On Arizona, Artists Speak Up, Refuse to Play

By Justin Fung 07-01-2010

As a musician, I'm always interested in seeing how my fellow creative types respond to injustice or need. To raise awareness of human trafficking, musician Justin Dillon integrated musical offerings from artists such as Moby, Talib Kweli, Matisyahu, Imogen Heap and more, creating the rockumentary CALL+RESPONSE. To raise funds in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale, Due South -- yes, I loved this show) joined together with Ben Stiller, Olivia Wilde, and a host of other friends to form Artists for Peace and Justice, working with Father Rick Frechette to minister in the slums of Port-au-Prince and provide money for infrastructure and aid.

In the wake of Arizona's immigration law, a group of artists came together to form The Sound Strike, pronouncing and demonstrating their opposition to SB1070 by refusing to perform in Arizona until it was no longer law. The list, primarily musicians, includes (as of the end of June): Tenacious D, Massive Attack, Ozomatli, Rise Against, Kanye West, Joe Satriani, Rage Against The Machine, Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes), Cypress Hill, Billy Bragg, Ry Cooder, Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Chris Rock, and Nine Inch Nails.

As Christians, we're called to exercise the gifts and talents God has given us responsibly and in the service of the kingdom of God. I believe this means that when I see injustice or oppression that denigrates the image of God in any human being, it is my responsibility to call it out, to point to the alternative vision of the kingdom, where human-made barriers -- whether physical, ideological or spiritual -- do not separate us.

Of course, I think most people know that Arizona is symptomatic of the desperate need for federal action -- even those who back the law support comprehensive immigration reform. But even 'smaller' injustices need to be confronted, and so I applaud The Sound Strike for taking a stand.

As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

I swore never to be silent whenever, wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.

Here's Zack de la Rocha explaining why he's for The Sound Strike:

Zack De La Rocha for The Sound Strike from Producciones CimarrĂ³n on Vimeo.

portrait-justin-fungJustin Fung is the policy and organizing assistant for Sojourners. A graduate of University College London (Law) and Fuller Theological Seminary (Theology/Cross-Cultural Studies), he blogs regularly at Gershom's Journal and tweets from @justinfung.

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