During my sophomore year at Boston College, I took a class in the Political Science Department with Professor Paul Christensen called Comparative Social Movements. That year, at the national level, we saw the emergence of both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. I learned so much in that class both as a Political Science student and as a citizen. Today, with the Black Lives Matter movement building momentum across the country, I think back to the class and what I learned about what makes a social movement salient and successful.
Million Moms March
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Donna Dees. Donna organized the largest march in U.S. history to protest gun violence, the Million Moms March. On Mother’s Day in 2000, more than 750,000 people protested on the National Mall. The protesters had witnessed too many deaths at the hands of guns, and they banded together to demand political action.
Donna told me that since the March in 2000, each time our country mourns another mass shooting, she receives many, many requests to organize another march. People remember the impact of the march in 2000, and they know more work needs to be done to mobilize the support for sensible gun control legislation. They want someone to organize another march. It’s not as easy as sending out a mass e-mail to meet at the National Mall, though.
In response to these requests, Donna published a piece in the Daily Beast, called “The Mother of All Protests.” To pull off another event of that magnitude, she knew they needed organization, time, money ($3 million), and a LOT of volunteers.
The Mother of All Concerts
Instead, Donna suggested a different type of event: a concert. More specifically, she proposed a concert across America.
There are many merits to planning a concert, rather than a march. For one, concerts are inside, thus eliminating the fear of inclement weather. Also, concert venues are wheelchair-accessible. Furthermore, there are music venues in every American city, and there are so many artists who are passionate about preventing gun violence. Why not get all the artists together, book the venues, and have simultaneous concerts across America? It’d be a social movement with music.
Not surprisingly, Donna’s idea caught on and spread. Over 100 non-profits got involved, all recognizing the need for gun control legislation. The “Concert Across America to End Gun Violence” is coming up on Sunday, September 25th, in cities across the country.
In Boston, the lineup includes:
- Hallelujah the Hills
- Marissa Nadler
- Bill Janovitz with Tanya Donnelly & Mike Gent
- Vapors of Morphine
- M.C. Jimmy Tingle
- Lisa Bello
- Michelle LaPoetica
- Rhea Ranno
- Herb Jackson
- Ashley Tishana
- Arielle Chanelle
- Dro Casso with Pretty Poisson
Visit the Facebook page for the Boston event to learn more. It will be held in Brighton Hall from 7PM-11PM. Make sure you add “Only in Boston” on Snapchat because they’ll be taking over the account for the night.
Advocacy with Authenticity
Attending the concert is a great way to get involved in the movement and learn how to make an impact in your community. The concert will empower people to contact their elected officials and coordinate political advocacy efforts city, state, and nationwide. Elevating an issue to national attention starts with picking up the phone and calling your congressman or congresswoman.
Moreover, the website includes a petition for gun violence prevention legislation.
In my Comparative Social Movements class at BC, I learned that social movements should be both centralized enough to provide structure and flexible enough to encourage creativity, authenticity, and interpersonal connection. The gun violence prevention movement seems to achieve this. With elements of centralization, the key organizers coordinated logistical details (publicity, planning, political resources). On the other hand, the concert is flexible enough to invite more than 100 nonprofits to collaborate, and artists of all genres (folk, rap, classical, etc.) to participate.
During my conversation with Donna, I saw that the movement has the leadership and energy to make a real impact in policy. Senseless gun violence is inconceivable and heart-wrenching. We watch one tragedy after the next. Music might create the space, tone, and consensus we need to move forward to a safer future.
Grassroots movements are successful when they tap into people’s values and hopes and provide a plan for change. The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence movement may do just that.
For more information about an event closest to you, check out the Concert Across America website.