2014 Kickstarter: “We Are Culture” T-shirts

A couple of days ago we launched our Kickstarter campaign to make new t-shirts. They’ll be free for performers like before, and you can also get one for $25 by backing our project!

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The 2014 shirt

BuskNY 2014: “We Are Culture”

by Matthew Christian


Art by Heidi Younger, Chris Wright, Marina Ross, and Ron Richter

Art by Heidi Younger, Chris Wright, Marina Ross, and Ron Richter

We also have made a Facebook event for our art show SHOWTIME: Underground Arts, which so far features art by Chris Wright, David Everitt-Carlson, Ron Richter, Marina Ross, and Heidi Younger and will be opening October 3. We are hoping to get more artists involved before the Sept 19 deadline– if you have any art to submit or would like to perform at the opening, please send me an email at milo@buskny.com.

Goodbye from Matthew

I’ve had a busy last week, including having my violin repaired and finding this excellent tiny piano, which we brought to Coney Island:

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For now it’s farewell! I’m taking off for Senegal this afternoon, and will be there on a Fulbright ETA grant until July 2014.

But that’s not the end of BuskNY. There’s a lot of interest, community-wide, in pursuing advocacy and publicity for public music in transit spaces. We saw that at our event at Armature Art Space on Monday the 7th, we see it with the visibility of “Music is Legal!” t-shirts underground, and we’ve seen it when a number of performers have recently stood up to articulate the MTA Rules to police.

So stay tuned. There will be new folks involved here soon, both with some blog posts and, we hope, with grassroots outreach using our printable flyers. Milo will be continuing the effort on visual art, with our eyes on a gallery show in fall 2014. And Kalan will be keeping up the fight to change problem stations – so please get in touch if you know of a problem with a particular station agent or spot. Keep up the music, and I’ll see you all in summer 2014!

Let’s make it a community!

Our first event happened on Monday night, and despite stormy weather, we had a great evening together at Armature Art Space:

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One thing we learned is how strongly we all feel the need to advocate for public performances. Many of us have made our own materials explaining what we do:

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We also recognized that New York — unlike many cities — already has many strong fans of subway performance. (They don’t always show it on their faces, but polls have repeatedly shown New Yorkers overwhelmingly supporting us, and even getting behind those controversial in-train performers!) This sure seems like the result of post-1985 legalization: if you let talented, dedicated, and generous performers do what they like for nearly 30 years, they can change the face of a city.

Nonetheless, we’d like to see New York even more visibly supportive of performers — and we’d particularly like to combat the widespread misunderstandings about subway music. Many folks support us despite thinking that we’re illicit — so let’s take a load of their backs and tell them that music is legal!

To spread the word, we’ll keep on wearing the shirts, and we’re also planning printable, crowd-sourced, customizable ads for performers’ cases. In the meantime, if you’d go out and start building community yourself — or if you’d like to make sure that the fellow musicians you see every day aren’t doing jail-time without you knowing it — you can print out your own set of BuskNY flyers designed by Kalan:

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Here’s the pdf, printable with four flyers to a page. Do you have an idea for a positive/powerful/funny/attention-grabbing/shareable poster? Share the thought with us!

 

Submit your photos to the “Music is Legal” t-shirt gallery

Almost immediately after we started giving them out, we began spotting our “Music is Legal!” t-shirts all over the city. Now that we’ve managed to distribute most of this summer’s supply, we’re creating a gallery of photos performers wearing the shirts.

If you have a photo of yourself you’d like to submit, you can send it to BuskNY@gmail.com and we’ll post it in our “Music is Legal!” gallery!

We only have a few photos so far, but it would be great to see more people showing support!


Meanwhile, I’ve been working on setting up my own silkscreen equipment, so I can make even better shirts, with a new design, next year.

Also, don’t forget that our “Music is Legal” event at Armature Art Space in Bushwick is this Monday night! We hope to see you there!

Announcing our first event: “Music is Legal!” at Armature Art Space

Rules of Conduct

BuskNY is pleased to announce our first community event on Monday, October 7th at Armature Art Space in Bushwick. We’re bringing together musicians and audience members to begin some community-building, and to discuss the way forward in dealing with harassment of subway performers. We’ll also be sharing updates on our own current cases and activism: stay tuned!

We’re excited to have a number of NYC subway performers meeting for the first time. And as we prepare for organizational hibernation over the winter, we want to hear from YOU what we should focus on next summer. We’re particularly keen to get everyone involved on many levels, including with advocacy, visibility, our “Music is Legal!” photo project, and spreading the word directly within the community. We look forward to seeing you there!

“Music is Legal!” at Armature Art Space
316 Weirfield St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Monday, October 7, 9:15PM-11:30PM

Join this event on Facebook!

Follow Armature Art space’s page on Facebook for updates on future events (including an exhibition of my paintings sometime early next year!)

Police and police reform: How I didn’t get shot

You might have noticed that we talk a lot about the police around here. As a matter of fact, we’ve even been wrongfully arrested a few times; and we wish to heck that the police would do things differently. So, many people conclude, we must also be an inherently anti-police organization.

And precisely that isn’t true. Everyone working on this project is a city resident, and we know why it’s important, particularly in low-income communities, that residents be protected. Academically, I also know that Michelle Alexander, whose work focuses on police and justice system reform, strongly defends the fundamental mission of police in urban communities, writing so early in The New Jim Crow. Because of all that, in a phrase bound to shock you all, we’ll say this: BuskNY supports the police just as much as we support police reform.

I imagine eyebrows are being raised about that claim, and so I’ll add a little story. On a Friday evening two and a half weeks ago, when I was walking back to the apartment after teaching, I heard gunshots behind me just as I reached my block. I turned around, and lo and behold: on the opposite corner of the street was a guy firing a 9mm down the neighboring avenue. I ducked behind a car’s engine block and waited.

Fortunately, when you live in a city, you’re not powerless. I called 911, and after a few seconds, I ducked out and moved up to the corner to see where the shooter was headed. When a police cruiser arrived with a minute, I hopped in. We drove a block and a half, I saw the guy who’d been shooting, pointed him out, and the officers stopped him. He’s now facing multiple charges, and I’m a grand jury witness.

I think this story is instructive for two reasons. First, it shows that the police keep communities safe, in this case by arresting a guy for shooting next to a school. Second, it shows that the police depend on their communities. In order to make that arrest, the police needed information from me. And that’s not an exception but a rule: police need community support to make arrests and to conduct investigations. And we won’t even get into the importance of trust and respect to calm down dangerous and violent situations. (How does a police force handle a disturbance when it’s broadly hated? Can that ever end well? And can we imagine it ending well when a police force is broadly liked and respected?)

So when a police department is routinely disrespectful, routinely uses excessive force, and routinely expresses a overt lack of interest in the law it is supposed to defend, that will impair its effectiveness.

My story from a few weeks back has one more chapter. I got out of the police car once the officers had handcuffed the shooter. That’s when backup arrived. As I watched, they stopped three young men walking down the sidewalk from a different direction. They held them against a wall and searched them, finding nothing. Another man came up, unaware of the shooting, and asked why the police had searched and released them. An officer, whose name I don’t know, walked up and shouted:

GET OUT OF HERE, YOU CAN SUCK MY DICK.

The man left. I pretended not to hear. Within a few minutes, the police took the shooter back to the 83rd Precinct, and I accompanied them to make a written statement. While I was writing the statement, in an area of the stationhouse office routinely used for guests, I noticed the envelopes addressed to various officers that were hanging on the wall. Prominent among them was an enveloped labeled:

FOR JOEY RAMOS

IS GAY

I finished my statement. I pretended I didn’t notice.

What’s the moral of this story? Well, I wrote at the beginning of the post that I support the police, and I’ll write it again here. I’m glad that the police were there to arrest a man for committing a shooting.

But I’ll add this: I’m twenty-two. I’ve been hit by a police officer. I’ve seen police officers use disrespectful and homophobic language on multiple occasions. I live in a minority-majority area. My neighbors are racially profiled. I’ve seen police officers disregard the law. I’ve seen police officers arrest other musicians. I’ve seen police officers ignore the rules and tell me not to mention the rules. I’ve had police officers threaten me with violence. I’ve had police officers twist my handcuffs to hurt me. I’ve had cuts on my wrists from handcuffs, and cuts to my hips and elbows from being dragged. I’ve had cuts to my head from being thrown into a wall. And I also helped stop a crime two and a half weeks ago. I’m like every last person in this community: we are the people the police need. 

So if you ask me for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me God), then here it is:

I support the police and it is a daily challenge for me to do so. I support the police in spite of the police, in spite of the beatings, in spite of the racial profiling, and most of all in spite of the ongoing, callous, crude, and regrettable disrespect to all of us who live here.

Now, if you’ve never dealt with the police, I’m sure it’s easy to be for them. If you have, it gets harder. If you’re a musician, if you’re Black, if you’re sleeping on a train, if you’re walking down the sidewalk in the wrong place, if you’re Hispanic, or if you’re a faggot, then it becomes very hard, very hard indeed to support your police department wholeheartedly.

A police department that treats city residents poorly — whether by hitting them, by searching them without reason, or by admitting that it just doesn’t care about the rules — is not winning any respect. And more importantly, It’s not protecting city residents as well as it could. So even if you (you, NYPD! you, Raymond Kelly!), care solely about public safety and not at all about respect, or courtesy, or professionalism, or eliminating racism and homophobia, for public safety alone you should ask your police department not to publicly belittle, insult, or harass your public.

Does this all relate to BuskNY? Yes, it does. I said at the beginning that we support the police and that we support police reform. And how we do that is simple: we advocate for the police to know the subway rules concerning the most major form of non-transit use of the MTA, to speak respectfully to artists, and to see artists as community members ready to cooperate, not as enemies.

When we argue that musicians should carry the rules, that they shouldn’t give in to unrecorded coercive threats, and that yes, they should sue when their civil rights are violated, we don’t say it because we oppose the police. We say it because we believe that the police should be doing their work better. Though the NYPD does not, we believe they can do their work better; and though the NYPD does not, we want to hold them to a higher standard. Many jokes are made in this city about the motto “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect,” but I find it’s a pretty good slogan. I even believe the police can live up to it one day.

What I say to you is: police reform doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens around specific issues and specific communities. So a movement that protects musicians and that stands up for the rules is fighting, incrementally, the same battle as any other police reform initiative. We want the police to work with our community, we want them to trust us, and we want to be able to trust them. We believe a police officer who’s willing to read a copy of the MTA rules is a better police officer than one who starts threatening, not just for musicians, but for everyone — including for the NYPD. And when the police learn that lesson, maybe they’ll have learned something greater: that working with the city, and respecting the city, is the better kind of policing.

BuskNY en español

El metro de Nueva York es un sitio para compartir no solamente el arte, sino la cultura también. Eso se nota tanto en el gran numero de idiomas que se oye en cada andén como en la diversidad de tradiciones musicales, incluso varios grupos mexicanos y andinos.

Por consiguiente, uno de los proyectos de BuskNY es facilitar acceso a información legal práctica para músicos y artistas que no hablan el inglés. Es particularmente importante notar que una proporción elevada de ellos han tenido problemas con la policía, muy a menudo sin justificación legal ninguna de la parte de la policía, todavía sin tener acceso a información exacta sobre sus derechos como artistas y la protección que ofrece la ley.

Aunque ya existen varias fuentes de información sobre la legalidad de la música y del arte en la MTA, incluso el guía de CityLore y las reglas oficiales del MTA, hasta ahora no ofrecen información en español. Por eso hemos creado una pagina en español para satisfacer las necesidades de esta comunidad. También se puede ponerse en contacto con nosotros directamente, incluso en español, para hacer una pregunta o pedir ayuda.

Esperamos que esta información les pueda servir, y que ¡sigan disfrutando de la mùsica!