Wednesday, April 09, 2008

John McGah of Give US Your Poor: The Well-Rounded Radio interview

Several years ago, right after my wife and I moved to Boston, I did some work with John McGah and a group of wonderful volunteers on fundraising events for Give US Your Poor, a project taking on homelessness. To quote their statement, "The Give US Your Poor mission is to create a revolution in public awareness, dispel myths and inspire action towards ending epidemic homelessness in the United States. It works to affect change at the policy level, engage volunteerism and contributions at the individual and corporate levels through media, technology and education; and to funnel support to partner homeless organizations."

Give US Your Poor is an initiative of the University of Massachusetts Boston. McGah is the founder and Executive Director of Give US Your Poor, a former Senior Research Associate at UMass Boston's Center for Social Policy, and is a recipient of a 2002 International Eisenhower Fellowships.

Released by Appleseed Recordings in September 2007, the Give US Your Poor CD is a diverse and powerful collection of songs featuring collaborations between homeless and formerly homeless musicians and celebrity artists, including Jon Bon Jovi, Buffalo Tom, Mario Frangoulis, Danny Glover, Jewel, Sonya Kitchell, Natalie Merchant, Mighty Sam McClain, Keb' Mo', Madeleine Peyroux, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, John Sebastian, Pete Seeger, Michelle Shocked, Bruce Springsteen, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dan Zanes (who Well-Rounded Radio interviewed a few years back).

Give US Your Poor held a concert in November 2007 in Boston as part of "Boston Helps the Homeless: Awareness to Action" weekend presented by Ipswitch Co. and hosted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and Mayor Thomas Menino's Office at the City of Boston. The concert was headlined by Buffalo Tom, Mario Frangoulis, Mighty Sam McClain, and Natalie Merchant and featured homeless and formerly homeless artists that appear on the Give US Your Poor CD. Between acts video messages appeared from Jon Bon Jovi, Danny Glover, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. See a recap and photos from the event here.

Buy the CD direct from Appleseed Recordings, at, or iTunes. Proceeds from the CD will go towards the national awareness and action campaign to end homelessness. In addition, local and national homeless organizations will be able to sell the CD to raise funds and awareness to their organization. Homeless artists involved will receive direct payment, all travel costs, and mechanical royalties for any original music.

Wondering what you can do to help solve our nation’s homelessness problem? Here's some suggestions from McGah:

1) write your U.S. Senator in support of the the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. As of March 2008 it had passed the House, but not the Senate, but is co-sponsored by both a Republican and Democrat Senator. The fund primarily provides matching money towards the creation of housing for people to live in the lowest income bracket.

2) For veterans, The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is supporting a bill "Homes for Heroes" for preventing homelessness among Iraq War Veterans. Visit The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans to find out more.

3) Visit these sites, sign up for email lists, donate to, and/or join these organizations:
The National Alliance to End Homelessness
The National Coalition for the Homeless
The National Heathcare for the Homeless Council

4) Let your voice be heard!

Give US Your Poor is also currently working on a documentary film about homelessness along with creating educational curriculums and local outreach. Watch select video previews of Southwest stories and East Coast stories. There's also a great video segment about Natalie Merchant's participation and recording session with homeless and formerly homeless artists on YouTube.

In February I met with McGah in my current hometown of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts to discuss:
* what Appleseed Recordings is and what their particular social goals are
* how Give US Your Poor solicited and selected homeless and formerly homeless artists to participate in the project
* how this project can help combat homelessness and spread the word about this critical issue

Photo: Bryan How

Songs featured in the interview include:
1) Keb' Mo' and Eagle Park Slim- Baby Don't Let Me Go (in preview)
2) Natalie Merchant and Friends - There is No Good Reason (in preview)
3) Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen - Hobo's Lullaby
4) Sweet Honey in the Rock - Stranger Blues
5) Michelle Shocked and Michael Sullivan - Becky's Tune
6) Buffalo Tom - Ink Falling (Father Outside)
7) Mario Frangoulis - Feels Like Home
8) Bonnie Raitt and Weepin' Willie Robinson - Walking the Dog
9) Tim Robbins - Impossible Boulevard
10) Madeleine Peyroux - I Think it's Going to Rain Today
11) Mark Erelli - Here and Now
12) Kyla Middleton and Dan Zanes - Boll Weivel
13) Natalie Merchant and Friends - There is No Good Reason
14) audio documentary set to music - Land of 10,000 Homeless-Minneapolis
15) Danny Glover - My Name is Not "Those People"
16) Del Goldfarb and John Sebastian - Portable Man
17) Sonya Kitchell - So Lonely
18) Natalie Merchant and Friends - There is No Good Reason

John recommends the song Last King of May by Natalie Merchant on her Ophelia CD and "I'll Work for Your Love" on Bruce Springsteen's Magic CD, and the band The Wait.

Charlie recommends Tune Your World, The Future of Music Coalition's education events in upstate New York, and following me on Twitter.

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