Members of the Pittsburgh music community reflect on the role of art and activism in the coming year | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Members of the Pittsburgh music community reflect on the role of art and activism in the coming year

“We keep fighting because certain things have not changed.”


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  • Photo courtesy of Ricco Martelli
  • Tim Stevens
For Tim Stevens, like other longtime activists, Trump’s election wasn’t a wake-up call. He’s had his eyes wide open for decades fighting battles for civil and human rights, sometimes, it seems, over and over.

Stevens, who has been involved in community affairs for almost five decades, is CEO and chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project. He’s also a noted vocalist and musician himself. Of particular concern to him is the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the protection of voter rights.

“It does feel like you’re fighting battles that we thought we had won,” he says, his authoritative singer’s voice rising slightly in frustration. “Twenty years of my life, black people couldn’t vote in certain parts of this country … I thought we fixed that in 1965! And now we’re talking about going into 2017, and we still worry about what some people will do about voting rights.” But while Stevens doesn’t mince words about his concerns for the coming years, he encourages artists — and everyone else — to approach things with a practical and, when possible, positive attitude.

Stevens’ advice to other members of the music community is direct and concrete: Use your talents to support specific organizations. If there’s a cause you back, volunteer to perform at fundraisers and events. The most important thing is to move past emotional reactions and take action.

“Some people have a bigger pulpit than others, obviously, but we all have an opportunity to do something, besides complain,” he says. “Those who are musicians and vocalists, we can raise our voices in song, we can raise our voices in other ways as well.

“Those who play instruments … all those instruments can create a harmony of another movement: a harmony in support for organizations for which they have respect and admiration.”


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