Light a Fire and Make Some Noise

Post-election, rock bands and activist groups raise money for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and other threatened groups

By Summer Lin

Jennae Santos, guitarist for Wsabi Fox performs. (Photo: Courtesy of Geanna Leo Falcon)

Jennae Santos, guitarist for Wsabi Fox performs.
(Photo: Courtesy of Geanna Leo Falcon)

It was dark and gloomy in New York City the day after President-elect Donald Trump won the election, recalled Jennae Santos, 26. Her band, Wsabi Fox, was scheduled to perform and she remembers how depressing it was as they got ready for the concert.

“It was a funeral for progressive politics,” she said. “And I thought, as artists, we have to be active. We have to do more than just expression.”

She put that thought to action and last month, she organized a concert to raise money for Planned Parenthood. Santos felt the band’s music, which she’s dubbed “sex positive,” is intrinsically tied to Planned Parenthood’s purpose of providing reproductive health services and sex education.

“The show was a direct response to Clinton not being elected,” she said. “It came from a message that women can’t be president and just because it didn’t happen, I didn’t want to feel like I needed permission to feel empowered.”

The concert took place at Pet Rescue, a converted loft in East Williamsburg, and featured rock bands Ex-Mothers, Irrevery, the ’94 Knicks, and Wsabi Fox, for which Santos plays guitar and sings vocals. All four bands had agreed to donate all the proceeds from the show to Planned Parenthood.

They ended up raising over $400 for the non-profit organization, according to the concert’s co-curator Sam Braverman. The cover for the show was five dollars but many guests enthusiastically donated more.

Since the election, organizations including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have seen massive increases in donations from group’s like Wsabi Fox and individuals. People have donated to causes—women’s reproductive rights and antidiscrimination organizations—that seem to be under threat under Trump. Planned Parenthood, for example, has received nearly 260,000 new donations nationwide and 72,000 donations in Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s name.

More people, especially students, are volunteering for causes too. In response to Trump’s proposed ban against Muslims, Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations have received more than 500 new volunteer applications, according to Ibrahim Hooper, the council’s communication director, in an interview with Forbes.

“I’ve been seeing a lot more rallies and sense of activism on campus,” said Mariyamou Drammeh, a junior at New York University and the community service chair for the school’s Muslim Students Association, which she refers to as MSA. “The best thing that came out of this election is that Trump created a platform to organize. MSA has been partnering with other student groups and the strength is in our togetherness.”

Two days after the election, after its prayer space in Brooklyn was vandalized and Trump’s name was painted over it, the MSA organized a rally that over 1,000 students attended.

“It’s really beautiful to see people coming together on campus to create a space where no matter your gender or creed or religion or sexual orientation, you are welcome and you are safe,” said Rafat Ashraf Khalaf, the treasurer of the Muslim Student Association.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago, Santos and her rock band hosted another benefit show for Urban Justice Center and its Mental Health Project, which aims to fight criminalization of mental illness. The concert raised over $600 in donations. And at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, she and a couple of her friends joined a march in solidarity with the protestors at Standing Rock—and she said she’s noticed a lot more people making calls to congressmen and senators.

“It’s funny how it takes something like this to light a fire,” she said. “As artists, we have a responsibility to make a lot more noise.”


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