Their rendition was warm and earnest, featuring solos from four students, and the performance went viral.
So far it has gathered a total of over 20 million views across the board and earned the choir national attention, including a performance on Good Morning America. Below, Hardison tells the story behind the viral video, with the hope it continues to inspire. I still live in Baltimore, right around the corner from the school.
This is my 23rd year [teaching at Cardinal Shehan]. I teach music, and I also have a Yatta's Performing Arts program after school, and a summer program — both here at Cardinal Shehan. The kids take drama, dance, creative writing, and then they put on productions, and we intertwine it with the school, so we have a big Christmas production and a big spring production. The older choir starts 3rd grade through 8th, and it's 96 members. Because of what happened with the viral video, we had to make a travel team.
The choir that has been performing [on television] is the travel team. This was maybe the last two weeks of September, because I was going into October 1st, the year anniversary of my mom's death.
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At that time, I was already going through a hard time. I actually fell asleep with the T. I came to school — we were preparing for the gala — and I was telling the kids, "You know what, I just want you to be free, let's enjoy this. My initial encounter with LSD was overwhelmingly positive.
It made believe that that the world was joyful, mysterious, and full of promise — an impression which contrasted sharply with the current political mood. In an attempt to reconcile my psychedelic-inspired hopeful outlook with extenuating social circumstances, I started participating in anti-capitalist and pro-peace activism. The fall of made it impossible for me to separate my political sensibilities from the hopefulness that psychedelia represents for me. Both have continued to be central to my life. Although I hardly had time for anything other than school, I volunteered to help out at an after-party for Horizons NYC, which is an international forum on the science and culture of psychedelic drugs.
Held every October, Horizons brings together researchers, artists and spiritual leaders to give talks on topics ranging from the globalization of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca to the use of magic mushrooms in treating cocaine addiction. My schedule of classes and work prevented me from attending any lectures. Volunteering offered me partial access to this complicated, interesting world.
As we relayed kale salad and vegan cheesecake across the kitchen, my friend Nina pulled me aside. I knew what she meant. The venue was a lavishly-appointed brownstone belonging to a moneyed Manhattan couple. It bore little resemblance to the psychedelic settings we knew and loved: earthy, DIY spaces which would no more readily welcome conspicuous displays of wealth like the one before us than then they would a visit from law enforcement.
It was a benefit dinner, after all. But I still found the atmosphere unsettling. At the time, the economic crisis of was beginning to hit me hard. A large part of me felt psychedelic activism to be extravagant in this climate. I tried to keep that idealistic thought at the front of my mind as the night continued. If anything, I assured myself, I should be glad to meet so many psychedelic enthusiasts who appealed to more conservative perspectives. After all, I reasoned, a controversial movement needs allies in the mainstream.
Even if participating in this space represented to me giving up some integrity, I wanted in on this insight. I was tired of feeling hopeless.
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Although the luxe setting was unfamiliar, that would not be my last experience with psychedelic activism. My interest in hallucinogens followed me to my PhD in critical theory, where I explore the new psychedelic science in my dissertation. But, like a lot of common depictions of drug use, this is more fiction than fact.
Stand Up, Speak Up, Rise Up. To end sexual violence in fragile environments.
The consumption of LSD and magic mushrooms is no more likely to promote apathy than caffeine and alcohol. Moreover, in the age of Donald Trump and the rise of the new far-right, more and more people are realizing that their individual lives are ineluctably political. Political consciousness has extended to modern New Age subcultures, which now appear more thoroughly engaged with issues of justice than they did when I was an undergrad.
The Acid Communist movement has helped me view my politics as part of a historical lineage, not a misappropriation of serious Leftism. While the economic virtue of individualism rules over the modern psyche, any dedicated hippie will tell you that hallucinogens offer quite the opposite. This is the connection that Fisher was to expound upon in his new book.
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We can now only speculate on what he might have said. It would be wrong, however, to portray Fisher as the emblem of the movement. As a diverse set of ideas united by a collectivist ethos, appointing a figurehead would make little sense. But if such a title were to be given, Gilbert, not Fisher, may be the more worthy candidate.
Stand Up, Speak Up, Rise Up. To end sexual violence in fragile environments.
So while Fisher appears to have owed Gilbert more credit than he gave, saying as much might be in bad faith. And, indeed, reducing Acid Communism to a particular thinker or even a cohort of thinkers would miss the point. While researching this article, I interviewed Gilbert, who offered some historical answers to the question of who might claim rightful ownership to Acid Communism. Although lighthearted in spirit, the sixties counterculture was profoundly critical of the bourgeois subject — the individual who sees herself as isolated and therefore acts out of self-interest rather than the common good.
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On principle, therefore Acid Communism cannot be represented by one person or group. This perspective bears a direct connection to political theories that emerged from Europe in the thirties and forties. Both Gilbert and Fisher link the postwar counterculture to the radical vision of the Frankfurt School, a circle of theorists associated with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Its luminaries told of a structural relationship between individualism, capitalism and authoritarianism. With these warnings, it attempted to both retroactively account for fascism and prevent its future resurgence.
Unlike the Frankfurt School, Acid Communism deliberately operates outside of academia, which makes it more widely accessible than movements developed mainly inside institutional frameworks.
But Jeremy Gilbert, a member of Plan C, acknowledges that the immediacy and immersiveness of psychedelic feelings demands non-intellectual modes of invocation. He views his work as a dance party organizer as part of his political pursuits. First developed by socialist feminists in the s, consciousness-raising encourages participants to share stories about struggles normally conceived as private and shameful. A year ago, Alex Garcia was incarcerated. This is his story. The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
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