There has been much acclaim for 28-year-old Gary Clark Jr. from Austin, Texas, before and around his recent first official album release of ‘Blak and Blu’ (released in the US on 22 October 2012). And there is more to this ‘guitar man’ than the news that he has continuously been mentioned with good reason next to giant musical predecessors like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Steevie Ray Vaughan. He has performed next to Sheryl Crow, Citizen Cope, Alicia Keys, Damian Marley, and The Roots band leader and drummer Questlove amongst others. He has also had his share of an exposure to the political sphere. Sometimes pro-actively, at times acceptingly, certainly with the necessary blues.
Gary Clark Jr. Day has been celebrated in his hometown on 3 May ever since he was 17 years old and the local mayor introduced it. He has been invited to and applauded the ‘Red, White and Blues’ 21 February 2012 official White House event where he performed next to B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Mick Jagger and others in front of a particularly ‘selected’ crowd. While he musically claims that ‘Times Are Changin’, he is also attempting to contribute his own more tangible share to this very change. Playing at the 2011 Black Ball of the Keep A Child Alive foundation – co-founded by Alicia Keys and Leigh Blake to combat HIV/AIDS on the African continent and in India – he helped raise a total of USD 3 million to benefit the foundation’s work. He also played a Sandy relief concert in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on election day 6 November with monetary, food and goods donations being collected and directed to hurricane victims. In his one-off cinematic appearance he also featured in the movie Honeydripper – a symbiosis of themes which could hardly have been more suitable: civil rights, discrimination and: the blues!
The culturally connoted and enriched enthusiasm of the 2008 US presidential campaigning seems a distant memory today. Back then graphic designer Shephard Fairey spearheaded the election cult(-ure) with his Obama posters. Four years later not many traces of a comparably grand enthusiasm are perceivable. The inspiration and contribution of creative workers seems to have faded considerably. This may come natural with the profit orientation in popular culture and the perceived decrease in public interest.
Inspired exceptions are very welcome, of course: and while Mitt Romney has been re-enacted to join the Gangnam Style crowd, a few have added some more spice. This can come in various forms. The (card) ‘game of politics’ or more serious encouragements to go out and fulfill civil responsibilities. Sometimes it boils down to road side innovation in 2012 as well: the Gum Election 2012 has been in progress for a number of weeks. A reliable and amusing indicator? Possibly also an example of how direct democratic ways can be rather destructive in style and ask ‘Who sucks the most?’. Anyway, let us wait and see who that may be.
While the the campaigns are entering the final phase, one theme prevails throughout the camps: the treasured electorate and its access to the ballot box. The 2008 election outcome was heavily based on a strong mobilisation voters on the Democrats’ side. Convincing those who were undecided was not considered as being most relevant any more. Success was considered to have stemmed to great extent from the efforts of a very high number of campaign workers on the ground who ‘carried’ Mr Obama’s message to the doors of homes in relevant neighbourhoods. An undercurrent of legal-political action has been notable ever since: 62 more restrictive voter identification document bills have been proposed by Republicans throughout 37 states in the US in 2011 and 2012. The Republican Grand Ol’ Party (G.O.P.) is hoping to reap the benefits next Tuesday when votes are being cast. Part of the eleven per cent of potential voters considered not to hold the necessary I.D. cards required according to the strictest legislation today will not be able to vote. Amongst them a considerable number of socially disadvantaged.
One of the most prominent figures behind these ‘Grand Ol’ efforts’ has been one Mr Hans von Spakovsky. No joking, this is the gentleman’s real name – and his barely hidden heritage is half Germanic, half White Russian. His father from Belarus is said to have stood up against the realm of Communism: standing up against Bolshevik’s in Russia and against Tito in former Yugoslavia. What lesson his son learned from him is difficult to gauge: was it the eagerness to oppose something, was it a meticulous righteousness, was it an ambition to impact political processes or the mere spirit ‘to stand up for what I believe in’ as Spakovsky claims? Some uncertainty remains. But he certainly has this strong belief he hinted to: anyone who does not fulfill the last ever so strict condition to vote, should not vote. Maybe there is also a slight underlying motivation of countering the might of an unfavorable electorate as those lacking the relevant documents often are not the typical G.O.P. supporters.
One thing is for certain: after having been a member of various election commissions (including the federal one subsequent to his appointment by President Bush in 2006) and with his proven dedication to the cause, Mr von Spakovsky will continue to stand up for his belief. He did so when being present for the re-count of ballots cast in Florida in 2000, he did so in his continuous lobbying in various capacities behind the scenes and he will do so in the swing state of Virginia on Tuesday, 6 November 2012. Let us see of what avail this will be – and be looking out for the adjacent cultural components in the next post.
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