“Since I was young, at an early age, no one seemed to care what I had to say. If they only knew what we’ve been through, they would say, oh my god, what can I do?”

The above excerpt is from “Freedom,” a song written and recorded by two young girls imprisoned in a children’s detention center, with the help of Larry Long.

The Southern Poverty Law Center works to ensure that our children’s rights advocacy is informed and shaped in collaboration with the youth for whom we work. Despite the fact that the children we work with are frequently neglected by their schools or abused by juvenile justice systems, these youths possess an incredible resiliency and have profound insights about the systems that impact their lives.

During the Spring of 2010, the SPLC worked in collaboration with youth from the Gulf Coast Region and professional musicians to use music to give a voice to these children’s realities, hopes and dreams. Through the SPLC Youth Voices Music Project, over a few short days, these children wrote, sang and recorded seven original songs. The children demonstrate remarkable gifts and talents, as well as profound depth and thoughtfulness about life as a child in the Deep South in their music and lyrics.

Several of the children participated from behind the walls of a youth detention center in Mississippi. We were only able to work with them by passing through secured, metal doors to enter their world of imprisonment. As in most places, in Mississippi over 70 percent of the youth behind bars are accused of non-violent offenses like shoplifting, disorderly conduct or school-related offenses. At times, children as young as ten years old are locked up for a school-yard fight or for misbehaving at home.

Despite the harsh circumstances in which they are forced to exist, several children in this Mississippi detention center turned pain into beauty and sorrow into art by translating their experiences of being incarcerated into powerful songs. The sensitivity, brilliance and youthfulness of these children, as demonstrated by their art, directly challenges the grotesque practice of locking children in cages. While listening to their music, we are forced to wonder why we allow children to live in these conditions. What act could a child commit that would make him or her worthy of growing up in a cage? Could a cage ever help a child thrive and develop into a responsible adult?

This paradox is made even more obvious when confronted with the children’s hopes, dreams and acute awareness about the trajectory of their lives and possibility of a lifetime spent in prison…. As one incarcerated child stated, “We know more than what we put on the outside.  You got [kids in prison for the rest of their lives] that could have been presidents. That’s one thing I lay in my bed and worry ’bout, man.  Am I going to be next….Cause I know I’m smarter than what I put on the outside….Sometimes there ain’t no hope”.

Then, they say something that breaks your heart and forces you to remember that they are children. Just children. Living in cages. One child described his cellmates:  “Some of the boys in here, they just want to hear their family say they love ’em.  My boy in here, he was telling me… all…all I want is to hear my mama say “I love you.”

What would help these children realize their tremendous potential? How do we prevent more children from ending up behind bars? One of the major challenges facing children in the Deep South is the education system. Too many schools have become hostile environments for children instead of a refuge in which to learn.

Public school students are pushed out of school for minor misbehaviors at dramatic rates. Already, many children live in distressed communities, in which poverty and violence are prevalent. Schools could provide a safe place for children to learn and receive guidance and support instead of punishing them. When a child is repeatedly discouraged or reprimanded by educators, or suspended or expelled from school, they are more likely to drop out of school and not earn a high-school diploma. This is a tragedy of epic proportions that our nation can no longer afford to ignore.
In New Orleans, the SPLC Youth Voices Music Project worked with approximately 20 public school children, ranging from grades 5-12. These youth came together to talk about their city, their schools, their community and their future.

We began with an inter-generational dialogue circle, in which several community leaders and life-long New Orleans residents spoke of growing up in New Orleans, in segregated schools, when times were different…or so we thought.  As the students asked questions and shared their experiences, we began to notice parallels between current public school conditions and those of two generations ago.  In fact, certain things have become worse, such as the rate at which children are pushed out of school through the use of school suspensions and expulsions.

People both young and old reflected on the deterioration of public schools, the disintegration of community, and the need for people to unite to support and care for each other. People spoke of the continued impact of Hurricane Katrina, how it continues to cripple entire communities, including individuals who are unable to return or who return to a drastically changed city. They spoke of the international promise of support to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, in contrast to the still broken and vacant houses and dilapidated school buildings that were flooded by the storm. They spoke of the violence plaguing children in the New Orleans schools and streets, how there are no safe havens anymore, and how children are too often brutalized by police officers, school security guards and other children.

Over two days we created three original songs, which included writing lyrics, developing melodies and recording live performances. One of the songs collaboratively written by the children, “Change These Ways,” declares that it is “time to build up unity, time to rebuild our community.” One 15-year-old boy arrived on the second evening to share a beautiful, searing melody that he had written that morning, titled “Dreams.” The chorus of another song, “This is Life,” cries out: “This is life, let me tell you how it is, grown folks problems in the thoughts of little kids.”

These new songs written by children through the SPLC’s Youth Voices Music Project have yet to stand the measure of time. Most assuredly, however, they are anchored in the same proud tradition of earlier songs of Justice and Freedom. The melodies, rhymes, and words all move from the same heartbeat. Now it’s time for these songs to be sung – so the voices of the children can be heard. For, as we do unto the least, we do unto ourselves.

Youth Voices Project participants:  Children imprisoned in a Mississippi youth detention center, New Orleans Youth Artists Alexis Burnside, Teal Mitchell, Kendrick Crain, Alfred Banks, Denise Pittman, Re’Jeanne Badreaux, Ranjae Cornin, Gerelyn Mitchell, John Baumbach, Cory Burd, Chrishawn DeBose, Knowledge is Born, Isaac Bourgeois, Cassandra Tran, Daylin “Tizz” Bolding, Ladonna Bryer, Jerron Fournett, Jeremy Mitchell, Venecia Mitchell.

New Orleans Community Leaders: DJ Markey, Ted Quant, Yvette Thierry

Consulting Musicians: Skipp Coon (epk.tibbitmusic.com/tibbit_epk.pdf), Chuck “Lyrikill” Jones (www.thesoundclash.com), Larry Long (www.larrylong.org), Truth Universal (www.truthuniversal.com),

To hear these songs, please visit: www.splcenter.org/voices

Elders Circle 2012

This year, Community Celebration of Place’s Elder Circle will be held on April 26, 2012, 9am – 1pm, at the North Community YMCA.

Featuring Jazz Legends Irv Williams & Jeanne Arland Peterson with Billy Peterson; Harold Mezile, President & CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis; C. Bennice Young, Principal, Elizabeth Hall International Elementary School, Community Elders, Tonia Hughes, Youth from the North Side, Round-Table Discussions led by Dare 2 Be Real Student Leaders and a free Soul Food Lunch with vegetarian option.

For more information, visit the Community Celebration of Place website.

Celebrate the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth with a program featuring folk singer Darryl Holter, a former labor education director for the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and labor educator at UCLA, who has developed a “Woody Guthrie in Los Angeles” presentation/performance, and renowned Twin Cities labor troubadour Larry Long, who assembled the first hometown tribute to Woody Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1988 and has applied and extended Woody Guthrie’s aesthetics and energies for the past four decades.

Thursday, April 19, 7 pm
St. Paul Labor Centre
411 Main St., Saint Paul

Visit www.thefriends.org for a full listing of events

Download flyer for event >

Marv changed my life. It was because of Marv that I met my future wife, Jacqueline.

When I was asked to sing at a demonstration against Honeywell, I told the organizer, Marv Davidov, that I would, but I would not be participating in any nonviolent action, which might lead to arrest. But when I saw the four McDonald Sisters sitting down on the steps of the entrance to Honeywell, I felt called to sit down with them in memory of my close friend Max Siegrist, a Vietnam Veteran against the war, who died tragically in a tractor accident not long after returning home.

The next thing I knew I was in the paddy wagon being hauled to jail for civil disobedience. The McDonald Sisters represented themselves at the trial, but I enlisted the help of attorney, Doug Hall. Doug was the founder of the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, who fought on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised in the city. He had a long ponytail with a gray receding hairline. Doug was one of those quiet warriors in the courtroom, who drew little attention to himself, but highly respected by all of the public defenders and progressive lawyers. Jacqueline was both.

When I tired to sing on the witness stand the judge stopped me in mid verse and said, “There will be no singing in my courtroom.” It was at that moment I looked down from the witness stand and noticed Jacqueline in the backroom with my Lakota, Vietnam Veteran friend, Rick McArthur, who worked at the Legal Rights Center as a field worker for the First Nation community. It’s important to note that the Legal Rights Center was located on Franklin Avenue, where the American Indian Movement (AIM) got started in response to the overreach of law enforcement against the large exodus of native people moving from their homes on the reservations into the city. The Legal Rights Center grew out of the need to represent many of these cases and Doug Hall was one of their lead lawyers.

Though the McDonald Sisters and I truly believed we were operating by a higher law than man, we were found guilty of trespassing. We had a choice of doing a hundred hours of public service or three days in the workhouse. I righteously, or self-righteously chose the later.

The only book I took with me to read in jail was Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. For years I had tried to read it, which I successfully did in my steel woven jail cell on the first day.

Before going into the workhouse I asked Jacqueline if she would like to go on a date after I got out. She laughed and said, “Yes.” “Great!” I said, “Let’s go to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.” Without missing a beat, Jacqueline said, “Sure!”

It was on one of the best surfing beaches in North America on the south edge of Puerto Escondido, Playa Zicatela, which means ‘place of large thorns’ with a strong undertow, where I proposed to Jacqueline with a bottle of rum.

This year we celebrate our twenty-seventh year of marriage. Together, we now have three grown children and a granddaughter.

Who says there’s not love in the movement? We owe it all to Marv.

Don't Stand Still in MoroccoMy good friend, David McDonald, at the age of 55 just joined the Peace Corp and is now serving in Morocco. David produced two documentaries from two songs on my new sound recording, Don’t Stand Still. (You can see them on YouTube). Last Monday David dropped by before flying out to northwest Africa and I gave him a signed copy of Don’t Stand Still to give as a gift to the Ambassadors to Morocco, Sam & Sylvia Kaplan, who are also friends. Three days later  I received this wonderful photograph of beloved David with Ambassadors Sam & Sylvia Kaplan in Morocco. It is such a small and wonderful world. Peace!

Larry Long and Robert Robinson have teamed up to create a musical card featuring the beautiful “Mother’s Song,” written by Long as a tribute to his mother and appearing on his latest album, Don’t Stand Still. Along with the beautiful artwork from Ron Germundson, this card makes a wonderful gift for any mom.

Listen to a sample:

I created For My Mother singing cards in remembrance of my own mother, Roberta. The words on the card are the first and last verses to a song I wrote for her called, Mother’s Song. I sang it for my mother when she grew ill and while she passed in hospice care.

Though she has now passed I feel her presence daily. As the first verse sings:

You were there when I first spoke
You were there when I first stood
You are there to give me hope
You are there in all that’s good

My mother cared a lot for people. She was a community volunteer, who was honored at the White House for the time she gave to help others even in better health than she.

I asked “Minnesota’s Master Male Vocalist” Robert Robinson to sing on this card, as a gift to all mother’s. Especially for Mom’s who are going through a life transition, as a means for their children to express their love to their mother.

The cards are available for sale online and through Soderberg’s Floral (wholesale orders). For more information:



Soderberg Florists /Kym Erickson
3305 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 724-3606

“I see change coming, and I’m really glad about it.”

Young Dylon Frei spoke these words after their victory this Tuesday over the neutrality position of the Anoka Hennepin School District regarding the bullying of GLBT Youth.  Dylon’s words inspired I See Change Coming, which we sang together on Tuesday night in celebration!

I See Change Coming

I see change a coming (repeat)
And it makes me glad (repeat)
There’s a change a coming (repeat)
And it makes me glad (repeat)
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To make things right (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To change your life (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
And it gives me joy (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
For every girl and boy (repeat)
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To set you free (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To be all you can be (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
And it’s right on time (repeat)
I see change a coming (repeat)
Time to be kind
You can’t be neutral when it comes to love
That’s one thing I’ve been thinking of
Love has the power (repeat)
To reconcile (repeat)
Love has the power (repeat)
To make you smile (repeat)
To walk that extra mile for someone else
To make that someone smile, not just for yourself
To treat that someone how you want to be treated yourself
To love someone else!
Love has the power to set you free!

I see change a coming and it’s here right now!

Words & Music by Larry Long
© Larry Long 2012/BMI

Check it out:

We Shall Overcome

Featuring Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Bruce Cockburn, Guy Davis, Ruby Dee, Ani DiFanco, Emmylou Harrish, Larry Long, Scarlett Lee Moore, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Tao Rodriquez-Seeger, Pete Seeger, Dar Williams

Tomorrow, Saturday, March 10th, there will be a ‘Celebration of the Life of Marv Davidov’ in stories, poetry, song, and film. Speakers and performers include Larry Long, Garrison Keillor, Jamela …Pettiford, Clyde Bellecourt, Tony Bouza, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Carol Connolly, Bill Tilton, Jerry Rau, Steve Sato, the MacDonald Sisters, and others.

Where: Woulfe Alumni Hall on the third floor of the brand new Anderson Student Center at St. Thomas University
Northeast corner of Cretin and Summit Aves., St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gathering and visiting: 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Formal Program: 2:00 to 3:30 PM
Open Mic: 3:35 to 4:05 PM
Exhibits and refreshments: 3:30 to 5:00 PM

Suggested $5 minimum donation to the Marv Davidov Peace and Justice Fund (c/o Tilton & Dunn P.L.L.P, U.S. Bank Center, 101 East Fifth Street, Ste. 2220, St. Paul, MN 55101)

Visit the event’s Facebook page and see the memories, photos, and links to Marv memorabilia from those affected by Marv’s amazing life of dedication. Add your own contributions to this treasure of remembrances:

https://www.facebook.com/events/305995852784674/See More

UPDATE: Larry Long will be performing his new song with Billy Peterson, Generations 2 Come at the St. Paul Capitol in Minnesota on March 8th, 10:30 am.

Sled DogsLarry has just completed the recording Generations 2 Come to help save the Boundary Waters. You can learn more about the event here. Dog Sleds are heading out February 29 – arriving March 8th in St. Paul. Larry will be singing Generations 2 Come on March 8th at the Capitol.

Listen to Generations 2 Come on SoundCloud now!

SLED DOGS TO ST. PAUL: The Race to Protect Minnesota’s Natural Heritage – March 1st through March 8th, 2012

Get involved with this historic eight day dogsled trip from Northeastern Minnesota to the State Capitol. Frank Moe and his dog team from Grand Marais will deliver your letters and petition signatures to the Capitol on Thursday March 8th.
Hear and share Larry Long’s Generations 2 Come SONG and Lyrics

Dog teams from both Ely and Grand Marais will leave on Thursday March 1st. The teams will meet in Finland and Frank Moe and his dogs will continue to Duluth and arrive at their destination in St. Paul on Thursday March 8th.

Rallies will be held in Ely and Grand Marais on March 1st, Finland on Saturday March 3rd, Duluth on Sunday March 4th and at the Capitol on March 8th.

The benefit, Friends of Carrie, with the legendary members of “Hang Dynasty” raised over $12,000 for Carrie Stenson-Hansen’s fight against cancer.   Larry wrote and performed a song especially written for the occasion with Hang Dynasty, called Friends of Carrie.

 Friends of Carrie

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

Love for your mother
Love for your father
Love for your family and friends

Love for each other
Sisters and brothers
With a love that has no end

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

Love for the healing
Power of giving
Your love to somebody else

Love has the power
To do for others
What’s hard to do for yourself

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

Love from a power
So far greater
Than the love we ever known

To open up
To let it in
To love and not let go

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

Love in the morning
Love in the evening
Love to set things right

Love for the moment
We’re together
With love for you tonight!

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

With a little bit of money and a prayer
We want to show you that we care

Friends of Carrie
We are bathing in your love

Words & music by Larry Long. Copyright Larry Long Publishing 2012 / BMI

Larry will be performing at a benefit concert for Park Avenue Youth & Family Services. Hosted by T. Mychael Rambo with special guests Greta Oglesby, Larry Long, Van Nixon, Kingdown Road and more.

Friday, March 2, 2012
6:30 Reception – 7:30 – 9:30 concert

Where: Profile Event Center
2630 University Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

Tickets: $75 VIP Seating   $50 General Seating

All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to support the amazing programs of Park Avenue Youth and Family Services.

About Park Avenue Youth and Family Services (PAYFS)

Park Avenue Youth and Family Services (PAYFS), (formerly the Park Avenue Foundation), is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization affiliated with the Park Avenue United Methodist Church. PAYFS was organized to give a stronger identity to outreach programs started by the church in the late 1960s.

Since 1985, Park Avenue Youth and Family Services has reached out to nurture and empower the children, youth and families of our community through academic programs, summer camps and family services. PAYFS programs are open to everyone, regardless of religious belief.

Join Larry on February 22, 2012, from 6:30 to 9:00pm, for a Book Release Party for This with my last breath and a 112th birthday celebration for Meridel LeSueur. Featuring performances by Barb Tilsen, Gayla Ellis, Louis Alemayehu, Steve Sklar, Fernando Silva, Larry & Jacqueline Long Sandy Spieler and Marcie Rendon.

Wednesday February 22, 2012 6:30-9:00 pm

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater
1500 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN

Celebrate Midwest Villages & Voices’ publication of This with my last breath featuring the previously unpublished final writing of Meridel LeSueur.