Grateful for Community Support

My colleagues, Professors Paul de Mesquita and Joe Parillo, join me in extending our thanks and gratitude to the University of Rhode Island and the community for supporting the Honors Colloquium on “Songs of Social Justice: The Rhetoric of Music.” That support was seen in the raising of the $120,000 needed for program expenses and more importantly in the attendance at the programs. We calculate more than 8,500 seats were filled by students, faculty, staff and Rhode Islanders from the community during the series. We also had guests from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, and Scotland.

For 12 weeks, we explored the role of music as a voice for those who often have no voice. We began with an exploration of rap music with Chuck D, Tricia Rose and AS220. We examined labor and worker issues with Faith Petric, Utah Phillips, Anne Feeney and Rosalie Sorrels. We explored the historic and current issues of civil rights with Sonny Ochs, Magpie, and Kim and Reggie Harris. We probed contemporary and sometimes controversial issues with Ember Swift, Anne Feeney, David Rovics, Joyce Katzberg, Charlie King, and Karen Brandow. We spent an evening transfixed by the powerful and emotional messages of Native Americans Bill Miller and Buffy Sainte-Marie. We learned more about the power of song in Mexican immigrant labor from Agustin Lira and Alma. On one historic evening, we heard from three legendary women musicians/activists: Ronnie Gilbert, Rosalie Sorrels and Peggy Seeger. None who were there will forget our final evening as Nora Guthrie and the Vanaver Caravan paid tribute to one of the greatest voices in American music, Woody Guthrie.

I was asked once if we were careful to present both sides of the issue. I found this curious since neither my colleagues nor I could find the other side of social justice. Further, we wanted to stir things up a bit, get people talking—to engage in a dialogue. I think we did that and we thank the community for their time, their thoughts, and their support.

Contact: Stephen C. Wood, URI professor of communication studies