Minnesota-based Panzerfaust Records is nearly halfway to its goal of distributing 100,000 sampler CDs of white supremacist music for teens to hand out to friends. “Project Schoolyard” aims to spread the white power movement to young people turned on by the heavy metal and punk music.
The angry band names – H8Machine, Rebel Hell, Brutal Attack – and voices screaming “White supremacy!” are enough to give Brenda Brown of Flint troubled pause.
But Brown’s greater concern is that such music from racist bands is gaining a foothold in Detroit and elsewhere in Michigan through an aggressive campaign by a Minnesota record company.
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And word of the effort is getting around.
“When I heard about this, I checked out a song clip on their Web site and it was the most horrible, hateful thing I’ve ever heard,” said Teddy Stavridis, 17 and a junior at Grand Blanc High School.
“Some kids are so impressionable that when they hear or see something new they’ll try to emulate it, even if it’s something that warped,” Stavridis said.
“There are people who will like it.”
That’s what Brown fears.
“If it’s in Detroit, that’s not too far for it to get up here and this music is winding up in the hands of kids whose minds are still impressionable and can be molded like clay,” she said.
“As a black parent, the thought of this coming into the school system here makes me worry because my daughter might be someone who has to deal with the ideas this music is spreading.”
In the fall, Newport, Minn.-based Panzerfaust Records, a white power label, began mailing sampler CDs to loyal customers ages 13-19 with the intent that the teens would pass them to friends.
Dubbed Project Schoolyard, the campaign aims to distribute 100,000 CDs and follow through on the company’s motto that, “We don’t just entertain racist kids … we create them.”
“I get calls all the time from teenage kids who hear about us and are tired of getting beat up at school because they’re white,” said Byron Calvert, who runs Panzerfaust from a suburban Minneapolis duplex and spends part of each day shipping orders and hearing from customers online.
“Michigan and Ohio are two of the states with the fastest-growing influx of white supremacist people because they’re frustrated about joblessness, and people want to get away from blacks who they see degrading the quality of their schools and neighborhoods.”
Calvert doesn’t discuss sales, but anti-racism watchdog groups estimate the label sells more than $1 million in CDs, T-shirts and other merchandise each year.
The bands – which play a variety of styles including heavy metal, punk and British working-class sing-alongs – can be young or old. Almost all have shaved heads.
Popular record companies have marketed through “street teaming” – having fans hand out free records, patches and stickers to other fans – for years.
But Panzerfaust’s efforts have gained it national media coverage and drawn the ire of school and community leaders when the discs turned up in Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri and were confiscated by school administrators.
The first 20,000 CDs flew out by October, and though none of the Iron Cross-emblemed albums have turned up in Genesee County, Calvert said about 2,500 have been shipped to recipients in Detroit, Canton and Ironwood.
If the CDs do make their way here, it wouldn’t be the first time hate-filled music attracted attention in the area.
In 1995, Flint Township music store Wyatt Earp Records attracted more than 180 protesters who objected to the sale of music released by Detroit-based white power label Resistance Records.
Store owners said they offered the albums – which were sold on consignment – because of free speech concerns since they also sold violent hard-core rap music, much of it also on consignment.
Calvert said music is one of the most effective tools for racist outreach, a fact local people working against racism acknowledge and regret.
“Music is so powerful because it can get right into the core of you and affect you in ways that really nothing else can,” said Deborah Kohler, pastor at Flint’s Woodside Church and an active member of Flint Area Citizens To End Racism.
FACTER leaders are keeping an eye out for the CDs locally. In the meantime, they hope to talk to students about the harm of racism so the young people think about the consequences of getting involved in the racist movement, where Calvert is seen as a phenom.
“I hate heavy metal as a form of music, but I realize those bands attract a lot of youth and so it works as a great outreach tool,” said Mike Hallimore, director of Kingdom Life Ministries, a Harrison, Ark., church that promotes racial separation.
“Kids can listen to this music, get the message and grow spiritually. I’d rather see these CDs being passed out in schools than condoms.”
While Brown hopes the music never finds its way here, educators should use them to spark discussions on racism if they ever do materialize.
“I’d try to take it head-on and talk about how things like this are what cause hate crimes to occur and talk about the effect racism has on people,” she said. “You need to be able to talk about this, because if people want it you aren’t going to be able to keep it out of their hands.”