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I Cover Northern Westchester Progressives and Activists — # 9 – “Sing for the Silenced” Hits the Road

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Local Musicians, Performers, and Activists will Break the Silence July 19th

Don't say a word

Don’t say a word

There are people who learn about an injustice and just can’t let it go. They decide something needs to be done and then get busy doing it. Marc Black is one of those people. His Sing for the Silenced Campaign focuses on people harmed by fracking who sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) that restrict their right to talk about what’s happened to them. The agreements are sometimes written to permanently restrict even their children’s ability to communicate about the role fracking has played in their family’s lives.

The companies trying to limit public knowledge of the real consequences of fracking are economically and politically powerful. There’s a lot of money on the table. Despite the many dangers and risks, the world is hungry for methane.

If you’re going to fight against powerful sources of injustice, it’s a good idea to play to your strengths. And that’s just what Marc Black is doing. His strengths are: songwriting, performing, and inspiring others to join forces with him.

Mr. Black has been a musician for a long time. His musical achievements were recognized recently when he was inducted into the New York Chapter of the Blues Hall of Fame. He has deep roots in the struggle for social and environmental justice. His song “No Fracking Way” (hear the song and see the video here) has become an anthem for the anti-fracking movement, a movement which was instrumental New York’s recent decision to ban fracking. He played rallies and concerts with Pete Seeger, and carries on the tradition of using the power of song to educate and engage people in the fight for a better tomorrow.

On the Bus

On the Bus

Mr. Black has been passionate about fracking NDA’s since he first learned about them about a year ago. Like many songwriters, his first response to becoming passionate about something is to write a song about it. He wrote the song “Sing for the Silenced,” an anthem and a call to arms that contains the lines “Non-disclosure, that’s what it’s called by the fancy lawyers: / They mess you up and you can never say a word.”

He’s been performing the song in his live shows ever since. You can hear a live version of the song from a concert that also featured Lovin’ Spoonful founder John Sebastian, folk legend Happy Traum, and Peter Schickele, the man behind PDQ Bach. Listen here.

There’s a well-produced studio version which includes vocals by Westchester’s own nine-woman a cappella group, The EarthTones. Listen here.

Soon after he finished the song he founded the Sing for the Silenced Campaign. “It seems natural,” he said at the time, “to sing it for the folks who have been silenced. Sing so that they know they haven’t been forgotten.” The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of fracking NDA’s and encourage change.

On July 19th the campaign will hold a family-friendly concert in the Montrose Monument Square Park in Montrose PA. The concert will include some very familiar Hudson Valley names. Peekskill’s much-loved singer-songwriter Fred Gillen, Jr. (FB) will perform some of his “songs of hope and struggle.” Woodstock’s own Amy Fradon (FB), veteran musician and actress and founder of Vocal Visionaries will perform. The nine EarthTones, a group founded by Elizabeth Meyer-Gross (FB), will perform songs of stewardship and celebration arranged by Peter Gross (FB) (executive director of Clearwater). Stvjns Daughs will bring his giant puppets from New York City to present “The Chance of a Lifetime,” a cautionary story about fracking. Author and entrepreneur Judy Wicks will speak about how local economies can strengthen communities.


There’s a charter bus available, and some participants are arranging their own transportation. Bus tickets (priced to cover charter costs) are available at SingForTheSilenced.BrownPaperTickets.com. The concert and fracking site tour are free.

Vera Scroggins

Vera Scroggins

The Campaign has arranged a tour of fracking sites near Montrose before the concert. Vera Scroggins (FB) will lead the tour. For years she’s been leading tours for ordinary people, government officials, and activists from around the country and around the world. Ms. Scroggin’s tours have given hundreds of people the chance to see the damage caused by fracking and to meet and talk with friends and neighbors who have be harmed and silenced.

She’s become something of a folk hero for her courageous defiance of corporate power which, unable to buy her silence, has tried to stop her with threats and intimidation. Cabot Oil and Gas requested an injunction restricting her movements and a Susquehanna County agreed to issue one. The company has returned to court to claim violations of the court order, violations which can lead to contempt of court charges. The complaints have been for technical and dubious violations which caused no damage. Some claim witnesses for the company perjured themselves to support fraudulent accusations. She was fined $1,000 earlier this year and if her appeal is denied she will face a choice between paying the fine or spending time in jail. She has said she is “not willing to pay a fine for something I didn’t do.”

The list of ways people have been directly harmed by fracking is long and dramatic. Among them: leaks, fires and explosions, evacuations, permanently contaminated water, plummeting property values, airborne toxins, neurological and respiratory disease, the death of livestock and pets, and earthquakes. There are more general harms. Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing climate change. Noise, noxious fumes, traffic and damaged roadways are common problems. Under-trained and under-equipped local first responders are at considerable risk.

The interlocking network of companies active in the current methane extraction boom create enormous public risk and costs in pursuit of their private gain. They’ve spent millions on advertising and PR to make the case that “natural” gas is safe, clean, necessary, and sensible. Peer-reviewed science and the public record support the opposite case.

With many millions of dollars on the line, extraction and pipeline companies have enormous incentives to make as much money as possible before knowledge of serious harms can substantially interfere with their business model.

To that end companies pay the people most seriously harmed by their activities to never speak publicly about what’s happened to them. The mechanism by which this is accomplished is the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Breaking such agreements brings the risk of substantial penalties.

As political, regulatory and political avenues to protect communities from threats like fracking have become increasingly ineffective, some activists are resorting to unfamiliar and creative tactics to raise awareness and promote change. One woman leads tours to increase the number of eyewitnesses to the harms of fracking. Another man builds giant puppets and creates a show. And one man writes and records a song and attracts dozens of people to a Campaign that organizes a bus, a tour and an afternoon concert with some of the Hudson Valley’s most talented, and most socially-minded, musicians and performers.

For more information and details visit SingForTheSilenced.org or send Marc Black an email at MarcBlackMusic@gmail.com.

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