Artists Space

Water Is Life

Benefit Concert
October 8, 2016, 7pm

Kandia Crazy Horse
Ebony Hillbillies
Alex Battles & The Whiskey Rebellion
Lonnie Harrington
Morgan O’Kane
Luis Sanakori Ramos
Tina Eagle Woman Johnson

A blue flyer with the text "Water is Life - No DAPL" with a graphic of an eagle holding the neck of a snake in its beak.
MTL+, Water Is Life. 2016. Courtesy the artists. [A blue flyer with the text "Water is Life - No DAPL" with a graphic of an eagle holding the neck of a snake in its beak.]

"On April 1st, a group of Native Americans gathered in prayer north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota and proceeded to encamp in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,100 mile fracked-oil pipeline that is under construction at a cost of $3.8 billion. The pipeline would carry more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken and Three Forks production regions of North Dakota across 1,172 miles to Peoria, Illinois, destroying sacred land and endangering Standing Rock Sioux drinking water in the process. The Sacred Stone camp has grown into the largest native gathering in over a century—with more than 200 indigenous nations and thousands of native and non-native allies converging as water protectors, rather than protestors, in opposition to the pipeline.

As the camp has strengthened, and as the struggle has gained mainstream media attention, it has received increasingly violent response from Dakota Access LLP in conjunction with local and federal authorities, including arrests and the deployment of riot police against the non-violent water protectors. Yet the Sacred Stone camp continues to hold space, formulating a sophisticated combination of prayer, peaceful demonstration and direct action in resistance to the pipeline, and in spite of an imminent winter.

In solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Sacred Stone camp, Harlem-based country/Native Americana artist Kandia Crazy Horse presents a circle of leading New York City country and roots music acts in concert to benefit the Standing Rock and to counter the attack on tribal sovereignty that the Dakota Access Pipeline represents. Mixing music, words and dancing, the concert will feature Ebony Hillbillies (Catawba), Alex Battles & The Whiskey Rebellion, Lonnie Harrington (Seminole), Morgan O’Kane, a group of Taino dancers & drummers led by Luis Sanakori Ramos of Eagle & Condor Community Center, with emceeing from Tina Eagle Woman Johnson (Tsalagi).

All of the performers in Water Is Life and organizers from Decolonize This Place are committed to standing with the indigenous protectors at Standing Rock until the threat to their waters, sacred sites, and territories has ceased. We all need water to live; we cannot drink oil. mni wiconi. Water is life."

– MTL+

All proceeds from this event will go to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund

Kandia Crazy Horse is a New York City-based country/Native Americana singer-songwriter and activist. She released her debut country album, Stampede, in 2014 to critical acclaim including a four star review from MOJO magazine. It was also voted #2 country album of the year by the Village Voice. She has recorded the follow-up, Canyons, and is working on various projects which delve into the black and Native American experience in country music.

The Ebony Hillbillies are led by Henrique Prince (fiddle, vocals) and Norris Bennett (banjo, mountain dulcimer, guitar, vocals) and feature Gloria Thomas Gassaway on vocals and bones, William “Salty Bill” Salter on acoustic bass with A.R. and Newman Taylor Baker on washboard and percussion. As one of the last black string bands in the U.S.—currently based in the concrete hills of NYC—the Hillbillies keep an important legacy alive with a rootsy, homegrown style that was a key element in the genesis of all the music cherished as uniquely American—jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock and roll and country. Collectively they have worked with the greatest pioneers and trailblazers of American music: Pete Seeger, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, James Brown, Aaron Copland, Herbie Mann, Oscar Brown, Jr. Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Bette Midler, Horace Silver, Ahmad Jamal, and Joe Henderson, among others.

Alex Battles began writing and performing his songs onstage in 1999. He started out with a banjo at comedy open mic nights, then started a cover band called The Whisky Rebellion. The most frequently appearing members are Shaky Dave on harmonica, Charlie Shaw on drums, Sammo on resonator, Kari on fiddle, Tina Lama on bass, Melody Berger on fiddle, Danny Mulligan on guitar, and The Old Perfesser on guitar. After moving to New York, Battles and his band began performing a blend of singing, songwriting, and storytelling. Alex Battles & The Whisky Rebellion have opened for Junior Brown, Dan Bern, and Teddy Thompson.

Born in 1952, Tallahassee, Florida of African, Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Shawnee ancestry, Lonnie Harrington has independently researched African-Native American relations since 1972. He was a member of the Torn Pages Project, a coalition that examined African-Native American relations, and is a current member of the Northeastern Native American Association of Queens, New York. He serves as group historian and has chaired powwow committees. From March 1992 until October 2003, he was a member of the Drum Circle Singers, a Native American drum group. He lives in the New York City area, working as an arts administrator, musician, lecturer, and storyteller. He is the author of the book Both Sides of the Water: Essays on African-Native American Interactions (Rosedog Books, 2007).

Morgan O'Kane, originally from Virginia, resides in Brooklyn when he is not on tour, and where he sometimes plays in the subway and on the street. His music is "to bluegrass and old timey what punk was to rock in the late seventies”, as described by Ian Spafford of Stirrings Magazine. For the past few years, O’Kane has been actively involved in the Anti-Mountaintop Removal movement, and has aided the efforts of the Mountain Justice Organization. He and his and band-mate, Sufi wizard Ezekiel Healy, provided the score for Jordan Freeman’s powerful documentary film, Low Coal (2010), which depicts issues of inequality and the effects of corporate and political decisions on the working class.

Luis Sanakori Ramos, is a Licensed Master Social Worker, a Taino Indigenous Spiritual Leader and the Director of Ceremonies at the Eagle and Condor Community Center. Luis is also the Founder of the Indigenous Mobile Library and various indigenous outreach programs. He currently organizes private and communal healing ceremonies.

Tina Eagle Woman Johnson is Codirector of the Cherokee Language Circle in New York City.

This concert is part of Decolonize This Place, a three-month project by MTL+ on invitation of Common Practice New York hosted at Artists Space Books & Talks. For the purposes of this project, 55 Walker Street has been converted by MTL+ into an action-oriented community space around the issues of: De-Gentrification, Indigenous Struggle, Black Liberation, Free Palestine and Global Wage Workers. Views and opinions expressed in this project are not necessarily those of Artists Space or members of Common Practice New York.

MTL+ is a collective of artists and organizers comprised of Nitasha Dhillon, Amin Husain, Yates McKee, Andrew Ross, Kyle Goen, Amy Weng, Aiko Maya Roudette, Marz Saffore and Samer Abulaela