ROCKVILLE — Until Donald Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States, Nina Liakos never considered herself someone who would ever be politically active.
Like most, the long-term Gaithersburg resident never had an interest in being involved in politics besides voting, and in fall of 2016 during the presidential election, she said she could have never imagined changing that.
“The one thing that has been good for me this year is that I became more active than I was before,” Liakos said. “Before, I used to vote and that was pretty much it, now I do a lot more…he [Trump] inspired me to become a better citizen.”
Progressive activists, residents and musicians gathered at the Montgomery College Theatre Arts Arena in Rockville for the UnNaugural, a benefit concert, the proceeds of which would go to fund political progressive causes. The event, which State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) created and hosted, was the second iteration of the concert, and featured musical performances by an assortment of folk singers and musicians such as Reggie Harris, Magpie, Heather Mae and Crys Matthews.
The event served as an opportunity for performers to voice opposition to the Trump administration by singing anti-Trump folk songs. The concert’s theme of protest harkened back to the 1960s and 1970s, when the music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger helped inspire opposition to the Vietnam War. It was also a chance for progressive-minded residents to come together and raise funds for advocacy groups such as CASA, Hunger Solutions, Health Care for All, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Kagan conceived the idea for the first UnNaugural shortly after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election as way to make a difference against the incoming Trump administration. Kagan, who has a history of hosting folk music concerts, said the idea to host a concert with many of her musician friends to raise money for progressive causes was an idea that came naturally to her.
“Everyone was worried, we didn’t know what to expect. There was a real feeling of disappointment that we weren’t about to inaugurate a President [Hillary] Clinton,” Kagan said.
In between 1960s-era folk songs, such as Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and new anti-Trump music originally composed by the musicians at the event, the leaders of activist groups who received money from the event delivered inspirational speeches.
Gustavo Torres, executive director of immigrant advocacy group CASA, praised congressional Democrats’ support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that issues work permits to persons in the U.S. illegally whose parents brought them here as children. Torres, who spoke while the government was in midst of its three-day shutdown due in part to a debate in Congress over the future of DACA recipients, said collective support for the program was important to Maryland’s large immigrant population.
“Tonight and today we are fighting the fight of our life because we are fighting for our youth and our families and our kids and we are going to continue doing that,” he said.
For Liakos, the second UnNaugural was a throwback to the 1960s, as Liakos said last year’s Women’s March was the first protest she attended since an anti-Vietnam War protest in 1967.
“I was pretty passive for a long time – not good, “ Liakos said. “I was busy, I had a career, I got married. I had other things going on. It’s a big job to be an informed voter.”