Photo by © Michaël Van Broekhoven, 1996.
The presentation of the EPIC Sempervirens Award for Lifetime Achievement has become a time-honored tradition within the Annual Meeting and Fall Celebration of the Environmental Protection Information Center. Past recipients of the award have included Karen Pickett of the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Richard Gienger, EPIC’s forest advocate and the foremost independent restoration policy mentor on the North Coast, and Patty Clary, the Executive Director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, one of the plaintiff organizations on the Richardson Grove defense work.
This year the EPIC Sempervirens Award goes to Darryl Cherney! We have chosen to recognize Darryl for a full lifetime of contributions to forest protection in our bioregion not only because of his long trajectory as a political organizer and his catalog of fun and thought provoking recordings, but also for his current work as the producer of the soon-to-be released film Who Bombed Judy Bari?
Darryl will be joining us to receive the Sempervirens Award at the Mattel Community Center on Friday, November 4, for the 34th EPIC Annual Meeting and Fall Celebration. We hope that everyone can make it out that night for dinner and music to celebrate Darryl, and EPIC, and this wonderful place that we are all working so hard to protect. As part of our preparations for the November 4th party, we had a chance to catch up with Darryl to ask him a few questions about his work and what the award means to him. It is really interesting to learn of Darryl’s perspective on the film, and on EPIC as an important organization for our community.
How has it gone for you making the step from being a musician on stage with a guitar to being a producer pulling together all the loose strings of a documentary? Are they totally different arts, or do you see similarities?
It’s been said that movies incorporate all the arts: music, dance, theater, painting, drawing, and so on. And I’ve been a stage performer and a playwright, so this wasn’t a huge step. Further, I don’t regard myself so much as a film maker as an activist/musician who was compelled to make a film. In reality, this is simply another campaign for me to organize–it’s a project. My next project might be an operetta or just archiving the thousands of tunes I’ve written and recorded on cassette into some kind of order. The goal, with any of my projects, is defending Mother Earth. In that sense, the movie provides complete continuity with my life work. And it has been an opportunity to put a big punctuation mark at this juncture of my life. The film both completes a phase and begins a new one. I hope at some point that the opportunities to speak in public both life and through the media increase exponentially because of this movie.
What will be the most compelling element of the upcoming documentary? Things are getting close to the finish, when do you think it will be released?
The movie will be released sometime between mid-November and January. There have been so many last minute things to fix, from sound issues to getting the credits right. Don’t want to forget anyone, right?
The most compelling aspect of the movie is Judi Bari, lying on her deathbed, giving her testimony under oath. The strength and courage of this working class single mother of two providing us this legacy as one of the last things she does on Earth is inspirational and moving. The other compelling aspect is what one of our friends described as the “blueprint” nature of our movie. The project barely leaves out anything in the long list of how to win a campaign. This story incorporates many victories, from Headwaters to beating the FBI in court and others as well. It’s not often we see a documentary that is so filled with humor and victory in the midst of the furious battle.
Do you have thoughts about what type of impact you would like to have with the film? What kind of influence or inspiration would you like the film to provide to the audience?
The goals of the film are to inform people on the tactics and strategies available, to inspire us all to take action, and to educate the public as to who the historical figure Judi Bari was/is. Oh, and we want to inspire a renewed interest in solving the case of Who Bombed Judi Bari. In short, we’d like to educate and inspire people as to how we can save the world. I’d like to see the film run on every continent and in every country. I’ve traveled extensively and I’m not so naive to think that there are powerful people and struggles everywhere that could teach us a thing or two, but Judi Bari has a lot to teach the world, as well. In fact, we’ve pretty much resurrected her. Judi Bari is a living activist yet again and saying everything she ever said for all to hear.
Who are some of the people that you most appreciate for having helped keep momentum growing for the film?
The list of credits and thank you’s in the film is voluminous. Mary Liz Thomson, the director and editor has to come first and foremost. Her pacing and editing pretty much make the movie. Elyse Katz, who produced Trudell the documentary plus numerous other fine films, has really cracked the whip to ensure we got everything done we needed to do, like securing the licensing for all the songs, photos, video clips, appearances, artworks, etcetera. And I can not leave out the videographers, the eco-paparazzi who followed us wherever we went. That would include Kay Rudin, Andy Caffrey, Steve Jacobson, Stuart Rickey, Louis Bigfoot Shultz and so many others both local and national.
We’ve also incorporated the music of over 30 musicians from local favorites like Joanne Rand to virtuoso instrumentalists like Matt Eakle, flautist for the David Grisman Quintet.
The Sempervirens Award from EPIC is for lifetime achievement. Some of your biggest achievements are your music and entertaining, but we also know it is for your tireless political organizing, much of which has been deadly serious. But you really are renowned for a sense of humor. What are some of your comic memories of EPIC over the years?
I’m not sure we really want to go there. But some of it involved french fries, spittle and desks standing up on end. I’ve written more than a few songs and even an imrprov, which I can be known for, about the EPIC Board of 1987. One verse just screams out “Woods!!!!!!!!” as the only line.
And then there was the generic timber harvest plan (THP) challenge I drafted up and got dozens of people to file against logging plans. EPIC actually sued where the challenge on one plan was just the generic challenge. The thinking was since the California Department of Forestry was generically rubber stamping every single THP, we could just submit the exact same comments on every THP. We had so many people contacting their office to request copies of THP’s that they closed their office to the public except for two days a week, increased the price of getting a THP from one dollar for the entire THP to 25 cents per page, which could cost a hundred bucks of the THP was long enough. And then they passed a regulation that gave us 15 days to comment instead of 25 days. That’s how democracy responds when you actually express an interest on how things work.
So their response was a riot. By 1995, we had an action where Earth First! literally took over their entire office from the ground floor to the roof and physically removed the doors from their hinges to demand an open door policy. That was funny, except for the pepper spray. That, in fact, was the first time it was used against us.
Many things have changed since you started organizing for the redwoods with Earth First! What are the biggest changes? Do you think there is still work to be done by an environmental watchdog like EPIC? Why do you think it is important to support EPIC in 2011?
The biggest change is that there are so many fewer trees and so many fewer jobs because of it. But with that has been an increased awareness and acceptance of environmentalists and our message. The big companies are gone: MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber, Georgia Pacific, Simpson and Louisiana Pacific. The new companies are more willing to communicate and more importantly, the tension between the hippies and the rednecks, the loggers and the environmentalists, has diminished to being barely discernible, with a few exceptions of course. It’s sad that we had to lose what we have both in nature and in humanity to get to this point, however.
EPIC is essential to keep the fire in the belly burning. A group which in part is dedicated to litigation is indispensable in the battle to save our Mother Earth. It’s expensive, time consuming, and requires a high trained skill-set involving people who can get things in place before the lawyers even show up. EPIC has always been user friendly to the community and open-minded about the wide array of tactics employed by all.
I continue to support EPIC and we’ve included EPIC in the select groups given credit in our movie as ones we think the public ought to support. EPIC’s website is in our credits and linked to our movie website in a prominent way. Viva EPIC! Viva Judi Bari! Viva Mother Earth!
Thanks Darryl for your words, wisdom, and dedication! Be sure to come out and offer Darryl congratulations on November 4 to the Mateel Community Center in Redway during the 34th EPIC Annual Meeting and Fall Celebration. It is going to be an EPIC good time!
******* Darryl Cherney is joining a remarkable list of recipients of the Sempervirens Award. Be sure to congratulate all the winners of the Sempervirens Award for their invaluable contributions to advocacy in our community.
Listen to the latest EPIC edition of the KMUD Environment Show featuring an interview with Darryl.
Sempervirens Lifetime Achievment Award Recipients
2001 Cecelia Lanman
2002 Fred “Coyote” Downy
2003 Lynn Ryan
2004 Patty Clary
2005 Karen Pickett
2006 Robert “Man Who Walks In The Woods” Sutherland, Ruthanne Cecil, Marylee By The River
2007 David Simpson & Jane Lapiner
2008 Sharon Duggan
2009 Trees Foundation
2010 Richard Gienger
2011 Darryl Cherney