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Music For Chelsea

Today is a huge day: Chelsea Manning, a whistle-blower of information regarding secrecy and war in the United States who was sentenced to a thirty five year prison sentence for her acts, is being released twenty eight years early today after Barack Obama commuted her sentence before leaving the White House. This is great news.

One item of realistic note is that Manning will likely be exiting prison in the grand tradition of the United States prison system: broke and without a path toward reentry. It’s a shame for all who have overcome sentences but is particularly upsetting for Chelsea who was made an unnecessary symbol of. Moreover, her jail sentence has not made her transition any easier.

People are rallying around her though. Specifically, musicians are doing what they can to help her out and the results are Hugs For Chelsea, a benefit record available on Bandcamp where 100% of proceeds will go to helping Manning’s “basic survival needs.”

The effort comes from queer activist and musician Evan Greer who was able to get everyone from Michael Stipe to Anti-Flag to Talib Kweli to Ted Leo to Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! involved. It is a fabulous smart way to give back and has already brought in more than three thousand dollars.

What’s interesting is that the songs aren’t just donated: some were crafted in honor of Manning. Rolling Stone explains.

Several songs on Hugs for Chelsea are specifically about Manning, who, in 2013, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks (former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January). Thurston Moore’s “Chelsea’s Kiss” is a benefit track the former Sonic Youth rocker released in 2016, while Graham Nash shared “Almost Gone” – a collaboration with James Raymond – in 2013 to protest the particularly harsh conditions of Manning’s incarceration.

It’s so touching and fabulous and, for $25, you can help out this new American hero while getting thirtysomething songs in the process.

If music isn’t your thing, it’s all good: a Go Fund Me campaign has been made in Manning’s honor and has already reached its goal of $150K. That’s huge! In any event, we all have Chelsea’s back—and I’m so thrilled she’s out alive, safe, and with support from so many. You can sample Hugs For Chelsea below.

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