John K. Samson’s new song, Millennium for All, protests the underfunding and over-securitization of his favourite library
On February 25, 2019, Winnipeg’s Millennium Library installed intrusive airport-style security and began physical searches of everyone entering the library. They did so despite overwhelming evidence that such measures hurt vulnerable and marginalized people and don’t make anyone safer, and without consulting any community groups, experts, elected officials or library patrons. These measures, unprecedented in Canada, have led to a massive drop in attendance. Many no longer feel welcome at their library.
“I wanted to write a song about the Millennium Library, which I visited and worked at weekly for most of my life until the security was installed a year ago,” says Samson, who with his partner Christine Fellows was the 2016-17 Winnipeg Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence. “I wanted to demonstrate how the Millennium is so much more than a building full of books. It’s the heart of my community and I miss it.”
Samson is accompanied on Millennium for All by Winnipeg musicians Ashley Au, Christine Fellows, Scott Nolan and Jason Tait. Christine also made the remarkable cut and paste stop motion video that accompanies the song, and local artist Jonathan Dyck drew the birds.
The song is named after activist group Millennium for All, which was formed to resist securitization and advocate for a fully funded, decolonial, accessible and welcoming library. Over the last year they’ve held protests and zine-making parties, have done research, written reports, letters and op-eds, made presentations at info sessions and city hall, and engaged with other concerned Winnipeg residents and communities.
The song and video also have a practical purpose. “I want to help promote the upcoming week of events being organized by Millennium for All and Budget for All Winnipeg. We need to make it clear to the city and library management that we don’t accept exclusionary security in our library, and also remind politicians that libraries require committed investment. All Winnipeg’s libraries are underfunded and understaffed, yet the mayor and councillors are threatening to cut funding even further to these and other essential services in their proposed city budget next month. We can’t let that happen.”
Samson believes libraries are at the centre of the struggle for social justice. “I’ve been really inspired by people acting on behalf of libraries, from community resistance to transphobia at the Toronto Public Library to Winnipegger’s protests against the racist and exclusionary security at the Millennium. We need our libraries to be truly welcoming and fully funded.”
For more info on Millennium for All’s week of events, see budgetforall.org, and follow
JOIN US FOR A RALLY IN THE LOBBY OF MILLENNIUM LIBRARY, TUESDAY, FEB 25, 4:30 PM, TO OBSERVE THE ANNIVERSARY OF INVASIVE SECURITY AND TO PROTEST THE PROPOSED CITY BUDGET CUTS TO LIBRARIES AND OTHER LIFE-SUSTAINING SERVICES!
AND GET READY FOR BUDGET FOR ALL WINNIPEG’S DAY OF ACTION, MARCH 14!
Spring JKS solo shows with Kevin Devine and Worriers!
Winnipeg artist Jonathan Dyck is selling a Weakerthans-inspired limited edition print. Each print comes with a paper bird folded by John K. Samson, and $10 from every purchase goes to support Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg.
Each print also comes accompanied by a little paper bird folded by John K Samson. pic.twitter.com/mypnhSQD3z— Jonathan Dyck (@jandrewdyck) December 12, 2019
We will be playing some shows in Ontario and Manitoba together this month, accompanied by our friends Jason Tait (drums) and Alex McMaster (cello).
My pal Craig Finn and I covered a tune by the great Gillian Welch, which is on this very excellent and timely comp. All proceeds support RAICES (Refugee & Immigrant Center for Education & Legal Services). They provide free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.
I have a split 7-inch with the kind and talented Kevin Devine coming out on November 30th, which you can order here. I cover one of my favourite Christine songs, Saturday Night on Utopia Parkway.