MANHATTAN, NY—More than 5,000 musicians and artists engaged in 350 events nationwide on September 25 to support The Concert Across America To End Gun Violence. Led by Stop Handgun Violence (SHV), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization committed to the prevention of gun violence through education, public awareness, effective law enforcement, and commonsense gun laws, the event drew over 100 cooperating organizations including Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, States United To Prevent Gun Violence, Texas Musicians Against Gun Violence and volunteers from Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign’s Million Mom March chapters. The event’s dual goals were to draw attention to the issue of gun violence prevention to members of Congress, the presidential candidates, and the American people as they prepare for the November 2016 elections.
The Concert Across America To End Gun Violence took place in theaters, nightclubs, houses of worship and prisons. The day began in Hawaii, the state with the lowest rate of gun violence, shortly after midnight and ended nearly 24 hours later in Santa Barbara, California, with performances by Christopher Cross, Amy Holland, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Ozomatli and others. Elsewhere, middle schoolers performed at a teens-only open mic in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 17 congregations led an interfaith event on the Capitol steps in Denver, Colorado, and a member of Rabbis Against Gun Violence led an inmate choir to sing of choosing hope over hate at San Quinton State Prison in San Quentin, California. Bette Midler, Snoop Dogg, Chelsea Handler, Sarah McLachlan, Valerie Jarrett, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor are among the celebrities who expressed support using the hashtags #ConcertAcrossAmerica (to) #EndGunViolence.
The New York event at the Beacon Theatre drew Jackson Browne, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Harlem’s Gospel for Teens and an unadvertised performer, Joan Osborne. Browne also invited on stage John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence and the National Concert Chair, who reminded the audience of the power of music to mobilize movements. Rosenthal encouraged audience members to hold their elected officials accountable to action.
The audience included people whose lives were tragically changed due to gun violence. Trennelle Gabay, the widow of Governor Cuomo’s lawyer who was gunned down in 2015, was in the audience, as were the parents of Allison Parker, who was murdered on-air during a news report for CBS in Roanoke, Virginia. Andy and Barbara Parker met backstage with Marc Cohn and shared with him how much his song “Walking in Memphis” helped them; early in the concert, Jackson Browne told the audience that Cohn had been a victim of a random gunshot to the head.
Jackson Browne introduced Eddie Vedder, who had performed a day earlier with Yusuf/Cat Stevens as part of the Global Citizen event in Central Park. Vedder spoke at length about the growing desensitization towards gun violence before performing solo acoustic renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy,” and Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul’s “I Am A Patriot” trailing into a rousing chorus from Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power.” Vedder told the audience, “Together, we have power. If we rise to the challenge to unite and support sensible gun violence prevention measures in our cities and our towns, then we have the power to save lives. Let’s use our power for good.”
Visit ConcertAcrossAmerica.org for more information.