Woody Guthrie sing-along draws locals

Woody Guthrie did what he was famous for Thursday night at the Portales Yam Theatre, organizing and uniting people.

Locals sang with passion as they clapped along to the folk icon's tunes played by Eastern New Mexico University critical literacy Professor Doug Morris.

Morris talked about Guthrie's legacy and said his music was about the struggle of the working people to win back the earth.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Doug Morris starts off his Woody Guthrie tribute Thursday night at the Yam Theatre by playing, "Blowin' Down That Old Dusty Road."

"There's nothing sweet about Woody Guthrie," said Morris in regard to Guthrie's fight against tyranny, oppression and discrimination. "He spent a lot of time organizing people for a better world."

Morris talked about how Guthrie's music is based on experiences during darker times in U.S. history, including the Dust Bowl era, being a native of Oklahoma, and the Great Depression. He also talked about Guthrie's protest of war after serving as a merchant marine.

But probably one of the biggest components of Guthrie's career were his songs dedicated to the American working man and unions, something that Geni Flores says has a tarnished reputation today.

"Unions have been dismissed in recent years by the general U.S. population because they're seen as exploiting big business," said Flores, coordinator of bilingual education at ENMU. "But without unions, workers in the U.S. would be exploited the way workers are in India and Bangladesh."

Flores was inspired by Thursday's turnout.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Audience members sing and play along to Woody Guthrie's hits.

"I think it's exciting to see this many people who understand the need for workers' rights," Flores said.

As Morris played Guthrie's songs on the guitar, audience members were given instructions such as singing the chorus or blowing party horns.

David Rey Baca of Clovis got to hold up a clenched fist symbolizing the working people's union.

"The fist represented the American worker and the small group of people in here that can join together to represent the past, present and future," said Baca, an employee at the Clovis High School Freshman Academy.

Morris closed the show with the song Guthrie is known best for, "This Land Is Your Land." Morris said Guthrie was talking about who the Earth belongs to.

"He wrote that song for the working people of the world," Morris said.

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