FACETIME- Wake up! Maggie's got something to say to you
Maggie Murphy has probably the only two high school kids in Western Albemarle who don't complain about taking the bus to school. Even growing up in affluent Ivy, her 12th grade son doesn't feel entitled to a car. "He'd rather have a planet than the right to drive a car," explains Murphy, as if such enviro conscientiousness is normal in adolescents.
Then again, maybe if you grow up with a mother who has you busk on the Downtown Mall to raise money for Darfur, the norms are a little different.
"[Son] Finnegan raised $300 playing his fiddle," says Murphy. "Then those bastards towed my truck, and it cost $120. I thought, to hell with this, I'm going to do a big benefit."
Did we mention that Murphy is Irish, and after 26 years in the U.S., still sounds like the Dubliner she was born?
"I became an activist because of old hard Ireland," she admits. "When you grow up somewhere tough, you choose ways to get over despair. Mine is music and laughter."
Her first benefit concert for Darfur in 2006 raised nearly $10,000. "It was puny," she says. "I was disappointed."
She immediately started putting together a bigger, better benefit, and getting hot Irish band Lunasa here. "I persecuted the band manager for two years," she says, but he'd only give her a Wednesday or Thursday night. So she wrote the band members individually on their fan website. "They told the manager, we're giving her a Friday night."
That would be September 12, when Lunasa and classical African guitarist Vieux Farka Toure will perform at the Paramount for Stand Up Charlottesville for Darfur II.
"She's primarily done this single-handedly without a committee," says performance artist Stevie Jay. "She could have dropped it."
With all the causes to choose from locally– Murphy, 51, is already active with the Virginia Organizing Project, the Center for Peace and Justice, and husband John (they met working on an anti-nuclear initiative in California) is director of StreamWatch– why Darfur?
"The death toll could reach Rwanda proportions," she says, "as a result of the conditions they are now living under, which are exacerbated by their drought and desertification." And the environmentalist in her is convinced: "I believe that climate change is one of the underlying roots of the conflict and suffering in the Sudan."
She acknowledges that American lifestyles feed unrest around the globe. "We could forgive ourselves for ignorance in the past," she says. But no more. "We have to dare to imagine the worst to prevent it from happening."
As passionate as she is about her causes, Murphy is adamant about one thing: she hates "fervent, righteous people," and once dropped out of a famous Brit actress' group because they used "nauseous" rhetoric like "vanguard of the proletariat."
Saving the planet doesn't have to be a sacrifice, Murphy says. "It's just a different way of doing things." And one of those ways is hearing "world class music" to help the suffering.
"She doesn't allow people to be passive," says UVA environmental sciences professor Karen McGlathery. "That's something that inspires people. She's a catalyst."
Declares Murphy, "The solution is through music, laughter, and getting off our asses."
This version was corrected to remove an organization– the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation– that Murphy supports but for which she does not volunteer.