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John Paul Wright

John Paul Wright (1970 – ) is a husband, father, locomotive engineer, community organizer, union organizer, labor singer and djembe player.

JP was raised in a very large family. His father’s side of the family were / are members of a German/American singing club. He grew up steeped in the folk mass tradition of the Catholic church. His father and uncles were a singing trio while JP was an alterboy. His mother was the youngest child of a Lebanese immigrant who owned a bar on east Jefferson Street in Louisville, KY. His grandfather Mellick fathered 18 children and was a chanter and very active in the Greek Orthodox Church and Lebanese Community. His mother was a political/social activist and then public school teacher. His Stepfather is a retired second generation railroader who came from a large family of railroaders who were/are employed by the L&N railroad, now called CSX Transportation.

JP organized his first community festival while working at the Good Neighbor Food CO-OP grocery store in 1989. He was a member of the PRANA percussion ensemble, a music group that grew from drum circles that he and others organized and participated in. In 1994, after participating in the Rant for the Literary Renaissance’s opening of the Beat Poet Celebration at the NYU University, the entire group traveled to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY for a 5 day intensive workshop with Babatunde Olatunji . In 1996 he traveled back to Omega for another workshop with Olatunji. In 96’ JP joined PNEUMA ( An Inner-City arts Mission) as a volunteer and was awarded a Community Artist in Residence grant from the KY Arts Council in 1999 and then again in 2000 and 2001. Over the years John has played in various Jazz groups and percussion ensembles while traveling to continue his Djembe study with West African Djembe players Famoudou Konate and Bolokada Conde’.

In 2001, JP was hired on with CSX railroad and is a working Locomotive Engineer and very active in the Union Reform Movement. He has served a term as an organizer and is currently a national co-chair for Railroad Workers United. He has served a term on the international steering committee of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. He has served on the board of Kentucky Jobs with Justice as well as a term as Secretary for his division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. He helped to organize the General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of The World in Kentucky and currently serves as a delegate there.

JP was a performer on the first leg of the Joe Hill 100 tour with the likes of Anne Feeney, Bucky Halker, and lil “rev” Revenson. He has hosted Utah Phillip’s son Duncan Phillips and David Rovics. Recently he was invited to perform his poetry and music with Wendell Berry, John Gage, Darrell Scott and others for a benefit for the Berry Center in Kentucky. He is currently in apprenticeship with banjo player Sue Massek under grant from the Kentucky Arts Council.

JP has released 3 Cd’s of railroad music documenting his work as an organizer of the railroad union community. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and son and when he is not organizing or running trains, he writes poetry and publishes a blog at