By Laura Ferreiro
It’s not always easy for young musicians to find their voices. The Concert for Social Justice at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on April 8 was all about encouraging young artists – and everyone in the sold-out audience – to do just that and to speak up about the human rights issues they’re most passionate about.
Put on by the Grammy Museum and Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, the concert featured a slew of notable headliners and seasoned musicians known for speaking their minds, and using their public platform as artists to convey important messages. Jackson Browne, Tom Morello, Melissa Etheridge, Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were just a few of the artists who gave their time and their talents for this worthy cause.
The concert raised funds for the new Speak Up, Sing Out initiative, a competition that encourages middle and high school students to become engaged in human rights issues by writing songs. The first winner of the competition, 13-year-old Jade Rhodes – a student at Brentwood School in Los Angeles – performed the song she wrote in front of the huge audience. Her moving song, “Invisible,” imagines the experiences of a refugee from Darfur, and earned the young songwriter a lengthy standing ovation.
Other highlights of the evening included a rousing performance by Grammy-winning Latin band La Santa Cecilia, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who sang four songs including a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and encouraged the crowd to “speak truth to power,” a theme that was echoed by other artists throughout the night.
In between musical performances, an array of notable actors including Martin Sheen, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert and Chad Lowe read inspiring stories about oppressed people throughout the world, including Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
Lowe introduced Etheridge, who strolled onto the stage strumming her guitar and spoke out about issues she has long championed including same-sex marriage and performed her tunes “Testify” and “Silent Legacy.” She told the audience, “Social justice happens right here with just one person.”
Crosby and Nash, joined by a full band, blew through several of their hit songs, ending with a sing-along of “Teach Your Children,” a fitting theme for the night.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne concluded the concert with his anti-war anthems “Live in the Balance” and “Far From the Arms of Hunger” before inviting all of the performers back onto the stage for a grand finale of Woody Guthrie’s American classic “This Land Is Your Land.”
Music for Good was honored to be a part of this memorable evening.