Updates, outcomes & developments

by Bruce Mason

Mike Stevens playing harmonica without a shirt, back to camera
Studio shot of Mike Stevens playing without his shirt on in an attempt to capture the mechanics of his sound creation methods. Photo by Hailey McHarg.

Common Ground will have a presence at the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) Conference at Toronto’s Convention Centre, October 3-6.

“This CHFA expo takes place the weekend before the March Against Monsanto event happening all over the world and the October edition will be available at those events in Canada,” reports Joseph Roberts, publisher of Common Ground. “As well, we are thrilled that Rachel Parent – the 14-year-old who debated CBC’s Kevin O’Leary on GMOs – will be at our booth at CHFA, passing out her materials and signing copies of the July Common Ground featuring her article.”

Folk Music Ontario (FMO) is honouring Mike Stevens, the subject of last month’s Common Ground cover story. He is being presented with the Estelle Klein Award for contributions to folk music. The award is named after a long-time advocate of Canadian folk music and one of the early founders of the folk festival scene in this country. Former recipients include Stan Rogers and Sylvia Tyson.

Best known as a bluegrass musician, Mike has logged more than 300 appearances at the world famous Grand Ole Opry. A true pioneer of bluegrass harmonica, he is, of course, also known for his work connecting creative artists with indigenous youth in isolated communities and founder of the non-profit organization, ArtsCan Circle, the focus of last month’s cover story. He will be presented with the award during a gala ceremony at FMO’s annual folk music festival conference – the largest event of its kind in Canada – later this month, during which copies of Common Ground will be given to the 400 folk festival producers and performers from around the world.

As an innovative, groundbreaking performer, educator and author, Mike continues to expand the paradigms of harmonica, balancing tradition with cutting edge innovation, including looping techniques with voice and harmonica, which are spreading throughout the world. Mike’s solo concerts and his avant-garde “Soundscape” performances with world renowned Magnum photojournalist Larry Towell also continue to push boundaries.

Hailey McHarg, who took the original photograph for our September issue says, “I have a great respect for Mike and consider our creative relationship a privilege. He considers his body to be his instrument; the harmonica is simply his amplifier. We’ve created studio shots of Mike playing without his shirt on in an attempt to capture the mechanics of his sound creation methods, which turns out… is harder than it sounds! And we collaborated on the cover for his album (Borealis Records) with virtuoso Okaidja Afroso from Ghana, set to be released this month.”

Rev. Bernice King – youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and CEO of the Atlanta-based King Centre – was quoted on the 50th Anniversary of his iconic “Dream” speech in August.

She also talked about her slain father’s legacy in a powerful keynote address to more than 10,000 people at the start of the first Reconciliation Walk in Canada, on September 22, in Vancouver.

His warning, “We must learn to live together or perish as fools” was followed by: “My father said human progress is neither automatic, nor inevitable” and her own challenge that “Canada be the great nation that it’s called to be.

“Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle. This requires leadership action on all fronts in Canada, from political and government, corporate, faith, educational and community leadership, because, as I said, we are all in this together. We are tied in an inescapable network of mutuality, caught in a single garment of destiny and what affects one person here in Canada – no matter their background – directly, affects all indirectly.

I’m a little numb right now,” King reported, feeling helpless after hearing about the atrocities suffered by young children who were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to government-funded, church-run schools, enduring physical and sexual abuse. “ The manner in which people, human beings, have been treated, it’s inexcusable.

“The reality is that although you have a historical context, you also have current policies and behaviour and attitudes that kind of reinforce the pain. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action,” said King, paraphrasing the “Dream” speech from the historic March on Washington five decades ago that mobilized many and moved government to act.

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