“We’re dealing with the most difficult-to-motivate generation ever. People today feel so powerless, like they can’t have an impact on anything that matters. But you can! So one of the things I’m trying to share with the community is that when you come together, we can make a difference. ”
— Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy
Save the Rave had been in the planning stages for a while, an advocacy organization for Bay Area electronic dance music community to push back against the “war on fun“. It kicked into overdrive in December, when Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s proposed Anti-Raves act of 2011 (also know as AB 74). Matt Haze began organizing a protest; Liam saw the announcement on Facebook and connected with him; and it’s snowballed from there.
To their credit, Fiona and her staff quickly realized that the proposed bill was badly written, withdrew the bill (at least temporarily) and reached out to the community. So the protest got put on hold. Instead, the Save the Ravers met with with Fiona, and convinced the SF Entertainment Commission and the SF Youth Commission to have a joint hearing on the issue. Pretty remarkable progress for a nascent activism campaign!
Of course, Save the Rave starts with some pretty big advantages. The electronic dance music and rave communities are used to having to fight for our right to party — several of the people involved have worked together on similar issues as part of the SF Late Night Coalition and the California Music and Arts Coalitions. And Liam’s a former SF Youth Commissioner himself, well known both in the community and the political world.
And as if that’s not enough, they’ve got Facebook.
“Facebook and social media let us communicate like we couldn’t before,” Liam told me. “It used to be that we’d print out flyers at Kinko’s and hand them out at events. But that only gets the word out to a few people at a time.”
I found out about Save the Rave from seeing an update from Liam in my newsfeed, and I follow what’s going on via the Save the Rave group. Facebook reworked their group’s functionality in October, and this is the first time I’ve seen an activism campaign really take advantage of it. The discussions in the group are great. We’re starting to see people posting from around the state, and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until Central Valley, LA, San Diego, and Mendocino start having their own meetings — and their own Facebook groups too.
“The group’s great for engaging people: discussions, shared links and documents, videos,” Liam says. “It goes way beyond the feed and mailing lists.” With over 5,000 people, it’s the biggest “new group” I’ve been in, and it’s been impressive how well it’s working.
Make no mistake, Facebook and other social networks like change.org (where over 8000 people have signed Jesse Alonzo’s petition) aren’t a substitute for other kinds of organizing. Liam credits phone calls and letters from group members to Assemblywoman Ma for helping show how much people care about the issue. And the San Francisco group is holding community meetings as well; there’s no substitute for getting together in person.
This issue’s come up again and again over the years, both in San Francisco and nationally with the RAVE act. Everybody wants to solve the underlying problem. It’s not a good thing when people are are getting arrested or dying at raves. And I think all the stakeholders want California to be the kind of place where it’s cool for people to get together and dance to the music they love. So it’s a great chance to turn things in a positive way and come up with some sensible solutions that focus on harm reduction.
Save the Rave’s next community meeting is Wednesday, February 16. At the state level, Fiona’s convening a stakeholder group with representatives of the nightlife entertainment industry, youth, law enforcement, local government, and emergency medical responders — the kind of people you’d want involved. And the San Francisco hearings are also an important next step.
If a revised version of the bill is introduced, then we’ll be need to prepare for legislative and legal battles which may well go on through the 2012 elections. So now’s a good time to be organizing. It’ll be tricky for groups in different areas to get together in person, but hey, there’s always Facebook. At some point, it may make sense to pull together a statewide meeting in Sacramento. Can’t wait to see the set list!