On the Spot: The Real Political Parties
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It's hard as hell to organize an independent music event for a cause – the logistics, the equipment, the marketing, the egos – but a group of young activists and artists pulled it off, on the periphery of Williamsburg, Brooklyn no less, on July 8th, at the roomy club Volume.
Dubbed "Democracy is Like Sex, It Is Only Good if You Participate," the event turned into a bit of a political bazaar – with a gaggle of groups like Axis of Eve heavily tabling – and a motivating rap and song show, which had to be patched together at the last minute due to a dropout producer.
But despite the struggle, it turned out great. Bethany Yarrow, event organizer, stage manager and sterling performer (with her unique electric cello sidekick Rufus Cappadocia), said "All in all, and in spite of all the last minute total fuck-ups, I was so inspired by the night... by the speakers & musicians andthe power & cohesiveness of the message."
The evening's talent also included Kurtis Blow, Immortal Technique, and a select group of cool DJ's as well. The event benefited XtheBox.org, IndyVoter.org and ActivElement.org and was hatched and implemented by a team which included Gita Drury, Anna Lappe, Adreinne Maree Brown (who also mc'd) and lots of diligent worker bees.
Also working the show was the irrepressible impresario of kick ass progressive politics Billy Wimsatt. A driving force behind Indyvoter and its more colorful name, The League of Pissed-Off Voters, Wimsatt described ambitious plans for the months ahead: "Smackdown 2004," a voter action convention July 16-18th in Columbus, Ohio, with organizing coaches; a new Friendster-like online destination, created by tech talent from Matt Gonzalez's San Fran mayor campaign, "that everyone will be using" soon, according to Wimsatt; mini-grants of $500-$2,000 for people and groups who come up with the best 90-day election action plans; and "Slam Bush," a series of 10 or more emcee battles/hip hop slams in key states, a project the whizkids at Free Range Graphics are working on as well. Check out Indyvoter.org – Billy and his team are cooking with gas. It is time to jump on the vehicle. – DH
"Dress: Activist" said the invite to High Times' Activist Guide to the RNC Launch Party, held at Pioneer Bar in New York City on July 7th. Under its new strategy of positioning itself as a political culture magazine, High Times has spent six months putting together an informative guide to all protest activities at the Republican National Convention.
Written by Jason Flores-Williams and the focus of the July/September issue of the magazine, the Guide offers short bios and contact information for the groups participating in the noRNC Clearinghouse, an informational and networking group organized to pool resources protesting the convention in New York from August 29th to September 2nd, as well as a preliminary schedule of events, an alternative tourist guide to New York, and interviews with top organizers.
Part Arabian bazaar, part free-for-all on the Bowery, the party was a rousing mixture of voices, sights and sounds as various groups working with the noRNC Clearinghouse came together. Among the fray were Disinformation, Music for America>, the noRNC Poster Collective, Axis of Eve, The Yes Men, National Lawyers Guild, Times Up, Free Agency, Theaters Against War, The World Says No To Bush, United for Peace and Justice... and more.
Entertainment was facilitated by the noRNC Arts in Action group, a collective of artists and artistic organizations and included Billionaires for Bush (in attendance to protest the protest party) and the Greene Dragon (with their announcement of a Declaration of Independence from corporate monarch King George Bush II); the Missile Dick Chicks treated guests to a chorus line song .
A funny subtext to the wild goings-on was a Fox News team shooting the event; and their apparent surprise at the success and breadth of the event. No more cranky lefties not talking with each other; instead, the evening saw an energetic creative mix determined to make trouble and have fun when the Republicans come to town in late August. – DZ
Don Hazen is the Executive Editor of AlterNet. Deanna Zandt is a freelance writer, geek and the creative administrator of the Bowery Poetry Club.