Front Porch: Music & Protest

In “Protest and the Southern Imaginary: What I Learned from Gay Country, Communist Disco, and a Choctaw Poet’s Sermon on Immigration,” guest editor Brendan Greaves kicks off the issue with a reflection on the intertwined histories of protest and music. Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country with his husband JB, 1988, courtesy of Patrick Haggerty.

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Front Porch: Music & Protest

by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Southern Cultures, Vol. 24, No. 3: Music & Protest

“Be prepared to stop and listen.”

I was a high school student in 1970s northeastern Arkansas when my sister Jamie left home for college at Vanderbilt in Nashville. Quickly, we were pulled back into her force field as she sent news of exciting work at the intersection of social justice, health care, and labor by the innovative sounds of New Grass revival groups she was listening to at clubs like the Station Inn, and delicious excursions for crispy fried chicken, cathead biscuits, and homemade blackberry preserves at the Loveless Café. I was mesmerized by her newfound political passions and the strong activist community at Vanderbilt’s Student Health Coalition (1969) and the Center for Health Services (1971) that taught her the basics of organizing and health care issues faced by workers in the Appalachian coal mining counties of East Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, and Southwest Virginia. I would also learn that Jamie met Bill Dow, a founder of these initiatives at Vanderbilt, who later became a doctor and organic farmer and went on to found the North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project that created our nationally renowned Carrboro Farmers’ Market in 1977.