A new album that aims to connect art and activism while raising money for a worthy cause.
Demos for a Difference is a compilation of original protest “demos,” including songs, poems, readings, and so much more. One of the goals of the album is to get artists more connected to the Black Lives Matter movement even if they don’t have funds to donate at this time.
All proceeds from the album will go to support the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund.
The project has received 100 submissions, one of which is from Ricky Stein, a New York City middle school teacher. His submission, a song Stein wrote called “Country’s in Trouble,” was written right after the 2016 election.
“I had heard about Demos for a Difference from a friend of mine. I sent [Demos for a Difference] a couple of different versions of the song and they reached out saying they wanted to include it,” said Stein. “I’m really proud of it. I wrote it after the presidential election in 2016, and I think it still applies today – particularly the tensions we feel in this country.”
Before starting his career in education, Stein had previously played music semi-professionally in Austin, Texas. After finding himself frustrated with lacking commercial success, Stein took his life on a different trajectory and got married and went to college. He ultimately landed in a job teaching current events to New York City middle schoolers.
“I’m really happy with teaching, it works well with doing music,” said Stein. “There’s less pressure, and it gives me more time to focus on writing music.”
Stein has been able to see how the events surrounding the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement is affecting his students.
“I don’t know how interested I was in news at 12 years old, but these kids are sharp,” said Stein. “I love that we have a current events program, it’s a great way to teach social studies. I hope this is cathartic for them.”
Still, Stein is optimistic about what’s possibly in store for the future, and is happy to be a part of Demos for a Difference.
“This could be a movement for some real social change, so I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Stein. “We have this massive movement with the protests and horrible things we saw on tv, like with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. It feels like some kind of a turning point. I’m proud of the way that New York City has responded to these horrible things that we’ve seen happen. I hope that something positive can happen out of all of this.”