Update 1:15 p.m. 11/20/2015 Event location has been moved to The Bent Rail on 5301 Winthrop Avenue.
Update 11:29 a.m. 11/20/2015 Event cancelled due to an electrical transformer failure at the venue.
After spending days voicing her support for Syrian refugees and debating with family and friends online, Thea Rittenhouse decided it was time to put her words into action.
The local musician and “Thea and the Thieves” band member is the founder of “Rock for Refugees,” a music show at The Bent Rail on Friday, Nov. 20 dedicated to promote awareness on the refugee crisis and raise funds for those fleeing violence in the Middle East.
“I have seen so much negativity and so much blame being put on refugees that don’t deserve that blame in light of the attacks in Paris last weekend, and the best way to fight that hate is with love and coming together,” Rittenhouse said. “This is an effort to do that.”
Location of event above.
The program will run from 6 to 9 p.m. and feature performances by Rittenhouse’s band, local musician John Gilmore, and others. The event will also include a testimonial from Mary-Margaret Sweeney, a social worker who has spent years working in refugee resettlement.
“I first became involved in resettlement during my clinical internship in my Master of Social Work program. I worked with the youth program and got to see first hand how newly arrived children learned the language, worked with their schools and doctors, and helped parents understand our education and health systems,” Sweeney said. “It was obvious to me, in a new way every single day, how lucky I was to be a first generation American.”
As a citizen whose own father was an immigrant to the United States, Sweeney is grateful for the awareness Rittenhouse and others are striving to share through such events.
“So often we hear people say, ‘Someone should do something about this,’ and I always think, ‘You are someone,’” Sweeney said. “Thea Rittenhouse, the amazing musician who decided to focus her concert this Friday on this issue, is someone, and so are we all. We can do something to help.”
While the refugee crisis is the focus point of Friday night’s event, “Rock for Refugees” also serves as an avenue to help those in need here at home.
Rittenhouse is collecting old coats, hats, gloves, and other winter clothing to donate to local homeless shelters in Indianapolis. She hopes at her efforts to help both local citizens and Syrian refugees will help unite the community even further.
“It’s been really positive to see the incredible responses I have gotten for putting on this event,” Rittenhouse said. “I hope this will be a very blended cultural event and hope that people will see that we’re all humans, that we’re all in this together.”
Update 5:54 p.m. 11/19/2015 Our original report said that Sweeney's father was a refugee, but after publication Sweeney contacted us to say that she misspoke. While her father was fleeing his country, he did not come to the United States with refugee status.