Contemporary Protest Songs: The Lifeblood of Movement Work
Friday, November 10, 2023
Elizabeth Anderson Conie Borchardt

Our workshop will trace the throughline of singing in movement work and how it breathes sustainability into organizing. We will focus on contemporary protest songs and connect them with the history of song organizing through the past century. We have found that while many people are familiar with the legacy of singing in the Civil Rights/Black Freedom movement, most have no idea what is happening now musically, and we have lost many of the gifts singing brings to our organizing. We aim to revitalize this crucial work, help organizers understand why song is an essential part of the movement toolkit, and empower new songleaders as we go. In the words of Paul Engler, “Song culture strengthens the capacity to create social change.” We will lead participants in learning several songs, using call and response teaching to make singing accessible to everyone. We will explain “zipper” songs and how to apply (“zip in”) new lyrics relevant to your own organizing work, as well as how to “catch” new songs for your issues and calls to action. Based on Resmaa Menakem’s work in his book “My Grandmother’s Hands,” we will also talk about how song is an essential part of our somatic toolkit for healing racial trauma, and how healing is a crucial undercurrent of keeping our movements sustainable. Singing is a shortcut to enter bodily regulation and awareness, as well as community gathering, emotional vulnerability, and relationship building—all things that are vital for trust building and deep organizing work.