El Paso, Texas -- Folk singer extraordinaire Charlie King has been writing songs and singing since the beginning of his career during the 1960’s peace movement. His songs have been recorded and sung by folks like Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, John McCutcheon, Arlo Guthrie, Peggy Seeger, Chad Mitchell and Judy Small.
He's going to perform in El Paso on March 12 to benefit the Lexmark maquiladora workers/strike in Juárez. His central vision as an entertainer is to leave audiences with a sense of optimism and possibility about the future. Musician Lucia Veronica Carmona, a Juárez native and community organizer, will open the performance with songs about strength and struggle.
Juárez maquiladora workers at Lexmark, a U.S.-owned Fortune 500 company, have been on strike since November 2015, and were fired for their participation in union organizing and demanding a pay increase equivalent to about 35 cents (U.S.) a day.
In response to the firing of about 100 workers, strikers set-up encampments outside the assembly plants, demanding the right to form an independent union.
The current minimum wage in Mexico is around $4.22 per day, and dropping as the peso is further devalued. EX-Lexmark workers said they were paid 480 to 534 pesos a week after taxes ($29.40 to $32.60 in U.S. dollars).
Worker rights advocates in Juárez connect the push to attract transnational corporations without the required conditions to the current efforts to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership, the free trade agreement secretly negotiated between the United States and a dozen Pacific Rim nations that is currently awaiting a vote by U.S. and Mexican lawmakers.
What: Charlie King music benefit for Lexmark maquiladora workers in Juárez, Mexico.
When: 7-9 p.m., Saturday, March 12. 7-9 p.m. Suggested donation is $10.
Where: Columban Mission Center, 816 Magoffin, El Paso, Texas.
Information: Cemelli de Aztlan, (915) 799-2890.
Charlie King bio
Charlie King is a musical storyteller and political satirist. His repertoire covers a century and a half and four continents. He sings and writes passionately about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.
King has been at the heart of American folk music for half a century, and has been writing songs for the past 40 years. In 2013, he released a retrospective album, "So Far, So Good -- 40 Songs for 40 Years."
King began writing and singing in the 1960’s peace movement, and supported the United Farm Workers boycott. He was a Clamshell Alliance activist in the resistance against nuclear power, and, with the Catholic Worker Movement, has sung and worked to promote a simple and sustainable lifestyle, among other causes.
His recognitions include an Indie award for one of the top three folk recordings of 1984; the War Resisters League’s 1998 Peacemaker Award given to Charlie and Odetta; the 1999 Sacco-Vanzetti Social Justice Award for which he was nominated by Pete Seeger; the 2009 International Labor Communications Association award for Best Labor History Story.
In 2014, the Labor Heritage Foundation presented King with the Joe Hill Award, a lifetime achievement award recognizing excellence in the field of labor culture.
King has recorded a dozen solo albums since 1976, as well as three albums with the touring ensemble Bright Morning Star, and numerous compilation albums with other artists. Since 2001 he has been recording with his partner, Karen Brandow.
Their titles include "The Distance Remaining," "Higher Ground; On the Journey; "Sparks and Tears," "Puppet Town," "Brilliant - Songs of Ireland," "Remembering Sacco & Vanzetti," their premier 2001 Appleseed recording, "I Struck Gold."
King also has been singing in support of numerous groups working for peace, human rights, environmental sanity and alternatives to violence.
King was born in 1947 and raised in Brockton, Mass. He has an undergraduate degree in political science from Stonehill College, a master's degree in Community Health Education from Hunter College in N.Y., and a master's degree in religious studies from New York Theological Seminary.
He cites as his most important influences the folk music revival of the 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement and the protests during the Vietnam War era.
“I try to cover a broad emotional landscape in my concerts," King said. "The stories I collect and the songs I write take the listener on a journey of humor, heartache and hope. What I most value in a song is the way it helps us see an old reality in a totally new light.”
Folk legend Peggy Seeger says, “If we had more Charlie Kings in the world, I’d be less worried,” and Tom Paxton adds, “Luckily, we have him!”