Indie(pen)dence benefit concert looking to raise awareness about global illiteracy

Rocking for a good cause

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Although AC/DC once proclaimed that rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution, Brian Johnson probably wasn't insinuating that music could actually be used for such lofty goals as changing the world. But the hope is that this is exactly what will happen this Friday when the Wayne State University chapter of the nonprofit BuildOn holds its first-ever benefit concert, called Indie(pen)dence. Local bands The Static Dial, The Bruised Reed, The Paper Sound, Moonwalks, and Wayne Ki Awaaz will all perform, and all proceeds will go toward building schools in under-resourced villages throughout the world.

BuildOn is an international nonprofit dedicated to eradicating the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations, and with just over 100 high school, university, and regional chapters across the world — 10 percent of which are spread throughout Michigan — the group is proving to be a force for change that is resonating with youths and college students everywhere. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the WSU chapter — and the organization as a whole — is more than a place for people to make donations so systemic problems around the world can be dealt with by somebody else. Instead, BuildOn gives people a chance to address these problems themselves, both locally and globally.

"One of the key points of our mission is community service, and every year our members strive to participate and stay engaged with our local community," says chapter President Mehak Haq, who has been on the WSU chapter's executive board for the past two years. "BuildOn is unlike other organizations in that you actually see where your donations and efforts are going."

Haq, whose involvement with BuildOn extends back to 2008 when she started attending the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, has taken two treks to other countries to see firsthand the work being done. She says the magnitude of these experiences cannot be underscored enough, which is why so many people are encouraged to go to their partner sites across the world.

"When our members travel to our partner villages to work hand-in-hand with [them] to bring education and literacy to children, parents, and grandparents in their communities, it is an incredibly humbling and eye-opening experience," Haq says.

The group's mission is also something that local musicians find worthwhile because the idea for a benefit concert started when Bill Gerazounis — the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for The Static Dial — threw the idea out there after being introduced to the organization. All it took was a couple members of the WSU chapter dropping by his business on a fundraising outing and telling him about the organization. Gerazounis was sold almost instantly.

"I was impressed that these young people were taking the time to not only raise funding, but visit countries all over the world to help build schools and give aid," he says. "I was very moved by the grassroots attitude and sense of global community they had, so I proposed the idea of having a charity event with local indie bands performing."

Gerazounis first floated the idea back in August and now a few short months later, buildOn-WSU is hoping this first benefit concert will be the start of an annual event. It certainly did not take much convincing to bring other groups on board, so maybe Gerazounis and BuildOn-WSU are onto something. Josh Wheeler, who plays guitar for The Bruised Reed, seems to think so.

"We were originally invited to play the show not knowing it was associated with this group, but when we learned more about the BuildOn program at WSU, [the benefit concert] became even more attractive," he says. "I'm very impressed with their work. Giving of yourself to help those around you is important to us, so it's great to partner with a group that makes that their mission."

Wheeler is also part of another band on the bill — The Paper Sound — and they share his enthusiasm for BuildOn's mission. The desire to impact lives and change them for the better is something the band identifies with.

"One of our goals in writing music is to communicate ideas and feelings that can positively impact the lives of others," says The Paper Sound's singer and guitarist Philip Kinney. "It's easy to see the positive impact of buildOn through their education programs or service projects, so participating in this event was a very tangible way we could offer our music as a way to fuel positive activity in the community."

And community is what helps BuildOn chapters grow. When people who already have a desire to bring about change in the world share their passion with others, it is contagious. In fact, the WSU chapter was established in 2008 because a WSU student had been involved with buildOn in high school and was so invested in the group's mission that she wanted to continue working with them at the collegiate level. These are the kinds of advocates that BuildOn is hoping to find more of over time, and why they make such an effort to immerse themselves in the community.

"One of the key points of our mission is community service, and [we] strive to participate and stay engaged with our local community," says Haq, who is studying psychology and pre-medicine at WSU. "Through community service, our members have developed strong relationships with organizations like Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Woodbridge Youth Community Center, and Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, the members of our community, and with each other."

Building schools is not a cheap endeavor — each school costs around $30,000 to build. Haq and the rest of the chapter hope to raise roughly $1,000 from ticket sales for this event, but the fundraising is only a small part of the picture. For BuildOn to truly have a continuing, lasting impact on communities around the world that are lacking in the educational opportunities we have in America, it must continue to find ways to get their message and mission out to a broader audience. This facet of the concert, and the possibilities that it represents, is what truly excites Haq.

"It's not just about having people donate money; we want to get the word out that although the lack of education is a global problem, it's a problem we can solve if we all work together," she says. "We want to spread awareness about buildOn's mission and convey that one person can truly change the world."

Changing the world at a rock concert. Talk about a rock block worth building on.

Indie(pen)dence: A Benefit Concert on Friday, Dec. 5 at The Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; Show begins at 7 p.m.

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