washington d c

The SojoMusic Interview: Denison Witmer, 'Creating Space Where Truth Can Move'

Denison Witmer by Ethan Luck.

Denison Witmer by Ethan Luck.

Singer-songwriter Denison Witmer’s 2005 album Are you a Dreamer? was part of the soundtrack of my adolescence — his calm voice a sonic companion as I navigated the choppy waters of high school insecurities; his complex fingerpicking acoustic guitar style a mentor as I learned to play and write my own music. Witmer’s soulful voice, thoughtful lyrics and inimitable style (some critics have called it “neo-folk” a la Cat Stevens or Nick Drake), has stuck with me for years. Just a snippet of his lyrics or melody can transport me back to precisely where I was when I first heard them, a younger me dreaming of who I might become. 

When Witmer’s latest tour brought him through Washington, D.C. last month, I caught up with him backstage before his gig at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. We talked in the artist lounge and sound check stage, before venturing out for a couple of veggie wraps while exploring a variety of subjects from music and family to saints and beer. And we even managed to persuade him to play a couple of songs for us, which we’ve captured here on video for you. (You’re welcome.)

Forget The Firm--Meet Francia

Francia -- Photo curtsey of Elizabeth Palmberg

Francia -- Photo curtsey of Elizabeth Palmberg

Most real-life law students I've met are at way, way less risk of being murdered than their counterparts in a John Grisham novel--except for Francia Marquez. The Afro-Colombian activist and mother of two has received multiple death threats as she advocates to keep her home community from having their ancestral home stolen by a land-grab big mining project.

There's gold in them thar hills in Francia's home, La Toma, in Colombia's Cauca province. Families in her hometown have lived for generations off of small-scale, by-hand gold mining. (Francia herself still puts in some mine time when she visits home, although these days she's spending the most time in her legal studies in Bogota.)

But lots of larger-scale mining concerns want in on the action. Some have sent in bulldozers illegally. Others are joining the land rush of getting mining concessions from the national government--notwithstanding laws on the books that give local communities various rights, including prior consultation on any mining projects.

The Morning News: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

‘Morning Joe’ Crew Mocks Perry’s War On Christmas Ad; Odd Couples: Gingrich Casts Wide Net To Evangelicals, Tea Party And K Street Lobbyists; The Real War On Christmas; GOP Presidential Hopefuls Make Bid For Jewish Vote; Republicans: Save Social Security!; Protesters Arrested In DC After K Street Shutdown; Obama To Congress: Don’t Mix Oil Pipeline, Payroll Tax Cut; Income Gap Stays Wide In District, Narrows In Suburbs.

The Morning News: Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Social Muddle: Business, Justice, and the Gospel are Already Social; Obama Refers to His Christian Faith During National Tree Lighting Ceremony; Fount of Blessing, Fount of Youth: Age and the American Church; One-Third of Shelter Residents Are Newly Homeless; U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Nearly Three Years; Gingrich Says Poor Children Have No Work Habits; For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom.

The Morning News: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Private Sector Adds 206,000 Jobs In November; Police Clear Occupy Camps In Los Angeles, Philly; Churches Help Occupy Movement Survive Crackdowns, Winter; Study: Even With More Kids In Poverty, Number Of Uninsured Children Fell 14 Percent Over 3 Years; Poverty Soars For Students In D.C., Montgomery County; Anonymous Iowa Christian Group Launches Attack On Gingrich; Should Fair Trade Certify Giants Like Nestle and Folger's?; Long Lines For Free Holiday Food Vouchers.

The Morning News: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011

Coptics Fear Islamists Will Sweep Egypt Elections; Why Columbus, Ohio, Needs Somali Cops On Its Force; Anti-Mormon Bias Persistent In Presidential Politics; Rampant Levels Of Poverty In Florida Force Families To Live In Cars; Religion: A Growing, Changing God Lobby In D.C.; Poll Numbers Suggest Gingrich’s ‘Humane’ Immigration Stance Could Help Him; How 2008 Radicalized Me; Cornel West: Ultimate Fight For Entitlements Will Be In "The Streets"