Song-in-action Blog

Archive for October, 2009

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library promotes love of reading

Posted by Katina on October 20, 2009 at 2:11 am

“My daddy was more proud of the kids calling me the book lady than them calling me a star.” Dolly Parton

Everybody that knows me well  knows that I adore Dolly Parton. Always have since I was a little girl and my mom would let me listen to her country music collection. It throws people off when I tell them that Dolly’s my role model. HHHM they say. Don’t you write about hip hop? Aren’t you well . … Black? Why yes I am, have been for a very long time. But good music and good examples know no racial or cultural boundaries. Growing up I loved Dolly because she appeared fearless. She spoke how she liked, wore what she liked and she had great big hair. Over the years I have grown to appreciate Dolly’s sense of community and commitment to improving the lives of children.

One of my favorite Dollyisms is:  “It makes you feel better about your success if you don’t just hoard all that money. I always pray to God, ‘well, give me enough to share and enough to spare.’”



And that’s what she’s done. Dolly is a well known philanthropist dedicated to improving the quality of life “back home”. Providing jobs is one of the reasons why she placed her Dollywood theme park in the Smokey Mountains. “I knew Dollywood would be a great business for me, but I also knew it would generate a lot of money in that area and provide jobs. That’s true success-when everybody’s making money.”

Even though Dolly and her husband Carl Dean don’t have any children of their own, her dedication and love of children is clear. Perhaps one of Dolly’s most lasting contributions to the world is the founding of the Imagination Library in 1996 to encourage preschool children to love reading. Each month, the Imagination Library mails a brand new age appropriate book to every child under 5 in her home county – starting with The Little Engine that Could until the child receives Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come at age 5.

What I love about the Imagination Library is that Dolly took on providing books to children in one county and then the idea spread around the country and now is being replicated around the world. Now that’s Song-in-Action. Over 6 million books are expected to be distributed to children through the Imagination Library and its local affiliates in 2009. Communities that wish to provide books through the Imagination library first determine their geographic area (town, district, even a whole state) in which they wish to distribute the books. Then they establish their local affiliate, raise funds, and start helping kids love to read for a lifetime.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

To Learn more about the Imagination Library, see http:/home/katinara/public_html/ Follow @Dolly_Parton on Twitter.

This blog post was inspired by my mother who turned me on to Dolly when I was little and gave me the great article “How Dolly Does it” by Meg Grant in AARP The Magazine from which I located the quotes above.

Countdown to Black Girls Rock! Fundraiser – Oct. 17, 2009 in NYC

Posted by Katina on October 15, 2009 at 4:44 am

One of my favorite things to do is to support groups that empower young women. It’s a double-bonus for me when the organization is related to music. Black Girls Rock! is a nonprofit youth empowerment mentoring organization founded by celebrity DJ, Beverly Bond.

On Saturday, October 17, 2009, Black Girls Rock! is hosting the 4th Annual Black Girls Rock! Awards to raise money for the organization and give much love and respect to women (and one man!) who serve as inspiration and role models to young women of color.

It’s going to be a fantastic event and I just hate that I can’t make the round trip to NYC myself this weekend. If you are in NYC, make your way by to see co-hosts Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross honor the achievements of

  • Mary J. Blige – “Icon” Award
  • Raven-Symoné – “Young, Gifted, and Black” Award
  • Naomi Campbell – “Fashionista” Award.
  • Janelle Monáe – “Who’s Got Next” Award
  • Dr. Sonia Sanchez – “Living Legend” Award
  • Dr. Mehret Mandefro – “Community Service” Award
  • Iyanla Vanzant – “Shot Caller” Award
  • DJ Spinderella, “Jazzy Joyce DJ” Award
  • Anthony Hamilton, Soul Brother #1? Award

Ticket information can be found at http:/home/katinara/public_html/

Show some love for the Black Girls Rock! Fundraiser.

Show some love for the Black Girls Rock! Fundraiser.

You can’t make it? You can still help by donating funds to help the organization continue its programming. For more information on their programs, including the The Black Girls Rock!/ScratchDj Academy Program, see http:/home/katinara/public_html/ You can also check out their blog or follow Black Girls Rock! on Twitter.

[Thanks BlackGivesBack for the heads up on this great organization]

Music and Manners in Iraq

Posted by Katina on October 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm
Peace and Music Academy photo by BBC News - http:/home/katinara/public_html/

Peace and Music Academy photo by BBC News - http:/home/katinara/public_html/

Sometimes it seems like good manners are hard to come by. Recently in the US, we have seen a spate of public figures act a fool for no good reason. When watching the news, I would think to myself, didn’t anyone teach Kanye West good etiquette or sit Joe Wilson down with Roberts Rules of Order? While standards of conduct differ around the world, there seems to be a call to action around civility.

Today – October 10, 2009 – The Washington Post featured a project in Iraq that exemplifies Song-in-Action. Karim Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, saw a way to link music and good manners as the country rebuilds. He created the Peace and Music Academy to “study music, and more important, etiquette in a war-ravaged country that at least for now seems to have forgotten some of its manners.”*

In addition to music, the Academy covers manners & etiquette, including how to behave in different social situations, how to dress appropriately, and how to speak and carry oneself.

How important are good manners for the future of Iraq? Consider the words of these Iraqi citizens:

  • Hussein Hammoudeh: “Survival has had to come first . . . We forgot all about good manners. It wasn’t easy what we had to go through.”*
  • Azal Abdel-Naseer: “People here forgot how to treat each other after the war.”*

My favorite quote about the Academy comes from a blog by the TheCatalystPoet on

“In a country full of war and hate, there is a lighthouse of hope shining in the dark seas of uncertainty and unrest. As most change, the youth is bringing this about. Iraqi youth meet in the former embassy to learn about music and better themselves for peace.”

If you would like to learn more about the Peace and Music Academy (also referred to as the Academy of Peace through Art) check out these posts:, Washington Post, BBC and Christian Science Monitor.


“You have a choice in life. You can choose a weapon, a Kalashnikov, or you can try a musical instrument” Karim Wasfi in “Iraq’s Academy of Peace and Politeness.”

* All quotes in this blog, unless otherwise indicated, are from “After Years of War, a New Decorum” by Washington Post Foreign Service writer Nada Bakri, 10/10/2009.

Teachers Perform! MTAB supports local food bank and music scholarships

Posted by Katina on October 5, 2009 at 3:56 am

I was raised in Bowie, Md. Last week, my mom received a call from my high school voice teacher Mrs. G asking if we wanted to join her for a recital today. Mom and I love Mrs. G, we’ve adopted her years ago as an honorary grandmother. So when she called, we said sure we’ll be there, no questions asked. The event turned out to be such a blessing – not only did I get to hear great music, I was able to particpate in an example of Song-in-action. The recital, “Teachers Perform!” was organized by the Music Teachers Association of Bowie. It had a music community (the music teachers) and a cause (raising scholarship funds for students to take music lessons and collecting food for the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Fund).

If you would like to donate to either of these causes, check out their links above. The pantry is currently in need of school supplies, canned foods, and monetary contributions.


P.S. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Mrs G. sings Summertime

Mrs G. sings Summertime

Dropping Knowledge: The theory behind the Song-In-Action blog

Posted by Katina on at 2:01 am

I have taught a class on the politics of popular music for almost ten years now – first to freshman at Duke University and most recently to graduate students in the Communications, Culture, and Technology program at Georgetown University. My favorite part of the course is the unit on Music as Political Action. I developed the unit based around Mark Mattern’s book Acting-in-Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action.  Mark theorizes that there are three separate, but often overlapping types of music-as-politics or Acting in Concert:  confrontational political action (ex. protest music), deliberative political action (i.e. debates/arguments/conversations around important issues) and pragmatic political action (i.e. doing something about it).

Mark’s work on pragmatic political action is the inspiration for this blog. He breaks the concept down as collaborative problem solving.  In the case of music-related pragmatic political action, music communities work together to first draw attention to shared interests, problems, or concerns, and then organize to address them.

There are many examples of pragmatic political action within music communities. Mark’s examples include the organization of Cajuns to address “economic marginalization, ethnic stigma, and cultural assimilation.” Years ago in “From the margins to the mainstream: the political power of hip hop,” I wrote about movements like Stop the Violence (STV) which was aimed at discouraging black-on-black crime and Rap-the-Vote .

Since teaching the pragmatic political action concept in my music and politics classes, a thought kept nudging me. How can I improve on an already great concept? Song-in-Action is this attempt. Mark’s work is really community focused and that’s appropriate for his work. But I was struck by the idea that it only takes one person to make a difference. Think about it. If one person can take a stand and make a start, others will follow behind.

The Song-in-action blog will expand pragmatic political action to include the idea that a single song (or person, or dream) can serve as the foundation for community, political, or social change.  It’s a work in progress; as the blog evolves let me know what you think. In later blogs, I plan to revisit how different groups within the hip-hop community join forces to become agents of social change.  I also plan to highlight the country music community, pop artists, rock stars, music teachers, fans of all sorts, and much more.



P.S. If you know of an example of a single person or groups making a difference through music, email me or tweet me! I would love to write about it or offer the opportunity for you to guest-blog on Song-in-Action.