Post 1970s Non-Labor Movement Examples Of "Which Side Are You On? In The United States - Bag Avatof Anonymous - Latest Quotes Photos

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Post 1970s Non-Labor Movement Examples Of "Which Side Are You On? In The United States

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part pancocojams series on the protest song "Which Side Are You On".

"Which Side Are You On?" is a song written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of Sam Reece, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Part III of this series presents a few post 1970s Civil Rights (African American protests) examples of this song are also included in this post.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/07/origin-of-labor-protest-song-which-side.html for Part I of this series presents information about the origin of "Which Side Are You On". The original lyrics for this song and a YouTube example of Natalie Merchant singing a cover of this song are included in this post.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/07/which-side-are-you-on-protest-song.html for Part II of this series. Part III presents examples of 1960s and 1970s United States Civil Rights (African American protests) examples of "Which Side Are You On"?.

The content of this post is presented for historical and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Florence Reece, the composer of this song, for her musical legacy. Thanks all those who sang and are still singing "Which Side Are You On" in their protests for labor rights and civil rights.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

****
INFORMATION ABOUT AND EXAMPLES OF "WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON" SUNG POST 1970S DURING NON-LABOR MOVEMENTS AMERICAN PROTESTS
Excerpt #1:
From https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/19256493/Pete+Seeger/Which+Side+Are+You+On%3F+%28Civil+Rights+Version%29
Which Side Are You On? (Civil Rights Version)
Len Chandler, The Freedom Voices

They stole a few elections,
Still we the people won
We voted out corruption and
Big corporations

We voted for an end to war
New direction
And We ain't gonna stop now
Until the job is done

Come on all good workers
This year is our time
Now there's folks in Washington
That care what's on our minds

Come one, come all voters
Lets all vote next time
Show 'em which side are you on now
Which side are you on

[Repeat: x4]
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on

Thirty years of diggin'
Got us in this hole
The curse of reaganomics
Has finally taken it's toll

Lord knows the free market
Is anything but free
It costs dearly to the planet
And the likes of you and me

I don't need those money lenders
Suckin' on my tit
A little socialism
Don't scare me one bit!

We could do a whole lot worse
Than Europe or Canada
Come on Mr. president
Come on congress make the law

Which side are you on now
Which side are you on
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on

They say in Orleans parish
There are no neutrals there
There's just too much misery
And there's too much despair

America who are we
Now our innocence is gone
Forgive us mother Africa
History's done you wrong

Too many stories written
Out in black and white
Yeah come on people of privilege
It's time to join the fight

Are we living in the shadow of slavery
Or are we moving on
Tell me which side are you on now
Which side are you on

Which side are you on now
Which side are you on
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on
Which side are you on boys
Which side are you on
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on

My mother was a feminist
She taught me to see
That the road to ruin is paved
With patriarchy

So, let the way of women
Guide democracy
From plunder and pollution
Let mother earth be free

Feminism ain't about women
No, that's not who it is for
It's about a shifting consciousness
That'll bring an end to war

So listen up you fathers
Listen up you sons
And tell me which side are you on now
Which side are you on

[Repeat: x4]
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on

So are we just consumers
Or are we citizens
Are we gonna make more garbage
Or are we gonna make amends

Are you part of the solution
Or are you part of the con?
Which side are you on now
Which side are you on?
-snip-
The sub-title given to this song "Civil Rights Version" is a misnomer, given the lyrics of this song and the usual meaning in the United States of "civil rights"as pertaining to protest movements centering around Black people and/or other people of Color. Besides, there are more than one "civil rights versions" of "Which Side Are You On?" as documented by the version given in Part II of this series.

This song includes the term "reaganomics" which dates it as being composed during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Here's some information about reaganomics from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/reaganomics.asp

What is Reaganomics?
Reaganomics is a popular term referring to the economic policies of Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president (1981–1989). His policies called for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets...

The term Reaganomics was used by both supporters and detractors of Reagan's policies."...

****
Excerpt #2
From https://denisesullivan.com/2015/01/11/were-on-the-freedom-side/ "We’re On The Freedom Side" by Denise Sullivan, January 11, 2015
"There’s a new version of the labor standard, “Which Side Are You On?” going around: Sung at the Black Lives Matter and Blackout Coalition actions, it’s also been used as the intro and outro marching song at some of the Black Brunch protests.

Malcolm X was a freedom fighter
And he taught us how to fight
We go’n’ fight all day and night
Until we get it right
Which side are you on, my people? Which side are you on?

[video no longer available]

In the early ’30s when the United Mine Workers of America began to organize around Eastern Kentucky (in an effort to end practices like payment in scrip and pay docking toward rent in substandard housing) it was Florence Reece, a Kentucky miner’s daughter and wife who wrote the original lyrics to “Which Side Are You On?”. It remains a labor movement standard.

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Blair was the sheriff who rousted Reece’s family during the strike among Harlan County mine workers, just one of the struggles which contributed toward the region earning its nickname “Bloody Harlan County.” In the ‘70s, workers struck again and Reece reprised the song for striking miners (preserved in this clip from Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award-winning documentary, Harlan County U.S.A.).

[video no longer available]

The song’s melody is said to be based on a hymn, “Lay the Lily Low.” Some researchers believe it is the same song that forms the basis for the traditional “Jack-a-Roe,” (also known as “Jack Munro”), its best-known version performed by the Grateful Dead. But I think that somewhere in the Kentucky mountains, singers have been intoning this strange melody for hundreds of years, its deep minor tones more reminiscent of the mystic drone of a Gregorian chant than anything known to folk or gospel. Whatever its melody’s true origins, “Which Side Are You On?” was first repurposed during the Civil Rights Movement by topical singer-songwriter Len Chandler (you can hear his recorded version on the album, WNEW’S Story of Selma).

Come all you Northern liberals,
Take a Klansman out to lunch
But when you dine instead of whine
You should serve nonviolent punch
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Chandler told me his story, of how he came to be a topical singer in Greenwich Village, then moved on to marching with Dr. King from, Selma to Montgomery (he appears in archival footage in the new film, Selma). “I’d write a song like that and then I’d be singing it in a mass meeting that night. People would be playing and singing for forty five minutes, until you were just worn out,” he said. Fifty years later, he remains in pursuit of social justice through action and song (Chandler’s full story appears in Keep on Pushing). I learned from listening to Chandler’s songs and to his songtalk, and by studying the work of freedom singers like Odetta, Bernice Johnson and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, that group singing among activists gives people who may start the night as strangers a chance to bond. Communing over songs, we become more bound to purpose. Singing together is energizing, nourishing, and feeds the spirit; it provides strength to move forward, together as one. But group singing for justice serves a further purpose beyond what some mock as a moment to join hands and sing “Kumbaya”: In the fight for non-violence, singing has the ability to disarm.

Hamer practiced the power of song when she sang alongside Chandler and other SNCC volunteers at the mass meetings and marches, through her representation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic Convention and on to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Women at the forefront of workers organizing, who’ve pushed for voting and employment rights, and led the fights to end war, poverty, and racism across the planet all know well the power of song: Whether Hamer, Reece, or Ani DiFranco (who updated the song in 2012 then titled her collection of socially conscious songs, ¿Which Side Are You On?) or the Black Lives Matter and Blackout Coalition organizers, women are allied in a long and storied legacy of traditional and gospel song. With songs we have contributed to toppling apartheid in South Africa, had voting rights granted in the US, fought warlords in Liberia and begun to make corrections to the broken justice system in the USA. With songs that have traveled the road from blues to hip hop, we will continue toward freedom for all people. It’s good to hear the timeless soundtrack to justice making a comeback. Now, which side are you on?"
-snip-
Here's some information about "Black Brunch Protests"
From https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-brunch-disrupts-restaurants_n_6416844
#BlackBrunchNYC Disrupts Diners To Protest Police Brutality By Lilly Workneh
BLACK VOICES 01/05/2015 10:49 am ET
"In a seemingly new approach to demonstrating, protesters in New York interrupted patrons at various restaurants on Sunday to declare injustice in America and call attention to problematic policing tactics.

The event was part of a movement dubbed #BlackBrunch in which protesters purposely selected eateries across the city, or places they referred to as “white spaces,” to voice their outrage over police violence against Blacks.

On Sunday, about three dozen demonstrators marched into restaurants and briefly interrupted mid-day meals as they read aloud the names of African Americans killed by police, Yahoo reports.

“There is a war on Black people in America that cannot be ignored and the Black Brunch tactic is one that is committed to interrupting ‘business as usual’ until the war against us has ended,” reads a statement written by #BlackBrunch organizers.

“Young Black leaders organized Black Brunch in response to the historic violence and unjust crimes committed against Black people in America,” the statement continues.

Some of the protests were held at popular New York City eateries including The Barking Dog, Lallisse, Maialino and Pershing Square. Meanwhile, across the country, similar protests also took place in restaurants in Oakland, California.

“We march, chant and sing together as we claim space in areas that are predominantly non-Black,” organizers wrote.

Organizers said this spin on sit-in style protests is a resistance tactic that was created by organizers in Oakland last year.

Many applauded the protests on Twitter while others weren’t too pleased with the momentary demonstration. Instead, some patrons saw the interruption as an inconvenience and subsequently expressed their frustration on social media.

[...]

However, the protesters do not seem to express any regrets.

“We are peacefully and publicly mourning and saying the names of innocent slain Black Americans for 4 ½ minutes and we’re not sorry for interrupting your Brunch,” Iris Dillard, a Berkeley student who participated in a protest over the weekend, told The Washington Post.

“The fact that people are negatively responding to the #BlackBrunch and not the illness of racism and the myth of American progress, disturbs me more than anything.”

****
SHOWCASE VIDEO OF A BLACK BRUNCH PROTEST
#BLACKBRUNCH Rockridge


Wazi Maret Davis, Published on Dec 8, 2014

Young Black leaders of Oakland [California] convened on Saturday, Dec. 6 2014 to march in peaceful protest throughout the Rockridge neighborhood. Together they chant song and honor the names of Black lives lost to police violence.
-snip-
One person in the group calls out a name and the age of a person who was the victim of police violence. The group then responds, raising their right fist in the black power salute and in unison shouting the word “Ashe”. The recitation ends with one person saying “And so it is” and the group repeating “And so it is”.
The song begins around 2:07 in this video [Protesters sing while they walk in single file out of the restaurant. The singing is accompanied by drum [probably djembe drum] and individual hand claps.

Here's my transcription of this version of "Which Side Are You On?" [Additions and corrections are welcome.]

Chorus:
Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?

Justice for Mike Brown is
Justice for us all
I will fight for justice
Until justice is won.

Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?
[One person sings: We on the freedom side!]
Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?
[One person sings: We on the freedom side!]

[Repeat that entire song]
-snip-
As mentioned in Excerpt #3 above, participants in BlackBrunch Protests often sing "Which Side Are You On?"as an introduction to their recitation of names of victims of police brutality and as their "outro"- when they are leaving the protest. The video doesn't show the entire protest, but it's likely that ththe group may have sung "Which Side Are You On?" at the beginning of their protest. However, they are shown singing it at the end of their protest.

Here's information about Mike Brown:
Click https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Michael_Brown for information about Mike Brown who was shot & killed by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. Here’s one excerpt from that page:
This event ignited unrest in Ferguson. Although a subsequent FBI investigation found that there was no evidence that Brown had his hands up in surrender or said "don't shoot" before he was shot, protesters believed that he had done so, and used the slogan "Hands up, don't shoot" in protest. Protests, both peaceful and violent, continued for more than a week in Ferguson; police established a nightly curfew. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests was strongly criticized by the media and politicians. There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics, and a militarized response."
-snip-
Here are some comments from this video's discussion thread, including a comment that I posted (with numbers added for referencing purposes only)
1. robertk2007, 2015
"if they were so concerned with people rights, they wouldnt be trespassing on private property. go to the city square and scream your head off"

**
2. acquista mon, 2015
"The goal is good and I like the song... but dont confuse reaction to a brunch bust as evidence of change. Change from the police is necessary, but even more important is the condition of inner cities and education and freedom from drug abuse and early teen pregnancy. I 360 change vs. 60 degrees, that is the side I am on, the whole side."

**
3. Michael Attaya, 2015
"What are they shouting?? I shay? I said? I shed? I can't quite understand it. They got a little tune going on at the end though. I give them that. It's kind of catchy."

**
REPLY
4. Azizi Powell, 2019
"Michael Attaya
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%E1%B9%A3%E1%BA%B9
"ase or ashe (from Yoruba àṣẹ)[1] is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. It is given by Olodumare to everything — gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, or even everyday conversation. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it.[2]

In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power, authority, command."...

African Americans who have adopted the word "ashe" usually spell it "ashe" (pronounced "ah -shay" as an equivalent term to "so be it" / "Amen"."

****
TWEET THAT INCLUDES A BRIEF CLIP OF A MINNESOTA COMMUNITY ACTIVIST GROUP SINGING "WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?"


https://twitter.com/IlhanMN https://twitter.com/IlhanMN [official representative illhan omar twitter account]

Ilhan Omar Retweeted

TakeAction Minnesota


@TakeActionMN
July 18, 2019
📢 What side are you on, my people. We’re on the freedom side. #IStandWithIlhan #WelcomeHomeIlhan
-snip-
This tweet features a brief video clip of a multiracial group of young people singing a version of the song “What Side Are You On”? The singing occurred at the Minneapolis airport while the group waited to greet Representative Illhan Omar when she arrived home to Minneapolis. The group then chanted "Welcome home, Illhan!"

With regard to the "What Side Are You On?" song, it appeared that some people in the group-including the White woman with a bullhorn who seemed to be leading the group, didn't know the song, but were reading the words from yellow slips of paper that they held. Unfortunately, I can't find any video of TakeAction singing that song or any online references to the version of "What Side Are You On?" that is sung by that group.

Here's information about TakeActionMinnesota:
From https://www.takeactionminnesota.org/about-us/
"ABOUT TAKEACTION MINNESOTA
TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide network of people – people just like you — working to realize racial and economic equity across Minnesota. We do this by connecting people and organizations to each other, turning someone’s individual desire for change – to pass a more progressive policy or law, to improve an institution, to change a harmful idea or perception – into the broad public action that makes change happen where it wasn’t possible going it alone.

We know that Minnesotans around our state want to make a difference on the issues that affect their own lives. Having access to health care when you need it. To earn enough to support your family with dignity. Being given a second chance to build your future. But to be effective, we need to connect with other people, and other organizations, who have the same vision.

At TakeAction Minnesota, people come together to change Minnesota. We work together to win the changes that help shape our lives for the better, beating the odds again and again. We do it with great people, and organizations, from communities across our state. With people, by people, and for people just like you."...
-snip-
Although I consider myself relatively familiar with civil rights songs, reading that tweet and watching that brief video yesterday was my first introduction to the protest song "Which Side Are You On?"

Thanks TakeActionMinnesota, for introducing me to this song!

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