Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey
Founder of Restoration Village Arts and Endowed Artist Fellow
Tracy Howe Wispelwey is a songwriter, producer, activist and minister, descended from people in Southeast Asia and Europe, and born on the Native lands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe people in what is now known as Boulder, CO. She founded Restoration Village Arts, a learning and action community for artists and theologians building a just and beautiful world and working in today’s specific and intersecting movements of liberation including borderlands justice, earth justice, queer justice and racial justice. Touring full time from 2000-2009, she played music at colleges, small music venues and festivals, churches, house concerts and prisons throughout the U.S. and Latin America. Her songs have been used by faith communities and in movement work globally. After finishing her M.Div. at Harvard in 2012, she began producing for other artists and organizations, releasing Songs For 1,000 Days for Bread For the World in 2013 and the Oscar Romero Cantata for Luis Alfredo Diaz in 2014. She has served as the director of art and liturgy for many ecumenical and global events, working with the Latin American Theological Fellowship, Micah Global, Sojourners, Ecumenical Advocacy Days, Bread For the World and more.
In 2013 Tracy and her family moved to Charlottesville, VA, the city where her husband, Rev. Seth Wispelwey, grew up and attended U.Va. as an undergrad. As they settled in to life there with their then 3 year old daughter, the world changed. In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder, Tracy traveled to Ferguson with a delegation of faith leaders invited to witness and learn from the movement being born. What unfolded in the following years brought Tracy deeper into community organizing, direct action and public witness work both in Charlottesville and around the country from Standing Rock to the US/Mexico Border to DC. It also saturated her songwriting and artistry with a definitive call to action, liberation and humanity.
In 2015, youth organizers and people of color began another call to tear down the white supremacist monuments in the city of Charlottesville. Both Tracy and her Husband Seth became integral in organizing faith leaders in solidarity with this effort. As the racist backlash began and gained national attention and a series of white supremacist gatherings were planned in the city the summer of 2017, Restoration Village Arts began facilitating the training of hundreds of people in nonviolent direct action with the leadership and help of their dear friend and national organizer, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou. They also used Restoration Village Arts to help birth Congregate Cville, with their friend and colleague Rev. Brittany Caine-Conley, which trains and mobilizes faith leaders for rapid response direct action, community care and witness against state violence. Tracy remained involved in local organizing efforts but also began to write music and liturgy for direct action and public witness, and writing songs and liturgy for the interfaith service the night before the now infamous Unite-the-Right rally on August 12th. The service gathered hundreds from Charlottesville and faith leaders from around the country who had responded to the call to come and stand against the violence and hate for white supremacy, including Rev. Dr. Cornell West and Rev. Traci Blackmon who preached at the historic service.
In the wake of the violence in #Charlottesville, Tracy released the album, Bring Me Some Peace, music laced with pain and hope for wholeness and healing. That summer, Tracy also accepted the call to serve as the national Minister for Congregational and Community Engagement for the United Church of Christ. In this position, she networks with artists, liturgists, and cultural workers, supporting congregations in becoming communities of resistance and resilience. She works with colleagues to help local churches encounter complex realities grounded in the hope and justice commitments of their faith and works to bridge public witness with faith formation and community building.
Music video for Frack Me, from Things That Grow:
Things That Grow is Tracy’s most recent full-length album, born out of the movement work and radically changing life circumstances of the last several years. The album contains anthems that are already being sung around the country, as well as songs documenting the moment and movements we are in now. The summer of 2019 brings Tracy and her family near the US/Mexico border, on the Native lands of the Tohono O’odham people in what is now called Tucson, AZ. The move brings Tracy close to her mother, whom she and her family will help care for. It also brings her to the desert and a place where she hopes to cultivate her own humanity and continue her work, music and ministry along the border and with the United Church of Christ nationally.
Follow Tracy’s work and music on her social media @TracyHoweMusic.