SB 1070: Outraged artists should speak out in Arizona, not boycott
An open letter to all artists boycotting Arizona
As a political activist and 15-year independent concert promoter in Arizona, I feel a deep obligation to speak out about the real-world effects of artists boycotting the state in protest of SB 1070, the recent anti-immigration bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by our (unelected) governor.
While I respect the intentions of the artists protesting what they find to be an unjust law, the practical effect of the boycott is resulting in exactly the opposite of their good-willed intentions.
By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law.
The people who will feel the negative effects of the boycott the deepest are local concert venues, including non-profit art-house theatres, independent promoters, fans and the people employed in the local music business. If the boycott continues, it is all but guaranteed that some of these venues will be forced to close their doors.
Think of it this way: What if otherwise outspoken and inspirational activists like Martin Luther King Jr. had turned their backs on the state of Alabama and its citizens because they didn't agree with the discriminatory practices of its government during the critical years of the civil-rights movement? What would have happened if they had chosen to boycott Alabama rather than speak out, organize and effect change?
We are faced with a similar situation in Arizona today. The legislators currently in office don't care if outspoken artists boycott the state. The people responsible for SB 1070 don't want you here. They don't want your voices heard. And as a result of the boycott, they are the only ones who benefit.
In effect, the decision to boycott is playing right into their hands. As Curtis McCrary, the general manager of the non-profit Rialto Theatre in Tucson, recently stated, "The individuals and organizations behind this bill are... more than likely delighted about the prospect of politically vocal artists canceling shows - silencing themselves rather than using the platform their status as artists gives them to speak out against SB 1070."
The truth is, a boycott is an easy gesture that doesn't require much more than a statement and removing a date from your tour schedule. However, if you truly care about the effects of the controversial immigration law that was passed, this is an opportunity to use your unique position as an artist with the ability to reach thousands of people to inspire, educate and motivate your fans to actively be a part of the change.
I have felt and seen the effects of what artists can do to change peoples' lives individually and as a whole. In this important midterm election year, it is imperative that voters are organized and prepared to express their views about the recent law at the voting booths in November.
Every concert venue and promoter in the state would be happy to help coordinate voter-registration drives and set up information booths in connection with concerts. Many of us are already planning specific events, including rallies and concerts, designed to educate and encourage local music lovers to get involved at this crucial time.
This open letter is a call out to all artists to come take a stand and perform in Arizona. We need you now more than ever.
Charlie Levy is owner of Stateside Presents, a concert-promotion company based in Phoenix. Stateside Presents produces over 200 events a year throughout Arizona and New Mexico.