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Life Arts    H2'ed 8/25/10

Sharon Abreu Spins Her Music into Activism

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My guest today is singer/songwriter Sharon Abreu. Welcome to OpEdNews, Sharon. In June, I heard you sing and play guitar at the Network of Spiritual Progressives [NSP] Conference. What's your connection with them?

Sharon in The Climate Monologues

I had a vague awareness of Tikkun going back to the late 1990s but I didn't get involved then. In 2001, a friend forwarded me an email from Rabbi Michael Lerner sharing his thoughts and feelings about the 9/11 attacks. He expressed very eloquently everything I was thinking and feeling. So I started paying attention to what Rabbi Lerner was doing.

In 2003, there was a conference in D.C. of the "Tikkun Community" which was to become the Network of Spiritual Progressives. I attended that conference and was blown away by the variety and quality of the people I met there.

That was where I learned that there were grassroots peace groups in Israel and Palestine. I heard Yitzchak Frankenthal, whose 19-year-old son was killed in the Israeli Army, and in response, Yitzchak started a bereavement group for both Israelis and Palestinians. I met with my congressman as part of the conference to present to him the Tikkun Resolution for Peace in the Middle East, which was meant to support Bush's Road map for Peace in the Middle East. The resolution was pushed aside by my congressman, and as we know, the Road map failed, as expected.

Shortly thereafter, my congressman, who is on the Armed Services Committee, traveled with a congressional delegation to Israel. I got to see the list of groups the delegation was meeting with. There was not one grassroots peace group on the list. That really opened my eyes.

I attended the NSP conference in 2006 and the NSP leadership training later that same year.

When Michael Lerner's book The Left Hand of God was published, I got a copy right away and read it. I was so inspired by the book that I decided to write a song based on the concepts in the book. The result was a 4-minute song also called "The Left Hand of God," which people can hear online free of charge.

You've found a way over the years to combine your passion for music with your activism. Can you tell us about that? And, where did your activism come from in the first place?

From a very early age, I've been involved in music, and from an early age I've been acutely aware of injustice. When I was six years old, in summer camp, my counselor taught us Pete Seeger's song "If I Had a Hammer". I didn't really appreciate what the song was about at the time but it made a strong impression on me and I remembered it. I started writing songs when I was 14, and some were about injustice in my own life and what I saw in the world.

While studying classical singing in New York City, I went to a cute pumpkin festival on one of the the west side piers in Manhattan. It was a fun event with good live folk music and the sponsoring organization was offering a half-priced membership so I signed up. It turned out I had become a member of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater environmental group, which was started by Pete Seeger in the mid-1960s. As I became more involved in Clearwater, I started using my voice for environmental education.

As I learned more about environmental issues and their connection to politics, my eyes were opened wider and wider and I've gotten involved in other social justice issues including jobs/unemployment, the inadequacies of our elections system, and the corporate influence on it being at the core of our major problems in the U.S.

I've sung in concert with Pete Seeger, at the United Nations and for U.N. World Environment Day in San Francisco, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, and for Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

There is nothing more gratifying for me than using my voice to raise awareness about serious issues in a way that incorporates both heart and mind, and which inspires people to get active and make a difference. Singing for and with people enriches my life so much because I get to connect with so many people that way. I also encourage other people to use their voices because so many people have never been given permission to do that and it affects their whole life.

Let's take a second to hear about how you went from being a six-year old moved by Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" to later singing with him in concert. That must have been a dream come true!

It certainly was a dream come true. It was very affirming that Pete thought enough of my talent and commitment to positive change that he invited me to perform with him. And it was a personal achievement for me to have gone from a very shy kid to being able to perform in public and at this level.

I always loved to sing but I struggled with shyness. "If I Had a Hammer" spoke to me as a child and I don't know exactly why. For me it expressed something inspiring but also it spoke about justice. I was aware of injustice in the world at a very young age, and have trouble accepting it, in my own life or in others' lives.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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