Bern Art: A Bernie Sanders Fundraiser in Bushwick

"Bernie 2016" poster by Roberta Aviram. Image courtesy the artist and Armand Aviram.

You know that Bernie Sanders’ rousing speeches, surging support and rise in the polls have taken a great many Americans—and certain Democratic party stalwarts, in particular—by surprise. You’re aware that he addresses issues directly, and with candor and sincerity, and that he avoids gossip and lofty abstractions in favor of real talk about real things that really matter. You also know—since we rather enjoy bringing it up around here, somewhat immaterial though it might be—that Bernie’s got Brooklyn roots.

What you might not know, though, is how easily you could get involved with the Bernie Sanders campaign yourself, should you be so inclined. Another thing you might not know is that there’s a big Bernie benefit coming soon to the easterly end of Williamsburg most often referred to as Bushwick.

Yes, a fundraiser for Bernie Sanders. In Bushwick. Fueled by donations of art and lots of live music. It’s called “Berning Up Brooklyn,” and it’s coming to The Paper Box on the evening of October 8th. (More information on the Facebook event page.)

When we heard about “Berning Up Brooklyn” from organizer Armand Aviram, we thought it would be a great opportunity to ask a few (mostly serious) questions about the variable statuses quo of Bernie-endorsing activities in and around Brooklyn, and about what fundraiser attendees have to look forward to in early October.

When and how did you get involved with the Bernie Sanders campaign?
Bernie grabbed my attention in 2010 after his historic 8½-hour filibuster against the extension of the Bush tax cuts. I knew right away this guy was not like other politicians—that he was honest and a true force. I continued to follow him after that, watching him on Bill Maher and other political talk shows, always amazed by his willingness to speak the truth. I couldn’t believe it when he announced he was running for President. Initially I was just really excited, posting articles on Facebook, as friends and family members laughed in my face when I told them not to underestimate Bernie. A few months later, it’s not even a question: he is a force to be reckoned with, and people around the country are connecting with his message. Billionaires and large corporations have hijacked our democracy, but we have an amazing opportunity right now to elect someone who hasn’t been corrupted by the system. He is someone with integrity and morality on his side. I’ve been volunteering, canvassing, going to meetups and just generally trying to play whatever role I can in the local Bernie community. I believe my fellow musicians and artists have an obligation to spread the word with their talents, and my mission is to build a local coalition to do just that.

The campaign has benefited quite a lot so far from volunteer efforts, grassroots organizations and various sorts of small donations, some of which has seemed almost spontaneous. Tell us what Bernie campaigners are doing locally—in the New York metropolitan area in general, and in Brooklyn in particular.
My new friend (you make new friends very quickly when you volunteer for Bernie) Sean Patrick Murphy has volunteer training sessions every Monday at 6pm at the fountain in Washington Square Park. I highly recommend attending that. I’ll be there helping too! Our goal is to eventually have a presence in the park on a daily basis. There are also bi-weekly “Brooklyn For Bernie” meetings at Cherry Tree Bar, in Park Slope, Wednesday nights at 7pm, in the backroom. The next one is Sept 16th. You can also go to TeamBernieNY.org to check out all the local events going on.

More generally, how can supporters get involved with the campaign or help out in some way?
Text BERNIE to 82623 and go to berniesanders.com to sign up as a volunteer. Pop in your zip code to find the nearest events. There’s always something Bernie-related happening. Just make sure you RSVP on the website. Also, be creative and figure out how you can lend your own skillset to the campaign. Set up your own events, talk to your friends, spread the word, and get active! Talk about Bernie 24/7, like me.

Tell us about the art and music benefit you’re now organizing, “Berning Up Brooklyn.” How did that take shape, and what will the event be like?
There are so many people in this country that have absolutely no idea what’s going on politically, or they’ve been brainwashed by corporate news outlets that thrive on salaciousness rather than real news. People forget that in the 1960’s, many people got their news from musicians and artists, but somewhere along the way mainstream consciousness took over, and that element of informing the public through art got a little lost in the mix. Now is a great time to revitalize that artistic/political movement, and NYC can be a great central hub for that. This event is about getting people excited and energized with a ‘greatest hits’ selection of political songs that everyone knows and loves—by Stevie Wonder, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, and much more. We’ll have Bernie-inspired artwork on the wall and free Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream from 7-8pm. Let’s send a strong message of solidarity to the local community that we want Bernie. The Political Revolution is happening, and here’s some good music to get you in the mood.

So, your mother produced some artwork for the Bernie campaign (image above). Do tell.
One thing that’s so great about getting involved in this campaign is that you meet so many inspiring people, and you get the chance to inspire people yourself. I grew up in a fairly political household; it was always a subject that we discussed as a family. I have early memories of sitting in my parents’ bedroom watching Crossfire on CNN. I told my mom there was an Artists for Bernie Facebook page. She’s an excellent fine artist and decided she wanted to contribute. A few days later she sent me a sketch of the portrait, and I was completely blown away. I encouraged her to finish the painting and got my good friend Lex Sadler to provide the graphic design. The official campaign has seen the poster, and they love it.

Well, my mom is an incredible cook. One of my sisters has her own line of handcrafted clothing. You think Bernie could use a delicious batch of tomato sauce, or perhaps an exquisite silk tie? For the record, my other sister could teach him Ving Tsun kung fu.
I don’t know his food preferences, but I do know Bernie has been fighting for GMO labeling. I agree with Bernie that we all have a right to know what the hell is in our food, so as long as you can list the ingredients on that tomato sauce, I’m sure Bernie will give it a try. As for the tie, if it was made in the US, you should send it to over to the campaign! (All the Bernie merch for sale on his website is being made in the US, by the way).

One of the things a lot of folks like about Bernie is that he prefers to talk about real things—facts and issues, for instance, rather than notions, hypotheticals and abstractions. Another way to say the same thing is that Bernie doesn’t speak abstractly, and that it’s refreshing. That said, what do you think he thinks of abstract art? (I’m asking you this question with full awareness that it’s precisely the kind of question on which Bernie himself would probably not want to waste his—indeed our—time. But, well, we’ve got a few minutes.)
I’m sure Bernie has an appreciation for all art forms, but I think he would have more of an affinity for folk music and folk art. An artist like Ralph Fasanella comes to mind. He was born in the Bronx and grew up in a working-class neighborhood, post World War II. He was an advocate for laborers’ rights and a union organizer. I get the feeling Bernie would enjoy any artwork that deals with social justice, economic inequality, or civil rights. Just a hunch though.

You can link up with Armand Aviram on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. You can follow Roberta Aviram on Instagram.

Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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