Tae Phoenix • Resistance Music

Music is one of the most valuable (and underrated) tools that organizers have to activate and coordinate movements. I first experienced this viscerally at the protest that inspired me to write this adaptation of “We Shall Not Be Moved.” 

The story of the song

In August of 2017, a group of right-wing extremists held a rally in downtown Seattle. A diverse coalition of Seattleites mounted a several thousand-person counterprotest at a nearby park. Our plan was to march on the right-wing rally, overwhelm them with our numbers, and force them out of our city.

The police had other ideas. As we advanced on the extremist rally, officers began firing off flash bang grenades and threatening to arrest all of us if we didn’t clear the street and turn back. Instead of obeying, several hundred of us sat down in the street and began singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” I was handed a microphone and asked to lead the singing.

Woman leading sitting protesters in song: pic.twitter.com/aeC5QDDIVN 
— David Kroman (@KromanDavid ) August 13, 2017

It’s not easy to disobey a direct order from a phalanx of heavily armed riot cops, but the act of singing together transformed my fear into a feeling of profound fellowship and trust.

In the end, the police couldn’t arrest all of us and they couldn’t intimidate us into turning back. Instead, they had to disperse the extremist group because we had them so vastly outnumbered.

That protest was a microcosm of the political situation we face today. The vast majority of Americans want a more equitable, inclusive country; but a small group of right-wing extremists have seized power. We have the numbers, so we have to stand our ground – no matter the risks – and keep marching forward until we reclaim our government. As I thought about this parallel, the lyrics and melody of this adaptation began pouring out of me.

Knowing that the original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual, it was important to me to build this song with a black-led production team that reflected the coalition we need to build to save the soul of our nation. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of my colleagues, Maurice Jones Jr. and Josephine Howell in crafting the piece of music before you. For more about this collaboration, please scroll down to "Artist's Statement on Cultural Appropriation."


We are rising, but we are not the hate we see
Cuz we’re not whole til’ all are free.
You can fight us, but you’ll lose
Cuz nothing can defeat the truth
And we shall not be moved. 

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

We’ve come so far, but we have farther still to go.
And that is why we are saying “no.”
We’re not going back with you.
The future is too much to lose
And we shall not be moved.

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

We’re like the tree that’s standing in the water.
We’ve lifted up our branches and we have put roots down.
You can try to shake us but don’t bother.
Cuz we’re gonna stand our sacred ground.
And we are not backing down
And we shall not be moved!

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.

Album Credits

Vocals: Tae Phoenix, Josephine Howell, Chyée Howell, Tanisha Brooks, Lisa Allen, Maelu Strange, Gena Brooks
Guitar: Jeffrey Carolus
Piano: Tae Phoenix
Organs / Synths: Mark Cardenas
Bass: Maurice Jones Jr.
Drums: Kai Evan Hill 

Producer: Maurice Jones Jr.
Production Assistant: Audrey Lowell
Mastering Engineer: Pete Stewart

Recorded at Red Door Studios and Bobby Lang Studios in Seattle, WA.

Album cover photo by Brian Wells.
Cover art design by Tae Phoenix.

The original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual and civil rights song. This is an adaptation written by Tae Phoenix. Please see below for the artist’s statement on cultural appropriation.

About Tae Phoenix

My name is Tae Phoenix. I’m an activist performer based in the occupied Duwamish land colloquially known as Seattle, WA. I’m using protest music to organize and energize the resistance and reclaim our country. 

I’ve been political since the age of nine, when I organized my first campaign fundraiser. A friend and I mixed up a pitcher of powdered lemonade and sold it to cyclists and runners along Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail on a sweltering summer afternoon. We waved American flags and sang the first political song I ever wrote – just one line, repeated over and over: “Clinton and Gore! That’s who we’re for!” We must have been pretty cute because we raised over $100 in just a few hours – not bad for a first effort.

It’s strange to think about those days now, when it seems like the wheels have all but come off the wagon of American democracy; but when I get discouraged, I remind myself that human progress has always been two steps forward followed by a step back.

My mission as an artist is to create music that inspires every decent American to stand up for democracy and human rights. Together, we will save the soul of our nation.

Release Details

“We Shall Not Be Moved” will be released to all online music stores on October 29, 2018. A music video for the song will premiere on the same day. The song and video launch will be used to promote get out the vote efforts organized by our partner Vote With Me. https://votewithme.us/r/wsnbm 

Artist's Statement on Cultural Appropriation

The original “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an African American spiritual and civil rights song. This is an adaptation.*

All artists draw inspiration and influence from one another across cultures. Capitalism and white supremacy have perverted this natural artistic interplay, leading to a centuries-long pattern of white artists co-opting and monetizing the work of black and brown artists without recognizing, advocating for, adequately paying, or accepting leadership from the originators of the work.

“We Shall Not Be Moved,” is different. This project is a collaboration between artists from multiple intersecting backgrounds specifically designed to break through that pattern by:

1) Uplifting and honoring the history of the original song.
2) Presenting the work only in ways that promote the human and civil rights of marginalized people.
3) Funneling at least 50% of any profits derived from this work** and future works of this type to movements and organizations that are run by and for marginalized groups. (The other 50% will be used to make future work of this type economically sustainable.)

In am especially grateful to Allegra Searle-LeBel, Charles McDade, Dion Thomas, Dan Roach, Isiah Anderson Jr., Jen Moon, Josephine Howell, Maurice Jones Jr., Modessa Jacobs, Nikkita Oliver, and Rev. Harriett G. Walden for holding me accountable to approaching this material with the mindfulness and respect it deserves.

* Click here for more about the history of the original civil rights song and the story of how this adaptation came to be.

** From music and merchandise sales, downloads and streams, and ad monetization.


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