Fredericton activists: “I can’t keep quiet”

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on May 15, 2017

Songs of Protest participants included local activists and Fredericton South MLA David Coon. Photo by Norm Laverty.

Twenty local enthusiasts recently joined voices in solidarity against oppression, corruption and patriarchy.

Closing out a 10-day festival with flair, singer-songwriter Moon Joyce hosted an evening of song on May 7th, organized by Reproductive Justice New Brunswick (RJNB). The event was part of the 2017 Mayworks Fredericton Festival, a festival of working people and the arts.

The evening, organized by Mary Milliken of RJNB, also a singer in her own right, was meant to bring together activists and diversify the repertoire of songs and chants used during demonstrations.

Participants formed a circle, and after a brief voice warm up, were put to work by Moon Joyce, learning a number of traditional and more recent songs. Participants ranged from inexperienced to expert singers.

Along with old standards like “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim, participants sang a reworked version of “Still Ain’t Satisfied,” originally written by Bonnie Lockhard. It was altered to fit some of the ongoing battles in the province such as reproductive rights, forestry issues and refugee sanctuary.

Joyce also brought a songs based on African-American Gospel called “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and the Pat Humphries song “Never Turning Back.” Most songs had repetitive elements which allowed for rapid learning and adaptation, and the varied voices were complemented with joyous foot stomping, clapping, Joyce’s guitar and drum.

The last tune the group tackled was the most challenging, a recent song from the Trump inauguration, written and scored by Connie Lim (known as Milck). With its lyrics featuring repetitions of “I can’t keep quiet,” it is an anthem for a new generation of activists.

Deeply committed to social justice, Moon Joyce, a local, musician, artist and educator is author of a number of songs, including “We are Whole and We are Holy,” a song originally written to commemorate the lives of those dying of AIDS in the nineties. This type of song can be adapted to remember different groups, including most recently, the missing and murdered Indigenous women and children. Moon Joyce also generously sang one of her songs for the group present.

Participants really enjoyed the workshop with Joyce and most voiced the hope for renewing this event in the future and making local demonstrations more varied in the way they make demands.

Sophie M. Lavoie is an organizer with Reproductive Justice NB. 

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