News and Views on Tibet

GVSU Students for a Free Tibet Benefit Concert

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by Tim Carpenter

When a group of Grand Valley State University students decided last year to put together a benefit concert for the Tibetan cause, they knew the challenges ahead of them would be plenty.

“It was a lot of work but it all worked out in the end,” said Laura Stevens, Vice President of the Grand Valley Chapter of Students for a Free Tibet. “We ended up raising a lot of money while informing people of what’s going on in Tibet at the same time.”

Nearly 400 people packed the Kirkhof Center’s Grand River room to near capacity last January. Those in attendance were entertained by over four hours of music from bands such as Mustard Plug and Molly. More important was the knowledge they gained about Tibet from speakers featured in-between sets.

The hard work SFT members put into the project paid off, as proceeds from the show totaled nearly $2,000, all of which benefited the Tibetan Nuns Foundation.

This year’s concert promises to be just as good if not better than the original. Molly and Live Animation return from last year’s lineup and will be joined by Aris’ Hometown Rock Music Search finalist The Jim Crawford Band and the Peasant Kings.

GVSU philosophy professor Michael DeWilde will also return to share his experiences and knowledge of Tibet, and will be joined by retired Western Michigan University professor and award-winning filmmaker Frank Jamison.

Jamison replaces Tenzin Bhagen, a journalism major at GVSU who is currently studying abroad at Kingston University in England. His speech at last year’s benefit was considered one of the show’s highlights. Bhagen, a Tibetan refugee, told the crowd stories of cruel treatment suffered onto his people by the Chinese government, including his own father’s brutal murder.

Tibet was invaded by China in 1949. Over 1.2 million Tibetans have died since being under Chinese communist rule. The once religiously free country has seen over 6,000 of their monasteries destroyed. Tibet’s religious leader and worldwide symbol of peace His Holiness The Dalai Lama was pressured to flee his homeland in 1959 for his personal safety and has been in exile in India ever since.

“Ethnic Tibetans are becoming the minority in many urban centers [because of] the influx of Chinese settlers [and military] into Tibet,” said Glenn Freeman, founding member of the Grand Rapids-based TIBETmichigan ( “This must be reversed soon or Tibetan culture and religion will die in Tibet.”

It was after hearing facts like these from a roommate that Stevens became involved in Students for a Free Tibet.

“After becoming educated with what was happening in Tibet, I felt it was my responsibility to inform other people about it. The benefit show is a great medium for us to educate people about Tibet. Hopefully what they hear will inspire them to join the cause and help make change happen.”

In terms of entertainment, this year’s show will again consist of some of the area’s finest bands. Headlining will be longtime Grand Rapids favorites Molly. A lot has happened over the past year for the power pop-driven band. Not only have they added the presence of guitarist Curt Hines, the band has also seen heavy rotation of their song “Girlfriend” on WGRD as well as on other radio stations across the nation. On top of all that, they reached the finals of the Aris’ Hometown Rock Music Search for the second year in a row. Also performing at the benefit show is another Aris’ finalist, The Jim Crawford Band. Made up of four GVSU Students (FYI: there is no actual Jim Crawford in the band), the oldest member being 21, the band recorded their first demo in November at Mackinaw Harvest Studios. According to drummer Eric Eklund, rumor has it that when Aris was handed the band’s demo, he responded by asking, “Who the fuck is Jim Crawford?” Aris must have liked what he heard, as JCB beat out over 150 other bands to make the first cut, and ultimately the finals.

The show will take place on Friday, Jan. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand River room. Tickets are $3 for GVSU students (ID required) and $5 for non-students, though prices are subject to change.

Once again $1 raffle tickets will be sold. Last year’s raffle raised close to $150 and featured more than 100 prizes including autographed merchandise from Ani DiFranco and The Verve Pipe. All proceeds from the raffle benefit the National Students for a Free Tibet. For further information regarding the show, you can contact GVSU SFT by e-mail at or by phone at 616.331.0169.

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