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While the Music Industry Blacks Out, Here’s How You Can Support Protesters

The police killing of George Floyd on May 25 has ignited a wave up uprisings across the country as protestors call for justice and continue a long struggle against the American onslaught of racist and capitalist violence. While Derek Chauvin was finally arrested on May 29th and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, the other officers who were recorded standing by and doing nothing while Floyd suffocated under Chauvin’s knee have yet to be charged. After watching huge numbers of white protestors violate pandemic safety measures, jeopardizing the health of thousands in assertion of their right to buy shit — not to mention the heavily armed white men storming the Michigan Capitol without so much as a sideways glance from police — how are you supposed to react when you see video of cops firing rubber bullets the size of hockey pucks directly into the faces of protestors who ask only that those same police stop killing them?

As the National Guard gets called in, cities expand curfews (which the coronavirus lockdown protestors seem to have no problem with), and celebrities and politicians alike blame the unrest on outside agitators instead of the cops actually inciting violence, the music industry is also attempting to address this critical moment.

Late last Thursday, Columbia Records chairman Ron Perry released a statement in support of the Black community, inspiring other major record labels like Universal, Sony, Atlantic, Epic, and more to join in and call for an industry-wide blackout Tuesday, June 2nd. There’s even a catchy hashtag to go along with it, #theshowmustbepaused. Artists, labels, and music journalists who have discussed the blackout differ in their approaches and opinions, with many agreeing the day should be used for reflection, and the official website stating that further resources and actions will follow.

Same Side - E.P. out May 29, 2020

Considering how much the entertainment industry as a whole owes to the Black artists it’s exploited for basically its whole existence, this feels like a step in the right direction. But for people too accustomed to brief corporate shows of solidarity that ultimately fail to deliver on any promises of progress (not that this vague statement about “recent events” and whatever it means to “provoke accountability” even does that), it may feel like just another in a long line of well-intentioned, hollow gestures.

While it remains to be seen if these protests, uprisings, and subsequent crackdowns will continue to escalate, it’s clear that the time for action is now. So, beyond pausing your music-related workday this week, what else can you, as the upstanding lover of punk music and opponent of violent state oppression I hope you are, do right now to help?

Donate money to bail funds

If you’ve spent any time on social media over the last week, you’ve probably seen more than a few lists of bail fund links getting shared, especially for cities with large-scale protests and, therefore, large-scale police crackdowns. There are plenty of organizations and collectives promoting these lists. Here’s one of the most up-to-date and comprehensive ones around, so you can help out those arrested and fight the fucked-beyond-belief cash bail system.

Write letters to political prisoners

New York City Anarchist Black Cross keeps and regularly updates a guide with listings for current political prisoners and prisoners of war to reach out to. It can be weird to start writing letters to someone you’ve never met, so It’s Going Down has a great guide for getting started with letter writing. As IGD puts it, “We know that letters are an absolute lifeline for those held inside the cages. What fewer people anticipate is how much it benefits us out here to do this work.” Sadly, it’s safe to assume the numbers of incarcerated protestors and activists will grow following the uprisings.

Support independent media

It’s Going Down, mentioned above, is a news and media platform devoted to promoting “revolutionary theory and action.” Unicorn Riot is a nonprofit media collective doing vital, on-the-ground reporting on these protests, without any commercial, corporate, or government control or influence. It’s one of the only media groups actually interviewing protestors and listening to what they have to say. By donating and contributing work to these and similar groups, you help to share important updates and provide news perspectives seldom offered by large and mainstream news sites.

Attend a protest

While curfews and crackdowns may continue, it’s more important than ever to make a strong showing of support. Here’s what the heroes at Teen Vogue recommend doing to prepare (important: leave the Docs at home). While there are many valid reasons not to attend a protest in person, there are other tangible ways you can help: Bring food, water, and medical supplies to people working as street medics. Offer to watch someone’s kids while they attend the protest. And if merely defacing racist statues doesn’t quite do it for you, this Egyptologist has some advice on how to safely remove large objects which may or may not also be monuments to racism.

Listen to — and pay! — Black artists

Bandcamp is doing another Bandcamp Friday on June 5th, waiving fees and giving all sales proceeds straight to the artists, but there’s never a bad time to support abolitionist and antiracist punk, hardcore, and metal, especially by giving money straight to Black artists like Meet Me @ The AltarDanny Denial and Pleasure Venom. Bandcamp also announced they’ll be observing Juneteenth by donating sales shares to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If you know a local artist attending these protests, send them the cash equivalent of a drink or a meal over Venmo, CashApp, or their preferred payment platform. Most importantly, listen to what the Black activists and artists in your community are saying, and give your support only in the ways you’re asked.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For further reading, check out the libraries and resources from It’s Going Down, A World Without Police, and especially MPD 150, a Minneapolis-based group of activists and researchers that formed right after the end of the Civil War.

The most important thing you can do right now is to listen to the needs of people of color in your community. Support, and more importantly, fight for, your scene.