GLOUCESTER — Congressman Seth Moulton helped close out the final benefit concert in Music on Meetinghouse Green’s 2021 season Friday evening.
Typically, the last show of the Music On Meetinghouse Green season serves as a fundraiser for the Gloucester Meetinghouse.
Charles Nazarian, president of the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation, believed a change in tradition was warranted after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August.
Nazarian invited Moulton to speak at the event due to his “deep concerns of Afghan refugees” and his work to “help those who helped the U.S.”
Cape Ann Big Band played jazz and lounge standards to benefit the International Institute of New England, a nonprofit dedicated to relocating refugees from across the world to New England.
“We’ve provided refugee resettlement to over 330 Afghans since 2014,” said Caroline Rowe, managing director of IINE’s Lowell chapter. “Right now, we’re planning to resettle 150 more Afghans in Boston and Lowell. Lowell already has a pretty large Afghan community so most of them will be placed there.”
During his remarks, Moulton touched on his efforts to relocate several Afghan families in the U.S. The last couple of weeks, Moulton said he worked sleepless nights to get “four high priority families” out of Afghanistan. He only managed to get one family on a plane.
“I felt like a failure,” he said. “But a couple of hours later, when a heroic airman who had waded through thousands of Afghans to find them outside the gate (at Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport), when he showed a picture of this young family — a heroic journalist, his young wife and two daughters about the same age as my own — I realized it was worth it and we had to do more.”
In late August, Moulton made a controversial trip to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul without authorization from the State Department.
He told the crowd of about 300 concertgoers Friday evening that he went because he couldn’t get any answers from the State Department about evacuations.
“We had no point of contact to share the names of allies and refugees that we wanted out until (Kabul) fell,” Moulton said after he stepped off the stage.
“Finally, they gave us an email address that crashed three hours later. We couldn’t even get the names over to the State Department, let alone get them out of the airport.”
The second reason was to show solidarity with U.S. allies.
“As a Marine in Iraq, I often felt abandoned by Congress,” Moulton said. “Forgotten by the leaders in Washington making decisions about the war who had no idea what was going on in Iraq.”
Over eight previous free concerts this summer, Music on Meetinghouse Green brought in more than $10,000 in free-will donations made during the shows to benefit eight local nonprofits. Beneficiaries included Pathways for Children, Maritime Gloucester and HAWC.
At the end of Friday night, Nazarian announced Cape Ann Big Band’s free show raised $4,259 for the International Institute of New England.
“People I’ve talked to said they’ve felt so helpless about what was going on in Afghanistan,” he said. “They were looking for any way to help. A neighbor of mine recommended (IINE). After doing some research I really felt they were the real deal. They’ll receive all the donations from tonight.”
“We broke a record,” he added said. “It was largest amount we ever raised in one night” throughout the history of Music on Meetinghouse Green.
At the end of Moulton’s speech, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken presented him with a citation from the city thanking him for his work to better the community and a hand-crafted pin made by Arley Pett of Arley L. Pett Antiques. Nazarian also gifted Moulton a Gloucester Meetinghouse ball cap.
“May it serve you well,” he joked.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or firstname.lastname@example.org.