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Rock stars and local heroes

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"Let's go stand over by the food," I said to my wife with a nudge and a wink. "That way, we're sure to meet Crosby."

We made our way over to the buffet, laid out by the gracious people of the Greenhouse Café, and started snacking on brownies and pecan bars. As North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network director Jim Warren took the podium to address the fundraiser crowd that had stuck around backstage at Alltel Pavilion after the Crosby, Stills & Nash concert, a few stragglers joined us. Warren gave a short impromptu speech on challenging Sen. Edwards to demand fair safety hearings on Carolina Power and Light's nuclear waste storage site in Wake County. The three latecomers quietly made their way into the midst of the crowd. Sure enough, within a couple of seconds, we were brushing elbows at the brownie tray with one of my longtime musical heroes, David Crosby.

As soon as Warren was done with his address, Crosby walked up to the podium and gave an impassioned speech of his own about activism for environmental and political justice. Stephen Stills took the stage next. He spoke fervently about the tabled campaign-finance reform bill; he even mentioned the names of a few key North Carolina legislators who hadn't signed onto the idea. Graham Nash took the microphone after Stills, saying, "At events like these, it's easy to put the focus on us [CSN], but the real focus should be on the activist in the street who takes the time out of his life to make things happen."

The musicians then graciously chatted with activists, talking politics, posing for photos and dispensing hugs to their fans of all ages. I had the chance to talk for a short while about guitar tunings with Crosby, and his eyes twinkled as he told my wife about the joys of parenthood. Add the rosy cheeks and his long white hair, and it felt like we were talking to a real-life Santa Claus. For NC-WARN that night, having donated gold-circle tickets and co-hosting this backstage reception, maybe he was.

Though the focus, as Nash had said, shouldn't be on the stars, celebrity is magnetic. And music can be transformational, both as an art form and a call to the people. The great music always is. Crosby, Stills & Nash are in on our fight here in the Triangle. Artists such as Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Jesse Colin Young all know about our struggle, and all have donated their time and money to NC-WARN. Music and popular activism form a dangerous cocktail for the corporations who make a habit of pushing their way through the courts and the regulatory system. In fact, the day of the CSN concert, CP&L called the people at Walnut Creek to complain about Alltel's involvement with NC-WARN. But the show goes on. ...

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