FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 05/11
Caustic Political Speech
STOP THE DAM
8 Years of Occupation
Hezbollah in Lebanon
The Master's Plan
Kristen L. Buras
30th Years of FNB
War, Prisons, Torture
Angola 3 News
What Happened in Wisconsin
A Serious Fight
The Libya Intervention Debate
Stop Bombing Libya
On Libya & Crises
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
A Q&A on Libya
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
Civil Wars U.S. Labor
Guide to Green Politics
Toward Climate Justice
Zaps - 05/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Matthew Jones, 1936 - 2011
Somehow the reports were too slow to come in: a quick note on the Internet, a bare posting on a folksong blog, but no details, no sense of the powerful life and legacy left behind. The social fabric that Matt Jones helped to re-shape barely bothered to note his passing.
Jones was already a schooled, experienced musician when he became active in the fight for civil rights by joining the Nashville Student Movement in 1960. He also became an outspoken participant in the struggle in Danville, Virginia, for which he organized the Danville Freedom Voices in 1963. Shortly thereafter, Jones relocated to Atlanta, Georgia with his brother Marshall and the two became affiliated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and their music ensemble, the Freedom Singers. This legendary group was created in meetings between Cordell Reagon, SNCC Executive Secretary Jim Foreman, and Pete Seeger. In 1964, Jones, a SNCC field secretary, became the group’s director.
That year, the Freedom Singers toured the country as part of an organizing drive to build the Friends of SNCC. Of the Freedom Singers, Jones has said, “We were organizers first, singers second.” During such tumultuous times, the fight for equality in the Jim Crow South could often be terrifying. Jones faced down the Klan on many occasions and endured 29 arrests. His experiences developed him into a “freedom singer” in the most visceral manner.
“I don’t think of myself as a cultural worker,” Jones said. “I am a freedom singer; a freedom fighter. I’ve always been a freedom fighter; I’ll probably go down that way, too. Freedom songs are different than other protest songs because they are really a mantra. The use of repetition allows for the message to be understood. If we sing a powerful statement enough times, like ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,’ then we can internalize it.”
Jones maintained his role as an artist-activist even after SNCC broke apart. He performed around the world, including alongside freedom fighters in Northern Ireland. During the struggle against the Vietnam War, he recorded a single that has become legendary, “Hell No, We Ain’t Gonna Go,” collaborated with lyricist Elaine Laron.
Jones’s experiences included performances alongside such luminaries as Seeger and the Reverend F.D. Kirkpatrick. He worked with Barbara Dane, performed at the legendary Vietnam Songbook concert, sang at the Highlander Folk School, and became a frequent contributor to Broadside during that magazine’s brief run, working closely with its founder, protest singer Sis Cunningham. He’d also been a participant in the annual Phil Ochs Song Nights from the start and his music has been heard in such films as The Ghosts of Mississippi. In Harlem, he organized an annual tribute to Dr. King.
Over the decades, he continued to perform for numerous rallies throughout New York and beyond, including several May Day concerts, the 1998 Hanns Eisler Centenary Festival, and a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Starting in 1986, Jones led a weekly song circle at the Advent Lutheran Church on 93rd Street and Broadway. This series, dubbed the Open House Coffee House, was a venue that encouraged music with a strong message.
Jones’s respect for new songs of struggle was only matched by his need to preserve older forms, including spirituals and ballads. In later decades, he returned to his prized acoustic guitar, which he seemed to barely tickle most of the time, a soft accompaniment to his now thickened voice.
Jones never ended a gig without “The Freedom Chant,” an affirmation inspired by a famous quote by Fannie Lou Hamer and his own many years of direct action. It speaks volumes about this tireless musician of the people: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I will not allow anybody at any time
To violate my mind or my body
In any shape, form or fashion.
If they do they’ll have to deal with ME immediately
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
Surely Matt Jones “went down” as a freedom fighter. I know he’d like to be recalled as such. Let’s never forget.
John Pietaro is a musician, writer, and labor organizer from New York City. This piece first appeared at theculturalworker.blogspot.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.