Folksinger Larry Long on Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song
A few weeks ago, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed troubadour and social activist Larry Long about some of the many significant projects he’s engaged in during his adult life. He was the founder of the Mississippi River Revival, a group that worked tirelessly to clean up the river and celebrate the culture of the people who lived there. Long helped the city of Okemah, Oklahoma to “bring Woody Guthrie home” by spearheading an event that celebrated both Woody’s music and the community’s contribution to his life and work.
In this part of our conversation, we talked with Long about Community Celebration of Place, which includes Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song. Long is the founder and executive director. We asked him to begin by describing the program, which has been implemented in schools across the U.S. and in several countries around the world. This is the final installment of our conversation, but watch for Long’s “My 5″ responses, coming soon. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
LONG: Community Celebration of Place works with communities to use music, performance, art, and oral history to bring together children and elders, and people of different backgrounds — economic, faith, racial, and cultural — to honor and celebrate our commonalities and differences through a program entitled Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song.
Through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, stories of different cultures emerge. This helps create an understanding of others and the possibility of more civil engagement and the ability to work with one another.
I also do teacher and artist institutes around the world and throughout the country, to train people into the methodology of the work. I personally do 12 school residencies a year. And we’ve written over 1,000 songs honoring over 1,000 elders — long established or newly arrived from every continent of the world — who now call America home. It’s exciting work.
Our work is presently featured on the U.S. State Department’s website as an international model for teaching tolerance. There’s also a nice article about Elder’s Wisdom, Children’s Song in our local newspaper, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger (see page 5).
BPGL: What prompted you to start this organization?
LONG: Honoring the life stories of others has been a thread throughout my life. One of the slogans for the Mississippi River Revival was, “A river for all people.” Water is life. Since water doesn’t discriminate, why should we?
Through river organizing, I discovered that people wanted to reach out beyond their immediate community of comfort, but simply didn’t know how to, or were simply afraid to do so. Community Celebration of Place helps to give people the tools to do so.
BPGL: As I look at the list of projects involved in Community Celebration of Place, I’m awed by their breadth and depth. What do you see as the unifying thread of the organization?
Read the entire interview here.