Archive for the ‘Dan Zanes’ tag
Around my house we’ve been listening to Dan Zanes and Friends on compact discs for a while, thanks to a gift from great friends. On Sunday, my daughter and I had the thrill of singing along or as Zanes put it “belting it out,” live at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, where everyone was encouraged to sing out loud. Zanes confessed that he had originally been asked to do a “concert” in Fort Collins, but that his heart was set on having a house party with us. If you didn’t make it to the party, you missed hundreds of Zanes’ friends singing and dancing in the aisles. For his rendition of Catch That Train! we joined together to make a human train thattravelled through the auditorium. From the stage, Zanes pointed out that we represented all ages, sizes and temperaments—he didn’t have to point out that we were having a ball. A couple of times fans shouted requests for favorites and Zanes sweetly suggested that they might be songs we could sing together in the lobby after the show, but that he was here to raise the roof! Kids and grownups spontaneously sang and danced together—nobody risked standing out in the crowd by not joining in! Dan Zanes and Friends make music for families and people of all ages—not music to just listen to, but music you can make at home and with family and friends. This means you have to get involved—you have to sing along–even if you don’t know the words!
The “Friends” part of Dan Zane and Friends are as eclectic as the music they make. They started out from all over the globe, just like the songs they perform. In Fort Collins, the band played ukeleles, an accordion, drums, fiddles, guitars, bass and more! On top of it all, they took turns singing! To truly understand the variety of music and instruments, you had to be there, but if you weren’t, take a look at the Dan Zanes and Friends website!
On Sunday, we didn’t gather to hear a group “play kids’ music,” we joined as new, old friends to play together and celebrate possibilities. Zanes acknowledged that we are living in “let’s just call it what it is—uncertainty.” But, even in uncertain times, we can come together and remember what makes us human. It is possible to imagine a world where everyone is part of a giant house party—you just have to start where you live. In Fort Collins, Dan Zanes and Friends illustrated that we don’t have to speak the same language, or even know the words to have fun together—some of his friends speak Spanish, and he’s learning, but that didn’t stop him from singing before he has all the pronunciation down. In his bright lime green jacket and pointy shoes, Zanes sang songs that celebrated the vibrant culture that comes with immigration, songs that represent our Spanish-speaking neighbors in the Americas. Zanes explained that making new friends, and learning from them, is a way to break out of categories based on ideas of age, language, and cultural difference. This is why his performance couldn’t just be what it’s “supposed to be,” people sitting quietly and listening at a concert.
Zanes also doesn’t want to stay quiet about immigration issues that affect our friends and neighbors. Before asking us to join him in singing “Welcome Table,” from his latest album, he shared his concern for the suffering of immigrant families trying to make their lives in the United States today. Proceeds from this album will support the work of the New Sanctuary Movement, a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and congregations that actively and publicly support immigrant families torn apart by deportation. The “Welcome Table,” is drawn from North American gospel traditions and poignantly reminds us that there are repercussions to how we treat each other.
On Zanes’ website it states that he sees himself as “the town conductor,” and after watching the faces of the singing audience he led out of the Lincoln Center auditorium, I think he has a point. Zanes and his collaborative band offered a model for playing together that can be applied not only to an auditorium, but to a street, a neighborhood, a town, a state, and beyond! What I’ll remember from Dan Zanes and Friends, is that if you gather together some accomplished musicians; some songs—new ones, and some you have heard before and forgotten; some local friends and neighbors; and if you are willing to join in, you can’t but have a house party! And, who doesn’t want to have a party? In Fort Collins, people who don’t look the same, sound the same, or even sing the same tune, proved that if we do it out loud, we can make music together. Zanes’ message is that some things are for certain, even when things are uncertain—good parties invite everyone to join in and don’t leave anyone out!
Home is where you feel free to dance!
Prior to attending his Thought Leaders talk, I looked up Frank Sharry online. Anti-immigration reform pundits take great delight in characterizing Sharry as a fanatical supporter of immigration amnesty—all at the expense of American families, jobs and culture! Sharry is Founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice, a long time advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. After my internet research, I was curious. What would Frank Sharry be like? Could he really be the crazy misguided man some people believe? On Tuesday, April 21, at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, I heard Sharry make his case.
From the moment Sharry stepped onto the stage in his no-nonsense, pin-striped suit, until he stopped talking because he was “tired of listening to his own voice,” he outlined his position for comprehensive immigration reform with conviction and humor. He’s done a lot of research, and he’s been thinking and advocating about these issues for a long time. Sharry knows immigration reform is a hotly debated issue—in other cities he’s had people yell at him while he tried to speak. He’s not above laughing at himself or sharing the irony of the immigration predicament that faces us. For example, Sharry told the story of how early in his career, he stood in front of a large crowd and announced that he was there to talk about immigration reform. From all over the room, people started shouting, “I’m tired of immigrants, send them back!” This continued for a few minutes and Sharry said he looked for somewhere to run and hide. All of a sudden someone shouted for everyone to be quiet, and her voice rose above the din, “I’m Native American, and as far as I’m concerned YOU’RE ALL ILLEGAL!”
The fact is, the United States has a broken immigration system—where an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live and work. During the last 40 years, the number of immigrants coming to the US has risen. Half of all immigrants are here illegally. While they represent global countries of origin, 80% came from Latin American countries, and 37% from Mexico. This means that 1 in every 20 workers in the United States is undocumented. Although these workers are a big part of our economy, the United States does not grant enough work visas in proportion to the demand on the US side of the border.It should be noted that the downturn in our economy has put us at a current point of net zero increase in immigration since many workers unable to find work have returned and fewer are coming. As our economy recovers this will change again. Some Americans believe these “illegal” people should be rounded up and returned to their countries of origin. This may seem like an easy solution, if we let a minority convince us that these immigrants are all thugs and criminals, or if it was actually possible. Other voices, like Frank Sharry’s, offer a more nuanced response to the reality of twentieth century immigration to the United States.
In the last election, the majority of Americans voted to let our representatives and politicians know that we want them to do their jobs. We want them to stop arguing, and take care of business. We want a solution to the problem, not arguments that ask us to consider some people as less than human. Here’s Sharry’s plan to address the reality of our predicament:
1. Smart and professional border enforcement. Building walls does not work. For every wall that’s built, a ladder can be made taller. To actually round up existing undocumented immigrants and deport them would probably take the next 80 years, while more keep coming. To effectively police the border with human security officers would involve massive resources—the US/Mexican border is the most frequently crossed international border in the world It’s 1,969 miles long with about 250 million legal crossings every year. Sharry’s solution is to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers and exploit them. Desperate people will continue to take risks for possible jobs, even jobs that exploit them and pay them less than American workers need. He argues that it’s at this point of contact that we can better control the chaos of our patchwork immigration law. If we are a nation that values the rule of law, we can use our laws to enforce fairness. We don’t have to terrorize human beings or make exceptions for Americans who illegally benefit from the situation. Shouldn’t Americans who employ undocumented workers also follow the law or be legally prosecuted?
2. A controlled increase in legal visas for the future flow of needed workers and close family members. More visas would give immigrants the opportunity to come legally. Because of limited visas, currently there is no legal line to stand in, which forces desperate families to often come illegally. Sharry points out that many undocumented workers pay federal taxes in the United States, and when polled, say they want to participate as citizens. The US has amassed approximately $500 billion in Social Security contributions that are not linked to authentic Social Security numbers. Sharry added that in areas most impacted by immigrant influx, some of this money collected from immigrants could be used to help communities and states (like Colorado) fund social services, health care and education.
3. An earned citizenship program that requires those here illegally to get on the right side of the law by passing background checks, studying English, paying taxes, and getting to the back of the citizenship line. It’s important to understand who we are talking about here, and this is Sharry’s point that really affects my understanding of why we need immigration reform. About half of all undocumented workers have children, and 73% of undocumented immigrants have children who were born in the United States and are US citizens. When immigration officials round up “illegal aliens,” they deport parents (often one parent is a US citizen) and
devastate families. A third of these children and a fifth of adult unauthorized immigrants live in poverty. This is nearly double the poverty rate for children of U.S.-born parents or U.S.-born adults. Between 1997 and 2007 the parents of 100,000 American citizens were deported. Arrested parents face the agonizing decision of whether to take their children with them or leave them behind in the United States, sometimes only a few miles across the border, but where they can never be together physically. Can you imagine trying to raise your teenage children from the other side of a fence? These families are our neighbors. Neighbors, whose members disproportionately cut our grass, build our buildings, make our hotel beds, landscape our yards, process our food, wash our dishes, and still pick our vegetables.
In summary, Sharry doesn’t argue that immigration reform will fix everything. Over time, we’ll have to address efforts to reduce migration pressures in countries like Mexico where daily life can be extremely harsh. But we can live up to our founding ideals as a nation if we reform immigration law instead of resorting to fear and terror by hunting down human beings. Don’t we value parents who do what they can to make a better life for their children? To me, Frank Sharry provides common sense solutions to immigration issues that I can live with. Solutions that put families first and don’t force me to value my family more than one that lives next door, or some miles across a line drawn on a map! What do you think?
There are events all over the city that celebrate our enormous human family, our different perspectives, ask us to think, and give us the opportunity to meet each other! I hope you are participating in this thought provoking month of programs in Fort Collins that focus on immigrants and immigration. On Sunday, I’m taking my daughter to hear Dan Zanes & Friends, to hear about his neighborhood. Many of our neighborhood restaurants have food specials for the day — check out Austins American Grill where kids eat free with purchase of an adult entree; Backcountry Provisions, Eliot’s Mess, La Luz Mexican Grill or Enzio’s where you get 10% off your entire order; Coopersmith’s where you get one free kid’s drink with a kid’s meal; and for dessert, try Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream where you can get 10% off adult cup or cone with the purchase of kids cup or cone or Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream where when you buy one ice cream, you get one free or 10% off your purchase. Sounds like some serious family fun! Remember to check out beetstreet.org. for more information!
Home isn’t only where it used to be!
If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Our language tells us a lot about the complexity of how we construct meanings of home. Dictionaries provide long entries for the word “home,” which can be used as a noun, adverb, adjective and even as a verb. We talk and think about home towns, home states and home countries since “home is where the heart is,” and “there’s no place like home.” Home base is where we are stationed and from where a mission starts and ends. In games like baseball, home is a rubber slab that we dodge towards, avoiding being tagged “out.” Homing pigeons can return home by accurately finding a starting point from a long distance, and when we come to a deeper understanding we say a “point has been driven home.” Most of us would agree that a mere dwelling or house does not define home, although we interchange the words. Home is not always where you live, it is also a safe space, where you have the right to be—without question.
Decades of immigrants to the United States have created mythic narratives about finding home in America in numerous media forms. The archetypal hero quest is replayed in movie homecoming after homecoming. One of the best loved versions is The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy begins her journey by dreaming of distant lands, “somewhere over the rainbow.” When Dorothy loses her home (through an overwhelming tornado that she didn’t see coming) she journeys to a land that mirrors her home. Dorothy loses her home, and her understanding of her place in the world, only to realize that she had found it all along!
In the United States, at the time that The Wizard of Oz was made, the family farm had come to embody the ideal of home, and Americans were literally losing their homes. The Great Depression destroyed financial institutions, wiped out family fortunes, shattered the American Dream of family homesteads, and forced millions of Americans to become homeless. Currently, many Americans face similar conditions. Can we draw comfort by thinking about how to salvage our dreams together?
In The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film, Susan Mackey argues that the purpose of the hero quest is not limited to the discovery of a holy grail. It is also about finding oneself and finding a home in the universe. This ultimate understanding of home simultaneously includes the hero’s literal home at the start, as well as the personal growth he or she experiences during the journey back. Mackey-Kallis shows that an outward journey into the world of action and events is what propels the hero towards a journey inward. The journey outward is what creates an interior journey of growth and ultimately allows the hero to find and define home and then share (with the culture at large). Dorothy can’t wait to get back and tell her family about what she has learned!
This month in Fort Collins, we have the opportunity to really think about how we define home by attending Finding Home: Sharing the Collective Journey of Immigration events and discussions. Whether you have called the United States home for generations, or for a shorter time, current events and economics ask us to all really think about living together. The journey is not always easy, and we won’t always agree. But, if we are brave enough to question our personal definitions of home, we can collectively shape our future home. All of us long for an environment of affection and security—and we can embark on epic journeys of self discovery without leaving Fort Collins!
The next two weeks include opportunities to attend Anon(ymous) at the OpenStage Theatre & Company or the open house series at the Museo de las Tres Colonias which hosts Dr Norberto Valdez of CSU on April 21 and Toni Natale and Robert Lujan on April 28. Both of these events have been running through the month of April. Then this week, on Tuesday, April 14, Bas Bleu presents Immigration Tales: El Latino Experiencia followed by a showing of the Milagro Beanfield War on Wednesday April 15, at the Lyric Cinema Cafe. The weekend opens with Impact Dance’s presentation of BORDER/Lines happening on Friday and Saturday evenings and then also on Saturday, the Fort Collins Museum presents their Archival Workshop: The Memory Project where you can reserve a spot to create a digital album of your own stories for your family and friends!
Next week brings the first of our thought leader speakers — Frank Sharry will be at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday April 21 to engage us all in some earnest discussions of the controversial issues around immigration reform and then the weekend sees Dan Zanes entertaining us all on Sunday April 26 with his show Nueva York!
There’s more still to come — Check out the beetstreet calendar for all the details, and I’ll see you in our neighborhood!
I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
Maya Angelou, American Poet
Recently, the Wallace Foundation, (an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing ideas and practices to expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people), commissioned the report: “How to Cultivate Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy,” by Laura Zakaras and Julia F. Lowell. You can find the report at www.wallacefoundation.org.
The authors of the report argue that in the last few decades, U.S. arts policies have worked on supporting arts programs and making them accessible (supply). However, they go on to discuss that not enough attention has been paid to developing perpetual audiences (demand). Evoking the fundamental law of supply and demand, Zakaras and Lowell illustrate that in order to grow a healthy cultural sector, Americans of all ages need to become lifelong participants in arts and culture. Numerous education research efforts show that students who acquire skills through standards-based arts education, have enriching arts experiences that, then lead to long-term arts involvement. This is the “chicken or the egg?” debate! First, we need the arts, next we need access to the arts and engaged participation. This will create the demand for more arts, and a thriving cultural sector which in turn, boosts our creative economy and leads to more arts!
Zakaras and Lowell point out that U.S. public schools are the primary source of arts learning for young Americans. No other system in our country has the same access to our young, the resources to teach them, and the capability to ensure that they have equal opportunity to learn about and benefit from the arts. Sadly, recent surveys suggest that a significant proportion of schools around the country offer minimal arts education. Both in the 1970s, and early 1990s, school districts across our country reduced their education spending, often by cutting arts specialist positions. Many of these positions have never been restored. In more recent years, general education reforms have shifted the focus to testing reading and mathematics, further eroding arts education. While educators and arts educators in Fort Collins work tirelessly to serve our children with the resources available, in these times of rethinking our very economy, it is imperative to demand MORE comprehensive arts education! This is a gift to our children that will keep on giving!
As parents, grandparents, care givers, aunts, uncles and extended family, we try to balance nutrition and provide education opportunities for the children in our families. Providing access to the arts and culture is not only key to healthy kids, but to their futures, and the future of the communities where they will live and work. We need to demand that they are prepared to fulfill their place in the equation!
This month my family will invest in our futures and Fort Collins! We will celebrate immigration with Grammy Award winning recording artist Dan Zanes, make a pinhole camera together to celebrate World Pinhole Camera Day, and even volunteer to help with frog research. While some programs and events require a fee, most are affordable, and many more are completely free! As a family, we enjoy upholding our end of the Supply/Access/Demand equation! What programs will you use to demonstrate that the cultural sector plays an extremely important part in making Fort Collins a great city? What comes first, the city or the citizen participation, or the city, or the citizen participation! A great place to see the range of possible activities and events for your family is the calendar at beetstreet.com
Whether you choose to enjoy a rockin’ band, explore Natural Areas in Fort Collins, or use a great library location (like the newly opened Council Tree Library in the Front Range Village Shopping Center), make sure that you include arts events and activities to grow your family’s cultural and arts competency! Not just this month, but into their future and beyond! At a time when investment returns seem minimal, publicly engaging in the arts is an investment that will grow!