Pete Seeger, legend, dies at 94

It would be remiss of us not to mention the passing of Pete Seeger, legendary singer / songwriter and activist on so many causes.  Pete passed away in hospital in his native New York on Monday morning aged 94 years.

Born in 1919 while Mother Jones was busy fighting to unionise steel workers in Pennsylvania,   one can easily see the influence she and others such as Joe Hill had on Pete Seeger.  His radical but deeply religious parents were also seminal influences on Seeger.   From an early age his life was steeped in music and activism.

The life and career of Pete Seeger has been chronicled elsewhere.  His death made worldwide news with praise heaped on him from all quarters, including those of whom he was deeply critical.

From the Almanac Singers to the Weavers and a lengthy career, Seeger went through almost every genre of music but folk was his mainstay.  He was never afraid to take on the powerful, whether it was facing up to police dogs in Alabama in the struggle for civil rights or the cynical witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “Unamerican Activities Commission”.    Still active until a short time before his death, Seeger’s name and legacy will go on.

For more on Pete’s long life and career read this tribute from Rolling Stone magazine: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pete-seeger-folk-legend-dead-at-94-20140128

Si Kahn to play at Cork Festival

Si Kahn

Si Kahn

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce that Si Kahn, singer, songwriter, writer, community organiser, union activist and environmental campaigner is coming to Cork for the 2014 Spirit of Mother Festival.

Si has been an active supporter of the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork since it began in 2012 and will perform his sole Irish concert at this year’s event.

The concert will take place at the Firkin Crane centre on Thursday 31st July at 8.30.

Background.

Si was born in 1944 and was greatly influenced by the Civil Rights movement. He began his organising career in 1965 in Arkansas with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the student wing of the Civil Rights movement.

During the 1970’s, he worked with the United Mineworkers of America in the Brookside Strike in Harlan County, Kentucky, and was an area director of the J.P. Stevens campaign for the ACTWU in Roanoke Rapids in North Carolina. These historic labour struggles are portrayed in the movies Harlan County USA and Norma Rae.

 

Aragon Mill 

 

In the early 70’s he spent a few days in Aragon, Georgia where a textile mill had closed down putting about 700 people out of work. He wrote the folk classic Aragon Mill which is a haunting song of quiet despair after the closure of the local mill.

“And the only tune I hear

Is the sound of the wind

As it blows through the town,

Weave and spin, weave and spin”

“There’s no children at all

In the narrow empty streets

Now the looms have all gone

It’s so quiet I can’t sleep”

Aragon Mill was included in “New Wood”, Si’s first album. It has been recorded by Planxty, Hazel Dickens, Hans Theessink and many others. The Furey Brothers recorded it as Belfast Mill and there is a version called Douglas Mill.

Si’s songs have been recorded by many of artists including Dolores Keane, Eleanor Shanley, Dick Gaughan, June Tabor, Peggy Seeger, the Dublin City Ramblers and Kathy Mattea.

Si has toured all over Europe, Canada and North America. He has released 14 albums of original songs, a CD of original songs for children, “Good Times and Bedtimes”: a collection of traditional labour, civil rights and women’s songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp.

In 1980, Si founded Grassroots Leadership, a Southern-based national progressive organisation, and he served as its Executive Director for 30 years, retiring on May Day 2010. For the past 13 years, Grassroots Leadership has worked to oppose privatisation and to defend the public sector.

He is currently very involved with a campaign to stop what would be the world’s largest open pit mine in Alaska and by doing so to save Bristol Bay, one of the greatest remaining wild fisheries in the world. He released an album in 2013 entitled “Bristol Bay” and is active with Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay. He is also campaigning against mountaintop removal in West Virginia.

Si is also an accomplished author. In 2010 he wrote “Creative Community Organising: A guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists and Quiet Lovers of Justice (Berrett-Koehler 2010).

An earlier book in 2006 “The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatisation Threatens Democracy” was co-authored with feminist philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, his long term partner and spouse. Two earlier widely used organizing handbooks, “How People Get Power” and “Organising: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders”, have sold over 80,000 copies.

“Si Kahn is one of the best….a solid thinker who is able to humanize the political……I hope he lives to be 120” is longstanding friend and fellow songwriter’s Pete Seeger’s view of Si.

Rosanne Cash stated “I put Si in the same category as Woody Guthrie, as Pete Seeger and in a strange way my Dad, who shared his righteous sense of humanity and his love of the meek who he truly believed would inherit the earth.”

Si has recently completed a musical about Mother Jones, “Mother Jones in Heaven” and hopes to perform it some day in Cork. With his permission some of the songs from this musical were originally performed at the inaugural Mother Jones Festival in 2012 by Jim Williamson. The dream of the Cork Mother Jones Committee is to see the full musical, “Mother Jones in Heaven” performed in Cork, the birthplace of Mary Harris.

We are indeed very honoured to welcome Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich to Cork for the 2014 festival. 

2014 Festival line-up begins to take shape

JimGreen(Color)-FINAL

It’s that time of year again folks and the Cork Mother Jones committee are busy preparing the final line-up of speakers and performers for the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which will take-in an extended programme from Sunday, 27th July to Friday, 1st August 2014 as part of Cork City’s official Mother Jones Week.

Over the coming weeks we will introduce our performers to give a taste of what’s to come.   We start with Jim Green who will deliver the 3rd Annual “Mother Jones Lecture” at the Firkin Crane, Shandon at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 29th January.

Professor James Green is a writer, teacher and activist. He is professor of History at the University of Massachusetts where he founded the Labour Studies BA degree program and the Labour Resource Centre; he currently teaches history and directs the public history graduate program. He has had a long and distinguished career in ensuring that the history of social movements such as trade unions, civil rights groups and community empowerment groups is detailed and their stories told.

He was born in Oak Park, Illinois and raised in Carpentersville, a small factory town outside of Chicago and educated at Northwestern University.

He is the author of five history books on labour and protest movements in America and he is working on the story of Mother Jones the West Virginia mine wars which will be published by Grove Atlantic. The book will be the basis of a television documentary film for the Public Broadcasting System to air as part of the award-winning American Experience series. He also teaches courses on the history of Boston, working class history and a course on Social Justice.

Originally inspired by John F Kennedy and later by Martin Luther King, Jim Green admired politicians such as senators Paul Douglas, Eugene McCarthy (he worked for his Primary campaign) and George McGovern.

He earned a PhD in history from Yale University in 1972.He had played an active part in the student and anti-war movements in the late 60s and early 70s. He had developed an interest in social movements and sought ways through his scholarship to bring their stories to a wider public.

In his website jamesgreenworks.com, Jim describes how “four experiences offered me stimulating opportunities to practice history in the world outside the academy: first, living and working in a contested neighbourhood, Boston’s South End; second, participating in the Radical America editorial collective; third, teaching in England and discovering the History Workshop movement and four, joining the faculty at the College of Public and Community Service, located within the University of Massachusetts Boston.”

During the 1980s he became very active in the trade union movement where he taught courses for union members such as the United Mine Workers of America as well as lecturing at the Harvard Trade Union program. He helped to make a video with film maker Barbara Kopple of the Pittston Strike in Appalachia in 1989.

In 1995-96 he was a historical consultant to the documentary film “The fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers” produced by Paradigm Productions, San Francisco.

In 1998 he was selected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and taught at the University of Genoa in Italy. One result of this was the publication of his book “Taking History to Heart” in 2000 which he describes as “a personal and political reflection on making movement history”

Jim has held lectureships at Warwick University in England and at Harvard University, where he has taught in the Trade Union Program since 1987. He has published widely in many international academic journals. In 2002 he was elected president of the Labour and Working Class History Association, and in 2004 he was awarded a fellowship by the Bogilasco Foundation to study and write at the Liguria Study Centre in Italy. In 2009, the Sidney Hillman Foundation presented Professor Green with the Sol Stetin Prize for his accomplishments in the field of labour and working-class history.

He has also had a particular interest in the events at Ludlow in Colorado on 20th April 1914 when children, women and men were massacred and which has become infamous in American labour history. His article entitled “Crime Against Memory at Ludlow” available on his website is particularly powerful.

A further book “Death at the Haymarket” in March 2006 allowed Jim to tell the epic story of the events that took place in Chicago on 1st May 1886, events which had a huge influence on generations of labour and trade union activists around the world including Mary Harris. 20,000 copies of this have been sold and it has been adopted in many college courses.

With almost 50 years of active contribution to the telling and documenting of the history of working class and social movements behind him, Jim is a very welcome and worthy contributor to the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Illinois to get new Mother Jones museum

The town of Mount Olive, Illinois is the resting place of Mother Jones, born Mary Harris in Cork, Ireland in 1837.  Mount Olive and surrounding areas of Illinois were devastated by a tornado in May 2013 and major damage was done to homes and public buildings. This included Mount Olive City Hall which is to be replaced.  The good news for followers of Mother Jones is that beside the new City Hall is to be a brand new museum dedicated to Mother Jones.    The story featured in the Illinois State Register-Journal, a local newspaper on 29th December and the story has now been picked up by the Cork Evening Echo.

You can read the article in the Illinois State Register Journal here and click the photo to read the Evening Echo article. http://www.sj-r.com/article/20131229/NEWS/131229617/0/SEARCH/?tag=2

Image