Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last couple of months you’ve heard about a small issue we’ve had here in North Carolina. It’s a piece of state legislation called HB2, aka “The Bathroom Bill”, and it has actually grown into a national issue thanks to the combination of national media attention, acts of protest by well known companies and entertainers and the recognition by many politicians that it is a perfect “wedge issue” for this monumental election year. From amidst the increasingly nasty din that surrounds the issue has emerged a fleetingly rare voice of sanity, and it came to my attention from, of all places, an issue of a trade newsletter I receive called Associations Now, that has a piece about a group that is encouraging musicians to use their shows to protest HB2 instead of cancelling their shows outright in protest:
As an alternative, a pair of activists launched North Carolina Needs You, which encourages musicians to hold shows in the state and use them as platforms to speak out against the measure, known as HB2.
The initiative was born when Grayson Haver Currin, a prominent North Carolina music journalist and onetime codirector of the state’s Hopscotch Music Festival, came up with the strategy after Springsteen canceled. Currin and his wife, Tina, created the campaign out of concern that, in the long run, artist boycotts would do more harm than good.
Almost immediately, the band Duran Duran, which had struggled with whether to cancel its show, collaborated on Currin’s initiative and decided to perform, using the show to draw attention to the cause by bringing critics of the law onstage and by donating money to political nonprofits working to fight the law.
The website also found quick support from those nonprofits, including Equality NC, Progress NC Action, and the state chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU…
The artists choosing to stay have received positive notices from music-industry peers who are directly affected by the law.
The band Against Me!—whose lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, publicly came out as transgender in 2012—announced that it would keep its May 15 show in Durham on the schedule specifically to protest the law. The band is encouraging attendees to use gender-neutral bathrooms at the concert venue.
While it’s easy to understand where acts like Bruce Springsteen are coming from when they cancel shows, this approach seems much more productive. Hopefully more voices like the Currins’ will emerge here in North Carolina and we can get back to some level of sanity.