There’s No Music Like Oklahoma Protest Music

“The sun’s coming up on the Verdigris River, just as it has for millions of years, trusting us with the balance of nature, give us this day as the time disappears.”
– Randy Crouch
The Sun and the Wind

FOR OUR CHILDREN: This 1978 album was part of a successful campaign to stop the construction of two nuclear reactors on the banks of the Verdigris River in Rogers County near Inola.

The prized possession in my substantial vinyl collection is not my limited edition White album on white vinyl, nor my Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album which has somehow survived 57 years without a scratch. Not even a mind-blowing 1968 live recording at the Fillmore West featuring a 19-year-old Carlos Santana can claim to be the star attraction in my assemblage of Rock & Roll gems. That title belongs to a rare, albeit lesser known album from 1978 titled, “For Our Children: Black Fox Blues?” that features something even closer to my heart than vintage Rock & Roll: Oklahoma protest music.
In 1973, Public Service Company of Oklahoma announced that it would be constructing two nuclear power reactors in Rogers County along the Verdigris River. The site was only a few miles from the town of Inola, a Cherokee word meaning “black fox.” PSO adopted the name Black Fox for the proposed nuclear plant, and promised thousands of jobs and an influx of tax dollars.
A Claremore teacher and resident of Inola named Carrie Dickerson felt the risks far outweighed the promise of nicer schools and cheaper utility bills and became determined to stop Black Fox.
Dickerson did not approach the battle with a by-any-means-necessary mindset. She refused to engage in civil disobedience, vandalism, or anything illegal. Her goal was to educate the public and organize fundraisers to finance the war against Black Fox, which would be fought largely in court.
A big part of that fundraising effort came from area musicians who performed at rallies, staged benefit concerts, and even recorded the aforementioned album, which is now proudly displayed in the home of your favorite local music columnist.
The movement gained international press, and soon our local musicians were joined by the likes of Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt who both performed at a May 24, 1978 concert at Mohawk Park benefiting the Stop Black Fox effort.
By 1980, after Dickerson and her fellow activists had been successful in their attempt to delay the plant’s construction through requests for information and legal challenges, the cost of the plant was beginning to skyrocket, from the original $450 million to $2.4 billion. On Feb. 16, 1982, PSO claimed the plant was no longer financially viable and pulled the plug on the project, marking a rare victory for anti-nuclear activists.
The takeaway: Oklahoma protest music gets results.
That’s good news, because there’s still work to do.

WATER IS LIFE: Pam Kingfisher of Green Country Guardians shares a map indicating all the poultry processing plants throughout the northeast Oklahoma watershed. Each green square on the map represents a new farm, which consists of six to 10 barns. Each barn represents 50,000 – 80,000 chickens. The map was on display at a benefit concert to protect the area’s rivers and streams.

One cause that many musicians are currently putting their efforts behind is protecting the northeastern Oklahoma watersheds. Green Country Guardians (GCG) was formed in 2018 in response to a proposal to build six poultry houses in Oaks, Okla., threatening the beautiful, crystal-clear water of Spring Creek. Like Dickerson, the GCG focused on educating, organizing and legal action, and was ultimately successful. In May of 2018, the Cherokee Nation purchased the 60-acres of environmentally sensitive land.
Now the GCG has its sights on Arkansas-based Simmons Foods Inc., which is building large poultry processing plants that threaten the northeast Oklahoma watershed. For this battle, the GCG are getting help from some of the same musicians who helped stop Black Fox four decades ago.
“Isn’t music the glue in all of our cultures?” This is a rhetorical question posed by Pam Kingfisher of Green Country Guardians. “Music is a binder. It can bring us together and teach us things,” she explains at a Protect Our Watershed concert in Tahlequah last July. “This machine kills fascists,” she says, a reference to the godfather of Oklahoma protest music, Woody Guthrie.
Kingfisher was active in Stop Black Fox among other activist movements and is now applying that muscle toward protecting northeast Oklahoma’s rivers and streams.
“Water is life and we’re here to make sure that we’ve got clean water for your kids, your grandkids, all of us.”

GOT TIME TO PROTEST: Randy Crouch, seated, is joined by, from left, James Townsend, Bonnie Payne, Annie Payne, Brad Picolo, John Cooper and Joe Mack at a Protect Our Watershed concert last July. Hidden by the band but keeping the beat is Sarah Guarde on drums.

Randy Crouch, who was one of the most active foot soldiers in the Stop Black Fox movement, performing at more than 50 stop Black Fox events around the state, is another veteran activist who, along with Kingfisher, is still fighting the good fight.
“I love this planet,” Crouch says. He says this often, and judging by his actions, there is no reason to doubt his sincerity. “I’ll do anything, anything any time that needs to be done for this project,” he continues. “We’re gonna save our creek. It’s not too late.”
Crouch performed at the Protect Our Watershed concert last July along with Red Dirt Rangers, Meandering Orange, and My Tea Kind.
Another great lineup is slated for the Jan. 19 Oklahoma Clean Water Fest at Heirloom Rustic Ales from 3 – 7 p.m. In addition to music from Travis Fite, Monica Taylor, Dustin Pittsley, Scott Evans and more, the festival will feature presentations from Friends of the Illinios River, Green Country Guardians and Oklahoma Sierra club among others. Visit for more upcoming events.
Carrie Dickerson passed away in 2006, but her work continues through the Carrie Dickerson Foundation, which was founded in 2003. For more information, visit
Happy New Year to all you music lovers out there. Please continue to support local music in 2020, because it might just save the planet. More importantly, it might save the humans. So forget about diets and exercize commitments and make a simple resolution for 2020: keep searching, keep listening.