By Hayden Wright
This morning, controversial government whistleblower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was released from prison after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. The former U.S. soldier was convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and military files to Wikileaks, and subsequently became a rallying figure for transparency activists. While in prison, Manning came out as transgender, with many LGBT rights groups criticizing the government’s handling of her transition behind bars. Her lengthy sentence was also deemed too harsh by legal watchdogs—President Obama commuted it near the end of his second term.
A group of musicians has released a benefit compilation (Hugs for Chelsea) to celebrate Manning’s life on the occasion of her release. The album includes music from Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Against Me!, Tom Morello (Prophets of Rage, Rage Against the Machine), Talib Kweli, Downtown Boys, Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), Priests, Anti-Flag, Kimya Dawson, and others.
Ted Leo, Mirah and Screaming Females all contributed never-before-released tracks. 100% of proceeds from sales from the album’s Bandcamp website will go to Manning.
“Chelsea also loves music, and hasn’t had much access to it in prison,” said transgender activist and singer/songwriter Evan Greer, a friend and supporter. “It’s so amazing that she is being released and can fully share herself with the world.”
“Chelsea’s courage knows knows no bounds,” Greer added, “By refusing to be silent she has fought for all of our basic rights. Her release is a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, and a victory for freedom of expression and human rights.”
Graham Nash added that he admires Manning’s courage and conviction.
“Chelsea Manning is one of my heroes. Anyone that has the courage to disturb the ‘status quo’, to ‘rock the boat’ as she did is very brave and what she did was show some truth to the American people about what the government was doing in our name. God Bless her.”