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Correspondence: 2013-12-11: Note From Emily

Hi Everybody,

I 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.

You 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. I 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'.

Please 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.

Thanks so much for your support!

x emily

Correspondence: 2013-11-09: Note From Amy

I started this update a couple weeks ago after returning from an IG Canadian tour….
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 in it,
and then, throughout our lives, we depend on it.

October 2013
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 really understand.

Read it here: A Hobbit Goes to Mordor

I 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.

Up 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.

Honor 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.

At 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 picture here.


Emily and I hold the drum given to us by a member
of the Mi'qmak community after our show in Monkton.


Correspondence: 2013-07-31: Note From Amy

Seven 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.

At 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.’”

All 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.

So, 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.”

How 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.

So, here’s a song for Herman, Albert, Robert, and Trayvon, and all the others.

Click here for lyrics to "The Rise of the Black Messiah"

For more information:




http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2147697,00.html - ixzz2ZyCh32eG


Correspondence: 2013-05-14: Note From Emily

Dear Everyone,

On 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.

Chaplain 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.

I 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 Happy Days’.

I 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.

Music changes everything it touches.

Happy Spring and Early Summer!



Correspondence: 2013-04-04: Note From Amy and Emily

To our community in regards to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

We 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.

Our 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 womyn.

We 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.

We 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.

We 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.

Although 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.


Amy and Emily
Indigo Girls




Past Correspondence
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