A woman in braided pigtails and hiking boots steps onto an outdoor stage, face resolute, guitar in hand. She begins to sing. The crowd snaps to attention. Their protest signs and impassioned conversations are momentarily put on hold. The clarity and power of her bell tone voice is matched only by the fearlessness of her moral imagination. Her songs speak directly to the spirit of a resistance movement that is working night and day to turn back the looming reality of American authoritarianism. The crowd is captivated, uplifted, and validated in the courage of their convictions. She inspires all who listen to continue the fight.
Such is the power of singer songwriter and activist Tae Phoenix.
Prior to the election of 2016, Tae Phoenix worked full time as an actress and singer/songwriter. As a Jewish Latina with a disability, she believed herself to be at least somewhat aware of intersectionality and the unresolved wounds of classism, white supremacy, and patriarchy that lurk beneath the American origin story; but after Donald Trump’s upset win, Tae realized she’d only had one eye open.
“It’s not that I didn’t believe my friends when they told me what their experiences were like, or that I wasn’t aware of systemic racism,” Phoenix says, “I just didn’t realize the degree to which ‘good’ white people were invested in keeping the system the way it was; including myself. I’m not proud that it took a white supremacist demagogue stealing the presidency for me to wake up to my own investment in systemic racism; but now that I’m aware, I’m going to use every talent and resource at my disposal to help other white liberals get it.”
Blessed with new depth perception, Phoenix has undertaken resistance as an immersive performance art project. Her first salvo was organizing friends to hire an aerial advertising company to fly over New York City on Inauguration Day, bearing a banner that read “We Outnumber Him! Resist!”
Whether her message is delivered in song, on a handmade protest sign, or a banner flying over Lady Liberty, Tae’s work speaks to the grief, pain, and determination of the resistance. Protest organizers regularly invite her to contribute her uplifting voice and message to their events. As she builds relationships with anti-Trump organizations, Tae works to bridge the great divide between newly appalled white liberals in shock at the rise of Trump and the anti-authoritarian and anti-racist movements who have long seen the writing on the wall.
Tae makes each performance an opportunity to educate her audiences about intersectionality. “We’re going to need a very big tent coalition to defeat this latest upsurge of authoritarianism and ensure it never happens again,” she says. “Building that coalition requires each of us to examine the ways in which we benefit from the oppression of others and commit to ending all systems of oppression.”
Tae’s music calls on the revolutionary spirit and intellectual independence of generations of political and protest artists that came before her, including Ma Rainey, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, India.Arie, and Ani DiFranco. Her musical influences include Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elton John, P!nk, the Indigo Girls, and Tori Amos.
Phoenix has performed at dozens of events at events produced by Indivisible, MoveOn.org. March for Truth, De-Escalate Washington, Physicians for a National Health Program, Whole Washington, Nationwide Solidarity March for Peace, Be The Change Network, and Refuse Fascism.
She has now aligned with record producer Maurice Jones Jr and the Very Juicy Records/Dreaming in Color Dream Team to produce her first single – an adaptation of the civil rights protest song “We Shall Not Be Moved.” As this single proliferates across our divided land, Tae plans to travel across the country visiting America’s most painful places and contested Congressional districts, draw their stories into her songs, and bring us her inevitable album of truth, healing and the message of resistance that has become signature to Tae Phoenix. Through her music Tae reminds us as Americans that we are wounded but not broken; and, like the Phoenix, we rise.
Phoenix holds a B.A. in Psychology from Pomona College and was product manager within the for-profit tech sector for eight years following graduation.