There is a resistance happening in the hearts and minds of many in our country, and right here at home Cobey Rouse, the frontman for the local band batterboy has created ComeToUnity—Artists & Action Concert Series to build a community for the purpose of making positive change. The first concert is happening on February 26th at The Nomad World Pub to support the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). To learn more about ComeToUnity, Rift spoke to Rouse about it.
A lot of people use social media as a tool to air their social/political concerns, but here you are taking real action to fight for the protection of our nation’s constitutional rights. How would you urge others to go “live” with their concerns and work toward change?
In all honesty, I’m one of those people who have aired grievances on social as well. This whole campaign year, particularly post-election, has been very difficult for a lot of people to fully comprehend. Social is an easy way to throw out opinions and, for the most part, have those opinions reinforced because your feeds are mostly made up of like-minded people. That’s part of what contributed to this debacle in the first place. So there are two things that became very clear: First, trying to make a statement and creating real change on social is fruitless because the people who you want to hear the message have already turned you off. Second, sure people who do agree get excited or fired up, but the vast majority of them stop being involved or active after liking or putting a mad face on a post. My goal is to get people from both sides—who are genuinely interested in actively creating positive change—to get together in person to create ideas together.
As an outside person looking in, this seems very personal to you, is it?
Absolutely. I care deeply about acceptance, tolerance and defense of fundamental human rights. I don’t belong to a particular party; I don’t endorse a particular religion. I just care about people and believe that as a society that we need to take care of each other to survive. So to see such anger, fear and hate targeting specific groups of human beings based on color, religion, sexual orientation, etc., that goes against every single thing I personally believe in.
So it made sense to support the ACLU, but a lot of people would write or call their representatives to push for change, how did you come up with the idea to support the ACLU in such a way?
I had created ComeToUnity about 8 months ago and failed to get the engagement prior to the election. When I called out to try to bring people together for positive change after the election, fellow musician Tim Cheesebrow suggested I organize a benefit concert for ACLU. Then it clicked: while I didn’t know how to organize a community action movement, I do know how to host living room shows and cause-related concerts. So ComeToUnity became the Artists & Action Concert Series where we could get together for music, constructive conversation and action planning with skilled moderators, and the proceeds could go to the very organization that exists to protect and defend basic human rights.
This is not a “one & done” kind of an event, you have made a commitment to proceed with subsequent shows as well, which means a lot of time spent planning and executing. Are your troupes rallied?
The intent of ComeToUnity from the beginning was to give people all over the Twin Cities an opportunity to participate in a meeting in there are, so that same intent is behind this. Not everyone wants to go to Lakeville, Shorewood or Lowertown, but if you live near one of those areas, it’s easy to access and get involved. Then, when so many artists responded and hosts offered up their homes for events, it made producing these events on a semi-regular basis pretty simple.
I have a very small team, intentionally, to keep things controlled for now. Tim is helping with the performance side, Dave Lee with the political and community action side, and Cally Voegele with private fundraising to help us get things up and running. Aside from hosts, artists and moderators, we still need a few people to volunteer to be ticket-takers at the doors for shows.
The first concert at the Nomad World Pub is fast approaching (February 26th), and the lineup is stellar! There also happens to be a special speaker, could you elaborate on that?
Yes, we’re pleased to announce our special guest speaker, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. She has been very strong and outspoken in support of our immigrant population. The timing of the event and our sanctuary city status will certainly be worthy of some good discussion and action planning at the event.
Will every show, big or small, be contingent upon the promise of 100% of funds raised going directly to the ACLU?
The funds will go directly to the ACLU of Minnesota for this first round. After we see where we’re at in June, we’ll revisit if funds should continue to go there or if there is another organization that could use the extra help as well. Regardless, we will always openly communicate where the funds will go before an event, and share the totals from each event as well.
If someone wanted to help ComeToUnity, what are some ways in which they could become involved?
If artists want to be put on the roster for upcoming shows, people would like to host a show, or help out with logistics at an event, they can hit us up at the ComeToUnity Facebook page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like I mentioned before, this is not a one time thing. Will there be an action or result that would make the need for ComeToUnity disappear?
This is not contingent solely upon changes in the new administration or political representation in the House and Senate in two years. This is not meant to replace protest or calls to your representatives. ComeToUnity exists to fill a void for people who want to do something to create change but aren’t sure how. It’s designed to get people off of their screens and give them a platform to share a common love for music and for building positive communities. As long as people are open to positive discourse, shedding labels of party and other affiliations to create some real change in our communities, the need will be there.
2/26 ACLU Fundraiser at Nomad World Pub: https://www.facebook.com/events/1260745434008647/