The group is holding a fund-raiser on Thursday at the Greenwich Village nightclub Le Poisson Rouge, and says it has already raised $129,000 through online donations — enough to buy $2.5 million worth of defaulted loans, thanks to their steep markdowns. The people who incurred the debt in the first place will get a certified letter informing them they are off the hook.
The fund-raising effort has its own name, Rolling Jubilee, a reference to the biblical tradition of a jubilee year, in which all debts are forgiven and all indentured servants are given their freedom. Its more recent origin is the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park, where a group of protesters started talking seriously about the problem of burdensome student debt. That conversation eventually broadened to a consideration of the role of debt in American society, and Strike Debt was born.
Since then, some of the group’s projects have been rebellious, like producing the “Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual,” an explanation of the credit industry and how to outmaneuver it, including advice on how to fight, or even ignore, creditors. Rolling Jubilee, by contrast, works within the financial markets.
Mr. Gokey said he was initially wary when approaching professional debt buyers to help conduct the transactions.
“I said, look, we’re revolutionaries, you might not like what we’re trying to do,” he said. “And they said, ‘Well, I’ve got kids; they’re going to college; they’re winding up massively in debt.’ So they said they’d be happy to help us get started.”
Since then, the Rolling Jubilee has even won praise from Forbes, the business magazine, which said it was “Finally, an Occupy Wall Street Idea We Can All Get Behind.”
The event on Thursday will include shows by politically minded humorists like David Rees, author of the “Get Your War On” comic, and Lizz Winstead, a co-founder of “The Daily Show.” In between there will be short acts by musicians and magicians, as well as “radical nuns, an all-female mariachi band and a speed lecturer,” says Laura Hanna, a filmmaker and advocate, who added, “We see this as our coming-out party.”