Wife/husband partnership Kira Smith and Pete Sinjin typically have a packed day of classes and teaching on Wednesday mornings at Hootenanny Art House, their classroom and artspace at 428 15th Street (just off 8th Avenue).
Wednesday, November 9, however, was unlike a typical morning of teaching.
Along with other members of the local community, parents were bringing their kids to Hootenanny, shocked, saddened, and anxious over the Presidential election results from the night before.
“I hugged at least three moms on the street who were crying,” recalled “Hootenanny Pete,” as the beloved Sinjin is known by many in the community. “The room was full of parents who were ashen-faced.”
And while the election and policies of Donald Trump distressed both Smith and Sinjin, they immediately began planning.
Just four days later, Hootenanny Art House hosted “Rise Up And Sing” and raised $1400 to donate to organizations they believe will be in need of support under a Trump presidency.
Funds went to the ACLU, the Black Lives Matter Network, Planned Parenthood, as well as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe – Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund.
Between Monday, November 28 and Saturday, December 3, Smith and Sinjin have organized a “Week of Action” — classes, programs, and events which include singing, dancing, yoga, and fundraising for Planned Parenthood, ACLU, 350.org, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But that’s just the beginning for Hootenanny.
“This all comes from the belief that the community needs to be together,” said Smith. “We really needed to do something — to provide a place to take care of ourselves.”
Smith explained that teachers signed on to the week of action quickly; all are donating their time to be part of it.
Each event has a suggested $20 donation, all which can be found on the Week of Action calendar.
And while the goal of the week is to bring the community together and uplift them, Smith hopes both kids and adults will be exposed to something new. She highlights the Afro-Soca Dance Class which will take place on Thursday, December 1 from 6:30pm-7:30pm. “I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to have some interesting conversations,” says Smith.
Our neighborhood has already jumped into the fray of activism opportunities and planning. Let’s Get Organized: Preparing to resist threats to our ideals was led by Council Member Brad Lander on Tuesday, November 15 at Congregation Beth Elohim. (The next event will take place on Thursday, December 1. Information is listed here.)
“Week of Action” is one of the few opportunities in our neighborhood to engage kids in activism.
Sinjin believes that providing workshops for children is vital. “With my own kids, I wonder how much are they simply soaking up throughout osmosis?” he said.
“Love Trumps Hate” by Pete Sinjin joined by Steve Curtis.
Social activism for Smith and Sinjin is nothing new. “Pete does his work in the lineage of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie,” said Smith. “These are songs that we inherit.”
So how does Sinjin handle the subject matter when it comes to communicating with kids and their families in the classroom?
“I don’t shy away from these complicated subjects at all. I make it a point of choosing my wording,” said Sinjin. “I address it absolutely head on. We talk directly about racism and bigotry.”
The week kicks off on Monday, November 28 with “Rise Up and Sing!” when Sinjin will lead “a special themed sing-along that will incorporate music of empowerment and peace.” Selections will include popular songs from the Civil Rights Era, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger classics, as well as Sinjin’s originals.
“It’s important that we recognize our present is not necessarily our children’s future,” added Sinjin. “We have a means of creating that kind of consciousness in the world.”
The Rundown: A Week of Action at Hootenanny Art House
When: Monday, November 28 and Saturday, December 3. Events each day. Consult the calendar for details.
Where: Hootenanny Art House, 428 15th Street (just off 8th Avenue)
How Much: $20, suggestions donation for each event. Funds will be donated to the ACLU, the Black Lives Matter Network, Planned Parenthood, as well as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe – Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund.