In mid-March 2020, Belgium went into a very strict nationwide lockdown as a result of the global Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, the volunteer program at the Fedasil Arrival Centre was effectively shutdown, and the borders to many European countries were completely closed for any entry or exit. This meant that those individuals already en route would be met with closed borders.
During the March-June 2020 lockdown, I was still living in Belgium on the outer southeastern edge of Brussels. In order to lift my own spirits and to try to raise awareness about the refugee crisis, I began to perform our migration songs. These performances turned into a daily rhythm. I performed 30 minutes of music every day for 30 days in a concert series I ended up calling “Life in Lockdown: Singing for Solidarity.” In addition to the migration songs, I performed cover songs that spoke to my mood on any given day. I also performed songs I wrote with women in the United States and the songs I wrote during my time as a park ranger at Lowell National Historical Park, which I composed from oral history interviews conducted with the last generation of factory workers in the mills. There are even a few songs from oral histories at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.
Over the summer, restrictions eased a bit and it was possible for Sarah and me to meet in and around Brussels. We created a project we called “Mondays On the Move” to promote freedom of movement for all people. Each Monday, we would meet in a different place and share the story of the place along with a migration song, which we would sing. When I moved just across the border to a small farming community in northern France in September, we began to expand the project to include the borderland towns.
All of our performances can be found on my Youtube channel: Mondays On the Move [Youtube Playlist]
I wrote an essay about each of our weekly forays around Brussels and beyond, which include photos and videos.