Local Current Blog

Minneapolis musician Sota Smoov detained by ICE; fellow artists organize to raise awareness

John Lewis Bing III (Sota Smoov) and wife Maria Schulz. (Photo via GoFundMe.com)

This Saturday, July 13, over a dozen local musicians will spread across Minneapolis street corners and sidewalks. The performances are an effort to raise money and awareness for John Lewis Bing III, a.k.a. Sota Smoov, a Minneapolis musician who was arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 6.

Bing was born in Liberia, and his mother became severely ill after giving birth to him. Civil war broke out in Liberia, and Bing’s grandparents took him to Washington, D.C., then Columbus, Ohio. When he received a call from his mother saying that she was living in Minneapolis, he relocated to the city. Shortly after, he adopted the name “Sota” to pay homage to the state.

After coming to the U.S. as an infant, Bing has not yet received legal documentation to remain in the country, and now faces deportation to Liberia. Since his arrest on June 6, a number of local musicians have spoken out about his impact on the local music scene, and have organized events to raise money and awareness for him. The hashtag #FreeSota has circulated around social media, and a GoFundMe campaign is raising money for Bing’s legal fees and to support his wife and children.

“He’s a friend, he’s an important member of the community,” said Tara Grimmer, who plays in the bands Christof Rochel and the Wine-Soaked Goliards and Fuzzy Machete. “He’s always been a Minnesotan; he’s one of us.”

Grimmer organized the street performances that will take place in Minneapolis on Saturday. “The more people heard about it, the more were interested in getting involved,” she said. “Sota has a lot of friends in both the punk and the hip-hop music communities — the whole underground music scene in the Twin Cities, really — so just from word of mouth a whole bunch of people were excited to sacrifice an afternoon to put a hat or an instrument case out and see what we can do to help.”

Grimmer met Bing by performing with members of his band, Los Pinche Gueys, and has since shared stages with him as a performer and booker. “I keep a list of bands who I really like, for when I’m trying to pull a bill together, and his group has always been on my list,” she said. “They’re one of the best live bands you can see in the Twin Cities.”

In addition to Saturday’s street performances, a number of benefit concerts this month will also raise money for Bing and his family, including a fundraiser on Saturday night at Moon Palace Books, a benefit at the Turf Club on July 23, and a concert at Palmer’s Bar on July 24.

“A lot of musicians regard him as a friend, as well as a colleague,” said Grimmer. “We’re happy to spend a day doing our own small part to help.”

  • TheWhiteDolomite

    Good Bye

    • Kerry

      Wait wut?

  • Exceptional American

    Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. Now to let all the Somalis who hate America go with him out the door. Every last person who voted for Ilhan Omar needs to leave as they are a domestic enemy of the US.

    • MissNicole Holliday

      You call yourself an exceptional American? What are you doing to make America exceptional…?

      • Exceptional American

        I work helping to build products that make people’s lives better, pay taxes and I love my countries exceptional founding values that have allowed it to become a shining city on a hill. Unlike Ilhan Omar and most immigrants who(according to many polls) who want to destroy everything exceptional about my country.

        • Josiah James Owen

          What polls? Post them. Post a link to any poll that says Ilhan is “…trying to destroy everything exceptional about…” The United States. It’s not your country you ignorant white man. All that being said, I don’t believe you’re a real human. I’m just wasting my Saturday angry at the turds like you and “The White Dolomite” that are the real people destroying this country.

        • Yuri Nator

          What’s your company’s products? If you’re such an exceptional person, you’d advertise your company’s products.

  • Josiah James Owen

    I’m guessing the pieces of trash posting on this are not the typical punlic radio listener. Exceptional American… what makes you certain Sota doesn’t pay taxes? I’d love to know what products you make. So I can avoid touching them.

  • James

    If you are not here legally then you gotta pay the price. If I came into your house uninvited and made myself at home, you would have me arrested. It’s no different.

    • Alexander Maceda

      He was brought here as a infant what choice did he have, what does he have outside of this country? That’s a terrible analogy obviously you are a adult, but I’m sure if a infant was left at your doorstep you would slam your door of it was not a white infant.

      • James

        So you assume that I am white?

        • Yuri Nator

          So why would it benefit the country if a guy who obviously has a job and has a positive impact on his community to leave, even though it was his parents, not him, who violated immigration law.

          • James

            Your screen name gave me a good laugh.
            As for him having a job and positive impact on his community I applaud him. Those are great things and should definitely be weighed into his request for documentation. But it still doesn’t remove the fact that he is not here legally. Again, if I invited myself into your house, washed your dishes, made your bed and picked up all the dog shit in the yard I may well be the nicest trespasser ever but it doesn’t change the fact that I am trespassing. It’s the law and we have laws for a reason. We can’t just enforce the laws for some and not for others. It’s the fair thing to do even if we don’t like it.

    • Kerry

      there’s no legal recourse for people without visas?