This She Will Defend: Shannon McManus-Shain And The JANE ROE v 2019 ACLU BENEFIT

“So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.”
Roger Baldwin (ACLU founder)

For nearly a century, the ACLU has served as our country’s guardian of liberty. Defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed us by the laws of the United States and our Constitution and doing so by working in courts, legislatures, and communities.

But If you think that all is well in the good old US of A, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Many of the fundamental protections and liberties that we as American citizens have lived under such as women’s reproductive rights are being threatened like never before and you need to understand something of great import: No matter what side of the politically ideological fence you stand on, these threats will affect all of our lives and the lives of those we love and not necessarily for the better.

So, what’s to be done?

On Tuesday, June 18tha collective of forces that occupy space in the music, art, and corporate arenas will assemble at the Echoplex in Los Angeles to rattle some social cages. To help the ACLU continue the fight to safeguard a woman’s autonomy over her body, her right to choose and keeping abortion safe and legal, welcome to the JANE ROE v 2019 ACLU BENEFIT.

The multi-faceted event will be hosted by ALT 98.7’s Tobi Lynn, will run from 4 pm until midnight and feature a stacked lineup of live music from local favorites like Dead Sara and Mondo Cozmo, and Death Valley Girls; silent auctions from artists like Brian Bowen Smith, Kerry Krogstad and Steve Erle; raffles prizes courtesy of Amoeba Records, VANS, Burger Records and more; ACLU Southern California staff attorney Minouche Kandel as a guest speaker along with food and drinks. It truly takes a village (or a community of people who give a damn) to pull something of this magnitude off but it’s not all that surprising that it’s happening because of Shannon McManus-Shain. McManus-Shain is co-owner of Los Angeles bar BLACK and Long Beach’s Black LBC and the JANE ROE v 2019 ACLU BENEFIT has her fingerprints all over it.

When friend and local musician Jordan Jones came up with the idea for an ACLU benefit, McManus-Shain jumped at the chance and jumped in to do her part helping to organize and present the event. Why? She has always been inherently passionate, vocal and politically/socially active but the 2016 election has made clear that the stakes have become far too high to ignore and she wants everyone to realize it, as well. So McManus-Shain explains why this benefit, why it’s important to her and why now.

McManus-Shain: We’ve all been watching what is happening to our country and this is a way for us to actually get involved. Supporting the ACLU feels right because their objective is to uphold the law. It doesn’t matter your political preferences, upholding the law – especially civil law – is always the right thing. 

We’ve called in a lot of favors and the minute people hear that the proceeds are going to the ACLU, they’re willing and generous. Putting a benefit like this together requires a lot of people willing to jump on board. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a businesswoman is that you can’t accomplish anything great without people. Nobody makes it alone.

High Voltage: Anyone who knows you knows that being socially active is business as usual for you, but this is somewhat next level. What’s driving/motivating you be a part of this?

McManus-Shain: I moved to England for a while and before that I just believed that America did everything right. America loved its people. I guess I believed the history books, like we all did before the internet.

When I came back from England I had something to compare America to. England may not do it all right, but they take care of their people. Tax money is allocated to so many programs, including healthcare. It woke me up. I was outraged when our tax money was used to bail out the big banks in 2008… but [the government] can’t fund healthcare, mental health care, child care, education… how is it that England can? And I don’t want to hear about taxes being high there: I paid taxes there and trust me when I tell you that as a business owner, I am paying way more here.

My husband and I drag our kids to all of the marches and protests and every year they are bigger and bigger. It’s moving in the right direction. Bernie [Sanders] really woke a generation of people up, so I feel less alone in my outrage. If I had my life to do over again I would have gone to law school and into politics. I don’t need to live the fruits of my own work, I am already standing on the shoulders of giants such as Susan B. Anthony and so many women before me who didn’t live to see the rights we women have today and I suppose they knew they wouldn’t see them in their lifetime.

There is a great quote that I think about quite often that goes: “A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit.” We are morally obligated, as those who came before us, to plant these trees. I have two kids and my friends have kids and they are wonderfully awake young people who deserve a better life and a better world…an equal and fair shake at achieving their goals and dreams.

HV: You’re a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, a human…What do you consider to be some of the biggest civil liberty threats we’re facing today?

McManus-Shain: “It’s a strange feeling to actually feel scared in your own country. It feels threatening that slowly, one by one, our rights are being taken away…some blatantly, some quietly.

The anti-abortion stuff happening is really just a swift kick to the head for most of us, but it looks to have been coming all along. It feels very calculated, like someone has been pulling the strings for quite some time. But I was a young lost teen once and I was not armed with the correct information to be out in the world and did things I wish I could undo.

Planned Parenthood was there for me when I had nowhere to turn and I shudder to think how it would’ve played out had abortion not been an option. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t regret it. Because of this I feel obligated to stand up for a woman’s right to choose. I’m also very pissed off about women being targeted in this whole thing. The day men are held equally accountable for pregnancies, will be the day the discussion becomes a fair one. Until then, get the f**k out of our way.”

HV: Dead Sara, Mondo Cozmo, Death Valley Girls, Shannon Lay: why were these particular artists tapped to participate?

McManus-Shain: It was important to involve women artists in this benefit. I’m also quite lucky that my husband is a record producer, so I happen to know a lot of bands. It was really just a matter of texting and saying, hey we are doing a benefit for ACLU at the Echoplex! Most everyone was immediately in. Jordan is also a local musician, so locking down bands was easy. We are also doing a silent auction and raffle and it was just as easy to gather things for those…everyone wants to help.

Everyone is feeling helpless under the wrath of this administration and backing the ACLU in their fight for justice seems like the logical thing. ACLU SoCal has been incredibly supportive and available to us. I told them that when I grow up I want to work for them. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next…or law school, I haven’t decided.

Standing up for civil liberties and protecting women’s reproductive rights is as simple as supporting the JANE ROE v 2019 ACLU BENEFIT but there’s much more work to be done. Suggested donation is $25 with all proceeds going to ACLU, plus ACLU Southern California with be onsite at the Echoplex to take donations and LA Vote will be set up for voter registration. Because women’s rights are human rights.