Sonia Sanchez Philadelphia’s First Poet Laureate

Phila. selects Sonia Sanchez as its first poet laureate

December 28, 2011|By John Timpane, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
  • Sonia Sanchez, 77, will be named Philadelphia's first poet laureate.
Sonia Sanchez, 77, will be named Philadelphia’s first poet laureate.

For years, people have called her the “unofficial poet laureate of Philadelphia.” Now it’s official.

Sonia Sanchez, 77, poet, teacher, mentor, activist, and revered Philadelphian, will be named the city’s first poet laureate by Mayor Nutter in an 11 a.m. ceremony Thursday at City Hall.

Sanchez is the author of at least 18 books of poetry, as well as plays and children’s books. She has long been one of the city’s most visible and active writers, readers, teachers, and activists for peace and social equality. Starting in January, she will serve for two years, with a stipend of $2,500 per year.

I’m New Here: How Music Helps Imagine The Past Year

Reflecting on the terrain of the last 12 months,  I’m bringing a lot of baggage and experience with me, but the terrain is really new.  I am new here.  For 20 years or so I’ve been saying something about the economic revolution taking place independently of anyone’s will.  About the new kind of automation that electronics, globalization and robotics has wrought.  About the irreconcilable conflict created between the growing number of people who cannot meet their survival needs within the system of profiteering called capitalism.  About how Wall Street bankers and politics have become intertwined into a system that requires force to maintain itself.  And then came last year, and all of these are on the agenda.  Each of the last twenty years has seemed to last 20 years;  and then, in one year, we seem to have experienced at least 20 years, things have moved so swiftly.  This mix on CD is an ode to that motion. After each selection where I could find a comparable you tube video, that selection is linked.

I’m New Here – Gil Scott-Heron (I’m New Here) – opens this mix because, as the year opened, anyone who had eyes and ears knew that, though we may have been around for over 60 years, we were on a different terrain.  And no matter how far wrong you may have gone, you can always turn around . . . (Gil Scott-Heron’s memoir, The Last Holiday, is scheduled to be released mid-January 2012).  He died May 27, 2011 and I can’t help imagining the serene smile in his voice (on his face in the video) comes from foreknowledge of this year’s events.

“I’m New Here”  — the official video is here:

Africa Must Wake Up – Nas & Damian Marley (Distant Relatives) – the “sleeping sons of Jacob,”  exhorted in this record, have in fact begun to awake.  The allusion could relate to the Jacob’s ladder theme, we are climbing Jacob’s ladder to freedom.

“Africa Must Wake Up” 

A Night in Tunisia – Charlie Parker (composed in 1942 by Dizzy Gillespie)  and it started in Tunisia.  To say that what started resulted from the self immolation of a disgruntled worker is the least insightful sense of what causality means.  In some sense, both Africa Must Wake Up (with its reference to “Yesterday we were Kings”) and this 70 year old jazz standard help us understand that the events of the last year were many years in the brewing.
“A Night In Tunisia” – Charley Parker Septet (live at Town Hall, 1945)

  • The next three tunes come from the streets of the cities of northern Africa, in the midst of what we have called the “Arab Spring”:

El Général ft. Mr. Shooma – Ta7ya Tounes  (Tunisia)

Wa2t El Thawrageya  – Revolution Records  (Egypt)
and an Egyptian Protester singing the same song on Wall Street:

7oukouma By Lotfi double Kanon DK (Algeria)

(I wanted to put Concierto de Aranjuez – Miles Davis/Gil Evans (Sketches of Spain) in here, in this spot, as a reference to Spain and the Indignados movement.  There was no space on the disc, and I had to cut other tunes for the same reason)

“Concierto de Aranjuez,”  Miles Davis Sextet (Sketches of Spain)


  • American enters the fray: What is wrong in America?

Who Will Survive in America –  Kanye West/Gil Scott-Heron (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy).  This was first recorded in 1970 as Commentary #1 By Gil Scott-Heron.  It was a biting poem that challenged the “rainbow left coalition” of the SDS, Black Panthers and Young Lords.  In the original piece, Gil suggests that SDS might consider digging a tunnel to China, probably at that time a reference to the growing connections between the New Left and the Chinese revolution, rather than conditions in America.  For this recording Kanye West sampled only part of the original, eliminating the section dealing with SDS.    A first description of what is wrong with America – “America is now Blood and Tears instead of Milk and Honey” — what the rest of the world is challenging us to deal with.  Kanye/Gil says “All I want is a home, a wife and a children and some food to feed them every night.”  When he concludes with the suggestion to “build a new route to China if they’ll have you,” he could be challenging the what became known as the 1% (and the 99%): Who Will survive?

“Comment #1” — original version (1970)

“Who Will Survive in America (Gil Scott-Heron sampled by Kanye West)

Love Me, I’m a Liberal – Phil Ochs (Phil Ochs in Concert) – This is a classic in the voice of what we now label as “Democrats.”  We’ve seen so many of them approaching the Occupiers attempting to either co-opt or to shame us.  They tell us they are really on our side; or they tell us that our real enemy is “the right.”  And yet year after year we have gotten sucker-punched by the same liberals who promise us the good life and then figure out out to take the goods.

“Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” Phil Ochs.

Rich Man’s World – Immortal Technique (The Martyr)– When the liberal is unable to convince us, then comes the voice of the 1% directly.  ‘I am the 1% . . .politicians in my pocket for a few hundred thousand G’s. . .”  If the language is explicit, the actions of the 1% are at least as explicit: there is nothing here that isn’t being done to us and around the world many times over.

“Rich Man’s World” — Immortal Technique — This video made especially for Occupy is extraordinary, one cut I actually prefer to the audio only CD.

No Pay Day – Vasti Jackson (Stimulus Man) –What is wrong with America is there is no pay day this Friday, and the bills mount up regardless.  Somebody tell me, “if there is a bailout for AT&T, why isn’t there a bailout for you and me.”  This is what has brought the many thousands into the street world wide, this feature of a system gone awry, that cannot make the pay days.

(No you tube version)

Housewife’s Prayer – Pistol Annies  (Hell on Wheels) — What brings many to the street is the end of the job, the end of money, the end of hopes and aspirations and food to feed the children, even, in this case, “my man can’t get no overtime.”  There is no other way . . . Thinking of setting my house on fire.  This could be suicide (as in “going off the deep end”), but it could also be destroying the edifice in order to build something new.

“Housewife’s Prayer” – Pistol Annies

Union Town –Tom Morello (Union Town) Morello, as “The Nightwatchman,” celebrates the battles in Wisconsin, which he locates directly in the strength of the union movement (historically as well as in Madison).  “This is a union town. . . if they come to strip our rights  away we’ll give ‘em hell every time.”  There is a history here that is important:  not that the union is the model for the future, or even the organized expression of the resistance.  The union was the organization established to fight the employer, and as such has always had to fight defensive battles.  How can we divide  “fairly” the spoils between me and “my capitalist”?  The unions of public workers are in a direct contest with the state, and consequently find themselves in a precarious position – one where the right to strike is even more grudgingly accepted by the governmental employer;  where the right to strike may even appear a political question.  And what happens when so much of the public sector is turned over to the private (here in Chicago the battleground is now education)?  How can we go beyond giving them hell every time?  This was composed for and performed in Madison and taken around the country, with Morello on the “Justice Tour.”

“Union Town” — Tom Morello   Use this one to check out some of the many other versions on youtube:

  • Occupy Tunes there are so many of them, many downloadable for free and/or visible on youtube.  This is  a small sample.  Plus there are so many artists who have responded to the movement (nationally and locally) that there is no way to encompass them.  Within the last few days I’ve actually gotten Rise Like Lions, a documentary of Occupy footage from around the country that is over an hour long, and introduced by this, the last lines from  “The Mask of Anarchy,” a poem by Shelley written  after a  massacre carried out by the British government at St. Peter’s Field,   Manchester, 1819 but not published until after Shelley’s death. Some 60,000 people, protesting poor economic conditions in the wake of the end of the Napoleonic wars as well as the lack of the right to vote were attacked by the British cavalry.  15 people were killed, 4-700 were injured in what was ironically referred to as the Battle of Peterloo, a sarcastic comparison to Waterloo:

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you –

Ye are many – they are few.

#OccupyWallStreet – (celestino Anthony?)

(No youtube)

Occupy Wall Street Anthem – DJ Mackboogaloo: this is a Chicago “House Music” version with a repeating background lyric:   “Public Enemy #1:  Wall Street.”

There are so many versions of an anthem, you have a lot to choose from, none of which comes even close to the kind of “house music” of the anthem on the CD.  Here are three: (1) Doodlebug of Digable Planet – (2) DJ Mackboogaloo’s house music accompaniment to Alex Jones “911 was an inside job” “End the Fed” video (includes a little occupy wall street snippet in the title) otherwise a conspiracy fantasy promo; (3) Called a HipHop Anthem, seems to plod too much to be in that genre:

Occupy (We the 99) – Jasiri X

We are the 99% – La Guardia

  • Where do we go from here?

Color – Mary J Blige (Soundtrack for the film Precious) – until she was about 30, Mary J Blige said, in introducing the song, it seemed to her that she saw in black and white;  and then, with a new vision of where she had been and what was possible, she could now see in color. That experience is what she brought to the process of writing this song for the film. Hence the exclamatory “I can see in color. I never knew I could.”  The old order cannot persist when the rulers cannot rule in the same way and when the ruled begin to envision other possibilities.  Many people are beginning to see in color.  Perhaps they are pastels and not quite vivid yet.  Perhaps they are emerging from what Saramago called blindness and seeing, or even blind while seeing.  The metaphors are many, the truth is deep.

“Color” Mary J Blige: this is a live version in which she explains why the name of the song; and this, in which the sound is much better, but the visuals are nowhere nearly as compelling:

Burn It Down — Los Lobos (Tin Can Trust) “I couldn’t say a word, it’s only dignity I heard, and once I go there is no coming back . . . I’ll burn it down.”   There is only one thing you can do with a system that strips your dignity.  In the metaphoric sense, burn it all down and start anew.  There is no going back. This is finally a move to a society where people care for each other rather than a system that thrives on commodities and profits.

“Burn It Down” — Los Lobos  performed at the Santa Monica studios of KCRW for “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”

I CAN see color.  I always knew I could.

Lew Rosenbaum, December 27, 2011


What I wanted to put on the disc, but what I couldn’t for space reasons”

Money Craving Blues Blind Alfred Reed        (no you tube)

We Are the Workers   Fisticuffs    (You’ll Not Take Us Alive)  (no you tube)

Our Generation (The Hope Of The World)     John Legend & The Roots  (Wake Up!)

Against All Odds    The Generators  (The Last of the Pariahs)  (no you tube, but this is You Against You from the same album

Bruce Springsteen Introduces “Somewhere in America”

The Boss agreed to write the introduction to 'Someplace Like America.' (photo: Public domain)
The Boss agreed to write the introduction to ‘Someplace Like America.’ (photo: Public domain)

go to original article

(reposted from Reader Supported News)

‘Someplace Like America’

By Bruce Springsteen, The Washington Post

20 December 11

View Photo Gallery – A new book gave Bruce Springsteen the chance to write his thoughts about three decades of tough times in our nation. The following are excepts of his foreword to “Someplace Like America,” by Washington Post photographer Michael Williamson and writer Dale Maharidge, both Pulitzer Prize winners.

Someplace Like America: Tales From the New Great Depression,” the latest collaboration from Columbia journalism professor Dale Maharidge and Post photographer Michael S. Williamson, tells the story of American industry and its workers – a story the two began to document more than 30 years ago and published in the mid-’80s in “Journey to Nowhere.” That work inspired Bruce Springsteen to compose the lyrics to “Youngstown” and “The New Timer.”

The Boss agreed to write the introduction to “Someplace Like America.” His words are adapted for publication here, along with some of Williamson’s pictures.

had completed most of the “Tom Joad” record when one night, some 15 years ago, unable to sleep, I pulled a book down off my living room shelf. I read it in one sitting, and I lay awake that night disturbed by its power and frightened by its implications. In the next week, I wrote “Youngstown” and “The New Timer.”

That book – “Journey to Nowhere,” by Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson – put real lives, names and faces on statistics we’d all been hearing about throughout the ’80s. People who all their lives had played by the rules, done the right thing and had come up empty, men and women whose work and sacrifice had built this country, who’d given their sons to its wars and then whose lives were marginalized or discarded. I lay awake that night thinking: What if the craft I’d learned was suddenly deemed obsolete, no longer needed? What would I do to take care of my family? What wouldn’t I do?

Without getting on a soapbox, these are the questions Maharidge and Williamson posed with their words and pictures. Men and women struggling to take care of their own in the most impossible conditions and still moving on, surviving.

As we tuck our children into bed at night, this is an America many of us fail to see, but it is a part of the country we live in, an increasing part. I believe a place and a people are judged not just by their accomplishments, but also by their compassion and sense of justice. In the future, that’s the frontier where we will all be tested.

How well we do will be the America we leave behind for our children and grandchildren.

Now, their new book, “Someplace Like America,” takes the measure of the tidal wave 30 years and more in coming, a wave that “Journey” first saw rolling, dark and angry, on the horizon line. It is the story of the deconstruction of the American dream, piece by piece, literally steel beam by steel beam, broken up and shipped out south, east and points unknown, told in the voices of those who’ve lived it. Here is the cost, in blood, treasure and spirit, that the post-industrialization of the United States has levied on its most loyal and forgotten citizens, the men and women who built the buildings we live in, laid the highways we drive on, made things and asked for nothing in return but a good day’s work and a decent living.

It tells of the political failure of our representatives to stem this tide (when not outright abetting it), of their failure to steer our economy in a direction that might serve the majority of hard-working American citizens and of their allowing of an entire social system to be hijacked into the service of the elite. The stories allow you to feel the pounding destruction of purpose, identity and meaning in American life, sucked out by a plutocracy determined to eke out its last drops of tribute, no matter what the human cost. And yet it is not a story of defeat. It also details the family ties, inner strength, faith and too-tough-to-die resilience that carry our people forward when all is aligned against them.

When you read about workers today, they are discussed mainly in terms of statistics (the unemployed), trade (the need to eliminate and offshore their jobs in the name of increased profit) and unions (usually depicted as a purely negative drag on the economy). In reality, the lives of American workers, as well as those of the unemployed and the homeless, make up a critically important cornerstone of our country’s story, past and present, and in that story, there is great honor.

Maharidge and Williamson have made the telling of that story their life’s work. They present these men, women and children in their full humanity. They give voice to their humor, frustration, rage, perseverance and love. They invite us into these stories to understand and allow us to experience the hard times and the commonality of experience that can still be found just beneath the surface of the modern news environment. In giving us back that feeling of universal connectedness, they create room for some optimism that we may still find our way back to higher ground as a country and as a people. As the folks whose voices sing off the book’s pages will tell you, it’s the only way forward.

Barbara Kingsolver Visits Her Local Occupy (Johnson City)

This comes from the Occupy Writers site, where many more writers can be found weighing in on the significance of the Occupy Movement.

by Barbara Kingsolver

When I went looking for Occupy Johnson City, Tennessee, the spiky profile of pickets and

from the Occupy Johnson City web site

placards struck my eye first, and then the people underneath them, but it did not look like a global uprising per se, just an orderly crowd in a parking lot. But a crowd, there’s a sight, in a town where people mostly drive-thru or drive on. I saw some American flags and a sign that said “God Hates Banks” and figured this had to be it. From across the street I heard one person say a few words at a time, repeated by the crowd in the unmistakable “from this day forward…” cadence of a wedding or a swearing-in, and again I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. As it turned out, the call and response was the people’s microphone, famously re-invented in New York to subvert the ban on amplifiers. Here in Tennessee it sounds like people taking vows. Repeat as one: men in UMW jackets, farmers in their town clothes, college kids, retired schoolteachers, young couples pushing strollers, the wilderness guide in a kilt, the homeless man with the sign in Latin. Really the temptation was to ask any given person, what is the story? Because there is one. This is Appalachia, home of the forested Cumberland and Wildwood Flower and NASCAR and 18% unemployment and bless your heart. Home of mountaintop removal, wherein coal companies find it profitable to tear the earth’s own flesh from its bones and leave the stunned, uprooted living to contemplate drinking poison, in the literal sense. Birthplace of the Blair Mountain rebellion, where underpaid labor ran up against big capital in an insurrection unlike any other this country has known. That was in 1921, and by many accounts the approval rating of big capital here has not improved. Just this month, a dispassionate Wall Street analysis ranked us the fifth-poorest region in the land. The people’s microphone in this context sounds like a tent revival. It took twice as long to say anything, but induced full participation, which is also very southern, come to think of it. At length we agreed to march ourselves down State of Franklin Street, and as we stretched across block after block of stopped traffic, people in their pickups and dinged-up station wagons and gas-conscious sedans honked and cheered to see our “tax greed” signs, and did not advise us to get a job or a haircut. The orthodox objections have grown ridiculous. Every system on earth has its limits. We have never been here before, not right here exactly, you and me together in the golden and gritty places all at once, on deadline, no fooling around this time, no longer walking politely around the dire colossus, the so-called American Way of consecrated corporate profits and crushed public compassion. There is another American way. This is the right place, we found it. On State of Franklin we yelled until our throats hurt that we were the 99% because that’s just it. We are.

Educational Links to Understand Capitalism and Crisis

This will be augmented from time to time as I gather more material.  It is intended to collect some connections to present to the Occupy movement. Here are some links in preparation for that educational work:

Communist Manifesto in cartoons. 8 min

Communist Manifesto lecture/powerpoint by Committees of Correspondence, and using a speech by Michael Moore at Madison on “the crisis.”  1 hr and 20 min

David Harvey – interview  Conversations with History (54 min)

David Harvey – RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism

David Harvey – Reclaiming the City  10 part lecture at Cornell  (total about 100 min)

part 1:

Part 2:

part 3

part 4

part 5

part 6

part 7

part 8

part 9

part 10

On crisis and a vision of the future

Conversation with History (Manuel Castells)

Ray Kurzweil on how technology will transform us

Bill Gates how to fix capitalism