Honk! brings wacky cool to social activism, attuned to message ‘We All Need a Home’
Twenty-five bands from as far away as Brazil and Berlin strutted their stuff down Massachusetts Avenue from Somerville to Cambridge on Sunday, dancing, shouting and, well, honking as part of the year’s Honk! events and Oktoberfest.
Roughly a two-and-a-half hour walk, this was no ordinary parade. Honk! features activist street bands with wacky costumes and stilts, waving rainbow flags while keeping up energetic performances that try to spark progressive thinking, conversations and action. Some bands urged watchers directly to get involved in a cause that calls to them – or even perhaps start their own organization around that cause.
The theme of this year Honk! was “We All Need a Home: Housing for All, Sanctuary for All, a Healthy Planet for All.” Under that broad banner, health care, immigration and climate change were among the many issues inspiring noise during the parade and the events preceding it – including Saturday’s friendly occupation of Somerville’s Davis Square for a full day of music.
Lisa Brukilacchio, director of Cambridge Health Alliance’s Somerville Community Health Agenda, was dressed as a butterfly Sunday and surrounded by bees from the Somerville Growing Center. The idea was to show the importance of protecting the environment for pollinators and to show that migrants – both butterflies and people – make everyone’s lives richer. Costumes and art can change minds, she said.
“If you want to shift people’s perspectives, you’ve got to do something out of the ordinary. And art is really good for getting people to think about things in a different way,” Brukilacchio said, twirling flowers in front of her face. “And yeah, if a bunch of us can dress up and do weird things in the streets, maybe there’s a reason for that.”
One float from Tufts University’s “Anthropology: Myth, Ritual, and Symbol” course displayed the planet Earth atop an ice cream cone – identified as a “Melting Earth Cream Cone.”
State Rep. Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat, was among the thousands watching and following the parade on its way to Harvard Square. It was important for the messages of the Honk! bands to be heard, she said.
“Since the 2016 presidential election, the level of distress and dismay among my constituents has skyrocketed,” she said. “Not just because of some kind of abstract political differences, but because of federal policies which hurt people.”
Founded in Somerville in 2006, there are now Honk! festivals nationwide. Pronk, in Providence, Rhode Island, is held the day after Honk!