Workers' RightsThe demonstrators held signs that featured statements like, "We Are Hard Workers," "We Don't Need Benefits, We Just Need Rights," and a reference to an old folk song from the Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World) Songbook, "Give Us Bread, But Give Us Roses, Too!"
Most resonant in my mind, of course, was the music playing from the giant speakers on the stage at the end of the block, as we all waited for the march (which in this case was thousands-strong) to make its way to the Federal Building where I was waiting with a few hundred others.
The immigration reform soundtrackThe music at demonstrations is always invigorating. At peace demonstrations, there are always folksingers on hand to lead the crowd in singing protest songs like "Oh Freedom," and "We Shall Overcome." But at this demonstration, and I venture to say at the dozens of others like it that were taking place on the same day, the music driving the dissent included songs of empowerment and freedom from around the world.
I couldn't help but think that when, generations from now, we look back on this important moment in American history, we will remember the songs of the immigration movement of the early 21st century that had titles like "De Colores," and "El Pobre Y El Rico" ("The Poor & The Rich").
About protest musicFolk music is, after all, the music of the people. It is made of songs and chants that bind people together and help them tackle the struggles that lie ahead, whether those struggles involve questions like "Where is my next meal coming from?" or more pressing sociological questions such as, "When will we find freedom?"
Many of the songs we've come to know and champion during moments of personal or world-wide struggle were written with immigrants to America in mind. Woody Guthrie is a great example of American songwriters who talked about the plight of the immigrant worker with songs like "Do Re Mi" and "This Land is Your Land."