SXSW Peace March planned for Mar. 19 – Anniversary of Iraq invasion
Not usually one to just post verbatim press releases, as you may know, I couldn’t let this one go by. First, though, my own personal context. And yes, I’m about to get political.
I remember well the week we invaded Iraq. I was living in New Orleans – one of my final stops in the years when I was focused on making music for a living. I didn’t do very well at that in New Orleans. I was much more interested in absorbing everyone else’s music there, than in making my own.
I had been to a few demonstrations in the days and weeks leading up to the invasion. Everyone knew what was coming. We didn’t vote for the guy, but we could read him pretty well. There had been a message sent out: immediately following any announcement that American troops had begun to bomb “interests” in Iraq, we would all gather at…City Hall, I believe.
You might remember in the weeks leading up to that particular invasion, more than a million Americans demonstrated nationwide for peace. If memory serves, there may have been a million demonstrating in New York City alone. This made sense to me – having been there for 9/11 myself, I understood what an act of war actually feels like, and had made up my mind such a thing should just not ever happen to anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Most of my friends in NYC were on the same page with that. The notion America had to inflict violent retribution on someone – anyone – just didn’t seem to hold water in my mind. Seemed like a good time to step back, take some breaths, and consider forging a new direction of diplomacy and worldwide cooperation. Suddenly the notion of world peace didn’t seem like such a bullshit hippy idea, but rather something we could only create by…well, creating it. The only way to do something is to do it. Stop doing the other thing that doesn’t work… (I’m sure there will be plenty of comments to the contrary, and I welcome them; indeed one can’t strive for a peaceful world without opening the floor to a world of opposing ideas.)
So, I showed up for all the demonstrations I could. Then one night, I turned on the TV to see our American president inform us that American troops had invaded Iraq. In an attempt to be a somewhat responsible politician, he acknowledged the worldwide protests, and then said “We don’t need anybody’s permission.” That stuck with me, because it’s one of the most false things you can possibly say when you’re holding an arsenal of destruction against the face of a nation.
But, I’m getting too far from the music. This is, after all, a music site, as we like to remind ourselves and each other from time to time.
There was music at the demonstrations in New Orleans, as you might imagine. (The music accompanies everything there.) Second line bands led us down Claiborne Avenue, through the city to Jackson Square. It was a small demonstration. Maybe 1,000 people, but that’s 1,000 people who had to make the decision to be there. They had to move around something else that was scheduled for their day. Find someone to watch the kids; get the kids ready to come along. Cut out of work early, or not show up at all. Make sure their instrument was tuned; get the sign made; make sure there were sign-making materials. You see, there’s more to exercising your constitutional rights than just showing up; though showing up is the most important thing.
If you’d told me back then our next president would be largely elected on his opposition to that very moment; that he would be an African-American man who’s dad was from Kenya and whose mom was from Kansas; that he would be a community organizer who not only appreciates a good people’s movement, but understands the dire importance of its grass roots – its organic nature; who might even be determined to stay out of the way when people rise up, until the time comes for The Powers That Be to seal the deal…if you’d told me all that, I would have choked on my laughter. It was a different world then.
It’s a different world now.
Where I used to work as a musician – in a field which afforded me the opportunity to get on a stage, behind a microphone, and steer the attention of an audience toward considering the usefulness of their emotions – I now sit behind a desk and translate the way my fellow musicians use that same opportunity.
I’ve become disappointed at times – as have some of you – at the apparent absence of topical songs in mainstream music. The way so many musicians must focus their entire attention on self-marketing…indeed it’s not their fault. The state of the music industry requires such a thing. In order for artists to make a living, they must thrust the bulk of their energy into advertising themselves, rather than the things which are best served by the presence of art in society.
Music has an exceptional history of social commentary. From the days when song was a vehicle for family and community history, to the still-going evolution of the American Movement (revolution songs, emancipation songs, labor songs, civil rights songs). Music has a great opportunity to inform, incite, and inspire; to change minds in the most literal sense. The music of movements has not only entertained the people who made the necessary arrangements to get to the rally; it has also united them behind a common, universally held idea – that we determine our own direction. If we’re headed the wrong way, we all grab the wheel and steer together, or risk spinning out of control.
If you’ve ever been to a mass demonstration and read the signs, you understand how quickly a “march for peace” can disorganize into a march about a slew of seemingly unrelated issues. But, throw “We Shall Overcome” at the crowd, and you get a wall of voices calling for the same ultimate goal.
So, it warms my heart to no end to know that someone has organized a demonstration to take place in the middle of the music industry’s most behemoth week of schmoozing and concert-going. Upset at how apolitical music has seemingly become? What better way to shift that, then to give a million musicians an opportunity to show up and lend their mere presence to the plight for peace.
Noon can feel wicked early during SXSW – particularly at the tail end of the week. But I’m committing to being there anyway – hungover, ugly hair, red-eyed and all. And hopefully, I’ll see some of you. (If you need any additional push, check the lineup – some of Austin’s best musicians have already committed, too.)
Now for the press release:
THE MILLION MUSICIANS MARCH FOR PEACE 2011
Remembering the costs of endless war. Seeking solutions to the mass misinformation that sustains it.
Where: Texas State Capitol…MUSIC, POETS, SPEAKERS!
When: March 19th, Austin, Texas. The 8th anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq. Noon – 3 p.m.
3 p.m. PARADE THROUGH DOWNTOWN…
Bring your Instrument, everyone welcome! End parade playing “Down By The Riverside” with all the musicians at the Folk Alliance International event at Threadgills on Riverside.
(Austin, Texas) Musicians lead Austin’s annual parade for peace…again. Organized by a network of Austin musicians and friends, with participation by a wide variety of groups and individuals standing for peace, liberty, justice, prosperity, sustainability, Instruments For Peace, is once again inviting everyone to join Austin’s annual Million Musicians March for Peace. These common vital concerns are only solvable through increased public awareness and involvement.
Musicians include: Sara Hickman, Eliza Gilkyson, Guy Forsyth, Carolyn Wonderland, David Garza, Barbara K, Michael Fracasso, Will T. Massey, Bill Oliver, Leeann Atherton, Kris Gruen, Atash, Jericho Brass Band…and more! Poets include: Thom O Peace…and more!
Speakers include: Iraq veteran Hart Viges…and more!
With music, poets, speakers, and a parade, this Austin-style remembrance on the 8th anniversary of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq will spotlight the terrible human and financial costs of the wars we are engaged in and will point to mass misinformation as the root cause.
According to the Instruments for Peace organizers, the possible solution to endless war would be a mass movement for peace. They say this will happen when the American public becomes aware of the real costs, to them and to others of the USA’s ongoing “police to the world” policy. That’s why they encourage everyone to become smarter “news consumers.”
“War, injustice, environmental degradation… are only solvable through mass public awareness and resulting appropriate mass action. Together, we are powerful,” says Richard Bowden, fiddler, Director of Instruments For Peace
The Instruments for Peace organizers ask everyone to patronize and promote news sources that serve the public, supporting a deeper understanding of our common problems and their possible solutions.
The Million Musicians March for Peace is endorsed and assisted by Artists for Media Diversity, Under The Hood, Vote Rescue, Texans For Peace, Veterans For Peace, Waco Friends Of Peace, Instruments of Freedom for Justice, Iraq Veterans Against War-Austin, Code Pink-Austin, and Monkey Wrench Books.
Non-musicians (are there any? – everyone can sing along!) and musicians welcome!
Everybody can be an instrument for peace.
Million Musicians March for Peace on Facebook!