A group of major artists including Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), and more launched an online benefit album supporting Chelsea Manning titled “Hugs for Chelsea,” which released on May 19.
Manning is a 29-year-old transgender woman and long-time leader in the LGBT community. She was the U.S. Army soldier convicted in July, 2013, of violating the Espionage Act after disclosing nearly three-quarters of a million of classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. After seven years of incarceration and following the commutation of her 35-year sentence, Chelsea headed home to Maryland on May 17, 2017.
The online benefit compilation was created to raise funds to help cover Manning’s basic living expenses, including rent, utilities, health care, clothing and other living expenses for the first year after she is released. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the digital album will go directly to Manning, and will be deposited into a bank account set up by her sister. The GoFundMe page was created on Feb. 7, 2017, and has so far raised $170,810 of the $150,000 goal from a total of 4,166 people in three months.
The album features a variety of prominent artists from Talib Kweli to Anti-Flag, and was organized by transgender activist and singer-songwriter Evan Greer, who has been one of Chelsea’s close friends and supporters over the last several years of her imprisonment.
“The world needs more people like Chelsea Manning,” said Greer. “It has been an honor to fight for her and a privilege to get to know her. I wanted to do something to make sure she has the support she needs now that she is being released. Chelsea also loves music, and hasn’t had much access to it in prison. It’s so amazing that she is being released and can fully share herself with the world.”
Graham Nash wrote: “Chelsea Manning is one of my heroes. Anyone that has the courage to disturb the ‘status quo’, to ‘rock the boat’ as she did is very brave and what she did was show some truth to the American people about what the government was doing in our name. God Bless her.”
Tom Morello wrote: “Chelsea, thank you for your bravery. You’re a true American hero and an inspiration. Welcome home. I hope we get to meet one day. Relax, enjoy time with friends and family and then please run for President.”
“Chelsea’s courage knows no bounds,” said Greer. “By refusing to be silent she has fought for all of our basic rights. Her release is a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, and a victory for freedom of expression and human rights.”
The benefit album is hosted on a Bandcamp page, and will allow for rolling submissions. Artists who wish to contribute a track to the effort in support of Chelsea can contact Evan Greer directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
She survived solitary confinement, systemic denial of health care and years of being separated from her friends and community. If you are interested in offering an in-kind donation or other support, please e-mail: CMreleaseneeds@gmail.com.