Tag Archives: Amnesty International

Happy Birthday, Joan Baez

9 Jan

Today is folk music and social justice pioneer Joan Baez’ 72nd birthday. Born on Staten Island to a Mexican Catholic and a Scots Anglican, Baez was heavily influenced by the pacifist messages delivered when the family converted to Quakerism. She demonstrated her musical talent early on, and began performing in the late 50s. Fluent in English and Spanish, she has recorded in both (as well as six other languages).

After moving to New York City in 1960, she began performing more protest-based music along with her other folk repertoire. She soon met a young Bob Dylan and recorded a number of his songs. The two regularly performed together and developed a strong shared commitment to social justice. They both performed at the 1963 March on Washington. Baez also performed at Woodstock, viewing the festival as a statement against government oppression.

Throughout her career, Baez has been an outspoken proponent of social justice. A strong feminist, she is also a staunch defender of LGBT rights. She regularly performs benefits to relieve poverty and homelessness–sounds like a great social worker to me!. The overview of her involvement looks like a directory of social causes, and she is energetic for each one. She isn’t slowing down, either. Despite her distate for political partisanship, she recognized the true dangers of the GOP platform and endoresed her first major candidate with Barack Obama. She also participated actively in the Occupy protests, singing to raise money to support the cause.

In March of last year, Amnesty International created the Joan Baez Award for Outstanding Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights. At the launching celebration, she was presented with the first award in recognition of her human rights work with Amnesty International and beyond, and the inspiration she has given activists around the world. In future years, the award is to be presented to an artist – music, film, sculpture, paint or other medium – who has similarly helped advance human rights. What a powerful and fitting legacy for this tireless worker for rights for all.

Hero of the Week Award: March 9, Peter Gabriel

9 Mar

Hero of the Week.

This week TSM is pleased to present the HWA to a lifelong activist who unequivocally stood up for justice and stared down a bully. Rush Limbaugh’s latest vile rant is the gift that keeps on giving. His bizarre, logic-deprived, misogynistic rant against Sandra Fluke has coalesced opposition to his behavior at unprecedented levels. This sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot is not just bleeding sponsors so fast that he’s running dead air instead, he’s also proving that he doesn’t care about little things like copyright law. Enter Peter Gabriel.

Rush was tactless enough to play Gabriel’s #1 smash Sledgehammer as the soundtrack to his attacks on Fluke. Peter Gabriel will have none of it. He was

appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh’s extraordinary attack on Sandra Fluke. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter’s work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments.

It’s telling — and in character — that Gabriel focused on the context more than his own rights to his music. He is a staunch victims’ rights advocate, a proud member and vocal supporter of Amnesty International, and an unceasing activist for supporting the oppressed. While an active member of the Labour Party, he places conscience above politics and has spoken out repeatedly against Labour’s support of the Iraq war and other atrocities. The rare times he has permitted the use of his songs for political causes, he has vetted them carefully and thoroughly. Congratulations, Mr. Gabriel, on a lifetime of good works and another example of standing up against oppression.

The Closing of Hull House: Sad Commentary on Our Times

28 Jan

Goodbye Hull House

Yesterday was a very sad day indeed. Hull House, founded by Social Work Pioneer Jane Addams, closed it’s doors.  In 1931, Addams was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Addams may well be best known for starting Hull House in Chicago.  Here is the mission statement of Hull House:

Jane Addams Hull House Association improves social conditions for underserved people and communities by providing creative, innovative programs and advocating for related public policy reforms.

Jane Addams Hull House Association provides child care, domestic violence counseling and prevention, economic development, family services, job training, literacy training, senior services, foster care, independent living, and housing assistance for 60,000 children, families and community members each year in communities in and around Chicago.

Hull House also advocates for social and public policy reforms and initiatives that impact the lives of the men, women, and children in the communities we serve.

Now after 120 years, Hull House is closed.  It would be delightful to say that Hull House closed because services were no longer needed–that poverty and discrimination had ended.  Alas, that is so far from the truth.  The truth is that the need for services continued to increase exponentially, but sadly funding for Hull House decreased at an even faster rate.

What doses this say about American Culture?  We are witnessing multi-millionaires spending millions and millions of dollars to run for President of the United States, but we as a culture put up no resistance to social services for the poor and disenfranchised being cut by 1% Republicans like John Boehner.  As someone who is currently getting his MSW, I am horrified that Americans no longer seem engaged in the battle against the inequitable  distribution of power and wealth.  We seem to have grown either amazingly stupid or apathetic  as our silence and non-action, or voting against our best interests supports an all white, heterosexual, Christian, male power structure.

I leave you with the words of Jane Addams:

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: March 12

12 Mar

Honoring Annie Lennox

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Annie Lennox. Lennox achieved her fame and celebrity through her amazing voice–a voice that has been described as the “Greatest White Soul Singer Alive.” While I do enjoy much of her music, it is her work and focus on social justice that inspired me to celebrate her during Women’s History Month. Lennox has used her celebrity to become a social reformer. For example, she is most notable for raising money and awareness for HIV charities in Africa. Even her music changes and takes on the mantle of social justice. In her 2007 album, Songs of Mass Destruction, Lennox describes the album:

[It is]a dark album, but the world is a dark place. It’s fraught, it’s turbulent. Most people’s lives are underscored with dramas of all kinds: there’s ups, there’s downs – the flickering candle. Half the people are drinking or drugging themselves to numb it. A lot of people are in pain.

In 1999 Eurythmics donated all of the profits from their Peacetour to Amnesty International and Greenpeace. In December of  2007, Lennox established The SING Campaign, an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS. Lennox opened the 2009 Edinburgh Festival of Politics with a stinging attack on Pope Benedict‘s approach to HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa. She said that the Pope’s denunciation of condoms on his recent tour of Africa had caused “tremendous harm” and she criticised the Roman Catholic Church for causing widespread confusion on the continent. Lennox also condemned the media’s obessesion with “celebrity culture” for keeping the AIDS pandemic off the front page.

As you can see, I applaud Annie Lennox not only for her contributions to the world of music, but even more so for her contributions to making the world a better place for ALL. She lends her powerful voice to those that have no vice.  Here is a nice anthem for Women’s History Month.

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