The Joe Hill Road Show
Precursor to Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, Joe Hill was an early twentieth-century songwriter and active member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies. A Swedish immigrant and outspoken labor activist, Hill was framed for two murders and executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915. According to an event press release, “The case drew international attention and appeals for clemency from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, the Swedish ambassador, the American Federation of Labor, and many others. After his execution, Hill became a labor icon.”
The Nashville-based Shelby Bottom Duo, consisting of acoustic folk artists Michael August and Nell Levin (https://www.shelbysong.com/, https://www.facebook.com/shelbybottomduo), created this entertaining and educational performance to highlight a “vital slice of labor history with a wide range of people so that we can all better understand why the revolutionary creativity of Joe Hill and the Wobblies is still relevant.” This event will include a live concert of Joe Hill songs, a slideshow of historical images, and information about Hill’s life, early labor struggles, and the influence of the IWW’s innovative organizing strategies on labor and other movements today. This one-hour performance will be followed by a discussion with the Shelby Bottom Duo about art, music, labor history, and activism. The “Joe Hill Road Show” CD will be available for purchase.
With support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, Humanities Tennessee, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and Puffin Foundation, the Shelby Bottom Duo has performed the “Joe Hill Road Show” on over twenty occasions, including at Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Sewanee, Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay, Tennessee State, and the University of Memphis.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Murals for Progress
Murals designed to amplify the message of Black Lives Matter have been springing up across the nation in large cities and smaller towns. Mediums of artistic expression have long been a staple of the Civil Rights movement, most notably the music, poetry, spoken word or rap, and art in its myriad forms of visual expression, including paintings, murals, as well as theater and film.
Nashville's Civil Rights movement entailed four movements. The Sit-ins, Freedom riders, Demonstrations, and the Arts Movement. The Arts Movement, led by Alicelene Hunter as its instigator and champion left an indelible mark on the city which also included theater, writing, and art. This movement culminated and continues into an annual program called the African Street Festival held at Hadley Park. In support of the Black Lives Matter street mural for Nashville, Dr. Hunter shared some history of the Civil Right movement stating, “Music and art got us through those times.” She went on to comment that from ancient times to now art has been an integral medium for change when people stood for self-empowerment.
This eventful year of 2020, with a world encircling Pandemic exposing the bad fruit of racism everywhere particularly in America, renewed the huge community cry for justice through huge and constant marches and rallies. The lack of participation in the promise of America's rich presence in the world is now showcased by its extremes of poverty, brutality of Black people, and severe restrictions at the ballot box. The people, all people, want dignity.
Nashville could not escape the angst of injustice and has had to witness continuous protests since the 8:46 minute public execution of George Floyd at the hands of the renegade-filled Minneapolis Police Department on May 25, 2020.
Public memorials have long been the expression of power and purpose for those who command commerce and civil discourse in the U.S. Stately public buildings, statues to favorite champions of present conditions, and other markers of power also serve to intimidate those whose labor and lives were spent to support those who hold the power, and who force unjust laws to maintain their lifestyles in America.
The BLACK LIVES MATTER mural for Nashville is one of the rare opportunities to reclaim dignity for Black people in this region, to amplify their movement for justice, and to visibly resound the demand that we will matter, for justice is sorely needed for the good of the nation.
A resident of Birmingham, Alabama echoes our sentiment regarding the installation of the BLACK LIVES MATTER mural for Nashville:
“to paint history.”
“Fairfield resident Diane Bivens, 58, who brought her three grandchildren ages 5, 7 and 12, said her family’s involvement was beyond helping with a paint project. “It’s so much more than just painting letters,” she said. “It’s reminding the world that Black Lives Matter too. It doesn’t always seem to me that other cultures realize how important our history is and what our forefathers did to pave the way for us. While painting the street, I was thinking about how our forefathers fought for our rights so that we can vote, so that we can live wherever we want, so that our children could get a great education, so we can be treated with respect.””
BIRMINGHAM TIMES 6/26/2020
“Birmingham joined a list of U.S. cities that have used art to express frustrations”
Joe Hill hi-res b&w
Joe Hill and Labor History Show