Mighty Sam McClain - 2007 / Jon Bon Jovi and Mighty Sam McClain record
on project for the homeless
Land of 10,000 Homeless:
Minneapolis based Musician, composer, activist
Andrew Turpening is the
artistic director of Voices Of The Streets. This
organization provides a way
for people not heard in the mainstream media to
tell their stories. The first
Voices of the Streets project, "The Land of 10,000
Homeless", tackles the
problem of homelessness by giving a voice to
individuals living in Minnesota
and experiencing homelessness.
Our friend Danny Glover is the Executive Producer of the
movie "Bamako." Read this NYTimes excerpt of a movie we
urge you to see:
February 11, 2007
One Angry African Puts Big Money on Trial
By DENNIS LIM
ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands
A RARITY among contemporary filmmakers, Abderrahmane
Sissako is doing his best to uphold the tradition of "J'accuse"
and the outraged polemic. For his latest movie Mr.
Sissako, who lives in Paris, returned to his family
courtyard in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and
staged an act of symbolic justice.
"Bamako," which opens Wednesday at Film
Forum in Manhattan, is a courtroom drama that takes place
within a mud-walled compound. It revolves around an
unlikely cast of characters: the plaintiffs are the
people of Africa; the defendants, charged with
worsening the economic plight of the continent, are
the World Bank and the International
"Through art you can invent the impossible." Mr. Sissako,
45, said in an interview here at the Rotterdam International
Film Festival, where he was the subject of a
retrospective. "It's obviously an improbable
scenario: to put on trial these two institutions
that nobody can hold accountable. But that's the
point. In this little courtyard we make the impossible
To staff the tribunal in "Bamako," Mr. Sissako sought out
real judges and lawyers, whom he armed with extensive research
material. He also assembled a cross section of
witnesses, from childhood friends to a former
minister of culture, all appearing as themselves.
Once the cameras were rolling, he allowed the
improvised arguments to unfold without
interruption. Witness after witness lands blow after blow
against the economic policies of the international financial
bodies, contending that they have contributed to the
impoverishment of Africa and led to cuts in health
care and education.
But "Bamako," despite its equation of globalized capitalism
and neocolonialism, is not purely a diatribe. To an almost
surreal degree it emphasizes the drift of daily life.
In the very space where the court is in session,
residents come and go, women dye fabric, a wedding
party passes by. "The idea of the trial was born
together with the idea of showing life adjacent to
it," Mr. Sissako said.
He also fleshes out the film with a few scripted story
lines, which he called "attempts to maintain the viewers'
attention." In the most flamboyant divertissement he cuts to
a mock spaghetti western that the neighborhood
children are watching on television =97 a nod to the
first movies he saw and a pointed comment on the
dominance of Western culture and ideology. The
cowboys in the film-within-the-film are played by
friends of Mr. Sissako, including the American actor Danny
Glover, who is an executive producer of "Bamako," and the
Palestinian director Elia Suleiman.
The primary setting of "Bamako" holds great significance
for Mr. Sissako, whose work often incorporates elements of
autobiography. "I couldn't have made a film like this in
just any courtyard," he said. "It had to be this
one, where I grew up. Shooting there I felt
protected. I felt I was allowed to make mistakes."
Thanks to Mr. Sissako's father, an engineer, there was
always a bustling communal atmosphere at the compound. "My
father was the only one in his family who went to school,"
he said. "He felt a responsibility to take in the
children of relatives and friends who were less
well off. Usually there would be about 30 people in
the house." The courtyard, he said, "is Malian
society in miniature."
Mr. Sissako was born in Mauritania but grew up in Mali, his
father's home country. As a teenager he bristled against the
oppressive school system. "I was never a good
student, and I started to get militant ideas
because I wanted to overthrow the school," he said.
His revolutionary views grew more focused when he
encountered the writings of Che Guevara, African-American
civil rights activists like W. E. B. Dubois, and
anticolonialist authors like Frantz Fanon and Aim=E9 C=E9saire. He
was also galvanized by the global anti-apartheid
movement and caught up in a growing resentment
toward the military dictatorship in Mali. By his
late teens he was organizing student strikes. "It
was a dangerous time," he said. "Friends of mine
were in prison. One was dead."
At 19, he moved to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania,
where his mother was living. Homesick for Mali, unfamiliar
with the local dialect, he found unexpected solace at the
Soviet cultural center, where he spent his days
playing table tennis, learning Russian and reading
Dostoevsky. He ended up at the prestigious film
academy in Moscow. After nearly a decade there he
moved to Paris in the early 1990s. His nomadic
existence strongly informed his worldview. He found his voice
as a poet of displacement, forever grappling with the
bafflement of exile and the sorrow of the impossible
In "Waiting for Happiness" (2002), set in a
Mauritanian coastal town that functions as a way
station between Africa and the West, one of the
characters is an alienated young man visiting his
mother before he leaves for Europe. In "Life on Earth" (1998)
Mr. Sissako plays a version of himself, an expatriate
returning from Paris to Mali on the eve of the millennium.
One line in that film, from a letter that the young
man writes to his father, sums up the ambivalent
yearning at the heart of his work: "Is what I learn
far from you worth what I forget about us?" (Both
films were shown at the New York Film Festival. New
Yorker Films will release "Waiting for Happiness"
on DVD later this year.)
The overtly political "Bamako" represents a move away from
autobiography. "I was getting tired of drawing on my own
life," Mr. Sissako said. "There's a natural end to that
But the explicit subject of "Bamako" had been the implicit
themes of his other films: the legacy of colonialism and the
lopsided relationship between the first and third
worlds. Even more than the average courtroom
procedural, it is a film about the power of the
spoken word, giving voice to those normally denied
It also, however, demonstrates the limits of language.
Called to the stand, one of the witnesses finds himself unable
to speak. "Truth cannot always be expressed in words,"
Mr. Sissako said. "It can also be silent, and you
cannot say no to those who are silent."
In the movie's emotional climax, another witness forgoes
conventional testimony and sings a full-throated lament. The
scene is left unsubtitled, but the sentiments could not
be clearer. "He was singing in a dialect from the
south of Mali," Mr. Sissako said. "Even most of the
people in the courtyard didn't understand it, but
we were all very moved."
As for the film's economic arguments, they are probably too
simplified to withstand the scrutiny of experts. Christopher
Udry, a professor of economics at Yale
University who teaches and writes about rural economic
organization in Africa, said that while "Bamako" addressed the
"fundamental power asymmetry" of the situation, he
thought the film was compromised by its stridency.
"The World Bank actually puts an enormous amount of energy
in trying to listen," Professor Udry said. "There is broad
recognition that structural adjustment was not
successful, though there is disagreement as to
Mr. Glover, who studied economics in college and has been
involved in human rights issues for decades, said by telephone
that he hoped the film "does more than preach to the
choir." He added, "It's a statement that opens up a
space for dialogue."
The African group of the International Monetary Fund has
seen it, Mr. Sissako said, but he has yet to receive any
feedback. Last month he showed his film in Bamako, in front
of the courtyard where it was shot. Thousands
turned up. Still, insofar as the movie is a
broadside, its designated audience is a Western
one. Mr. Sissako recalled the advice of an old
friend, a Malian judge: "He told me, 'Don't think this film
will change anything. But you have to make it. Perhaps then
they will know that we know.' "
Give Us Your Poor's John McGah, Singer/Songwriter
Jon Bon Jovi, and Jim Mussleman, Appelseed
Recordings in New Jersey
Jon Bon Jovi records track with Mighty Sam McClain
for Give Us Your Poor CD
Click here to support the final stages of our music CD
(Indicate in note section if support is for CD)
Jon Bon Jovi the Rock Icon continues his commitment
to homelessness all around the world by recording
for the CD and video for Give Us Your Poor. Jon
Bon Jovi, who has since been named Habitat For
Humanity's first-ever Ambassador. In December
2006, Jon recorded a song by singer/songwriter
blues/Gospel extroidanaire, Mighty Sam McClain with
Mighty Sam's band backing. Mighty Sam wrote the
lyrics and co-wrote the music with bandmember Donn
Scott Shetler. We can't give too much away before
the release but suffice to say everyone is happy
with the results....ok, very happy.
"Once an idea becomes action, an energy is created
that can be contagious," says Jon Bon Jovi, whose
global rock idol status is offset by his dedication
to the working-class community where he grew up.
"People who want to help -- or who need help -- get
discouraged because they don't know how to take the first
step. I'm trying to make it a little easier by connecting the
people with something to give with the people in need.
When the connection is made, whatever town you call
home becomes a better place."
Mighty Sam McClain and Band and prodcuer/engineer
Gerry Putnam in New Hampshire recording session for
Give US Your Poor
2006 recap: A successful year
2006 was a year of great accomplishments and growth
for the Give Us Your Poor project.
Michael Mierendorf, Larry Marshall, John Fine,
Bryan How and Michael Botelho filmed multiple
shoots for the GUYP documentary film. Also with the lead
of Michael Mierendorf the collaboration of documentation
and editing by Larry Marshall the creation of a short
documentary was developed for Natalie
Merchant's website . We were also able to create
two PSA announcements. One with Actor Danny Glover
for TV and another with singer Gavin DeGraw for
But 2006 was the year of the CD. Many
collaborations were recorded between celebrity artists
and (formerly homeless artists). The list of celebrity
artists is impressive including: Danny Glover, Pete
Seeger, Natalie Merchant, Dan Zanes, Sam McClain, Jon Bon
Jovi, and Jewel. All in all 14 tracks were recorded
in 2006. Many thanks to all those
involved in the GUYP CD project, Appleseed Recordings , Berklee School
of Music, and Sonicbids, Nils Gums, Jeff Olivet, and Brianne Widaman
to name a few.
In 2006 many new key partnerships were built. King
Fish Media of Salem, MA worked
with GUYP updating the logo and developed detailed Media and
Marketing plans. Partnerships were also built with
FLIMP a Rich Media direct marketing
internet tools. New advisory board members of 2006
include Executive Coach Gordon Curtis, music
industry veteran Phil Sandhaus, and Executive
Director of the National Healthcare for the Homeless
Council, John Lozier.
By Sarah Nichols
An initiative of the University of Massachusetts
Boston, Give US Your Poor, has been meticulously
striving to awaken the consciousness towards ending
a widespread homelessness in the United States. The
year 2007 spells for us new levels of reaching out to the
community at large, with the central mission of stirring
action towards eradicating this social malaise.
With the anticipation that a close depiction of
homeless people in a film might increase a better
perception of homelessness, GUYP in collaboration with
celebrated figures from the entertainment industry as well
Government and the academia looks forward to the further
work on its film on homelessness, curriclum in
schools, supporting our partner homeless organizations, and
releasing more pubic service announcements.
On the other hand is the CD project (produced and
released by Appleseed Recordings) that brings
together illustrious musicians and others for a
unique advocacy as part of this project.
The Year 2007 for GUYP is a promise for better
tomorrows for the homeless and us all in the United
States, making our world a celebration of life and
By Ishita Rungta