Billy Bragg inspires hope and change at farmworker fest

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The Harvest of Hope, an event to help migrant workers, was held here in St. Augustine, Fla., over the March 13 weekend. To those who ask, what are the youth doing today to change the world? This event should give us great hope!

My friend and I decided to attend the Saturday night event, because singer/songwriter Billy Bragg was performing. He is of a certain age that one would think young people would not even know who he is. But much to my pleasant surprise, I was wrong. Hundreds of the under-30 crowd received his songs with great enthusiasm.

He started his set with an antiwar song that resonated among the audience. He sang about the “poverty draft” and coming home in body bags.

Bragg was described by UK’s The Times newspaper as a “national treasure.”

“In the two and a half decades of his career Bragg has certainly made an indelible mark on the conscience of British music, becoming perhaps the most stalwart guardian of the radical dissenting tradition that stretches back over centuries of the country’s political, cultural and social history,” the newspaper said.

And he did deliver!

In between songs, he asked the audience to think about the future. He told them how much he appreciated their political will and implored them not to be discouraged because the Obama administration has not delivered on all the things they want to happen. He conveyed his own disappointment with Tony Blair and the Labour Party. He held up two hands in fists and said on the one hand, Blair took his country into an unjust war/occupation, but on the other, there is peace in Northern Ireland.

He made it clear to the audience that if this administration is defeated, it would be a tremendous set back for progress, and for them.
His songs demonstrated his class consciousness. He talked about and sang Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” to great applause and cheers! He finished with “I Keep Faith.”

“And if your head may tell you/To run and hide/Listen to your heart and you’ll find me/Right by your side.”

The Harvest of Hope Foundation is a unique non-profit organization that has been providing migrant farmworkers and their families with emergency relief and financial assistance for over 15 years.

Photo: Billy Bragg performs at Harvest of Hope. / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.