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Art as a Weapon

Songcraft is a means of social change for Evan Greer ’07

Evan Greer ’07 always aimed to right the world’s injustices, but it wasn’t until she started sifting through her father’s Vietnam War-era records that it clicked how activism, music, and art were inextricably linked.

While still in high school, Greer performed her first composition—an anti-war song she wrote after the U.S. invasion of Iraq—and successfully organized one of Boston’s largest protests against war since the Vietnam era.

“Representatives for speakers like Howard Zinn and Susan Sarandon would call the house,” Greer recalls. “My mom would say, ‘Evan’s taking the SATs right now,’ and they would be a little surprised.”

When Greer entered Swarthmore, she continued her single-minded focus on activism, using music as a means to organize. She perservered even when she recognized balancing life as a full-time musician and student was untenable.

By the end of her second year, Greer dropped out. She immediately began touring, playing 250 gigs a year, regularly booking 30 shows in 30 days on 30 Greyhound buses, taking one week off, and then doing it all over again. 

When Greer went from supporting herself as a musician to supporting a child and a partner, she soon came to grips with the challenges of life on the road as a parent. Taking a break from live performing, she joined Fight for the Future, a nonprofit focused on freedom of expression that is best known for its Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) protest, which included an internet blackout of more than 115,000 websites.

“It was an awesome opportunity to get involved at a time when the internet is a day-to-day resource that people depend on—to find a job, book a doctor’s appointment, and so on,” she says. “We depend on it as much as water and electricity. Protecting and increasing people’s access to the internet can combat injustice and inequality.”

A trans/genderqueer activist and community organizer, Greer continues to use music to effect change, whether it’s her political concert series, Rock Against the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership); her monthly Boston LGBTQ dance party, Break the Chains; or her upcoming album.

“I’ve got a feeling that we’re winning,” she sings on her debut album, Never Surrender, “as I hear more and more and more of us say: I want something that’s better than this. And I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I think that we could build it if we try together.”