The Kenosha Summer Shindig, a local event aimed at bridging political divides through conversation and music, will take place June 28-30.
The event is co-hosted by various organizations, including local partners Carthage College, Kenosha Creative Space and Kenosha Public Library, as well as national partners Braver Angels, The Caravan, Raise Your Voice Labs and Human Library Organization. Local musicians Lunde, Flat Creek Highway and the Exuberant String Quartet will perform at the event.
Cameron Swallow, one of the event organizers and a member of Flat Creek Highway, is a Wisconsin state coordinator for Braver Angels, a nationwide grassroots depolarization movement.
“It’s a re-humanizing project,” Swallow said of the organization. “The more I read about it, the more it seemed to overlap with my own concerns about our nation and our culture.”
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Swallow hosted the Kenosha Summer Shindig in conjunction with Ben Caron and The Caravan, a cross-country bridge-building and service tour led by Caron. Caron launched La Caravane in 2021 after five years of bridge construction work.
Caron said that in 2016 he noticed a shift in political rhetoric due to the 2016 presidential election, both in campaigns and among citizens online.
“I noticed [people treating each other with] a lot more antagonism, a lot more vitriol, and the way people communicated a lot less compassion, caring, or curiosity,” Caron said. “When this election happened, I kind of made a vow to myself that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore.”
Originally from St. Ansgar, Iowa but currently living in Los Angeles, Caron said he also seeks to unite rural and urban citizens alongside Democrats and Republicans.
“Especially as someone who comes from a rural area and from a conservative family, and who was ideologically conservative myself, I really felt there was a need for those of us who may be that kind bridges between worlds to show up and try to mediate and facilitate understanding as much as possible,” said Caron.
Swallow and Caron, who are both musicians, have each pointed out how the union of musicians of different genres is analogous to the union of people of different political persuasions.
“I think musicians are uniquely equipped to build bridges… being a good musician means you have to be a good listener, and musicians collaborate across genres [and cultures] all the time,” Caron said. “Why not let the musicians lead the way? »
Jeremiah Lunde of the band Lunde and Julia Nowicki of the Exuberant String Quartet echoed this sentiment; Lunde said music is a unifying force and Newicki said music is a universal language.
“The idea of using music as a way to bring different [musicians] together is a great way to get to know people and how other people think,” Nowicki said.
Micah Hendler, host of Raise Your Voice Labs and leader of the Braver Angels National Blue Music Team, said music has a way of connecting people to each other and creating a sense of understanding of a way that just talking to someone can’t always accomplish.
“Music has a way of softening that communication and allowing people to come together at the level of the heart rather than the level of the head…in a way that can really help create a sense of community, a sense of ‘shared humanity, a sense of shared intent,’ Hendler said.
The event organizers share a common goal: to unite the citizens of Kenosha across parties and musical genres, and to build relationships between people who disagree with each other.
“My goal is for Kenosha to find hope and healing in the process of this conversation and something useful for the future can come out of it,” Swallow said.
The deadline to register for the event is June 21. Those interested in attending the event should register in order to obtain instructions on parking, food and other information. Registration is available at http://bit.ly/kenoshashindig.