Music for the Mountains

Pulitzer Prize Nominee Ron Whitehead to perform at “Music for the Mountains”

Market Square event caps summer of civil disobedience and community mobilization

What: The Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) campaign concludes a season of intensive outreach and protests with a free, open-to-the-public concert at Knoxville’s Market Square this Saturday, August 27th from 12:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Local favorite Band of Humans and Southern Appalachian folks singers will be joining local hip-hop artists and poets for the day long event. While primarily a merry-making event, the show will also be a celebration of the achievements of the summer’s campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. From Tennessee to Virginia, MJS has reached thousands of coalfield residents through door-to-door listening projects, engaged in numerous civil disobedience actions resulting in more than 30 arrests, and pressured politicians and agencies to change existing mining regulations. MJS’s goal is to end the destructive practice of mountaintop mining (also known as contour and strip-mining), which poisons watersheds, encourages landslides, and releases cancer causing pollutants. Everyone is welcome at this celebratory concert and local MJS activists will be present to discuss their plans for the future.

Where: Market Square (Knoxville), located at 60 Market Square between Wall Avenue and Union Avenue.

When: Saturday, August 27 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Who: Ron and Sarah Whitehead, Elaine Purkey, Jen Osha, Band of Humans, David Rovics, and more.

Biographies of Performers:

  • Ron Whitehead, Kentucky poet, writer, author of new book ‘The Third Testament: Three Gospels of Peace has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • Kentucky singer and songwriter Sarah Elizabeth Whitehead has performed in ten different countries in the past three years. Her voice has its roots in Kentucky with “a sound sweet as the smell of freshly cut bluegrass and old as the coal that sleeps in the hills.” Sarah’s music and literature has received critical acclaim from around the world including praise from Jean Ritchie, David Amaram, Mark Reese, Billy Bob Thorton, The Lord Mayor of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Paul K, The Courier-Journal and numerous others.
  • Jen Osha, singer, songwriter and musician who produced the all-volunteer compact disc of “Moving Mountains: Voices of Appalachia Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining” (Falling Mountain Music, 2004). A graduate of Yale University, Jen Osha has been involved with the struggle against mountaintop removal mining since hearing West Virginia “mountain man” Larry Gibson speak against the mining around his family’s cemetery in Kayford, West Virginia.
  • Elaine Purkey from West Virginia is daughter of a coal miner and recognized by Pete Seeger as “carrying on the great traditions of Ella May Wiggin of Gastonia, South Carolina, and Aunt Molly Jackson of Harlen County, Kentucky.”
  • Local act Band of Humans presents “Literature to Humanity” through lyrics, poetry, or epistle. As much a musical experience as a literary one, the band prides itself on appealing to the body, mind and soul through transcendent grooves that are good to dance to (Metro Pulse Music Guide, 2005).
  • Internationally known political folk singer David Rovics will also perform. Other local bands performing include Army vs. Navy, Black Sunshine Poetry, and various punk bands.

Why: Mountaintop mining is destroying the Appalachian Mountains, which contain the most biodiverse temperate forests in the world. Mountain Justice Summer, a nationwide movement, has been spurred this summer to bring awareness to the issue. Heavy explosives are used to take up to 1000 feet off the top of the mountains. The overburden (or former mountaintop) is then dumped into the valleys creating one large plateau. Over 1,200 miles of streams in Appalachia have been covered. Local economies have also been destroyed and thousands have been left homeless due to increased flooding in the mined areas. According to the federal government’s scientific analysis, mountaintop mining, if continued unabated, will cause a projected loss of more than 1.4 million acres by the end of the next decade – an area the size of Delaware. Many fishing, hunting, camping, rafting and kayaking opportunities would be lost (Union of Concerned Scientists). Within the next 20 years, half the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia will be gone due to the rate of permits being passed by the state for strip mining.

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