"Rise With the Ranks" needs a video worthy of these times

Track #1 on my about-to-be-released debut album is called Rise With the Ranks. The name comes from a Eugene Debs quote: "When I rise it will be with the ranks, not from the ranks." The song is based on a drum arrangement I learned from Nininho of Maracatu Badia called Subindo a Ladeira, which is Portuguese for "climbing the hill," so I wanted to keep "climb" or "rise" in the title.

The struggle for a new society of justice, equality, liberation, love, compassion and peace can at times seem like an extremely tall mountain to climb. It can feel like we'll never get there. My wish is for us to come together, help each other to remain hopeful and determined, practice mutual support and mutual respect, realize that we all have a shared interest in ending a violently destructive system of exploitation and oppression, and to keep climbing. Whether we're struggling to make #BlackLivesMatter or to #StopTheWar, I hope we will all defend each other with solidarity, action, dignity, respect, and that we will realize our massive collective power. None of us can solve problems this big, and that run this deep, alone. The notion that we're all on our own is itself a reflection of the divide-and-conquer ideas taught to us from our early childhood. Instead, we need to work together in solidarity.

Although the Occupy Movement made the idea of the 99% vs. the 1% popular, it's really the 0.01% that own and control most of the world's resources. The only way such a tiny (and shrinking) minority can remain in power and enriching itself off the labor of everyone else, with massive destruction of the environment and untold human costs, is to keep the rest of us distracted, fragmented, confused, afraid, and/or hopeless. They constantly try to deflect our anger onto each other instead of having us looking at the roots of the problems. If a factory closes and moves across a border, the media, politicians, cultural norms and "common sense" all try to get the ones who lost their jobs to hate the workers from other countries, not the factory owners and shareholders who are laughing all the way to the bank.

If humanity is to survive, the vast majority of us must harness our collective strength as the people who do all the work in society, uproot and disarm the systems and institutions that keep profit flowing upwards at all times and at all costs, and build new ways of relating to each other and the Earth. An ongoing revolution to build entirely new economies, systems of government, social institutions, schools, and more. Although that sounds like a tall order, I still believe si se puede! -- yes we can! Coming together, face-to-face, is key. So is knowing our history. Not the mythology they teach us in high school about living in the "greatest democracy on Earth". The peoples' history.

A music video for these times

To that end, I want the music video for Rise With the Ranks to be a photo/film montage of moments in history where the exploited and oppressed came together to take a stand. There are no lyrics, but the video could have text captions explaining the images and drawing the lessons of each struggle. For example, paintings/photos/films showing:

  • Zumbi leading successful uprisings of enslaved people in Brazil
  • The struggle for the 8 hour day and a weekend
  • The general strikes in 1934 in San Francisco and Minneapolis
  • Dockworkers refusing to unload ships to/from apartheid South Africa
  • Civil rights marches and protests of all kinds and through the ages
  • People organizing to stop the Keystone-XL pipeline
  • Defending abortion clinics
  • Millions of people in Tahrir Square overthrowing Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship
  • and so much more...

But I'm especially interested showing that we have power where we work.

When the Mizzou football team threatened to go on strike over the university system president's handling of racist incidents on campus, he resigned the next day. When the dockworkers are on strike, they have tremendous leverage to demand and win real changes since millions of dollars of cargo flows every day only with their labor. We have to look at where our true power lies.

Yes, our victories are always temporary so long as the roots of the system remain intact. Yes, the ruling class has been "winning" most of the battles for 40-50 years, and generations of us have grown up never truly experiencing a mass social movement or struggle that won something (although there have been plenty of glimpses for those paying attention and getting involved). Let's learn how we've won in the past and apply those lessons to today. Let's remember all the gains we have won, and how. What's it going to take to have another general strike to demand changes that would actually make #BlackLivesMatter in the US? Let's make it happen! Step 0 is to know that it's possible.

How to help

To make this vision a reality, I need:

  • Links to photos or video clips.
  • People who want to review and organize the suggestions.
  • Folks to research the histories and write/edit the text for the captions.
  • A video editor.
  • People to help with filming live footage of us playing this music, ideally in the streets at a protest like we used to do with Bateria Lucha and Maracatu Luta in the Bay Area (a practice I'm trying to revive with people interested in using their cultural platforms to support social movements from #BlackLivesMatter to #ForaTemer and beyond).
  • Other help producing a music video. It'll be my first one so I still have lots to learn about the whole process.

Although I can do some of it myself, I need all the help I can get! Please contact me with suggestions or leads on any of this.


Solidarity forever,


Multi-instrumentalist: oud, saz, Brazilian percussion (maracatĂș, other rhythms from Pernambuco, various forms of samba), body music, bass, Middle Eastern percussion, and more. 10 years studying North Indian classical music on the oud and voice interwoven with 15 years studying Brazilian music and dance (including 5 trips to Brazil for a total of 1 year of training) have given Derek a unique approach to music, rhythm, dance accompaniment, improvisation, movement, teaching, and life.

Derek is available for performances, dance collaborations, recording sessions, teaching, licensing, live accompaniment (films, plays, classes, etc), acting, and many other creative possibilities. He is also a certified practitioner and instructor of BREEMA (a bodywork method bringing body and mind together in harmony) and incorporates embodied mindfulness into his teaching and playing.