2013-12-11: Note From Emily
had the joy of participating in the creation of the Voices of Hope:
Christmas at Lee Arrendale cd, NOW AVAILABLE ! The
Voices of Hope are the gospel choir from Lee Arrendale State Prison
for Women, directed by chaplain Susan Bishop.
can now purchase the cd on our IG website, under merchandise. The
cost is $16, and ALL PROCEEDS go to continuing ministry in the prison.
sang on 2 of the songs, one of which is "There's Still My Joy' which
Amy and I did a version of on "Holly Happy Days'.
consider being part of the care and ministry that music provides
by purchasing one or more cd (s). It's always the season to buy
holiday music, even throughout the year! My heart and soul is behind
this project, the women who made it beautiful, and the work of transformation
it continues to create in the lives of inmates, and in our own lives.
so much for your support!
2013-11-09: Note From Amy
started this update a couple weeks ago after returning from an IG
I am finishing it from a Women’s Center in Georgia where my partner
is giving birth.
So naturally I am thinking about water and how we all grow and arrive
then, throughout our lives, we depend on it.
When Emily and I were driving thru Saskatchewan, half an hour away
from pulling into Saskatoon, I was thinking about the Tar
Sands, as Alberta disappeared in the rearview mirror. The Tar
Sands were due north of us, a couple hundred kilometers from our
last stop in Edmonton-you’d hardly know about the environmental
devastation or the Indigenous lives and eco-systems torn apart.
The oil money is in the city, just like in the U.S., it’s in the
tall buildings of Calgary and Alberta, in the extravagance of the
rich suburbs, the suffering lay just underneath our daily lives
as we burn through gas, and burn through the miles in our Ford van.
The main artery of a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands pours out
across Canada into the U.S., crossing arbitrary borders and geo-political
lines, turning into veins and vessels of more pipelines picking
up extra appendages along the way south, west and east- our very
lifelines to consumption and comfort. Our energy, electricity, our
studios, amps, our sound systems, our hotel rooms, our light switches,
our jobs, our highways…our petroleum lives strangling, maiming,
destroying and suffocating the hope of earth’s sustainability. I’ve
read a lot about the Tar Sands, but I’ve never been there. The closest
I’ve gotten to really gleaning the complexities is by reading an
essay a friend of mine, Trish
Weber wrote after going there to see for herself. She participated
in a Healing
Walk to stand in solidarity with the First Nations’ communities
fighting for their very existence. The Tar Sands’ issue is a tangle
of hardcore economics, the promise of employment, corporate profit
and the massive environmental impact on a boreal forest that connects
many lives, the ripple in the water we often hear about but don’t
it here: A
Hobbit Goes to Mordor
am thinking back to September, when Emily and I spent a week in
the Midwestern U.S. with Winona LaDuke, playing 3 shows to benefit
Honor the Earth
- St. Paul, MN, Bayfield and Madison, WI. We were just below the
great North Woods where taconite and mineral mining, fracking and
pipelines plans abound, where the powers that be in Minnesota are
trying to take the Gray
Wolf off the endangered species list, so there’s one less thing
to get in the way of the great extraction of the 21st century. Winona,
Executive Director of Honor the Earth spoke at each show about the
issues facing this area and how their effects go far beyond the
region, connecting us all in the struggle. Mining corporations are
moving into the Northern lakes in a new era of extreme
mining - with huge impacts on water, wild rice and wolves. In
turn, the new electric demands for mining operations are relying
on coal, projected to come from the Northern
Cheyenne homelands in Montana. Pipelines
carrying Tar Sands oils are moving through the region and new proposals
are being forwarded to double the movement of oil through the North
Woods. Hear one of her talks here.
in Wisconsin, Honor the Earth is supporting activists from the Bad
River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians who along
with many allies, have a protest camp out in the woods in the Penokee
Hills. They are protecting the headwaters of the Bad River Watershed,
which flows into the Kakagon Sloughs where the tribe's rice beds
grow, and then flows into the Great Lake Superior. The Chairman
of the Bad River Band, Mike
Wiggins spoke in Madison and Bayfield about the issues facing
his tribe they have established a legal
defense fund to stop the permitting of the largest iron-ore,
open-pit mine in the world slated for the headwaters of the Bad
River, six miles from the reservation border in northern Wisconsin
ceded territory. They are standing guard, standing up against the
mining giants, as all Wisconsin Tribes have done throughout their
present day history-facing one big machine after another, one corporation
after another - same fight different day. They are fighting on the
ground, in the government houses and in the courts.
the Earth has been working with communities like these on the front
lines for the past two decades. With your help, we raise money and
leverage political support to help the Indigenous activists in these
communities. Thanks to all the folks who came to the Midwest benefit
shows and Honor events this past 6 months, we have raised over $45,000.
And we had fun doing it! Here is our performance of Bury
My Heart At Wounded Knee from the Madison show, with special
guests Jennifer Kreisberg (Ulali) and Kelly Jackson. And here is
my favorite moment of all the shows - when Keith
Secola is joined by hoop dancer, Micco Sampson and pedal steel
player Joe Savage for a transcendent moment.
the end of October, I felt all the dots connecting. We had started
our September tour in the States, supporting communities fighting
pipelines and mines that weave a web across all of North America
impacting ecosystems and people regardless of race, community, or
nationality. We ended our October with a show on the last day our
Canadian tour in the city of Moncton, New Brunswick- where warrior
activists from the Mi’qmak
community, have been engaged in a stand off with gas shale mining
companies for months. They’ve been arrested, harassed, they have
literally laid their bodies on the road to block the trucks coming
in and out of their ancestral lands. They are protecting the land
and water for all of us. After the IG show, they gathered around
us and sang a Mi’qmak honor song with their drum. And I thought
about the drum songs I’ve heard from different territories, every
one unique with its own intervals and voice, but all connected by
the heartbeat of the drum. Water and air connect us too. And our
consumption connects us, and hopefully compels us to look at whole
and I hold the drum given to us by a member
of the Mi'qmak community after our show in Monkton.
2013-07-31: Note From Amy
years ago I got a letter from a man named Herman Wallace, from a
Louisiana State prison in Angola. Angola, an ex-slave plantation,
once called “the bloodiest prison in the South,” with a history
of chain gangs and forced labor, a breeding ground for corruption
and abuse. When I got the letter, Herman had been in a 6x9 cell,
23 hours a day for well over 30 years. He and two other men, Albert
Woodfox and Robert King (the Angola 3) had been put in jail as young
black men for minor crimes, and when they began organizing for better
conditions in the prison, they were accused of murdering a prison
guard and thrown into solitary confinement. The ensuing years in
multiple courts have shown an overwhelming amount of evidence that
these men are innocent. While Robert King was released in 2001,
Albert and Herman have remained in the prison system, in solitary
confinement to this day.
the time of their incarceration, inhumane prison conditions were
being revealed to the public and there was a movement to organize
and change these conditions, The Angola 3 were punished for practicing
what some Louisiana prison officials called “black pantherism.”
As Herman wrote to me in his letter, “Normally I would had long
ago been released based on discovery of wrong doing by the government.
This was not the just prosecutory misconduct, my case fell under
a systemic conspiracy to lynch both Albert and I for what J.E. Hoover
coined ‘The prevention of the rise of a Black Messiah.’”
Herman asked of me was to tell the story of the Angola 3, the simplicity,
inhumanity and starkness of which is haunts me. Any person, let
alone an innocent one suffering in solitary confinement for 40 years,
is just paralyzing. There are no gray areas in the case of the Angola
3, this is clearly an abuse of human rights, but the historical
context of it is so mind-blowing that it’s hard to write about.
7 years later, I’m reading a book by Michelle Alexander, called
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
and I start thinking about Herman and his letter and the threads
of history that have woven the tapestry of racism in America. Michelle’s
book is brilliant, it’s compassionate, and it’s disturbing in its
revelations. We’re so conditioned to see black men as potential
criminals, that we don’t even understand our own racism anymore.
The plight of the black man is something that people just don’t
want to touch, but suddenly the idea of “context” has been brought
to the fore with the trial of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The
nation is talking, but are we really connecting the dots? Do we
have the humility to confront the legacy, the history, the present
day reality of our racism? It’s the New Jim Crow all over again…
really look at this, this was a kid, a 16 year-old black boy, shot
and killed by an adult, a white adult who is now protected by a
law, a thoroughly American frontier concept called “stand your ground.”
is this all tied together…well let’s see… the “War on Drugs” was
declared in America about 40 years ago, around the same time that
3 young black men were thrown into solitary for fear of strong folks
of color organizing in their communities. And we see over time,
that this “War on Drugs” has created more crime, the dismantling
of community and debilitating poverty, a boom in prisons-for-profit,
and led to more black men in the criminal justice system than were
enslaved in 1850. Of course, a white man is not going to be convicted
for killing a black kid in a hoodie, even if he is just eating skittles
and drinking tea – we see this kid and all we see is a future criminal-we
aren’t color blind, the New Jim Crow is alive and kicking.
here’s a song for Herman, Albert, Robert, and Trayvon, and all the
for lyrics to "The Rise of the Black Messiah"
For more information:
2013-05-14: Note From Emily
Tuesday, May 14th, and Wednesday, May 15th, I will be at the Lee Arrendale
State Prison, recording with the Voices of Hope, and my friend, the
chaplain of the prison and choir director, Susan Bishop.
Bishop is making 2 separate cd’s with the Voices, one which is a gospel/inspirational
collection, the other which is a Christmas album. The cd’s will be
released later in the year, with all proceeds going to support various
ministry and outreach to the women’s prison population at Lee Arrendale.
Some of you may recall that the last cd I recorded with the Voices
of Hope raised money for the Children’s Center at the prison, which
was then located at Metro.
am particularly pleased that we will be recording a version of ‘There’s
Still My Joy’ , a beautiful holiday song that Amy and I put on “Holly
will keep you all updated on release information, but wanted you to
know that I am honored and inspired to be involved again with the
Voices of Hope.
changes everything it touches.
Spring and Early Summer!
2013-04-04: Note From Amy and Emily
our community in regards to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
want you to know some of our thoughts about our participation in
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Indigo Girls have a lot of respect
for protest and dialogue in our feminist and queer movements, and
we want to do our part to encourage growth and evolution in our
community. We care about MWMF deeply, and in our years of playing
the Festival, we have evolved and benefited from the experience.
We have received many gifts from this unique and powerful gathering.
hope for all the past years has been that the Festival would move
towards an intention of Trans-Inclusion. We have continued to search
our selves and look at both sides of this issue and truly respect
the different points of view, but have always come back to our core
belief that Trans Womyn should be included in the Festival, and
their womynhood should be honored by the intentions of MWMF. The
current intention for the Festival to be for “Womyn born Womyn”
only grew out of an important necessity to honor the idea that womyn
have a variety of self expression and appearance and they need a
safe space where their womynhood is not in question as they stand
in many different places on the spectrum from femininity to masculinity.
This intention has a very important historic basis and has kept
the space safe for many womyn over the years. But we strongly feel
that the time is long overdue for a change of intention, to one
that states very plainly the inclusion of Trans Womyn. To us, this
change of intention is the only path to a truly “safe space” for
are in a time of struggle and rapid changes in our movement and
we would be remiss to not recognize that many of the strides that
have been made are a result of Trans Activism and the strength and
perspective they have brought to the queer and feminist revolutions.
We feel that if someone identifies as a womyn, they are a womyn
and should be welcomed into our community with open arms. We will
only be stronger for it.
will be playing the Festival this year in the spirit of change.
We encourage the Founders and the community of MWMF to find the
bravery and compassion that we are all endowed with to create a
space that is Trans Inclusive. We know these changes are complex
and take time and careful consideration. MWMF has a long and important
history of being on the cutting edge of positive change- a torchbearer
for the hard transitions within the feminist and queer movements.
This is the time to fulfill MWMF’s most vital role in our community
and help to honor the Trans Community out in the world, by honoring
them within the world of Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We hope
in the end that we can all find our “safe space” and comfort on
the sacred land of MWMF.
understand that there are many folks who feel passionately about
these issues, but we encourage people on both sides to act peacefully
when they express themselves. There is nothing to be gained from
hateful rhetoric or aggressive actions. All over the world queer,
and specifically Trans folks are beaten and killed for being who
they are. The community of MWMF has a responsibility to fight this
hate and be a beacon of love and light for all womyn suffering under
hate and oppression, and this includes our Trans Sisters. If you
are against Trans Inclusion at MWMF, that is your prerogative, but
that does not mean you have to be aggressive towards the Trans community.
This kind of hate and aggression will rip our community apart and
we all know who benefits from “divide and conquer” and it’s not
womyn or queers.
we are playing the festival, we honor the current protest against
MWMF and hope that it will help move the community towards change.
Any money that we make playing the Festival will go towards Trans
Activism. We will make a statement from stage at the Festival in
support of Trans Inclusion. We have made it clear that this will
be our last time at the Festival until MWMF shows visible and concrete
signs of changing their intention. We have no animosity towards
anyone in this case but see the deep and fearless legacy that MWMF
has had during its existence and we honor that. We also honor the
prayerfulness that has been a part of this struggle on both sides.
This is not an easy path, so we empathize with all who struggle
to make their decisions. We love Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
and hope for it’s continued presence and power in our lives.