After he refused to comply with vague and seemingly unlawful orders to remove his music videos from social media, the U.S. Army captain known to his fans as Von-T, was charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and deprived of needed medical services. To help him clear his record, and to address other abusive behavior in the military, an alliance of game-changers is now launching Operation Hellfighter, named in honor of James Reese Europe. Europe's band as well as his fellow African-American soldiers who served in France during World War I were called the Harlem Hellfighters. Europe overcame great resistance and achieved notoriety as an innovative bandleader, arranger and composer. Over 100 years later, Von-T is encountering the same sort of harassment Europe endured as a response to his supposedly indecent music.
As Von-T's videos are popular on YouTube and Instagram, it's not apparent what purity test he failed to pass, or what he must do to simply create art without being tormented by a commander. Operation Hellfighter is a campaign to end such persecution on behalf of all service members. Von-T and Marine veteran Melvin Ishmael Johnson will be online plotting strategy Tuesday afternoon with USTOD founder Jeff Norman. The audience is invited to join the live stream via webcam to ask questions and offer suggestions. Von-T is performing January 13 at ILounge in Atlanta.