100 or 300 people organizing and taking part has more long term consequences. If you can't join us on the march, go directly to Tweed where we expect to meet up at around 5-5:30. More details to come.

Pete Seeger is a model for all of us. The events I took part in Saturday, Sunday, Monday and today, all relate to Pete's spirit. There can be no change if you stay on the sideline.

1 comment:

Ellen said...


Laurence Downes of the Times actually did an editorial on (at least some of) the political implications of the Pete Seeger birthday concert at, quoting Bruce Springstein's line that Mr. Seeger is “a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.”