Category Archives: musical arts

Amidst the List of Hurricane Sandy Benefits, Tuesday’s Hip-Hop Show at Brooklyn Bowl Supporting Occupy Sandy Stands Out for Its Unique Solidarity & Fervor

Amidst the List of Hurricane Sandy Benefits, Tuesday’s Hip-Hop Show at Brooklyn Bowl Supporting Occupy Sandy Stands Out for Its Unique Solidarity & Fervor

[Brooklyn, NY] Amidst the laundry list of Hurricane Sandy benefit concerts this December, a unique hip-hop performance benefiting Occupy Sandy scheduled for 7pm this Tuesday 12/18/2012 at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn) stands out for the way its lineup of artists reflects the mutual aid, integrity, and do-it-yourself fervor that made Occupy Sandy one of the most effective crisis response groups in the wake of the hurricane.

The concert, presented by Viper Records and Music for Occupy, features some of New York’s most celebrated grassroots hip-hop artists. Immortal Technique, Pharoahe Monch, Jean Grae, Hasan Salaam, Jasiri X, Constant Flow, George Martinez and the Global Block Collective, and a noteworthy roster of surprise guests are scheduled to perform at Tuesday’s benefit.

WHAT: Benefit Concert
WHERE: Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249
WHEN: Tuesday, December 18 | Doors 6:30pm, Show 7pm
INFO: Occupy Sandy Website | Brooklyn Bowl Website | Facebook RSVP 

While the artists have rallied together for this event in support of Occupy Sandy’s relief efforts, their performances have always been extensions of their lyrical narratives of overcoming crisis in their own communities. Whether it’s Immortal Technique’s revolutionary anthems of solidarity, Jasiri X’s lyrical indictment of the NYPD’s controversial Stop And Frisk Program, Pharoahe Monch’s dissection of the Prison Industrial Complex’s impact on Brooklyn’s communities of color, or George Martinez & the Global Block Collective’s “Free & Unified” tribute to the Occupy Sandy relief efforts, each artist provides a cross-sectional view of the principles of solidarity not charity upon which Occupy Sandy was built.

A statement drafted by Staten Island residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy and published to Pastebin on December 13th underscores the need for tangible, solidarity-driven relief efforts, not bureaucratic or parasitic debt-driven programs, “We are tired of being given the runaround, by elected officials, the insurance companies, FEMA, SBA, and Rapid Repair. Each resident has a different experience dealing with these organizations. No two stories are alike. They say different things at different times. We hear nothing for weeks or they lose our paperwork. Some have taken donations in our name without accountability. We demand clear and timely answers.” The statement goes on to say, “The vultures are circling our community. They see valuable beachfront property, not a place where families live. Leaders talk about development, but why isn’t the community leading those discussions?”

Occupy Sandy as well as the artists performing at Tuesday’s benefit understand the importance of community-led releif efforts. Occupy Sandy’s hub-driven system of relief distribution, directly works to satisfy community needs assessments that canvassers and volunteers (many of which are members of impacted communities) pass on to their hub. The result is empowering the community, as systems of relief are shaped and directed by the impacted community and then put into action by the volunteers. Instead of a typical “what you see is what you get” model of crisis relief, Occupy Sandy asks, “what do you need?” and responds with, “…lets see if we can get you that.”

“Sandy helped a lot of people see that we don’t need to wait for government intervention to be able to help each other” said Jelani Mashariki, Global Block emcee and one of the performers at Tuesday’s benefit. Mashariki is also a Candidate for NYC’s 35th Council District, “My campaign for New York City Council is based on the same principles of mutual aid used by Occupy Sandy Relief, because taking care of each other has to be our first priority.”

Occupy has always been about crisis relief. Tuesday’s benefit will highlight that Occupy Sandy, and it’s predicate organization, Occupy Wall Street, are each about rising up in response to crisis as it impacts our communities.

Pharoahe Monch will be performing at Tuesday’s benefit.

Tickets to Tuesday’s benefit are available in advance through the Brooklyn Bowl website for $15.00 and a limited amount of tickets will be made available for walk ups. If you are unable to attend Tuesday’s benefit and wish to make a monetary contribution to Occupy Sandy’s work visit for links on how to donate or cash or specific items needed on their registries.

To request an interview with the artists, or to request a press comp for Tuesday’s benefit please contact Andy Stepanian at or 631.291.3010

WHAT: Benefit Concert

WHERE: Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249

WHEN: Tuesday, December 18 | Doors 6:30pm, Show 7pm

INFO: Occupy Sandy Website | Brooklyn Bowl Website | Facebook RSVP

Organizing DIY Solidarity: 100 Shows for Haiti & Forward by Moe Mitchell

Moe Mitchell contacted the Sparrow Project with an idea …a DIY, community-based response to the ongoing needs in post-earth quake Haiti. With the help of Greg Bennick of 100 for Haiti, Sparrow launched the “100 Shows For Haiti” campaign, within a few short weeks we planted seeds, the idea took root, you responded and raised $17,500 through events big and small. The following is Moe’s statement …an account that inspiration can be contagious and how one person’s idea became an ongoing project that we invite you to continue with.

At the end of last summer I had an opportunity to remove myself from my daily life and focus on reflection.  I spent several days in silent meditation, facing nothing but myself.  I thought this look inward would provide a better insight into my own consciousness, but I was surprised when I realized how many blind spots I had for other people and my connection with those people. I confronted the reality that I, and those around me, can do more to provide mutual aid, support, care, solidarity, and – dare I say – love to one another.  It was painful and humbling to confront my inconsistencies, but ultimately it spurred me to action.

I was reminded of the great loss in Haiti and my feeling of ineptitude in response to it.  The suffering was so great, how could one person be of any help?

I donated money but my efforts felt hollow. Surely I could have given more but I was troubled by the idea of giving to an organization that may use the funds in counterproductive ways or to advance a self-serving agenda.  I was worried about contributing to what Naomi Klein defines as ”disaster capitalism.” Disaster capitalism are efforts that corporations and governments make to exploit times of great crisis and can come in the form legislation limiting civil liberties during a time of war or billion dollar contracts offered to multinational corporations for disaster relief.  Unsure of the most responsible way to give my resources, I was paralyzed into inaction. This paralysis was a total cop out. Despite the potential pitfalls of charity, I realized that it was my responsibility to discover effective means of solidarity with the Haitian people by doing my homework on the groups or movements worth supporting, staying connected with them, initiating outreach to my community, and being publicly accountable.  When I returned from meditation I reached out to my friend Andy Stepanian of the Sparrow Project to collaborate on a week of actions and fundraisers to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake.  Funds would support Haitian Women for Haitian refugees, a grassroots organization that has built a center in Léogâne to support the work of women in the aftermath. Instead of throwing one big effort, we would use the power of social media to inspire our entire network to take initiative. These new media tools, when used effectively, have proven to be powerful agents for spreading ideas. Why not have the concept of global solidarity go viral?  We could provide materials, logistics, and a rallying cry. The rest is up to each individual in each community.   In this way we’d minimize overhead to almost zero and maximize our impact.

We decided not to focus our intentions on the power of charity nor the nobility of do-gooders.  By only giving to Haitian-based, Haitian-run organizations, we hoped to shine a light on the power, ingenuity, and resilience of the Haitian people. The Haitian people are not helpless; they are in crisis. Friends in crisis need support, not pity.  We wanted to expose more people to the truly heroic work on the ground that Haitians are doing for other Haitians.  As more people knew of the work already being done, the better likelihood that direct support could reach local activists.

The Sparrow Project immediately swung into action, enlisting the support of a team of folks around the country including Greg Bennick, who had visited Haiti over the past year and created an organization called 100 for Haiti.    100 for Haiti aims to raise $100,000 for a free clinic in Port-au-Prince led by Dr. Jacque Denis. In the interest of collaboration we joined forces by making a call out to our shared networks, asking people to throw fundraisers nationwide and internationally that would support both organizations. “100 Shows for Haiti” was born.


At first we were unsure about how many people would respond.  Most likely, we thought we were being presumptuous at best by calling our effort 100 Shows for Haiti when we had zero shows on the calendar.  Armed with a helping of hubris and plenty hope, we put the call out to our various networks, through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, email, conference calls, and the like.  Slowly, people began to commit: a bakery open house in Utah, a dance performance in California, a hardcore show in South Korea.  As momentum built, the calendar filled up. In a few weeks scores of individuals on four continents staged dozens of events, and fundraisers. Events earned as much as $5,000 and as little as $12.  All of these interactions were important opportunities to raise consciousness, build community, and support Haiti.  All in all we raised $17,500.00 in a few weeks, and more events are on the calendar.

Motivated by our immediate success, others are staging events in April, May, June, on and on. What started as an idea a few friends bounced around in an email chain has blossomed into a grassroots, decentralized, international solidarity movement.  We may have put out the initial call but our communities answered  and they answered in ways we never could have imagined.

We hope others will apply this model of grassroots response to other needs all around the world. The emergence of the network as a global tool for change means all of our voices are amplified.  Let’s use that new platform to exercise our collective ability to make great change.  Visit

Moe Mitchell is a lobbyist and community organizer with the New York Civic Engagement Table.  When Moe is not at his day job, he expresses his political action through song as the front man for the New York Hardcore band Cipher.  Moe is a tireless social justice activist, a vegan, a poet, and a unbridled voice for the voiceless.

Mainstreaming Palestine With Invincible

Save the Date! – OCTOBER 26, 2010

PROJECT PALESTINE PRESENTS – Mainstreaming Palestine

An evening of music, words and a motion picture.

“One of the most talented emcees I’ve ever heard, black or white, male or female”—Talib Kweli

THE NEW SCHOOL 66 W. 12th Street, Room A-404

Pamela Olson Oklahoma-born Author, Hear excerpts from her book-in-progress, Fast Times in Palestine.

Fida Qishta Palestinian Filmmaker,
View a piece of her nearly-complete film, Where Should the Birds Fly?

Invincible Detroit-based Hip Hop Artist,
Watch her perform People Not Places and other songs.

Project Palestine is a newly recognized student organization at The New School aimed at illustrating the Palestinian plight through films, music, literature, poetry, art and discussions.


Please help Project Palestine meet their Kickstarter fundraising goals!

A personal message from Andy Stepanian


Dearest Friends,

My close friend, Noor Elashi is a brilliant, creative, peacemaker.  Noor needs you to help her reach her Kickstarter fundraising goals.  I will be donating $40, because thats all I can afford, but please consider donating as much as you can  (see link above.)  Please also attend Noor’s first event at the New School, Next Tuesday at 8:30pm.

Noor’s father, Ghassan Elashi is currently incarcerated in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) Marion, Illinois serving a sentence of 65 years for his alleged support of the people of Gaza.  Ghassan is accused of allegedly providing physical humanitarian aide in the form of millions of dollars of baby food, infant formula, medicine, and sundry items.   Even though almost every non-Muslim, non-activist American with a conscious who hears about Ghassan’s charges becomes enraged at the injustice, Noor however has not allowed that injustice to make her cynical or jaded.  Instead Noor has used her own creative writing and organizing skills as a college activist to start an ongoing dialog about Palestine, the middle east, and the repression of Muslim communities.

“Mainstreaming Palestine”  is a lecture/film/music series aimed at braiding arts, liberation, and culture, and will launch on October 26th with a screening of Fida Qishta’s Where Should The Birds Fly, a reading from Pamela Olson’s Fast Times In Palestine, and a performance from Detroit’s ground-breaking, underground hip-hop artist Invincible.

With a nation currently engaged in what seems like an endlessly open-ended  war on “terror” we often cloak what “we” deem as our opposition as enemies when we don’t even understand them.  “Mainstreaming Palestine” is about building bridges.   Invincible is a female Jewish artist who raps about the parallels between the ghettoization of Palestine and the ghettoization of post-industrial Detroit, poverty, gentrification, desperation and crime, Noor is a Palestinian whose family was deeply effected by the occupation, apartheid and related imposed sanctions.  Their collective message is one about peace, understanding, and traversing differences to build a better tomorrow.

Please join me as this event series launches and please donate to Project Palestine via

Love & Liberation,


Cipher’s ‘Joyous Collapse’ is Making the Political, Personal

This week Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian highlighted the political punk band Cipher in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post. The article garnered a bit of attention for Cipher, which was the point …Cipher has always put sincerity, ethics, and substance before the fluff of the music industry, if only every band had the hearts that these guys have.  You can read the full article by clicking here.


Seminal New York hardcore punk band Cipher have always braided politics with their art, delivering a powerful message along side an equally brutal sound. Cipher has never shied away from the political aspects of their music, and in their most recent album, The Joyous Collapse, Cipher shifts their focus away from challenging the more obvious external institutions of oppression to some of the less obvious aspects of personal revolution. Each song on The Joyous Collapse is aimed at breaking down ones self and seeing where we as individuals directly and indirectly support oppression. Directly attacking ones own daily interactions with militarism, sexism, homophobia, and consumer culture, The Joyous Collapse forces us to ask ourselves, “where & how do I support suffering?”


The Sparrow Project thanks Cipher frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell for inviting us into his life and sharing Cipher’s story with us. Please share this video with your friends & please show support for Cipher’s amazing efforts by downloading a song or the album off itunes today.


Cipher’s The Joyous Collapse is available at Itunes, and Amazon. Please support Cipher by buying the album today!











You can connect with Cipher on…
Facebook –​cipheronline
Twitter –​cipher_online
Merch via Big Cartel –


Victory for Activists, Animals & Environment as Proposed LNG Island is Shut Down!

After an 18month+ campaign by activists in the Northeast the proposal to build an Liquid Natural Gas terminal and artificial island 13 miles south of Long Beach has been shut down!

In April of 2009 The Sparrow Project partnered with Clean Ocean Action, The Surfrider Foundation, local environmentalists, politicians, and artists in an effort to raise awareness about and eventually challenge the LNG island proposal.  Specifically, the plan included the building of an artificial island comprised of dumped construction waste 13 miles south of Long Beach, New York, large enough to allow two Liquid Natural Gas tanker ships to dock at the same time, and the construction of a connecting pipeline that would route the re-gassed LNG inland to the Northeast.  At it’s heart, the proposal put forth by a consortium of investors calling themselves “The Atlantic Sea Island Group” catered to fossil fuel special interests whose primary objective was the control, price regulation, and trade over this green-washed fuel.  LNG is almost always foreign, it is liquified for the purposes of compressing it and sending it across oceans.   LNG, like crude oil, is often sourced from geographic locations where the political climate is one of violence and although natural gas burns cleaner than oil or coal, moreover the extraction process is at times far worse on the environment than that of oil exploration.  Hydraulic fracturing or “fraking” is the forced displacement of sub-terrainian gasses by the pumping of fluids under the earth surface.  Fraking at times will destroy entire water tables and aquifers, and here in the states is a procedure that is exempt from the standards set forth in th eclean water clean air bond act.  Lastly the area of proposed construction was that of the shallowest point along the Cholera Bank, the tri-state’s only hard bottomed reef ecosystem and a breeding ground for threatened sea turtles.  Collectively Long Islanders, activists, environmentalists, musicians, students and every-day folks joined the call to shut this project down before it could begin.

The Sparrow Project could not have done any of this without the help of local artists & activists Daniel Bobis, Cipher, Ryan Hunter and Envy on The Coast. Ryan and Daniel partnered with Sparrow to produce a video PSA against the proposed LNG plan (see attached video), Photo Finish records was kind enough to help us syndicate the video to their larger audience, and from that day forward the ball started rolling. T-shirts were printed, meetings were arranged with politicians, lecture after lecture was booked at local colleges, town halls, and green fairs, volunteers from Sparrow were even called to governor Patterson’s office to discuss the issue. After a great deal of hard work from David Byer at Clean Ocean Action, New Jersey governor Chris Christie stated at an Earth Day press conference that he would oppose the plan, putting the proposed plans required adjacent state consent at risk. The following month was a slippery slope for the Atlantic Sea Island Group, as NY state governor Paterson refused to issue a position on the proposal. In June of this year news came that the Atlantic Sea Island Group CEO Howard Bovers would be resigning and prospects for the proposed plan looked bleak. I remember getting the call while out on tour, and furthermore I remember wondering to myself if we truly had won. I was told to sit tight on the information until we had confirmation that the state application for the proposal was actually pulled.

A few weeks ago we received word that the application was indeed pulled and that yes, the activists won… I remember thinking to myself, “so this is what victory looks like?” The victory was bittersweet, knowing that part of the ASIG’s momentum was lost when the BP disaster took place, and that the government and corporate officials did not in whole pull their application because it was was the right thing to do, but rather because they felt they could not get away with it in the wake of the BP spill.

I got on the phone and immediately called Ryan, he was elated that his voice and the art that he and his band made were able to play a part in something so big. The efforts of Ryan, Envy On The Coast, Daniel Bobis and Cipher exemplify this idea of braiding arts with activism. Together their work, coupled with the efforts of the Surfrider Foundation and Clean Ocean Action managed to shut down a project as large as the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Facility in the Gulf. One can only imagine what the gulf would have looked like if there was never an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent spill that followed.

Nationwide this fight is far from over, fossil fuel companies are refusing to let go of their current infrastructure of trade and adopt renewable energy, their answer to post-peak oil prospects is increased gas exploration, and Liquid Natural Gas will quickly become their primary energy commodity for trade. Plans for installations like the Atlantic Sea Island are being proposed all over the country and it’s up to local activists to fight them wherever they rear their ugly heads.  To learn more about the LNG proposals in the Northeast please visit Clean Ocean Action’s website and if you are feeling bold you can buy one of these limited run t-shirts that benefit the efforts of Clean Ocean Action.