Tag Archives: philanthropy

Salvation Army Responds…

9 Dec

TSAApparently my previous story on the Salvation Army’s sexist and homophobic practices caused a bit of a stir. Here is the original story from last week if you feel you need to refer back to it.  The day after I published the story, I received an email from Major Ron Busroe from National Headquarters for the Salvation Army. The email simply said:

Good morning Michael. I would appreciate if we could talk a few minutes about your blog. Let me know if you are willing and available.
Thanks.
Ron

In the interest of being fair, I called Ron and we did chat about the blog. The following is the exchange between Ron and myself.

I’m trying to reach out to folks and correct perceptions that are not accurate.  The whole idea that the Salvation Army is anti-gay and discriminates against people that are gay is just not true.  It is not happening today.  We have an employee in Communications that is gay and he lives in Maryland and is married.  I have a dear friend and he is an officer in the Salvation Army and he is gay.  We don’t ask people if they are gay.

Does the gay employee in your Communications Department receive full benefits and domestic partnership benefits?

Yes, he does.

How would the Salvation Army deal with an employee or volunteer who was proved to be discriminating against an LGBT person?

We will investigate any claims of discrimination.  If it is an employee the employee would be reprimanded.  The officer would be dealt with — they would not be fired but they would be told that is not policy of the SA.  Disagreement does not constitute discrimination.  We have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.  We do not believe homosexual orientation is a sin.

But there are numerous examples of people in authority in the Salvation Army who say that it is a sin. George Hood said that hiring LGBT employees would destroy the fabric of the Army; Maj. Andrew Caribe went so far as to say that gay people deserve to die.

The person in New York was not authorized to say that on behalf of the SA so it should not be counted.

Ron, might I ask you to look at the impact against the LGBT community when top officials that represent the Salvation Army make homophobic comments? Their being authorized to speak on behalf of the SA becomes immaterial — the damage is done. I hope you can appreciate why the LGBT community would be distrustful at best.

One last question, Ron.  How did you get my private email address?

[Silence.]  I’m not sure.  I asked if there was a telephone number.  We have a firm that works for us that monitors  all the information that comes in out about us.  I told them I wanted to reach out to that person.  I don’t know how that happened.  The name of the firm is Richard’s Group out of Dallas, Texas.

Ron can you understand how that feels rather creepy to me that you were able to gain access to my private email address? You could have simply left a comment on the blog, or emailed me through the blog.

I have the feeling we are going to have another bad article here aren’t we?

No, I don’t want to be unkind.  I want to share what you have shared with me today.  I think my responses to the thread of comments are evidence that I am not out trying to bash anyone.

I have not read the comments. I just read the story.

That is too bad. I wish you would have read the comments, for they speak volumes about people’s character.  I would specifically point to Xena who was kind enough to share the experience of her friend and the amazing comment from Steve, who has worked for the Salvation Army for 29 years.  His comment should humble us all.  If only he were running the organization. I also have to include Philip here for offering a sincere apology and helping me appreciate the power of dialogue within threads such as these.

Finally, I want to thank Major Ron Brusroe.  I am still uncertain what to think of the general philosophy under which the SA operates.  I will say that they seem to be working very hard to repair the history and damage to the LGBT community. I would also say that I would donate money to the chapter Steve works with.  While I am grateful that Ron took time to contact me and visit with me on the phone, it would have been nice if I received some recognition and repair around how creepy it felt that he was able to gain access to my private email address.

It would have been nice if Ron had offered or acknowledged the history and damage and followed up with some repair, such as I am very sorry people have been hurt by this organization, please know we are working very hard to ensure that ALL people are being served.  Perhaps I am expecting too much.

For all those within the SA that are dedicated to social justice, I offer my most sincere apology if I have committed any trespass. I know there are many of you working very hard to make the world a better place.

Update as of December 14, 2013:

I received an apology from The Richard’s Group and an acknowledgement that it “did feel creepy to me” that they were able to gain access to private information and then shared with the Salvation Army, albeit there was no malintent on their part.

I also have to include this link provided by my friend, Nel Ward. This link shows the most recent activity of the SA. Nel and I were both bemoaning the right to privacy seems to be completely gone in our current Orwellian culture.

The Salvation Army: The Bell Ringers of Hate

2 Dec
Ringing For Hate

Ringing For Hate

Yes, it is that time of year again. Black Friday ushers in not only conspicuous consumption at the cost of abusing employees not earning a living wage, but it also ushers in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  As these “soldiers of god” take over the entrances to malls, shops, and grocery stores across the country, let us remember the facts.  The Salvation Army is rabidly homophobic and misogynistic.

Not only are they homophobic, but they refuse to help or serve the LGBT community.  Before offering any services to LGBT people in need, the Army subjects them to sermons and lectures. They insist that established couples renounce each other before they can receive care. This nasty group is also very anti-choice, insisting that pregnant women not seek abortions if they want services, regardless of what is best for the woman. I guess their Jesus was only charitable to those he deemed qualified for help — who does Jesus hate?

Beyond this hostility to individuals, the Salvation Army is also an aggressive lobbying organization: they have tried (unsuccessfully, fortunately) to overturn or get exemptions from equal access and non-discrimination laws in multiple jurisdictions around the world. In a fit of petulance unbecoming a charitable organization, they have even threatened to close soup kitchens in New York City rather than abide by local non-discrimination laws.

Call to action: I encourage people to help educate bell ringers about the hate being spread by the Salvation Army, while realizing you may not get the empathic response desired. Also, it seems that while some of the bell ringers are volunteers, many of them are earning minimum wage.  While I don’t want to bash people whose intent is good, we must also unpack the impact aside from the intent. There are so many organizations competing for money that can do so much good. I encourage everyone to GIVE, but give to organizations that are inclusive and not exclusive.

This is a season when many people think more actively of giving and want to be charitable. Please honor those instincts, but don’t contribute to organizations that practice hate and bigotry. If you want to find the best place to make your contributions, try the Charity Navigator; if you want to get more actively involved, there are dozens of ways you can give to all of your community. When it comes to those shrill bells, red pots, and artificial smiles? Take some advice from Burt Bacharach and walk on by.

Farewell Lou Reed, Pioneer and Activist

28 Oct
Lou Reed, 1942 - 2013

Lou Reed, 1942 – 2013

The music world was stunned yesterday when a rock pioneer breathed his last. Lou Reed, the outspoken chameleon whose contributions helped launch virtually every left-of-center rock genre, died of complications from a recent liver transplant. He was 71.

Lewis Allan Reed was born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942. He learned to play guitar at an early age and performed in a number of doo-wop and R&B groups. He went to Syracuse University, studying journalism and film. After graduation, he did a brief stint as a house composer for Pickwick records before branching out into more avant garde and subversive sounds.

Reed is perhaps most famous as the co-founder and principle songwriter of the Velvet Underground. Noted for their work with Andy Warhol, the quartet’s four albums ran the gamut from raw noise to delicate folk pop, with Reed’s deadpan vocals featured on most tracks. Despite minimal sales, the band’s output was massively influential. Reed went solo in 1970 and continued to produce challenging music on a wide variety of themes.

Openly bisexual, Reed was given electro-shock therapy as a teen in an attempt to “cure” him. (He famously wrote about the experience on the harrowing song Kill Your Sons.) His songs were frank explorations of very real themes largely avoided by popular music to that point. He explored sex thoroughly, often championing the gay and transgender people he had met while working with Warhol in his songs. His finest album, Transformer, flirted with glam rock and explored gender and sexual identity in ways that were frank and playful both. (The album also produced his only real hit, Walk On the Wild Side, the first Top 20 song to refer to oral sex.)

He also explored addiction and its complications and wrote many frank songs about domestic abuse and broken relationships. While the content was often dark, it was anchored by his unremitting sense of humanity and deep-rooted optimism. Reed was an outspoken critic of the forces of greed and corruption and never hesitated to criticize politicians, other musicians, or the press for their shortcomings in working for a better world.

Reed was a tireless philanthropist, contributing to many causes. He focused on AIDS and LGBT issues (including work with Cyndi Lauper‘s True Colors projects) as well as support programs for children. He participated in the first Farm Aid concert and contributed to animal rights campaigns. After recording an all-star version of his finest song, the lovely Perfect Day, to help support the BBC, he agreed to release it as a single, with all the proceeds going to Children In Need.; the single raised £2,125,000.

Years of alcohol and drug abuse had taken their toll, and Reed was increasingly frail in recent years. After receiving a liver transplant in April, he seemed to be doing much better and spoke of his increased energy. Sadly, the transplant had some complications, and Reed succumbed after a brief illness. He leaves behind a legacy of frank speaking, activism, and musical originality that will never be matched.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 9, Stephen Sondheim

9 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate one of the most important figures in American theatre, Stephen Sondheim. He was born in Manhattan in 1930 as the only child of Etta Janet “Foxy” (née Fox) and Herbert Sondheim. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and later, after his parents divorced, on a farm near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Herbert was a dress manufacturer and Foxy, his mother, designed the dresses. While living in New York, Sondheim attended the Ethical Culture affiliated Fieldston School. Later, Sondheim attended the New York Military Academy and George School, a private Quaker preparatory school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he wrote his first musical (By George!). He also spent several summers at Camp Androscoggin. He graduated from George School in 1946.

Sondheim traces his interest in theatre to Very Warm for May, a Broadway musical he saw at age nine. “The curtain went up and revealed a piano,” Sondheim recalled. “A butler took a duster and brushed it up, tinkling the keys. I thought that was thrilling.” At about the age of ten, around the time of his parents’ divorce, Sondheim became friends with Oscar Hammerstein II’s son James. The elder Hammerstein became Sondheim’s surrogate father. It was at the opening of South Pacific, the musical Hammerstein wrote with Richard Rodgers, that Sondheim met Harold Prince, who would later direct many of his shows. When Sondheim showed Hammerstein his first musical (By George!), he said it was the worst thing he had ever seen. “But if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.” The rest of the day was spent going over the musical, and Sondheim would later say that “in that afternoon I learned more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime.”

From that beginning, Sondheim began writing. His big break came when he wrote the lyrics to West Side Story, lyricizing Leonard Bernstein’s music and Arthur Laurents’s book at the age of 25. He moved on to Gypsy, and continued with a number of successful shows. He began his productive partnership with director Hal Prince with Company in 1970. They collaborated on a number of hit productions in the 70s including A Little Night Music  and Pacific Overtures.

Over the six decades of his career, Sondheim has been involved with dozens of shows, including some of the most famous and influential Broadway musicals. He is the winner of an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, multiple Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Laurence Olivier Award. He was president of the Dramatists Guild from 1973 to 1981. In celebration of his 80th birthday, the Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Sondheim also believes in giving back and nurturing the next generation. In 1981, he founded Young Playwrights to introduce young people to writing for the theatre; he is the Executive Vice President. Although he has a number of close friends, Sondheim sees himself a solitary person. Because of his parents’ ugly divorce, he has stated that he does not believe in marriage. He came out in the Ronald Reagan Homophobic 1980s (not an easy time, even in theatre) and had a long-term relationship  with dramatist Peter Jones.

Stephen Sondheim is a complicated man and a monumental talent. As we celebrate his contributions, enjoy one of his best-known songs (and his only Top 40 hit), Send In the Clowns.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 4, James Hormel

4 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate a life-long philanthropist and activist, James C. Hormel. Born in Minnesota on New Year’s Day 1933, Hormel is the grandson of George A. Hormel of Hormel Foods. (Yep, the SPAM people…) He earned a B.A. in history from Swarthmore College and a law degree from the University of Chicago. He has practiced law and served as dean of students and director of admissions at UC’s law school.

Hormel has also dedicated his life to social justice and to making the world safer for LGBT people. He came out in middle age after many years of marriage. He was one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign. He was a member of the 1995 United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the 1996 U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and has served on the boards of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Hormel funded the creation of James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library in 1995.

Hormel is also the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. ambassador, although Republicans in the Senate tried their best to stop that from happening. President Clinton put him forward as Ambassador to Luxembourg in October 1997. Despite easy approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with no votes from Jesse Helms and John Ashcroft), Republicans obstructed his appointment for over a year. The ever-charming Trent Lott publicly denounced Hormel, comparing homosexuality to kleptomania. The fact that a life-long philanthropist was seen as unfit as an ambassador by the same people who thought John Bolton at the U.N. was a good idea is pretty telling about Republican character in the Senate. President Clinton finally used a recess appointment to send Hormel to Luxembourg, where he was well received and served with honor.

Now retired to the Bay area, he continues his philanthropy and involvement in the LGBT community. In 2010 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshall Award by San Francisco Pride Board of Directors for his LGBT activism over several decades.

Women’s History Month 2012: Mary Richmond

7 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate one of the earliest and most significant influencers of social work, Mary Ellen Richmond. Born in 1861 in Illinois, Richmond was shuttled from one relative to another in the Baltimore area after her parents died when she was a child. She was mostly home schooled by her grandmother who was known as a radical and a suffragist. After finishing high school, she worked odd jobs and became involved with the charitable works of the Unitarian Church. In 1888, she became the assistant treasurer for the Charity Organization Society and became involved with the charitable works that preceded modern social work. Her administrative duties led to her appointment as general secretary. In addition to her assigned duties, she volunteered as a friendly visitor, the equivalent of an early caseworker.

Concerned about the frequent failures of cases to respond to service, in 1897 she delivered an historic speech at the National Conference of Charities and Correction, calling for schools to train professional social workers. In 1899, she published the first comprehensive presentation of practical suggestions, Friendly Visiting Among the Poor.

In 1900, Ms. Richmond became general secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity. During her tenure, she emphasized the need for volunteer effort; she also fought to obtain legislation for deserted wives. Between 1905 and 1909, Ms. Richmond was associated with Charities, which developed teaching materials for Charity Organization Societies nationwide. She then became director of the Russell Sage Foundation’s Charity Organization Department in New York City. She also taught and did research at the New York School of Philanthropy.

From 1910 through 1922, she developed and headed summer institutes attended by secretaries of charity organization societies from all parts of the country. Her most celebrated book, Social Diagnosis, was based on her lectures and on her wide readings in history, law, logic, medical social work, psychology, and psychiatry. Widely hailed as evidence of the professionalization of social work, it was the first formulation of theory and method in identifying the problems of clients. In 1922, she defined social case work as “those processes which develop personality through adjustments consciously effected, individual by individual, between men and their social environment.” She died in 1928, leaving behind a critical legacy in the field of social work.  For all of us social workers that believe we can change the world, we owe Richmond a huge debt.

Black History Month 2012: Quincy Jones

11 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a man whose sixty years in music and the arts make him nearly unmatched in accomplishments and awards. Quincy Delightt Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1933 and raised in Seattle. He received a scholarship to the school that eventually became the Berklee College of Music. He left before graduation to take advantage of the chance to be a trumpeter with Lionel Hampton’s band. While with Hampton, he displayed an uncanny knack for arrangement and quickly relocated to New York where he became an in-demand arranger for luminaries like Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. From 1956 to 1960 he alternated between touring as a trumpeter and arranger and time in New York. After being involved in a disastrous tour of North America and Europe, he decided that he needed to take further control of his own destiny.

We had the best jazz band in the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That’s when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.

He accepted a loan from Irving Green, head of Mercury Records and began working for the company, soon rising to Vice President, the first African-American to hold such a post at a label not owned by African-Americans. In 1964, Sidney Lumet invited him to score his film The Pawnbroker, and Jones became the first African-American to score a major film. He has since done over 30 scores, receiving a record seven Academy Award nominations. He also has a record 79 Grammy nominations with 27 wins including the Grammy Legend award.

He has gone on to an amazing career (including producing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the biggest-selling album of all time). His list of awards and accolades is so substantial that it merits its own Wikipedia page. This includes the coveted Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, indicative of his dedication to giving back to the world. While he is well known as the conductor and producer of the We Are the World sessions, he has made many regular contributions to other causes. Jones holds the title of the ONLY music composer of a Steven Spielberg movie, The Color Purple.  All other Spielberg movies used John Williams to compose the music score.  Not a big surprise to the TSM audience, but not only did I love the movie The Color Purple, but I bought the soundtrack immediately after seeing the movie.

Beginning with his work with Dr. King in the early 60s, he has launched many initiatives. Jones is co-founder of the Institute for Black American Music and the Black Arts Festival in Chicago. In 2004, he helped launch the We Are the Future (WAF) project, which gives children in poor and conflict-ridden areas a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. He regularly contributes time, energy, and money to other organizations, including the NAACP, AmFar, and GLAAD. Not content just to be a celebrity and businessman, Quincy Jones is a model of civil rights and social justice.

Black History 2012: Venus and Serena Williams

5 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate two champion athletes, sisters and tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams.

Venus was born in June 1980. She is the first African-American woman to be ranked #1 by the Women’s Tennis Association, a ranking she has held three times. She has won three Olympic medals and is one of the most-winning professional tennis players of all time. Her 21 Grand Slam titles ties her for twelfth on the all time list and is more than any other active female player except for her younger sister. With 43 career singles titles, Williams leads active players on the WTA Tour. She is also one of only two active WTA players to have made the finals of all four Grand Slams, the other player being her sister.

Serena was born in September 1981. She was the second African-American woman ranked #1 by the WTA five times. She won two Olympic gold medals and has won more career prize money than any other female athlete in history. Her 27 Grand Slam titles place her ninth on the all-time list; she has won more Major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles than any other active player, male or female.

Both women also focus on making the world a better place. Following in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, Venus has fought with Wimbledon and the French Open to gain equal pay for athletes regardless of sex. It is a sad testament to sexism that these efforts have still been unsuccessful. The sister’s strength speaks volumes as they are examples of the intersections of oppression challenging a national discourse and working to make the world a better place. Serena does significant charity work, focusing on at-risk youth. As part owners of the Miami Dolphins, the sisters are also the first African-American women to participate in ownership of an NFL franchise.

Hero of the Week Award: July 15

15 Jul

Hero of the Week

As the world goes to see the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, let us celebrate the wonderful woman who brought us so much joy. This week’s hero is J.K. Rowling.

Rowling is appropriate for celebration on TSM for many reasons. Besides crafting a wonderful series of books that encouraged a generation to read (despite being challenged in libraries across the United States), she used those books to encourage people to be honest, fair, and and true to themselves. Using her magical world, Rowling addressed poverty, oppression, politics (compare the Ministry of Magic to the Bush administration), slavery, and racism.  By showing the noble side of a nerd like Longbottom or the true friendship of an outcast like Luna, she encourages her readers to take a look at their preconceptions and judge people by the depth of their character. In the character of Professor Albus Dumbledore, Rowling also created a wise, compassionate gay role model for LGBTQ youth and their straight peers. Not insignificantly, her work has also inspired those who have voiced her characters to do good works themselves, as characterized by the charitable work of Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter of the screen.

The wonderful Ms. Rowling has not stopped with her books. As a woman who wrote her first book as a single mother living in poverty, she understands the power of the money she now has and is committted to using it for good. In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. The fund also gives to organisations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. Rowling said, “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” She engages in substantial other philanthropic work.

Rowling has also contributed heavily to the British Labour Party, recognizing the dangers of a Tory government. Responding to Prime Minister Cameron’s patronizing plan to give couples that do not divorce a £150 tax credit, she said:

Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.

Cheers to J.K. Rowling for bringing the world joy with a message, for compassion and giving, for providing a voice for social justice.  Rowling through her actions, deeds, and novels gives the world a moral compass to adhere to and emulate.

Women’s History: May 13

13 May

Linda Gilbert

Happy Birthday, Linda Gilbert.  Gilbert is best known for her work in the late 19th century to reform prisons.  She was a social reformer who advocated for better living conditions for prisoners.  Part of Gilbert’s work was to improve or add libraries to prisons. By the end of her work, she managed to add over 30,000 volumes to prison library collections.

Gilbert was only seventeen when she started her compassionate work around prison reform and setting up prison libraries. At seventeen, she established a county-jail library in Chicago.  Her philanthropic nature started even earlier.  She inherited a great deal of money at age fifteen and donated $100,000 to different philanthropic endeavors.  Quite impressive for fifteen, or any age for that matter. I do wonder how many people in the US today would donate the lion’s share of their inheritance to philanthropy?

One should also note that on May 13, 1995, Alison Hargreaves climbed to the Peak of Mt. Everest, the first woman to do so and only the second person ever.  Hargreaves made it to the peak without the help of sherpas and without the aide of oxygen.  Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, reaching over 29,000 feet.

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