Art & Activism: Sing Out the Vote Ohio!
In October 2008, Holly and an intrepid troupe of social justice singers and artists decided to do their part for this century's historic election and work to get out the vote in the critical swing state of Ohio. From October 18 to 28, they travelled throughout the state singing and speaking to voters. This page and its links memorialize their participation in the successful election of Barack Obama.
Click each heading to read the text.
SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA: Singer/songwriter and social justice activist Holly Near has organized SING OUT THE VOTE OHIO! - an 11-day breakneck tour of some of Ohio's biggest cities with the goal of encouraging early voting and Getting Out the Vote in the state. Shows begin on October 18 in Toledo and end on October 28 in Dayton.
To date, nineteen social justice singers and artists have signed on to join the tour as their schedules allow. Not all the artists will be in each city or at every event. Each of the artists and tour organizers are contributing their time and energy to this important election effort.
Events are listed below. Musical rallies will be held in churches, colleges, bookstores, arts centers, and parks to encourage early voting. As time permits, the artists will also visit campaign and GOTV headquarters to energize the hard-working canvass and phone teams - events to energize the energizers!
Says tour organizer Holly Near, "We want to use our voices and songs to combat the hate and fear-based campaign being waged against hard-won civil rights. This smear campaign has reached dangerous levels. We social change artists walk in a long tradition of confronting fear with song."
Click the artist's name to go to their website
Vanessa and Tamara Torres
The Prince Myshkins
Poet on Watch
Andre dos Santos Morgan
Local artists joined the tour when it came to their town
Deborah Van Kleef
October 18 at 7 pm -- Toledo, OH
Evening Concert Event With Holly Near and Kiya Heartwood (of Wishing Chair)
Lourdes College Ebeid Student Center, Lourdes College Young Democrats, Sylvania (Toledo), Ohio.
October 19 at 3pm -- Cleveland, OH
Holly Near speaks at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio
October 20 at 7 pm -- Cleveland, OH
Sing Out the Vote: A Suite for Change -- with Holly Near, emma's revolution, Laura Love, John McCutcheon, Wishing Chair, Vanessa and Tamara Torres, Roy Zimmerman, and local artist Deborah Van Kleef
Pilgrim Church, Cleveland, OH
October 21 at 6:30 pm -- Kent, OH
Sing Out the Vote:A Suite for Change -- with Holly Near, John McCutcheon, Laura Love, The Prince Myshkins, Vanessa and Tamara Torres, Roy Zimmerman, and local artists Deborah Van Kleef and Sue Jeffers
Kent Stage in downtown Kent, OH.
October 22 at 7 pm -- Columbus, OH
SING OUT THE VOTE MUSICAL RALLY -- with Holly Near, emma's revolution, Laura Love, John McCutcheon, Wishing Chair, Vanessa and Tamara Torres, Roy Zimmerman, Andre dos Santos Morgan, Tory Trujillo, Poet On Watch, and local artist Ariel Horowitz
First Unitarian Church of Columbus, Columbus, OH 43214
October 24 at noon -- Athens, OH
FRONT ROOM MUSICAL RALLY at OU
October 24 at 7 pm -- Athens, OH
SING OUT THE VOTE MUSICAL RALLY -- with Holly Near, Laura Love, Tory Trujillo, Poet on Watch, Wishing Chair, Vanessa and Tamara Torres, The Prince Myshkins, Andre dos Santos Morgan, Colleen Kattau, and local artist Ariel Horowitz
ARTS/West, Athens, OH
October 26 at 2 pm -- Marietta, OH
SING OUT THE VOTE OHIO-SINGING FOR CHANGE
A MUSICAL RALLY with Holly Near, John McCutcheon, Laura Love, Tory Trujillo, Wishing Chair, The Prince Myshkins, Andre dos Santos Morgan, Colleen Kattau, Anne Feeney
Hermann Fine Arts Center Lobby, Marietta College, Marietta, OH
October 27 at 7:30 pm -- Cincinnati, OH
SING OUT THE VOTE OHIO:MOBILIZING WOMEN LIKE NEVER BEFORE with Holly Near, Laura Love, Carrie Newcomer, Wishing Chair, The Prince Myshkins, Anne Feeney, Tracy Walker
Mt Auburn Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, OH
October 28 at 7:30 pm -- Dayton, OH
SING OUT THE VOTE OHIO with Holly Near, Laura Love, Carrie Newcomer, The Prince Myshkins, Anne Feeney
Canal Street Tavern, Dayton, OH
Sang at Headquarters - that went really well. People felt cared for, energized, appreciated our visit a lot
Spoke at bookstore - was able to have healthy healing discussion, especially with women who worked so hard for H. Clinton and have not time to heal, recover from feeling really bruised by misogyny and the loss. We were able to process some of that and the women decided to meet back at the bookstore on Nov 5 to decide what to do next.
Evening event - lots of people feeling grateful for the boost, they are tired, hard to keep talking to people who say Barak is this or that, things that are not true. The songs put their work in a context bigger than a candidate. Lots of people volunteered to do up coming actions. It was a great evening.
Sang at headquarters, again, happy people, appreciative for the boost
Did the street walk. Singers were great. Very spirited. But turns out that there were not that many people on the street - not like NYC - and the mall wont let campaigners inside. A cafe across from campus wouldnt let us sing inside. We were unsuccessful in getting campaign volunteers to go on the street to work with us.
So we moved onto the campus, found the Obama table, student everything from curious to uncomfortable to happy! But we still haven't found our stride. Practice. Practice.
Not good use of our time/voices to sing to two or three people -- need to find where large groups of people are already gathered or passing by. If we had had more lead time we might have found more pre arranged events so we could just move in and be the spirit raiser. When I call the Dem office and Obama office the persons answering the phone cant answer questions like the ones I have. And the people in charge are not standing around by the phone. Everyone over extended. So we just show up unannounced and see how we can be of use.
An award-winning streaming radio show out of Taos has been plugging the tour so starting to get emails from around the country.
This date had the least warning. I think they had one week to pull it together and they did a great job, Singers went to Kent State and sang on campus. Then an early show at Kent Stage. Good lights and sound which lifted the spirit of the artists and the audience loved the evening. It is clear that these evening gatherings are the most useful. The place is filled with activists who need healing or inspiring or energizing and there are progressives who just haven't plugged in yet and we invite them to join in by volunteering for some part of the effort (staffing phones, door to door canvassing, and even cooking for the volunteers).
More street singing, on campus, "crashing" classrooms with professor approval, walking people to vans so they can early vote, radio interviews done by most of the artists.
Great concert. Packed to the ceiling. We tried a piece called "One of Us" which is taken from The Flirtations (early gay men's singing group) where we each write something personal on a piece of paper and then we each read one of the pieces. One of us is the child of a broken home, one of us is Native American, one of us has a masters degree, one of us is in the closet, one of us.....etc. Very moving. Ending with all of us are gay, straight, bisexual, and none of us are undecided, which of course gets the laugh and we dive into a song.
One of the highlights here taking one night off so the artists could be with each other. This turned out to be hugely important in terms of long term work. These artists are out there all year long singing for change, responding to requests for benefits, being left out of mainstream consciousness (even most people in the left don't know we exist). It was great to gather together. One singer said, "I didn't even know how lonely I have been out here doing this work until sitting here with all of you." There was a great sense of needing each other, appreciating each other. High level of political knowledge but perhaps most of all, an appreciation of craft.
Sang at student center on campus, on street corner near early voting site, at the farmer's market. Evening show very intimate in a lovely little theater. People all the way from Italy in our audience who are thrilled to know there is such a song movement as this in U.S. Got to see a fabulous quilt exhibit and enjoy a lovely potluck with organizers.
The only out-front Obama Rally we did, so it was great to focus on let's elect Obama! So very spirited with audience getting up and conga line dancing around the room! We signed up 50 new volunteers to help with the campaign.
Sound person didn't show so a very generous woman with limited experience offered to help. Plus our artists jumped in so that was a little stressful but once the concert began, everyone happy. Planned Parenthood there to try and get volunteers to call women. They had identified 5,000 women who were pro-choice and pro-women's health and yet undecided! I know, hard to imagine but the phone call was designed to stick to the issue and make sure the woman on the other end knew how each candidate thought about women's health. I hope we helped them get volunteers. I haven't heard how many of those 5,000 calls got made but this is surely how the election was won. One person at a time.
Our last stop. Sang at a community college. Again, not very successful but we were able to support the students there who were being intimidated by authority. The Obama students were so active and visible. And the McCain students were nowhere to be found so it made it appear unbalanced. I spoke with the student advisors and pointed out that it wasn't the fault of the active students that the inactive ones were not there and that doing this campaign was part of the educational process, the development of future school board members, city council people, university presidents, and congress people. I hope they calmed down. Everyone nervous about their nonprofit status and accusations of voter fraud.
We closed out the tour at a long time folk club in Dayton. People packed in. Great spirit. Not such a volunteering crowd but maybe they were just too tired. Folks in Ohio go through this way too often with local elections, primaries, and presidential campaigns. They are either bored, annoyed, weary, or inspired but no one was neutral about us being in Ohio!
Again, big thanks to the producers, the audiences and the most fabulous artists!
We received some lovely feedback about the shows.
Here's a short excerpt from one letter. Click here to read the entire letter.
Nothing could have prepared me for that rally Friday night, or for the quite different show Sunday afternoon! It was like hearing The Weavers again that afternoon in 1958. Joy stirred inside my body, and a song of hope came dancing out. My 17-year-old daughter was at work Friday night, so I made sure she was in the audience Sunday afternoon. She was jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Thankfully the torch got passed. Others have written now about the Sing Out The Vote Ohio tour, and I'll refer you to a couple of sites. Four of the songs, from the Columbus appearance, are at YouTube, and Holly is considering putting something together to release. Whatever happens Tuesday, songs of social change have happened here and will resonate through my being into my future and beyond...no matter what!
From Melissa Howden ... tour manager extraordinaire!
Nothing could have prepared me for that rally Friday night, or for the quite different show Sunday afternoon! It was like hearing The Weavers again that afternoon in 1958. Joy stirred inside my body, and a song of hope came dancing out. My 17-year-old daughter was at work Friday night, so I made sure she was in the audience Sunday afternoon. She was jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Thankfully the torch got passed. Others have written now about the Sing Out The Vote Ohio tour, and I'll refer you to a couple of sites. Four of the songs, from the Columbus appearance, are at YouTube, and Holly is considering putting something together to release. Whatever happens Tuesday, songs of social change have happened here and will resonate through my being into my future and beyond...no matter what!" -- Richard Carlson, Ohio
"Fresh from my trip to Ohio getting out the vote, I walked into the Democratic Return watching Party (in Taos) on the arm of my new love Tuesday night just as Ohio was called. It still gives me goosebumps to recall that moment. The place erupted in cheers, screams and tears. I was in the latter category. I stood quietly watching the screens and tears just started flowing. Tears of relief, tears of disbelief, tears of some kind of acknowledgment that our work, the work of millions of volunteers made a difference. Just at that moment I received calls from Laura Love and Holly Near (two of my Ohio co-horts) just screaming with joy!
Watching President Elect Obama's speech later that evening , the emotion continued as it has with everybody I know. When he told the history of America through the experience of the 106 year old woman votiing and then into the future through the lives of his beautiful young daughters I knew without any doubt that we had worked for the right man at the right time in history.
Everybody is sending beautiful inspiriing messages. Ecstatic, joyful, hopeful. Fresh. Lassie is home safely. I haven't had adequate words.... I feel the need to just enjoy this moment for a few days. Already we need to organize in the face of Proposition 8 in California. And God this man we've elected in landslide fashion has the hardest job on the planet and he/wewill need all that we can offer. We cannot rest long but lets just rest for a moment.
I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work on this election, with so many, shoulder to shoulder. Lets not forget what can be accomplished when we focus and work in such a way.
On Nov 5, 2008, the Prince Myshkins wrote:
Returning to the campaign office after driving folks to the polls on the south side of Madison (great cheer, energy, juggling lessons in the back seat of the van, little boys running after us shouting "Obama," teenage girls hopping in to get in line at literally the last minute), walking in to hear people saying, "They just called Ohio for Obama," my jaw dropping, and thinking of all of you, will be one of those moments that isn't just a memory, but sticks around doing its work in the present for some while.
On Wed, 5 Nov 2008, Andre dos Santos Morgan wrote:
Last night, when Obama took Ohio, I got a call from my mother in Colorado. The only reason I knew it was her was by the caller ID, because for the first 5 mins of the call, although she tried desperately to speak, all mom could do was sob. She finally got out repeated shouts of "Hallelujah." We talked as the coverage continued with her sharing new stories of her childhood memories of coming of age in Jim Crow Alabama, marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., the experience that inspired "Hugging Blondie" and how blessed we were to be able to have her mother/my 91 year old grand mother "Sugar Sugar" alive to celebrate this event with us.
My mom wanted me to send her love and gratitude to the Sing Out The Vote Ohio family, with a special shout out to you Holly.
My love is always with you.
This is an extraordinary moment. Thank you for sharing this story. Knowing your mom has been a Republican delegate, makes this story all the more startling and magnificent. The sight of Jesse Jackson weeping in the crowd last night, the whole world watching as if this were a coming of age for humanity. I know the work has only just begun, but to hold this moment just for a while is so important. Much love to you and a big embrace for your mom. Holly
congratulations! today is the beginning of the future.... what an amazing victory for all good people in the world.... the Americans finally stood up and made it happen. maybe it will be possible to go back and live in the US, if Obama will run it...
here is the most beautiful quote i heard last night someone said:
“Rosa sat, so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. And, Obama is running so our children can fly.”
RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR)
I will forever be struck by the great joy we had on election night to realize, by about 6:30 or so, PST, that Barack Obama was going to win the race. They called Pennsylvania for him and you could tell that Virginia was going to go his way and then, quickly, Florida and Ohio were in his column. The networks all waited until 8:00 p.m. PST to officially call the race (when the polls closed on the west coast), but if you could add and knew most of the state’s electoral count (and that seems to be in everyone’s parlance nowadays), the deal was done long before that and you finally exhaled.
I really never allowed myself to believe it could happen before that moment. So, there was the great joy...and we had that for a couple of hours until Prop 8 results started to trickle in.
Anyway, that’s the night for me...this incredible, historical, real-life, once-in-a-lifetime “promise of America” moment followed up by a real punch in the face and the gut from the Prop 8 results. The juxtaposition of those two extremes is something I will never forget.
Thanks for the good work you did. You sang out, Louise, and it worked!
From Miriam Davidson (Wishing Chair)
I was in class today, listening to young, 18 yr old women talk about how they didn't think the republican ticket was all that bad and how maybe it's just as well that the democrats won, so that when they screw it up the republicans can blame them....i sat there in utter disbelief at what i perceived of as their naivete, (hoping that i wasn't as unaware when i was 18), and tried to ask them what they thought they heard in obama's speech. then, my professor walked in, unaware of the previous conversation and proceeded to blow the socks off everyone in there. he spoke about what it was like growing up in atlanta in the '60s, a white child in a working class family, where his father's employees were not allowed to work in the same space or have lunch together and how he wasn't allowed to hang with anyone who was not white. when i was home relating the day's events to kim, i started crying. what an emotional few days. how powerful this moment in time, and how wonderful to have been a part of history. thank you all."
I was somewhat surprised to discover that I felt nothing after the election. I'm not sure why but here are some of the reasons that may contribute.
This was an important step in the correct direction but the rubber has not hit the road yet. There is a long time for the final stake to be driven through the heart of any remaining semblance of community by the thugs still in office.
The situation is so grim economically and socially that in my opinion it is going to get enough worse that it won't feel good. When we suffer we will blame our leaders no matter how much they are doing the right thing.
I watched the moving speeches by both candidates at the concession moment. What disturbs me is the brutal comments by the losers on the web and at the McCain event. I don't know how to reach these people. They are lost, disenfranchised, unrepentant, and they have no way to save face. They concern me.
I'm still listening to Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine and got this nugget tonight coming back from hearing my kid share well at a meeting in Rohnert Park: The book outlined a thesis wherein the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that there need be no more social coddling of the masses. There is no competitor any more. There is nothing to stand up to Ghengis Khan type raiding by the corporatists. The suggestion is that such seeming altruism of the past as the Marshall plan was prompted by the need to build up a strong independent Europe or lose them to the Soviets. Now there is no such threat and so our cowboys pillage at will.
I'm glad Obama won. I shudder to think what it would have been like otherwise. But he surely owes the corporations as well. How can he possibly convert the mentality of the right which is in thrall to those corporations.
Just thinking (name withheld)
Holly's Response to Just Thinking
"Several friends said similar things - some feeling nothing, some feeling everything and both of those sort of felt the same. . It seems that I refuse to let the "yes but now we have so much work to do..." emails get to me. I wanted to just give myself a chance to feel historic joy, uncluttered by fear or doubt...like enjoying the birth of a baby without having to think about all the babies that die from starvation. Something like that. It was a good exercise as it is so easy to be dragged down to some common denominator of despair and always a good reason for it. So for a while longer, I am letting myself feel very happy. I have no idea how he will proceed. It will be interesting to watch. He is a very smart man He organized what everyone thought was the impossible so I ask myself, why wouldnt I want to see what he does next. He appears to be Olympic in his energy and focus. I remain open and curious.
And then yes, there are all the other realities. But plenty of time for them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You and Naomi are not wrong. Just try to be reading something else at the same time so you dont drown out there..... How sweet to finally know that change is always around the corner and it is right where we are now but once we are in it, it doesnt feel like change, it feels like now. And then we anticipate the next change, right around the corner."
A poem from Carrie Newcomer, November 6, 2008
Walked out upon the shuttering banks
To meet the approaching ocean of darkness.
We lifted up our arms and hands,
Planted our collective feet,
And shouted at the forces that threatened
to devour and divide,
"You shall come no further"
"You shall not make us foolish with our fears"
"Justice was only sleeping
and now the sleeper wakes."
We nod and smile at one another,
flipping playing cards into the wind.
For of all the dangerous combinations,
put together by bad luck or deception,
Love is still the stronger hand.
We point our many hopeful fingers,
Turn our eyes toward the outline,
of a green and distant shore.
Step out onto damp, but solid ground,
Knowing that the shape of our imagining,
Like the rhythm of our walking,
Has only just begun.
I just got your postcard. Thanks for sending it and thanks for the work. Delighted to have it to add to our collection of election memorabilia. For the past several weeks I have been working 12 hour days 7 days a week (so much more fun than tax season!)as a phone bank captain at headquarters here. Amazing stories-I'll share just two. Last week a 101 year old African American woman walked into the phone bank with four generations of her family because she wanted to see for herself the efforts people were putting forth to get Obama elected. She made a phone call (following our simple script) to an undecided voter in Ohio.
Next day I collected the call sheet from a middle-aged woman who had been sitting making calls for several hours. As she handed them to me she said sheepishly "I'm a Republican". "What happened?" I asked. She responded "I voted all of my life for Republicans and up until two weeks ago I planned to vote for McCain. Then I woke up one morning and realized that I couldn't avoid the feeling that this man Obama was exceptionally decent and that not only would I vote for him, I wanted to help get him elected."
Nov 5 from Sue Jeffers, Kent
The house where our local peace coalition gathered to watch the results was vandalized the night before the election - with someone ripping out obama yard signs, scattering bagged leaves and garbage around the yard, and a note taped to the front door with 'Ni**er Lover" scrawled on it. When Ohio was called for Obama the woman who owns the house stepped out on the front porch and announced to the neighborhood "It happened anyway - You can't stop it." On campus I heard that students gathered in the student center were jumping up and down and crying (for joy, not for McCain). It wasn't more than 5 minutes after the announcement that Ohio went blue that the first person looked at me and asked - now what do we do, we can't just keep working the same way as we have under Bush. tis the question, but I think I might take a day or two vacation before tackling it this weekend.
Thanks for everyone's help here in ohio. of course we know it was (at least partially) the sing out the vote energy that helped push the state over the edge of purple into blue!
Video is here.