Jamie Laurie (“Jonny 5”) of the Denver band Flobots
visited middle schoolers this week to talk about his background and work in social justice. Before his music career, Jamie majored in African American studies and became very familiar with the role of music in movements that peacefully promoted change.
Using the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s and, more recently, the Syrian refugee controversy as examples, he encouraged students to use their voices to stand up for change. His highly interactive presentation brought 15-40 students on stage at a time to demonstrate lessons from his talk.
Excerpt from The Denver Post’s music blog, heyreverb.com, article by Matt Miller (August 30, 2015)
Musicians rediscovering the power of protest songs
In Denver, activist hip-hop group Flobots is working to create this collaborative atmosphere of protest music on a local level.
“How we see the role of music has really changed, especially this year,” said Flobots vocalist Jamie Laurie. “In the past we felt that making political music meant making music about social movements. Recently we’ve realized it’s more about making music for social movements.”
Within the last year, Flobots has started No Enemies, which Laurie describes as “movement choir practice.”
“In the last few years we’ve seen Black Lives Matter, Occupy and the Arab Spring that bring thousands of people together,” Laurie said. “Now the question is, what are the songs people can sing once they’re there? What are the songs that unify people and uplift people and give you courage and strength and joy in the midst of everything that people are facing?”
This is the question that No Enemies is looking to answer. With No Enemies, the Flobots host monthly rehearsals that bring together other musicians, community organizers and regular people to practice these songs.
“Everyone’s kind of coming to the same conclusion at the same time, whether it’s Janelle Monae or someone else,” Laurie said. “In the same way during the ’60s the Highlander Cultural Center, that’s where ‘We Shall Overcome’ came from. People were workshopping and changing them, and the folk culture of the time was about the idea that it wasn’t about ownership. It was about utility, and we’re starting to see that.”