“My America Don’t Stand For This”: Esperanza Spalding’s New Song, Video, Takes on Gitmo

Esperanza Spalding is a total bad ass.

If you’re not familiar with the Grammy award winning multi-instrumentalist then allow me to help make your Wednesday.

Spalding is an accomplished jazz musician who plays with a lot of heart.  She started playing violin at age 5 but she truly found her groove, and subsequently her sound, upon discovering the bass at age 15.  A ton of hard work, a Grammy and a few records later, she was doing no big deal things like jamming with Prince and playing with Stevie Wonder at the White House.

Now she’s channeled her musical prowess into an empowering anthem that strives to be for something.

That something being the American values, principles and laws that make the concept of indefinite detention without trial – and thereby the very existence of Guantanamo Bay – completely indefensible on our watch.

Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged by her band members, and supported by various human rights organizations Spalding captured her feelings not only through a song but a fact-laced video that spells out what’s going on, why it’s important, and how you can help. The video encourages viewers to contact their representatives and the song is a rousing cry as to why they should.

As Spalding sings

I am America

And my America

It don’t stand for this.

We are America

In our America

We take a stand for this.

Speaking to MSNBC, Spalding clarified that she hadn’t written a protest song– rather she’d created an invitation to participation:

It’s such a gift and a joy to be engaged in the process- in our democratic process, and I think maybe we forget that we each really can do something. You know, it seems like an overwhelming issue and any overwhelming issue gets solved by slow continual person-by-person action so that’s the invitation.

She went on to specifically address personal power and it’s role in this project and others like it:

We’re powerful individuals.  Each of us have a lot of power in us to contribute to positive transformation of the world we live in and it’s a celebration of that-  a celebration of we don’t have to sit her and let unpleasant things happen under our nose. We can celebrate this freedom and power that we have to make a difference.

Writing in the LA Times Spalding went even further to explain her inspiration as well as her hope for the project getting into the nitty gritty legislative details of how and why that power matters”

If the Senate and the House of Representatives agree to the Guantanamo provisions in the defense act, the few prisoners in the detention center who face charges could be prosecuted where it makes the most sense, in federal courts.

Radio Music Society (and friends) made “We Are America” because we believe that, while not all of us are called to the front lines like Martin Luther King Jr., we can all support our elected officials in doing the right thing.

The entire project is amazing and it accomplishes its job, as described by Spalding, in that it helps to raise consciousness around what’s happening and why it matters.  In a little over a decade 779 men have been illegally detained and 164 remain imprisoned despite the fact that well over half of them are cleared to leave. What’s happening is wrong but what happens next has yet to be determined.

The video’s call to action spells out what you can do:

Call the US Capitol Switchboard 1-202-224-3121 to connect you to your two Senators & your Congressional Representative

Tell Them:

I am your constituent and I want you to support closing Guantanamo

Indefinite detention and unfair trails are illegal, un-American and unnecessary.

The video, done in collaboration with ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, includes cameos from  Harry Belafonte, Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder, while also highlighting statements from President Obama, Senator John McCain, Colin Powell and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen to spell out why closing Guantanamo is the right thing to do.

All that’s lacking is the courage and political will to do it.

That’s where we come in.

Watch and share the video and join the conversation online by tweeting @EspeSpalding or with the hashtags #closegitmo and  #weareamerica.

 

I’ve been told and I believe.  Aint no justice aint no peace

 

F#&k You Congress: New Website Tells Congress What We’ve Been Collectively Muttering Under Our Breath

At this point it’s not a secret, the 113th United States Congress has a remarkable aptitude for perpetually sucking at life and people are noticing and talking back.

Their message?

Fuck you Congress.

Seriously and literally.

In a website that actually lives at www.fuckyoucongress.com- thereby saying what everyone is thinking- the folks of Cultivated Wit tapped into a national sentiment that provides the wronged and angered with a means of getting informed, while also prompting them to channel their sentiments into productive measures.

As described to Huffpost Live, the three-step process goes like this:

“You get angry. You get informed. You get involved.”

That’s right www.fuckyoucongress.com isn’t just a cathartic temper tantrum- though that would also be justified- the site is populated with actual grievances that provide users with a means to get informed about all of the fucked up things caused by the shutdown. Additionally, the site provides a pathway to “do more than fuck around,” inviting users to tweet their representatives or get involved with organizations such  as Common Cause, The Sunlight Foundation and Rootstrikers.

Not pissed off at Congress yet? Check out some of their reasons to say Fuck You below:

Cultivated Wit defines itself as “A collision of comedy and technology bringing good ideas to ‘earth’” and this project does exactly that at a time when the temptation might be to resort to ambivalence in the face of this fuckery.

In a segment on Huffpost Live, Baratunde Thurston and Brian Janosch of Cultivated Wit explain the rationale behind the site, noting that it was inspired by “the worst Congress ever” and stressing that as far as they’re concerned, in a representative democracy a site like this shouldn’t have to exist in the first place.

Janosch notes that “a big part of what we’re trying to do is use comedy as an entry point” with the hopes of sparking a more knowledgeable public armed with the tools people need to do some good.

Thurston adds that “this is not a cynical play” – acknowledging that while the instinct might be to throw out some expletives and to blame everyone- in fact not everyone is equally at a fault and there are constructive measures to be taken.

Indeed- and in fact there’s something to taking a moment before we get productive and mature to deliver a heartfelt Fuck You to the fuckers who are ruining America.

There might be a temptation to suggest that this tactic is confrontational or over the top because “people” find the word “fuck” to be “offensive” or distracting.

Sure.

But also I’d argue that the refusal of this Congress to even try to do their jobs is even more offensive and distracting and it’s totally intolerable. Drastic times warrant more than a slap on the wrist, a harshly worded letter, or a “shame on Congress”.

No.

Absolutely fuck those guys.

May they pull their shit together to act like grown ups and do what they were elected to do, what they should feel privileged to be in the position to do, before they outright ruin America.

Feeling amped?

Head over to www.fuckyoucongress.com for more info.

Friday Feb 3: National Day of Protest Against NDAA

Citizens, get ready! This Friday, February 3 is the first National Day of Protest against NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite detention to be codified into law. We are urged to protest at the Congressperson’s office, a list of which can be found here: www.house.gov/representatives/

So grab your friends, make some signs, plan some good street theater, keep it legal, and rally away!

Here’s what the ACLU had to say about NDAA’s indefinite detention statute:

This  statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.  The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA.  In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

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