Sarah Lee Guthrie is leading bus full of fellow folk artists from Great Barrington to Washington, D.C. to bring music to the People’s Climate March on April 29th. She hopes to inspire the marchers like her grandfather, Woody Guthrie, and father, Arlo Guthrie, did during other social movements.
When Sarah Lee Guthrie went to the Women’s March in Washington in January, she was surprised that she was the only musician she could find.
She was expecting performers like her would be getting the crowd going between all of the drumming and chanting.
“My generation needs to understand that or — and needs to be reminded that singing is huge part of gathering peoples’ energies in order to do what we are trying to do, what we are doing, with resistance.”
So, when Guthrie got back from D.C., she and her friend Toni Buckley began getting local community music makers together at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington once a week to discuss and plan how to effectively lead a modern musical protest.
“Right in the beginning I think immigration was a big, big thing. It was right after the inauguration, right after the travel ban. So we talk about that,” Buckley says. “Then climate and health were two big issues we were talking about. Are we going to act local, are we going to act in a wider range? We really didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Their plan is to fill a 55-passenger bus with as many musicians as they can who can help them sing and play while they march for the planet.
“We are gonna go down with a bus. We still have seats available. We are happy to get more musicians and singers on the bus, but everybody is welcome, everybody has a voice,” Buckley says.
Guthrie says the group has helped locals get educated on their political leaders and how they too can make an impact.
“What we realized was that we were a group of people who did not just care, but we were creative,” Guthrie says.
Guthrie says they take some old folk songs that might not fully apply to today’s problems and revamp them to fit their needs in an effort to bring people together.
“We were thinking we have become a songwriting workshop, like a protest song workshop, songs for the revolution, songs for to resist by, songs to march with.”
“Going down the road going the road feeling bad. I'm going down the road feeling bad. Going down the road feeling bad, Lord Lord, I ain’t going to be treated this way.”
Guthrie it changed to:
“Well it’s going to take every single hand to clean up this beautiful land. Oh those freedom bells are ringing because they can’t keep us from singing. I ain’t going to be treated this way. They are poisoning our fields of green. It’s the worse that we have ever seen and it’s making us sick while their pockets get thick. I ain't going to be treated this way.”
Guthrie is calling the group The Hoping Machine, based on a line her grandfather Woody Guthrie wrote that she believes still holds true today.
“The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine,” Guthrie says.
The Hoping Machine Singers will make their debut at the March for Science in Pittsfield on April 22. Guthrie says she wants to fill a few more seats for their D.C. trip next week.