"It's an all-around happiness experience," is how Mary Preus described community singing and the Women Against Military Madness [WAMM] Community Sing held in the Twin Cities last fall.
WAMM joined with the organization Minnesota Community Sings to bring people together in song about positive change and sponsor a lyric writing contest to the tune of "Bicycle Built for Two." Modeled after the community sings in Minneapolis in the 1920s, when thousands came out to public parks to sing together, they aimed to build community, raise some funds for WAMM and have fun at the same time.
"When you bring that kind of joy into your life-in a regular, ordinary group of neighbors, strangers or friends-there is a connection with singing that you don't make in the grocery store. You are on the same note. What a great way to unite people-to be on the same note," Preus said of Minnesota Community Sings.
They sang serious, important, historical songs like "Down by the Riverside" about laying down one's burdens, swords and shields, and many songs from the civil rights movement. But, "It has to be fun. We are in the struggle for peace and social change. It is serious, but if we can't also enjoy each other and find laughter when appropriate, it is pretty hard to sustain," said Bret Hesla of Community Sings.
"In history, a good revolution has had music that touches peoples' souls. It motivated people to stay in the movement and in the struggle," reflected Brigid McDonald CSJ, of WAMM. "We took after Emma Goldman who said, 'If I can't dance, I won't join your revolution.'"
"Peacemakers can get to be very serious people," Preus said. "We need some lightening up-but I think in a good way. It unites us and we can breathe together and laugh together and cry together and rally together. It is another component of living for the common good."
"Once in a while we just like to have some fun," summed up WAMM member Sue Ann Martinson.
Here are some of the creative songwriting contest entries to the tune of "Bicycle Built for Two."
Justice, poverty, ecology, fair trade:
I'm half crazy where my small part be made.
Write letters, phone bank, fundraising ...
I'd like to do it all.
But I'll do my part to make a start
Toward a world that is safe for all. --Diane Follmer
Peace ain't easy; nobody said it was,
Can't control what everyone thinks and does;
But listen with our hearts,
respecting all & each,
And work it out, with words and heart,
again and again, for peace. -Sarah Farley
Respecting Diversity, Making No Enemies
Light-skinned, dark-skinned, we can reach out to all,
Makes no difference whether they're short or tall.
Each has a dad and mother,
there's no one who is "Other"!
Don't pick a side, just swallow pride -
You'll find no need to build a wall! -Lucia Wilkes Smith