Jeff Fitzharris is no stranger to causes.
The Charleston artist behind the t-shirt company, There's No Place Like Charleston, was heavily involved in fundraising for Adam Gorlitzky, the paraplegic who completed the Cooper River Bridge Run this year with the help of robotic legs. Jeff, or Fitz as friends know him, was instrumental in helping Adam promote I Got Legs that raised awareness about spinal cord injuries and partially funded the purchase of the exoskeleton.
Now, Fitz is partnering with singer/songwriter Tommy Gielingh who co-wrote an original song in the aftermath of the Emanuel 9 shooting entitled "Unity Bridge." The two are behind a Day of Unity Charleston, a community concert and live art demonstration Sunday, June 12th, at Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Park. At the heart of their initiative? Promoting unity and raising capital for the new International African American Museum.
It started with a sign
Tommy Gielingh is a bit of nomad with roots in Holland and Spain, stints in London, and time spent traveling the world while working aboard a cruise ship. Now planted in Charleston, the musician was profoundly impacted by the events last June at Emanuel AME Church. He joined thousands who walked the Ravenel Bridge together in a gesture of goodwill, and it was on the bridge that he was photographed holding a sign.
Photo courtesy of Tommy Gielingh
"Are you on the bridge holding up a sign?" his wife asked. She called his cell phone after seeing him on TV. "You're all over television!" That sign inspired an anthem, "Unity Bridge," which Gielingh penned with Evan Lampkin as a tribute to the victims of the tragedy, to acknowledge that there's still work to be done, and to promote the unity that exists among differences. All proceeds from the download of the song benefit the International African American Museum, which will be located at 25 Calhoun Street.
The Mayor's on board
Enter Fitzharris, who, by a random encounter at Red's Ice House, met Gielingh during a gig there. The two hit it off, and, together, armed with an original song and local connections, a Day of Unity was born. Aside from Fitz's reputation as an artist, fundraiser, and goodwill ambassador, he counts among personal friends Mayor John Tecklenburg's wife, Sandy. A quick call to Sandy pitching their idea and asking for help resulted in Mayor Tecklenburg, who is a musician, himself, playing piano for the song. Many others have stepped in to lend support, as well, both for the song's recording and the event on Sunday, which begins following the conclusion of the game.
Picture courtesy of Tommy Gielingh/Press Conference at "The Joe" with Mayor Riley
Find out more
To learn more about A Day of Unity and what Fitzharris and Gielingh are up to visit the website. There you'll find detailed information including their mission, background, sponsors, and day's events, and, most importantly, a link to download the song. All proceeds support the creation of the International African American Museum in Charleston. So, come on out to "The Joe" on Sunday for baseball, live music, live art, and a good cause.