“Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” - Chet Powers
This is going to be a long one, so buckle up.
As many of you know, I ask musicians who perform at my venue in Second Life to choose a theme - an idea or even a word - that will inform and guide the songs they play. I started this during the holiday season in the middle of the COVID pandemic as I was facing Thanksgiving, my birthday, X-mas, and the start of the New Year with no one but my cats to keep me company.
But then I had an idea. What if I could gather virtual world friends to celebrate the season with weekly concerts centered around “Music Hugs?” When I ran the idea past one of my favorite musicians - Max Kleene - and he said yes, I was delighted. Suddenly I had a place, a reason, and wonderful music to look forward to every week. I can only speak for myself, but those shows and the people who showed up every week to dance, share stories, and sing along with Max became a lifeline for me. I made a lot of new friends, and I didn’t feel so alone.
But the idea that was planted during the holidays has continued to grow. In addition to Max (who currently plays every other week at my venue), I began to ask other musicians to perform as well. But when I tried to talk about their music with people outside virtual space, I encountered a disconnect. Not only weren’t they interested in coming inworld to hear the concerts but they seemed dismissive of the music as well.
This would never do. If virtual worlds have taught me anything, it’s that we have a lot to learn about ourselves and one another within them, and the music being generated there is not only good, it’s special. So I began recording and writing about the music and musicians I was meeting (see https://www.braidedlives.com/blog). “If I can’t bring people into virtual space,” I thought, “I can bring the music and stories to the outside world instead.”
A GROWTH SPURT
At the beginning of February, I was reminded of International Women’s Day (IWD). This year’s theme was “break the bias,” and I thought that would be a wonderful theme for female musicians to sing about. The result was a 12-hour music marathon featuring 14 women (and one brave man) singing songs by and for women. The event took play on March 8th., International Women’s Day, from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm PST.
At the time, I wasn’t sure why it felt so important to host such a large event. Now, however, I’ve come to think of it as a way to celebrate the day and share the remarkable work of the musicians who participated. The results were extraordinary, and I would argue far exceeded the boundaries of Second Life. But you be the judge. You can hear all the performances by clicking on the image below:
SINGING FOR UKRAINE
Today, I chose yet another theme - songs of hope and healing for Ukraine. The musicians who performed (Max Kleeene, Lexus Melodie, and Rasp Rearwin) sang not only for Ukraine but for all of humanity as well.
I made sure there was information about organizations that give aid to Ukraine (see the Resources list below) and planted sunflowers containing poems by Ukrainian poets. Listeners could click on a flower and receive a notecard containing a poem.
Max, Lexus, and Rasp delivered powerful and moving performances. Just click on the images below to listen.
Where am I going next with my virtual world concerts? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I am even more committed to sharing what I am seeing, hearing, and experiencing in virtual space. I’m sure the music and musicians will point the way.
Thank you again to Max, Lexus, and Rasp who made this a day to remember. Please listen and share with anyone who could use some hope and healing.
P.S. Here is an example of one of the Sunflowers scattered around the dance floor. If you click on it in Second Life, it will give you a notecard with a poem in it.
When you clean your weapon
When time and again, you clean your weapon
When you rub strong-smelling oils into your weapon
And shield it from the rain with your own body
When you swaddle it like a baby
Even though you’ve never swaddled a baby before —
You’re only nineteen, no baby, no wife —
The weapon becomes your only kin
You and the weapon are one.
When you dig trench after trench
When you dig this precious this hateful earth by handfuls
Every other handful reaches your soul
You grind this earth between your teeth
You don’t, you never will have another
You climb into the earth like into your mother’s womb
You are warm and snug
You’ve never felt this close to anyone before
You and earth are one.
When you shoot
Even when it’s at night and you don’t see the enemy’s face
Even when night hides the enemy from you and you from the enemy
And embraces each of you as her own
You smell like gunpowder
Your hands, face, hair, clothing, shoes —
No matter how much you wash them — smell of gunpowder
They smell of war
You smell of war
You and war are one. - BORYS HUMENYUK
Translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky
RESOURCES - HOW TO HELP UKRAINE
I. The Ukrainian Red Cross
The Red Cross is often on the frontlines of war serving to help those affected by armed conflict. The Ukrainian Red Cross is currently assisting people inside the country by aiding evacuations and providing shelter, food and basic necessities.
Donate to the Ukrainian Red Cross: https://donate.redcrossredcrescent.org/ua/donate/~my-donation?_cv=1
II. World Central Kitchen
World Central Kitchen (WCK), established in 2010, is an organization that deploys chefs directly to disaster areas to provide hot meals to those in need. WCK is currently working in Ukraine and along its borders in neighboring countries.
Donate to World Central Kitchen: https://donate.wck.org/give/236738/#!/donation/checkout
III. GlobalGiving Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund
GlobalGiving is raising funds to support locally-led organizations throughout Ukraine. Any donations to the fund will provide essentials for refugees, health, psychological and support and to education and economic assistance.
Donate directly to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ukraine-crisis-relief-fund/
IV. Vostok SOS
Vostok SOS is a Ukraine-based non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to assisting areas of conflict within Ukraine. The organization is currently accepting donations to help aid local people, evacuate the vulnerable and provide trauma support after shelling.
Donate directly to Vostok SOS via bank transfer: https://vostok-sos.org/en/ukraine-under-fire-support-vostok-sos-aid-operation/
Credit card payments are also accepted through Libereco, a Vostok SOS partner
V. Voices of Children
Created in 2015, the Voices of Children Foundation has been providing psychological support to children affected by war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine through art therapy, video storytelling, mobile psychologists and more. Now, the organization is working to support children across the country with emergency psychological assistance and assisting in the evacuation process.
Donate to Voices of Children: https://voices.org.ua/en/donat/
VI. Media Support
Donating directly toward the media in Ukraine can help fight against Russian misinformation and keep Ukrainians informed of the latest developments. A GoFundMe has been launched by various organizations to help keep Ukraine’s media outlets running during the war.
Donate to the media support GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/keep-ukraines-media-going?fbclid=IwAR2jWrF8nx344X94zBesGMlM1pMEPbV8vMv1N5Dvg5-WGQXcdBzA8QDDGF0
VII. Kyiv School of Economics
The Kyiv School of Economics has created an initiative to provide equipment to those directly involved in the war through its charitable foundation. This equipment includes protective kits, such as bulletproof vests and helmets, for groups including the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Paramedic Association and the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces. As of March 10, it has raised $5.9 million.
Donate to the Kyiv School of Economics’ initiative here: https://kse.ua/support/donation
VIII. Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion (H&I) is an international nongovernmental organization that works to support people with disabilities in areas of conflict, poverty and disaster. H&I workers have arrived in Ukraine to assess how it can help distribute medical equipment, provide post-operative care for the injured and provide mental health support. Donations will go toward supplying emergency kits and rehabilitation and mental health support sessions.
Donate to Humanity & Inclusion here: https://www.hi-us.org/support-ukraine
IX. How to Support Ukrainian Refugees
According to a tracker from the United Nations refugee agency, over 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country due to the war. Many have fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania.
Many refugees will be in dire need of basic supplies, food and resources as they’re now forced to rebuild their lives. You can donate to the following organizations to help them do this.
USA for UNHCR
USA for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, is raising funds to provide emergency supply kits, helping set up transit centers and providing temporary shelter to help Ukrainians displaced by the war. The organization has created a restricted donation fund where 100% of the donations will go toward supporting Ukrainian refugees. It recently partnered with Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds to match $1 million in donations.
Donate to USA for UNHCR’s Ukraine mission here: https://give.unrefugees.org/220224ukr_emer_d_4983/
X. Global Empowerment Mission
This nonprofit has organized a welcome center at the border of Ukraine and Poland. Donated funds will help support refugees with relocation assistance, such as transportation, lodging and airfare; it will also help with other initiatives, including war-zone evacuation of those still in Ukraine and getting aid directly into Ukraine.
Donate to the Global Empowerment Mission here: https://www.globalempowermentmission.org/mission/ukraine-crisis/
XI. Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE)
Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to immediate crisis response. CORE is working in Poland to help support Ukrainian refugees. Donations will go toward providing cash assistance to displaced families and distributing hygiene kits with soap, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, thermal blankets and other essential hygiene items.
Donate to CORE here: https://donate.coreresponse.org/give/393950/#!/donation/checkout
XII. The International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee is a longstanding organization that provides resources to those fleeing countries in crisis, including providing cash assistance, medical treatment and more. The organization is currently on the ground in both Poland and Ukraine to provide support to those who have had to flee their homes.
Donate to the International Rescue Committee: https://help.rescue.org/donate-fr/ukraine-crisis?initialms=ws_modl_fy22_ukraine_mmus&ms=ws_modl_fy22_ukraine_mmus
XIII. The Polish Red Cross
As of Feb. 28, most of the Ukrainian refugees have crossed into the country’s eastern neighbor, Poland. The Polish Red Cross has provided humanitarian reception points at Ukrainian-Polish borders to assist those entering with humanitarian aid and medical support.
Donate to the Polish Red Cross. (Note: the website is in Polish, but most browsers have an option to translate pages into English. Donations will be made in local Polish currency, zloty, and will be converted according to your card’s current exchange rate: https://pck.pl/wspieraj-nas/
See here for bank transfer donations: https://pck.pl/pck-pomaga-uchodzcom-z-ukrainy/
XIV. Malteser International
Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta and is currently involved in relief efforts for Ukraine. The organization is providing food, shelter, emergency medical care and more both within Ukraine and neighboring countries. You can donate specifically to its efforts in Ukraine on the donation page.
Donate to Malteser International: https://www.malteser-international.org/en/donation.html