Monthly Archives: October 2010

Music and Power to the Peaceful

Mrs. E and I went to a concert in the Pittsburgh area last Saturday. We went to see Michael Franti and Spearhead. I have loved Michael’s music since he was in the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy in the early 1990’s. In Spearhead Michael continues  doing  music about social justice and peace.

I have to say the microphone he was singing into was not getting his lyrics across because of someone doing a poor job sound mixing. That is a shame because of the poetic nature and importance of  Franti’s lyrics. In “Bomb The World” he sings,  “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace.” In, “Time to Go Home” we hear, “Those who start wars never fight them, and those who fight wars never like them.” The song, “East to West” states, “Life is too short to make just one decision, music is too loud for just one station, love is too big for just one nation, and God is too big for just one religion!”

So how good can a concert be if such a great lyricist can’t be heard? Actually, pretty damn great! That is because Franti has pretty much the same idea of music as Mike Stout who I talked about last post. They both present the problems we face and then ask us to put our differences aside and connect with one another to build that better world we all want.

Connecting with one another in love is what happened at the Michael Franti and Spearhead concert, Mrs. E and I attended. People were on their feet for over two hours dancing and hugging one another. This while Michael and the  guitarists strolled through the audience. At one point Micheal’s voice was coming through very clear. I looked to see that he was standing next to me in the balcony singing into a portable microphone. At one point Franti asked for all of the children and anyone over 60 to come up on the stage. A couple of dozen children (including Franti’s son) and a dozen folks over 60 were soon dancing to the next tune.

It really is music with a message that appeals to people of all ages. I  truly have never seen such love and soul at a concert.  It was an event that included both tears and laughter and every emotion in between. I highly recommend a Spearhead concert to energize your, “Soulshine.”

Let me quote comments at Michael Franti’s website from various fans who can express it better than I can: “My son Gabe, who has Autism, danced with you onstage to “Say Hey. I Love You” at the show in Columbus, OH last year, and it was truly a life changing moment for him! He had never wanted to do anything like that before, and now he has opened up to being with lots of people all the time ! He has become very social, especially when there’s music involved, and most especially when it’s Michael Franti & Spearhead’s music.”

“Michael, just saw you in St. Louis and it was a night to never forget….magical.”

“I actually could not stop dancing the entire time. I love the message Michael sends. Michael will forever be my all time favorite artist!”

“My kids are dying to meet Michael again ever since he brought them up on stage in Indianapolis last year!!! Your cutting edge positive messages inspire our whole family. Please don’t ever stop…”

“I go to a lot of concerts and I don’t think I’ve ever been to one where people were so loving and respectful toward one another, and I think that’s all because of the attitude that Michael and Spearhead project.”

“I felt more of a sense of spirit and purpose and just togetherness last night than I have felt in a very long time and I want to thank Michael & everyone in the crowd for that. I really needed the love & peace and last night was like a shot of hope for me.”

“Saw you for the first time at this year’s spring Hookahville and fell in love with your music and your message. It’s an honor and a privilege to feel a part of something so real! Look for me in the crowd… I’ll be the one dancin’ like nobody’s watchin’ “Power to the Peaceful.”

Here is a video of Michael Franti  being interviewed.

Musicians like Franti and Mike Stout are my favorites because they are trying to open minds to help build that better planet, I so much want for my kids. Add their music to your life and you’ll feel happier to learn that there are  singers who share your voice.

Here is a note about another singer of note coming to our area. It’s Jann Klose whose first band was composed entirely of musicians from the Youngstown scene: Teddy Pantelas, Joe Kaplowitz, Kevin Hindes and Sherry Luchette. Here’s what the media is saying about Jann: Time Out New York says, “Bronx-based singer-songwriter Jann Klose writes warm, hooky pop music.” The Advance Newspaper Wire Services praises, “The first thing that’s totally unmistakable about Jann Klose is that voice – which is just light years beyond that of the typical singer/songwriter a sound that is classy, distinctive and often irresistible.”

Check out Jann’s music here. Jann Klose will be performing At Madison, 802 Elm Street, Youngstown, OH 44505 on November 13, at 8 PM. Admission is $15. For more information, please call 330-743-2665.

Michael Franti and Spearhead: “Every Single Soul”

“Hey World”

“We Don’t Stop”

“The human interest, and the natural interest, and the spiritual interest of this planet need to begin to take a priority over the corporate interest, the military interest, and the materialistic interests.” ~ Michael Franti

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Soundtrack For Our Children’s Future

I’ve said it many times and I’m going to say it again. My goal and I hope your goal should be to leave our children a better planet. Imagine my surprise last week to have the sound track for that goal arrive in my mailbox. I’m talking about Pittsburgh singer/songwriter Mike Stout’s new CD, “Americana Dreams: Keeping the Promise.”

Mike’ s has a song on it called, “They are the  Future” that expresses better than I can about why our children deserve a better world.

Mike sings,

“They don’t care what country you’re from,
Or what color you are;
They know we share the same planet and sun,
Wish upon the same star.
They want a world with no hunger and hate,
One where grown-ups behave;
They don’t like violence or bein’ afraid,
Or children working as slaves.”
The ending reminds us of our responsibility:
“They are stuck with whatever we leave,
With what gets left behind;
They got rights just like you and me,
We aren’t the end of the line.”

 

It’s not only my new favorite song, it’s a really beautiful song. I think some organization for children’s causes is missing the boat if they don’t contact Mike about using this song as an anthem for their cause.

This is what we used to call a concept album as it all works together. It’s flows like  a good documentary should. While the goal is passing the American Dream on to our youth, Mike points out that the powers that be have other plans. They exploit the workers of the world and ruin the Earth’s environment for their own short-term greed.

As far as thinking about hardships workers face, I can’t think of a timelier recording. For example just this week after more than two months trapped deep in a Chilean mine, 33 miners have been rescued.  Here is the story  behind the story, you haven’t heard about the Chilean miners being victims of a greedy mine company. “Americana Dreams” features a song about miners who weren’t as lucky as  the Chilean miners. It’s called, “29 Miners Buried and Gone” about the miners killed six months ago at Upper Big Branch, WV. In the song Mike asks us to honor them by fighting for enforcement of mine safety laws.

It’s great how the media focuses on these miner rescues and the public watches with bated breath. On the other hand, why isn’t the media and public asking why the USA has 18,000 current cases of mine safety violation charges and a two-year backlog of investigations.

Another song about workers on “Americana Dreams”  is, “My Brother Did Not Die in Vain.” It’s about Gary Puleio who died at Meadville Redi-Mix in a preventable workplace accident (that the company was eventually charged with and given a puny fine). Mike notes the outrage we have over 3,000 people who died on 9/11. He wonders why we don’t have the same outrage over the 6,000 workers who are killed annually on the job  in the U.S. As Mike rightly sings that is a figure equal to two 9-11’s.

Mike’s haunting song, “The Tale of Marcellus Shale” covers our nations most recent environmental threat. Marcellus Shale is a layer of sedimentary rock that contains untapped natural gas reserves. Gas companies use a mixture of 596 secret chemicals, they explode underground to create an earthquake that releases natural gas.   This procedure has been poisoning wells, streams, and rivers with cancer causing fluids from these 596 chemical cocktails. Are you asking yourself how can companies get away with poisoning people’s drinking water?

Maybe, you remember hearing about those secret closed-door meetings Dick Cheney held with executives and lobbyists from the coal, nuclear, gas, and oil industries after getting in office. The meetings  released a report that lead to an energy bill with measures that eased federal rules for energy projects and exemptions from key environmental laws (like the Water Safety Act) for natural gas producers. Who would have thought two oil men as president and vice-president would have put the profits of energy companies before the safety of the public? How about anyone with a head on their shoulders.

For more on the Marcellus Shale danger watch the documentary, “Gasland.”  It’s on On Demand, so if you have HBO it should be available. Here is a trailer from Gasland.

Mike takes on what can be done about the debt facing our children. He does this in the song, “We Are the Cops of the World.” He sings about how we can no longer afford to spend four-hundred million dollars a day on over 700 military bases in 130 plus countries around the world. While corporations are getting rich from supplying our country’s military outposts and wars, our government is getting in debt  to other nations to finance this militarization. Meanwhile, our nation has a decaying infrastructure, more and more home foreclosures, job losses, cuts in education and people going without medical care. That four-hundred million a day could go along way to taking care of problems in the U.S. and paying down the bills our children will be inheriting.

Globalization seeks the world’s cheapest labor and which ever countries will allow the most environmental rape. The undeniable fact is the middle-class is disappearing while the rich are get richer. This is the system we have and the rich few at the top want to keep it this way. Mike  tells us what needs to be done in the hard rocking, “We Need a New System.”

A movement like the Tea Party that is corporate financed and controlled will not deliver us a new system, only entrench us in the one we need to escape.  Are any of these nutty Tea Party candidates someone you’d want as a leader?

Mike looks around the world and gives us the best example of a system that is working. It is the democratic, horizontal, empowering southern Brazil movement called, the MST. This Brazilian  Landless Workers Movement  started with 400 members and now has 1.5 million. They have taken on Brazil’s wealthiest 3% of the population that owns two-thirds of all farmable lands. The MST has won land titles for more than 350,000 poor families.They have also taught over 50,000 landless workers to read and write. These are reasons why activist, Noam Chomsky, calls the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) the world’s most important social movement.

In the song, “MST” over a cool laid back island beat Mike sings,

“A new kind of woman, a new kind of man,
New ways to relate, irrigate and work the land;
Teachin’ common people how to think for themselves,
How to share the wealth and be a family called the MST.”

In the honky tonkin’, ” Back in the U S of A.” Mike takes on the world’s Hollywood image of the USA Mike tells how, “we’ve got a few making millions and millions making minimum wage.” He sings about how, “it’s the land of milk and honey only if you’ve got the money.” Mike conveys that the real wealth of the USA is her hard-working people who’d give you the shirt off of their back. Speaking of hard work, Mike’s has once again assembled some very talented musicians to give his hard-hitting lyrics the justice they deserve!

Mike let’s us know that we need to work together because what we can accomplish is bigger than our differences. What we can accomplish is the American Dream which we owe to our children. Mike, like me, is not going to accept that B.S. about how our children are not going to have it as good as we had it. It’s high time to make the powers that be dance to a different tune and Mike has supplied the soundtrack for that mission. I believe music can be a driving force for change and I’m glad Mike Stout is behind the wheel.

“American Dream” includes these eight songs (and five more) that are musical vitamins that will nourish your soul and make you heart happy. Do not keep out of reach of children as large doses only make for a better future!

Mike is one those friends that I’m a better person for knowing. You’ll also be  a better person for knowing his music. Get a copy of “Americana Dreams” or any of a dozen of Mike’s other CDs by contacting Mike here. Or call Mike at 412-461-5650 or email him at mikestout619@comcast.net

To hear some music from Mike’s, “Americana Dreams: Keeping the Promise” click on any of the first seven songs available here.

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

~ Paulo Freire

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Mahoning Valley Lost and Found

I love the Mahoning Valley and try to promote it. But I am not blind to our problems. From time to time they are so apparent we have to be honest about them. As far as time is concerned I want to travel back into time for something I read on one occasion for the opening of a radio talk show I co-hosted in Youngstown. Sadly, this is from over a dozen years ago and the problem still exists in Youngstown and Warren and our suburbs are not immune from it either. It’s not something I want to write about but it something that I can no longer avoid talking about.

Mahoning Valley Lost and Found

Found, on the south side a body. Found on the north side a body. Found on the east side a body. Found on the west side a body. Found in Mill Creek Park a body. Found in Crandall Park a body. All dead on the same virus…..bullets. The good news  is it’s less bodies than last year.

Lost, family members, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters, classmates, friends and neighbors. Lost, businesses and people who would invest in our area. Lost, dignity, pride, caring, values and any sense of community.

I know fellow suburbanites that say they only go to Youngstown if they have to. They say when they do they run stop signs and red lights. It’s funny how when these same folks see a wreck on the highway they slow down and gawk. When we had a tornado there were traffic jams of rubberneckers getting in the way of rescue workers. So I say, suburban rubberneckers slow down when you’re in Youngstown or any inner city and get a good look at the damage. The damage you left behind when you moved to the suburbs. The damage of the abandoned boarded up homes you left behind. The damage to inner city communities by the neighborhoods turning into nothing but absentee landlord rental properties. The damage to inner city schools because middle-class taxpayers fled the city. Slow down rubberneckers and look  at not a disaster made by Mother Nature but a disaster made by human nature. Look at not the wreckage of a vehicle but the at the human wreckage.

Speed through the inner-city on your way back to the suburbs but don’t think you’re immune from the carnage. Your suburbs contain more drugs than the inner-city and you too have crime. A woman was found cut up in pieces in Brookfield. A woman in Howland killed her husband and cut off his head. A girl’s body was found in McDonald. Her killer lived with his parents in Liberty where he had another teen girl’s body under a tarp in the backyard. His parents both had good paying jobs at GM and a nice house. In other words crime happens everywhere even in areas people think are safe.

Two young men killed in Youngstown were the son’s of policemen. Obviously, the police have problems with not only the young men on the street corner but the young men under their very roofs. Parenting is the hardest job in the world but one of the easiest to get, no training required. We now have kids who are raising kids. Can it be far off when we see high school newspapers with birth announcements? With all of the suburban school shootings maybe the high school  newspapers will soon have an obituary page.

When I was a kid you did stupid or dangerous things because you felt young and invincible. Now, I hear kids talk about how with all of the gang violence they don’t expect to live long. How do we overcome this fatalistic, nihilistic attitude? Kids aren’t dumb and can see the fact that some of them have absentee fathers that don’t even pay child support. They can see a society that wants to try them as adults and get tough on crime by locking them up and throwing away the key.  No rehabilitation involved just revenge.

The war on drugs is a joke. We can’t even keep drugs out of prisons. Speaking of prisons have you noticed how Youngstown has gone from making steel bars to an area of prisons with steel bars? We are now to profit from  our crime. That is the message we have gotten from the state and federal government. It’s not a solution to our problems but a place to incarcerate our problems. As far as jobs, if we want our sons and daughters to stay in the area they can either be prisoners or guards. The former Islay’s factory had an ice cream parlor for a community gathering place. It is now a U Haul truck rental that serves as departure place for former residents.

I’ve heard all the B.S. about how our area could be better. I’ve heard the conservatives that say businesses won’t locate here because of our strong unions. I laugh in their faces and say, “Like Delphi’s IUE that has three tiers of wages and came close to setting up a fourth.” I’m the most union guy you’ll meet but today’s unions are concessionary boards and the best friend the companies could ask for.  I hear people say we’ve had democrats in office in this area to long and republicans could turn it around. In Upstate New York the economy has been struggling for years. Like Youngstown they have been given prisons. People in Upstate N.Y. say their area has been run by republicans for years  and if they’d vote for democrats things would be better. What I’m saying is by now we should have learned neither of the two political parties has the answer for our areas or nation’s problems.

A big part the problems we face in the area and nation is high school drop out rates. I hear people say if we had prayer in school things would be better. When we had prayer in school didn’t our nation still have wars? When we had prayer in school and it didn’t change anything we just made sure the prisons also had bibles. The bibles didn’t close the prisons. Prayer in school and school uniforms are band-aid approaches for better education and for keeping kids from committing crimes. The truth is that these inner-city kids have been written off because they have committed the crime of poverty.

Conservative politicians aren’t that interested in public education because all they care about is money. If schools were a business they’d be throwing all manner of corporate welfare at them like they do for corporations and Wall Street. Progress is measured by what affects Wall Street not Main Street.

I realized we don’t care that children in the Third-world are  working in deplorable factories making products for us. That is because we don’t see them. On the other hand we can pick up our area newspapers and see  the horrible crimes happening in our communities committed by our youth. Of course parents need to be accountable but aren’t we all brothers and sisters? Shouldn’t we also be our brother’s keeper?

The downside to our present day capitalism is that people are expendable, even when they are children. Capitalism has good and bad like any other economics system it’s what we do with it that matters. We need to demand a more just human economy that satisfies the basic needs for all. The best deterrent to crime is a job paying  a livable wage. Where are these jobs going to be in our children’s future?

I’m hoping someday soon we can say, Lost: Crime and the sense of no future that the young in our community felt.

I’m hoping we can say: Found: A peaceful, just and thriving community anyone would be proud to live in.

Well, it’s been over a dozen years since I wrote the above and someday still seems far off.

The violence in Youngstown and Warren affects the suburbs. It’s time to realize that those of us in the suburbs can no longer be spectators.  We have to join in and advocate for justice by asking questions and searching for answers.

Outlandish: Feels Like Saving the World

Look Into My Eyes

“The real significance of crime is in it’s being a breach of faith with the community of mankind.” ~ Joesph Conrad

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