Depending on where you look, North Brooklyn is still replete with rusty reminders of its fairly recent manufacturing past, but as that history recedes farther off into the distance, pushed along by developers mining the cityscape for residential conversions (and now, slick new tech office space too), the memory of what stood there before is fading too. The area’s transformation has proceeded so quickly and dramatically that many new residents have no idea that they’re living next to an old pencil factory, or in some cases a Brownfield site.
“Have you been to one of our shows lately?” Reverend Billy asked me. The answer was– no, I have not. Not ever. In my chat with the eco-activist, author, and radical preacher who “prays to life on earth,” I was curious to know what in heaven’s name a Reverend was doing on the calendar at a Bushwick DIY venue like Market Hotel. But Billy’s explanation brought everything together for me. “They’re a little like mosh pits,” he explained. “It’s a punk gospel for life. It’s a laboratory for getting going again.”
A teaser like that is hard to turn your back on, and so is the Reverend’s larger environmental message: consumerism and “nation-state allegiances” stand in the way of our relationship with the Earth. As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, there’s a new kind of urgency to changing our ways, and Reverend Billy believes that calls for physical, direct action are the only way to foment radical change. But when he’s not putting his body on the line to preach against the further slaughter of the earth, the Reverend is hosting shows like the one happening this weekend at the Market Hotel. “I’m trying to preach here,” he said, exasperated. “And along with the choir, we’re trying to inspire activism in our audience.”