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Protest Song of the Week: ‘Freeway’

In the protest anthem, “Freeway,” singer-songwriter David Rosane sings, “Sorry for the inconvenience. We’re just trying to change the world.”

It is premised around an apology-but-not-an-apology to those upset they cannot get anywhere in their vehicles because people are clogging the streets while protesting. Also, grassroots struggles are on a metaphorical freeway, uncertain of how to get to their destination, missing exits along the way, but steadfast in their commitment to pushing onward toward human rights and justice for all.

Rosane comes from a background of ecology and humanitarian work. He conducted research and taught for Cornell University for 10 years in the Amazon, where he was an outreach coordinator with the Ye’kuana tribe. He moved to New York and was an environmental justice advocate until the Occupy uprising and then he found inspiration and became a full-time singer-songwriter.

As Rosane recalls, one day while Occupy Wall Street was still flourishing, he spotted a young woman with pony tails, who was facing traffic and wearing a large sign. It read, “Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re trying to change the world.” He knew right away he had to go pick up his guitar and write this song.

“In addition to being my own personal hymn for the movement, and about progressive humanism in general, and the ongoing struggle for democracy and against power systems throughout, this tune works as a very personal homage to [New York City], where I had the great fortune to live and work for five years as an educator and activist, and meet and learn from great revolutionary minds,” Rosane writes.

More significantly, it represents Rosane’s confidence that activists, writers, artists, thinkers and others in the world are in participating in a groundswell of protest activity, which has created the largest global rights movement in the history of Planet Earth.

This is reflected in the music video for the song, which was posted on the fourth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

“Today’s global movement is by definition a grassroots phenomenon,” Rosane argues. “It is inherently organic, under the radar of power and corporate media. It is also deeply anchored in our past and evolution.”

“As a species, we are learning to love outside the parochial boundaries of our original tribes, ethnic groups, communities, countries. People from all walks of life and regions of the globe are now joining forces, regardless of their affiliation, reaching across borders and class, transcending nation states to found the building blocks of a global democracy and new social contract that includes the protection of the biosphere and its sentient beings. We are slowly but surely becoming a smarter, more compassionate, altruistic and better species. One human family. One with Earth.”

As one stanza goes:

Submit to the king, submit to a throne
Dine with the queen, go fetch a bone
Land on a mine, die for a cause
Submit your love, hand in your life

Depending on how this was sung, it could come off as disparaging to a movement of people genuinely trying to bring about transformation in communities. But lyrics like these roll off Rosane’s tongue as a matter of fact suggestion of other options humanity might have if we do not choose to fight.

“Freeway” is a wonderful anthem, which ultimately should leave one at peace with making the choice to fight for a better world. It can be found on the album, “Modern Folk,” which the band released on June 12. And it is Shadowproof’s “Protest Song of the Week.”

Want to suggest a protest song that should be featured? Email protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

Students and local activists protest the suspension of SJP on April 2, 2014 at Northeastern University | Photo by Maria Amasanti
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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."