FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 12/10
BP Funds Climate Ed
Evening with Evo
Jailed for Activism
Tea Party Threat
Resistance in Oaxaca
Faces of ELAM
Labor's Civil War
Zaps - 11/10
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Irwin Silber, 1925-2010
Silber with Barbara Dane
Irwin Silber is recalled today as a primary creator of the urban folk song revival, which grew out of the 1940s and culminated in the early 1960s. He died on September 8 in Oakland, California from complications of Alzheimer's disease.
Silber was born in Manhattan on October 17, 1925 just in time to experience his formative years during the Great Depression. Like many of his contemporaries in New York City's working-class Jewish community, Silber joined the Young Communist League and then the Communist Party. As a student at Brooklyn College, he organized the American Folksay Group. Through his associations with the likes of Pete Seeger and Alan Lomax, Silber became an integral part of Seeger's post-war People's Songs organization, an independent artist-run collective which not only sought to publish the songs of veteran left-wing folksingers, but also grew into a national network for their publicity and management. Silber was on the founding committee of People's Songs and a frequent contributor to its newsletter, The People's Songs Newsletter, an important means of communication among leftist folksingers and which published many important songs.
By 1948, due to pressures from the increasingly rightward trend in the nation, the organization fell victim to red-baiting and ultimately disbanded. By 1950, the newsletter, too, was gone. Silber, recognizing the strength of a national magazine to publish and popularize new topical songs, created Sing Out! later that year. He served as its editor until 1968, publishing articles and songs by Woody Guthrie, Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Leadbelly, and many other artists performing on college campuses and in coffee houses.
As the icons of the initial folk revival gave way to the 1960s' generation, Silber's magazine (along with Sis Cunningham's Broadside) became most noted for its publication of songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and other rising stars then selling out folk festivals. Coverage of these artists, as well as their latest songs, made Sing Out! a folksinger's bible. In 1965, as Dylan went electric, Silber found himself in the midst of battle as his fiery criticism saw Dylan refusing to publish any more songs in the magazine. Silber's confrontation with Dylan, as well as attacks on other notables of the day, including Phil Ochs, meant that Silber eventually fell into disfavor. In 1968, he was asked to leave Sing Out! His hard-line stand appeared to reflect the old Left even though he'd severed ties with the Communist Party by 1955. Ironically, Silber had by then become a driving force in an SDS offshoot, the decidedly Maoist New Communist Movement, and went on to write and edit their newspaper, the Guardian.
Throughout his life, Irwin Silber can best be described as a cultural worker. When, in the late 1950s, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he memorably told the Committee that his work at the Communist Party-led Jefferson School of Social Science was teaching square dancing. During his years with Sing Out!, he made an effort to focus on songs of protest—civil rights, the Vietnam War, the women's movement, and any number of struggles for liberation. In 1964, Silber married jazz vocalist/activist Barbara Dane and the two set out to record and publish songs of revolution around the world. He and Dane maintained their own record label, Paredon, to preserve the music until, in 1980, it was given to Folkways.
Silber published several books on folk music and authored a number of works on politics. In 2004, he wrote a biography of Lester Rodney, sportswriter for the Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker, completing the circle of his radical life and times.
John Pietaro is a cultural worker and labor organizer from New York City.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.