Here Comes Concert Across America!

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It’s not too early to start talking about the 2017 edition of Concert Across America because this year the organizers have come up with a pretty neat way to get everyone involved in this musical effort to help end gun violence.  In addition to concerts and events all over the United States the weekend of September 23-24, there’s also going to be a really fun opportunity for everyone not to just be attending a performance, but also being part of the performance, and the idea goes like this.

  • Listen to Alternate Routes sing their great song, ‘Nothing More,’ and then download the lyrics from the concert website.
  • Take a video of you and your friends singing the song with our without musical accompaniment (you can also download sheet music.)
  • Then post your video on YouTube or Facebook between September 21 and September with the hashtag #ConcertAcrossAmerica and make sure to set the privacy settings to Public so that the concert organizers can count your video.
  • And don’t forget to blast these instructions out to everyone else!

This concert is going to be a big, beautiful deal and I will publish many more columns about this event as we get closer to the concert date itself. But in the meantime, I just want to get all of you started on your video as soon as you can.

And of course please, please go to the website, buy a shirt, sign up, do whatever you can.



Ann Arbor Is The Location Of An Important Event On September 25th. Get There if You Can.


There’s a group of physicians in Michigan who have formed an organization called Physicians for Prevention of Gun Violence (PPGV) which is sponsoring one of the September 25th Concert Across America To End Gun Violence events. Their concert, which will take place in Ann Arbor at the Genesis Center, and will feature performances by the chamber orchestra conducted by Kevin Fitzgerald, as well as solo piano works performed by a member (Emeritus) of the Ann Arbor music faculty, Louis Nagel.

ppgv           Events like the Ann Arbor concert are going to take place all over the country, and while the New York and California concerts are going to get the spotlight (how could they not get the spotlight with the artists who are appearing at both venues?) we shouldn’t overlook the value and importance of the more local efforts like the Ann Arbor gig.  And the reason we shouldn’t ignore such events is because to really build a national movement for anything, you need to get folks involved in the communities where they work and where they live. After all, it’s one thing to walk into a large, public event where you might or might not know anyone at all. It’s quite another to walk into a room and see other people whom you really know, then all of a sudden the event in that room takes on a special and personal meaning for you.

In the interests of full disclosure (I love that phrase) I happen to know several of the physicians who are active in the PPGV group.  The organization got started after the Tucson shooting (of Gabby Giffords) in 2011 and now counts more than 200 members, including clinicians, residents and medical students in all the relevant medical disciplines.  In 2014 the group was featured in a journal  article published by the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians after the statewide group adopted resolutions on gun violence prevention.

Back in 2014, Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig became a poster-boy for the NRA when he called for law-abiding Detroit residents to arm themselves against crime.  Of course this stance also made Craig an immediate resource for the Trump campaign, and he was, along with Dr. Ben Carson (remember him?) conspicuously present during Trump’s recent drop-in tour of the Motor City.  The only problem, of course, is that armed citizens or not, Detroit still has one of the highest murder rates in the United States, and the last time I checked, Detroit is still located in Michigan, which means that the members of the PPGV group have plenty of work to do.

But along with work comes opportunity and when I think about what PPGV has accomplished in such a short time, it reminds me of another group of physicians which started advocating over a public health issue back in 1961.  The group came together in someone’s apartment and formed Physicians for Social Responsibility to advocate about the health risks posed by nuclear testing and, in particular, the spread of Strontium-90 in the water, soil and air.  PSR limped along for a number of years and then, in 1979, decided to give it one last try.  The same week that they sent out what they thought might be their last fundraising appeal, the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island blew.  Guess what?  In 1985 this group, known now as the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Am I saying that gun violence is as serious a risk to health as nuclear war?  Well, if you consider that over the last five years alone more than half a million Americans have been killed or seriously injured because of guns is a number that probably surpasses what would be the human toll from the detonation of a good-sized nuclear bomb.  So I applaud the work of Physicians for Prevention of Gun Violence, I know their September 25th concert will be a great success, and I only hope they and groups like them will continue to forge ahead.


No Matter What You Are Doing On September 25th – Don’t Miss The Big One.

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Last month I wrote a column about the Concert Across America To End Gun Violence and I likened it to the great Woodstock festival in 1969 that helped define the popular culture of a generation.  But I’m beginning to think that the Concert Across America that takes place on September 25th will probably eclipse Woodstock both in terms of cultural symbolism and political significance because Woodstock was just a big, live concert event with lots of music and lots of bands (and lots of dope) but the Concert Across America is shaping up to be much more.

concert           First of all, let’s cover some specifics.  When I wrote my last column, the New York City concert at the Beacon Theater had Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash and Marc Cohn, but now the program has added the Gospel Choir of Harlem and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, and there may be more artists to come. I also didn’t yet know about the program for the concert at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater which is a real a doozie because it includes Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Zach Gill, Christopher Cross and OZOMATLI – I mean, what could be better than that!  Boston has a show that will headline Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom; Los Angeles has Dan Felder of the Eagles and Ryan Cabrera – it just goes on and on.

I didn’t have time to count every venue but a quick eyeball tells me that there will be concerts, events and performances at more than 350 locations in 44 states.  So don’t sit back and think that this is just another one of those highbrow, elitist moments that will only happen in places where most people don’t own guns.  Thinking of buying a pair of ECRU pants?  The company is a corporate sponsor of this event, as is a little-known transportation company called UBER.  Ever hear of them?

These concerts are also being supported by more than 100 organizations representing just about every group that wants to see an end to gun violence here and now.  And this is what makes the September 25th event so much more meaningful than Woodstock, because the concert at Max Yasgur’s farm had no political or social agenda; if you could get there it was just something hip and cool.  And being hip and cool in 1969 was a cultural statement of some sort, but nobody really knew what those words meant.

The September 25th Concert Across America To End Gun Violence is a much different breed of cat.  It has a very clear and very specific political agenda – it is a spectacular effort to increase public awareness and concern about the 100,000+ deaths and injuries suffered by Americans each year because if guns.  And it doesn’t matter whether the guns are in the ‘wrong’ hands or anyone’s hands; it doesn’t matter whether it’s an assault rifle or not; this gun violence has got to stop.  And that’s what this concert is all about.

Yesterday my concert t-shirt with the beautiful logo arrived and its arrival made me think.  The organizations that are partnering to support this event – Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense is now millions strong, Faiths United To End Gun Violence counts 55 separate religious organizations and States United to End Gun Violence is now a collection of grass-roots operations in 31 states. Could these three organizations and the other supporting groups together represent five million or more?  That’s probably an undercount.

What I am saying is that the concerts and events on September 25th are not just concerts and events.  They also represent what may be the burgeoning of a national movement that will continue to grow and will not only level the playing field but will finally tilt it back the other way.  And the other way means to admit that guns cause violence and gun violence has to end.

A Remarkable GVP Event Is Being Planned And Everyone Should Come!

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The very first time I drove into Boston, probably 1994 or 1995, I came towards the center of the city on the Mass. Pike and as I passed the newly-completed Prudential Center on my left, the light towers of Fenway Park loomed to my right. As I drove towards Fenway I was expecting to see the back of the Green Monster but, all of a sudden what I really saw was the huge billboard with pictures of kids who had been victims of gun violence, along with a caption that read: “15 Kids Killed Every day.”

concert           This remarkable public statement about gun violence, which decorated Fenway Park from 1993 until 2015 (there were actually a series of different, eye-popping murals,) was the handiwork of a Boston resident, John Rosenthal, who makes a nice living developing real estate and, by the way, he’s no Donald Shlump.  He’s an activist in gun violence, environmentalism, homelessness; in other words, he puts his money where it will really do some good.

His latest bright GVP idea is a national Concert Across America to End Gun Violence which will take place on September 25.  The concert will actually be a series of concerts taking place around the country on the same day, but the Boston event will be the anchor for the whole shebang, which is why we need to get out there, shout out there, and make it work.

I know a little bit about gun violence and about trying to prevent gun violence because I have been involved with guns, one way or another, since 1965.  And if I have learned one thing about gun violence prevention over the last fifty years, it hasn’t been an easy sell.  And the basic reason that GVP sometimes has difficulty reaching out to a wider audience is that one of our two major political parties – I’ll let you figure out which one – has decided that 110,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year is a small price to pay for unfettered and unquestioned access to guns.

Think about this for a second.  We had a big argument over whether to mandate seatbelts but nobody would dare stand up in Congress or run for President proclaiming that seat belts were a risk to health!  Yet every single Republican who entered a Presidential primary this year declared, indeed demanded that 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ be left alone.  As if there is such a thing as a 2nd-Amendment ‘right.’ What sheer, unadulterated crap.

But the problem with the GVP community is they really are committed to an honest exchange of ideas.  So not only are they up against liars, panderers and promoters on the other side, their messages calling for safety and restraint are easily and continuously drowned out.

Which is why Rosenthal’s billboard was so different– talk about being in your face.  And now (to paraphrase Arnold) he’s ba-ack with a new GVP venture that should be a home run, because there’s nothing that gets people going, gets them talking, gets them moving like a great, big musical event and, in this case, a whole country full of musical events.

The concert is already sponsored by nearly 50 organizations from sea to shining sea, you can help organize an event if you like, be in the audience at a concert, or just tune in through one of many social media venues that will carry the activities on that special day.  The website is up, artists are committing, the whole thing is moving forward and you should be involved.  This could be another Woodstock and don’t underestimate the impact of that one event on the culture of the times.

Sign up on the website, spread the word, make your organization a sponsor, tune up your old guitar.  In 2007 Congress designated September 25 as a National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims and let’s not forget that two-thirds of all those victims are killed each year with guns. Get it?




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