Rock the Stream 2020
24 Musicians & Bands
for Milwaukee Musicians
Did you know that Rock the Green is a 100% volunteer-run nonprofit organization?
We can't wait until live events are back in full swing, but until that happens we'll be streamin' it up!
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Hard to believe it's been a year since we kicked off our first Rock the Stream featuring Trapper Schoepp and nonprofit partner Milwaukee Riverkeeper
RTG Blogger, Will Piper, reflects upon our 18 Zooms with Milwaukee musicians and nonprofits over the past year.
This past year has been one heck of a journey for us all as a local, regional, national, continental, and above all, global community. 2020 will go down as a year that we will not soon forget. 2020 brought us a slew of new colloquial terms: social distance, six-feet apart, remote, pivot, zoom (being used as both a noun and a verb), and of course, quarantine. 2020 taught us new habits of teaching, learning, and doing business with masks and curbside pick-up. Furthermore, there are many who could argue, and rightfully so, that 2020 was one of the most tumultuously bizarre years of many of our lifetimes.
However, amidst all of the chaos, uncertainty and confusion, one thing came through loudly and clearly in 2020, and that is the sheer power of the human spirit and the yearning need for others to be together, even amidst dark times. In many ways, I feel 2020 will go down in history as a year where human innovation, a greater awareness of the need for equality and justice, community love, and personal spirit came into the forefront. We all had to find ways to safely help each other out and connect, even when face-to-face gatherings were, in large part, deemed unsafe.
As an extremely extroverted person, being in quarantine and around the house way more than usual was not always the most fun. Most of the outlets that I have enjoyed immensely for release and relaxation (attending live concerts, Brewers baseball games, and other sporting events) were no longer happening. Add in the political and social divisiveness and anger expressed by people toward one another, especially on social media, and it all got me thinking about what I could do, in some small way, to help… help not just people who are immediate neighbors, but our greater Milwaukee Community as well.
From out of this came an idea from my dear friend, Lindsay Stevens, founder and executive director of Rock the Green, to run a live-streamed concert series pairing Milwaukee, community-minded artists and non-profit organizations together to raise awareness and support each other and strengthen our community at large. Lindsay asked me if I would write blogs connecting the artists and non-profit groups together. I jumped at the opportunity, thinking that this would be a fun distraction and a way to keep my passion for writing and local music alive, even when live shows themselves were not happening.
What I didn’t know is that this experience would become not so much about the music artists and organizations, but rather about listening to others and finding ways to learn more and strengthen our community. There are many takeaways from these interviews and experiences that stuck with me and continue to resonate as we move forward into 2021 and beyond. Simply put- as humans we need a lot more unity and understanding and far less selfishness, divisiveness, cancel culture, absolutism, and finger-pointing. Admiring problems is no longer an option, especially as we move forward. Here are a few takeaways from the summer of Rock the Stream that will hopefully help better us as a community and unite us as we get ride out the COVID19 pandemic and move towards safer and better times.
First, nature is essential to the human experience. Imagine 2020 if we couldn’t go outside? Fresh water and natural beauty are gifts that unite us all and are essential to human wellbeing on both a physical and mental level. Thank goodness for organizations such as Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Water Commons, Urban Ecology Center and the Wisconsin Nature Conservancy. These and countless other environmentally-minded civic groups are working hard to ensure that the beauty and serenity of our geographical area is protected, used properly, and available for all to enjoy. While nature’s beauty is an essential human need, not everyone in our community has access to natural resources for enjoyment in the same way. Groups like the Milwaukee Commons are looking at new and innovative ways to help ensure that the glory of nature and our exquisite water resources in Milwaukee are available for all.
In addition to uniting around nature, another topic that people were able to come together and rally around is the need to cultivate young positive, proactive leaders in our community, particularly in more vulnerable parts in the city where resources and opportunities may not be as readily available. Thank goodness for groups like Teens Grow Greens, who is helping youth become leaders through urban farming and entrepreneurship opportunities.
BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing for Communities) is an organization that is all about empowering and building leaders. In a memorable and exhilarating conversation with BLOC Executive Director Angela Lang, Lang stated, “Our goal is to build long term power in our community by reframing what civic engagement ought to be We center on being an organization that teaches civic engagement regarding knowing your rights and knowing what government does, and also provide forums for people to be heard.”
Pearls for Teen Girls, True Skool, TBEY, Girls Rock Milwaukee, and many other great organizations in Milwaukee are doing their parts to continue to provide programming and opportunities for youth to find their creative voices and develop leadership skills even while having to work in socially distanced and remote environments.
Finally, being in the midst of a pandemic can be especially harrowing when dealing with other health or socioeconomic issues. People need to look beyond themselves for creative solutions to assist those in need, especially during trying times. A memorable conversation took place when I spoke with Mike Gifford, President and CEO of Vivant Health, an organization that helps people affected by HIV/AIDS and whose food pantry was flooded this past April. Gifford memorably shared, “For many folks, we are dealing with a pandemic within a pandemic. For every one person who is diagnosed with COVID19 worldwide, there are 70 people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. For the populations we serve, this has become a real challenge.” Thank goodness for Vivent Health and other organizations like Victory Garden who are tirelessly looking for ways to help others in need of additional medical or food support.
In conclusion, while there is a lot one could lament about over the past year, the power of the human spirit is strong. For artists and non-profit community-centric organizations, this was a year of thinking outside the box, and in some cases redefining the box itself. Moving forward, helping one another and strengthening our community through insight, empathy and action will be essential. I was very fortunate to be able to work with so many wonderful organizations and, in doing so, found ways to build and strengthen our community. I am too excited and hopeful that days will come soon where we will move out of the COIVD19 era, gather together and enjoy nature and live music, and work as a more mindful community to do good work and bring our local, regional, national, continental and global communities together stronger than ever.