Landmark Anti-Vietnam War Opus Subject of Talk at EVERYbody Reads

Press release for upcoming talk. If you’re in the Lansing area, hope to see you there:

Former Lansing resident and veteran of the Vietnam era underground press Ken Wachsberger will tell stories from the period and do a book signing at a launch party at EVERYbody Reads, 2019 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3.

Ken is the editor and visionary of the landmark 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series (published by Michigan State University Press), an anthology of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers. Volume 1 has just been released and will be available for purchase at the signing. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told. Ken was one of the principals of the Lansing area’s Joint Issue, one of a long tradition of local underground papers beginning with the legendary The Paper in 1965 that are included in Ken’s history, which appears in the newly released volume 1. In appendices, he tells why being in jail is like finals week and opens the Red Squad files on East Lansing’s underground press.

Forewords are by Chicago Seed veteran Abe Peck, attorney William Kunstler, and Markos Moulitsas, founder of dailykos.com, one of the most important progressive blog sites of today’s new media. According to Ken, “With our country bankrupted by two wars, the timing couldn’t be better to read these stories. Markos’s foreword connects yesterday’s underground press generation with today’s blogger generation. It’s time to listen again to the poets and visionaries of the independent, alternative press.”

The book was called “the most important book on American journalism published in my lifetime” by the reviewer for In These Times and was named one of the five most important books in the field of communication for 1993 (Choice) when it appeared in an earlier version in 1993. The Los Angeles Times reviewer said it “comes closer than anything I’ve yet read to putting the sights, sounds and texture of the ‘60s on paper.” “… and it’s fun,” said Erwin Knoll, former editor of The Progressive.

Ken is a long-time author, editor, educator, political organizer, public speaker, and consultant who has written, edited, and lectured widely on the Vietnam era, the Holocaust and Jewish resistance during World War II, the First Amendment, and other issues.

The Voices from the Underground Series has been celebrated by Susan Brownmiller, Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, Ben Bagdikian, Charlotte Bunch, Barbara Tischler, Country Joe McDonald, Noam Chomsky, Peter Werbe, David Du Bois, Barbara Grier, Art Levin, Paul Krassner, and many others.

To learn more about Voices from the Underground, read many more testimonials, and view the entire four-volume table of contents, go to www.voicesfromtheunderground.com. Ken may be reached at ken@voicesfromtheunderground.com for interviews and speaking invitations.

 Then mark your calendar: Thursday March 3 beginning at 7 p.m.

 * * *

 A small sampling of stories from volume 1 of the 4-volume

Voices from the Underground Series:

  •  Marilyn Webb recalls the first year of off our backs, the first national feminist paper to emerge on the east coast.
  •  Allen Cohen tells the history of Haight-Ashbury through his history of The Oracle, the premier psychedelic underground paper of the period.
  •  John Woodford shares his journey from being an editor at Ebony, the highest-circulation publication for a black readership, to joining Muhammad Speaks, the Black Muslim paper, soon after Elijah Muhammad expelled Malcolm X, to becoming editor in chief, to being released.
  •  Charley Shively remembers the 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Bar in New York City where “instead of going quietly into the waiting vans, the motley crowd of queers and queens attacked the police,” inspiring a nationwide gay and lesbian liberation movement, along with a whole network of Gay Liberation Front papers, including Boston’s Fag Rag.
  •  Ken Wachsberger opens the Red Squad files on East Lansing’s underground press and tells why being in jail is like finals week.
  •  Doug George-Kanentiio intertwines oral and written records going back 2,000 years to explain how Akwesasne Notes became the most influential aboriginal newspaper of the twentieth century.
  •  Victoria Smith Holden takes a sociological look at the inner-group dynamics of Houston’s Space City! while analyzing its rise and fall and wondering why social movement organizations are so especially vulnerable to failure.
  •  Nancy Strohl celebrates the emerging coalition between antiwar GIs and the antiwar movement at home that broke the back of the government’s war against the Vietnamese in her history of Freedom of the Press, a newspaper she produced and distributed with her husband at the naval Air Station in Yokosuka, Japan, port for the USS Midway when it was not serving as the base for bombing raids on north Vietnam.
  •  and more
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Guild Stakes Future on The Grand Duchess

Against a backdrop of shrinking audiences and grant money for live theater, Ann Arbor’s Comic Opera Guild is mounting its biggest production in six years with Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. Whether the Guild will offer a full-scale production next season rests on this season’s attendance.

The Guild’s mission for 38 years has been the promotion of the comic opera and operetta form, combining, as it does, top vocalism, dance, spoken acting, orchestral accompaniment, and scenic design. Of course, this form of theater is the most expensive, requiring greater forces than a play. In order to keep ticket prices down, the Guild relies on considerable volunteerism to bring its shows to the boards.

The works of Offenbach have always been dear to the heart of Guild founder, Thomas Petiet. They combine challenging music with really funny plots in a way that few musicals do. In America, they have been hampered in the conversion to English. The Guild solved the problem by creating its own English versions that not only come closer to wit of the originals, but strive to make them even better and usually shorter. Many of the Guild’s versions have been performed by companies around the United States and as far away as Australia.

The subject of The Grand Duchess is timeless (the military and the need for war), and so the setting for the Guild’s production is the onset of World War 1, the war that introduced the technology to kill multitudes. While the subject is treated in a lighthearted way, the message is clear: war doesn’t solve anything. When a lovelorn monarch promotes a handsome but inept soldier to commander-in-chief, disastrous consequences would seem to be the result, but all ends happily (if not in victory).

The Guild has put a professional level cast and considerable time and money into the production, and sees it as a litmus test on whether shows of this scale can be supported by today’s audiences, distracted as they are by so many electronic entertainments. Live theater depends on the audience to exist, not only financially, but artistically. No two performances are exactly the same, and audience reaction has a lot to do with that. Performers draw their sustenance from the audience, and in turn make them a part of the performance.

Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein

Thurs.-Sat. Feb. 24-26, 8 p.m.: Mendelssohn Theater, Ann Arbor. Credit card orders: 734-763-8587, or at Michigan Union Ticket Office, Ann Arbor

Sat., April 2, 8 p.m. and Sun., April 3, 2 p.m.: Village Theater, 50400 Cherry Hill Road, Canton, MI 48187. Credit card orders: 734-394-5460; online: www.canton-mi.org/villagetheater or at Summit on the Park, 46000 Summit Pkwy, Canton

Adults: $20 Seniors: $17 Students: $15

Feminist Author Susan Brownmiller to Write Foreword to Volume 3

I am delighted to announce that Susan Brownmiller has agreed to write a foreword to volume 3 of the four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Susan is one of the pioneer leaders of the second wave of the feminist movement that burst forth in the sixties and seventies and is still changing the world. Her first book, the groundbreaking Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, redefined rape forever as a feminist issue. She has been a supporter of the Voices from the Underground Series since it first came out in its earlier iteration in 1993.

Not long after the first edition went out of print, long before it had reached its sales potential (a story for another time), I received a phone call from Susan. She was at the time in the process of writing her history of the feminist movement, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, and she needed a copy of Voices for her research. She said, “Hi, Ken, this is Susan Brownmiller.” I thought to myself, “Susan Brownmiller!” Honestly I can’t remember if I expressed my surprise out loud. Okay, I admit it, I felt like a groupie because she was an important figure in a movement that I at times followed and at other times led (I’m talking about the general antiwar/countercultural movement, not the feminist movement) but at all times respected highly and loved being a part of. Sadly I wasn’t able to help her—my personal supply of books to sell was already gone. Fortunately Marilyn Webb, whose story of the founding of off our backs, the first major feminist paper to emerge on the east coast, appears in the just-released first volume of the four-volume series, was able to help Susan. Marilyn’s story is footnoted several times in Susan’s book.

I never forgot that incident, so while I was working on this new edition I contacted Susan and asked her for a testimonial quote. Generously, she came through. Her quote appears on the back cover of volume 1, along with quotes from Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, and Chris Atton, professor of media and culture at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University. Here’s what Susan wrote:

What a boon to historians! Ken Wachsberger’s Voices from the Underground is crucial to an understanding of the literary and political history of the 1960s counterculture movement. This valuable resource must stay in print, if only for academics who wish to study the amazing phenomenon of the alternative newspapers, put together by amateurs, that sprang up across the country in those fervent years. Wachsberger’s material, largely in the form of “how we did it” memoirs, is rich in personal histories and anecdotal details that are collected nowhere else.

So when I visited her on my next trip to New York I expected her to tell me how much she loved the book. Instead she said, “You don’t have enough on the feminist press. You need to include It Aint Me Babe.” I tried to explain to her that I already had off our backs and The Furies, the lesbian feminist paper put out by the legendary Furies collective, and that, while the book contained representative writings of the different genres of underground papers, it didn’t pretend to be comprehensive. But she insisted the feminist papers deserved more. She told me to contact Laura X, whose interview with a rape victim in Berkeley had inspired Susan to write Against Our Will.

Laura X is legendary in feminist lore as the premier archivist of the feminist movement. She embraced my invitation and pulled together other key figures from Berkeley’s It Aint Me Babe, the first major feminist underground paper, to tell their story for the first time. The lead author is Bonnie Eisenberg, founder of Babe, but she received critical help from Laura, Trina Robbins, Starr Goode, and Alta. Appendices are by Laura, who writes about her archives, and Trina Robbins, one of the pioneer feminist comix artists, who helped to break through the men’s-only barrier.

The story of It Aint Me Babe appears in volume 3, which will be out next year, so it was only natural for me to invite Susan.

I am truly honored that she accepted my invitation.

And, incidentally, she was right. I needed to include It Aint Me Babe.