Dr. Marc Brasof’s commitment to social justice is no secret. The Associate Professor of Education and Director of Secondary Social Studies and English Education is also the 2020-23 Rosemary and Walter Blankley Endowed Chair in Education, which is funding Arcadia’s Social Action and Justice Education (SAJE) Fellowship, a new program offering support to future educators of color.
What may be less known is that Dr. Brasof has been the drummer for a Philadelphia-based, comic book rock band, the Stereotytans.
Comic book rock is a method of combining art forms to bring story to stage. The Stereotytans combine music, comic books, animation, theatrical stage performance, and props to create a multisensory experience. They may sound like a rock band, but the Stereotytans are doing much more to create a larger storyline.
Before COVID-19 put 2020 on pause, the band was set to perform at their first larger comic conventions including Awesome Con, Too Many Games, and NJ Gamer Con; play a show at a Washington Nationals College Day; and launch their second beer with Round Guys Brewery. Additionally, they had H.R., the frontman of rock band Bad Brains, booked to headline the Stereotytans annual Bacchanal festival and hired an animator to work with the band as they recorded a new album.
But the pandemic couldn’t stop their fight against injustice.
“Our singer works with emotional support students in the school district of Philadelphia, so he's on the front lines,” said Dr. Brasof. “He sees all the inequities and he was just really moved [by the video of George Floyd’s death]. It was hard for him, so he started writing.”
Stereotytans is inspired by socially conscious groups like Rage Against The Machine, Living Colour, and Public Enemy. But Dr. Brasof said their new single “Breathe 4 You” is a departure from their previous work. Instead of such overt calls for social justice, the band has previously allowed such statements to hide within their music. As Brasof explains, “the social justice lens is always underneath our stories. Greek mythology is built with poor treatment, sexism, oppression, cheating, and trust.”
The lyrics of “Breathe 4 You” make direct reference to racial justice protests of the past and present, with a nod to Colin Kaepernick and athletes kneeling during the national anthem, the historical civil rights movement, and Black Lives Matter protests and overwhelming police use of tear gas as a response. Most prominently, the song features a call and response of “Hands up and don’t shoot, I can’t breathe,” echoing Floyd’s last words and popular Black Lives Matter refrains. The song also uses audio samples of former civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis as well as activist Kimberly Jones.
All proceeds from “Breathe 4 You” will benefit the Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter and WE: The Caucus of Working Educators, an organization of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) members working toward a stronger union to improve Philadelphia public schools. Their goal is to bring more socially just education policies and practices to the school district to eliminate structural racism in public education.