By Mandy Freebairn, Staff Writer
Ahead of the New York primary next week, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has announced that he will be speaking at a rally in Washington Square Park this Wednesday evening. If that weren’t enough, the rally will also feature an impressive roster of special guests: Vampire Weekend, Spike Lee, Rosario Dawson, Shailene Woodley, Linda Sarsour, Tim Robbins, and Graham Nash. Each of these names alone would be enough to generate a crowd, so obviously you’ll find me camping out outside the park all day on Wednesday. The list is impressive, but not just for its undeniable star power. These speakers are musicians, actors, writers, producers, and above all activists. They represent a wide array of disciplines united by a common interest. To better understand the significance of Bernie’s roster, let’s break it down one-by-one:
Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig has been outspoken about his support for Bernie from the start. He and other Vampire Weekend members have played at multiple Bernie Sanders events, one of which inspired the first installment of this very column. Though they don’t necessarily produce political music, Vampire Weekend’s fan base has always been relatively young—due in part to Koenig’s fangirls—making any political statements they do make widely influential. So much so, in fact, that when Obama sought reelection in 2012, he included Vampire Weekend on a “wish list” of musicians whose support he’d want.
Spike Lee’s films have been tremendously influential in analyzing race relations, and Lee himself has been an outspoken advocate for racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Most recently, he participated in the #OscarsSoWhite boycott of the 2016 academy awards. Not only do his films demonstrate artistic expertise, they also feature strong political messages.
Like Lee, Rosario Dawson has long been known for her activism in addition to her performances as an actress. She has done significant work for women’s issues, and has recently spoken at numerous Sanders rallies. In addition to her acting, she has also produced films about real-life issues, such as 2007’s “Descent,” about sexual assault. As a result of her involvement in the cause, Dawson sits on the board of Eve Ensler’s V Day, a movement to end violence against women.
Ironically, Shailene Woodley is probably the only real “Bernie Bro.” She has publicly expressed her distaste for the feminist movement, which is pretty uncool of her. She seems to align with Bernie on issues like climate change and income inequality.
Linda Sarsour is a tried and true activist—she’s the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) and the Director of the Arab American Association of New York. She works closely with the Arab community both here in New York and nationwide, and if that weren’t enough, she’s also a great performer with a Brooklyn accent that rivals Bernie himself.
Another filmmaker, Tim Robbins has been involved in both the artistic and political spheres for a long time. He was publicly opposed to the Iraq war, and was a vocal supporter of Ralph Nader in 2000. Robbins’ movies, while not explicitly political, have dealt with themes like capital punishment and government surveillance.
If Tim Robbins is a well-known political artist, Graham Nash is a hall of famer. Better known as the “Nash” in Crosby, Stills & Nash, his group played an integral role in 1970’s anti-Vietnam war activism. Their song “Chicago” was about the arrest of anti-war activists in riots in downtown Chicago in 1968. After the deaths of the Kent State students in 1970, the band released “Ohio,” which called out Richard Nixon by name. Most of the original band members (including Nash) have come out in support of Sanders this year.
It’s downright inspiring to see individuals from such a wide array of artistic disciplines, and with such rich personal histories of social activism, come together in support of Sanders. Most of these people have attempted to bridge the gap between culture and politics, bringing issues like those that Sanders talks about to the forefront of artistic debate. This is an important work, and it certainly says something about Sanders that he has gained the support of such people.