Arts featured

A concert rooted in a 2014 protest: Dave Gunning and Garnet Rogers fundraiser for Breaking the Silence on June 2nd

On June 2nd spend a memorable afternoon with two of Canada’s most illustrious folk musicians, Dave Gunning and Garnet Rogers, as they share their enormous talents and storytelling gifts to support the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS).

Dave Gunning. Photo

BTS is a solidarity network formed 30 years ago in Tatamagouche to carry out  human rights advocacy and support rebuilding efforts by Mayan partners after a decades-long internal armed conflict led to mass human displacement, extensive human rights violations and genocide.

Many ask BTS how we managed to bring Dave and Garnet together. The story begins in September 2014. Dave Gunning brought an amazing group of musicians together, including Garnet, to protest Northern Pulp’s contamination of Pictou Landing First Nation and the whole area.

Garnet arrived early to hand out leaflets protesting a quarry near Canso, Nova Scotia. A few BTS members chatted with him and learned that he was moving to semi-retirement and wanted to support social justice movements. We wasted no time in inviting him to perform for BTS. To our surprise he said yes and gave a stunning performance for BTS in May 2015. And he learned more about Breaking the Silence in the process.

Garnet performed for BTS once again in October 2018. And who should attend the fundraiser but Dave and Sarah Gunning! At the end of the evening, as we said our goodbyes, Garnet turned to Dave and said, “I want to do another fundraiser for BTS and I would like to do it with you.” Dave replied: “In a heartbeat.”

Garnet Rogers. Photo

Half of the funds raised will go to the Breaking the Silence Network to ensure a constant BTS presence with our partners in a highly challenging human rights period in Guatemala. Another half will go to a new initiative, the Rabinal New Hope Foundation-Tatamagouche School/Community Project.

In 2000 a BTS young adult delegation met Jesus Tecu Osorio, the founder of the New Hope Foundation. As a child, Jesus witnessed the massacre of his family and community. He became a community leader and witness in national and international genocide trials.

With money from the Reebok Human Rights Award, Jesus created the New Hope Foundation to ensure that children and grandchildren of both victims and survivors of genocide in the Maya-Achi region could study beyond primary school and could do so in a school where the Maya-Achi language and culture would be valued, they would study human rights and would serve their communities. 

In 2016, Hannah Martin, a Mi’kmaq university student from Tatamagouche, volunteered at the New Hope High School. Her parents, teachers Anne MacDonald Martin and Paul Martin, visited the school during Hannah’s stay. Thus began the initiative of developing a long term relationship between the New Hope Foundation and the Tatamagouche school, with the conviction that this will be a mutual learning experience for students, teachers and parents in both Tatamagouche and Rabinal.

In June 2017 Tatamagouche welcomed the New Hope Foundation Director in Rabinal Guatemala, along with two Maya-Achi young people who shared the inspiring story of the New Hope Foundation.

In August 2019, Tatamagouche students, teachers and community members visited the New Hope High School and the site of the massacre of Jesus’ mother and baby brother near the village of Rio Negro, leaving an indelible mark on all participants. As a result of the relationship formed, the group has committed to supporting bursaries for three young women to finish their high school studies at the New Hope School.

On May 23rd two Rabinal students and a teacher return to Tatamagouche for ten days, and will also spend two days in Eskasoni. They will be special guests at the Gunning/Rogers concert.  

We invite all to this concert at Sharon United Church, Tatamagouche. Tickets are $20 at the door. We suggest that you arrive early!

Originally published in Rendez Vous,  the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation newsletter. Republished with kind permission from the author.  

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