Activist Songbook

Create songs and stories to spark hope and activate change.

Are you passionate about a cause, but you're not sure where to start? Are you already an activist and seeking support to broaden your platform? Activist Songbook—an ongoing performance project that began with interviews of Asian American, immigrant, and refugee organizers—offers a toolkit for organizers to combine civil rights organizing and music to inspire change.

Join the program's founders and leaders, composer Byron Au Yong and writer Aaron Jafferis, for inclusive, interactive Activist Songbook workshops this fall. Participants will be invited (but not required) to perform the final pieces they create together during the 2020 Festival. The workshops are open to anyone interested in activism; no experience is necessary. Come to one or all of the workshops; additional dates will be announced.

At the workshops, Au Yong and Jafferis (creators of the previous Festival performances Stuck Elevator and (Be)longing) will teach participants songs from their Activist Songbook program and guide them in creating new pieces for their own campaigns.

November 17: A music-focused participatory workshop during which attendees will share their own stories and talk about how they can use songs, raps, or chants to support the causes they are most passionate about.


Meet the Workshop Leaders

Byron Au Yong

Composer and Musician

Byron Au Yong was born to Chinese immigrants in Pittsburgh and raised in the Pacific Northwest; his upbringing informs his dedication to creating events where the American Dream and sustainability play vital roles. Au Yong holds degrees from NYU, UCLA and the University of Washington; he has been artist-in-residence with numerous organizations, including the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. He is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award and Time Warner Foundation Fellowship.

Aaron Jafferis

Hip-Hop Poet and Playwright

Aaron Jafferis' musicals include TRIGGER and STUCK ELEVATOR with Byron Au Yong, and others, and his work has been produced by numerous theaters, including The Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater, and Sundance. He is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute/Time Warner Fellowship, NEA Art Works Grant, NEFA National Theatre Project Grant, two MacDowell Fellowships, Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, and a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award. A former Open Rap Slam champion at the National Poetry Slam Championships, Aaron is the founding artistic director of The Word hip-hop and poetry program in his hometown of New Haven.