For the past year, Sunflower Bean’s frontwoman Julia Cumming has been angry. And, she’s been channeling that anger through her music, with songs like “Twentytwo”, and an activism initiative she started called Anger Can Be Power, inspired both by the current state of the world and a Clash song. Since October, Cumming has been putting on events in New York City to help create awareness around political engagement and putting the spotlight on young activism. She’s had public discussions with politicians like Nily Rozic and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, played bass with SZA’s bassist and activist Arianna Gil, and gave a platform to NYC student activists who spoke about everything from gentrification to segregated schools. But, her overall point is disrupt what politics and advocacy can look like, and ignite her audience to turn their anger into strength.
For Lenny Letter, I spoke with Julia Cumming about her platform Anger Can Be Power, her relationship with the emotion and what she hopes people take away from her events.
Tahirah Hairston: How did Anger Can Be Power come into fruition?
Julia Cumming: Sunflower Bean was on tour in the Deep South during the election, and it was this really weird experience of driving around the U.S. and seeing all the Trump stickers on the back of everyone's car and on the front of everyone's lawns. We were still on tour even after the election and those first few nights, the shows were really explosive. I was saying stuff like, "Fuck Trump," from the stage and people were saying it along with me. And, of course, it feels great to say, "Fuck Trump," on stage. It feels great to say it everyday of your fucking life. But I was trying to work through all these ways to express activism.
I've always had this thought that in order to make people interested in activism you have to make it easy for them to integrate into their lives. I was like, "should I start a magazine? no. should I do this? no." I just didn't know what the hell to do but I knew that I needed to do something. I needed a place for all these feelings. I thought that I could maybe create a space, like a live show, like an event that people could come to and start talking about how they feel. I thought that if you could get people together and have them make friends and learn things in a politically focused setting, that you would actually get people more interested in activism in general. Because it's like an entrance into being politically engaged.