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The Time Is Now

October 4, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 48
Babefest organizer Ani DiFranco Photo: GMDThree

Babefest organizer Ani DiFranco
Photo: GMDThree

by Steve Desroches

There’s an old Kate Clinton joke where she quotes Che Guevara as saying, “Optimism is the true weapon of the revolutionary,” but then stops herself and says that maybe Cher said that, but either way she adds, they are words to live by. It’s a philosophy that can be hard to hang onto in dark political and cultural times like now. It’s become a common shared experience: waking up, reading the news, and beginning the day filled with anger and rage. For instance, as people die in Puerto Rico President Donald Trump takes to Twitter to criticize San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and to say “They want everything done for them,” as the island territory continues to suffer. Indeed it can seem downright impossible to feel hopeful.

For progressives to collapse into despair would be a form of complicit defeatism. For her entire career, and life, musician and activist Ani DiFranco has armed herself with art and optimism, without shying away from idealism, casting aside the at-times negative connotations. If it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth believing in wholeheartedly. Equality, justice, freedom—if ever there was a time to rise up in support of those ideals, it is now when there are so many forces working against them. But how? How does the average person work toward real progress beyond Facebook “likes” and monthly donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Hispanic Federation? To help answer that question DiFranco is bringing Babefest to Provincetown, a combination of music, community, and activism.

Poet Andrea Gibson Photo: Lindsey Byrnes

Poet Andrea Gibson
Photo: Lindsey Byrnes

“I feel like we are in a time of great, great potential,” says DiFranco. “I’ve never felt less alone in my outrage, and this is thrilling to me. More people than ever are getting engaged. I have friends who would always leave the kitchen whenever politics came up around the table, but now they’re doing sh*t.”

DiFranco began Babefest in August 2016 in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, in part to energize her audiences to vote and get involved in supporting progressive candidates running for office. Provincetown will host the second incarnation, which begins with Activist University, an hour-long session organized by Care2, a social network dedicated to progressive activism, to take place at Fishermen Hall on Sunday, October 8. At Activist University participants will learn more about grassroots organizing and how to effect change in their local communities. Featured panelists include Chelsea Beyer, a California activist working to abolish statute of limitations for sexual assault and rape; Kelly Wright, an activist in Washington, D.C., who successfully worked to get the District of Columbia to create permanent gay pride and trans pride crosswalks; and Provincetown’s own Karen Cappotto, an artist, who organized a movement to have the old Community Center converted into Provincetown Commons, a shared creative space for artists, small businesses, and creative thought and action. Representatives from other organizations, like Emily’s List, will also be participating, as will DiFranco.

It’s these community actions that add up to form not only a potent resistance to the Trump administration, but also bring about real and lasting change as well as a spirit of cooperation that can last regardless of who is in control of the White House or Congress. DiFranco has done it and seen it herself. She’s lived with her family in New Orleans for the past 15 years, where recently monuments to the Confederacy and white supremacy were taken down. Activists had worked toward this goal for decades, but succeeded this year.

“I passed by those monuments every day taking my kids to school and now they’re gone,” says DiFranco. “Why are they gone? Because there are neo-Nazis marching in the streets and there’s a fascist in the White House. People are saying enough is enough.”

Musicians Gracie and Rachel

Musicians Gracie and Rachel

Babefest isn’t just about activism, though. It is also about forming community and generating motivation through joy and music when DiFranco performs at Town Hall Sunday night with spoken word poet Andrea Gibson, comedian Rae Sanni, and musical duo Gracie and Rachel. For as much discord and division that exists between political and cultural factions in general, there is also the simmering tension within the Left, something that existed long before Clinton versus Sanders, but is now all the more palpable. DiFranco, who notes that Clinton “is way to the right” of her, says that a commitment to a conversation about ideals and priorities among liberals is what will heal and connect us, lest we further disintegrate into a cannibalistic blame game while Republicans continue to win elections.

DiFranco is also aware that she’s created a “bubble,” as the vast majority of her fans are simpatico in their commitment to progressive causes. But she takes those values and works to live them every day, maneuvering the world with kindness and an open spirit. Approaching the world with love makes it easier to talk with those who disagree. And it contributes to combating those who organize around hate and oppression or those who seek to dehumanize a population. It also requires a dedication to the democratic process, which is a long game, not designed to be gratifying each and every election cycle.

“We have to believe in this democracy to make it real,” says DiFranco. “It’s like love. You need to believe in it to make it exist.”

Activist University takes place at Fishermen Hall, 12 Winslow St., on Sunday, October 8 at 3 p.m. The event is free, but registration is highly encouraged as space is limited. The Babefest concert is at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St. on Sunday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. To register for Activist University or to buy tickets ($59.50-$79.50) to Babefest visit thebabefest.com. For more information call 212.414.0505.