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    Is the VMAs Intentionally Upstaging Democratic Events to Prevent Celebrity Turnout and Advocacy

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    This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege to attend the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington organized by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN). This event was both symbolic and historic in honoring those who sacrificed their lives during the Civil Rights Movement and made us the beneficiaries. As an African-American woman, it was a truly profound and an emotional experience standing in the presence of history. Despite the significance and enormity of the event, it was overshadowed by the VMAs dominating the news cycle in reference to Miley Cyrus. This week, I plan to write a series of articles in which I will reflect on Rev. Al’s keynote speech, renewing the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and role of the NAACP in our current political climate.  However, in this article, I want to examine the possibility of the VMAs intentionally upstaging Democratic events in order to prevent Celebrity turnout and advocacy to our youth.

    miley-vmas-600x337On my drive back from Washington, DC today, I was listening to the radio and everyone kept talking about the VMAs. When it occurred to me, the same thing happened last year during the Democratic National Convention in 2012 when President Obama accepted the party’s nomination. On both instances, I noticed celebrity turn out was low due to the majority of A-listers, entertainers, and sports figures being in attendance at VMAs instead. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I decided to investigate this matter further.

    Prior to 2008, MTV had a staunch no political ad policy, but this is where things began to get interesting. In 2008, President Obama reached out to MTV in order to purchase ad space for a Rock the Vote campaign to reach younger viewers. MTV responded by saying:

     “Given where we are in the election cycle, and how the youth vote has increasingly engaged and played a crucial role in past presidential elections, we re-evaluated the MTV policy and decided that campaign-approved ads would be a good fit for our audience, and would complement our ‘Choose or Lose’ campaign efforts,” she said. “It’s a good thing when candidates want to reach out to young people, and the best way to do that is through MTV.”  via Adage

    According to the nonpartisan grass roots organization Rock the Vote, they reported registering 2.2 million people in its 2008 campaign which shattered all previous records. Currently, the 2008 record still stands, but what happened with the 2012 Rock the Vote campaign? Reportedly, President Obama reached out to MTV again in 2012 to purchase ad space for another Rock the Vote campaign, and this was their response:

    The campaign called MTV’s internal ad agency, MTV Scratch, for assistance in mid-August, sources familiar with the conversations said. MTV Scratch, run by Ross Martin, former MTVU boss, and Anne Hubert, who was a policy adviser to Jon Corzine when he was a US senator from New Jersey, works across all the MTV Networks and helps marketers such as General Motors and Dr. Pepper understand the mind-set of young people.

    The re-election effort wants to reconnect with youth, which were among its most fervent supporters in 2008.“The youth initiative is having trouble with big donors and youth votes,” said a person familiar with the discussions. “They asked, ‘Can you tell us how we should be talking to them?’ ” one source noted. Viacom’s unit took a few weeks before getting back to the campaign to decline its invitation, saying that it doesn’t do political work. via New York Post

    You may be thinking, MTV has a right to change its mind and its not required to run Rock the Vote campaigns. Also, this does not prove any MTV conspiracy to prevent Celebrity supporters from turning out to events favorable to Democrats and progressive causes. I agree with you, which directed me to look at the historical airings of the VMAs to see if any pattern emerges. Following is the data set I used for my analysis courtesy of Wikipedia:

    MTV Video Music Award - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    • In 2008, the VMAs aired three days after the Republican National Convention where McCain-Palin accepted their party’s nomination. MTV finished second in ratings behind the GOP Convention for the week. *It should be noted that prior to 2008, I could not find any evidence to support the VMAs aired during a Republican or Democratic National Convention.
    • In 2009, the VMAs aired on Sunday, September 13, which just happened to be days following President Obama’s September 10th address to Congress on Health Care and his September 11th in memoriam address at the Pentagon for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
    • In 2010, the VMAs aired on September 12th, the day after President Obama honored the victims of the World Trade Center on September 11th.  *It should be noted that prior to 2009, the VMAs had never aired post memorial for 9/11 victims except for the first two years of Barack Obama’s Presidency.
    • In 2011, the VMAs aired on August 28th, which was the same day as the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and also marked the same day as King’s “I have a Dream” speech 48th anniversary. On August 24th, BET held its program honoring the memorial’s unveiling on August 28th, 2011.
    • In 2012, the VMAs aired on September 6th, which was the night President Obama accepted his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention
    • In 2013, the VMAs aired on August 25th, one day after the start of ceremonies commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
    • According to Wikipedia, MTV has already scheduled the VMAs for August 24th, 2014 which also happens to coincide with planned events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Lydon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

    *It should also be noted that the VMAs has led in Nielson Ratings every year since coming behind 2nd to the GOP National Convention in 2008.

    007__1963marchonwashington

    In the 1963 March on Washington, Celebrities such as Sammy Davis Jr, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Charleston Heston-Aka Mr. NRA, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Sydney Poitier, and Bob Dylan to name a few were in attendance to support the march. These actors and entertainers where the A-listers of that era. MSNBC did a great article looking back at the 1963 March on Washington which can be viewed here.

    What does it mean for present day politics when the wealthiest and most talented among us can be systematically benched from historic moments of civic engagement?

    Photos Courtesy of Celebrity Buzz Feed, Wikipedia, and MSNBC

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    Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Culture

    What “Bachelor in Paradise” Can Teach us About Empowering the Disability Community

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    Are you a fan of “Bachelor in Paradise?” Whether you realize it or not, this season of the “Bachelor” franchise spinoff took on the topic of disability empowerment. Which is not exactly an expected topic for mainstream television. For years, the “Bachelor” series has been criticized for featuring primarily White contestants, and has worked to diversify the races and ethnicities of the people they draw on the show. But what about people from the disability community or people who identify as Deaf or hard-of-hearing?

    Being disabled or Deaf or hard of hearing are also social identities in American culture – identities that should not be overlooked in the show’s representation. These communities represent what some refer to as the largest minority community in the United States at 26 percent of the U.S. population according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the following, we’ll discuss more about why this year’s “Bachelor in Paradise” was so significant and what that may mean for social workers.

    Introducing Abigail

    A few years ago, we did have Sarah Herron on the show, a woman with a physical disability, although her presence was short-lived. But this season, the very first person down the stairs to the Mexican beachfront hacienda was Abigail Heringer, a 26 year-old woman who identifies as Deaf due to congenital hearing loss from birth. She received cochlear implants at the age of two but does consider herself disabled due to her hearing impairment and loss. Abigail was a central figure in this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise due to her romance with Noah Erb.

    It was refreshing to see a disabled person in a romantic relationship given the history our culture has of thinking that disabled folks are asexual, incapable of having sex or in need of being protected from any kind of sexual contact. Abigail and Noah’s relationship has played out on television screens across Bachelor Nation – from their devastating breakup at the show’s conclusion to their rekindled romance announced subtly on social media later. This demonstrates that members of the disability community have relationships too, and that this is 100% normative behavior, with breakups, glitches, awkwardness, kissing and all!

    The Dignity of Risk

    So how does this relate to social work practice? One of the central tenets of good disability social work is how we need to honor the concept of the dignity of risk. This is the idea that everyone can learn from everyday risks. Central to honoring the dignity of risk is respecting an individual’s autonomy and self-determination to make choices. Also important, is the right for our clients to make choices even if social workers or other professionals in the person’s life feel that they could endanger the decision-maker in question. In order to respect a person’s dignity of risk, one should provide intermittent support even if others do not approve of the choice.

    As there is inherent dignity in the experience of everyday risk, this concept suggests that limiting a disabled person’s ability to make even a risky choice, or limiting their access to the learning that comes along with a potentially emotionally painful risk, such as dating, does not foster overall wellness in the long run. Abigail, from this year’s “Bachelor in Paradise” is a wonderful example of the kind of empowerment needed, rather than sheltering one from risks in life.

    Robert Perske famously wrote:

    “Overprotection may appear on the surface to be kind, but it can be really evil. An oversupply can smother people emotionally, squeeze the life out of their hopes and expectations, and strip them of their dignity. Overprotection can keep people from becoming all they could become…”

    Arguably, the dignity of risk may be among the most challenging tenets for social workers to embrace in their practice, but it is vital to accept given its intersection with self-determination. The dignity of risk also involves learning about the part of life that involves sexual and romantic relationships. Social workers need to remember to talk to their clients about sexuality in a developmentally appropriate manner. It is important not to cut off conversations about this topic, or to skirt the subject when it comes up. We must also support our clients in exploring how to engage in healthy relationships when they have the opportunities to be in them.

    It’s wonderful that Abigail Heringer can be a model in reminding us of this important lesson for empowerment-oriented disability social work. One that embraces the dignity of risk for those who wish to date! With that being said, here’s to Noah and Abigail’s relationship!

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    Employment

    Participant Launches Partnership Campaign to Support Domestic Workers Amid Covid-19 Crisis

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    Image owned by the National Domestic Workers Alliance

    Participant, the leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires audiences to engage in positive social change, launched the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) to galvanize support for domestic workers amid the novel coronavirus crisis. The digital initiative centers around a video, produced by Participant’s digital content studio, SoulPancake, to highlight the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on domestic workers, of whom 7 out of 10 have lost 100% of their income because of the crisis, and seeks to educate employers on how to best support them.

    The video depicts the acute challenges that the pandemic has placed on domestic workers, who typically do not receive benefits like sick leave and thus far have been excluded from much of the government assistance packages. Told from the perspective of a domestic worker navigating health and financial concerns, the goal of the video is to educate and encourage employers to support those employees who care for them every day.

    Over the course of the Care For The People Who Care For You campaign, Participant will direct employers to the NDWA’s Employer Resource Hub, which outlines a range of steps one can take to offer both emotional and financial support, from calling and checking in to paying for cancelled services. Additionally, viewers can donate to NDWA’s Coronavirus Care Fund, a fund that will offer immediate emergency assistance for domestic workers facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the fund will be administered through ALIA, NDWA’s online benefits platform which allows employers to offer domestic workers a range of benefits they otherwise would not have access to, such as paid time off and sick leave.

    “We’re delighted to partner once again with Participant to bring attention to domestic workers in this time of crisis,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers across the country are facing tremendous challenges during this pandemic, from risking their health while working jobs on the frontline to losing income they need to support their own families. We urge employers to show care for those who have cared for them and their families.” 

    “During this uncertain time, it is critical to highlight the needs of and support the communities who are most impacted,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with Ai-jen Poo and the entire team at the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring awareness and for those who care for us and our families.”

    The new initiative is a continuation of Participant’s Roma social impact campaign, which launched alongside the Academy Award®-winning film ROMA,  to increase the visibility and value of domestic workers in popular culture and accelerate solutions to support their economic security. The new video is a reimagination of the initial spot SoulPancake created for NDWA, which promoted their online platform, ALIA, as a solution for providing domestic workers with benefits. The video, which received over 1.7 million views, generated a 98 percent increase in page views and a 905 percent increase in users on myalia.org.

    For more information on how to support this campaign, please visit here to learn more.

    About Participant

    Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant combines the power of a good story well told with real world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing well over 2 billion consumers compelled to make meaningful content a priority focus.

    As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake. Participant’s more than 100 films have collectively earned 74 Academy Award® nominations and 19 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Green Book and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital division, SoulPancake, is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting content that reaches an audience of more than 9 million fans.

    About National Domestic Workers Alliance

    National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by 70 local affiliate organizations and chapters and by a growing membership of nannies, house cleaners and care workers across the nation. NDWA is home to Alia, an online platform to help domestic workers access benefits, and in 2019, launched a campaign to pass the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, federal legislation sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

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    Entertainment

    New Release – ReMoved 3: Love is Never Wasted

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    Photo provided by Remove3: Love is Never Wasted.

    Kevi’s story, though fictional, allowed me to paint for you a visual picture of how much it hurts to have a mother leave you all alone. It invites you to yearn with him—to share his longing to capture a woman that you know you probably never will. It shows how wildly untameably beautiful such an enigma is to her son, with her hair dancing in the wind and the scent of her teasing in and out of his existence.

    Mostly, it helps you understand that there’s more to the story than just her. For kids like me, who were raised by many parents, it’s not just about our bio moms, you see. Sometimes, it isn’t even mostly about that mom. It’s also about this foster mamma who feels warm and soft and safe. It’s about how you never want to live without those feelings or her arms around you again.  

    Maybe it’s about that foster daddy that you just aren’t sure about. He might hurt you like all the other daddies you’ve ever known. But, maybe he won’t…

    Through the Author’s Pen & Own Experience of Foster Care

    My mother’s purse was her survival kit. She never forgot it.

    She often forgot us. But she never forgot it.  

    Inside that purse, she carried an envelope. The envelope held all the things one would normally file away in the safety of their home. Instead, she carried those things—the few markers of our meager existence—in a manila in her handbag.

    I suppose this was the only way for her to hold onto anything in a life where change usually happened in a moment’s notice. It wasn’t uncommon for us to ditch all of our possessions when the police discovered us living in a condemned or abandoned building. Also, as a battered woman, Mamma always had to be prepared to run on the days it seemed Daddy might actually kill her.

    The purse and the envelope may have been an insignificant thing to anyone else, but for a kid like me, it proved that everything outside of it could be taken in an instant. It signified my mother, how she’d come to be, and the struggles of her life.

    That’s why I made the biological mother’s purse a significant part of the story in ReMoved 3. As I wrote “Love Is Never Wasted,” I tried to infuse it with those things that would make it feel real to others who had walked a similar journey. I sought to put in specific feelings and moments that kids in foster care would really connect to.

    As a foster kid, you often find yourself torn between families because each one holds a piece of what you need. You long to understand your biological parents and to know what it was like when you were budding in your mother’s womb. You have to know because, on some level, your body still remembers. The body can’t forget the place it was first fed.

    Let’s not overlook, though, that you need more than roots to grow. Our bodies instinctually know this as well. We must also feel that we are safe, that nourishment is always available, and that the sun can shine most every day.

    Photo provided by Remove3: Love is Never Waste

    Ideally, our kiddos would get all these needs met from the same person. Sadly, that is not always the case. For the 400,000 plus kids in the U.S. foster care system a solitary caretaker will not be found to meet all their needs. Our best hope for these kids is that love can be absorbed from multiple sources. We hope that, collectively, they get enough of what they need from the world around them to grow healthy and strong.

    Like Kevi’s story, my own life was changed by having multiple temporary parent figures. Though not ideal, this piecemeal parenting experience is what taught me how to love.

    There were the moments that my birth mom snuggled me in bed. In the submission of sleep, she would occasionally relax and offer some warmth. These memories of cuddling my mom inspired the scenes of Kevi snuggling his birth mom in the film. Even the direst situations usually have some moments of bonding.

    When my mother didn’t have any affection to give, my big brother stood in the gap. He frequently acted as a caretaker, comforting me, protecting me, and feeding me on the days everyone else forgot to. Because of my big brother, when my new little brother entered the world and cried out for protection, I knew how to answer that call.

    Unfortunately, I could only answer it slightly better than our mom did.  You see, I was only six. Then seven. By eight, I felt like I was dying. My enchantment with my mother began to wither, along with my body and soul. I called out to the universe for something to take me from the daily pain that she and my father put me in.

    Foster care was the answer I received.

    Sadly, foster care brought more pain. It’s difficult to describe the feelings that come from being ripped from one’s life source, especially when that life source is also robbing you of life. Regardless of her failures, though, she was still the first person who had held me. Now, I found myself miles from her familiarity. I frequently asked myself if anyone could love me in this strange new place, where nobody looked or acted like me and Mamma.

    Some of them couldn’t love me, it seems.

    Yet, some of them could and did. Some of them even did without any expectation of return. Most of them who loved me were only able to hold me for a moment in time. No matter how fleeting my time with them was or how heartbroken I was upon leaving, these people became the beautiful springtime of my memory. From each moment I got with them, I would continue to flourish and grow; although, I wouldn’t necessarily see that at the time.

    Thousands of uncertain days would pass under the gloomy cloud that we call foster care. Though I acted it out differently than our character Kevi, I was a mess during most of those days.

    But a new day would eventually come!

    I would grow up. Slowly, I would discover that my life had been changing. As an adult, I would finally find that it was all my own. With my newfound sense of freedom and control, I would choose to become the wife to a husband who loved me selflessly.

    Of all the guys I could have chosen, including the kind who may have felt more familiar, how did I know to settle on one like him? The faces of several good foster fathers smiled distantly behind the man I had chosen to spend my life with.

    After years of being loved in a way I’d never felt loved before (by my husband Doug), I would become a mother. Despite the years of worry that I’d be a parent like him or her, I found that I was actually more like her and her and him. Tortured childhood and all, I was brimming with love to give, thanks to those who had poured love into me.

    This forced me to ask an important question: How could a girl, who had been miserably failed by the people who gave her life, find herself building a completely different world than the one she grew up in?

    The answer was clear. I had gotten to this place because an alternate reality had blown into my childhood. It had changed me. Its name was foster care. For me, foster care wound up carrying the faces of seven different homes over seven years. When I was 15, its name became adoption.

    Ironically, this system of child protection that had starved me is also the very thing that helped me thrive. Foster care brought so much internal destitution, but it also brought moments of witnessing healthy, selfless, loving, human interactions.

    I hope “Love is Never Wasted” reveals that even small moments with a child can show him he has a choice in how he lives his life. Because of my time in care, I now knew that there was not just one possible way to be. Throughout my foster care experiences, I had, here and there, tasted the essence of something sweeter and more fulfilling than my past life. I became hungry for more of it.

    I now exist as living proof (hidden behind my stories) that love always offers nourishment and that a little bit of it can go a very long way.

    A lot of it can make miracles.

    A little bit of love carried me out of my tortured childhood. A lot of it led me to the place I am today and a little boy named Kevi.

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