Reg Unterseher was part of a crowd that gathered for a health care rally in Richland earlier this year.
It was cold outside, but Unterseher and others wanted to do something as the Affordable Care Act appeared headed for repeal.
At one point, “somebody said, ‘We should sing,’ ” Unterseher recalled. But no one could think of a song that fit the moment.
That won’t be the case any longer.
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A new group, called Justice Choir, is starting across the country, and there’s now a chapter in the Tri-Cities.
Justice Choir aims to “further social and environmental justice movements by engaging communities in singing together,” its website says.
That could mean lifting up voices at rallies or vigils, in office buildings or churches, in halls of capitols and Congress.
We no longer have the option to sit in front of our TVs and (observe).
The first local Justice Choir gathering is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Shalom United Church of Christ, 505 McMurray St., Richland.
Attendees will learn songs from the Justice Choir Songbook — a mix of newly composed tunes and some familiar ones, such as We Shall Overcome.
Auditions won’t be held and no commitment is required; people should “just come and sing,” Unterseher said.
Unterseher is an acclaimed composer and performer. He penned a tune for the Justice Choir Songbook, called We Are Rising Up.
It’s unclear exactly what shape the local Justice Choir will take, he said. The first gathering will be a chance to learn songs and get a feel for a path forward.
“One of the things we’ll talk about is, ‘what do we want this to turn into,’ ” Unterseher said.
The Justice Choir movement got off the ground earlier this year, with chapters springing up in cities from Minneapolis to Detroit, San Diego and Port Townsend.
It’s part of a long tradition of music used in protest and demonstration, from the Civil Rights Movement to the fight in South Africa against apartheid.
That’s what it’s about — it’s about getting started.
“Singing is speaking in one voice, together,” and there’s enormous power in it, Unterseher said.
With Justice Choir, “it’s not about a political party, but it is people who believe in justice for marginalized people, for everyone in our communities,” he said.
“In the last year, I’ve seen more and more come under attack. Attacks on LBTQ people, attacks on immigrants, the rise of white supremacy in the U.S. Those of us who are the vast majority (and don’t believe or act that way) — we have to stand up. We no longer have the option to sit in front of our TVs and (observe). We have to do something.”
Unterseher hopes to see a good turnout at Saturday’s gathering.
“We hope people will come out, anybody who can. We’ll get started,” he said. “That’s what it’s about — it’s about getting started.”
To stay up to date on the local Justice Choir, go to facebook.com/JusticeChoirTriCities.