On Sunday, people across the country will be participating in “Concert Across America,” a series of concerts bringing awareness to gun violence. For the first time, the Southeast Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is sponsoring two concerts in Cape Girardeau for the cause. KRCU’s Lindsey Grojean spoke with the group’s local president, Lynda Stewart, and Paul Thompson, who is in charge of programming for Concert Across America, about the event, and a bit about Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Sept. 24 is the big day. “Concert Across America” will be launching Domestic Violence Awareness in October. Could you describe what “Concert Across America” is, when it started and sort of its mission?
Paul: It’s been going for several years now, and Lynda, you might know exactly what year it started.
Lynda: I think this is the third year.
Paul: Okay, third year. And it’s been growing as there’s an anticipation there will be more events this year in more locations than ever before. And I’m quite proud that locally, there are two concerts in Cape Girardeau. I think there’s a total of four listed on the “Concert Across America” website for the whole state of Missouri: one in St. Louis, one in Kansas City, as you may imagine. And two in Cape Girardeau. So that’s a point of pride, from our local point of view, at least.
The story here is the Southeast Missouri Chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America is bringing those events to our area. Where will those local concerts be taking place?
Lynda: The afternoon concert is at cup n cork at 11 South Spanish Street from 2-4 [p.m.] And the evening concert...
Paul: That will be taking place at Christ Episcopal Church on Fountain Street here in Cape Girardeau at 7:30 p.m.
And who is going to be playing at those?
Lynda: In the afternoon, a local musician, Chris Moore -- he’s styling himself as a folk Americana. It will be a wonderful afternoon of easy listening music, and a great location to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.
Paul: And then in the evening, the concert will be largely classical music. Quite a number of faculty from the Southeast Missouri State University Department of Music and some students, and also community musicians as well. We’ll be performing a lot of variety; a very charming program. Very interesting, too.
Is this the first year Cape Girardeau is taking part in the event?
Lynda: Yes, it is.
What caused you to do this? What pushed you to bring it to our area?
Lynda: Moms Demand, nationally, was founded five years ago: the day after Sandy Hook Elementary. Locally, we’ve been in existence for ... it will be a year next month. We heard about this concert last year, but we really weren’t organized well enough to do it. And so, as it turns out, a lot of music faculty are Moms Demand supporters. And so it just seemed like a perfect fit.
How big is the event? How many locations participate in the country every year?
Lynda: Last year they had 350 concerts. And this morning, I saw that there’s 200 concerts, and they’re still adding things.
So does the event identify with a certain political or social group?
Lynda: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a nonpartisan organization; we’re not red or blue. We believe that you can support the 2nd Amendment, while still finding common sense solutions to our gun violence problem. And we do have a gun violence problem in this country. 93 Americans die every day by a gun. And, unfortunately, two-thirds of those are suicide. But we are nonpartisan. We are a little political in the fact that we follow legislation, because in order to affect change in this country, we have to pay attention to the legislation and the gun laws. But were not looking at this as a political issue at all -- we’re looking at it as a public health issue. Because, as a country, we have to do better to protect our kids.
Paul: I should point out as well, not only are we nonpartisan, but we’re also not gender exclusive. It’s entirely possible for a mom to be a man as well. So, if you hear “Moms Demand Action”, there’s plenty of men who are men enough to be Moms! Isn’t that right Lynda?
Lynda: That’s right!
I was curious about that, because you are a guy.
Lynda: Yeah. And actually, here in Southeast Missouri, we’re not your typical Moms Demand Action Group either, because we’re a little older. We could be grandparents against gun violence! But no, you don’t need to be a woman, you don’t need to be a parent, you just have to have a passion for making our community safer.
Paul: There’s so many causes out there that this ties into. We have Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and I know there’s other various events: I heard this morning there was a walk taking place at [Cape] County Park, and then October, which is just around the corner here, there is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. So, essentially, these events are tying together. It’s like all of the various important things that we need to address as a society and it all comes together, as so often is the case, through music. Just heightening awareness, and making us all, myself included, stop and think a little bit about these things in our modern world. It’s totally easy to get overwhelmed and feel that we can’t do anything, and it’s just too bad. And we just try and bury our heads in the sand. But events like these concerts give you a little bit of time in a very pleasurable way to just reflect. And music does bring us all together, and these are very worthwhile and pressing causes.
Starting this year, to establish unity, each concert will be singing the same song at some point in their program. This year it’s “Nothing More” by the band, Alternate Route. What is the song about, and why has it been chosen to reflect “Concert Across America” this year? And they’ll be trying to set a new world record as well, correct?
Lynda: Yes. The song was chosen because the songwriter ... his parents were killed by gun violence. They owned a jewelry store and they were robbed, and they were shot and killed. So gun violence prevention is near and dear to his heart. And then, after Sandy Hook, many of the Sandy Hook parents created foundations, and he wrote this song for one of the Sandy Hook parents.
So who else would be participating in this event? Is it just Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America?
Lynda: We are the local sponsors, but we couldn’t do it without the Christ Episcopal Church and Cup N’ Cork giving us the venues. And of course Chris Moore for volunteering his time and talents, as well as the Southeast faculty.
Paul: Yes we’re very grateful to all of the musicians who are participating; these are busy people and it’s extremely generous of them. And of course we’re doubly grateful for the hospitality of Cup N’ Cork and Christ Episcopal. It’s very good of them.
Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today?
Lynda: Just remind you that the concerts are free. We will have a donation bucket for our gun safety education program, Be Smart For Kids. The state of Missouri, right now, is number three in the nation in the number of unintentional shootings of kids under the age of 17. And so, we have this program where we can talk to parents and remind them that it’s their responsibility to keep their guns locked up and out of the hands of little kids. One of the things that we would like to be offering is free gun locks when we give these safety presentations. And so, we’re going to be collecting funds at the concerts to help us buy gun locks so we can be distributing those throughout the area.
Paul: And we encourage anybody who’s listening to come on down ,to not just one, but both events. They’ll be really memorable; very beautiful way to spend a Sunday.
Editor’s Note: Paul Thompson serves as a guest host for KRCU’s Caffe Concerto and Afternoon Classics.