put up your dukes, asshole

put up your dukes, asshole

Over the past couple of days, I’ve heard from a number of friends with questions about what they should do in response to the outcome of the election; how they can have a impact in the face of the administration that will be in The White House in January. I’ve written this post with those folks in mind.

1. He’s going to be President. And even if you magically get rid of him, then you have Mike Pence. 

I don’t say this to suggest that people shouldn’t be in the streets chanting “Not my president!” this week and throughout the four years he (presumably) will be in office. It’s INCREDIBLY important that this is happening. It’s obviously cathartic for those who are involved, but it also sends a message to him and to those who will work with him (like the Republican-led Senate and House) that he does not have a resounding mandate from the American people. (He may have been given the keys to the car, but our hands are firmly on the parking brake.) It also sends a valuable message internationally: we’re not all xenophobic, racist, sexist assholes with messiah complexes and we don’t want to be told what to do by someone who is. Many of us, in fact, know how to and would like to play nicely, with the recognition that the global sandbox is large – and diverse.

I DO say this because I’ve seen people share ideas for how to prevent his ascension and I think it’s a waste of time and energy that is going to be greatly needed over the next four years. And it ignores the reality that Mike Pence may not be a blowhard, but he IS a homophobic prick who wants to take control of our bodies away from women and that, even if we get rid of Pence, the next in line is Speaker Paul Ryan. (Shudder.)

We need to confront reality: this is the card we have been dealt. Play it.

2. Stay and do your part.

For those of you who are talking about leaving? That’s nice for you, but there are a whole bunch of folks who don’t have that luxury and could use your help.

3. Educate yourself. Just because he doesn’t understand how the government works doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.

In addition to the fact that he is a liar, a pig, and a racist, xenophobic, sexist creep, the thing that has driven me most batty about him is that he doesn’t seem to know how government works. He hasn’t read the Constitution (Could someone get this man a copy of the Constitution for Dummies?), he doesn’t grasp checks and balances and the limitations of the Executive Office and – which is weird for a Republican – he seems to think more power sits in the federal government (versus with the states) than actually does. The asshat doesn’t even know what Obamacare is, except that he doesn’t like it. I supported Hillary, in part, for the same reason I hire someone who knows how to use a camera when we need to film something; she knows how it works.

The thing is, a fair number of us need to pull out our U.S. Civics textbooks too, if we’re going to be able to be effective in response to the shit that is going to be flying our way. In particular, it is important to know what gets decided at the state/local versus federal level. For many of us who are lucky enough to live in “blue” states, we can advocate for and support our state, county, and city-level lawmakers to pass legislation that reflects our values and protects our neighbors and which can counter more hateful decisions that are being made at the federal level. (In most cases, state law overrides federal law.) We can also pay attention to what is happening at the state, county, and city-level in OTHER states and engage our friends who live there to be involved and do the same.

The kinds of issues that are decided locally versus at the federal level include many/most voting rights issues, education policy, LGBTQ discrimination/anti-discrimination policies, reproductive rights, police/criminal justice reform, and more. It is something about which you can be hopeful because you HAVE POWER.

4. We have allies at the federal level. 

While I hope they don’t choose to obstruct for the sake of being obstructionists – like their GOP brethren did in response to Obama – there are quite a few Democrats in the House and Senate who will be grabbing hands and playing the most important game of Red Rover EVER. They may represent you, they may not. But they need to hear from you when the time comes. And those who don’t seem like obvious allies? They need to hear from you too. There are plenty of GOP members of Congress who think he is bat shit crazy. Appeal to their better selves.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Support the folks who were doing work before and will continue to do tomorrow and the day after as well.

I’ve seen some folks talk online about starting new organizations. PLEASE avoid the temptation. Of course, I say this with the SIGNIFICANT caveat that Black Lives Matter is relatively newly created and has had an invaluable impact. But it was done so organically and because there was a gap that needed to be filled and its message resonated with those who became involved and who may not have been involved otherwise. (Read Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright for his take on their origin story and because Jeff is one of the most important voices in this country.) So, sure, if there IS a gap, fill it. But educate yourself first and consider making the groups who are not as strong as they could be STRONG.

I know of LOTS of groups who are getting by with minimal staff and tiny budgets that could use volunteers, people who can help them to get their messages out, and MONEY to help them to change the world. And I would be happy to share them with you if you’re looking to have an impact on a particular issue.

6. Subscribe to a newspaper.

I’m serious. Pay for your content. The next President has been hostile to the press, particularly those who call him out on his lies. WE NEED THEM. They fact check his bullshit. They let us know what is UP. And they NEEDS TO GET PAID to be able to continue to do so or they go away.

7. SCOTUS are people.

I am admittedly terrified about the impact that he will have on the Supreme Court – for generations to come. But while it can be scary that many decisions that affect our lives are decided by NINE people, they are in fact people. And one of the criteria they consider when they make their decisions is whether or not the country is READY for the change that would result from their decisions. So, get your shit together and pay attention to the SCOTUS docket (the SCOTUS blog is your friend) and, when an issue that is important to you is coming up, TALK ABOUT IT. Share news stories about it. In a couple of months, Aggregate is going to be on your case to talk about transgender issues for this very reason. SHOW UP.

8. Rock the Vote EVERY Day.

About twenty years ago I moved to Los Angeles to work at Rock the Vote. I ran a campaign that aimed to help young people understand that policy change happened on a day-to-day basis; that Election Day was not the only chance you had to have your voice heard. We traveled the country looking for stories of real young people who were getting skate parks built, overturning city council decisions to prevent all ages shows, increasing funding for higher education. And we found the little bastards. They recognized their ability to have an impact on issues that mattered to them. Please do the same. And please ask me – and my team – when you need help to do so. Our jobs became more difficult on November 8, but our passion for social justice persists.

Put up your dukes, asshole, we’re coming to get you.

If you have any more ideas, please share in the comments.

worthy in your eyes

worthy in your eyes

Aggregate celebrated four years of being in business this October and today we celebrate four years of showing our gratitude by giving back. We donate approximately 10 percent of our profits each year.

Selecting the organizations to which we make donations is a collaborative process, with staff proposing their ideas for organizations that reflect Aggregate’s values as a company: committed to social justice and equity, unapologetic about their passion, and believers in storytelling – in its many forms – as a tool for social change.

Every day in our work, we must pitch ideas to clients and make effective arguments as to why they should be embraced. And we must develop and execute upon communications strategies that impel people to take actions that will help our clients achieve their missions. So these pitches are also an opportunity for staff to hone their skills. In this case, they need to convince ME to write a check.

Wait…WHAT? Subjective decision-making?

Yep.

Just as many of our “worthy” ideas never see the light of day because we have failed to convince a client to embrace them, only a few among the many that are worthy of our support ultimately make the list.

Once again I am proud of the team for their ideas. We share these organizations with you in the hopes that you will consider joining us in supporting them. But if we don’t convince you, we hope you’ll still share your good fortune with other organizations that are worthy in your eyes.

We remained loyal.
We made our fourth annual donation to the Southern Center for Human Rights. The Center provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, improves legal representation for people who are low-income, and challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails. This year was also the fourth year we made a donation to the Ali Forney Center in New York City, which provides services to homeless LGBTQ youth. And for the fourth year in a row, we made the donation in honor of Spencer Cox, who gave so much to all of us in his efforts to end the AIDS pandemic.

We did something we never did before.
We maintain a strict line between our charitable donations and our business development efforts (i.e., we’re sincere), so we’ve never made a donation to a client organization. But then we had the honor of working with the Abortion Care Network. At the end of a year during which women’s access to their constitutional right to plan their families was attacked repeatedly, we think it’s an imperative to support providers who literally risk their lives every day to provide exceptional care to their patients. The Abortion Care Network is small in size, but enormous in ambition and their value to the abortion care community. We want them to succeed.

We believe in justice – in all its manifestations.
We’re heading into an election year and we need to be prepared to ensure that those who want to go to the polls are not impeded and their votes are counted, so we made the decision to support Common Cause. We appreciate how the Campaign for Youth Justice uses storytelling in their effort to end the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system, so we made a donation to them to help them to continue to do so. We made a donation to Girls Who Code to help bridge the gender gap and inspire, educate, and equip more girls to have the computing skills they need to succeed. We donated to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit media organization focused on reporting on the American criminal justice system, because they help to make us smarter every day. We donated to Seattle’s Splash to support their efforts to provide clean water to kids around the world and, specifically, in response to the earthquake in Nepal this past April. And we made a donation to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project to better enable the organization to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence. And because we love Sylvia.

We’re good friends.
We made a donation to The Lowline in New York to support our friend Dan Barasch to build an underground park in an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side. We supported Kat Galasso’s Kickstarter campaign to relaunch The Floatones at La Mama. And we supported another friend to show support to HIS friend by riding in DC’s Ride to Conquer Cancer.

We (still) love filmmakers.
For the third year in a row we are supporting the True/False Pay the Artists Program to enable the festival to financially support the filmmakers who screen their films at the fest (beyond travel costs) and to encourage others to invest in independent documentary filmmaking.

We attended Good Pitch this October and made donations to two of the films presented that day: Whose Streets and Canary in a Coal Mine. Whose Streets is the Ferguson MO story as told by the activists who took to the streets when Michael Brown is murdered by the police. It is “a first-hand look at how the murder of one teenage boy became the last straw for a community under siege.” Canary in a Coal Mine brings attention to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), which disproportionately impacts women. (And is being executive produced by our hero Debby Hoffman.)

We love Seattle.
Last year we gave money to KEXP (for the second year in a row) to help them to move into their new studio at the Seattle Center. They made that move this month. This year we’re making our third annual donation to make sure they know how grateful we are to them for helping to make Seattle a great place to call home.

Unfortunately, calling Seattle home continues to become a greater and greater challenge to too many people. For the second year in a row we have made a donation to the Tenants Union of Washington State to support their ability to advocate on behalf of tenants.

We made a donation to the International Rescue Committee in Seattle to welcome refugees who have come to our fair city and allow them to rebuild their lives by providing housing, health care, food, education, and legal and social services.

Finally, we made a donation to our local YWCA, supporting their efforts to empower women who are facing poverty, violence and discrimination in our backyard.

Thank you to everyone who makes our giving possible. Best wishes for the new year.

a radical partnership: gaming & hospitals

a radical partnership: gaming & hospitals

Encouraging video game play as a way to provide healthy distractions and positive interactions? That’s radical, and it’s happening at hospitals and (soon) domestic violence shelters worldwide.

As a (relative) newcomer to Seattle, I’m enjoying learning about the diverse organizations and causes with roots in the Pacific Northwest. Each month, I will highlight a local group whose radical work inspires me to be more radical in my own work and daily life. 

Penny Arcade authors Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins founded Child’s Play in 2003 with a mission to provide age-appropriate entertainment to children during stressful events in their life as a healthy distraction, and to encourage positive interaction with their peers, friends, and family. It started with a single hospital in Seattle, WA. Since then, the charity has raised millions of dollars and has established partnerships with hospitals and other facilities worldwide to provide video games, toys, and books to children in need.

Currently, Child’s Play works with hospitals and care centers, including therapeutic facilities. In 2013, Krahulik and Holkins announced a new initiative to expand to domestic violence shelters. Applications are now being accepted.

With the help of participating hospitals, wish lists are set up that include games, books, toys, and other fun items. You can then click any location on their donation map to view the hospital’s list and purchase items to be sent directly to the hospitals. The items are generally shared in the hospital in community spaces or in a library checkout system.

If you’re interested in helping but don’t want to purchase a specific item, you can donate money directly, run a fundraiser event, or, for businesses, sign up for a corporate sponsorship. Cash donations are used to purchase additional play equipment for hospitals, including consoles and accessories, as well as toys and books, which often are given as gifts for birthdays and other occasions and therefore must be replaced frequently.

Child’s Play has found a unique way to use video games for good, creating an age-appropriate safe space for children to forget their worries for a few moments, relieve some stress, and perhaps make new friends in their hospital in the process. I was lucky to not spend prolonged periods at the hospital as a child, but having spent time as an adult as both a patient and a friend, I see the value and importance of programs such as this. I look forward to seeing their new domestic violence center initiative expand and succeed.

For updates on Child’s Play and to learn more, stop by the website, like it on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter.

Learn about other radical local organizations we’ve featured, including Project VioletRain City Rock Camp for Girls, Seal Sitters, Undriving, Blue Earth Alliance, and Comedy Competition for a Cause.

giving away money

giving away money

It’s time again for our end of year donations, but the truth is that Aggregate gives money throughout the year. Sometimes we do so to show our admiration and other times our love. Sometimes we do so because a great story compels us or because we want to support our friends. We always do so because the missions that these organizations pursue—as well as generosity—are core to our values.

  • In February, we donated to the True Life Fund at the True/False Film Fest, which is run by our Creative Director, David Wilson. Each year, True/False selects one of the films in their program and raises money to “support and honor those who appear in front of the camera.” In 2013, the True Life Fund film was Which Way is the Front Line from Here?, about Tim Hetherington, a conflict zone photojournalist who was killed in 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. The money we donated went to support Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues and the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone, an organization that Tim supported when he was alive.
  • In March we donated to the Brothers of a Boston Fraternity because we were so impressed with their decision to support their transgender brother to have top surgery after his insurance company denied his claim.
  • In June we donated to PATH, our neighbors in Seattle, to support their efforts to transform global health through innovation.
  • In August we donated to the Maplewood Barn Community Theater to support the Willy Wilson Scholarship to support high school graduates to study performing arts in college. Willy, David’s dad, passed away this summer. In addition to being a talented performer, Willy gave us David, for which we are eternally grateful.
  • In September, we donated to support friends who were riding in the Canary Challenge to raise money for cancer research at the Stanford Cancer Institute.
  • In November, we donated to charity: water because it was the least we could do to show Paull Young that we admired his willingness to wear a Speedo on the streets of Philadelphia in November.

Through these donations, we nearly doubled what we gave through our year-end contributions last year.

For this year’s donations, we renewed our commitment to last year’s recipients: the Ali Forney Center (again, in honor of Spencer Cox), which provides housing for homeless LGBT youth in New York, and the Southern Center for Human Rights, which provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.

As far as new recipients, staff contributed their ideas and these are the additional groups that have received our support:

  • We made a donation to KEXP in Seattle because we listen to them every day in the office and because of their own contribution to making our favorite city an amazing place to live.
  • Finally, after seeing Jim Olson speak at PopTech in October and then again this month in Seattle, we made a donation to Project Violet at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It is Jim’s ambition, commitment, innovative approach and amazing skills as a storyteller that caught our eye. We’re honored to be able to help him and his team.

In total, our donations this year were three times what we gave away last year. We did well and we gave back. We hope you’ll consider giving to some of the same organizations to which we donate.

Best wishes for the new year.

scorpions and brain tumors

scorpions and brain tumors

A “tumor paint” derived from the DNA of the Israeli death stalker scorpion that chemically adheres to cancer cells and lights them up like a flashlight and is thousands of times more sensitive than MRI imagery? Radical.

As a newcomer to Seattle, I’m enjoying learning about the diverse organizations and causes with roots in the Pacific Northwest. Each month, I will highlight a local group whose radical work inspires me to be more radical in my own work and daily life.

Everyone you meet impacts your life in some way. Some of us are lucky enough to meet people who change our lives in a radical way. For Dr. Jim Olson, Violet O’Dell was one of those people. One of a few hundred children per year diagnosed with brainstem glioma—a rare, deadly, and inoperable tumor—11-year-old Violet understood she would die and requested that her brain be donated to science after her death. Violet wanted to leave a legacy of helping researchers and doctors develop effective treatments for other kids in her situation.

Violet’s generous and fearless donation inspired Dr. Olson to start Project Violet. Part of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Project Violet is on a mission to create anti-cancer compounds that will allow for more effective treatment of cancer. These compounds will attack cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed, allowing for more precise treatment of tumors, particularly those in more complicated areas of the body.

Tumor paint, an ongoing success for Project Violet, uses DNA from the Israeli death stalker scorpion to light up tumors like a flashlight. This “molecular flashlight” can adhere to a cluster made up of as few as 200 cells and is 100,000 times more sensitive than traditional MRI imagery. After nearly 10 years of research, tumor paint will start human trials in early 2014. Originally created for the purpose of treating pediatric brain cancer, the team has since discovered that tumor paint may have applications for breast, colon, lung, prostate, and skin cancer.

Speaking at Town Hall Seattle earlier this month, Dr. Olson said he believes nature is an incredible resource for medical research, with many plants and animals having millions of years to evolve their DNA. Dr. Olson also believes citizen science, or crowdfunding for research in the case of Project Violet, is an untapped resource for drug development. Whether you donate $100 or $10,000, you have the opportunity to “adopt” a drug candidate for research. You can follow the drug’s progress as it goes through creation and testing as it is added to the library of drug candidates. This library will allow the Project Violet team to discover drugs that might be used to alleviate symptoms of rare diseases or minimize or destroy inoperable tumors. With the help of donations and tireless work from the Project Violet team, that drug candidate may eventually become a cure for a once-incurable disease.

To make a donation, please visit Project Violet’s website. To find out more, view the project’s videos, like it on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter.

our annual contributions

our annual contributions

When I decided to start my own company, one of the things that I wanted to achieve was to ensure that the people I hired were proud of where they worked. I figured we could do so in a few different ways: do smart, creative work for great clients, provide a fun and beautiful setting for them to come to every day, enable them to have new experiences (travel, meeting cool people) and be a company that wears our values on our sleeves.

To achieve this last item, we could be outspoken about the issues we care about—in our conversations, via the content we share online—and we could work with organizations that share those values. We could also give to organizations that were working to uphold those values.

We moved into our first office on September 1, celebrated our first anniversary on October 1 and today we are announcing our first annual charitable contributions. We reached out to friends, vendors, family and clients for ideas and they sent quite a few fabulous options. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to increase the number and the size of the donations we make, but this is what we are doing this year.

Boys and Girls Club of King CountyWe wanted one of our donations to go to a group in our home town of Seattle. Haley suggested the Boys and Girls Club because, as she said, they enabled her to afford to ensure her beautiful daughter had after school care when Haley was enrolled in a full time Master’s program. Giving women the chance to further their education—and to inspire their daughters to do the same—is core to our hearts and we love having the opportunity to allow Haley to say thank you and to join her in doing so. We are giving the Boys and Girls Club $500 (actually, we’re letting Haley’s daughter do the honors) and encourage you to consider making a donation as well.

Southern Center for Human Rights: We are proud of the work we are currently doing with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and of the other people in our world who work to address the injustices of the criminal justice system. They need our help. The Southern Center for Human Rights provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States. We are giving the Southern Center for Human Rights $1,000 and hope you will consider making a donation as well.

Ali Forney Center: On December 17, Spencer Cox died at the age of 44. Spencer was a committed AIDS activist whose passion enabled him to contribute to saving the lives of millions of people worldwide, a fact we should all know and never forget. His family suggested three charities to which donations could be made in Spencer’s name and we selected the Ali Forney Center. The Center, in New York City, provides housing and other services to homeless LGBT youth and recently needed to invest significant resources to rebuild its drop-in center, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. We are giving $1,000 to the Ali Forney Center—in Spencer’s name—and hope you will consider making a donation in his name as well.

Spencer was featured in David France’s How to Survive a Plague and upon his death, David posted the amazing video of Spencer at the top of the page, in which Spencer reminds all of us what matters most: being kind, and being generous. Thank you, Spencer.