Op-Ed: Anti-Flag are fighting for change, but they can’t do it alone
Punk quartet Anti-Flag have always prided themselves on being outspoken. But their latest two offerings, inspired by an affecting conversation with a family member, may be their most important yet.
Featuring DE'WAYNE, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Marcia Richards of the Skints and others, both volumes of "A Dying Plea" capture the current state of America and push for social change. And the group intend to donate 100% of the songs' proceeds toward a handful of organizations.
To say that there is a lot of complexity to the creation of these songs would be an understatement...
In times of social change, in the optimism of protest and the inspiration of direct action, Anti-Flag have always looked to work. To find ways to best provide commentary but to also creatively contribute to the tireless and arduous work of social justice. The pandemic has made that process increasingly more difficult and has had us seeking to find what the best use of our band is, of our platform and our art.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I was talking with my niece (Jálise Della Gary, who appears on "A Dying Plea Vol. 1"), a 13-year-old, young Black girl, seeing the Black Lives Matter movement grow and increasingly becoming activated by things like TikTok. She had mentioned she wanted to work on a song to support and be a part of what is happening around the world. My sister and her fiancé (Jálise’s mother and father) were murdered when she was 11 months old. She lives with my mother in Texas and is at that important moment for any artist when they’re finding who they are and what their voice is. The part she sings in this song is so powerful to me. A 13-year-old asking, “How long must we wait?” Every time I hear it, it shakes me.
All at the same time, Stevie Aiello (producer of "A Dying Plea Vol. 2" and collaborator on "American Attraction"/"The Disease") had reached out saying he wanted to create a cross-genre collaboration and release it as a benefit for racial justice orgs.
We then started the process of marrying the two ideas. Anti-Flag got to work on the music of "A Dying Plea Vol. 1," and Stevie started building what would become "Vol. 2." We then started the process of reaching out to our friends that we felt had not only important stories to tell but also had unique perspectives on the movement.
DE'WAYNE, who we have know since making American Fall in 2016, was always in the MDDN studio while we there. We connected and had a kinship right away. Marcia Richards of the Skints, we’ve known since playing festivals together in the U.K. almost 10 years ago but have never collaborated with creatively. Jordan Montgomery, we only knew through mutual friends, but his art and record label Driving While Black has been some of the most important creative offerings our city of Pittsburgh has delivered in a long time. Jason Yawn, D.C. stalwart (of Free Children Of Earth and Trial By Fire fame), was instrumental in creating the song lyrically and as a soundboard for a lot of ideas as they came in.
Finally, Tom Morello, who has operated as our band's mentor since taking us on The Battle Of Los Angeles tour in 1999. We had Will Putney mix "Vol. 1." I met him as a guest panelist on his “We Can Do Better” charity livestream, but we have always been a fan of his production work. Matt Good mixed "Vol. 2," and we wanted to keep Matt involved as we loved making 20/20 Vision with him. He is a particularly important part of this current version of Anti-Flag. All of these people create art based on empathy and activism, and while our approaches are all varying the end goals of social, economic, environmental and racial justice are all shared...
The artwork for this release was created by Dakarai Akil, whose collage art is a small window into Black surrealism. Dakarai is from Cleveland, went to school in Pittsburgh and now lives in L.A. So many connections to these songs and their co-conspirators.
The cover image of "Vol. 1" features a photo of a police-halted march in Birmingham, 1963. The protestors pictured are praying for Bull Connor and those who were arrested at sit-in protests. The prayer protests were aimed at appealing to the civility or faith of their racist Christian opponents in Birmingham. One white officer pictured stated, African Americans' prayers never rose above their heads...
The videos for "A Dying Plea Vol. 1 & 2" were created by Keith Ray and Killer Dutch. Keith created two distinct visual stories, capturing the rise of neo-fascism, endless ramp up and further militarization of policing in America. And he created these videos all while running for and winning an election as the new Tribal Secretary of the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians.
Lastly, in a further effort to demonstrate the vast geographical distance covered in this release, we have chosen the following four organizations to receive 100% of all proceeds generated by these two songs. From Pittsburgh to Chicago, Los Angeles to London.
Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter.
Much love, much respect,
Chris #2 and Anti-Flag