Category musical arts

Organizing DIY Solidarity: 100 Shows for Haiti & Forward by Moe Mitchell

Moe Mitchell contacted the Sparrow Project with an idea …a DIY, community-based response to the ongoing needs in post-earth quake Haiti. With the help of Greg Bennick of 100 for Haiti, Sparrow launched the “100 Shows For Haiti campaign, within a few short weeks we planted seeds, the idea took root, you responded and raised $17,500 through events big and small. The following is Moe’s statement …an account that inspiration can be contagious and how one person’s idea became an ongoing project that we invite you to continue with.

At the end of last summer I had an opportunity to remove myself from my daily life and focus on reflection.  I spent several days in silent meditation, facing nothing but myself.  I thought this look inward would provide a better insight into my own consciousness, but I was surprised when I realized how many blind spots I had for other people and my connection with those people. I confronted the reality that I, and those around me, can do more to provide mutual aid, support, care, solidarity, and – dare I say – love to one another.  It was painful and humbling to confront my inconsistencies, but ultimately it spurred me to action.

 

 

I was reminded of the great loss in Haiti and my feeling of ineptitude in response to it.  The suffering was so great, how could one person be of any help?  I donated money but my efforts felt hollow. Surely I could have given more but I was troubled by the idea of giving to an organization that may use the funds in counterproductive ways or to advance a self-serving agenda.  I was worried about contributing to what Naomi Klein defines as disaster capitalism. Disaster capitalism are efforts that corporations and governments make to exploit times of great crisis and can come in the form legislation limiting civil liberties during a time of war or billion dollar contracts offered to multinational corporations for disaster relief.

 

Unsure of the most responsible way to give my resources, I was paralyzed into inaction. This paralysis was a total cop out. Despite the potential pitfalls of charity, I realized that it was my responsibility to discover effective means of solidarity with the Haitian people by doing my homework on the groups or movements worth supporting, staying connected with them, initiating outreach to my community, and being publicly accountable.

 

When I returned from meditation I reached out to my friends Andy Stepanian and Danielle Thompson of the Sparrow Project to collaborate on a week of actions and fundraisers to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake.  Funds would support Haitian Women for Haitian refugees, a grassroots organization that has built a center in Léogâne to support the work of women in the aftermath. Instead of throwing one big effort, we would use the power of social media to inspire our entire network to take initiative. These new media tools, when used effectively, have proven to be powerful agents for spreading ideas. Why not have the concept of global solidarity go viral?  We could provide materials, logistics, and a rallying cry. The rest is up to each individual in each community.   In this way we’d minimize overhead to almost zero and maximize our impact.

 

We decided not to focus our intentions on the power of charity nor the nobility of do-gooders.  By only giving to Haitian-based, Haitian-run organizations, we hoped to shine a light on the power, ingenuity, and resilience of the Haitian people. The Haitian people are not helpless; they are in crisis. Friends in crisis need support, not pity.  We wanted to expose more people to the truly heroic work on the ground that Haitians are doing for other Haitians.  As more people knew of the work already being done, the better likelihood that direct support could reach local activists.

 

The Sparrow Project immediately swung into action, enlisting the support of a team of folks around the country including Greg Bennick, who had visited Haiti over the past year and created an organization called 100 for Haiti.    100 for Haiti aims to raise $100,000 for a free clinic in Port-au-Prince led by Dr. Jacque Denis. In the interest of collaboration we joined forces by making a call out to our shared networks, asking people to throw fundraisers nationwide and internationally that would support both organizations. “100 Shows for Haiti” was born.

 

 

At first we were unsure about how many people would respond.  Most likely, we thought we were being presumptuous at best by calling our effort 100 Shows for Haiti when we had zero shows on the calendar.  Armed with a helping of hubris and plenty hope, we put the call out to our various networks, through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, email, conference calls, and the like.  Slowly, people began to commit: a bakery open house in Utah, a dance performance in California, a hardcore show in South Korea.  As momentum built, the calendar filled up. In a few weeks scores of individuals on four continents staged dozens of events, and fundraisers. Events earned as much as $5,000 and as little as $12.  All of these interactions were important opportunities to raise consciousness, build community, and support Haiti.  All in all we raised $17,500.00 in a few weeks, and more events are on the calendar.

 

 

Motivated by our immediate success, others are staging events in April, May, June, on and on. What started as an idea a few friends bounced around in an email chain has blossomed into a grassroots, decentralized, international solidarity movement.  We may have put out the initial call but our communities answered  and they answered in ways we never could have imagined.

 

We hope others will apply this model of grassroots response to other needs all around the world. The emergence of the network as a global tool for change means all of our voices are amplified.  Let’s use that new platform to exercise our collective ability to make great change.  Visit www.100showsforhaiti.com

 

- Moe Mitchell is a lobbyist and community organizer with the New York Civic Engagement Table.  When Moe is not at his day job, he expresses his political action through song as the front man for the New York Hardcore band Cipher.  Moe is a tireless social justice activist, a vegan, a poet, and a unbridled voice for the voiceless.

Mainstreaming Palestine With Invincible

Save the Date! – OCTOBER 26, 2010

PROJECT PALESTINE PRESENTS – Mainstreaming Palestine

An evening of music, words and a motion picture.
Featuring INVINCIBLE

“One of the most talented emcees I’ve ever heard, black or white, male or female”—Talib Kweli

THE NEW SCHOOL 66 W. 12th Street, Room A-404

Pamela Olson Oklahoma-born Author, Hear excerpts from her book-in-progress, Fast Times in Palestine.

Fida Qishta Palestinian Filmmaker,
View a piece of her nearly-complete film, Where Should the Birds Fly?

Invincible Detroit-based Hip Hop Artist,
Watch her perform People Not Places and other songs.

Project Palestine is a newly recognized student organization at The New School aimed at illustrating the Palestinian plight through films, music, literature, poetry, art and discussions.

RSVP: projectpalestinenyc@gmail.com

Please help Project Palestine meet their Kickstarter fundraising goals!

A personal message from Andy Stepanian

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1226638047/project-palestine-a-paradigm-shifting-event

 

Dearest Friends,

My close friend, Noor Elashi is a brilliant, creative, peacemaker.  Noor needs you to help her reach her Kickstarter fundraising goals.  I will be donating $40, because thats all I can afford, but please consider donating as much as you can  (see link above.)  Please also attend Noor’s first event at the New School, Next Tuesday at 8:30pm.

Noor’s father, Ghassan Elashi is currently incarcerated in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) Marion, Illinois serving a sentence of 65 years for his alleged support of the people of Gaza.  Ghassan is accused of allegedly providing physical humanitarian aide in the form of millions of dollars of baby food, infant formula, medicine, and sundry items.   Even though almost every non-Muslim, non-activist American with a conscious who hears about Ghassan’s charges becomes enraged at the injustice, Noor however has not allowed that injustice to make her cynical or jaded.  Instead Noor has used her own creative writing and organizing skills as a college activist to start an ongoing dialog about Palestine, the middle east, and the repression of Muslim communities.

“Mainstreaming Palestine”  is a lecture/film/music series aimed at braiding arts, liberation, and culture, and will launch on October 26th with a screening of Fida Qishta’s Where Should The Birds Fly, a reading from Pamela Olson’s Fast Times In Palestine, and a performance from Detroit’s ground-breaking, underground hip-hop artist Invincible.

http://projectpalestine.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/oct-26-mainstreaming-palestine/

With a nation currently engaged in what seems like an endlessly open-ended  war on “terror” we often cloak what “we” deem as our opposition as enemies when we don’t even understand them.  ”Mainstreaming Palestine” is about building bridges.   Invincible is a female Jewish artist who raps about the parallels between the ghettoization of Palestine and the ghettoization of post-industrial Detroit, poverty, gentrification, desperation and crime, Noor is a Palestinian whose family was deeply effected by the occupation, apartheid and related imposed sanctions.  Their collective message is one about peace, understanding, and traversing differences to build a better tomorrow.

Please join me as this event series launches and please donate to Project Palestine via kickstarter.com

Love & Liberation,

Andy

Cipher’s ‘Joyous Collapse’ is Making the Political, Personal

This week Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian highlighted the political punk band Cipher in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post. The article garnered a bit of attention for Cipher, which was the point …Cipher has always put sincerity, ethics, and substance before the fluff of the music industry, if only every band had the hearts that these guys have.  You can read the full article by clicking here.

 

Seminal New York hardcore punk band Cipher have always braided politics with their art, delivering a powerful message along side an equally brutal sound. Cipher has never shied away from the political aspects of their music, and in their most recent album, The Joyous Collapse, Cipher shifts their focus away from challenging the more obvious external institutions of oppression to some of the less obvious aspects of personal revolution. Each song on The Joyous Collapse is aimed at breaking down ones self and seeing where we as individuals directly and indirectly support oppression. Directly attacking ones own daily interactions with militarism, sexism, homophobia, and consumer culture, The Joyous Collapse forces us to ask ourselves, “where & how do I support suffering?”

 

The Sparrow Project thanks Cipher frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell for inviting us into his life and sharing Cipher’s story with us. Please share this video with your friends & please show support for Cipher’s amazing efforts by downloading a song or the album off itunes today.

 

Cipher’s The Joyous Collapse is available at Itunes, and Amazon. Please support Cipher by buying the album today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can connect with Cipher on…
Facebook – facebook.com/​cipheronline
Twitter – twitter.com/​cipher_online
Merch via Big Cartel – cipher.bigcartel.com

 

Victory for Activists, Animals & Environment as Proposed LNG Island is Shut Down!

After an 18month+ campaign by activists in the Northeast the proposal to build an Liquid Natural Gas terminal and artificial island 13 miles south of Long Beach has been shut down!


In April of 2009 The Sparrow Project partnered with Clean Ocean Action, The Surfrider Foundation, local environmentalists, politicians, and artists in an effort to raise awareness about and eventually challenge the LNG island proposal.  Specifically, the plan included the building of an artificial island comprised of dumped construction waste 13 miles south of Long Beach, New York, large enough to allow two Liquid Natural Gas tanker ships to dock at the same time, and the construction of a connecting pipeline that would route the re-gassed LNG inland to the Northeast.  At it’s heart, the proposal put forth by a consortium of investors calling themselves “The Atlantic Sea Island Group” catered to fossil fuel special interests whose primary objective was the control, price regulation, and trade over this green-washed fuel.  LNG is almost always foreign, it is liquified for the purposes of compressing it and sending it across oceans.   LNG, like crude oil, is often sourced from geographic locations where the political climate is one of violence and although natural gas burns cleaner than oil or coal, moreover the extraction process is at times far worse on the environment than that of oil exploration.  Hydraulic fracturing or “fraking” is the forced displacement of sub-terrainian gasses by the pumping of fluids under the earth surface.  Fraking at times will destroy entire water tables and aquifers, and here in the states is a procedure that is exempt from the standards set forth in th eclean water clean air bond act.  Lastly the area of proposed construction was that of the shallowest point along the Cholera Bank, the tri-state’s only hard bottomed reef ecosystem and a breeding ground for threatened sea turtles.  Collectively Long Islanders, activists, environmentalists, musicians, students and every-day folks joined the call to shut this project down before it could begin.

 

The Sparrow Project could not have done any of this without the help of local artists & activists Daniel Bobis, Cipher, Ryan Hunter and Envy on The Coast. Ryan and Daniel partnered with Sparrow to produce a video PSA against the proposed LNG plan (see attached video), Photo Finish records was kind enough to help us syndicate the video to their larger audience, and from that day forward the ball started rolling. T-shirts were printed, meetings were arranged with politicians, lecture after lecture was booked at local colleges, town halls, and green fairs, volunteers from Sparrow were even called to governor Patterson’s office to discuss the issue. After a great deal of hard work from David Byer at Clean Ocean Action, New Jersey governor Chris Christie stated at an Earth Day press conference that he would oppose the plan, putting the proposed plans required adjacent state consent at risk. The following month was a slippery slope for the Atlantic Sea Island Group, as NY state governor Paterson refused to issue a position on the proposal. In June of this year news came that the Atlantic Sea Island Group CEO Howard Bovers would be resigning and prospects for the proposed plan looked bleak. I remember getting the call while out on tour, and furthermore I remember wondering to myself if we truly had won. I was told to sit tight on the information until we had confirmation that the state application for the proposal was actually pulled.

A few weeks ago we received word that the application was indeed pulled and that yes, the activists won… I remember thinking to myself, “so this is what victory looks like?” The victory was bittersweet, knowing that part of the ASIG’s momentum was lost when the BP disaster took place, and that the government and corporate officials did not in whole pull their application because it was was the right thing to do, but rather because they felt they could not get away with it in the wake of the BP spill.

 

I got on the phone and immediately called Ryan, he was elated that his voice and the art that he and his band made were able to play a part in something so big. The efforts of Ryan, Envy On The Coast, Daniel Bobis and Cipher exemplify this idea of braiding arts with activism. Together their work, coupled with the efforts of the Surfrider Foundation and Clean Ocean Action managed to shut down a project as large as the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Facility in the Gulf. One can only imagine what the gulf would have looked like if there was never an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent spill that followed.

 

Nationwide this fight is far from over, fossil fuel companies are refusing to let go of their current infrastructure of trade and adopt renewable energy, their answer to post-peak oil prospects is increased gas exploration, and Liquid Natural Gas will quickly become their primary energy commodity for trade. Plans for installations like the Atlantic Sea Island are being proposed all over the country and it’s up to local activists to fight them wherever they rear their ugly heads.  To learn more about the LNG proposals in the Northeast please visit Clean Ocean Action’s website and if you are feeling bold you can buy one of these limited run t-shirts that benefit the efforts of Clean Ocean Action.

 

Interview with Moby & Miyun Park

A few weeks ago the sparrow project had the privilege to sit down with multi-platinum recording artist and producer, Moby and Miyun Park, executive director to the Global Animal Partnership to discuss their new book Gristle out now through The New Press. Gristle addresses issues ranging from workers rights to animal welfare to the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Whether it is John Mackey’s essay on big agriculture’s impacts on the tax payer, or Lauren Bush’s essay on animal agriculture’s impact on climate Gristle makes a powerful case for adopting a vegan diet. Gristle also takes a step outside of the mold set by prior critiques of animal agriculture & factory farming because it has something for everyone. This is further supported by the fact that not all of Gristle‘s contributors are vegans, in fact, Gristle includes a contribution from a pork producer. This may raise questions amidst vegans and make Gristle a subject of debate for some animal activists, but Gristle is not about preaching to the choir it is about bringing a message of animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and health to a large section of americans who need to hear it and may not have otherwise been exposed to it.  Gristle‘s diverse contributions assure that the book will resonate with the widest possible audience. For the billions of animals who are raised and slaughtered on factory farms Gristle spells hope.

Gristle was co-edited by Moby & Miyun Park and includes contributions from Brendan Brazier, Lauren Bush, Christine Chavez, Michael Greger, Sara Kubersky, Tom O’Hagan, Anna Lappe, Frances Moore Lappe, John Mackey, Danielle Nierenberg, Meredith Niles, Wayne Pacelle, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Paul Willis, and Phyllis Willis.

The Invisible, Accidental Records, 2009, (UK)

by Alex Ferzan, Sparrow Media Contributor

While overseas on tour with The Urgency this spring, I revisited 15 or so of the larger cities in the UK and Ireland. Regretfully, I can’t say I was reborn. Though I love Manchester, parts of London, Edinburgh and a few other damp and dismal distractions in the region, for the most part the UK is “a bit shit”, to be honest. Culture and cuisine are always interesting, new people are always entertaining, but I promise I that any less-than impressed judgment I make is based on much time and many cities, much socializing and many historical tours and much booze and many moons.


I can however offer credit to the big island and its neighbors in one very overlooked category, the support for live music. Kids climbing from the walls and media outlets covering everything from the mega artists that sell out Wembley Stadium, to the shrimps that happen to impress them, music is widely appreciate and followed (though outdated, most of us Statesiders would argue). Coming from what my peers and I would like to consider one of the more influential (though now completely dead) underground music scenes of recent history and working in the Music Industry for the better part of the last 8 years, I have to admit that I am at best, completely jaded when entering into anything from a music based conversation to a music faced venue. All that being said, for me to be excited about a show takes a lot.

invisible

Being on tour with a Welsh band is awesome. They are ball-busting, bowel-blowing descendants of amazingly interesting tribes and a families, most surnamed “Jones”, “Smith” or “Smith”. The Blackout were gracious enough to not only take us on a tour that saw 1,000+ new faces a night, but show us their home and their friends in what became one of my more favorable cities of the United Kingdom, Cardiff, Wales. After a hometown show, The Blackout took us barhopping just around the corner from the University we just played. Forgive me, but I cannot remember the name of the bar we went to. It was lit in red neon signs, very unassuming but very hip and guess what? The show was FREE!!! Real bands played there and real people came to see them. Upon walking into the cramped, crooked and loud venue, I took a non-autonomous turn for the stage, where normally my belly drives me to the bar. Setting aside for a moment what I heard, I looked toward the stage only to set my eyes on the quintessential counter-culture front man. At 6’6” and nearly 300lbs, the 3 piece’s leader was cloaked in a purple wizard’s smock, androgynously dressed in neck and arm accessories, dreadlocks and demanding an intricately delayed guitar solo out of what looked like a miniature telecaster in the hands of a giant African warlord. He was so captivating that I nearly forgot music was being played.

invisibles2

Once I tuned in to sonic stimulation I realized how incredible the actual music was. The other two members (Tom Herbert and Leo Taylor), both skinny, white and disheveled, were in such perfect rhythmic coordination with each other that it afforded Dave Okumu, the lead singer and guitar player, the freedom to completely exaggerate every sound and texture possible. I thought I knew a thing about guitar effects until I saw Dave make a mess.

Digressing from my drawn-out introduction, all these wonderful things lead me to the point of buying their album and sharing my thoughts about it with you.

The Invisible starts their record with s theme that runs through out the entire body of work, texture. Within 16 bars of a minor acoustic introduction, space and ambience somehow creep there way into the song. The opening song, “In Retrograde”, eventually moves into a sound-scape that would be more appropriate in the movie 300, or Gladiator, some world music battle scene, if you will.

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After the less-than-comfy introduction, the band begins to showcase their song writing skills, never predictably. One who has real appreciation for how difficult it is to write a good song would admire how interesting the actual notes were built around such bizarre backing music. The songs move in and out of abstract noises and dissonant notes to a remember-able melody that may be a little dark and disturbing, but in a major key it could pass for a pop song.

I hate comparing bands to bands, but I find what The Invisible so interesting that it almost compliments them. They remind me of the choral guitar-ie feel of Prince, guitar effects of The Edge, the instrumentation of The Talking Heads, rhythm like Block Party, melodies that would make Robert Smith proud and the flavor of something a little more urban like Gnarles Barkley. Everything moves in and out of a very dance feel, while satisfying the core indie properties, innovation and deviation. The brilliance of it to me is that Dave Okumu gives off the vibe that he could have easily gone in and wrote an R&B record with Stevie Wonder, but his true passion was for something a little more interesting.

Some of my favorite tracks on the record include Passion, London Girl, and Monster’s Waltz. However, the track that makes me so glad I found this band is Baby Doll. The song is what I love most about music, the ability to fuse conventional melodies that would make anyone sing along with a Kandinsky, or a Jackson Pollock…something so bizarre that it just makes sense.

This band is not only a great album creator; they are an incredible live group. They’ve been praised by magazines as prestigious as NME in the UK and though I don’t think the US has the palette for them yet (regretfully), I really look forward to getting back over the pond and trying to catch another night with this band. It’s one of those bands that will inspire so many to follow, but maybe never be as recognized as they deserve to be. One of those bands I’ll stay up at night wishing I found them first and picked them up. One of those VERY few bands that I will listen to over and over again, finding new inflections each time I listen, like a good book.

For those visiting from outside sparrowmedia.net this article along with video originally appeared in the reviews section of the Sparrow Media Blog

A Fine Line Between Necessity & Irresponsibility for Rise Against

“I want someone to sit me down and say, what the fuck was up with that?,” says Tim McIlrath, front man to Rise Against, a pop-punk outfit from Chicago. In an interview off the set of the music video shoot for “Re-Education (Through Labor)” the single off their most recent album “Appeal to Reason” (DGC/Interscope) McIlrath states that “Americans are coddled with images of non-violence,” and that, “we have a war raging in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people are dying,” and that “this video is about not coddling Americans and letting them know that this is a reality, this is a potential reality, treat people fair because these are realities we can be looking at in our future…”

 

These “realities” to which he refers to are depicted in a music video montage of typical music scenesters on an atypical self-styled campaign of destruction. (Quite literally the video shows your cookie cutter hot topic set running around with and eventually detonating improvised explosive devices.)



Rise Against, who in recent years have developed a groundswell following have made a conscious effort not to fall into lockstep with the process of corporate grooming & imaging that most of pop-punk acts succumb to. Simply put, many of the record companies are afraid of their artists getting overtly political, especially when it involves issues that make us all feel uncomfortable. Generally, the record company opinion is to do everything not to alienate a potential buyer, because they buy your merch, your albums, go to your shows, etc. The next part goes like this… “don’t get too political, because when you do the people who don’t share your opinion will feel alienated and henceforth you will narrow your audience, you will sell less stuff, and since all we care about is money we don’t want that.” I applaud Rise Against for trying to keep the grooming to a minimum while watching their sophomore album “The Sufferer & The Witness” go gold with certification by the RIAA and while “Appeal to Reason” is creeping towards gold, debuting at #3 on the billboard charts selling 65,000 copies in its first week alone. This is an accomplishment in itself considering the internet has made it nearly impossible for an indie artist to go gold, let alone a hardcore band, and it’s even harder for a hardcore band with a political platform.  But enough saccharine…

 

When I first saw the video, I think I regurgitated the exact phrase McIlrath hoped to evoke. Literally I think I said something like, “What? – How? – What? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?” or a derivative of such. So many things came to mind, too many to list but if I had to sum them up I was thinking…

1.) How did this get play?
2.) Is this what the kids need to see? – Maybe?
3.) Does this drip with wanton irresponsibility?

I took this question and the clip to a friend of mine, a videographer who makes campaigning tapes for unions in NYC. He laughed when he saw it and said that, “corporations love that teen angst stuff… that shit appeals to kids. They don’t expect it to go anywhere.” I guess that’s how Rise Against’s handlers, MTV, Music Choice, Fuse, and whoever else’s hand this touched saw it as well, teen angst and nothing more. To chalk it up to “teen angst and nothing more” is a sad commentary considering the state of the world today: two wars waged without public support with little to no outdate, the rate of species extinction increasing 1000-fold in the last 100 years, genocides in Gaza & Darfur (and probably a dozen similar events go under-reported,) billions of animals killed annually for human excess or vanity, the continued objectification of womyn in pop culture, and the commoditization of everything living from children in sweatshops to forests slated for sale. There are a lot of real issues to be upset about.

 

I think the reality of the situation falls somewhere in between, I think people are upset, and this type of content is becoming more appealing to folks as the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. However if this video posed a true threat would the networks still agree to play it?

 

For those of you who know my background you are aware that I spent years in prison for being charged as an alleged “extremist activist” so perhaps I look at this topic through a biased lens. However, I do question whether or not it is responsible for bands to produce videos such as this. Sadly when one becomes a celebrity in our spectacular culture they become a spectacle, a larger than life figure, sometimes even a role model, and with the fame they inherit a heavy burden of responsibility.

 

The real question here is will kids feel the hype of this video and go out and follow suit?, or will they just feel the hype and shake their fists? Anyone can realize that when you employ mass destruction as a direct action tactic the chances of hurting someone are inevitable. It is my opinion that there is no moral argument for violence against people or animals, and by the tenor of his interview McIlrath seems to echo that opinion; so this is where the situation gets murky. Rise Against must consider that as their audience widens with their success the gamut of their listeners/fans is going to span all walks of life, all temperaments, various types of people, some more rational than others, and some who feel incredibly disparaged. Some listeners may be moved to act, and if they are moved to act should they be moved in a better, more sustainable direction than the imagery reflects this recent video? It is clear that there is an abundance of work that needs to be done, and we are going to need to cultivate a culture of life-long activists to address these seemingly endless problems. Wrecking shit is not always pragmatic. Not if it allows systems of oppression to stage which-hunt style grand juries, or raid homes, or scare off future activists in response to one night of wreckage. We need to plan for the long haul, and sometimes that means working on projects a lot less glamorous. Making copies, cooking food for hungry people in your community, cleaning up an old factory to make a D.I.Y. social center, this things don’t exactly meet the criteria of sexy, visually inspiring footage to make a music video from, but this is the backbone of the revolution, not an aesthetic of tattoos, angular haircuts, and burning skylines.

 

I don’t say this to undercut the effectiveness of direct action, but rather to say that we should be constantly critiquing (in a positive, constructive manner) ourselves, our movements, and our social scenes. In the case of this video I would have preferred to see solid examples of activism, realistic and less violent implementations of direct actions, and a more constructive approach to social change depicted in the video treatment, but alas maybe that would be too boring and the video would miss rotation…

 

I can only assume that as intelligent people as well as successful artists Rise Against are probably discussing the same things. I have to say I appreciated the narrative of their follow up video “An Audience of One” so much more, as it touched on so many current events, deforestation, gay marriage, war, urban sprawl, and a former president who essentially behaved like a bratty child who wanted to prove something to his father. Their most recent video for “Hero of War” was both bold, brilliant, and needed in it’s handling of the reality of war, and the realities that people on both sides of the Iraq conflict experience.

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In place of railing against Rise Against and their video for “Re-Education (through labor)” we thought it would be more constructive to invite them on here for a dialog, lets say less of an interview and more of a dialectic. Stay tuned to SparrowMedia.net for follow-ups to this. I thought it best close this out with a few links to real projects you can get involved with in your area. Take time to whittle out a long lasting sustainable niche for yourself within our larger movement, find something inside that means the world to you and take action for it. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Long Island Food Not Bombs – http://www.lifnb.com/

Students For a Democratic Society – http://www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org/

Clean Ocean Action – http://www.cleanoceanaction.org/

Rock Dove Heathcare – http://www.rockdovecollective.org/

The Do Something Campaign – http://www.dosomething.org/

The Let Live Foundation – http://www.letlivefoundation.org/

Food Not Bombs National – http://www.foodnotbombs.net/

Rising Tide North America - http://www.risingtidenorthamerica.org/wordpress/what-is-rising-tide/

To Write Love on Her Arms Founder, Jamie Tworkowski, Speaks About Hope, Non-Profits, & The Power of a Story

Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of a non-profit called To Write Love On Her Arms aimed at helping high risk young people combat depression, self injury, and addiction by meeting them where they are, online.

TWLOHA started as a story and one-off t-shirt with aims of helping to pay for the much needed treatment of a friend. TWLOHA quickly grew into something much larger. Within three years time TWLOHA received over a half million on-line subscribers, directly responded and helped over 100,000 at-risk people from over 100 countries, and has invested over $600,000 into treatment and recovery. The reach of how many people TWLOHA has helped indirectly is impossible to quantify. Amidst this journey TWLOHA has also rallied support from popular musical artists and has received world-wide press attention.

 

In this video Jamie Tworkowski meets up with Sparrow Media to discuss his group, the ups & downs of starting your own non-profit, and the power of the written, screen printed, and sang words that started it all, “To Write Love On Her Arms.”

 

Jamie’s story is one that shows us that the smallest initial actions, in this case a story and t-shirt, can affect infinite lasting change on our world. Jamie was recently nominated for an MTV “Good Woodie Award” for philanthropy & activism. Voting is open every day online until November 16th at http://www.mtv.com/ontv/woodieawards/2009/good-woodie/ be sure to cast your vote!

 

 

Tworkowski remains humble, despite the enormity of his success and subsequent accolades. As we met up with him at the CMJ music marathon in New York City last week we could not make it to the panelist’s green room without stopping to talk to dozens of admirers. Jamie and all of the TWOLA staff have become life preservers for thousands of sinking and at risk youth, with it has come some sort of philanthropic rock-stardom. Perhaps it is well deserved. The thought of a short story and slogan forever changing and in some cases directly saving the lives thousands of people is inspiring.

To learn more about To Write Love on Her Arms you can visit…

http://www.TWLOHA.com/vision
http://www.myspace.com/towriteloveonherarms
http://twitter.com/twloha
http://www.facebook.com/home.php
http://towriteloveonherarms.fancorps.com/

 

 

To learn more about starting your own non-profit organization visit…

http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-501c3-Nonprofit-Organization
http://www.idealist.org/if/idealist/en/FAQ/QuestionViewer/default?id=70-9&category-id=5-5
http://www.foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/establish/
http://nonprofit.about.com/
http://nonprofit.about.com/od/nonprofitbasics/u/startingup.htm

 

Cipher’s Maurice Mitchell Heads Out On A Community Building Tour

Some folks in the music scene can get nostalgic from time to time and reminisce of the, “good old days” when rock was political and it, “meant something.” Cipher is one of those bands that brings back nostalgia far more vivid than the memories of the apple pies grandma used to make. For some it’s nostalgia for a place inside themselves where their hearts burned for what seemed for a minute to be tangible revolutionary social change in our lifetimes. It’s more than Cipher’s aggression, it’s more than their political content, and it’s more than the the way they braid musical genres at times creating their own. Cipher is music in action. Cipher would travel halfway across the country to play a show to one kid with in hopes that when she left the show that night she would take control over her destiny, pledging to fight for a better tomorrow. This is what sets Cipher apart, that, and the fact that they are always willing to try something new.

In the vein of trying something new Cipher’s frontman, Maurice (Moe) Mitchell decided to hit the road on a different kind of tour, a lecture & listening tour. At each stop Moe will be playing exclusive tracks off Cipher’s newest release, The Joyous Collapse, due to come out in May, 2010. He also will be speaking about the politics behind the songs, the “call for a new direction” in our music scene, and working to facilitate dialog aimed at community building at each stop. Check out Moe’s video above & contact listeningtour2009@gmail.com if you would like to bring Moe or the Cipher to your city.

Friday, October 30th, 2009 – Toronto

Sunday, November 1, 2009 – Houston, TX more info at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=157803829754&ref=mf

Friday, November 6th, 2009 – Internationalist Books, Carborro, NC more info at http://www.internationalistbooks.org/

Monday, November 9th, 2009 – Albany, NY – SUNY Albany for more info contact Tim Larose at larosetim@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 – Reclaiming the Right to Rock Conference, University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN for more info contact Dr. Mausby at maultsby@indiana.edu

For questions about the tour email: listeningtour2009@gmail.com

Dennis Lyxzen of The (International) Noise Conspiracy on Capitalism, Radical Actions, and Finding Your Own Space to Be Political

The economy seems to be a topic on the mouths of people worldwide. Regardless of which nation, and whatever you want to call it; economic downturn, financial crisis, post-bubble America, or recession, there is no arguing that the economy, specifically capitalism, is a topic that is widely being talked about today. Everyone from pundits on the far right, to radicals on the left are weighing in and making their voices heard on what may be a significant change in the way we operate economically and the way we care for each other socially. It is both bizarre and shocking to see how polarized and nonsensical this fight has become. Some hate the proposals made to fix it, others have been waiting their entire careers for this moment, and all sides are eager to cash in from the PR battle.

 

From Glen Beck, and Alex Jones to Michael Moore and the anti-globalization protesters that converged upon the G20 protests last week in Pittsburgh PA, from right to left each side is fervent and exceptional when it comes to rallying it’s base, but where do the average working class folks sit in this debate? Sadly this battle effects them the most. Furthermore it effects the natural world that we all share, it effects the lives and welfare of animals who are bought, sold and used for profit, and effects some of our basic civil liberties.

noise-conspiracy

Dennis Lyxzen singer of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Lost Patrols Band, and front man to the now defunct and arguably greatest punk rock band of all time, Refused, has a lot to say about capitalism, hierarchy, radical actions, and how every-day youth can find their own space to become political. Most of this footage was shot a couple of years ago and we were sitting on it waiting for the right time and fit. With the recent convergences against the G20 nations summit, the release of Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story, and the ever apparent global economic downturn there really is no better time than now to be having this discussion.

Capitalism…

Capitalism, in its simplest terms is a market economy. Things are bought & sold with collateral similar to any old barter system. Free-market, or “laissez faire” (means hands off) capitalism is capitalism with no government, democratic, or social regulation. Within a “free market” economy the only autonomy that is honored is that of the business generating capital. This second version becomes dangerous when companies grow so large their clout outweighs the political clout and voices of the people in it’s region and hence begin to affect policy and governing bodies. This emboldens companies to dodge prosecution in cases involving things like child labor or pollution, and they can impose their will upon that of the people by doing things like privatizing & selling their only potable water resources. When reading the phrase “free market” or “free trade” read this, “the money, capital, and revenue is free to do what it wants” the legalese reads as if capital is a kind of special person, worthy of extra rights and privileges that the average person does not have. The “Free” in “free” market by no means should be misconstrued as “democratic.” More often than not, free trade, and free markets, can actually be the prerequisite for the limitations of freedoms for the individual.

 

Capital, or Capita also when directly translated from it’s Latin root means “head.” Essentially what we see as capitalism today puts a price on everyone’s heads, a price on every thing both living and non-living; from the kitchen sink to a mountaintop presumed to be rich in coal. In a capitalist society everything has a price, and the dollar takes precedence over everything else. At times that dollar takes precedence over compassion, over people, over basic rights.

So what is it’s alternative? Socialism is another word we have heard a lot about lately in the news. More often than not it’s being used as an insult, when a pundit or a TV commentator labels another politician a socialist. Socialism is not all that different from capitalism in the sense that it is still a form of structured government. People still trade things and at times use money, however the difference is that in a socialist economy the government has a hand in economic regulation & social programs. The government takes the power out of the hands of private companies and steps in to assure that the basic needs of the people are being met with things like healthcare, shelter, education, and even subsidies for the arts. Socialism is not a radical or leftist idea, however lately many of the pundits on the right have been quick to label Barrak Obama’s health care proposal a socialist bill and an ominous mile marker in a self-fabricated slippery slope that leads to socialism.

 

In his interview Lyxzen tells us that it is perfectly fair to criticize capitalism. It is not unpatriotic to question capitalism, in fact it is quite the opposite. People who consider themselves patriotic by definition care about their country, and people who care about their country should care how their country treats other countries both out of self-interest and a sense of justice and compassion. Capitalism is a playing field turned killing field. When competition for profit takes precedence over people you get things like wars for oil, resources, or precious metals. When labor becomes too costly you get morally bankrupt practices like child labor, sweatshops, factory animal farms, or slavery. People should criticize the morality of these things, and people should question the system that perpetuates and often rewards these morally bankrupt practices, capitalism.

 

It is interesting hearing Lyxzen, once named “Sweden’s Sexiest Man” by Elle Magazine, sing about such relevant and essential topics in his music. It’s a jaw dropping experience watching as thousands of fans at the Vans Warped Tour bellow their chorus, “capitalism stole my virginity.” One would have to wonder if the kids singing consider themselves to be an anti-capitalists, or if they just find the hook catchy, or if they despite their political affiliations feel like capitalism has taken something innocent from them in their own lives analogous to stolen virginity. I cringe as I write this, but I think Moore got it wrong when he coined “Capitalism: A Love Story” because it feels a lot less romantic, something like “Capitalism: Date Rape” would fit a little better considering all the forcing, faux sweet talk, dosed drinks, and inflated expectations from jump.

Stolen virginity…

Consider how many people work jobs that make them unhappy simply to pay the bills. Consider every person killed over money. Consider every person who has regretfully degraded, objectified, or potentially harmed their bodies in order to get much-needed money to eat, to pay off school, or feed a hungry child. Consider the boy who was killed for his fresh Nike Dunks, and the first time you heard a story just like that on the evening news. How did hearing that story affect you? Consider everyone who has ever said, “more money, more problems,” and then try to extrapolate that phrase from yourself onto a global scale.

Challenging capitalism, means providing more sustainable and creative solutions to these problems, and it begins with education and reflection before it moves to action. To provide tangible alternatives we must be smarter and more creative than the people pushing for our current system. These things will not happen over night, but we could make things far better in our lifetimes. Take time to educate yourself about the global economy, about capitalism and its alternatives. Don’t be distracted by the stigmas other alternative systems are given, and don’t feel the need to latch on to any particular title like anarcho-communist, or socialist. Instead think for yourself, make educated decisions, and form educated opinions. Capitalism needs critique if we care about justice, animal rights, environmentalism, and basic human rights. These issues are important and need our voices. Visit your local infoshop, radical bookstore, or progressive café, at the bottom of this feature we will be posting a list of infoshops and bookstores across the country, if you know of one that we did not list email us at
info(at)sparrowmedia(dot)net
, and we will be sure to put it up along side the others. Sometimes it seems cliché to say that only you can make a change, but is it a cliché when it is true? History has shown time and time again that things have only changed when someone decided to do something and make that change happen. There is no better time then now to push for that change, and we need to start acting like we give a shit. Find a niche that means the most to you and dig in. Lyxzen tells us to find the issue that means the most to us, “…to choose a struggle that’s connected to your life, your background, your surroundings, your culture, and your age. …that if you find something like, ‘yes this is what makes me fucking go crazy’ or this is something that makes me excited, than you’ve found something worth struggling for.” Be that change that you wish to see, be that change that has so often been promised to us, lets stop waiting for someone else to do it and get it done ourselves.

 

For a list of info bookshops & zine libraries visit http://www.undergroundpress.org/zine-resources/infoshops-zine-libraries/ & http://www.radicalreference.info/altlibraries and when in NYC please visit our favorite radical bookstore, Bluestockings.


For interesting, unique and enlightening perspectives on capitalism & work culture visist http://www.crimethinc.com