Friday, March 18, 2011

Sound Strike at SXSW

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 4:13 PM

So I'm too busy doing research here at SXSW to tell you much about the Sound Strike panel right now, but fortunately Martin Cizmar of Phoenix New Times has a wrap-up of how it went yesterday:

Tucson Weekly's calender editor, Linda Ray, was the first person in the audience to speak, becoming emotional as she begged the panelists not to abandon the state but rather to come and fight, evoking the name of legendary labor leader Cesar Chavez, a native of Yuma who returned to the state to support migrant rights throughout his life.

Stateside Presents promoter Charlie Levy then got up to speak, pointing out that despite the situation in Arizona's extremist state legislature, the election of Russell Pearce in November turned on a few thousand votes and that there are more than enough eligible voters within the Latino population of his district to swing things. He asked The Sound Strike to encourage bands to play the state for free and do voter registration drives, pledging his own financial support to the cause.

"Psyko" Steve Chilton also got up to speak, telling a story about his uncle, who owns a ranch on the border — the government estimates 40,000 people crossed his land last year. Chilton explained how his uncle offered to let activists pay a few hundred dollars to put a well attached to a drinking fountain on his property but was ignored by people who prefer to just leave water jugs out for migrants. His message: Activists would be better served by efficiently engaging with local people instead of trying to work around them.

Organizers asked to hear from someone not from Arizona — they apparently wanted this presentation to feel more comprehensive, though they're not boycotting any other state — and a woman who identified herself as "not from Arizona" took the microphone to praise the panel in a generic way and encourage people to stop talking about the boycott at the panel. That's easy for someone who doesn't live under the boycott to say, obviously....

Then it was my time to speak. I'm not sure if Gonzalez saw the Diamondbacks hat on my head and the scowl on my face, but he pulled the plug on things and SXSW staff ushered soon everyone out into the hall.

Outside the meeting room Gonzalez was surrounded by a group that includes Hotel Congress honcho David Slutes, the Weekly's Jim Nintzel and Rialto Theatre's Curtis McCrary who all wanted to know under what circumstances the boycott might be lifted.

Gonzalez stressed that The Sound Strike has always been a commercial boycott of the state — meaning that bands could play there if everyone was donating their portions — but that The Sound Strike is now moving into a new phase where businesses can say they're opposed to laws like SB 1070 and be deemed OK to do business with by Sound Strikers. They're calling it a "Human Rights Zone" and businesses such as venues and promoters will be able to enroll and avoid the boycott.

The shift hasn't been announced through a press release yet, obviously, but when it is it might mark the end of The Sound Strike as we know it and, hopefully, a new chapter of activism which will succeed in toppling the state's more backwards legislators....