“What We Do—Now” is the stand alone first movement of Lifting As We Climb, a choral narrative 30 minutes in length scored for women’s choir, narrators (6) piano, drum kit and alto sax. Suffragists come to life and previously hidden voices of African American women fighting for the vote are heard. Lifting As We Climb looks back in time, but just as importantly it explores the present and a future that will require a diligent, informed public ready to fight for equality, democracy and the right to vote.
This first movement addresses the present day. The opening alto sax solo opens with a mournful, bluesy tone, setting the stage for "praise and protest." The piece moves through uptempo agitation before finally arriving at the calm that patience and being "awake" brings.
Ellen Hagan comments on her poem, What We Do—Now: “This poem was meant to be a balm & salve for the tumultuous world we live in.“