The Sound Strike fights against immigration law

Originally published in the October 8, 2010 issue

It seems that musicians and celebrities are forever taking on new philanthropic missions, from save the whales to save the boobies, utilizing their power and fortune to do good for others. But recently, a group of musicians has branched out to include immigration reform in this list of Good Samaritan activities.

A group of musicians and artists, including Kanye West, M.I.A., My Chemical Romance, Maroon 5, Chris Rock, Nine Inch Nails, Bright Eyes and Rage Against the Machine, has banded together to form The Sound Strike.

Its mission is simple – to raise awareness about Senate bill 1070 (Arizona’s new immigration law) and boycott all performances in the state of Arizona until the bill is repealed.

The bill is a highly controversial one, involving issues of racial profiling and vague terminology. It basically states that police officers in Ariz. will now be able to request citizenship papers or other immigration status papers for anyone they deem “reasonably suspicious.” The ambiguity of the term “reasonably suspicious” is a large part of the controversy.

Because of this, The Sound Strike feels the law is essentially “legalizing racial profiling” and going against the bedrock principles of the Constitution.

The group is also focusing on the long-term repercussions, recognizing that five other states are attempting to pass laws that mirror the one in Ariz. To them, if this problem is allowed to persist, our nation will begin to turn away from the very principles it was founded on.

In order to spread awareness, the group has created a website, thesoundstrike.net, where they post videos and songs about the bill and a blog for others to weigh-in. Non-musicians can show their support by signing the website’s petition to try to repeal the bill.

Aside from the group’s noble cause, some of the musicians have churned out some interesting tunes, ones that not only sound good but are thought-provoking.

Bright Eyes frontman, Conor Oberst, recently produced the “Coyote Song,” a Romeo and Juliet-esque love song about two lovers separated by the border, and Taboo of the Black-Eyed Peas released a music video entitled “One Heart, One Love.”

The music really seems to have a depth of perspective not seen in other genres, and the musicians seem equally passionate about the goal of equal rights and keeping things constitutional.

The boycott has led to concerns from musical event producers in Ariz., some of whom have pled with the artists to reconsider wielding the political weapon of boycott. They have cited that not performing won’t affect the lawmakers, and the musicians acknowledge this is probably true. However, they plan to make the boycott so widespread that it hurts them in “the only place they care about – their pocketbooks.”

No matter which side of the immigration argument you’re on, you have to admit a cause that musicians would risk losing any fan base over is a respectable initiative.

In the past, when musicians have come together over an issue, it has made a large impact on the community, and that is exactly what these musicians wish to have in this case.

According to a letter posted by Oberst on the website, they do not wish to stop at musicians but expand the boycott to sports, entertainment, tourism and other government industries. If this works, it could possibly be the largest, most effective boycott we have seen in a long time.

But even if it doesn’t, we can still say we got some great music and a renewed sense of hope that even celebrities can maintain some semblance of justice and freedom.