GrassRoots Festival: Using Music, Community, and a New Democracy to Lend It's Voice to Those in Need

Local festival using its voice in the community to combat the injustices it sees in House Bill 2
PITTSBORO, N.C. - April 19, 2016 - PRLog -- House Bill 2 has upset a great deal of people in North Carolina. As usual, the artist community - with possibly the most to lose - are often the ones to stand up against discrimination and injustice to those whose voices have been stifled. The Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance, along with it's predecessor of 11 years, The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival in Trumansburg, NY, has a long history of being a voice for those fighting such injustice through the expression of art and the power of community. Just the word itself, "grassroots," brings with it the sound of many voices becoming one, one whisper - or song - at a time.

Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show in Greensboro, NC to protest House Bill 2. Ani DiFranco just cancelled her performance at the Eno River Festival this summer. Some NC musicians, including Rhiannon Giddons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are taking their own stands on the law and committed to protesting from within the state. Still other artists like Mumford & Sons and Brandi Carlile have decided to go on with their scheduled shows in The Old North State and use their voices to protest the law to its citizens. Moogfest has dedicated much of their festival energy, having just moved to Durham, making it an anti-HB2 event. The list of folks cancelling and folks continuing their NC dates in order to protest grows longer every day. GrassRoots intends to move forward with business as usual, the business of building up the community as a whole in order to influence positive change.

As the GrassRoots organization (encompassing all four festivals) mission language states, "GrassRoots works to nurture local artists and talent while reaching around the globe to bring world music and culture to new audiences, creating environments that inspire creativity and foster community building. The impact of GrassRoots expands far beyond that which occurs during these four-day festivals. For over 25 years, GrassRoots has served to both engage and give back to the local and regional communities in which we exist by providing financial and organizational support to impact positive change."

This "giving back" and "fostering community building" comes into play most during challenging times for the festival's surrounding and supporting community.

"GrassRoots is no stranger to homophobia," festival founder, Jordan Puryear states. "The festival was founded in 1991 as a benefit for the fight against AIDS - which many folks at the time considered a problem only affecting gay men. The issue brought out both the best of the community - a majority - and the worst - only a small minority (thankfully)."

The organization is feeling called upon again to work for positive change. "These are the times our community needs us most," again Puryear. "The state's minorities are at risk of losing jobs, dignity, and liberties that the government should be protecting, not holding against them. And the the ability to support their families is at risk too through the lesser known cap on minimum wage that the bill contains."

This year, GrassRoots has already committed to working with a project called Democracy 2.1 (D21), a global project launched in 2014 to transform the way communities make decisions. The project combines an innovative voting system developed by Czech mathematician and anti-corruption activist Karel Janeček, and a digital platform which allows anyone to build their own secure polls and benefit from state-of-the-art analytics in real time. GrassRoots will use the system during their spring festival to gage it's attendees' feelings on certain issues and questions. This partnership makes even more sense in light of the new law, GrassRoots's feelings about giving voice to the voiceless, and grassroots activism and community support.

The festival also put a statement out last week that voiced where they fall on the over-all issue and the importance of support through celebration of community and culture through art and music. It reads, in part:

At the festival, we seek to build up the community, to love everyone in it, because everyone has a part to play and every person's life effects everyone else's. Why is it that to some, being different, is such a bad thing? And really, how different can any one of us be from anyone else? We all laugh at a good joke, cry when we are sad, feel good when we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and have a desire to be happy.

We are a part of a time in history when the hatred takes the headlines and the separation seems vast. We are located in a state where some think it is ok to discriminate against people just because of who they are; to make it part of the law to cast people out and take away their right to work, to live, to do the very things that make us human, just because they were born a little different from the ones who make these laws. So many act under the banner of a commandment to "Love one another," but forget what that truly means. We are better than this.

Read more of the statement here:

To find out more information about the Spring Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival or to find tickets, go to

More about the GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance's mission and story:

Sara Waters
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Tags:Grassroots, Music, Festival
Location:Pittsboro - North Carolina - United States
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