by Jon Sokolow
For more than four years, the pipeline resistance movement has organized across Virginia, building momentum to stop the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. From rallies in Richmond, to tree sits across Southwest Virginia, to press conferences of elected officials and in hundreds of other actions large and small, the movement has drawn state and national attention to the damage to our water, land and air that these unnecessary $12 billion investments would bring to Virginia.
Along the way, the movement has won a string of victories in the courts, bringing construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to a halt and stalling completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline until at least 2020. Both projects are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, leading Wall Street analysts to openly worry that they never will be completed. The former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, has come to Virginia to denounce the “reckless, racist ripoff” that is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and he was joined by Rev. William Barber II in a huge rally to bring attention to the environmental racism at the heart of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – a proposed compressor station in the heart of the historic African American community of Union Hill.
And the movement is not done yet, with a series of rallies scheduled for May 17-18 with Rev. Barber and Karenna Gore targeting both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.
Throughout this fight, the movement has deployed art and song as a weapon of resistance, often drawing on the rich tradition of protest music from the civil rights and other movements, and creating new songs along the way.
And now the movement has a beautiful new theme song and video that not only tells the story of this fight, but is itself the product of a revolutionary production process.
“To the River” is an extraordinary song, a beautiful video and an inspiration to all. It connects us with what we all know intuitively is the basis for all life – water. The rhythms and lyrics are simple, direct and filled with power.
“To the River” was written by Virginia singer/songwriter/activist Joshua Vana. Vana has been a fixture in the pipeline resistance movement, giving inspiration to all with his voice and his guitar, including in this rendition of the civil rights song “We Shall Not Be Moved,” which he sang at the base support camp for Red and Minor Terry during their 2018 tree sits on Bent Mountain, at the Water Walks march outside the State Water Control Board meeting in Richmond in August 2018 and at the Department of Environmental Quality “hearing” in Union Hill for the ACP compressor station.
“To the River” was arranged and performed by an extraordinary band of musicians known as the SUN SING Collective. It was filmed by professional filmmaker and videographer Sarah Hazlegrove and executive produced by eco-musician Graham Smith White and Water is Life activist Kay Ferguson.
“To the River” literally is an organic product of the pipeline resistance. Filmed entirely outdoors and on location along the pipeline routes, “To the River” was made possible by the Sun Bus, a cargo van created by Graham Smith-White and outfitted with professional sound and recording equipment. The Sun Bus is powered by solar panels mounted on its roof. No studio time was used in the production.
“To the River” premiered at the Sun Sing concert in Charlottesville on April 26 and it is spreading like wild fire. Why? Because it is a fighting song:
“I’ll take you to the river
Tell you what I hear
I hear the thunder in the distance
I hear the river say a prayer
Here come the company men
Here come that big machine
Here come the murder of the mountain
Here come me in between”
The ten members of the Sun Sing Collective – Graham Smith-White, Emily Blakenship-Tucker, BJ Brown, Joshua Vana, Gabe Gavin, Virginia Greene, Lilly Bechtel, Laney Sullivan, Lily Lamberta and Camry Harris – recorded videos to tell their stories.
But “To the River” is more than a song video. It is a call to action:
So turn up the volume and enjoy this wonderful contribution to the freedom movement. But don’t stop there!
Come see the Sun Sing Collective perform “To the River” live! Come to the Virginians for Justice: Progress Not Pipelines rally with Rev. William Barber II and Karenna Gore in Richmond on May 17 and in Leesburg on May 18.
Join the fight to stop the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.
Because Water is Life.
So the question is:
“What are you gonna hold to?
What are you gonna do?”