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Josh Weresch builds community through song

I meet the most interesting people in the most unlikely ways. Recently, Josh Weresch, singer, song-writer, supply-teacher, chaplain, husband and father of three took a moment to contact me about an article I'd written for Raise the Hammer, "Liberal Government Disappoints on Justice for Women, First Nations." I was reflecting on how my opinion of Trudeau has changed as he backpedals from campaign promises like advancing gender equity.

I ended the article by encouraging readers to contact their MP to let them know that it's time Canada implement a National Gender Equality Plan. And, that's why Josh emailed me. Josh suggested I take the less worn path and use direct action to register my dissent and discontent with the federal government. He sent me a list of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action from the Albert Einstein Institution, and so our conversations began.

Josh was born and raised in Hamilton. He credits his Christian upbringing for his passion to address social justice issues in non-violent ways. At age 16, Josh began writing songs, so it's natural that music became his medium of choice. His most recent songs include Valery Homes, Jesus and Mohammad, and Fields Children.

Valery Homes draws attention to the felling of 60 mature trees on the old sanatorium land near Scenic Drive and West 35th Street. The trees were destroyed to make way for future condominiums being built by Valery Construction. Josh pulls together the reality that development trumped neighbourhood interests when the trees were cut down without a permit. But, to add further insult to injury, the condominiums will do nothing to address the lack of affordable housing in Hamilton especially for those living in poverty.

The song Jesus and Muhammad came about after Josh developed a friendship with an Imam. For Josh it's a song that, "Explores the relationship that could have developed between Jesus and Muhammad and the role they could have played in reconciling Christian and Muslim faiths despite differences in doctrine."

Child soldiers in Africa was the motivation for Fields Children. This allegorical piece looks at the role Canadian soldier's play in supporting the interests of Canadian mining companies in Mali as well as the use of children as cannon fodder.

Josh is the voice for those who need their stories told. Here at home that includes the plants, animals, and birds being displaced by Enbridge's Line 10 pipeline. He is also the voice for the voiceless who will suffer due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and for those facing the possible contamination of local drinking water. His songs of peaceful protest and dissent are very relevant to our times.

Last night Josh was playing at his usual haunt -- Lukaya Café’s open mic night. The cozy specialty tea and coffee shop is the perfect place to sip a latte and listen to home grown music. Josh's sound is reminiscent of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger so it was apropos that his original pieces were intertwined with old social justice and community building standards like Brother, Can You Spare a Dime and Hard Times Come Again No More.

Sarah Laufman is obviously a regular at open mic night. She knows the words to every performers' songs and quietly sings along as she knits and sips her coffee. Sarah had this to say about Josh and his music: "In my mind he's a folk singer who is passionate about his work and wears his heart on his sleeve. Josh cares about the children. Last week he sang a song about refugee children retelling stories of trying to learn math while bombs were dropping all around them. Josh really sings from the heart about his experiences."

While encouraging kids to write their own songs of protest and relationships, Josh uncovered just how profoundly technology has infiltrated our connections. According to Josh, "Youth are more likely to write, 'I text you that I love you,' instead of just saying I love you." 

Josh would like people to acknowledge their connectedness and to understand they are allowed to care for each other. He really believes reviving a sense of the arts will give people a chance to be honest about their situations and their feelings.

Josh also belongs to the Think Tank Working Group a newly formed group whose members believe that, "despite everything we are doing to fight [climate change], we are losing the battle. Humanity is now in climate crisis. We are looking for "Something Else", something that we can do, here and now; now or never. We believe a modern campaign of nonviolent action is that something and that we either take action now or we play our small part in allowing humanity to slip from the earth, extinct."

Josh hopes that by committing to conversation and keeping the dialogue going in the end there will be a positive response to climate change and environmental issues.

In 2008, Josh released his first CD From Shipwreck. He played his grandmother's piano on this album recorded in his home. Unfortunately, this will be Josh's only CD because he finds the environmental costs and impacts of production and distribution too great. Thankfully, Josh will continue with his live performances and his song writing.

You can hear Josh play at the Shady Grove -- Lukaya Café, 592 Upper Wellington St, Hamilton, Tuesdays from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm as part of open mic night. You can also catch him singing at the corner of Upper James St. and Fennel Avenue. But, don't for a minute think that Josh is busking. Far from it! Josh believes music should be free. He just hopes people might find themselves in his songs.

This article originally appeared on Raise the Hammer.

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