Event: You Are Not A Loan, a Benefit for Strike Debt Bay Area

Written by Catherine Lee. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Economy, Events

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Published on January 26, 2013 with 2 Comments

You Are Not a Loan

By C.B.S. Lee

January 26, 2013

Occupy Wall Street has moved out of the streets and into the spreadsheets by launching a “Bailout of the People by the People” campaign, a campaign aimed at buying and forgiving consumer debt.

StrikeDebt.org, an OWS offshoot organization, has raised $550,000 so far, monies that are being used to eliminate as much as $11 million of consumer debt.

The Strike Debt Bay Area chapter is throwing a fundraiser on Monday, January 28 at the Roxie Theatre with an A-List lineup of artists, musicians and comedians.  The event will be “In the spirit of an old-fashioned telethon that will be live-streamed,” said Hiya Swanhuyser, one of the organizers.

In the debt business, consumer debt is bundled and sold to debt collectors for pennies on the dollar in a secondary market.

When repaying debt, a family may struggle to pay back every penny, but bundled consumer debt is a bargain: $20 of debt can be paid with just $1.

Strike Debt raises money with non-charitable donations to buy consumer debt on this bundled-debt market and then simply strikes the amount from the books, according to StrikeDebt.org.

In December, 44 individuals with a combined debt of $100,000 in unpaid medical bills had their debt forgiven.

You Are Not A Loan

The subtitle of the Monday benefit,You Are Not A Loan, reframes the human element of the debt story.

“One of the things that happens with debt is that we get hounded (by collectors), and you feel very alone and ashamed,” said Strike Debt national organizer Dr. Hannah Appel, an economic anthropologist researcher, previously at Columbia University and now at UC Berkeley. “This becomes an isolating experience that regular people struggle with.”

Strike Debt supports people-organizing around debt to collectively address the issue. The organization serves as an umbrella with research, resources and tactics to foster regional chapters. From Philadelphia to Chattanooga, and from the UK to Spain, chapters have held events to challenge the debt business.

“Organizing different types of events, like the Rolling Jubilee or a Debtors’ Assembly, allows people to ‘come out’ about our debt and not be ashamed of it,” Appel said.

Debtor's Assembly

The Rolling Jubilee and Debtors Assemblies

Monday’s Strike Debt telethon will resemble the inaugural Rolling Jubilee, initiated Nov. 15 in New York City.

“A jubilee is an event in which all debts are cancelled and all those in bondage are set free,” according to the website.  New York’s jubilee included band members from Sonic Youth, TV on the Radio, Fugazi and Neutral Milk Hotel.

San Francisco’s telethon will feature Jello Biafra, founder of The Dead Kennedys and spoken word artist, and Penelope Houston, the singer for The Avengers and a veteran of political verse, performing songs from her solo release “On Market Street.”

Jazz luminary Marcus Shelby will also play. “Marcus is such a classy gentleman, people sometimes overlook how political he is,” Swanhuyser said.

Many comedians are also on the bill, but stand-up comic and political activist Nato Green is a special spice for a pro-Occupy crowd: “I’m probably the only standup comic arrested with Occupy.  I got arrested at the Jan. 20 Citizen’s United anniversary demonstration,” Green said.

“I’ll probably break out of my regular stand-up routines to do some class warfare,” he said.

The fundraising telethon taps into the significant contact lists of organizers Swanhuyser and George Chen. Swanhuyser was involved with Occupy SF when she produced the Occupy Art and Performance series in 2011.  The series provided entertainment but also encouraged artists to contribute skills to other activists and be part of the Occupy space, she said.

Organizing the Strike Debt event is an extension of the Occupy ethos. “It’s important that culture producers have a voice in political matters because they can do what only art can do: inspire us through our difficult times,” Swanhuyser said.

A Debtors’ Assembly for anyone who is “in debt or who is outraged by the debt system” is planned for Feb. 2 in Oakland.

Catherine Lee

Ms. Catherine Lee is a writer, editor, and community organizer in San Francisco. Catherine is focused on the diverse and sociologically rich events in the SF Bay Area. She is exceptionally interested in the confluence of art, culture, and social movements. Scribbling in notebooks since she was nine, publishing on the web since 1999, and writing for the San Francisco City College Guardsman newspaper since 2010, Catherine has published more than 50 print and web articles about the arts, culture, news, and community organizing. Additionally she has broadcast a public access television program for 15 years. "Video Vision: Emerging Artists in Digital Transmission" curates the best digital arts and cinematic music videos for a weird and wonderful half hour of alternative media. For the corresponding website, Catherine has published articles about music, videos, artist interviews, and non-commercial media. As Arts and Culture Editor at the Guardsman newspaper, Catherine cultivated a socially conscious, multi-cultural, and omnivorous culture section. She assigned stories to writers, provided leads and copy edited stories for publication. Sample articles include: Banned Books Week, Buy Nothing Day and Adbusters, Grammy Elimination of Latin Jazz, Mayoral Candidate Positions on the Arts, Latino and Chinese cultural events, and rock poster art. Catherine has also been a staff reporter at the Guardsman for news, op-ed and culture stories. Stories include: the Occupy Movement Poster Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Arts Festival, the deYoung Museum, Chinese art and artists, Mexican art and musicians, restaurant reviews, the Free University of San Francisco, human rights, and City College of San Francisco news.

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Comments for Event: You Are Not A Loan, a Benefit for Strike Debt Bay Area are now closed.

  1. The comedians, music and Jello Biafra’s finale was live-streamed on UStream and is available here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28890598

  2. Credit card debt in California is legally cancelled four years after the date of the last payment.  That doesn’t mean the lender can’t sue you for the debt after four years, but it does mean that if they do, the statute of limitations defense on written contracts has become available to you.  And, the lenders know that it has become available, they are very unlikely to sue you.  If the lender can’t determine that you have any money, they’re not likely to sue you before then either.