Bob Neustadt grew up in Louisville, a Ballard grad, and the wandering life of an academic eventually led him to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he’s a professor of Spanish and director of Latin American studies at Northern Arizona University.
Along the way, he grew interested in what many would assume is one of the region’s reliably hot-button topics: undocumented immigrants from Mexico living and working in the United States. And people are well aware of the political and economical ramifications, but humanitarian issues are largely ignored.
Since 1994, more than 6,000 people have died on border crossings. That’s how many remains have been found, anyway. The total number is unknown.
“Even in Arizona, people are completely oblivious to what’s going on,” Neustadt said. “This is a hidden humanitarian disaster, and it’s taking place in our own backyard. People have no idea of the human suffering that’s going on.”
A few years ago, Neustadt began taking students on field trips designed to illuminate what was happening on the border. There, they found the harsh realities of immigration law, and learned that basic human rights were being abused in the name of politics and flawed laws. The experience changed many of them, and it inspired Neustadt to do more.
The result is “Border Songs,” a collection of 31 music and spoken-word performances produced by Neustadt and musician Chuck Cheesman. It features Calexico, Pete Seeger, Michael Franti, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Tom Russell, Amos Lee, Eliza Gilkyson and many more.
All proceeds from sales of the two-CD set go to No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, a Tucson-based group that caches water in the desert, provides medical treatment and food to migrants, and aids the deported in returning to Mexico alive and unharmed.
The album was released Oct. 12 in Arizona and online at CDbaby.com. It has raised more than $6,000, which has already provided much-needed aid, but the goal is to sell close to 5,000 copies, raising around $100,000. All of the artists and producers donated their time and music.
“Music can reach a lot of people, that’s for sure,” said Neustadt, a self-described hack musician who was startled when high-profile artists began donating their work.
“The next step is to push this to a national audience. If we can sell 4,700 copies at $20 each, that’s a lot of water and help.”
No Doubt feels bad
Earlier this week, No Doubt pulled the video for its new song, “Looking Hot,” because it was filled with the band dressed as stereotypical cowboys and Native Americans, hanging out in tepees and doing ceremonial dancing around a fire.
Posting on its website, the band said that it did not mean “to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people,” and that it had consulted with Native American friends and experts before making the video.
Like who? Tonto? The band will reshoot the video, and is considering a plantation theme.