“A Gentle, Angry People”: Music in a Quaker Nonviolent Direct-Action Campaign to Power Local Green Jobs - Young Academic Alumni Lecture by Benjamin Safran '13

Wednesday, February 5, 2020
4:15 PM - 6:00 PM (ET)
LUT LUT 200 Instruction and Events
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Hochberg, Rachel A

While the use of spiritual music in non-violent resistance has been noted by music scholars, one might still be surprised by the sheer amount of music with Philadelphia-based activist group Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT). While Quakerism is known for its historical animosity toward music, Safran argues that Quakerism's historical values have actually fostered the robust musical culture within EQAT and shaped its ability to function effectively as a "rebel" non-violent direct action group. Music is used to summon courage and unity within scary actions. The “gentle” Quaker aesthetic may meanwhile partially mask or even cap the movement’s rebelliousness.

EQAT’s Power Local Green Jobs campaign pressures a local utility company to invest in renewable energy and local jobs in marginalized communities, and considers itself to be on the intersection of climate, racial, and economic justice. The group’s musical choices, which range from traditional spirituals to parodies of popular songs, promote group cohesion and—in tandem with the group’s demographics—allow the group to index good virtue and seem non-threatening to outsiders, even as it poses a threat to the political status-quo. Scholarship has begun to address the use of music in large contemporary political mobilizations. This presentation considers the role of music within a smaller but sustained, strategic campaign which Safran argues is an especially important model for creating revolutionary change in the current political era.

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