Artist Statement: Without Boundaries

 

maacover

In the fall I began to struggle with mental health concerns that have plagued me since childhood. They bubble to the surface every few years, and this past semester I felt them in new and worse ways due to the changes in life that moved me away from friends, my students, a good paying job, and an overall steady lifestyle. Graduate school, financial concerns, and other issues set me on a path for hard days, and I finally sought out professional counseling. Because of the negative stigmatism around mental health issues, I had never pursued professional help before, and the assistance I received has put me on a path for better management of issues in the future.

I wouldn’t typically share this kind of information, but I have grown more honest as my mental state has improved. There will be time to go deeper into this subject, because it is one I feel passionately about, but I am writing for different reasons today.

In December, I released my first album in almost five years. Because I was on a path to dealing with my mental health issues, I wanted to put these feelings on record. I wanted to write to understand myself, as I always do. I wanted to make music that would inspire others going through mental health issues of their own by showing them that they were not alone, they were not wrong for feeling this way, and they could be honest and vulnerable in their struggle for better self-care. I wanted to contribute to the end of the stigmatism surrounding mental health.

I am writing this today because I could not have made this album without immigrants.

That seems like a strange statement to make, but I want to state it bluntly. The nine beats on the album were made by three men who have become some of my closest friends in recent years. They believe in what I am doing, and they shared their music with me, because they simply love me and want me to have the ability to pursue my passion for music. I am better for knowing them, and I hope that I support them in the same way.

All three of these men are here because one or both of their parents or grandparents immigrated to America. Those who came before them believed in the promise that America makes, in the dream that it purports to offer to all. Because of the efforts of these preceding generations, their children and grandchildren get to live free in America, making art and doing whatever else they choose to do.

To say I am indebted to these generations and to these friends is an understatement. They do not have value merely for what they were able to give me, but without recognizing what they have done for me, I act as though I owe them nothing for helping me grow into who I am today. In a sense, they are physically here because the generations before them immigrated, and I am here in a different way because they immigrated. I cannot imagine my life without these friends. These relationships, and what we are able to accomplish together, are the purest form of the American dream.

What Trump is doing, by telling us to fear immigrants, is evil. There is no other way to describe his fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric, and I am not here to argue that. What I am arguing is that, as someone who condemns his words and actions, I feel compelled to create an opposite reaction, a sort of Newton’s Law of Resistance.

Because I am indebted to my friends, the children of immigrants, American artists, I have spoken with each of them and have decided to donate 100% of the proceeds of my album to the ACLU, an organization committed to fighting for immigrants to live here, among other worthy causes. I do not want to profit from this, so as a show of good will, I will not even cover my own cost to make the album. 100% of what you pay to hear this piece of art created by immigrants and a friend of immigrants will go to fighting for the rights of many to pursue their dream of living in America without fear, without walls, and without boundaries. (Update: I have since discontinued this donation after a few months, due to the financial cost of printing the album zine. You can add a donation to your total that will still go to the ACLU).

You can purchase the album here.

Sincerely,

Ben Taylor, Holy Smokes
Casey Ramirez
Brandon Alva, Dumbstarr
Danny Hajjar, DJ Critical Mass

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