When it comes to social justice, big concepts tend to get thrown around a lot - things like microfinance and self-sustaining economy. We tend to look to the poorest corners of the world - to Uganda and Haiti and Pakistan and India. Those areas of the world are broken and in desperate need, but, oftentimes, we can live out simple concepts of social justice (see the Rock for Justice FAQ for our definition of this sometimes ambiguous term) in our own backyard.
We’ve often seen the homeless person the street corner, holding a sign that attempts to tell their story in bullet-point format (Homeless. Ex-Marine. Hungry. What a way to describe a PERSON’s life.) The real question is what our reaction is to something we encounter on a day-to-day basis. Do we glance up, register the scene, then proceed with our conversation? Do we even subtlely roll up our car window, hoping to place a barrier between ourselves and the person asking for our help?
Enter Mark Horvath. Mark runs a site called InvisiblePeople.tv and is known as @hardlynormal on Twitter. I first ran across Mark, his story, and his mission over a year ago and it completely rocked my world and changed my perspective forever on homelessness.
When confronted with a seemingly impossible epidemic, such as global poverty, I tend to want to get deep into the root of the problem, burying myself under statistics, history, and socioeconomic solutions. While it is true that poverty and homelessness do have traceable economic, social, and even governmental roots, Mark’s story taught me that sometimes it is more important to just listen and treat each person’s story and life as unique.
If you watch the introduction video on Mark’s site, you’ll find out that he was once a highly-paid television director who owned expensive houses and cars. A downturn in the industry forced Mark out a job and his fast lifestyle soon drained his bank account. He lost his car and his house and found himself living on the streets. Living on the streets, he was struck by how often people choose to ignore homeless people and pretend they don’t exist. Now back on his feet, Mark has made it his mission to travel the country and document the stories and lives of homeless people in an effort to convince people to open their eyes and see the people around them that need their help.
When I first found out about all of this, it wrecked me. I’ve too often been guilty of walking past that slumped over, forlorn figure on the streets, convinced that someone else will be the one to get them what they need. And, honestly, I think a lot of people who find themselves surviving (not living - surviving) in the most meager circumstances gradually buy into the lie that they are somehow less of a person, simply because they don’t have a lot of material possessions or a permanent place to lay their head at night. You can sometimes see it on their faces - resignation. It’s heart-breaking to think about - the idea that someone can get so used to people avoiding eye contact and walking quickly past them on the street that they come to give up on human contact altogether.
I’ve adopted a new policy recently. I was always one to try to dig up some change in my pockets to give to someone in need, if I encountered them on the street, but now I’m trying to offer more - a smile, a kind word, a conversation. Especially on the days when I, not a super wealthy person myself, may not have the extra cash to give someone who is homeless, maybe I can somehow start to turn the tide in their mind that they are worth something, that someone does care about who they are as a person. That’s something that even the poorest of us can offer and to give someone back their humanity is absolutely priceless.
-Mitchell (@rfjmitchell on Twitter)
We’re going on the road again! In the wake of the devastating flood in Pakistan which has left millions of Pakistanis homeless and hungry, we’re partnering with One Day’s Wages to tour a month’s worth of acoustic shows to raise awareness and funds for the relief effort in Pakistan. One Day’s Wages (www.onedayswages.org) has a fund specifically devoted to aiding the Pakistani situation via partnership with World Vision. We will be donating proceeds from each show, including door and merch sales, to this fund and we’re working on a way that people can track precisely how their funds are being used overseas.
This tour is completely DIY, which means we booked every venue ourselves and asked some of our musical friends to participate. We will be cramming into a van and sleeping on people’s floor and couches for a month to help the needy in Pakistan. Please, please consider coming out to a show. This tour will only be a true success if we get a good draw at each show. We promise, the shows will be worth it!
This is only the beginning of announcements - we will be updating venue and lineup information, as well as teasers about new merch and other special surprises through the coming days, so expect this blog to be updated frequently from here on out :) Here are some general details:
Rock for Justice presents: Benefit Tour for Pakistan (benefiting One Day’s Wages)
with Les Sages, My November Guest, & Special Guests TBA
October 9: Costa Mesa, CA
October 10: Phoenix, AZ
October 11: New Mexico (city TBA)
October 13: Dallas, TX
October 14: New Orleans, LA
October 16: Orlando, FL
October 17: Atlanta, GA
October 18: Charlotte, NC
October 19: Virginia Beach, VA
October 20: Baltimore, MD
October 21: Philadelphia, PA
October 22: New York City, NY
October 23: New York City, NY
October 24: Cleveland, OH
October 26: Nashville, TN
October 27: St. Louis, MO
October 28: Chicago, IL
October 29: Denver, CO
October 30: Omaha, NE
November 1: Salt Lake City, UT
November 2: Spokane, WA
November 3: Seattle, WA
November 4: Portland, OR
November 6: San Francisco, CA
November 7: Fresno, CA
November 8: Los Angeles, CA
1/5 of Pakistan is under water and some estimates have over 6 million people as homeless, due to the extreme flooding in the country. People do realize this, don’t they?
I have to pick my words carefully here. The earthquake that shook Haiti was a tragedy - a horrible, horrible tragedy - and the people whose lives were turned upside down by the quake deserved the swift call to help. However, part of me wonders why there were tribute songs, telethons, and an outpouring of tweets, Facebook messages, and global support for Haiti, yet the world seems to be relatively silent when it comes to Pakistan - certainly a tragedy that is approaching the immensity of the Port-au-Prince quake, when water-related diseases are accounted for. Is Haiti trendy and Pakistan not?
The non profit community often finds itself selling its services as a commodity - an unfortunate result, I think, of having to compete for peoples’ attention in a time when we often know more about Lindsay Lohan’s joke of a jail sentence than we know about the situation in Pakistan. It’s a hard, double-edged sword - on one hand, attaching brands and celebrity to an important cause can suddenly catapult that cause into the public eye, but, on the other hand, the trendier a cause is, the more likely people are to be uninformed about the truth behind what it is/does.
In a perfect world, causes that offer people basic human necessities wouldn’t need to glamorize their mission to be heard.
Six million homeless Pakistanis need our help and they need it now. I would recommend checking out Oxfam and UNICEF - two legit organizations that are working mightily to answer the call for help in Pakistan. Really, it doesn’t take a lot of fanfare, media frenzy, and celebrity to help the people of Pakistan - it just takes people who care to make a difference.
Hello, new followers!
We’re doing a new tour this coming September to support the amazing work of One Day’s Wages and Steal, Kill and Destroy, sponsored by an awesome clothing company called LoveNailTree. You already know (hopefully) that Backseat Goodbye will be joining us for the first leg of the tour, up through Nashville. We have two other awesome artists for the backend of tour to be revealed soon. Every show will feature some unique special guests and there will also be different opportunities to hang out with us, with the SKAD team, with some of the bands, etc. Full dates below and more details to be posted every day until we go on the road!
September 2nd - Dallas, TX
September 5th - Orlando, FL
September 6th - Charlotte, NC
September 7th - Virginia Beach, VA
September 8th - Philadelphia, PA
September 9th - New York, NY (all ages)
September 10th - New York, NY (21+)
September 12th - Nashville, TN
September 13th - Chicago, IL
September 14th - Omaha, NE
September 15th - Fort Collins (about an hour from Denver), CO
September 16th - Salt Lake City, UT
September 18th - Spokane, WA
September 19th - Seattle, WA
September 20th - Portland, OR
September 22nd - San Francisco, CA
September 23rd - Los Angeles, CA
What is Rock for Justice in a nutshell?
The mission of Rock for Justice is to forge collaborations between musicians/artists and important social justice causes. We create events and campaigns that celebrate the arts, while simultaneously allowing people to give their time and resources to help those in need. In the process, we are allowing both artists and fans to act selflessly and to educate themselves about important issues. We’re also hopefully motivating people to act to lend a hand where they see a need in their own communities. Our overall goal is that righting social injustice would become a daily part of every person’s life.
What is social injustice?
Social injustice has a lot of varied definitions, but we at Rock for Justice define it as the deprivation of basic human rights. When someone is without basic human necessities - food, clean water, shelter, clothing, the right to certain freedoms, basic medical aid, etc., then they are victims of social injustice.
How did Rock for Justice start?
Rock for Justice began, informally, back in 2007 when two college juniors decided to stop living for themselves and to start figuring out how to use their loves (which were music and art) to help others. Rock for Justice was officially named soon afterward and a long non profit journey began…
What kind of things does Rock for Justice do?
In the past, we’ve done a lot of benefit concerts and film screenings, since those are the most easily accessible ways for people to experience art, while contributing to an important cause. We would like to continue to dream up unique ways that people can invest, beyond just giving money to a cause. In the future, we’ll be running more auctions with downloaded art/band merchandise/exclusive music, and we’ll be trying new things with our events, such as offering free shows in exchange for donated items and working more volunteer opportunities into our future tours/shows.
If I donate to Rock for Justice, where does my money go?
As a non profit, we are extremely conscious about our operational costs and keep them very low. At present, while we finish up our 501(c)3 paperwork (a new law was recently passed that lengthens the process to become an official, tax-deductible non profit), we are under the wing of a non profit called The Grove Center for the Arts and Media. All checks and donations should be made out to The Grove, with “for Rock for Justice” noted and they then deduct a small administrative fee, in turn filing all the necessary paperwork for our donations to remain legal with the IRS. That means that anything that gets donated to Rock for Justice is completely tax deductible and you will be mailed a tax receipt for your records.
Currently, 100% of anything donated to or raised by Rock for Justice goes directly to our programs and services (the events/campaigns we put on,) unless otherwise noted. In the future, we would like to bring on a paid staff and continue to grow the organization. For now, though, we do this because we believe it is important and love to help others.
We love Tumblr! It’s an interesting way to blog/put information out there and have people spread it around and interact in a simplified fashion. We are, of course, working on a new web community that will further extend the Rock for Justice mission of connecting artists, audiences, and non profits together in a fun and productive way. On our limited budget, that will take some time to develop, and so, for the time being, though, we’ve decided to become part of the Tumblr community.
Who are some of the artists involved with Rock for Justice?
We’ve been able to support some awesome film projects, like the Give a Damn? documentary project and Invisible Children. Musician-wise, we’ve worked with a lot of talented people, including Forgive Durden, Allred, Free Moral Agents, Rashaan Ahmad, Castledoor, Denison Witmer, Rosie Thomas, Amy Kuney, Jenny Owen Youngs, Steel Train, A Rocket to the Moon, and many others. We continue to search out new connections and meet new people who care just as much as we do about impacting the lives of others.
How can I get involved?
There are many different ways to get involved with Rock for Justice. If you’re an artist, feel free to contact us about playing a future show, donating some music or art to raise money for a cause, promoting us on your own web site, or some other awesome form of collaboration. If you just want to help, but don’t know how, feel free to hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll figure it out from there. As we continue to travel, we’ll be looking to spread the word about our cause, have volunteers at our future events, and generally find extra helping hands in putting on our events. Additionally, if you’re interested about starting your own movement or fundraiser, feel free to drop us a line. If we can’t make it out in person, we’d be glad to offer advice or support to make your own event happen.
Where is Rock for Justice going in the future?
In the near future, we plan to launch the web community and finish up our non profit community. We’ll also be working on a Rock for Justice-specific campaign to raise money for our operations fund, which will hopefully allow us to start sustaining a small, modestly-paid staff, an office, and be able to devote more time to developing campaigns and events to fight social injustice. We also mainly plan to expand our touring schedule to travel with more artists - speaking and spreading the word about how to get involved in social justice causes, and raising more money for the causes we already support.
If you have any other questions, please email email@example.com! Seriously, ask anything…