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When you think of the archetypal protest singer, the image that comes to mind is probably a weary, earnest, lank-haired folk troubadour gently strumming a battered acoustic guitar with all the energetic tempo of your geography teacher on a Monday morning. But along comes Mike Frazier to wipe the slate clean with a take-no-crap four-to-the-floor protest song powered by the Energizer Bunny with Tony the Tiger on lead guitar.

"I can't slow down / I can't agree or shut my mouth," sings Mike indignantly in this unashamedly anti-Trump rabble-rouser, "I'm pulling all of my hair out / It's driving me insane".

The inspiration for Read my Rights is a double-edged sword - on the one hand, the rise of Donald Trump, who represents a new era of legitimised intolerance in United States politics, but on the other, the huge gathering of support against President Trump's election, and in particular the Women's March on 21st January 2017, which Mike described as "a sign of hope and strength the likes of which I’ve never seen".

After standing alongside hundreds of thousands of people who shared his belief in the equality of all races, gender identities, sexual orientations and religions, he went home and wrote three songs: Elegy, the title track of his new album, A Future to Believe In - the title of which says it all - and Read My Rights.

But home for Mike - the Southern US state of Virginia - is a place that's not wholly associated with freedom. Since its unveiling in 1924, there has been a controversy over the statue of Confederate leader Robert E Lee in the sedate Virginia college town of Charlottesville. Choosing to commemorate the heroism of the man who led the battle to preserve slavery was seen by many as offensive - a stubborn, state-endorsed rejection of racial equality.

When the local government finally decided it was time to take the statue down last year, white nationalists from Virginia and far beyond held a rally they called Unite the Right, beginning on 11th August. Many of the protestors represented openly neo-Nazi groups with racist agendas, including the notorious Ku Klux Klan. Angered by the rally, many thousands of anti-fascist protesters gathered to oppose Unite the Right and violence ensued. More than a dozen people were injured and in the most horrifying incident, a man linked to white-supremacist groups rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others.

Donald Trump failed to condemn the far-Right protesters, even so far as to publicly state that some of them were "very fine people"; many see this failure as a tacit expression of racial prejudice.

"Being from VA is something I love to flaunt," Mike says. "It's an unbelievably beautiful state and the only blue state in the South! However the push back to the liberal leaning areas has been unfortunately violent. We saw that in Charlottesville (granted the vast majority were people from other places)."

Mike Frazier makes no secret of his opinion of Donald Trump and yet he's well aware that the nation will have to overcome its divisions, not reinforce them, in order to move forward. The key to that must be to understand why Trump supporters voted for him and continue to believe in his leadership, despite the lack of evidence that he represents their interests.

"I think fear was the most common denominator," Mike explains. "When people are ignorant, fearful and desperate they'll buy into just about anything. In my state Trump didn't win the overall vote, but certain areas he won almost 100% of the vote. Places like Dickensonsville, Va where the unemployment rate is 20% he was able to capitalize on their desperation and fear by promising a bill of goods that would NEVER happen. People that watch FOX news or Info Wars believe that minorities and other religions are trying to ruin their country... Trump just fed into that bullshit belief. It's all fear."

Despite the shadow of that fear and the very real deprivation in parts of the USA, the infectiously celebratory tone of Read My Rights and its pounding Southern rock arrangement - Joe Strummer seen through the prism of Ryan Adams - leaves little room for doom and gloom.

"I think things will get better because every day we see more people getting active and vocal in opposition" Mike says. "The kids at Stoneman Douglas that orchestrated the March For Our Lives movement showed me this first hand. I was lucky enough to see them and countless other young voices speak in DC and it was absolutely moving and kept my hope alive. Trump supporters that I know seem to have some remorse - ha ha."

"The day Trump was elected, I felt as though the flame of progress that had been slowly growing was blown out," concludes Mike, "but, in the wake of it, something much more powerful ignited. Millions of people took to the streets and voiced resistance to the divisive and hateful rhetoric."

If Read My Rights has a message of hope, it's "knowing you're not alone in this mess".

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About the curator: Jon Ewing

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.

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