Members of the Emancipators

The Emancipators brought its self-described subversive hootenanny music to Folk@Fourth, an evening meal and concert series of the Fourth Presbyterian Church at 1323 N. Broadway on Wednesday.

The evenings always begin at 6 with a simple home-style meal, always supplied by volunteer groups. The meal is free for neighborhood and area people in need of a hot meal. Those who can pay are requested to pay $10, or however larger a donation anyone wishes to give. Wednesday’s meal was provided by the West Knoxville Religious Society of Friends, a Quaker group whose meeting house is at 1517 Meeting House Road in Knoxville.

Folk@Fourth is a monthly concert and meal series sponsored by Fourth Presbyterian during the fall and winter. Four Leaf Peat will perform at the Jan. 10 concert, with Carpetbag Theatre on Feb. 7 and Maggie Longmire on March 7. This is Folk@Fourth’s 6th season.

Jim Myers serves as host of the concert series. “Maggie Longmire founded the series,” Myers said. “She came down to the church basement and asked what went on down here. When she found out that nothing much did, it was the perfect place.”

The series has proceeded steadily ever since. “We had a concert the night after the election last fall,” Myers said. “Only three people showed up. Everyone just sat here with their head in their hands.”

“We started the series because we really wanted the church to be involved in social causes and involved in the neighborhood. It’s on Wednesday evenings to give the neighborhood a chance to get to know each other and to hear about things that are going on,” said Fourth Presbyterian’s pastor, Dr. Liz Peterson. Fourth Presbyterian is the merger of two congregations. The original members had the facility. When Knoxville College, a Presbyterian school, began to shut down, the members of the college church merged with Fourth in 2009.

“It has been a predominately African-American church,” Peterson said. “But it has become a more mixed congregation.

For the past 2 ½ years, the church has also hosted an anti-racism series that began as part of Peterson’s doctoral degree work. The series is open to the general public.

The Emancipators is named after The Emancipator, an American newspaper founded in 1819 in Jonesborough, Tenn., by Elihu Embree, the son of a Quaker minister. Principally an abolitionist newspaper, it only survived for seven months, due to Embree’s health, when it was sold and became The Genius of Universal Emancipation.

The Emancipators band follows that tradition, but is now dedicated to environmental causes, performing at celebrations and fundraisers. The band’s members are Guy Larry Osborn, guitarist, a semi-retired professor of psychology at Carson-Newman University. Flutist Durant Thompson is retired from BMW. Kevin Collins, who plays accordion, bass and banjo, is a surveyor.

Guitarist Ralph Hutchison is director of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which will hold a vigil, celebration and potluck dinner Sunday, Dec. 10, at the main entrance to Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex, Scarboro and East Bear Creek roads in Oak Ridge. The event is in celebration of ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that day.

Mitzi Wood-Von Mizener, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar and harmonium, is director of Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center, a non-profit dedicated to conservation of rural land and to study, teach and demonstrate sustainable and ecologically sound living practices. The organization’s three cornerstones are spirituality, sustainability and community.

Folk music has always had a social conscience, from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, to the current music of John McCutchen and others. The Emancipators joins that long line.

“Our music is in the folk music tradition of social justice and other causes,” Osborn said. “We often perform for fundraisers and celebrations of equality and justice.”

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Written by Harold Duckett