About the Project
What is the environment? Too often, this word is taken for granted, with little time spent thinking about what it means. To many, the environment refers to the separated natural world filled with wilderness. However, at the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, the environment also encompasses “all aspects of daily life-where we live, work, and play.”
The key word in the title of this concert is “our.” One cannot draw a clear line between environment and people. Rather, everyday, people interact with and are affected by their environment in different ways. For some, the environment is an escape from society, while for others the environment serves as a stark reminder of the injustices that persist throughout society. Even though it may be taking for granted at times, the environment provides all of us with countless necessities, including breathable air, drinkable water, sustenance through food, protection from natural disasters, and climate mitigation. A threat to the environment, then, is in reality a threat to people.
Yet, the direct impacts are disproportionately felt by frontline communities, usually determined by other marginalizing factors in society, including racial, social, and economic factors.
We just recording the sextet for this album following our five day tour across Michigan. We played in five different cities, including the Knickerbocker in Grand Rapids, Dolores in Ypsilanti, UrbanBeat in Lansing, The Book Nook in Montague, and The Co-op in Ann Arbor. Two days later we were in the studio at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor for two full days of recording, getting eight originals of mine and putting music behind seven spoken word pieces by four different artists.
This whole experience was absolutely incredible, and I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the shows and supported us along the way. I’m looking forward to finishing the album over the next few months and sharing it with y’all soon!
They Say There Are Beautiful Trees
This piece was inspired by a quote from Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land.”
"I don't know when I'll see you next. Only the Angel Gabriel knows when each of our times comes. But when it does, and gravity leaves our feet, and we rise up, I know I'll see you up there. And they say there are beautiful trees in Heaven." - Harold Areno
Makes No Cents
There is a threat to forests and communities in the South – industrial scale biomass. Corporations clear cut forests for profit while stealing the clean air and water that communities depend on for health and well-being. Through my work with Dogwood Alliance, I had the opportunity to work alongside these frontline communities and experience the incredible resiliency they have.
The title is in reference to the lack of logic behind biomass. It does not prove to be economically sound or beneficial to the environment and community.
Learn more here: https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2017/06/rising-up-with-richmond-county/
Is this my fault?
Shortly after the Flint Water Crisis came to light, I went to Flint to volunteer by going door-to-door making sure residents had everything they needed. One mother I talked to expressed one of the most painful parts of this crisis. She had two young children, who were constantly sick. Until and after she learned about the water issue, she could not help but ask herself, “Is this my fault?”
When writing this piece, I found myself reflecting on my experiences with anxiety, as I often ask myself this question.
"The homesickness you have when you are still at home."
Oftentimes, environmental degradation leads to this feeling. Some areas are abundant with nature and natural resources. For many, these places are their homes. Then, one day, corporations come to extract resources until the area is no longer recognizable. One is only left wondering what happened to what they call home.
Inspired by Naomi Klein’s story of the island of Nauru in her book “This Changes Everything.”
The inspiration for this piece comes from a passage from Naomi Klein’s book, “No Is Not Enough,” regarding an experience she had at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s camp resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I was at another part of camp when this event occurred.
“I will never forget the experience of being at the main camp when the news arrived, after the months of resistance, that the Obama administration had finally denied the pipeline permit. I happened to be standing with Tokata Iron Eyes, a fiercely grounded yet playful thirteen-year-old from Standing Rock who had helped kick-start the movement against the pipeline. I turned on my phone video and asked her how she felt about the breaking news. ‘Like I have my future back,’ she replied, and then she burst into tears. I did too.”
Walter Fauntroy was a member of Congress from the District of Columbia when on September 27, 1982, he joined residents of Warren County, NC, in a protest around industrial pollution of PCBs in rural, majority-black communities. This movement in Warren County was the codification of the environmental justice movement, bringing together environmentalism and social justice. The arrest of Fauntroy marks the first time that a member of Congress was arrested in protest. This piece is about standing up for justice for all.
This is a project that took months of preparation and the help of countless, amazing people to turn it in to reality. As an activist and musician, I was looking for ways to bring together the fight for change with the arts. This collaboration of musicians, spoken word artists, organizers, activists, and community leaders is the result as well as the start of much more to come
Joseph Herbst, Saxophones and Compositions
Evan Taylor, Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Liany Mateo, Bass
Luther Allison, Piano
Peter Martin, Guitar
Zach McKinney, Drums
Many thanks to the partner organizations for this concert - Community Relations Coalition (http://www.wealllivehere.org), ReNeu MSU (https://www.facebook.com/ReNeuMSU/), and Reclaim MSU (https://www.reclaimmsu.com).
Recorded live by Corey DeRushia of Troubadour Recording Studios at the performance on March 30th, 2018, at the Michigan State University Museum.