On Sunday, June 28th, over 50 artists and tens of thousands of fans came together for Justice Comes Alive, a one-day, virtual festival harnessing the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. The donation-based streaming event generated $55,000 and counting in funds for the participating artists, who remain out of work as the pandemic continues, as well as a number of social justice-oriented causes via PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund.
The 12-hour live-stream marathon featured new contributions by an array of amazing artists from around the world including storied bassist Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company, Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit), who joined co-host Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power) for a nuanced discussion about both the modern and longstanding racial issues impacting the United States.
As Oteil told Live For Live Music about his experience watching and participating in Justice Comes Alive following the event, “Justice Comes Alive itself was very moving for me. I was doing a lot of stuff around the house that day and had it playing in my earbuds. I was laughing out loud, crying at times, grooving to the music… I felt a great sense of relief after it. … I am really grateful to have had the chance to say what was on my mind to our community without it being confined to a sound byte. All of our problems have roots that go back millennia. And we have such short memories. But we are also out of time for just more of the same old thing.”
After expressing her most sincere admiration for Burbridge, Glaspie began the conversation by probing Oteil for an update on how the Dead & Company bassist has been dealing with the latest developments rippling through the country. The two spoke about how Burbridge having two young children has affected his connection to the current protests, examined the similarities between the actions of bigots and the actions of addicts, examined the inherently “socialist” nature of federal bailouts for big corporations, and delved into the philosophical difference between “what’s right” and “what’s legal.”
As Oteil expounded while speaking about the technically legal but morally problematic actions employed on Wall Street, “I heard someone talking about Rayshard [Brooks]. Legally… It was legal for the cop to shoot him because he took the taser, you know? So we have to deal with what’s legal. Glass-Steagall [Act] was made [in 1932], went away [in 1999], so now, these things are legal for the banks to do that should be illegal—and that even once were. Or pot was legal, then they made it illegal, and now they make it legal again, you know? It’s like, don’t tell me what’s legal. I wanna know talk about what’s right. I don’t give a [expletive] what’s legal. Slavery was legal. … That’s why I say it’s baked into the cake. This goes way back.”
Responding to an anecdote from Burbridge about an insurance company that built its fortune off of insuring slave traders, Nikki added, “As far as we go back, that’s what it is—we were property, and then we weren’t, but we still are, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
“Everybody is,” Oteil responded with frustration. “I mean, let’s get real about it. What about [when people say], ‘police kill more white people than Black…’ I’m like, ‘you ain’t mad?!’ Go look around at all our allies. White police aren’t killing white Canadians, white English, white French, white Germans, white Irish. … Nope! They’re not doing it. So why ain’t you mad? You have a slave mentality yourself. You mad at me. That’s what they want. They want us to be mad at each other.”
One of the overarching points that Oteil addressed was expanding conversations like this one beyond the issue of race and addressing larger societal issues. He explained, “This conversation will have to broaden out from race, because you can’t talk about the race problem without talking about how drugs were let into the community, then the sentencing and the crime bills and all that. So they make money off of you on the drugs, and if you get better they make money off the health care, if you don’t [get better] they make money off putting you in the system, then you go into the private prisons, the prison industrial complex, and its like: wow. What’s the common thread?”
Oteil also admitted that there were members of his family who voted for Trump in 2016 but have now found themselves marching with Black Lives Matter. This lead to a thoughtful examination of the way Trump’s nomination, let alone his election, emboldened many bigots to “take off their hoods” and expose themselves.
The discussion did eventually received a dose of levity, however, when his son, Nigel, tried to get into the playroom that Oteil had commandeered for the interview.
Relive the conversation between Nikki Glaspie and Oteil Burbridge during Justice Comes Alive below. If you are able, please consider making a donation to Plus1 For Black Lives Fund via www.JusticeComesAlive.com.
Justice Comes Alive Conversations – Oteil Burbridge & Nikki Glaspie
Presented by Live For Live Music in partnership with PLUS1 and Nugs.TV, Justice Comes Alive was conceived as a way to harness the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. All funds raised from Justice Comes Alive will be split evenly between the artists on the bill and the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund, which was developed to address and continue the fight against anti-Black racism and violence in the U.S.
Directly supporting organizations like Equal Justice Initiative, Impact Justice, and The Bail Project, the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund focuses on empowering Black communities, movement building, keeping people out of the criminal justice system while dismantling it more broadly, and a collective, international narrative change toward the equitable treatment of Black people. 30% of the PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund is also committed to small grants for Black and Indigenous-led grassroots efforts combating racism.
For more information on Justice Comes Alive, head here.