Cold Ground Was My Bed: The Blues and Social Justice

A powerful torrent of “justice blues,” as deep and wide as the Mississippi itself, flows in an unbroken stream from the Depression-era blues of Bessie Smith and Skip James all the way to the 21st century blues of Otis Taylor and Robert Cray.

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out

In “Hard Times Killing Floor Blues,” Skip James sings for the multitudes forced out of their homes and jobs — locked out of heaven itself and trapped on the killing floor of poverty.

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Jack London’s Iron Heel — from Oakland to Ankara

The “Citizen’s United” case signaled the collusion of government and business. The dominance of large corporations, the militarization of the police, and governmental surveillance of ordinary people are chilling harbingers of fascism. This is why The Iron Heel remains relevant today and resonates with people around the world.

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Jack London’s Vision of Love and Revolution

“Civilizations have exposited themselves in terms of power,” wrote Jack London. “No civilization has yet exposited itself in terms of love-of-man.” He called for a world built on “love and service and brotherhood,” all of which inspired his great-granddaughter and her friends and comrades in the Iron Heel Theater Collective.

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WRAP Fights to Protect the Right to Rest—and Exist

Today, homeless people are being targeted by attempts to literally banish their presence. But they weren’t the first targets of intolerance, and they won’t be the last. That realization makes it all the more crucial that we prevent political officials from ever again banishing or criminalizing any other unprotected minority, anywhere.

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The Mississippi Delta: Birthplace of the Blues – “This Is Where the Soul of Man Never Dies.”

This is a story about how poverty, segregation and racial discrimination harm human beings. This is also a story about how beauty flowers from the fields of brutality. This is a story of the blues. “This is where the soul of man never dies,” as Sam Phillips said about Howlin’ Wolf.

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Songs of Social Justice

“It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.” Sam Cooke saw that change coming, and sang it, and wrote it down in indelible words for all of us to see. Nothing can ever erase his voice now. Nothing can stop that change from coming.

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Berkeley Forum Warns of Deadly Misuse of Tasers

Speakers at the forum held in Berkeley on police use of tasers expressed concern about the terms “excited delirium” and “sudden in-custody death syndrome,” which Jeremy Miller described as “invented medical conditions” still used to describe deaths of people in police custody which Miller estimated at approximately 1,000.

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U.S. Prisoners Undergo Accelerated Aging While Jailed

by Bill Berkowitz f you are an aging prisoner in the United States, 50 is the new 65. This phenomenon is called “accelerated aging” and according to the Urban Institute’s KiDeuk Kim and Bryce Peterson, “the physiological age of some older prisoners is up to 15 years greater than their chronological age.” This is in [...]

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Santa Cruz Faith Groups Come Together to Shelter the Homeless — and Build a Community

There is a serious lack of housing in Santa Cruz and a pressing need for shelter to provide safe, restful, overnight spaces for our 3,500 people experiencing homelessness. While the civic, business and governmental response has been virtually nonexistent, local faith communities are stepping up to meet the challenge.

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Why So Many Are Trapped in the Cycle of Poverty

People with low incomes are fairly likely to overdraw their bank account. The banks have learned to ruthlessly make a massive profit off this fact, and in the process, have ruined the lives of poor and disabled people. This cycle of economic need and mounting debt has jeopardized many people.

Feeling Broken and Blue: The Life and Art of Paul Nicoloff

Paul “Blue” Nicoloff, dressed in blue, on Telegraph Avenue. Blue was a Berkeley street artist who had survived bouts of homelessness, but then committed suicide in the fall of 1999.

Blue was a gaunt, emaciated, crazed-looking, street person dressed in torn rags. Blue’s sense of humor was the tiny life-raft that he clung to all his life, amidst the raging seas of his stormy soul. Perhaps that’s why his sense of humor was so brilliantly honed: He needed it so badly.
This article first appeared in the October 1999 issue of Street Spirit.

A Quaker’s Ceaseless Quest for a World Without War

After a lifetime of civil rights sit-ins, blockades at nuclear plants, and acts of anti-war resistance, David Hartsough remains a utopian believer in peace and justice. His latest campaign is perhaps the most quixotic of all. It dreams the impossible dream of a world that has abolished war.

Young Artists Take Stance on Prisons

“We cannot truly exercise our freedom until we allow everyone to be free, and most important, free ourselves. ” — Julia Tello

The Street Spirit Interview with David Hartsough, Part I

People would spit at us in the face. They put lit cigarettes down our shirts, and punched us in the stomach so hard we would fall on the floor, and then they kicked us. The American Nazi Party came, yelling white supremacist nonsense and telling us to go back to Russia.

The Street Spirit Interview with David Hartsough, Part II

Governments have the power to throw us in jail and shoot at us and intimidate us, but they don’t have the power to kill our spirits. They certainly didn’t kill Brian’s spirit. Nuremberg Actions show what people can do to stop our government from fighting wars and causing misery around the world.