Violetariat - Here's a message ripped from the pages of The President-Elect's personal log. Mr. Joe Myers will discuss the latest from the Violet Mary Transition Team, the next initiative on the President's domestic musical agenda and, of course, social media. Enjoy!
Let me begin by saying that tonight’s show was fabulous and thank you so much all who attended. We really enjoyed performing for you. Mel just lit the joint up… wow. It was truly stellar.
I also think I need to talk about the weirdness of this evening… because there was some. I might just need to talk about it for me but, I’m suspecting, it may be helpful for you and for us. It’s not often that things get heated at Violet Mary shows. We’ll have dancers, and clappers, and sing-a-long-ers… but I’ve never seen folks at the edge of a fist fight before. I don’t know the entire story: I only know two sides. I know what I saw and I know what I heard from one party. And those two sources of evidence produced a situation that really bothers me.
We invited our friend Jesse Sprinkle to play before us tonight. He and his wife Amanda are fabulous folks heading to Uganda to work on a record he’s recording with street kids in Kampala, the country’s capital. You are aware that Violet Mary is umbilically connected to The Ugandan Water Project, and the circle of friends is quite tight. Jesse is finishing his support-raising by playing a few local shows. He’s a national artist with a musical resume the length of my house, so it’s an honor to play on the same bill.
During his set, a young woman from the audience came up and laid hands on Jesse. Now, this is awkward and I have a church background. What I didn’t know until later is that this young woman is Sudanese, was orphaned and raised in an orphanage in Kampala. She’d pieced together enough money and connections to immigrate to the US. In that time, she’s made a life for herself, went to school and has multiple degrees. She was grateful to Jesse for all of the work he’s done relationally with street kids in Uganda and for the work he’ll be doing later this month. In Kampala, the laying on of hands and other physical gestures are commonplace. This sheds a much needed context to what was otherwise a very weird moment for a western audience. Jesse was unfazed and it was clear he knew this women.
After she left the stage, Jesse proceeded into another song. During this song, things went from suck to blow. I don’t know what started the incident, I just heard this young woman say “Don’t talk to me like that.” as she passed a table of high school aged hockey players. They were seated as a team with their coaches or chaperones new the stage. They appeared to be from a well to do area of Pennsylvania, each of them wearing a tie and slacks and matching blazers with their school’s logo and team name. This young woman was obviously reacting to something that had been said to her after the awkward moment on stage. Her response was met with a much more hostile one, as one of the players stood up and kicked the chair out from under himself. He began shouting at her as he approached her forcefully. A few of the ground-ups had to hold him back as the young woman attempted to stand up for herself through her tears. The staff escorted her out of the room.
Now here’s the part that really chaps my ass. Mel talked with Jesse and this young woman later on in the evening. It turns out that these young hockey players told her that she should “go back to Africa”. And the response from the grown men supervising these guys was to console the boy. He remained in the room, clearly the wronged party. She spent the rest of the night cloistered away in a room sobbing. Where does this young punk get off harassing a young woman? And why wasn’t he reprimanded by his adult chaperones for acting like a prep-school elitist, white nationalist? I’m bothered by his actions, but I’m even more bothered by the adult inaction. There was a sense of entitlement among the group… and that such behavior is acceptable if not appropriate for the situation. Sometimes I simply don’t understand people. It feels like we’re socially moving backwards towards a more segregated, Jim Crow-esque situation where the other is the source of all our problems and the target of all of our unchecked aggression. I am concerned that this bigoted, racist, xenophobic talk is being sold as “non-politically correct straight-talking honesty” and that’s disheartening.
To that young lady, I’m sorry you experienced such vile behavior from anyone in attendance at a Violet Mary show. On behalf of the band, you have our sincerest apologies. And to those who would seek to raise themselves up in their own minds by putting someone else down: you are welcome too… but check that shit at the door. In order to create a space where all are welcome to enjoy community and a good time, you need to leave your self-righteousness at the door. We won’t tolerate it.
On that note, it's time to turn in. I'm going to finish passing my heart-felt apologies on to this young woman over our Facebook page and then fade away. May your tomorrows be filled with hopes and dreams galore.
Mike - Violet Mary
Last night, the band gathered around the TV after rehearsal to watch the results of the 2016 presidential election. Each of us had cast our votes and waited with hope and some trepidation for the states to be called. As the evening wore on, our excitement turned to dismay; our candidate was tanking. Local bourbon turned to Canadian rye (an inside joke during election season) and we scrounged for comfort food. By morning, the shock wave had hit. The United States had endorsed a campaign of vitriol and legitimized a jingoist, racist, bigoted, homophobic, anti-intellectual, anti-rational and anti-"american" narrative sold by the Trump campaign. As a nation, we said "yup, this voice speaks for us!" Now that narrative is the basis for a new administration... and all in the Violet Mary camp are both shocked and frustrated.
That was yesterday.
Today, I heard some other voices. Two stand out and both are peers of mine. One voice said, "Today we'll be talking about how the Dems are looking for the nearest bridge" with a laugh. He's an active Trump supporter and, while a genuine person and a patriot, someone I rarely agree with. In that same room, I heard another voice. This voice said, "[we can] create an environment where kids learn to think, question, and understand with compassion. They don't understand the importance of this election, but they will remember the importance of unpacking the world and repacking it with understanding."
I have to ask myself, "which voices do I let in, and which do I reject?" Trump supporters suggest that Democrats need to listen to their perspectives. I agree. Both of the voices I heard today were Republican voters. But, there's a stark contrast between the two. I believe that it is incumbent on those who are now in power to build bridges with those are not. It is likewise incumbent on those of us for whom this election was disastrous to allow them to. We must bar from the discussion those voices that promote vitriol and ignorance and insist on a working relationship befitting of our founding documents. That comes from both sides.
So, today, I choose to ignore the gloating and chest-beating. I choose to comfort the broken hearted. And I choose to look beyond both towards the tasks at hand. I can't be idle. I can't be fearful. I can't be divisive. Those are my thoughts for today. I hope to see you this Friday for the Victory Celebration of our alternate universe candidate, Drummer Joe Myers (?-NY) and his campaign staff at Sticky Lips in Henrietta NY.
Peace to you all,