Older, Bolder--and Still Pretty Loud
First National Organizing Call for Third Act is Tonight
I started this newsletter with the announcement that we’d begun building a new group, Third Act, focused on progressive organizing for those of us who have topped 60; tonight, three months later, we’re ready for our debut national organizing call, which will feature our lead advisor Akaya Windwood, our president Vanessa Arcara, and a bunch of the rest of us who have been working to build out this new thing. We’ve already had some fun—by the end of October, Third Actors were backing up young people as they took on fossil-funding banks across America. But the real organizing begins now.
And one of the people who’ll be joining us is pictured below—there in the middle that’s Lester Chambers, of the Chambers Brothers—raised on a sharecropping farm in Mississippi, by the 1960s the brothers were in Los Angeles, and making their way in the musical world. Their breakout moment came in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, they hung with the Beatles in London, and they recorded one genuine for-the-ages hit, Time Has Come Today.
Here’s Lester Chambers these days—he’s in his 80s now, living in the Bay Area, and still singing (in this shot with the legendary Steve Cropper, guitarist with Booker T and the MGs, name-checked by Sam and Dave in Soul Man.)
I bring Mr. Chambers up because he’s joining us tonight for the organizing call—we’ll open with an incredible new cover of Time Has Come Today with the San Fran band MoonAlice. Fifty years later, Lester is on lead vocals—and sounding as good as it gets. And then, over the weekend, his musician son Dylan (remember, Newport Folk Festival 1965) recorded an interview with him, and we’ll play a couple of snippets. I’d wanted to know what Time—the song, the concept—meant to him today, and he said some things worth hearing.
We’ll discuss a lot of stuff tomorrow: how to organize local groups, how we’re going to start taking on voting rights and climate issues, where to buy the cool t-shirts. But mostly we’re going to talk about building for duration, about figuring out how to go the distance. Because we know we’re not going to win the fight to stabilize the climate, or to stabilize our democracy, overnight. We have to win them pretty fast—else we run the real risk of sliding into something like hell or something like authoritarianism—but we also need to build for at least a decade’s worth of the long haul.
And people like Lester Chambers can help there. He represents both the First Act of this generation, a moment of profound cultural and social transformation (and musical—not to overstate the point, but Newport 1965 was when Dylan went electric) and the Third, working with younger people to keep pushing the same message about community and solidarity and change.
We need your support—tune in tonight, and tell your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Older Americans will not win these fights alone; we want to back up younger leaders. But these fights won’t be won without us either. Solidarity. Forever.