by Zo Tobi
It was early 2007. After 2 years of high-energy, fast-paced climate organizing at college, I had "burnt out" and stepped back for almost an entire year. Music brought me back to the movement.
I was attending Clark University in Worcester, MA, and heard about someone speaking at a synagogue in the community. It was internationally-renowed folk singer-turned Unitarian minister and climate activist, Rev. Fred Small. He was helping to organize the Interfaith Walk for Climate Rescue, a march from Western MA to Boston of people of all faiths and non-faiths, calling for strong state climate legislation. He had come to our local synagogue to drum up support for the upcoming march, and also to request shelter for the marchers.
Even though I'd been "out of the movement" for a while, I decided to go. I'll never forget how he started his talk. He started with a song.
Standing tall and looking out into the eyes of all of us in the audience, with a mighty and joyous bellow he began to sing the first verse of a song called, "Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life." Then, without hesitation, he said: "Now, all rise, in body or spirit!" We all rose. "Your turn!" he said...And we all started to sing!
Four minutes later, all of us were wide awake, our blood pumping, our passions activated. NOW, we were ready to take action.
That was a fateful day, because it was the day I chose to return to organizing... And years later, having organized full-time with the Sierra Student Coalition and now serving as a Life & Leadership Coach for the movement, I have not looked back.
Reverend Fred helped me to see that our movement needed music... and that music needed our movement. With his support, I began to focus my gifts as a songwriter on creating songs of celebration, solidarity, and courage for all those working for a more thriving, just, sustainable world.
Now, I'm excited to say, I'm about to produce my first professional record, "Blessed Unrest." My intention is for it to contribute to our larger soundtrack for social change.
For all of you out there, working your butts off for our climate, and for a clean energy economy that works for all: THANK YOU! I want to give you a gift back, some soul food for the journey. Learn more about my effort to fund and create my upcoming record, and watch a video from an "online benefit concert" I streamed on Sunday.
I remember in 2008, serving as the Northeast Organizer for Power Vote... those were some late nights. :-) Emails, phonebanking, canvassing, coaching campus leaders... What kept me going through it all was the sense that we were all in it together, and what reminded me of that every day was music.
Keep up the great work y'all, and I hope these songs give you what you need to stayed fired up!