Open mic night raises funds for Amazon trip

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate February 14, 2014 05:02 pm

Sammy Gensaw III speaks at last weekend’s Klamazon Open Mic Night fundraiser about protesting dams.
Sammy Gensaw III speaks at last weekend’s Klamazon Open Mic Night fundraiser about protesting dams. Del Norte Triplicate / Adam Spencer
Passionate poems about rivers, mandolin music, and a few raps about just being awesome were some of the performances shared during last weekend’s Klamazon Open Mic fundraiser. 

The purpose behind the poetry was to raise funds for seven Klamath River Indians and river activists who are flying to Altamira, Brazil, tomorrow to help Indians of the Amazon protest Belo Monte Dam, a project that would displace up to 40,000 people and be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.  

“The power from this dam is going to be used for deforestation of the rainforest in the Amazon — think about that,” said Sammy Gensaw III, one of the three members of the Klamazon Delegation who attended the open mic to explain the trip.

The group includes two adults and five young people aged 14–20, who all have been involved in the dam-removal effort on the Klamath River and hope to share what they’ve learned in their struggle with the Indians of the Xingu River, a principal tributary to the Amazon River where the Belo Monte Dam is planned. 

Gensaw, 20, shared his story of growing up as a Yurok Indian from Requa that was raised in “river activism.”

College of the Redwoods-Del Norte English professor Ken Letko reads several of his poems about rivers at the event.
College of the Redwoods-Del Norte English professor Ken Letko reads several of his poems about rivers at the event. Del Norte Triplicate / Adam Spencer
The very first time Gensaw boarded an airplane he was 15 and headed to a shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, a place he had barely heard of, to protest the relicensing of four dams on the Klamath River owned by Warren Buffett’s giant holding company.  

Dania Rose Colegrove, a Yurok and Hoopa Indian who has been very active in the Klamath dam-removal movement, described how the Indian activists crashed the shareholder party, making their complaints about the dams degrading the Klamath River known at every opportunity.

Nat Pennington, another member of the Klamazon Delegation, took the open-mic opportunity to sing a rap song that was created with his daughter Halle, who is also going to Brazil, during other protests related to improving the health of the Klamath Basin: 

“And that’s why we’re saying that this is a scam; a couple megawatts ain’t worth a dam,” Pennington said for his protest song’s hook. 

Ken Letko, professor of English at College of the Redwoods-Del Norte shared some of his published poems about rivers, including this excerpt from River Resume:

“no one can step/ into me/ the same way twice; my thesis wears/ down mountains/ am I clear enough?”

Letko came to the event because “the river deserves support” and he’s personally paddled down a lot of rivers, he said.

Some of the open-mic performances were not as heavy on the river environmentalism, like a rap song by Tony “L Tee” Lor, who told the DJ to play an instrumental on his phone then unleashed an energetic rap performance for the crowd.

The Klamazon Delegation received the appreciation of local teachers and environmentalists Don and Joe Gillespie, who shared some of their favorite poems about the natural world and lauded the group for trying to prevent destruction of the Amazon:

“More power to you; that’s the kind of power that we need,” Joe Gillespie said.

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