My Letter to John Mayer...I'm Not Waiting


John Mayer by Susheela ( Mr. Mayer,

I've been a fan of your songwriting and style for quite a while. I've persisted in this admiration even in the face of people calling you a "sell-out", your experimentation with new genres, and your screaming female co-ed fan base. Many times, I've marveled on how well you articulated moments of behavior and feelings around growing as a post college adult and finding a purpose in the world. I tend to actually pay for your albums and listen to what you have to say, as do millions of other people. In this way, I've become a consumer of both your goods and your philosophy.

But I am also an activist. I believe every person has a story and deserves to be heard. I speak out for what I believe, but I also made a now two-year commitment an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) to actually take action to support my beliefs as well. And while I try to read and listen to as many voices as I can to both support and challenge my beliefs, the one voice I refuse to give audience is one of apathy.

In my work as a VISTA (especially with my placement this year with the housing developments of Boston and Massachusetts), I've listened to many types of voices: voices of fear of walking down a street to participate in GED programs because of gang violence; voices of anger around misrepresentation in the media; voices of exhaustion about the powerlessness caused by bureaucratic systems and ignorance of opportunity. Many of these voices are not heard beyond the walls of small community centers, church basements, or under funded technology programs, and certainly not in the mainstream media or on the floor of Congress. And I have to admit there were moments in the past couple weeks where I was shocked that people were hesitant to share their voice with me because of who I am and where I come from.

Here’s why I’m writing to you. Your song "Waiting on the World to Change" angers me - not because I disagree when it calls out an unpopular war, media bias, or corporate owned media content, but because its proposed solution is to abide. I'm glad you “care” and have awareness that “the fight ain’t fair.” But I’m discouraged to hear that you know these things, but have chosen to use your far-reaching voice to encourage our shared generation to merely “wait” for it all to blow over until power comes to us by default.

While working with non-profits, I’ve encountered a surprising fear of change in the way we do things, even though our missions is often to exact change in other institutions, systems, and individuals. In the face of such stoicism, some fellow VISTAs have expressed frustration and say “why doesn’t that older generation just loosen up a bit or let us take the lead?” In our role of building capacity in the war against poverty and disempowerment in one short year, there’s no room for VISTAs to wait for the voice of the people we serve to be heard. We’re not volunteers in waiting for America. We’re “standing at a distance” from the sources of funding and power in our communities, but we’re trying to improve the system and enact change NOW because the need is not always in the far off future

So every “we” uttered in your song angers me, because you purport to represent my fellow VISTAs and I…and you don’t. If you feel misunderstood, Mr. Mayer, then I’d wish you’d turn your writing talent and power to reach millions of listeners toward highlighting the work of few who are trying to empower people to make change, if you’re not willing to do it yourself.



Danielle Martin

VISTA Leader



P.S. Please note: the opinions in this letter are solely my own and do not represent those of the CTC VISTA Project or MassIMPACT. In addition, you could also begin to remedy this situation by providing free tickets to your shows to any interested AmeriCorps volunteers and giving them a chance to share their work with your audiences. VISTAs love free tickets.

Comment from Colleen Kelly on October 20, 2006 - 5:01pm

I love this post!


Stick it to 'im, hot stuff.