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Performers are using their craft as a vehicle for activism

first_imgBelly dancing and fire spinningRaks Geek, a Chicago-based organization started by musician Dawn Xiana Moon that features belly dancing and fire spinners, has held several fundraising events for organizations that support a wide range of different groups and causes, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. When deciding on which cause to hold a fundraiser for next, Moon says they try to uplift smaller, local organizations where the money would be more useful. Depending on the event, all or part of the money goes toward the cause. The events always feature people from underrepresented groups.“We’re usually trying to find groups that are not super big, with some exceptions,” said Moon in an interview with Prism. “Our resources are not huge so we want to make the best impact that we possibly can … A few thousand dollars to a very small organization can actually make a difference.”- Advertisement – Last year, Raks Geek held a fundraiser for RAICES, an organization that serves migrants and families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. The issue of immigration is personal for Moon, who is an immigrant from Singapore. Moon was initially apprehensive about using her art for explicitly political purposes, but it didn’t stop her from speaking up about her beliefs.“I’m an Asian American woman and I’m an immigrant, [so] my very existence is political,” she said. “Instead of running away from the fact that it’s political, I might as well embrace it and use what platform I have.”Moon also uses her music to spread hope and plans to continue to utilize her talents to spread positivity, regardless of the outcome of the election.- Advertisement – Drag has been used as a form of activism for decades, from the Stonewall riots to the more recent protests against Facebook’s “real name” policy.“Drag is a really powerful tool and art form,” said Monono. “People love seeing drag and people get happy when they see it and respond so favorably. I’ve noticed that when I’m out in drag, it’s so much easier to get people to have a conversation.”Burlesque and strippingThe topic of women’s health has been at the forefront of the national consciousness in the wake of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, long before Coney Barrett’s confirmation took place and discussions about overturning Roe v. Wade took off, there were ongoing efforts by people in the burlesque community to widen access to women’s health services.Earlier this year, the Houston, Texas-based Dem Damn Dames Burlesque held their sixth annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood with a goal of raising $10,000. At the event, they had burlesque performances, raffles, prizes, and on-site voter registration.Other adult entertainers looking to make an impact have gotten creative in their approach. In September, a group of Atlanta-based exotic dancers posted the viral PSA video titled “Get Your Booty to the Poll,” which featured several women dancing while dressed in red, white, and blue lingerie. In the video, the dancers encourage people to register to vote while talking about the issues on the ballot that can directly affect peoples’ lives.“This video really started with the death of George Floyd in May and us feeling like there was a better way to voice a need for change than just walking around with signs for a few days,” one of the dancers in the PSA told Fox 5 Atlanta. “We wanted to do something different and get people, especially men, to vote.”The dancers also directed people to their website, which provides voter registration information and additional resources.Hip-hopHip Hop for Change, a Bay Area-based hip-hop education organization, recently did a campaign with Breathe for Justice to promote a rap contest. The organization collaborated with When We All Vote, Sierra Club, and 350.org to increase turnout for the contest, which was aimed at mobilizing and energizing young voters around election-related issues. “The Hip Hop community has always been passionate about political issues and remains involved in the fight for voter’s rights and access to the polls,” said Eric Sasz, the event director of Hip Hop for Change, in an emailed statement to Prism. “Being the voice of our culture, political organizations reach out to us to amplify our voices and mobilize the masses.”Through the contest, organizers invited participants to submit a short rap, song, poem, or spoken word piece to discuss how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19, social injustice, climate change, or environmental racism.“The socio-economic issues of environmental racism, police violence, climate change, and COVID-19 are the most important issues for the Hip Hop community today,” said Sasz. “These issues are at first on the minds of our community members walking into the voting booths, so it’s important as a cultural leader in our community that Hip Hop For Change furthers the dialogue.”It’s not the first time the organization has been part of a collaboration on this level. The group has previously partnered with the East Bay Regional Park District, Kaiser Permanente, and other groups and institutions to raise awareness around issues ranging from COVID-19 testing to increasing diversity.“We are tapped all the time by organizations looking to utilize the power of Hip Hop to organize, mobilize, and educate,” Sasz said. Art and performance always has been a way to connect with unique audiences and prompt discussions about world events. Several artists told Prism they’re keeping a close eye on the election and are already brainstorming about which causes they’ll be promoting next. The decision, they said, will heavily depend on which president takes office in January.(Editor’s note: Prism Senior Editor Michi Trota is a performer with Raks Geek.)Carolyn Copeland is a copy editor and staff reporter for Prism. She covers racial justice and culture. Follow her on Twitter @Carolyn_Copes.Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. – Advertisement – “If we give up hope and we stop fighting, that is not a good long-term strategy and just not a very good way to live,” she said. “I very much believe in going down fighting, even if you know you might not necessarily see the outcome of the thing that you’re working towards.”DragThe drag community has also been active in this area. Drag Out the Vote uses drag to educate and engage potential voters. They register voters at drag events and advocate for increasing voter access. With the pandemic limiting in-person outreach, drag kings and queens have also utilized phone text banking, touchless voter registration, and online performances.“I think Drag Out the Vote is so exciting because with RuPaul’s Drag Race being so popular and other drag so popular, there’s an excitement—especially among young voters—around drag,” said Kylie Monono, an ambassador for Drag Out the Vote, in an interview with Prism. “[We] utilize that excitement and encourage people to not only register, but to actually get out and vote and make a plan on how they’re going to vote.”- Advertisement –last_img read more

Steel Sensations…Why the Steelers still have a chance

first_imgPittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) makes a touchdown catch over Indianapolis Colts free safety Josh Gordy (27)in the third quarter of the NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)After the Steelers throttled the Colts 51-34 on Sunday evening in Pittsburgh, it became apparent that there is one big reason the Steelers still have a chance at something special this season; Big Ben. All he did Sunday was throw for record setting numbers with 522 yards, six touchdowns and an impressive 81.6% completion percentage (40 of 49 balls completed).In doing so, Roethlisberger became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win at least 100 games in his first 150 starts, improving to a career mark of 100-50.  The guy has never had one losing season since entering the league in 2004 and he’s poised to continue that streak in 2014 as he has his Steelers at 5-3.  They are 5-3 largely due to the play of their franchise quarterback, who’s a fierce competitor and clearly can’t stand losing, to anyone, at anything.” Big Day for Big Ben ” , Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a record setting day as he threw for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns in the Steelers 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts. (Courier Photo by William McBride)To anyone saying he was in the beginning of his demise, he shot that down in 60 minutes of brilliance. His throws were perfect, his reads spot on and his ability to extend plays unmatched. Coming into the game; many people were talking about the rise of Andrew Luck and rightfully so but Big Ben showed why he’s still the class of the NFL and why he is a two time Super Bowl champion.There are so many plays that this guy makes that nobody else can. He’s impossible to bring down with one man, he’s impossible to rattle and he’s impossible to break. He is truly a once in a lifetime player that the Steelers must reward massively this offseason.Yes, the offense is stacked with talent like LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown but Big Ben helps make those guys who they are.Everyone likes to say how great Peyton Manning makes his receivers; you don’t think Ben has something to do with the success of the receivers here?  What has Mike Wallace done since leaving? What about Jerricho Cotchery? Yea, Emmanuel Sanders has had a great year but he went to play with Manning. Furthering my point, often times the QB makes the receiver.Many will take Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers as the top QB in the league and it’s hard to argue with the numbers they put up. But if you want a guy who can put up elite numbers as well as fit the blue collar working style of the Steel City, then you have to take Big Ben all day long. You can have your Mannings, Brady’s, Bree’s or Rodgers because for this team and this city, Big Ben is the one and only and should never be questioned.  All the guy does is win and that’s the number that matters most.Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at [email protected]last_img read more

A Walk Around The Diverse Projects At The Port Of Olympia

first_imgBy Amy RowleyBusiness is booming at the marine terminal, meaning new jobs in our communityThe Port of Olympia’s strategic plan includes more than simply goals to increase efficiency or improve operations – issues typically found in large organization’s long-term plans.  In addition to being an efficient operation, the Port of Olympia is focusing on connecting better with its citizenry.Ed Galligan, Executive Director of the Port of Olympia, sat down with ThurstonTalk to discuss the Port’s current projects.  Beyond the marine terminal, the Port also operates the Olympia Regional Airport and Swantown Marina and manages a diverse set of real estate holdings.“Ports are unique, quasi-government entities that are run like a business.  It’s not an easy message to understand at times,” says Galligan as we begin our conversation.  “While the Port takes seriously its accountability and transparency to the public in all that we do, we have stressed the importance of interacting with the public through a range of informative, interesting and fun programs.”The Port of Olympia, one of more than 70 ports in Washington State, is educating Thurston County residents on how the entity uses property tax income to facilitate private industry jobs and clean up legacy pollution.Creating commerce on the marine terminal is a constant focus.  Watch for Port administrative offices to move off-site in the future to free up additional space for transporting cargo.Swantown Marina, a certified “leadership” clean marina, includes areas for community picnicking.Beyond watching the next mammoth ship land in Olympia, learn more about the other strategic projects that the Port is embarking on over the next few months.East Bay Clean-Up and DevelopmentWhen the Port embarks on a new project, the goal is to clean-up the environment.  For example, the Port has partnered with the Salmon Recovery Board and the City of Olympia to restore Mission Creek.“Everything we do has a clean-up component to it or some benefit to the environment,” adds Galligan.  “Some of the legacy pollution dates back more than 90 years.”Mission Creek, which flows through the East Bay neighborhood, was previously dammed.  The Port is removing the dam, cleaning out old garbage and restoring a salmon run.In addition to the clean-up efforts, the Port is active in redeveloping East Bay, a vibrant section of downtown Olympia.  Galligan was not shy about expressing his excitement over negotiations with a Seattle developer over a parcel of land across from the new Hands On Children’s Museum.  “This piece of property is a cornerstone to leverage further development in the East Bay district,” he says.  Thurston County residents can expect to hear more news on this project in the coming months.Swantown Marina Fueling StationAccording to Galligan, Swantown Marina is the seventh largest marina in the state.  Both the boat yard and marina have been re-certified as “5-Star Leadership Clean.”  The award is bestowed by an independent organization which includes environmental organizations, state agencies, and trade groups.  To read more about the prestigious award recognizing pollution prevention and clean boating practices, click here.The Port of Olympia offers free marine terminal tours to all schools in Thurston County.The Port of Olympia is continuing to assess the merits and feasibility of adding a fueling facility at Swantown.  In Washington State, 32 public ports and cities operate marinas, of which 20 have fuel docks on their property.Touring the Port of OlympiaApproximately 2,000 students from around Thurston County have toured the Port of Olympia.  The Port has covered transportation costs so districts in outlying areas can afford to bring kids to the seaport.  When a ship is in town, it’s not uncommon to see four or five school buses at the Port.Galligan explains that kids are playing with the big machines and learning about the operations of the seaport.  The Longshore Union and Weyerhaeuser often let kids participate and watch freight move around the marine terminal.Moving Interesting CargoAccording to Galligan, the Port of Olympia has a competitive advantage over larger ports such as Tacoma and Seattle.  “Our facilities include a warehouse 100 feet from the ship and a rail loop that can bring a train directly next to a ship,” notes Galligan.He explains that Longshore workers may unload a ship’s cargo directly onto a train which can pull straight out of the port.  This efficiency is critical to the shippers.Community members walk and run the Port Peninsula trail year-round.The Port of Olympia specializes in handling unique cargo, rather than containers.  “Our Longshore workers are the best in the West Coast.  They are specialists in handling odd shaped cargo, rather than just picking up a big steel box,” says Galligan.International commerce is happening at the Port of Olympia.  Ceramic proppant is arriving from China and headed by train to North Dakota.  A barge service will begin traveling from Olympia through international waters to a private terminal in Anchorage.  Windmill blades passed through Olympia.To learn more about the Port’s operations and connection with the community, swing by the Boatswap and Chowder Challenge on May 18.  The Port is revitalizing this popular community event.The event will be held at Swantown Marina between 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.  The chowder contest will feature twelve local restaurants vying for the people’s choice award of “Best Chowder.”More details about these projects as well as public meetings can be found on the Port’s website. 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