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    Holly Near Receives Inaugural ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the Freight & Salvage

    At the International Women’s Day Celebration of Holly Near on March 8, 2023, Near received the inaugural Freight & Salvage Lifetime Achievement Award. The venerable Freight, which was founded in 1968, has presented countless artists over the decades representing an eclectic mix of musical genres. The nonprofit musical venue, originally on San Pablo Avenue but now in Berkeley’s Downtown Arts District, is one of the Bay Area’s oldest and most beloved performance landmarks, making the new award all the more noteworthy.

    Krissy Keefer, herself a legendary artist as the Founder and Artistic Director of Dance Brigade, gave the keynote speech, which we present here in its entirety:

    “Your first Holly Near Concert is sort of like 911 … you know exactly where you were and who you were with the first time you came to a Holly Near concert! And it shook you to the core. 

    What does the name Holly Near conjure up? Intelligence, talent, performer extraordinaire, seer, speaker of truth to power. A woman who lights up our life with humor, insight, and political and artistic leadership. I always said that Holly got into the cracks that were starting to emerge in a person. Whether it was about one’s sexuality, or work, or political alliance … or the cracks of forced religion. She got in those cracks with her music and a light would start to shine and change would begin to unfold. With her guidance we could meet our true selves face to face, and find our collective destiny. Big words, but not big enough for this giant in our movement. 

    Whether you identified with and co-created the women’s liberation movement of the early 70’s with all of its glorious culture and community, or were an anti-nuke activist and gained strength and solace from her outspoken and defining leadership, or you were looking for ways to blend and bridge the gap between the women’s movement with the solidarity movement for central America, or you are old enough to remember her anti-war activism with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, and of course, her work with Ronnie Gilbert that transfixed us with their mutual admiration and stunning harmonies bridging generations, and political movements … Holly was always in the artistic mix creating music that ran the gamut from soulful folk, to raucous lesbian anthems, to killing it on standards, or to creating the seminal song of the Harvey Milk memorial, ‘Singing for Our Lives.’

    Her career is long and varied. She was there to protest the coup in Chile as she brought the music of Victor Jara into our lives, so we knew what the consequences could be if a coup happened in this country. 

    When we hear her name … all make an immediate picture: shocking red hair, soaring voice, a woman who delighted in laughter, whose family suffered the burdens of all of our political fighting, and a woman who taught us how to ‘take one for the team.’ Our Holly Near: Poet, artist, singer, and seer. A leader of our best efforts of being human … a woman extraordinaire!”

    Published on March 23, 2023