Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Poster of the Week

Pete Seeger
Earl Newman
Silkscreen, 2009
Summit, Oregon

Those of us who work for peace with justice lost one of our most creative and legendary cultural activists. Pete Seeger used the power of music to make the world a better place for more than seven decades.  He helped create the modern American folk music movement.  In 1940, he performed “This Land Is Your Land” with Woody Guthrie—shortly after Guthrie had written it as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Over the years Pete turned   “This Land Is Your Land” into an alternative national anthem for progressive activists.

In 2009, Pete and Bruce Springsteen sang “This Land Is Your Land” during President Obama’s inauguration—including the often censored verse:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

This poetic and powerful verse exemplifies Pete Seeger’s lifelong political activism.  He wrote or co-wrote many consciousness raising songs, including "If I Had a Hammer," ''Turn, Turn, Turn," and ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He is also credited with popularizing "We Shall Overcome” into the anthem of the 1960’s liberation movements.  He sang and marched against fascism, racial injustice, nuclear weapons, the Viet Nam War, and the death penalty. He sang and marched to support countess just causes, including peace, civil rights, migrant workers, political prisoners, the environment and the Occupy movement.

He was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and black-listed from commercial broadcasting for 17 years.  In 1967, the Smothers Brothers convinced CBS to break the network black-listing and invite Seeger to perform on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Seeger performed his latest hit, the powerful “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” about  a commander who, against the advice of his men, drowned while leading his troops into a river without knowing how deep it was.  CBS deleted the last verse which left no doubts as to its reference to President Johnson and the Viet Nam War:

Now everytime I read the papers
That old feelin' comes on
We're waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
(Copyright 1966 Melody Trails)

Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
Pete Seeger


Monday, January 20, 2014

Poster of the Week

Do You Give A Shit About Water Pollution?
Mark Heller
Steve Gottlieb, Photographer
Personality Posters
Offset, 1971
New York, New York

This 1971 poster uses irony to call attention to the issue of water pollution—an issue that made international headlines this past week.
Before people were warned against about a disastrous chemical leak in Charleston, West Virginia on January 9, 2014, they ate, drank and bathed as usual.  After people began to be hospitalized and reports of burned scalps, blistered throats, open sores on bodies and nausea began to be reported, they were finally warned not to used their tap water for ANYTHING but flushing the toilet. A chemical spill from a company absurdly named “Freedom Industries” left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water for days, sparking a state of emergency. Even after the ban was partially lifted, pregnant women were warned not to drink the water, and the reality is that there is so little information about the chemical that much remains unknown. The plant hadn’t been inspected since 1991.  To add insult to injury, Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy on January 17.
Chemical safety is not a West Virginia problem, it’s a national problem, said Devra Davis, a founding member of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and now president of the Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit group.
“It would be farcical were it not so grave. This is a huge threat,” she said. “In a sense, we all live downstream now.”
When will we ever learn.
 Bottom of Form

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Poster of the Week

Free Lynne Stewart
Christopher Hutchinson
Digital Print, 2009
Hartford, CT

Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart returned home last week from prison after a federal judge ordered her compassionate release. Stewart is 74 years old and dying from late-stage breast cancer. Viewed by supporters as a political prisoner, she had served almost four years of a 10-year sentence for distributing press releases on behalf of her client, Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric known as the "blind Sheikh." Stewart arrived to a group of cheering supporters in New York City on Wednesday, January 2, 2014. Stewart plans to continue fighting for political prisoners — and for her own life — now that she's free.

The charges against Stewart stemmed from two press releases that she released via Reuters on behalf of her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, that urged his followers to think critically about the cease-fire terms offered between them and the Egyptian government.
Stewart and her supporters describe her situation as an attempt by the U.S. government to generally intimidate lawyers. The government is especially interested in suppressing any evidence of misconduct and abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib that might arise from lawsuits filed by current and former prisoners. Stewart says she did nothing that a committed lawyer would not do for any client. Stewart and her supporters accused the U.S. government of using the Patriot Act to erode civil liberties.

Sources and more information, including interviews with Stewart: