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We Are Not Afraid: Music legends unite to help raise funds for the refugee crisis and victims of religious and political violence
Music legends — including more than forty-five Rock and Roll Hall of Famers — have recently united to declare “We Are Not Afraid,” pledging their support to help raise funds for the refugee crisis and victims of religious and political violence.
We Are Not Afraid campaign creator Steve Weitzman has spent over a year reaching out to major artists around the world to bring his idea of creating a music video to raise funds and awareness to aid a horrific global crisis where millions of people have had to flee their homelands.
He wanted to show support for our refugee brothers and sisters and all who have been touched and hurt and/or killed by senseless acts of violence.
Night Flight asked Steve Weitzman to tell us a little about how the project began:
“When I was the talent buyer at Tramps club in NY over two decades ago, Majek Fashek, a Nigerian reggae artist I used to manage in the early 1990’s and promoted numerous shows with at that club, performed a song he had just written in 1992 called “We Are Not Afraid.” His show that summer was recorded and the tape of it has been in my possession ever since. I’ve always loved the song.
Like everyone else, when I’ve watched the news lately, I’ve been horrified at all the senseless violence around the world and been frustrated that I couldn’t do anything about it to help. A staggering six million people have been forced to flee their homelands and have become refugees, needing urgent assistance.”
“When I started seeing rallies last year after attacks in Paris, Denmark and Russia where people would invariably hold up signs that said ‘NOT AFRAID’ I got the idea of releasing the live version of Majek’s wonderful song worldwide with an accompanying video to raise money and awareness.
After contacting Majek with my idea of using his song in that way, he immediately agreed to donate all the royalties to organizations whose mission statement was to try and prevent future attacks and to help the victims.
The question of what kind of video to make became the next priority and after discussing it with my friend, noted rock photographer Bob Gruen, Bob suggested I use a series of still photos of well-known artists where they would be holding signs that simply said NOT AFRAID. ‘You’re not asking anyone to sing, play or speak so lawyers can relax,’ Bob humorously noted, and added, ‘there’s your video.’
But that was easier said than done because it was an unusual request to suggest to managers, agents and publicists that they ask their artists if they would be willing to do that to be part of this video.”
Weitzman says that Yoko Ono was the first artist to support this project, and he decided early on to make hers the first image to be seen in the video.
The full-length video — directed and produced by acclaimed New York-based photographer Bob Gruen — shows more than 200 music legends, representing nearly all genres of music and spanning several generations, who are assisting the campaign’s efforts to use music to help eliminate hate, violence, and discrimination around the world.
There are lot of recognizable names who appear in the slideshow clip — including Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, Yoko Ono, Robert Plant, Ringo Starr, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Henry Rollins, Ian Hunter, Phil and Dave Alvin, Flavor Flav from Public Enemy, and many, many more — each of them holding up a sign or piece of paper bearing the slogan “Not Afraid,” which is meant “to stand against the countless acts of violence, hate, discrimination, and abuse witnessed globally.”
“Shortly after Yoko Ono sent her photo, other early participants were George Clinton, Steve Earle, Bruce Cockburn, the Mekons, Graham Parker, Ian Hunter, Hot Tuna, Dave Mason, Conor Oberst and Eric Burdon.
If the artists were in New York, I often took the photos with my cell phone after receiving word they wanted to be part of this campaign. I took Steve Earle’s while we were walking through Washington Square Park. George Clinton, Graham Parker, Dave Mason and Ian Hunter’s were taken at their NY gigs at BB King’s, the Highline Ballroom, City Winery and Bell House. Eric Burdon’s was sent from Germany where he was on tour. Tim & Neil Finn sent theirs from New Zealand; Johnny Clegg from South Africa, Chaka Khan from L.A.
Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Bonnie Raitt, Debbie Harry and Elvis Costello soon followed and many others then sent their photos. Bono, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Sting, Jackson Browne and Robert De Niro came onboard to show their support.
Everyone involved in this project hopes and prays the suffering caused by all the brutal, senseless acts happening worldwide can end soon. And that the rights of everyone to be able to live in peace can be respected.”
According to We Are Not Afraid’s website:
* We promote non-violence, respect for diversity, universal education, and peaceful resolution of conflict.
* We will not allow these despicable acts to change our way of life or shake our demand for a free society globally.
* We want to bring attention to those organizations that are helping victims globally.
“We’re alarmed by the hateful and dangerous rhetoric coming from politicians across Europe and the United States,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a press release last year, when the We Are Not Afraid campaign officially began.
“We must not allow the rising threat of racism and hate to violate our most basic principles of humanity. We’re moved and grateful that so many artists are speaking out and standing with us for human rights.”
The We Are Not Afraid logo was designed by the legendary Milton Glaser.
Two artists who died after the video was produced are remembered in the video’s end titles:
“We mourn the passing of Paul Kantner and Buckwheat Zydeco who passed away prior to the release of this video. They will be sorely missed.”
Here’s more from Steve Weitzman:
“The idea for We Are Not Afraid resulted from the increasing senseless violence experienced by citizens of the world and a desire to try and make a difference by bringing awareness to the issues and the organizations dedicated to helping the victims. At countless rallies around the world people can be spotted holding NOT AFRAID signs. These images inspired this effort.
It is imperative that we show the perpetrators of these horrific acts that are intended to shake us to our very core that we will not be afraid, we will not be intimidated and we won’t allow these despicable acts to change the way we live our lives and our demand for a free and open global community.”
“We are extremely pleased that a remarkable group of highly respected and passionate artists has come together to show their support for this cause by posing for photos holding NOT AFRAID signs. It grows larger every day.”
Dave and Phil Alvin
“In this scary time of aggression toward anyone who does not submit to how certain groups believe others must live their lives or be slaughtered, we must make a stand that that will not be tolerated.”