The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence featured 350 events across the country with more than 5,200 artists performing for a day of music on Sunday to honor victims of gun violence and to make gun violence prevention a voting issue in the November elections.
Hawaii, the state with the lowest gun death rate in the country, initiated the concert series with a special sunrise Hawaiian Aloha chant performed by the Prince Dance Theatre at the Kahilu Theatre at 12:01AM HST/6:01AM EST. Moby made a surprise appearance at the Los Angeles concert while Joan Osborne joined the New York City performance.
Jackson Browne and Rosanne Cash joined Marc Cohn on stage for a special performance of “The Only Living Boy in New York,” a song written by Paul Simon. Marc Cohn, a victim of gun violence himself, said of the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence musicians including Cash and Browne, “They stand tall and they stand up for what they believe in.”
Following Hawaii, musical events took place over the course of the day at places of faith, historical theaters and other venues across the country.
“Together we have power. If we rise to the challenge to unite and support sensible gun violence prevention measures in our cities and our towns, then we have the power to save lives. Let’s use our power for good,” said Eddie Vedder during his performance.
The call to action on Sunday was to make gun violence prevention a voting issue in November, and to educate voters on the issue starting with Monday’s first presidential debate. Leading up to and on the day of the Concert Across America, organizers called for answers from the candidates on their solutions to curbing gun violence. Even though the question was not formally asked, the candidates still provided starkly different attitudes about gun violence in America.
“We were thrilled that Hillary Clinton took the opportunity during the debate to reiterate her position on the gun violence epidemic in America. Specifically on the need to strengthen the background check system to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill,” said John Rosenthal, founder Stop Handgun Violence and national co-chair of the Concert Across America.
The founder of the Million Mom March and concert co-chair Donna Dees said “It is remarkable how so many organizations were represented at events across the country. In the Beacon Theatre alone, there were representatives from Moms Demand Action, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign, Stop Handgun Violence and Gays Against Guns, all in agreement that we must make gun violence prevention a voting issue in November.”
The audience at the Beacon Theater was filled with activists who cheered at each reference to ending gun violence and people who have had loved ones ripped from their lives including Trennelle Gabay, the widow of Governor Cuomo’s lawyer who was gunned down in 2015. The parents of Allison Parker, who was murdered on-air during a news report for CBS in Roanoke along with Adam Ward, were in the audience. Andy and Barbara Parker held a backstage meeting with Marc Cohn and shared with him how much his song “Walking in Memphis” helped them.
Jackson Browne invited John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence and National Concert Chair, Dees and concert coalition chair, Zoe Grover on stage during the Beacon performance to get a standing ovation for bringing so many diverse groups across America together. On stage, John Rosenthal reminded the audience of the power of music to mobilize movements and encouraged audience members to hold Congress accountable. Rosenthal also announced that the original estimate of 1000 participating artists was grossly underestimated as the 350 events nationwide reported over 5,200 performers.
The artists and communities that participated in the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence reflect the diversity of the movement.
“More than 300 enthusiastic people filled our audience” said Boca Raton organizer Elin Schusterman. “More than double the response of any previous event we have held since our committee against gun violence was formed over three years ago. We had everyone take out their phones and save congresses number in their phone before putting them away for the concert. Our audience left fired up and ready for action.”
“We had 40 musicians including Jeffrey Gaines, plus 25 visual artists and dozens of advocates, vendors, speakers and so much more” Said Eric Miller organizer of the Ewing NJ event. “We had diversity, we had community and we had solidarity, it was incredible.”
Elsewhere, middle schoolers in Gloucester, MA played to a packed venue at a teens only open mic and at San Quinton State Prison an inmate choir was led by a member of Rabbis Against Gun Violence to sing of choosing hope over hate.
“This weekend, places of worship across the country raised their voices in song to raise awareness about America’s gun violence epidemic and to promote love, kindness and peace.” Said Brian Birch, Deputy National Coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence.
“We’re in awe of what these congregations accomplished. There was a performance from the University of Kentucky Black Voices choir at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington, a multicultural choir performance by the World House Choir at First Presbyterian in Yellow Springs (Ohio), an interfaith event with 17 congregations gathering for an event they are calling ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ on the Capitol steps in Denver, and so many more. September 25th really was a day for standing on the side of love. Love can heal fear and policy change can save lives. We need both.”