Would Joan Baez have Performed for the Crowd on January 6th?

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.

— Joan Baez, “Just Folks at a School for Non-Violence”, by Joan Didion, New York Times magazine,  1966 (later published in Didion’s book Slouching towards Bethlehem, as “Where the Kissing Never Stops”, pp. 42-60 (specifically p. 47.)

After all, they say they were protesting.
Think about it. I have. Now is the day
of what has been labeled “bit-enabled
protest,” times were different then when
Baez led a quarter of a million at the
March on Washington in “We Shall
Overcome” and “Oh Freedom” it was
about civil rights, voting rights, having
a dream as King opined. The United States
was not in splinters, a more perfect
union still a hope, a promise, a possibility.
I remember chasing such dreams.
Listening to Odetta at the Old Town
Gate of Horn in Chicago, her voice piercing the
rapt silence in the room with notes that fled away
“I don’t want your cold iron shackles, take this hammer,
carry it to the captain, tell him I’m gone boys,
tell him I’m gone.” Back in the ‘60s Chicago’s
Old Town was yippee and hippie haven, driven
by white flight to the suburbs leaving the
Victorian neighborhood buildings to
rent for a song, and they sang theirs,
Joan Baez, John Prine, Bob Gibson;
I played a lick or two with Steve Goodman
growing up, he kept singing, I didn’t.
Nearby Lincoln Park was visited by
Anti-Vietnam War protestors. Abbie
Hoffman, testified at the Chicago Seven
trial “I didn’t particularly think that
politics in America could be changed
by marches and rallies…” Phil Ochs
wrote a song about it. Things
are not the same now. It’s still about
might versus right but the original
Gate of Horn at 755 North Dearborn is now
a hi-rise rental apartment building.

Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. His book Political (Cyberwit Press) is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry. He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the of Anne Frank's diary. He is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory. Read other articles by Howard Richard, or visit Howard Richard's website.