Dave Gunning, left, and Garnet Rogers are performing in Tatamagouche on June 2 in support of Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network and the Tatamagouche-Guatemala Schools Project. Submitted photos

TATAMAGOUCHE – Two well-known Canadian folk musicians are bringing their sounds together in support of a local cause.

Dave Gunning and Garnet Rogers will share their talents and story-telling skills on June 2 in support of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, a solidarity network formed 30 years ago in Tatamagouche to carry out human right advocacy. The network supports re-building efforts by Mayan partners after a decades-long internal armed conflict, which led to mass human displacement, extensive human rights violations, and genocide.

“For me, growing up in Tatamagouche, there was always a feeling of support from the community on my different endeavours,” said Hannah Martin, who has been involved with the network and travelled to New Hope School in Rabinal, Guatemala, for the first time in 2016. “I’ve always felt a lot of grassroots support, and I think that’s something Tatamagouche is known for. All of our funding comes from organizations that are all about the people, so to have two musicians who support our mandate is very important for me.”

Through Martin’s experience in Guatemala, the village of Tatamagouche is working on a relationship with the New Hope School.

Half the proceeds from the Garnet Rogers and Dave Gunning performance will support the Breaking the Silence Network, with the other half supporting the schools project.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” said Kathryn Anderson, who is involved with both the network and the schools project, about learning the two musicians wanted to perform together for the local causes. “To have two of the best folk musicians in Canada perform for Breaking the Silence (BTS) and the Tatamagouche-Guatemala Schools Project is just amazing. We jumped at the chance.”

The collaboration came together following a gathering in 2014 that Gunning organized to protest Northern Pulp’s contamination of Pictou Landing First Nation and the surrounding area. Rogers was one of those musicians involved and he arrived early to hand out leaflets protesting a quarry near Canso. Members from the BTS network chatted with Rogers, who wanted to support social justice movements. He performed for BTS in 2015, and again in 2018.

It was during the October 2018 performance that Gunning and his wife attended. Following the performance, Rogers told Gunning he wanted to do another fundraiser in support of the organization, with Gunning’s help. He said yes.

“When we heard they were willing to put a concert on for us, we didn’t think it was real,” said Paul Martin, Hannah’s father, and also member of BTS. “We were pretty impressed.”

The performance will begin at 2 p.m. at the Sharon United Church on June 2. Tickets are $20 at the door. The event will have additional special guests – teacher Oswaldo Lopez and two students, Hilda and Juan Carlos, from New Hope Foundation will be visiting Tatamagouche from May 23 to June 3.

“This visit will be different from past visits,” said Anne MacDonald Martin, Hannah’s mother and local teacher. Two years ago, New Hope Foundation’s director and two students visited the village. “The high school presentations will be longer and more meaningful this year.”

Anderson said students in the high school grades were shown a video of a man who witnessed the massacre of his mother and baby brother.

“Students then wrote a reflection on what they were thinking and how they were feeling,” said MacDonald Martin, adding the students also included questions they might want to ask those visiting from Guatemala.

During their school presentations, about 15 students will have the opportunity to ask their questions. The presentations will also include PowerPoints, and hands-on activities.

“It makes the experience for all that much richer,” said MacDonald Martin. “Because of their visit and this activity, we’re able to have richer conversations in the classrooms about the history of Guatemala. It makes it more meaningful when students are coming in.”

Other fundraisers are in the works for the schools project, including a table at the farmers’ market in May where crafts, mostly made by Paul Martin, will be for sale.

A public presentation is planned for May 29, 7:30 p.m., at the Tatamagouche Centre, and all are welcome to attend. Lopez, Hilda, and Juan Carlos will share their stories with members of the public.

A fashion show is set for June 23, 2 p.m., at the Royal Canadian Legion in Tatamagouche. Tickets are $12 at the door, by or calling Anne MacDonald Martin at 902-657-2075 or 902-657-6220.

Funds raised will go toward the schools project, which will see 15 members head to Guatemala in August 2020.