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Wisconsin rockers are ‘Unintimidated’ by Scott Walker

Protesters speak loudly. Protesters with a microphone and a guitar can speak even louder.

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced his presidential candidacy in the summer of 2015, Wisconsinites DJ Hostettler and Tony Webber, along with many others, got angry.

But instead of posting a slew of links to articles and political memes to gain an amusing laugh and possibly a like or share, they came up with a response promising a much greater impact. Avoiding what they deem slacktivism, the two were the masterminds behind Unintimidated: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker, a CD and DVD project that unites 16 Wisconsin punk and metal rock bands to write and record protest songs.

Hostettler and Webber enlisted bands including Damsel Trash, IfIHadAHiFi (Hostettler’s band), Heavy Hand (Webber’s band), and Tyranny is Tyranny, and brought them to Milwaukee’s Howl Street Recordings last August to record. Each of the songs on Unintimidated disseminates information about Scott Walker and his disastrous policies that have directly affected many people in the state.

“What I’ve been telling people is as long as we have this document out in the world, we would show a bunch of musicians in the 2010s were pissed off enough at what was going on in Wisconsin to make noise,” Hostettler said. “The last thing I want is for people outside of Wisconsin thinking that everybody here is compliant with everything that’s been going on. I want people outside of Wisconsin to know that there’s a strong undercurrent of people that are working to get these idiots out of office.”

The project will be released to the public on April 8 online and at High Noon Saloon, where four of the bands will be performing. Before the show, Hostettler spoke to WiG about the project, the recording process, and how this will be helpful to the Milwaukee community and political activism.

For those who aren’t really familiar with the project, can you give me the basic concept of it?

We actually got a lot of inspiration for the project by watching the video series, “Burnt To Shine,” which is a series of live videos shot in several different cities around the country where a number of bands got together in a building that is condemned or due for demolition and they have a limited time frame to go in and set up and play live with no re-dubs and leave with everything documented. So it’s a cool document of that city’s music scene at that time.

Our project was kind of inspired by that, but what we did was we invited a bunch of our friends’ bands from around Wisconsin to come down to Howl Street Studios in Milwaukee, which was kind enough to donate their time and work at the studio for a weekend. Thirteen of the 16 bands on the compilation were able to make it that weekend. We gave each of the 13 bands a block of two hours to come into the studio and bang out a anti-Scott Walker or an anti-Republican song with minimal overdubs. We did vocal and instrument overdubs if the band had the time within the two hours. Basically what they could do to record a quality song in that two-hour time span and the process was filmed during the entire thing so we could document it on video. We’ve been trickling out videos of each band leading up to the release, which is a release of a CD and DVD booklet that has lyrics and whatnot.

So that way people can experience the recording process as if they’re in the studios with the bands at that time of the recording, right? 

Definitely. We’ve had a few handheld and a few GoPro cameras set up around the studio. Each video has a unique look and feel to it, but they all capture that recording process of the band performing the song in the studio.

What is the ultimate purpose behind the project?

The main goal, ultimately, was to do something constructive with our outrage aside from making angry Facebook posts (laughs). The monetary goal of it was to raise money for Planned Parenthood and local soup kitchens. The primary goal is to get a creative document out into the world that a group of artists in Wisconsin are really, really upset about what’s been going on with Scott Walker and the Republicans’ policies.

When did the project really come to fruition?

Probably around last February. There was obviously a lot of chitchat about Walker making a presidential run and Tony and I were at a music festival in the Upper Peninsula discussing how irritated we were about everything that’s been going on since 2010 really.

We were also expressing our frustration with Facebook slacktivism. … There are a lot of people that end up taking whatever righteous, justifiable anger they have about what’s going on to wrap it into social media. They’ll rant about something and hit “share” and then that has dissipated their anger and they go about their day, but it doesn’t really help or solve anything. Our thought was, “Well, neither of us are super outgoing in a way that (we can) phone bank or anything for a particular candidate. So the best use of our energy is to put a creative thing out into the world that can possibly raise money for some of the people that have been most affected by these policies.

One of the coolest things about this project is that the proceeds will be going towards Planned Parenthood and local soup kitchens. What has the response been from those organizations? Has Planned Parenthood or any other group commented on the project?

They have not and that’s okay. We have reached out to their promotion department to give them a heads up and we wanted to kind of get their permission or their blessing. Since we’ve never done a project like this before, I didn’t know if we needed their okay to specifically say anything about them while we’re doing it. I actually did not get any response from them.

Based on that, we’re just going to go ahead and once we’ve gone through selling a number of these and playing shows and raising money that way, we’ll cut them a check and be ready to go. There was one specific soup kitchen that I reached out to that did get back to me and they were very enthusiastic and very grateful but asked us if we could not use their name because as a nonprofit, they keep themselves non-partisan in order to not alienate any potential donors.

Do you think that’s one of the reasons Planned Parenthood hasn’t responded?

I’d imagine it’s hard for them to remain non-partisan since they’re such a lightning rod. Really, Planned Parenthood should be non-partisan. There should be nobody in the state or anywhere else that looks at providing quality healthcare to low-income women in any given area that should be something that anyone on either side of the aisle should get behind.

Has the project been met with any criticism?

Nothing that we’ve seen yet. To be honest, I don’t know if we’ll get much of an acknowledgement from the right. I fully intend to send one to the Capitol with Scott Walker’s name on it. I want them to know that it exists.

That said, we’re fully aware that in the history of artists and especially bands trying to do something of substance with their art and make a statement, generally the people who disagree with that statement will shrug it off or even laugh it off or be snide like, “Oh, these dumb punk rockers don’t know what they’re talking about. They should just stick to singing.” It’s kind of like the reaction the Dixie Chicks had in the 2000s when they spoke out about George W. Bush. I already know that if anybody from that side responds to this, it’s going to be like that.

What has been the reception so far to the project?

There’s been a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve had a number of bands reach out and ask to be on it. We filled up the number of bands that we could squeeze on probably within the first day of talking about it. We’ve had a decent outpouring of people that have offered to help promote and be part of it. People are stoked so it’ll be interesting to see what their response is once the music is out there.

The music that’s on it is largely punk rock and some metal. It’s stuff that’s not typically thought of as protest music, which I think in the last five years in Wisconsin, most of the protest music has been like that acoustic and folk style, which is fine. But we were definitely motivated to get some locally charged music going through the louder scenes in Wisconsin again.

The Unintimidated album release show will take place at 9:30 p.m. April 8 at High Noon Saloon, 701A E. Washington Ave., Madison. Local bands Venus in Furs, Body Futures, Heavy Hand and Damsel Trash will perform. Tickets are $8. For more information, visit high-noon.com.

Jason Rae awarded for leadership diversity

Jason Rae, executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, was honored earlier this month with a scholarship from the American Chamber of Commerce, under its new program to encourage leadership diversity among its members. 

The national organization established its leadership diversity program to help provide information, training and resources to enhance the leadership skills of women, members of racial/ethnic minorities, LGBT-identifying individuals or those with disabilities.

Rae has led the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce since its founding in September 2012. He also is a public affairs consultant at Milwaukee-based Nation Consulting, the chair of the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission and board chair of Fair Wisconsin.

World mourns the death of Nelson Mandela

In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela’s death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.

From Harlem to Hollywood, Paris to Beijing, people hailed Mandela’s indomitable courage in the face of adversity as an inspiration for all. In a testament to his universal appeal, political leaders of various stripes joined critics and activists in paying tribute to Mandela as a heroic force for peace and reconciliation.

Some knew Mandela personally while many only knew him from afar, but they shared how they drew inspiration from his strength and looked to live his message of continuing the struggle against social injustice and for human rights.

“He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages,” said President Barack Obama, who shares with Mandela the distinction of being his nation’s first black president.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world had lost “a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice and a clear moral compass.” Both Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were part of Mandela’s group of statesmen known as The Elders.

“God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history,” Tutu said. “He inspired us to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and so South Africa did not go up in flames.”

President Xi Jinping of China, which supported apartheid’s opponents throughout the Cold War, praised Mandela’s victory in the anti-apartheid struggle and his contribution to “the cause of human progress.”

For Chinese rights activists, Mandela’s death served as a reminder that one of their own symbols of freedom, Nobel Peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, remained imprisoned by Chinese authorities. “This moment magnifies how evil the current regime is,” Beijing activist Hu Jia said.

“Nelson Mandela set the standard for all revolutionaries past, present, and future: have a righteous cause, fight with dignity, and win with grace,” said actor and E Street band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who in 1985 recruited performers to record “Sun City,” an anti-apartheid album.

In Kiev, where Ukrainians have gathered for anti-government demonstrations around-the-clock for the past week, protesters took a moment to recall Mandela’s legacy.

“He had many troubles in his life. He was in prison, but he was waiting and he achieved what he wanted,” protester Alena Pivovar said. “We have the same situation now. We have some barriers, but we have to pass them.”

The United Nation’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay – a South African who was once a defense lawyer for anti-apartheid activists – said Mandela “was perhaps the greatest moral leader of our time.”

Pillay recalled how Mandela’s release from prison triggered a “thirst for revenge” among his supporters but that he emphasized forgiveness over vengeance. “He told us to throw our spears and guns into the sea,” Pillay said. “He showed us that a better future depended on reconciliation, not revenge.”

“As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go,” said the U.S. actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Mandela in the 2009 film, “Invictus.”

In Haiti, a Caribbean nation that became the world’s first black republic in 1804 through a successful slave revolt, Mandela symbolized the struggle for black equality.

“Mandela is not only the father of democracy in South Africa, but is also a symbol of democracy,” said Haitian President Michel Martelly. “And like any symbol, he is not dead. He is present in all of us and guides us by his lifestyle, his courage and faith in the true struggle for equality.”

“Mandela’s message will not disappear. It will continue to inspire those fighting for freedom and to give confidence to people defending just causes and universal rights,” said French President Francois Hollande, who is hosting dozens of African leaders this week for a summit on peace and security.

In New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, artist Franco Gaskin, 85, stood before a mural featuring Mandela he had painted on a storefront gate almost 20 years ago. He remembered a Mandela visit there in 1990. “It was dynamic, everyone was so electrified to see him in Harlem,” Gaskin said. “I idolized him so much. He leaves a legacy that all of us should follow.”

In Washington, D.C., Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said, “Nelson Mandela tore down oppression, united a rainbow nation, and always walked arm-in-arm with his LGBT brothers and sisters — and with all people— toward freedom. Though every man, woman and child who seeks justice around the world mourns this loss, his vision of an equal future lives on undimmed.”

At the ACLU, executive director Anthony D. Romero said, “Mandela fought against class and racial inequality, political corruption and the devastation of AIDS. He fought for everything we Americans hold dear. ‘We have waited too long for our freedom,’ he famously said. And his actions matched his words as he endured 27 years in prison for what he believed—that we are all equal regardless of our class or the color of our skin. Although it seems unthinkable to imagine a world without Nelson Mandela, we must. Our dedication to protecting freedoms for everyone—no matter what their race, gender, religion or whom they choose to love–is the precious legacy he has passed on to us.”

Myanmar pro-democracy leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute to Mandela as a “great human being who raised the standard of humanity.”

“I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of the man who stood for human rights and for equality in this world,” she said. “He also made us understand that we can change the world.”

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh compared Mandela to his country’s own icon for the struggle for freedom, independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.

“A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mandela as one of the great figures of the 20th century who had healed a broken country.

“He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid. When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country,” Abbott said.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said Mandela was a “builder of bridges of peace and dialogue” who changed the course of history, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his moral leadership.

“He was never haughty,” Netanyahu said. “He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred.”

At the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., on display is a photograph of the U.S. boxing great with Mandela, their hands clenched into fists as if they’re boxing.

“He made us realize, we are our brother’s keeper and that our brothers come in all colors,” Ali said. “He was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge.”

Mandela was mourned in Cuba, which has long felt a close bond with the late South African leader. Havana considered him a hero for supporting it amid U.S. and international criticism.

“Exceptional human being, example for the world, Father of multiracial South Africa, the endearing friend of Fidel and Cuba,” journalist Juana Carrasco said via Twitter. “Long live Mandela!”

Peace Corps to welcome same-sex couples for service

The Peace Corps will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas.

Deputy director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting on June 3.

“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Hessler-Radelet said in a news release. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”

Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.

Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture, according to the announcement.

The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship.

The PC said “couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.

On the Web…

http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/howvol/couplesfaqs/.

Why I need the center

I grew up in Chicago and have spent most of my career working for banks and wealth management institutions in Chicago, Minneapolis and, now, Milwaukee.

The word “gay” was not acknowledged when I was growing up, but the word “homosexual” was – and I knew the term was not positive. I was oblivious to any gay community and only associated “gay” with people hanging out in men’s rest rooms, not anything positive. You knew better than to be out because it wasn’t safe. Actually, it was pre-unsafe – it was simply denied.

As a young man, I lacked confidence in myself. It took me a long time to realize I could be a fully functional adult and live out, but even after that realization it was still difficult. After I came out to my father, he didn’t speak to me for the last 15 years of his life.

I was a pastor’s child and, knowing I was different, I grew up with a sense of being very oppressed. It took me a while to realize I was born privileged: white, in an educated family, at a fortunate moment in history. I don’t feel guilty about being a white, educated male. I am in a position to help others, to share and be of service to others; and so I ask myself, “How can I make a difference for those who have not been blessed in these ways?” Working with the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is a way for me to share my blessings. 

I do have some selfish reasons for being involved in the center. For example, I think I would have been more successful if I’d been fully out earlier in life. I am now a bit jealous of people who are not starting their professional lives under the burden of feeling oppressed or unsafe. 

I was a heavy smoker until about eight years ago. I think that if I’d had a place where I felt safe, like the center, I could have looked at my health sooner. I had friends whose lives were destroyed by cocaine and meth. I think that the center provides us a place where we can help the LGBT community learn to avoid unhealthy behavior.

I’m on the center’s board because it sustains and saves lives every day. We know that the center helps prevent youth from drinking and drug abuse, and I believe the center saves hundreds of thousands of tax dollars each year by creating more healthy people. The center is a good investment. 

I get a great deal out of my work with the center. I’ve met lots of people and have learned so much from the volunteers and board members – especially since the new changes that have taken place in the last 10 months. We now have an amazing team of effective people, and they help me become more effective and engaged. I feel privileged to work with them. 

I urge you to be involved with the center and become part of this amazing place where you can be yourself and help others become their best.

Peter Larson has an master’s degree in economics, finance, accounting from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He serves as treasurer for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s board of directors.

LGBT center consolidates space, signs new lease

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center board recently approved a new 1-­year lease with Siegel-­Gallagher Real Estate and is consolidating its programs from four floors to two floors.

The center is at 252 E. Highland Ave., Milwaukee.

Center co–president Jennifer Morales said the change “allows the center to consolidate to an appropriate amount of space at a cost that fits its budget, and it gives us the time for strategic visioning to ensure the center’s long-term sustainability.”

The consolidation will be complete by May 1.

The center is seeking volunteers to help with the move, as well as other work.

Call 414-271-2656 or go to www.mkelgbt.org.

PrideFest seeks volunteers

Milwaukee PrideFest, the largest such event in the Midwest, is produced by an all-volunteer staff. Volunteer opportunities are still available for ticket scanning, security and other positions.

In addition to providing a service from which many others benefit, volunteers also receive free entry to the festival each day they work, a volunteer T-shirt, a meal ticket for each shift worked and entry into nightly drawings for great prizes.

Applications for volunteer positions are available online at pridefest.com/index.php/volunteer/application-forms.

Volunteers wanted!

The LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin is looking for volunteers to work the Ironman competition in Racine July 16-17. The Center can earn up to $500 by getting 20-30 people to volunteer on either of those days. Contact programs@lgbtsewisc.org for more information.

The center also is looking for regular volunteers to staff several positions, including drop-in coordinator, receptionists, marketing coordinator, fundraising, research and events development. E-mail info@lgbtsewisc.org for more information or complete the volunteer application located at www.lgbtsewisc.org.

– WiG