My name is Tae Phoenix and I’m an activist performer. I’ve been political since the age of nine, when I organized my first campaign fundraiser for Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign. A friend and I mixed up a pitcher of powdered lemonade and sold it to cyclists and runners along Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail on a sweltering summer afternoon. We waved American flags and sang the first political song I ever wrote – just one line, repeated over and over: “Clinton and Gore! That’s who we’re for!” We must have been pretty cute because we raised over $100 in just a few hours – not bad for a first effort by a couple of nine year olds.
It’s strange to think about those days now, when it seems like the wheels have all but come off the wagon of American democracy; but when I get discouraged, I remind myself that human progress has always been two steps forward followed by a step back. The best thing we can do is take those next two steps forward ASAP. The 2018 midterm election is the best chance we have to do that.
When I say “we” who am I talking about? I’m talking about everyone. The “Big We.” Freedom is not a zero sum game. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Nobody will be whole until everyone is free from poverty, racism, and rape culture. Sometimes, we get so beaten down by the way things have been for so long that we forget to lift our eyes to what is possible. That’s why music is the most powerful political tool we have; because it goes right past the cynical mind, straight to the heart that beats to a rhythm of justice.
My forthcoming single, an adaptation of the civil rights classic “We Shall Not Be Moved,” is my highest expression of that rhythm. The song was inspired by a protest I participated in last summer, when a white supremacist group held a rally at Westlake Park. In the course of our efforts to counter protest their event, a group of more than 1,000 people ended up in a standoff with Seattle Police at the corner of Second and Pine.
They began firing off flash bang grenades and pepper spray. They threatened us all with arrest. Instead of obeying, several hundred of us took a knee and began singing.
A better world is more than possible, it is our birthright as human beings. We cannot change the past, but we can build a future where everyone has a seat at the table. Whoever you are, I hope you’ll join us. The “Big We” needs you to be whole.
Tae Phoenix is an activist performer born and raised in the occupied Duwamish land colloquially known as Seattle, WA. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Pomona College and loves to geek out about culture, technology, and Star Trek. She is a passionate intersectional feminist who makes protest signs in her spare time and sits on the strategy team of Seattle Indivisible. She lives with her husband Noah, their housemates, and two absurd cats.