Welcome to the Church of Stop Shopping!

image003.pngReverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir is a radical performance community based in New York City, with 50 performing members and a congregation in the thousands.

We are wild anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth loving urban activists who have worked with communities all over the world defending community, life and imagination.

We compel action in those who have never been activist,  revive exhausted activists, and devise new methods for future activism. We also put on a great show.

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I'm going to be there

01_med_res.jpgAs a child I was obsessed with magic and fantasy worlds and superheroes (thanks to my big brother). One day I was near tears as I realized that the possibility of my living in a world where I could come to the aid of people who were being mistreated or taken advantage of with magic was zero. My mom asked me, "What's wrong?" Through the tears I responded, "I don't have a superpower." Without missing a beat she responded, "I probably shouldn't tell you this but can you keep a secret?" I remember my tear filled eyes glancing up from the green carpet, past the pink tiles of the bathroom floor where my mom was getting ready for bed and into her eyes. She said, "You have a super power: love."

As I prepare to leave on a bus for Missouri today to protest Monsanto (headquartered in St. Louis) and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, I can't help but feel I need to be prepared for what might (should?) feel like time travel. As the nephew/grandson/cousin of cops, firefighters and veterans, I refuse to go in with the mindset of "F*ck The Police." I will go in with the mindset that this is not the America that so many members of my family pledged oaths to protect and serve.

I'm upset. I'm upset because when my partner looked at me this morning with his eyes filled with worry I couldn't say, "Everything's gonna be ok." I honestly don't know if everything is going to be ok.

This past week has been filled with performances. I was so proud to work with the cast of "The Colored Museum" as they probed George C. Wolfe's satirical piece that speaks in a timeless way about race in America. Wednesday night The Stop Shopping Choir sang at a benefit for Ferguson headlined by Joan Baez. She sang so beautifully and spoke so eloquently about so much but the story that stuck with me was about her, as a teenager, singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" to a sleeping Dr. King.

My plan is to go down to Missouri armed with the magic of music and the power of love. And I'm going to be there.

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No Justice

10689663_10152391045910974_921447865731268659_n.jpgWe want justice for Michael Brown's family and for the community of Ferguson. That justice will not come from this mostly-white government and justice system. The testimony shows the use of deadly force in a murderous fusillade. The grand jury and prosecutor clearly fail to persuade that this was necessary. Their basic values are painfully obvious. They feel deadly force is an alternative for a white officer who feels confronted in his authority, his manliness, his delicate ego.

We know from Wilson's leaked testimony that he argued that he "was afraid for his life." Really? So Wilson continued to be afraid for his life as he chased Brown?The prosecutor seems to not notice at all that the fatal shot came after Wilson chased the suspect. This sequence seems to indicate a hunting down of the suspect - out of fear? Or out of anger, adrenaline, and racism?

How can shooting an unarmed citizen who may or may not have stolen some cigarillos from a convenience store, be a sensible decision by that officer? Michael Brown was a big man who could grab or hit, but we're still nowhere near the justification for deadly self defense; that is, not unless you lose sight of the immorality of murder. The prosecutor seems almost amused by it.

The prosecutor's insistence that "scientific" evidence has ruled this decision is fabulously out of touch with the reality on the ground. He is locked in a false professionalism that is nearly comic it is so inappropriate. He seems flabbergasted with a question from a African American questioner: "Is there something wrong when no law in Missouri seems to defend the rights of this unarmed victim?"

Of course, hanging over the proceedings is the continued frequency of these shootings over time. Only the uprising of young African Americans in the community which caught the world's attention keeps that question in view. But the legal system in this former slave state has no way to admit the larger problem. When racism is systemic, players like this prosecutor are not conscious of it. He refers time and time again to his procedures. As he does this, he is safe from the real question, the only question: How is it that so many unarmed black males are killed by police.

Michael Brown is dead. He's dead. This prosecutor seems to not know what that means. It is a fact for him, a fact among many other facts. The racist culture of St. Louis makes the facts resemble one another, like they are an evidence list on a police form. Michael Brown was shot dead by a bad cop. Michael Brown was shot dead by a racist society.

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