Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Thursday night screams for Yemen at the Drake

Student bands perform in support of humanitarian crisis
Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2023)

On Thursday April 6, The Drake, a performing arts venue in Amherst, held an event called “The Butterfly Effect” in consortium with the UMass chapter of UNICEF, who raised funds through entry and raffle fees to support the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The event was organized by Cassie Francis, an employee at The Drake and member of UMass’ UNICEF branch, as well as Evan Bogan, a fellow UNICEF representative, who recruited UMass bands Stock Goblin, B’Shara and Noddery. Francis received an early call on Thursday morning that the event was compromised as a member from The Drakes’ third group playing that night, Rustbucket, tested positive for COVID-19 and the band was out of commission.

In the spirit of support, “Stock Goblin stepped up and found our third band,” Francis said. A Stock Goblin member contacted Noddery, who quickly filled in for Rustbucket. The event was saved, but the commotion had just begun.

Over 100 people bought online tickets for the event which sold at $7 each and an estimated 50 people bought tickets at the door, each selling for $10. Through entry donations and a raffle held by UNICEF, the event raised $1,500 for Yemen, a country that has been devastated by civil war since Sept. 2014.

Francis and Bogan said that The Drake is a well-known venue for nonprofit organizations and charity events. The Drake tries to host one event monthly for charity and knew the Butterfly Effect event would fit well with the mission this venue supports. The venue itself is a nonprofit organization running entirely on donations and their bar.

The Drake has been open for about a year and has been a great location to attract live music and community, supporting change and development in Amherst and across the world. A former restaurant, this year-old venue is central to the college music scene. UNICEF members organizing the event discovered their bands in person and through mutual connections. Francis had contact with Stock Goblin from attending a 60s-90s themed music event at the townhouses and enjoyed their performance.

Bogan reached out to B’Shara band member Eli Feldman who, Bogan notes, was “really communicative and showed a lot of interest in the fundraiser and its purpose.”

Feldman said that he wanted to play at the charity event because he is aware of the “ongoing war and subsequent population displacement.”

Not only is Yemen’s population being displaced, but the conflict has eroded their political rights and civil liberties, which was only made worse by COVID-19, climate shocks and communicable disease outbreaks.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, documents, “Even before the current crisis, Yemen was the most vulnerable country in the Middle East. It regularly ranked among the world’s worst in malnutrition rates with half of its population living in poverty and without access to safe water.” The current civil war crisis catalyzed in Sept. 2014 when the Houthi party forcefully took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, and signed an agreement of shared power with other dominant Yemenis in the political scheme. Yemen currently does not have a functioning central government, which has led to further political rivalry, conflicting stories and corruption of professional and federally funded actions.

In 2021, Yemen’s government faced allegations of money laundering that comprised access to food supplies,  according to independent U.N. sanctions monitors. The Houthis were identified as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States due to evidence that the party “commit(s) egregious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians, forced disappearances and torture,” according to a report from the UN in 2021.

In 2014, before seizing the capital, Houthi supporters gathered in the street shouting, “Death to America! Death to the Jews! Victory to Islam.” The Houthi Party accused the Central Bank of Yemen of receiving $2 billion in funds from Saudi Arabia in 2019 intended for a reconstruction and development plans and illegally transferring $423 million of those funds to private corporations.

The HSA Group, or Hayel Saeed Anam Group, presumably received 48 percent of the illegally diverted funds, but the group responded urging “the panel to issue a statement distancing itself from the allegations and launch an immediate investigation ‘to ascertain the illegitimate source.’”

Conflicting statements about the management of funding and interest is not uncommon in this war and lack of political accessibility is contributing to the rising amount of disparity Yemeni people are facing.

Yemen is currently ranked the second most unequal country in terms of income inequality, with most individuals earning an average yearly income of just over $2,200 a year, about half of what most middle class families in the U.S. spend monthly. Reliable work is just one sect of Yemeni livelihood that has been compromised in the upheaval. Yemen’s civil liberties are at stake as Houthis, Yemeni government officials and affiliated parties are contributing to the obstruction of humanitarian aid, which dispossessed and displaced many, causing starvation and death.

Funds from The Butterfly Effect will be directed towards relief efforts in Yemen, Bogan said. UNICEF USA has access to a portal where funds can be managed for specific causes and supplies. Events such as these not only bring the value of financial aid to areas of crisis, but they also build networks of awareness that encourage the congregation of likeminded changemakers, in addition to supporting growing talents from the local community.

The energy at this event was electric upon entering the venue, even early in the night as the bands were warming up. The ambiance was set by a glow of colors ricocheting through the room from lighting mechanisms behind the stage. Event hosts were gathered to the left of the entrance and stage welcoming new audience members and directing them towards the raffle.

“The crowd had a strong energy,” Lily Pleven, a freshman social thought and political economy major , said, who was standing at the front of the crowd during the opening songs. Audience members were feeling the energy as they danced and sang along to the lyrics.

B’Shara band members were pleasantly surprised to hear some attendees singing along to their originals. After the performance, Stock Goblin said they were happy with the investment of the crowds, seeing as they had audience members screaming along to covers as well as original music.

Audrey Falkner can be reached at [email protected].

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