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Music of the People
February 22, 2020 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm$10
Three Brothers in the Struggle: David Welsh, Francisco Herrera & Alan Benjamin
Join us at a concert to support human rights, labor, and solidarity programs of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition! David Welsh, Francisco Herrera, and Alan Benjamin are human rights, anti-war, and labor rights activists who have worked in solidarity with other activists in various countries, especially Mexico, Central America, South America, and Haiti. They are accomplished artists, songwriters, and singers who have done music telling the stories about their involvement in activism and historical figures that they admire and emulate. Their voices remind us that music is indeed the language of the soul.
Dave Welsh is a writer, musician, union leader and retired postal worker. He grew up in the New York area. After the Army, he was discharged in Japan where he worked as a reporter for United Press who let him go for taking too much time on each story. His next job was as a deck hand on a British freighter in Kobe, Japan, ending up in Europe where he worked two years for Agence France Presse in Paris. That was the last two years of Algeria’s war of independence from France. Dave settled in Detroit in 1962, a reporter for the Detroit News. Then in ’64 he went South for the Civil Rights News Network during Mississippi Freedom Summer, sending telephone reports to radio stations. About this time he began writing for Ramparts Magazine, and came to San Francisco in 1966 to work full time for Ramparts as reporter and senior editor. This was an explosive time for the people’s movement – especially for Black liberation and to end the US war in Vietnam – and like many others he got drawn into it. Later that would mean support for the Black Panther Party, solidarity with the grassroots movement in Haiti, being part of Pastors for Peace border challenges to break the blockade of Cuba, and in recent years, Occupy Oakland; the “Block the Boat” direct actions that stopped Israeli ships from using the port of Oakland; and the ongoing fight to jail killer cops and stop the police from killing our people.
In 1968 he married Loni Ding, about the time she was organizing street fairs for the S.F. Neighborhood Arts Program, before she started making documentary films. They had two children, May Ying and Elias. Dave got hired by the Post Office on May Day 1975. That was the day he joined the Letter Carriers union, which he served for many years as shop steward, local officer, and labor council delegate. Since the 1980s he’s been singing with the Freedom Song Network and Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival. Lately he’s taken up the Hammond XB2 electronic organ, and can be heard playing it and singing on the streets of Berkeley – including on the steps of the Post Office, which the amazing people of Berkeley had the stamina to stop from being sold and privatized.
Growing up in the border town of Calexico, California, Francisco Herrera always straddled two worlds. “My siblings and cousins and I used to sing rancheras and some mariachi at family parties, and when we got a little older we started some garage rock bands,” he recalls of his early musical exploits. But as he became more involved in the church and in particular with the Latin American school of Liberation Theology, Herrera began exploring ways to use music to further his goals of social justice. Herrera traveled extensively throughout Latin America working with community organizations even as he finished his four years at seminary school, all the while toting his guitar and whipping it out for events, actions, and church meetings. “Reflection, meditation, prayer, all those things are important. But they’re important so you can play a role here to make social change. De ahí nacen all those misas that have a social message.” He deftly weaves between English and Spanish as he explains the philosophy of Liberation Theology as he sits under portraits of his two heroes, Che Guevara and Monseñor Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated in 1980. Francisco Herrera’s most recent album, Honor Migrante, is full of songs that reflect his passion for social justice. The themes range from immigrant rights to globalization, and the music itself crosses genre borders from traditional-sounding norteño and corrido tunes to post-modern electro-cumbia and Latin Rock wet with soulful vocals, wailing electric guitars, and a ripping Fender-Rhodes solo. All these sounds are melded smoothly together by veteran super-producer Greg Landau (Maldita Vecindad, Susana Baca) who met Herrera in the late 1980s on the Nueva Cancion circuit. His cd is available in the donate tab of livingwage-sf.org