My interest in coalitions draws heavily on works at the nexus of organizational and social movements literatures (Carroll and Swaminatham 2000, McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001, Rao et al. 2003, Davis et al. 2005, Fligstein and McAdam 2012, Soule 2012, McInerney 2014) where the fundamental role of challengers can be more clearly recognized in critical moments of change. The stories I offer below come from a larger study on the role that independent record stores have played in reconfiguring the contemporary music retail market. Where the first paper from this study focuses on establishing the nature of market change empirically, these excerpts are from a working paper that details the advent of Record Store Day; a national celebration of “the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.” Contrary to the popularized origin story, without the collaborative efforts of three independent record store coalitions, Record Store Day would not have developed the way that it has. Continue reading
Tag Archives: music
By: Lisa Leitz
During the January 26, 2014 Grammy Awards Queen Latifah presided over 33 couples that wed during Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert’s “Same Love” mashup with Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.” Recent posts have critiqued the heteronormativity in both CBS news coverage and the Grammy focus on the straight stars in the event and its de-politicization of the song.
While others have analyzed the political message of the song to conclude it as barely more than straight “rappers” heralding the assimilationist agenda of HRC, I look around my current rural state of Arkansas and can’t help but wonder- can we understand the Grammy Weddings to be a political tactic or are they merely feeding the pocketbooks of already-mega-rich pop stars? Continue reading
This essay assesses the use of music in activism. Most of the research I’ve coauthored on music and activism has been from a historical perspective analyzing social movements. This poses special problems for the researcher who is seeking to assess the role of music in activism. When one is on the ground, direct observations can be made of what music is used and the effect it has on movement participants. If one attends a rally or participated in a march, the effects of the music can be directly seen and felt. For instance, a friend and I once observed a rally for striking hotel workers in a major city. We marched several blocks through the streets to a gathering spot outside one of the city’s largest hotels. Popular music was playing from speakers. On stage, a speaker was shouting and chanting above the music, getting people to respond in unison. After the crowd was sufficiently excited, the speaker began to recount the problems the staff encountered while working in hotels. I looked around the crowd and saw some of my colleagues; to this day, when I see them, I think of this moment. So being there can elicit emotions in the short-term that can have long-term effects and give the researcher a greater sense of understanding. Continue reading
By Ryan Moore
The past half-century has witnessed the proliferation of rebellious cultural practices and subversive symbolic expressions, particularly in subcultures surrounding music and the arts. But if these acts of cultural resistance are now ubiquitous, they also appear increasingly harmless to the political order and profitable for the economic order. Gentrification exemplifies this process in places where difference and authenticity—expressed through music, fashion, and art—serve as catalysts for the reconstruction of deindustrialized urban neighborhoods into revalued spaces of capital. Many Left intellectuals lament this turn of events, but we must recall that capitalism has always been a system riddled with its own internal, irresolvable contradictions. As commodification has extended into the collective imagination and virtually all the spaces and times of social life, so too have the contradictions of capitalism multiplied: we can identify new seeds of resistance in capital’s failure to deliver the (symbolic) goods. Continue reading
By Pat Humphries & Sandy O of Emma’s Revolution
We were moving from New York City to the Washington DC area when the events of September 11, 2001 happened. As Pat watched the horrifying news coverage that morning, she started repeating three words in her mind—Peace, Salaam, Shalom—like a mantra. Soon, she was singing them. That Friday night, we sang “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” as we walked in a candlelight vigil through a largely Muslim neighborhood in DC. Two men sitting on a nearby stoop got up and joined the vigil. “We heard you singing ‘salaam’ and ‘shalom’ together. We are Israeli.”
Less than a month later, we went to sing at the first peace march in NYC after 9/11. The theme of the gathering that day was “Our grief is not a cry for war.” As we arrived at the rally, we heard the radio announcement that the Bush Administration had begun the preemptive bombing of Afghanistan. Once on stage, the organizers were preparing to announce the news to the already traumatized crowd and asked us if we had a song that could get everyone singing. We kicked off the march, leading “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” with the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus and percussionist, Robin Burdulis accompanying. 10,000 people sang with us, all the way from Union Square to Times Square. Even amidst the massive news coverage of the bombing, the song was mentioned in The New York Times the next day. Continue reading
The year 2012 is a special one in Massachusetts: the centennial of the 1912 Lawrence textile strike has been celebrated with literally dozens of events, with more still planned. The gatherings I’ve attended have given me glimpses into the cultures of different wings of today’s progressive movements. My conclusion is that participatory singing as a political act is becoming an outmoded relic of former movements.
At the big Labor Day event, the crowd included UNITE-HERE members and other Lawrence-area union members, mostly Latinos younger than 50. Union members wore union t-shirts to signify their affiliations; and they marched in contingents; but they didn’t sing as they marched. Some of the musical performers that day sang in Spanish, and young and/or Latino festival-goers either sat and listened or they danced along – but they never sang along.
A number of white and black singers at the Labor Day festival encouraged sing-alongs, and I watched to see who sang and who didn’t sing. In particular, because Bread and Puppet Theater, with its giant puppets and stilt-walkers, is so inherently interesting to all ages and races, I was able to watch their big diverse audience respond to calls to sing along. Perhaps Mobilizing Ideas readers won’t be surprised to learn that those who sang along were old and white. Many of them were seasoned leftists whose experience stretched back to the ‘60s or earlier.
At other Lawrence centennial events I saw the same singing demographic: old and white. The only middle-aged exceptions were approximately four of us hard-core political folkies, those who knew by heart all four verses of the “Bread and Roses” song about the 1912 strike. But except for us, everyone else who sang “Solidarity Forever” had white hair and weathered faces. Ditto with “Union Maid.” And twice, when “The Internationale” was sung, everyone else who stood up and raised their right fist appeared to be 75 or older; this old socialist tradition seems not to have been passed down.
During the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s I realized that young activists in that movement did not sing during protests. And the music of the Occupy movement seemed to be either performance or participatory drumming, not participatory singing (see this collection). But during those two mobilizations I thought that the singing/not-singing breakpoint was about age 35. At this year’s Lawrence events, I realized that the age divide is much older, and that political singing seems to have virtually died out even among middle-aged activists.
For those of us raised on Civil Rights freedom songs, anti-war songs, wimmin’s music, De Colores and anti-apartheid music, a movement that doesn’t sing seems strange and culturally impoverished. Media jamming and crowd-sourced creativity through Youtube, Facebook and Twitter are the new mode of activist participatory creativity; activists now have protest tools unimagined in the 1960s.
But when I think of some of the situations in which the anti-apartheid movement sang their freedom songs – between jail cells on death row, in the poverty of exile, and while marching under violent repression – I worry about how future activists will keep their spirits up and build solidarity when all their electronic devices are unavailable to them.