Peter Yarrow, folk-singer and former member of trio Peter, Paul and Mary, not only has a singer’s voice, but a political one as well.
Yarrow will perform at Temple Beth David in Snellville at 7:30 p.m. June 26.
He will speak to the congregation about his past political activism in the civil rights movement and in the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. The set list includes “This Land is Your Land,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and others. “It’s a privilege to do this,” Yarrow said. He will also speak about what it means to be Jewish. “What’s important to me in my Jewish background is how I live my life,” he said.
Yarrow went with 12 other songwriters to meet Parkland students, many of whom are Jewish, to “help the students write songs that express their convictions, tell their story and amplify their message,” he said. He explained the effort simply as “that’s what I do: tikkun olam.”
Yarrow expressed that the nation is in a “painful and challenging direction” and called for everyone to “reassert what is good and caring within us.”
He sees the political polarization in America as deeply destructive, an obstacle to open-communication, most alarmingly, one that hinders the discussion of the issues that threaten “basic human rights.”
Yarrow is involved with Better Angels, a nationwide non-profit organization that goes into local communities and organizes workshops for Democrats and Republicans to engage in conversation and listen to the other side’s viewpoints on issues.
Yarrow co-produced a documentary with director Jim Brown that features a Better Angels workshop of 15 Republicans and Democrats from Lebanon, Ohio, a town that voted 80 percent for President Trump. Throughout the workshop, the community members “realized they did not have to hate and vilify each other.”
The working title for the upcoming program is “Better Angels: Bringing America Together,” to be released on PBS by Twin Cities Public Broadcasting Station, the date yet to be determined.
Yarrow attended and performed at the 2018 Better Angels National Convention in Harrisonburg, Va. The convention brings together 150 delegates from across the nation, both Republican and Democrat, for the purpose of developing new relationships between each other and strategies for better communication, collaboration and public engagement.
Yarrow talked with Trump supporters and said they are “wonderful people, loving and caring people,” and the only dividing line between he and them is political alliance.“We can hate the policies that are coming down, despise them even, but cannot despise our fellow Americans,” he said.
In January, Yarrow traveled, along with 40 other artists, to the Negev Desert with the non-profit Seeds of Peace Organization. Musicians, dancers and graphic designers created songs, art and dances that pertained to the theme of peace in the Middle East. Yarrow wrote an original song titled “Beyond Right and Wrongs,” virtually unknown to the public.
“My song is a call to us all to transcend the fear and hatred of the past, build trust in one another and thereby forgive one another, so we might end the cycle of war,” he said. On behalf of the organization, he performed the song at Temple Emmanuel in New York City on May 10.
Yarrow lives in Manhattan, close to his adult children and grandchild. “I am very grateful for my good fortune,” he said.