A Song to Vote By

Inspiring civic engagement with the power of music.

Activist singer-songwriter Tae Phoenix is using her adaptation of the classic protest song “We Shall Not Be Moved” to remind people of what we are fighting for and inspire them to vote in solidarity with their fellow human beings this November 6 and beyond.

Tae is using the song and the video to draw attention to The New Data Project’s Vote With Me app. She wants progressives to use this app to motivate friends who can vote in competitive elections.

A Song to Vote By

Tae Phoenix is using her adaptation of “We Shall Not Be Moved” to promote Vote With Me, an app that makes it easy to remind your friends in battleground races to vote.

The Story of the Song

Music is one of the most valuable (and underrated) tools that organizers have to activate and coordinate movements. I first experienced this viscerally at the protest that inspired me to write this adaptation of “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

In August of 2017, a group of right-wing extremists held a rally in downtown Seattle. A diverse coalition of Seattleites mounted a several thousand-person counterprotest at a nearby park. Our plan was to march on the right-wing rally, overwhelm them with our numbers, and force them out of our city.

The police had other ideas. As we advanced on the extremist rally, officers began firing off flash bang grenades and threatening to arrest all of us if we didn’t clear the street and turn back. Instead of obeying, several hundred of us sat down in the street and began singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” I was handed a microphone and asked to lead the singing.

It’s not easy to disobey a direct order from a phalanx of heavily armed riot cops, but the act of singing together transformed my fear into a feeling of profound fellowship and trust.

In the end, the police couldn’t arrest all of us and they couldn’t intimidate us into turning back. Instead, they had to disperse the extremist group because we had them so vastly outnumbered.

That protest was a microcosm of the political situation we face today. The vast majority of Americans want a more equitable, inclusive country; but a small group of right-wing extremists have seized power. We have the numbers, so we have to stand our ground – no matter the risks – and keep marching forward until we reclaim our government. As I thought about this parallel, the lyrics and melody of this adaptation began pouring out of me.

Knowing that the original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual, it was important to me to build this song with a black-led production team that reflected the coalition we need to build to save the soul of our nation. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of my colleagues, Maurice Jones Jr. and Josephine Howell in crafting the piece of music before you.

Lyrics

We are rising, but we are not the hate we see
Cuz we’re not whole til’ all are free.
You can fight us, but you’ll lose
Cuz nothing can defeat the truth
And we shall not be moved.

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

We’ve come so far, but we have farther still to go.
And that is why we are saying “no.”
We’re not going back with you.
The future is too much to lose
And we shall not be moved.

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

We’re like the tree that’s standing in the water.
We’ve lifted up our branches and we have put roots down.
You can try to shake us but don’t bother.
Cuz we’re gonna stand our sacred ground.
And we are not backing down
And we shall not be moved!

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

Album Credits

Vocals: Tae Phoenix, Josephine Howell, Chyée Howell, Tanisha Brooks, Lisa Allen, Maelu Strange, Gena Brooks
Guitar: Jeffrey Carolus
Piano: Tae Phoenix
Organs / Synths: Mark Cardenas
Bass: Maurice Jones Jr.
Drums: Kai Evan Hill

Producer: Maurice Jones Jr.
Production Assistant: Audrey Lowell
Mastering Engineer: Pete Stewart

Recorded at Red Door Studios and Bobby Lang Studios in Seattle, WA.

Album cover photo by Brian Wells.
Cover art design by Tae Phoenix.

The original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual and civil rights song. This is an adaptation written by Tae Phoenix. Please see below for the artist’s statement on cultural appropriation.

About Tae Phoenix

My name is Tae Phoenix. I’m an activist performer based in the occupied Duwamish land colloquially known as Seattle, WA. I’m using protest music to organize and energize the resistance and reclaim our country.

I’ve been political since the age of nine, when I organized my first campaign fundraiser. 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.

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.

My mission as an artist is to create music that inspires every decent American to stand up for democracy and human rights. Together, we will save the soul of our nation.

Release Details

“We Shall Not Be Moved” will be released to all online music stores on October 29, 2018. A music video for the song will premiere on the same day. The song and video launch will be used to promote get out the vote efforts. More information appears below.

Partners

Reaching out to someone you already know is up to 20 times more effective in getting them to vote than a stranger knocking on their door.

That’s why we’ve partnered with The New Data Project to to promote Vote With Me, an app that makes it easy to identify and coordinate with friends, family, and colleagues whose votes could be the deciding factor in battleground races nationwide.

The New Data Project was founded by Mikey Dickerson, the former Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service under President Obama.

If you have questions or trouble voting, call or text the Election Protection Hotline:
CALL: (866) OUR-VOTE
TEXT: OUR VOTE to 97779

We are seeing outrageous voter suppression targeted at communities of color during this election cycle. That’s why we’re partnering with the Election Protection Coalition – a nonpartisan nationwide organization dedicated to combatting voter suppression and ensuring equal access to the democratic process.

Meet The Team

Maurice Jones Jr.
Maurice Jones Jr.

producer • arranger • bass

Maurice has achieved a lifetime of professional experience as a music producer, filmmaker, recording engineer, musician, educator, performer, graphic artist, production facility designer and entrepreneur. He has worked along side of notable talent including the Neville Brothers, Peter Gabriel, Live and the SongCatchers.

Josephine Howell
Josephine Howell

vocal director • featured performing artist

Josephine first explored her interest and abilities for singing in the children’s choir at her childhood church. Her range of talent extends from singing, dancing and acting to production and direction. Her performances reflect the spirituality, love, struggles and victories of one who tells a story of triumph where there was no hope.

Lara Lavi
Lara Lavi

music video director

Called once by Bonnie Raitt as “one of the best kept secrets in the music world,” Lara is a media/tech/entertainment law attorney, an entrepreneur, an entertainment company executive, a business development specialist, a film and TV producer & writer, and a Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter.

Artist’s Statement on Cultural Appropriation

 

The original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual and civil rights song. This is an adaptation.*

All artists draw inspiration and influence from one another across cultures. Capitalism and white supremacy have perverted this natural artistic interplay, leading to a centuries-long pattern of white artists co-opting and monetizing the work of black and brown artists without recognizing, advocating for, adequately paying, or accepting leadership from the originators of the work.

“We Shall Not Be Moved,” is different. This project is a collaboration between artists from multiple intersecting backgrounds specifically designed to break through that pattern by:

1) Uplifting and honoring the history of the original song.
2) Presenting the work only in ways that promote the human and civil rights of marginalized people.
3) Funneling at least 50% of any profits derived from this work** and future works of this type to movements and organizations that are run by and for marginalized groups. (The other 50% will be used to make future work of this type economically sustainable.)

In am especially grateful to Allegra Searle-LeBel, Charles McDade, Dion Thomas, Dan Roach, Isiah Anderson Jr., Jen Moon, Josephine Howell, Maurice Jones Jr., Modessa Jacobs, Nikkita Oliver, and Rev. Harriett G. Walden for holding me accountable to approaching this material with the mindfulness and respect it deserves.

* Click here for more about the history of the original civil rights song and the story of how this adaptation came to be.

** From music and merchandise sales, downloads and streams, and ad monetization.

Video Credits:

Featured Artists: Josephine Howell & Friends

Josephine Howell
Chyée Howell
Tanisha Brooks
Lisa Allen
Maelu Strange
Gena Brooks

Principal Actors

Graciella: Iris Nuñez
Sasha: Elizabeth Howell
Sami: Samara Howell
Graciella’s dad: Dominic Wallace
Graciella’s mom: Christina Wilder

Production Team

Co-producers: Lara Lavi and Tae Phoenix
Co-directors: Lara Lavi and Wayne Rutledge
Cinematographer: Marko Kharmyshev
Editor: Marko Kharmyshev & Lara Lavi
Drone Operator: Ellis Thomas
Casting Director: Bogui Adjorlolo
Production Assistants: Natalie Bayne & Janet Holloway-Thomas

Locations

Filmed at House of Breaking Glass in Shoreline, WA and in surrounding areas of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

Special Thanks

Michelle Bates
Noah Iliinsky
Steve Marquardt

Video Ensemble

Afshan Khan, Alice Bridgforth, Andrew Reay-Ellers, Anthar Kharana, Ava Holmes, Brianna Jamerson, Cameron Lavi-Jones, Carolyn Agee, Chengyuan Lin, Cher Peterson, Chris Kneser, Deanne English, Emahd Khan, Gary Rackliffe, Geraine Luna, Hannah Lin, Hector Nuñez, Hubert Huang, Ina Chang, Ivonne Huang, Janet Holloway-Thomas, Jen Hope, Kai Winchester, Karlie Valdez, Lara Lavi, Lhorna Murray, Logan Britsch, Maurice Jones Jr., Mauriyah Luna, Michelle Bates, ML Naden, Naomi Finkelstein, Phillip Peterson, Rev. Cecilia Kingman, Robert Rideb, Ryan Hendrickson, Sierra Muehlhauser, Sophia Huang, Steve Marquardt, Teresa Velasquez, Tessa Watanabe, Ty Nolan, Tyna Ek, Wilson Rahn, Zoe Reay-Ellers

Financial Backers

Alan Bernard, Alissa Mortenson, An-Lon Chen, Andrea Small, Bobbi Geiger / Bob Davis & Friends, Britte Kolve, Bryan Averbuch, Carolynne Wilcox, Casey Hinds, Channing Daniel, Charles Anstett, Craig Nelson, Danielle Applestone, David Matthews, Dean Browell, Dean Whitehead, Demi Wetzel, Denny Post, DeSean Brown, Dyan Pfitzenmeier, Gandalfe Glass, Gwen Kiehne, Heather Boyce, Ian MacDuff, Janet and Alex Alviar, Janet Neice, Jean-Luc Masselin, Jeanna Wheeler, Jenna DeTrapani, Jeremy Swirsley, Jim Comfort, Jodi Katon, Jonathan Icasas, Jonathan Tong, Katherine Cleland, Kathleen Warren, Kristen Morgan-May, Larry Behrendt, Lauralea Edwards, Lee Lorenzen, Lenore Edman, Lesley Carmichael, Leslie Brown, Leta Hamilton, Lisa Smith-Putnam, Louise Cousins Pathe, Malia Kawaguchi, Mani Zunis, Me’irah Iliinsky, Michael Withey, Nathan Herring, Nicole Hamilton, Nikki Biefel, Noah Iliinsky, Noah Richards, Pamela Dalan, Pat Valdez, Peter Hollens, Rachel Stewart Johnson, Rama Yannam, Ricardo Hidalgo, Robert Klein, Robert Munoz, Robin Tarter, Roger Bare, Sara Scott, Saul Pwanson, Scotto Moore, Sherri Milene, Sierra Nelson, Stephen Luntz, Susan Jenkins, Susanne Liaw, Tom Dickerson, Tyna Ek, Vicki Young, Vicky Broback, Victoria Scott, Winifred Wright

To all of these amazing people, those who have asked to remain anonymous, and the many, many people who have come up to me at rallies and protests and pressed money into my hands to help fund my work, words cannot express my gratitude. 💖