While most musicians who ask their fans for loose change are looking for a quick way to earn cash, alternative rock band State Radio uses the coins they collect in Ithaca to empower women in impoverished nations.
State Radio, a politically minded alternative rock band led by Chadwick Stokes will perform at 8 p.m. tomorrow at The Haunt and will raise funds for “Bringing Change to Women,” a campaign to support women’s empowerment programs worldwide.
“Bringing Change to Women” is an initiative of Calling All Crows, a non-profit humanitarian organization co-founded by Stokes that encourages bands to become active in supporting oppressed women around the world. Before the show, Ithaca residents and Ithaca College student volunteers will team with Loaves and Fishes, a local food pantry, to help serve free meals to community members.
State Radio was founded after Stokes took some time off from playing with Dispatch and decided to join bassist Chuck Fay and drummer Mike Najarian to form the new band. They decided to channel the energy their fans brought to their concerts and use it to benefit local communities. The band works with humanitarian organizations
before concerts in the cities they visit on tour. The group also recently
attended Occupy Wall Street protests in Boston and Burlington, Vt. Stokes said bringing music, activism and service together has always fascinated him.
“I’ve always really gravitated to music and bands that I felt like had something deep going on,” Stokes said. “Whether that’s Hendrix, or the Stones or Rage Against the Machine, I felt like I was part of something and part of that movement.”
Stokes said he and his manager Sybil Gallagher developed Calling All Crows to make the band’s activism more effective. Since December 2008, Calling All Crows has raised more than $200,000 for Sudanese women and is now working to aid women’s shelters in Afghanistan. At each event, State Radio leaves out buckets for concert attendees to donate loose change and then gives that money to international programs that benefit women’s rights.
Stokes said through his work as an activist he has learned oppression of women contributes to violence in regions like Sudan and Darfur, and he said he wants to work to help these women.
“If women were given equal opportunity, it would start this chain reaction and help an area escape its own violence,” he said.
Freshman Kevin Collins became involved with Calling All Crows in August when he joined the Amplify Education Alternative Break Tour, a one-week program that invites 10 fans to join State Radio and the reunited Dispatch in its community service events and concerts. Collins said his fellow volunteers inspired him to be active in his community.
“The people that volunteered with us were all so positive and active in what they were doing, so it was a really good environment,” he said.
Collins said Calling All Crows asked him to organize the community service event for State Radio’s show in Ithaca almost two months ago. He said the group chose to work with Loaves and Fishes instead of another non-profit because it was local and affected the community directly. Six Ithaca residents and
college students will assist the organization in serving free meals and will then be given meet-and-greet passes to spend time with the band after its show. Collins said State Radio usually attempts to volunteer at the service events, but the band won’t be able to attend this week because of scheduling conflicts.
Christina Culver, executive
director of Loaves and Fishes, said the organization serves about 130 to 150 free meals per day but has recently been serving up to 200 meals per day because of the 19 percent poverty rate in Tompkins County. While the organization relies on the work of volunteers to meet the community’s needs, she said it’s rare for an organization outside of the city to organize volunteers to assist in meal services.
“It’s a very worthy concept that they would want to support an organization that helps the community where they’re playing,” she said. “It’s the model of how to be an upstanding citizen.”
Stokes said while most of the group’s fans support the service projects and political messages portrayed in their songs, some object to its bold activism.
“We like to have the petitions there if people are interested and if some of the tunes or some of the things we talk about inspire dialogue,” he said. “That’s as much as we can ask for.”