After 22+ years in the political trenches, it’s time for a change. I’m switching gears from doing 24/7 political battle to putting more positivity into the world. In the weeks ahead, you’ll notice more original music, spiritual seeking, and mutual aid on my Twitter feed, Substack newsletter, and Callin podcast. This doesn’t diminish my commitment to activism, but instead redirects my energy toward fostering spaces for peace and healing.
This brings me full circle. As a child of war in Lebanon, music was my salvation. When bombs were falling and gun battles raging in Beirut, I huddled in shelters with a short wave radio and found comfort in Voice of America’s Jazz Hour. During lulls in the fighting, I sat at my piano (which doubled as a barricade) and lost myself in improvisation. I’ve survived the lifelong scars of military conflict by taking solace and strength in music.
When I finally escaped the war and attended NYU, I was a regular at late night jam sessions in New York City. I spent hours at jazz venues like the Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Smalls, and Sweet Basil, learning from a generation of jazz elders who are now among the ancestors. In the early 90s, I became a professional keyboard player and landed in New York’s nascent house music scene. I worked on hundreds of remixes with Frankie Knuckles, David Morales, Danny Tenaglia, and other house pioneers, as they developed a new genre of music. My remix credits range from Miles Davis and Bjork to Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson. I co-wrote and produced three #1 Billboard Club singles and played on several deep house classics. I am profoundly grateful — and increasingly nostalgic — for that time.
At the turn of the millennium, politics called. George W. Bush took office and I dedicated myself to organizing, protesting, and opposing his presidency. In the two decades since, I’ve traversed a path from progressive outsider to Democratic Party insider (advising Hillary Clinton and John Kerry) to anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist establishment exile. Along the way, I’ve screwed up, gotten a bunch of things wrong, and tried to learn from my mistakes. But my mission has always been to defend the vulnerable and make the world a safer, kinder place.
I’ll be honest: I’m tired. I need to return to the source that gives me strength: music. I need to put out positive energy into a world that seems relentlessly negative. I respect and admire those who are in the streets, putting their bodies on the line to fight racism, misogyny, bigotry, and oppression. My heart is always with victims of injustice and the courageous souls who stand up for them.
I hope you understand my need for a change of focus and a recharge. Thank you for carrying the torch and for sharing this journey. —Peter