Politics

8 Days to Celebrate Italian-American Heritage Besides Columbus Day

While living in New York, I learned that there was a parade on Columbus Day, and that parade was to celebrate Italian-American heritage. Prior to living in New York–at least that I can remember–I had never thought of Christopher Columbus as an Italian hero. I was mortified. There are plenty of Italians and Italian-Americans who have contributed to civilization and society who weren’t genocidal maniacs. In case you’re new to this discussion about how Christopher Columbus is awful and Columbus Day makes no sense, I’ll let my best friend John Oliver catch you up. This clip was aired a year ago but is just as relevant and to the point.

At about the 2:00 mark, Oliver suggests alternate days to celebrate Italian heritage starting with Frank Sinatra Day. This got me thinking. Why don’t we celebrate our heritage on any other days? Italians (the ones in Italy) don’t even celebrate Columbus Day!

To help get the conversation started, I’ve pulled together a list of people, moments, and days worth celebrating. (more…)

Me and My Shadow Government

It’s no secret that I love John Oliver. He’s brilliant, he’s funny, he makes me laugh, he makes me cry. That is, he makes me laugh as he reveals awful truths about our nation and government that make me cry. I somehow missed this gem from last November in which he discusses state legislatures. Unlike the senate and congress, these folks are getting things done, a lot. But, we have no idea who they are or what they’re doing. Spoiler: lots of them are awful people doing awful things in our name. John appropriately labels it a shadow government. Watch the segment below. (more…)

Discussing Music and Social Movements with Pilfers Vocalist Coolie Ranx

The song “Next Generation” first appeared on the 1998 self-titled self-released Pilfers album, listed simply as “Generation.” The chorus is a call to action: “Time to awake, get up and fight, fight for mankind, life for the cause.” The first verse recounts humanity’s attacks on itself. Verse two reminds us of our rights and responsibilities while holding us accountable for that which happens around us:

But if you turn a blind eye, You’re just as guilty as the culprits.
The innocent are sure to die, so rise up against injustice.

17 years later, the band produces a music video for the song. The video juxtaposes footage of America during segregation with footage from recent Black Lives Matter protests; it contains footage of the 1991 beating of Rodney King as well as the 2014 murder of Eric Garner. It’s both powerful and heartbreaking. This was the first time I’d really paid attention to the lyrics of the song, guilty as usual of blindly singing along with the chorus until now. (more…)

Affirming That #BlackLivesMatter at #ChanukahAction with the Jewish Community in Brookline, MA

The following was originally posted at Jewschool.com.

I spent the first night of Chanukah this year at Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA. This was the Boston-area location for the multi-city #ChanukahAction: A Jewish Day of Action to End Police Violence event. I had a number of anxieties in advance, but it proved to be a powerful evening with moments of hope and inspiration.

My concerns began with a Facebook event wall littered with infighting that I feared would travel offline to the actual event. Could we focus on one issue, and keep the focus away from ourselves? Could we raise awareness in our own community without silencing and ignoring those who have already been marginalized? I had been to a protest organized by Black Lives Matter Boston in November, organized and led by people of color. I recognized why Jews needed to rally around the cause, but it was unclear how. Frankly, could we do this without damaging the larger movement?

(more…)

A National Moment of Silence vs Performing Music with my Band

On the evening of August 14th, I was playing a gig at The Middle East Downstairs club in Cambridge, MA. As per usual, I was in a pretty selfish mode. I was rushing from work, to home, to the gig, where I was going to perform for friends and concert-goers. At some point that afternoon, my partner texted me to ask if during our set I could acknowledge the gathering happening that same evening on the Boston Common. Hundreds of people assembled to honor a national moment of silence, recognizing the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. I had heard rumblings that something would be happening, but I wasn’t quite sure what or where. It was easy enough to quickly check my facts before I made remarks on stage that night during our set. Mostly, I just felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I was unaware of actions happening in my own community, and I was embarrassed that in light of these tragic events–and a situation that has only gotten worse–I was hanging out at a music venue. (more…)