My Dear Friends,
It has been an intense year. I feel the need to get something out to y’all, as the momentous events of 2016 prompt me to try to crystalize a few thoughts about what has just happened, and what is to come.
El Salvador trips: I am just back from my 46th (approximately, I lost count) trip to villages in Northern El Salvador. I keep saying that the trip I was just on was the best one ever, and they just keep getting better. The Jan. 2017 trip featured lots of women, a plentitudinous plethora of pulchritude, if you will, even if you won’t. We had two mother-daughter pairs, and an awesome sister pair. We had newcomers and repeat offenders (Carol Allen, some 15 trips or more, Dan Myers, almost as many). We had a dental hygienist and her student, as well as an RN. We saw lots of patients, and cleaned lots of teeth, including mine! We did coffee business in Izotalio, and craft business in Teosinte. We brought two more computers to the computer school we are setting in motion in El Higueral. We met Erik Rivas, our computer teacher, who comes up once a week to spend all day giving lessons to 16 young folks. We made lasagna for 150 in the oven bought 2 years ago by an Indiegogo campaign. These trips, despite all the trouble you hear about in El Salvador, really satisfy the soul, and I love getting to know the new people on every trip we take. The next trip is late June, 2017.
Tremedal Concerts: We have, for 27 years, hosted concerts in Watertown, to benefit our scholarship programs. We are a group of ten volunteers, who have been together since the inception, organizing and staffing these great events. www.tremedal.org…next show is March 25, our favorite Trio: Kallet, Epstein and Cicone (www.tremedal.org). And on May 13, I am celebrating 25 years of these trips to El Salvador, with a concert featuring yours truly and a gaggle of musicians who have gone on trips with me over the years. I am excited about this show!
Oceana Gold/Pacific Rim: A huge victory for a tiny country: In 2016 El Salvador celebrated an enormous environmental triumph. Some ten years ago, Canadian mining companies, invoking the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) asserted their right plunder the northern mountains for gold, even though all of El Salvador had said no to metal mining. The companies sued El Salvador for the hundreds of millions they might have made had they been allowed to plunder those hills and pollute the rivers and drain the water supply. Finally, in 2016 the court that arbitrates disputes between companies and governments, ruled that El Salvador did not have to pay, and the mining company was required to pay El Salvador’s legal fees! Love when that happens!
Trump: I still believe I’ll wake up from this nightmare. But the more I see, the more I think this guy is a gift from above for galvanizing the opposition to him. Still, when he falls, will be just as awful, because of his replacement, scarier than him, and sane, unlike him. I think my life (and hopefully, yours too!) will be a dizzying flurry of activism around this historically tragic American event. Still, I am so enjoying the comedy around the coronation of this buffoon. Have you seen Colbert, Samantha Bee, SNL (Alec Baldwin!!), and so forth? My best one, Colbert’s motto for Trump University: Carpe Crotchum! I want the college sweater that says that!
I belong to a church that used to be the biggest church in Boston, hosting services in Boston’s biggest auditoriums, where the likes of MLK, Thurgood Marshall, Krishnamurti, and Henry Wallace, the greatest orators of the day, strutted their stuff. We are now a group of about 40 committed activists that run a Sunday morning speaker series on politics, religion, diplomacy, science, spirituality and whatever else comes across as interesting on our radar screen. Our topics have included: Israel/Palestine, socialism, LGBTQ concerns, privacy and the intrusive Big Brother state, Ghandi, Syria, anti-racism work, and of course, climate change…. www.communitychurchfboston.org. I have transitioned from being mostly the music leader to now, being an interim administrator/keep-the-ball-rolling guy while we ponder our next leadership move. We own a very valuable piece of real estate in Copley Square, and are in the process of negotiating a new retail lease for our downstairs storefront space. It’s been a tedious process, to put it mildly. We have an old building in need of lots of care and feeding. We have some awesome tenant non-profit organizations who do difficult and admirable work with Boston young people, especially LGBTQ kids. Best of all, I get to program a host of awesome musicians to play at our services. We also host a world music and folk concert series in our auditorium called “Playing for the Planet; Musicians Against Climate Change” to benefit 350.org, the foremost clarion call organization heeding us to answer the call to phase out fossil fuels and end the plundering of our sacred air, water and land. Tomorrow: (on 1/22 an antidote to inauguration blues) we have a concert instead of a service, baritone Robert Honeysucker sings a program of negro spirituals inspired by our long time contralto soloist, the late Ruth Hamilton!
Coffee: I have a new church. It is called the Roslindale Farmers’ Market. I hold forth there on lots of Saturdays when I am in town, sell coffee, crafts and concerts, watch the parade of people, their kids and their dogs, and get out the door to strut my stuff to the world. The coffee comes from Izotalio, a tiny village in the northernmost reaches of El Salvador on the Honduras border. We walk three hours to get there, and do an ever increasing amount of business at a fair fair price, full payment in advance, and all our proceeds go to enhancing the productive capacity of that village. These sales also pay for a large part of Guadalupe Recinos’ university expenses. She is the first person in Izotalio to graduate from high school, is determined to finish university, and has excellent grades to prove it. Seeing where she lives with her family, and the challenges she has faced, gives new meaning to the phrase “triumph over adversity”. I am now arranging for Izotalio’s biggest shipment to date: 2 tons, to arrive here in Brookline in late February/ early March.
Dan (our son) graduated from Brookline High School and is deep into mixing beats and syncing music beds for hip-hop and rap artists. It consumes a lot of his time and energy, and we enjoy his company and humor when he emerges from his intense sessions.
Jennifer @ 60, had a bit of a scare about her thyroid, that turned into a scary surgery, a complete removal of the gland. It turns out the lump was a benign growth, and her recovery has been full and complete. We have since enjoyed our summer repast on Swans Island at the Sweet Chariot Festival, as well as her 60th birthday trip, first in California with her high school buddies, followed by the Northwest, where she joined me for some shows, and some visits to friends and family in WA and OR. I LOVED being back in that geography, and hope to return soon!
Israel/Palestine: In recent years I have become increasingly upset with the actions of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. We have hosted numerous speakers on Is/Pal and other Middle East issues, and we have joined in with an activist group in our denomination, called UUs for Justice in the Middle East. Given the makeup of the Trump cabinet, and the appointment of a radical Zionist and settlement supporter as US Ambassador, it looks like more than ever, we’ve got our work cut out for us. I’d love to travel to Palestine/Israel, as have many of the phenomenal activists I’ve met in this struggle.
I am recently interested in a quandary I might be in. I actively support BDS: the widespread movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction firms that profit from Israel’s West Bank Occupation (Caterpillar, HP, AirBnB, etc.). There is also Massachusetts legislation, advanced by AIPAC and its local affiliates, mandating that the state will not do business with entities that advocate for BDS. I am such an entity. I contract privately with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Will I be deprived of my work as a court interpreter, because of my political beliefs? Or will all of this legislation be deemed unconstitutional before it passes? I am pushing our attorney general, an otherwise progressive and effective law-enforcer, to render an opinion on this. If this scenario unfolds as the Israel Lobby wants it to, it would be tantamount to another McCarthyite/HUAC exercize in blacklisting of individuals for their political beliefs. I don’t expect it would happen, but want to make a big deal of it, to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the anti-BDS legislation that is on the floors of many state houses nationwide.
Holiday Songs: For the last five years, I’ve been recording live, every holiday season, my favorite songs of the season, in English and Spanish. Afterwards, I have gone into studio and tried to record some of them a little more professionally. You can find them all on soundcloud: type in “Holiday Songs You Won’t Hear at The Mall”, and listen away. This will someday be an actual CD Project.
And finally, a postscript about today. I am just back from the Boston Women’s March. There were so many really inspiring speakers, and a myriad of great and creative signs people had made. My favorite one: “ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION”. What a beautiful display of solidarity, women’s righteous roaring anger, and hope for the future, led by a 120,000 sized army of women and their allies, joined by 600,000 more in DC and countless more in cities all over the planet!!!
With Great Love and Solidarity Always!! Dean
Upcoming Gigs and ready to Record a new CD:
Wow, I just put all of these upcoming gigs in a row, and yikes!!, I am going to be busy:
Sun Jan. 29: Brockton UU Church; AM Service
Sat. Feb. 11: Park Coffeehouse, Holland Patent, NY; FB: Park Coffeehouse
Sat. Feb. 18: Benefit for Arlington Center for the Arts, Arlington, MA; acarts.org
Sat. Mar.18: Newton. MA; House Concert; email@example.com
Fri. Mar. 24: Jamaica Plain, MA: Eliot Street Soiree (w Jay Mankita!!); Brown Paper Tickets
Sat. May 6: Bristol, NH; House Concert; Jim Felch; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat. May13: Watertown, MA: Dean Stevens and a Gaggle of Fellow Travelers, Celebrating 25 Years of El Salvador Village Friendships!! www.tremedal.org (Ed White, Linda Sharar, Sue Kranz, Suzy Giroux, Meg Rayne)