Pittsburgh Band Brings Together the Power of Music and Protest

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Edwin Everhart and the May Day Marching Band raised over 8K for Anera through their benefit show

On February 1, my band and I joined a number of other acts to perform in a benefit show that raised thousands of dollars for Gaza. The show brought together community members from all different backgrounds to participate, including tattoo artists and musicians. The event was a triumph, with the line to get in stretching down the block!

Our band, the May Day Marching Band, is a community band based in Pittsburgh that plays at protests, block parties, parades and other community events. When the war started in Gaza in October, however, we knew we had to do something out of the usual.

Our group began brainstorming ways to address the issue and eventually settled on the idea of the Gaza Benefit Show. As part of this process, we had to choose an organization that we wanted to support.

Our priorities were to choose an organization that was reputably established and that would actually help people directly in Gaza. From a few options, Anera quickly emerged as the best choice. We were impressed with Anera’s connections to people on the ground in Gaza as well as its long history of working in the region.

Once we had decided on what we wanted to do, the work began in earnest: we gathered people with experience organizing shows, found a venue and recruited community members to join the effort with us. As part of the campaign, both the venue and the tattoo artists generously donated a portion of their proceeds with us. In total, we all ended up raising over $8,600 by the end of the night.

It is incredibly rewarding to see the impact that the concert had. Pittsburgh is a pretty segregated city, but the war in Gaza has highlighted a cross-section of the city that is doing anything they can to make a difference, whether that be protesting or raising funds.

My background is in anthropology and linguistics and it is astounding to see how music brought people together for a movement such as this. The show saw people from all different ages and walks of life join from throughout Pittsburgh. Together, we jammed out for a few hours, sang along to songs and even moshed a little bit. 

I believe that such a shared experience is the key way to get people on the same page to move into action. Participatory music where a crowd sings, claps and even dances together has a unique power at building unity. It provides an outlet for collective expression, maintains morale and incentivizes people to stick around for the long haul.

Music actually has a long history of being used in protest and I believe it is essential to adapt these musical traditions to our current social needs. Our current traditions of protest music owe a lot to Black church musicians and picket lines.

People have put in a lot of effort to pass down their tactics, so I think we should use and respectfully adapt them wherever possible. For example, one way to use music in protests is to start songs at a low pitch and then build up to a higher range that draws people to sing along. 

Ultimately, a music show such as ours helps sustain the movement in Pittsburgh just as much as it sustains Anera’s work in Gaza. By bringing these movements together, I hope to create a long-lasting impact that transcends our community and helps Gaza more than any one person could do alone. 

Photos by Sophia Rose Photography. IG: @sophiarphoto.



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