Blog Post · Film, TV and Literature

An open letter to Joan Baez

Dear Ms Baez,

I will start by confessing that in my love for the folk era of the 1960’s I have failed to pay attention to your work, not just as a singer, but as a human being who endeavors to use your skills and resources to make the world a better place.

In my focus on the earnest political (topical) songs of Phil Ochs, the obscure lyricism/mysticism of Leonard Cohen, the brain-splitting poetic scalpel of Bob Dylan, sage wisdom of Pete Seeger and the whimsy of Joni Mitchell, I foolishly passed over you as a beautiful voice alone.

I have been reading your autobiography, And a Voice to Sing With, and while I am only a third of the way through the book, I feel that I can’t hold off on writing this letter.

It is one thing to sing about the problems of the world, but an entirely different thing to put your hand to the wheel and endeavour to generate change. Not just the political style change of ideals and promises, or even the important, but inherently limited, work of treating local symptoms, but the work of seeking to change the psyche that creates inequality and suffering.

Having a tangible hand in the abolition of segregation in the American South and bringing an end to a pointless war in Vietnam are no small achievements.

When I read about your establishment of the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in 1964, now the Resource Centre for Nonviolence, I see the inspiration and foundation for the way in which the resistance against the violent and pervasive suppression of Falun Gong in China has been conducted.

I am sure that, given your status, you receive many appeals for assistance related to any number of human rights atrocities occurring around the world. Here in Australia we have our very own self-generated crisis in the treatment of refugees on Manus Island and a little further away the terrible abuse of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. Hopefully you will indulge my efforts to bring this particular situation to your attention, if it has not already been.

I have personally being involved in the effort to work peacefully towards an end to the persecution of Falun Gong since I started the practice myself in 1998, before it was banned in China. The consistent commitment to non-violence in the protest has been adhered to world-wide for 18 years now. This is despite some documented cases of external attempts at infiltration to instigate violence and even violence staged by the Chinese Communist Party.

As a singer/songwriter myself, I started writing songs to try and raise awareness about this issue back in 2003 and finally published them in 2011. Quite a few other people who practice Falun Gong have tried to do the same thing with their music, including The Good Seeds and on a more professional level with Shen Yun performing arts.

I greatly enjoyed your tribute to Donald Trump, it is so inspiring that you have been making a stand in word and deed since all the way back in 1958 when you refused the contrived nuclear fear propaganda. I am so delighted that I picked up your autobiography at the local Book Fair last month, which was, incidentally, raising money for Refugees.

Sincere thanks for your time, and your continuing contribution to our world,

Daniel Kelly

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