There are some histories that never make it into the history books, and Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology is on a mission to help them be heard. In October 2018, Crosshatch orchestrated a gathering of community elders alongside younger regional musicians and writers. The goal: to retell the stories of little-known social and environmental issues from our region's past, and to transform them into new poems, songs and stories. On Sunday, December 9th at the Kirkbride Hall, musicians Seth Bernard, Sam Cooper and Zach Watson, and writers Jaime Delp and Amber Edmondson will be performing original pieces inspired by these stories and the elders that lived them.
The histories told covered upholding native fishing rights, opposing the Big Rock nuclear power plant, stopping waterfront development of the Bayview Mall and strengthening the international peace movement. As they were happening, many of these campaigns received poor coverage in the press, and now risk being lost to time. “We realized that we couldn’t go to Wikipedia or Google searches to get the details right,” said Sam Cooper, a musician born and raised in Traverse City, “the only place we could go is to the elders themselves.”
After hearing the stories, the artists spent four days in residency at the Neahtawanta Inn, shaping new work.
“There are two important pieces coming together in this project,” explains Brad Kik, co-founder of Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology. “First, the value in hearing stories from our elders and passing them down through the generations; second, the magic that happens when we decide to support and center artists and their process. I’m excited to hear these brand new pieces coming out of our community’s history.”
THESE OLD SONGS. THESE OLD STORIES. WHY TELL THEM? WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
“If I wanted a true history of where I came from, as a member of the working class, I had to go to my elders.
“They led those extraordinary lives that can never be lived again. And in the living of them they gave me a history that is more profound, more beautiful, more powerful, more passionate and ultimately more useful than the best damn history book I ever read. And as I’ve said before the long memory is the most radical idea in America.”
-Bruce “Utah” Phillips (1935 to 2008)
The Long Memory Project’s mission is to cultivate the passing down of our community’s stories. Not just the ones considered worthy enough to make headlines and history books, but the small acts of courage, action, good governance and community building—the songs, poems and stories that help us understand where we came from, who we are, and what we envision for our future—both regionally and beyond.