If you’ve taken a gander at the Shepherd Express Best of Milwaukee 2015 nominees, a name in the music section will stand out. The category of Choral Group lists the usual suspects: Bel Canto Chorus, Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, a church choir, and school choir. But who is Ruth B8r Ginsburg?
RBG formed after Locust Street Festival, held in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. RBG member and “Mary” author Danielle Meyer explained:
“None of us knew each other all that well, but we sounded so good together and were having so much fun singing harmonies with one another. We decided to try jamming together and discovered that most of us were songwriters as well. And we just clicked from there.”
Not only are they songwriters, but plenty of them have proved their craft in other projects. Treccy Marquardt-Thomas is in Mortgage Freeman; Johanna Rose is involved with New Boyz Club, Airo Kwil, Thistledown Thunders, and more; Corinne Weisner, Quinn Cory, and Ousia Whitaker DeVault are in Dupond Dupont.
But what makes RBG different? Meyer offered, “We all have different goals when it comes to music, but all of us agree that music (and the arts in general) is an essential aspect of community building. Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country, has one of the highest crime rates and highest poverty rates. Our city is broken but there are so many inspiring people out there doing the work to make it a better place. Music is healing and has the potential to bring people together to resist and to build.”
The band is using their musicianship to spread their message. One of the biggest controversies in Milwaukee over the past couple years is the murder of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man who was shot by a police officer during an illegal pat-down. Hamilton’s mother, Maria, has since dedicated her life to finding justice for her son. This inspired Meyer:
“I was working closely with the Hamilton family for Dontre’s fight, mostly doing logistics and social media. Maria had been telling me that morning that she felt like she didn’t have time to grieve…She was doing speeches, visiting people’s homes, attending meeting after meeting from mental health task force to police and fire commission meetings to matching for hours and hours and hours with her son’s name ringing though the streets of Milwaukee. I learned more about Mary, Jesus’ mom. Maria would make comparisons to her story, like that Dontre died in Red Arrow park ‘at the foot of the cross.’ So I had this line in my head for a long while: ‘I’m walking with Mary.”
“Then one night after a long evening of meetings-upon-meetings, I popped out of bed at 2am with this whole song on my head. No joke, I had to dig around my messy ass room when I finally found an envelope. I grabbed it and wrote the whole song down in a couple of minutes. I just kept thinking about moms and about my mom and Maria and Mary. It is written as a tribute to the quiet strength of motherhood. Not just for Maria, but for all mama’s fighting for their children.”
The group’s infectious compassion is evidenced in the video of “Mary.” As a relatively new band, there have only been a handful of RBG shows, but you can attend their next show on December 4th at Company Brewing with Queen Tut, Fivy, Siren, Zed Kenzo, and Abby Jeanne Rebel Love.