By Caroline Lewis
A “postmodern grassroots variety show” may sound like just another one of the dismissive names people have been lobbing at Occupy ever since it cropped up in Zuccotti Park last September. But that’s what activist Laura Hanna promises in the fundraising extravaganza the Occupy group Strike Debt is putting on tonight at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village.
For some, this will be a quirky variety show, but for alternative music and comedy fans, this will be a star-studded event. Comedians like Janeane Garofolo and David Rees will entertain along with members of Neutral Milk Hotel, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Das Racist (OK, there will be magicians, jugglers, and real live Occupiers as well).
What brings them all together? It’s the kickoff of the Rolling Jubilee. The Rolling Jubilee is an ongoing “project of Strike Debt that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it,” explains the group’s website.
And thanks to some very kind words from mainstream commentators hailing from all over the political spectrum, the group far surpassed their goal for tonight’s fundraiser before it even started.
“Whoa, did you see that?” asked Annie Spencer, a member of Strike Debt. “The live ticker on the Rolling Jubilee website just crossed $200,000 being raised.” That’s enough to buy and abolish more than $4 million worth of debt.
Praises being sung of the Rolling Jubilee are rightly qualified by the observation that this is a nice thought, but probably won’t make a dent in America’s $11 trillion of debt. In fact, the group can’t even promise to erase an entire family’s debt.
“This first debt purchase of over $100,000 of medical debt is roughly 80 different people,” said Thomas Gokey, who helped execute the group’s successful test run.
Gokey said that certain kinds of debt, like mortgage debt and student debt, are also more difficult to erase. “As we learn more about the industry and talk to more people with expertise who are willing to help us, we may learn that there are additional things possible.”
But if nothing else, the Rolling Jubilee is educating people about the rules of the debt game by letting them join in.
The fundraiser will be interactive as well. “I think what makes us different is we don’t actually have telephones that are ringing in,” said Hanna. “But we have a social media booth that we’re going to set up so we can interact with people who are watching the LiveStream.”
You can learn more about debt and the Rolling Jubilee by checking out the resources on their website or watching the LiveStream of tonight’s fundraiser, which will be complete with “speed lectures” on a variety of debt-related issues. And jugglers – don’t forget the jugglers.
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