Just a few days ago I became aware of the work of Michael Franti, a 44-year-old singer/songwriter from California. He's the founder and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop and a variety of other styles, including funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock.
Franti's music can be incredibly moving and quite politically charged. Franti enlists his deep, edgy voice to advocate for a wide range of peace, justice and environmental issues. For example, to encourage peace in the Middle East, he traveled a few years ago to war-torn Iraq, Palestine and Israel "to explore the human cost of war with a group of friends, some video cameras and his guitar" (see photo below right). (Among others, that "group of friends" included two human rights lawyers, a retired U.S. Army captain and a beauty salon owner.) As Franti explains, the film arose "out of my frustration with watching the nightly news and hearing generals, politicians, and pundits explaining the political and economic cost of the war in the Middle East, without ever mentioning the human cost. I wanted to hear about the war by the people affected by it most: doctors, nurses, poets, artists, soldiers, and my personal favorite, musicians."
From this three-week encounter with people living every day under the harsh conditions of war and occupation, first-time filmmaker Franti created the award-winning documentary I Know I'm Not Alone. You can watch the movie trailer and the music video of the title track on that website.
What I'd like to share with you now, though, is yet another music video by Franti, called "Hey World (Don't Give Up)". As we all know, the difficult work of co-creating a less violent world can be a slow, discouraging slog, sometimes with as many steps and painful slides backward as forward. For today, at least, may this piece by Franti help you keep your chin up and your feet moving.