Mark Tribe, an artist, curator, and assistant professor of Modern Culture and Media Studies at Brown University, developed Port Huron Project as a series of living memorials of protest speeches given by New Left leaders in the 60s and 70s. The first live event took place last September, when an actor delivered a speech given by Coretta Scott King at a peace march in Central Park in 1968. Audio, photo and video recordings of the speech, and all of the remaining speeches in the project series, have further distribution via open-source media, online platforms, DVDs and repeat showings.
Why do you think it is important to reenact protest speeches from the '60s and '70s? Is our decade not protesting enough? Have we lost something?
I think we have a different, and perhaps diminished, sense of what's possible today compared to the '60s. In his speech at the March on Washington in 1965, Paul Potter talked about changing the system. We protest the war in Iraq, or the WTO, but it's hard to imagine that we could really change things in a radical way: put an end to the military industrial complex, replace consumer capitalism with another form of economy, or achieve true democracy. Back then, people seemed to be able to imagine a radically different future. I think it's vitally important that we recapture some of that utopian spirit.
How do you choose the speeches you are going to reenact? Do they have to echo a particular current event or is the choice driven by other reasons?
Most of the speeches talk about Vietnam and link it to domestic issues such as poverty and racism. I do see uncanny parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, and although more progress may have been made on social justice and liberation, those issues are very much alive today. So in choosing speeches to reenact, relevance is definitely a big factor. Other considerations are the quality of the speech and the location--for the purposes of this project, they have to have been delivered at a public protest.
The next reenactment will take place Saturday, July 14 in Boston Common park -- a 1971 Howard Zinn speech calling on the need for civil disobedience in protesting the war in Vietnam.