Last time encore spoke with Raleigh-based musician and cofounder of NC Music Love Army cooperative Jon Lindsay, North Carolina was making national news for House Bill 2. The singer-songwriter helped organize an NC tour with social-justice advocate Mike Allen in July. They stopped in at Brooklyn Arts Center, along with more than two dozen local and regional artists for a Stand Against HB2 concert.
“There’s nothing like knowing, categorically, you’re doing absolutely everything you can to be on the front lines,” Lindsay then told encore about the event, which benefitted Equality NC and QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) Camp. “We’ve all got to do so much more than vote. We’ve all got to do what we can, where we can. If not us, then who?”
Lindsay’s sentiment remains true as he and Allen have joined forces once again to present another benefit concert and awareness event in the Port City: Hate-Free By the Sea. He and more than a half-dozen NC and ILM bands will play at Throne Theater this Sunday, Dec. 18. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales, as well as donations collected will go to now-former UNCW student Nada Merghani and a LGBTQIA organization of her choice.
Merghani and UNCW faculty member Mike Adams have been intertwined in national news after the sociology and criminology professor wrote “A ‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad?” for The Daily Wire in September. Adams specifically named Merghani in his piece, and wrote—among other criticisms—a response to a Facebook post she made on her page prior to last August’s on-campus Tump rally:
“Her claims to be a ‘queer Muslim’ are probably part of an act designed to fit into as many victim categories as humanly possible. Sometime [sic] I wonder whether LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Thespian. So much drama, so few letters in the alphabet.”
Merghani has since reported online harassment and feeling unsafe to UNCW’s administration as a result of the article. The university has not taken any disciplinarian actions toward Adams, who successfully sued UNCW in 2007 after being denied a promotion. Adams accused them of discrimination based on his political views and speech—and he won. His settlement included $615,000 in attorneys’ fees, $50,000 and a $9,000 raise.
Nevertheless, Merghani is supported by many students, faculty and citizens like Lindsay. His ties to Wilmington’s music scene, its community and UNCW itself (his wife is an alum) drew him to Meghani’s story.
“After speaking with Nada, personally, I decided this is something I wanted to take on and get involved with,” Lindsay explains. “That being said . . . we’re not challenging [Mike Adams] on the grounds of free speech—where others have tried and failed. We thoroughly understand the type of attention this individual appreciates, the type of fight he likes to suck people into, and that is not what we are doing.”
Lindsay had no trouble finding musicians to fill Sunday’s lineup either. In addition to Lindsay, the stage will welcome See Gulls, The Business People, Onward Soldiers, The Midatlantic, Look Homeward, The Coastal Collective, Matt Phillips and the Back Pocket, Temple5, Dark Water Rising, and The Grand Shell Game.
“Not a single artist I’ve spoken with and put on the bill was unfamiliar with the situation,” Lindsay says. “The only ‘nos’ I got happen to be out of town [acts].”
Like HB2, which was often called the “Bathroom Bill,” Lindsay says the narrative of Merghani and Adams incorrectly has been whittled down to a matter of First Amendment rights. As a musician, Lindsay takes free speech very seriously as the basis of his work and livelihood.
“You’re not going to get a bigger supporter of free speech than my friends and myself and the artistic community,” he confirms. “We are the ‘free speech people.’ But here’s the issue: Free speech, like anything wonderful and beautiful and sacred, is not perfectly uncomplicated.”
Thus he absolutely supports everyone’s right to voice their opinions. But once it interjects threat or harm to another individual or group, it becomes a different matter altogether. “As artists we believe in expression and believe in everybody’s right to be heard,” he continues, “but that’s different than a right to hurt someone. . . . [especially as] an educator invoking or tying in your school and students at your school (naming people by name). Even off hours, you are associating yourself with the campus and virtually stepping back onto school property.”
Since the incident, Merghani has transferred and will not return to UNCW in the spring. However, the purpose and sentiment of Hate Free By the Sea goes beyond Merghani and one day of music. Lindsay calls Merghani’s story a watershed case to change code of conduct policies at UNCW and across UNC schools.
“I personally think the SeaHawk [Respect] Compact doesn’t go far enough,” he says of UNCW’s policies. “It’s helpful, but this case is proof it really needs to be revisited. . . . It’s not a bunch of people in the streets calling for one guy’s head; this is going to continue to be an issue unless all parties draw a clear line in the sand in terms of that code of conduct policy.”
Lindsay, Allen and Merghani are now backed by a growing coalition of activists, legislators and progressive groups joining together for a statewide push to re-examine UNC conduct policies for faculty and staff.
“We have enlisted the help of Rep. [Susi] Hamilton in Wilmington, Progress NC, Equality NC, and my own NC Music Love Army,” Lindsay lists. “In 2017 we’re urging lawmakers to pass a piece of legislation (that has to be written and introduced) that clarifies at the state level the types of behaviors, speech, actions, and activities . . . to where it’s a lot more clear what type of behavior [is acceptable].”
While Lindsay says they are calling for Mike Adams’ removal and a formal apology from the university, the ultimate goal is to simply prevent more incidents like this from happening in the future.
In addition to playing Hate-Free by the Sea on Sunday, Lindsay will perform an in-store show at Gravity Records on Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. His latest LP “Cities And Schools” will be available 50-percent off in all formats and Sara Beck of Nashville will open the Gravity show.