It’s been a heavy week. While we’re devastated to have lost one of the GOATs of the rock and roll world, the irreplaceable Tom Petty, our attention has turned fully and unwaveringly to the largest organized shooting in the US during Las Vegas’ Route 91 Festival.
What we now know:
More than 58 were killed. 406 were injured. The gunmen’s original intention/plans (of what the reports are saying) was to target Life is Beautiful festival.
We shudder because any of those innocent civilians who were killed could have been us. They’re music lovers, regardless of genre. They could have been any of the massive festival friend/family community that we have so proudly built and contribute openly to. They could have been me and they could have been you.
We seek out festivals as a refuge from the world, but what happens when the scary, sad tormented people out there hunt down our place of refuge, our place of safety, our place of happiness, and seek to dilute and pollute it? How can one take on such evil attempts to penetrate something so pure? What happens when the festival water or our fountain of happiness has ink in it?
There’s two options. We can ignore it OR we can suck that evil snake venom, and ink, right out. We can stand for better, and we can make it right. It’s like in Mean Girls when Cady realizes she was doing wrong and being a bad person, she sought out the opportunities to course correct and make it, and her life right. If we can come together, we can isolate and suck that venom out. Can we do it without the pain we’re feeling? No, and we shouldn’t. But we should channel that energy.
Previously I’ve written about how dearly I hold festivals and experiences via music and ecstatic dance in my life and I WILL not let the lack of gun law control (which we definitely support our political system on getting a hold of) or poor mental health (and awareness of mental health issues as a whole) of others pollute something created out of so much love, creativity and altruistic intention.
So it’s time to lead with that authenticity that we seek in such a raw way that emerges in a festival setting, and if need be, to seek out help. One of my most favorite parts of going to any music festival is the ability to be my weird, creative, out-there self without fear and judgement and in a safe space. In that same way, I’m seeking to take that consistency with me from the festival world and into my life. I act the same way whether or not someone is looking or giving me approval. I seek to be more authentic with my actions so that they are in better alignment with what I promise. And now, it’s time to practice what I preach.
The world needs you and your open-mindedness, your hyper-social outlets, your Kendrick quotes (or is that just me?) and your expressive wardrobe (bring on the glitter). The world needs your positivity and it needs your love.
As Zhu says, “we are the people, of this generation.” We’ve now taken the very tools learned from the creativity fostered at these festivals and are creating movements. We saw that with the logo that was developed after the terrorism in France—the mashup of the Eiffel Tower with the peace sign. We’ve seen it with the Black Lives Matter hashtag. We’ve seen it with the women-led pink pussyhats to Fuck Trump. These movements, much like the Pray for Vegas one emerging, have become a profound manifestation of the human spirit. Of your spirit and of mine. We have the chance to take the power that we feel during the festivals, as movements and unison now into our own hands.
It’s your chance to be a leader.
David Foster Wallace claim’s the following:
“A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with “inspire” being used here in a serious and non-cliché way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own. It’s a mysterious quality, hard to define, but we always know it when we see it, even as kids. You can probably remember seeing it in certain really great coaches, or teachers, or some extremely cool older kid you “looked up to” (interesting phrase) and wanted to be just like. Some of us remember seeing the quality as kids in a minister or rabbi, or a scoutmaster, or a parent, or a friend’s parent, or a supervisor in a summer job. And yes, all these are “authority figures,” but it’s a special kind of authority.”
That, to me, is the ultimate definition of what leadership is and what a leader needs to be. And now, in this time of sadness and fear, who you are and what you believe is as important as what you do for your day job, when you’re not spending your hard earned benjamins dancing into the wee hours of the morning at your fav dance artists secret set. Your belief in the strength and power of music, must be heard, and on a united front. You are the authority of the festival community, and no one else can claim that. They think they know, but they have no idea.
Thinking back to Martin Luther King’s iconic I Have a Dream speech, he spoke from his heart and you have a chance to do the same. We have a chance to get that venom OUT of our communities. As deeply saddened as we are, let’s not see this as a loss, let’s see this as a chance to be true leaders, start a movement, and doing what’s right: standing behind and supporting the festivals that we love and working hard to support those around us, drowning out the hate, and never succumbing to the ink in our pure water.
In my day job when I’m not attending festivals on behalf of F4L, I own a creative company. With this lense I feel it is my duty to build and design a world where anyone (even you!) can help fuse creativity with the desire to solve real-world challenges.
But this takes courage, as courage is taking that first step without knowing whether or not it’s going to be successful.
I hope you join me, in pledging to do SOMETHING, even as small as reaching out to a friend who might struggle with mental health, or a friend who seems down, even if you haven’t spoken to them in a while.
In the small amount of time I’ve forged my own path, I’ve been able to address incorrect assumptions and connotations of gender through the eyes of my dear friend Malcolm (aka Gorillashrimp), a trans advocate who travels the globe supporting others in identifying their true selves. I’ve addressed mental health head on with messages of positivity underneath a colorful 45-foot parachute with Ron ( aka Roochute.)
And now, I’m turning to you. And your friends and your communities as change agents, in addition to the ones I’ve built and am building and actively contributing to.
Staying strong and sustaining the change
If you’re an agent of change, you will feel like you are going against the grain. And you will encounter natural friction. There will be setbacks. You might piss people off. Things will take longer than you like. When encountering frictions, see it as a gift. Consider it to be illuminating what about the larger system will need to be changed. Create a journal and build a list of all the pain points and the friction—these will be insights moving forward.Or share those pain points with us.
You’ve been swimming upstream, and here comes the hard part. To sustain and scale change, you’ll have to change the flow of the river so that the river is actually making it easier to behave in the right way. You need to determine, what are those things we can support or discourage certain ways of behaving? But, you’re not alone. We’re with you, even if you don’t feel it.
When working toward change, it’s natural to have challenges along the way. This is where you’ll need to start to show people that this change IS possible. Remember if you’re trying to drive change, you have to be in service of others. And in this case, the victims of Vegas and the larger community are beckoning for us to be in their service. They need us, the festival community to support them. It’s easy for your own beliefs and agenda to get mixed in. People support what they create. Let’s bring our communities of music lovers into the process of creation.
How can we start a movement? What can we do to bring people together?
*Inspo, thoughts and learnings are taken from/ inspired by Debbie Millman, Ideo & you!