Too many people have been asking me what I want for my birthday lately. And “too many”, here, for me, is any number greater than zero. It is a big birthday, they say. They want to get me something special, they say.
Originally, my plan was to be in the middle of nowhere in Montana for my birthday with two cousins. Well, originally before that I had other plans, but I will decline to share them here. In any case, my plans to be in Montana or on an airplane for the bulk of my birthday have been canceled. Because of this pandemic. Canceled like so many other things.
And I’m not planning on traveling anytime soon. So gifts for travel are out of the question. And I just moved to a new apartment where I downsized a bit and got everything I need to outfit the place. So I don’t need things. In fact, I probably need fewer things, as is evident from the half dozen boxes still residing in the basement of my former landlord’s apartment.
As we collectively see what fresh hell 2020 has in store for us next, there is no dearth of people and organizations that need gifts more than I do. So I will list some here, and ask you to make contributions in my honor.
If you are thinking “but no, I want to get you something special”, I will respond that you should take whatever you were thinking of spending on me, double it, and give it to some of the organizations below…or pick your own.
As much as we Americans may be done with coronavirus, the coronavirus is not done with us. Lots of organizations are providing relief in different ways, locally and globally, economically and medically. Here are some organizations that I’ve given to lately:
- Somerville Cares Fund for COVID-19 Assistance ” in partnership with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS), is mobilizing resources for expanded food and supply access and emergency assistance to households who are financially impacted, with a focus on those who are most economically vulnerable during the pandemic. This fund will deploy resources through CAAS and other nonprofit partners to address the essential needs of Somerville community members facing the many challenges brought on by the crisis.”
- COVID Rapid Response Team Chicago “broadly supports a range of hospital systems, coalitions, partnerships, and collaborators on the ground. We are proud to say that we work in community with many grassroots efforts to do what we can to mitigate harm in the midst of the Covid Crisis.”
- DirectRelief “is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”
- Doctors Without Borders has a terrible website without a quotable “about us” section… they are an organization that sends doctors and medical resources to underserved places that need them most.
- The Greater Boston Food Bank “works passionately to end hunger across Eastern Massachusetts by providing our neighbors in need the healthy food and resources they need to thrive.” The coronavirus pandemic is a great threat to those facing food insecurity.
- Be in Union… support my yoga studio by donating directly or buying classes (under the rates section) for those who cannot afford them.
- Restaurant Strong Fund “The Greg Hill Foundation and Samuel Adams have teamed up to support those from the restaurant industry across the country who have been impacted by the Covid-19 closures”.
- Donate directly to support the staff of your favorite restaurant or café or bar. See if they have a gofundme or Venmo account or some other fundraiser to support their employees. On average, restaurants in Massachusetts are doing about 1/3 of their average sales, pre-COVID, where they typically operate with a ~5% margin. Giving directly is one of the best ways to provide economic security to those furloughed or unemployed or underemployed right now.
We are more than three years into the Trump presidency, and the world is looking far worse than any of us could have expected. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic that has needlessly killed more than 100,000 US citizens, transformed lives and livelihoods, and now poses the greatest economic threat since the Great Depression—in large part due to the federal government’s failure to take the virus seriously, failure to respond in any meaningful way, and tendency to promote falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the virus—our government institutions and basic freedoms are under attack like never before. Support these organizations and more:
- American Civil Liberties Union “dares to create a more perfect union — beyond one person, party, or side. Our mission is to realize this promise of the United States Constitution for all and expand the reach of its guarantees.” They’ve been taking Trump to court since day one, and they’re also doing a lot of work to demand racial justice and defend our right to protest.
- Planned Parenthood “is a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world.”
- Warren Democrats “are voters, candidates, and leaders who believe in the power of bold, inclusive reform to root out corruption in government and put power in the hands of the people.” Elizabeth Warren’s plan may no longer include being in the White House in 2021, but she has a plan to protect voting rights and support candidates for public office with similar visions.
- The Intercept “is an award-winning news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Its in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on politics, war, surveillance, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media, and more. The Intercept gives its journalists the editorial freedom and legal support they need to expose corruption and injustice wherever they find it.”
- Wikipedia “is an online free-content encyclopedia project that aims to help create a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. It is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on a model of openly editable content.” I read Wikipedia every day.
- Committee to Protect Journalists ” is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.”
You’d have to live under a rock to be unaware of the protests and calls for racial justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis Police. Police brutality and systemic racism are nothing new in this country, but events of the past couple weeks have ensured that more and more Americans are aware of these issues. Real change may be beginning to happen. Protest if you can, donate if you can:
- Campaign Zero to end police violence in America. “We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability….Over 1,000 people are killed by police every year in America. We are calling on local, state, and federal lawmakers to take immediate action to adopt data-driven policy solutions to end this violence and hold police accountable…Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide.“
- Black Visions Collective “believes in a future where all Black people have autonomy, safety is community-led, and we are in right relationship within our ecosystems.”
- Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation “is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by state and vigilantes. By combatting and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”
- A crazy high number of people have been arrested at protests. Consider supporting your local bail fund (MA). Bail should be abolished; it’s basically a poverty tax.
- Donate to local makerspaces in underserved communities. BUILD in Boston and Possible Project and Fab Lab Boston are some examples.
- And more…
Since June is Pride month, I want to give a shoutout to the Trevor Project, “the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”
Lastly, I want to shine a spotlight on a few other organizations that are near and dear to me that don’t quite fit into the categories above.
- The Marfan Foundation “creates a brighter future for everyone affected by Marfan syndrome and related conditions.”
- 350.org “is building a future that’s just, prosperous, equitable and safe from the effects of the climate crisis…We’re an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.”
- Cool Earth… basically they work to prevent rainforest deforestation in an effort to stave off bad effects of climate change
- Farm Forward “was founded in 2007 as the nation’s first nonprofit devoted exclusively to end factory farming and our work improves the lives of 400,000,000 farmed animals annually.” Read board member Jonathan Safran Foer’s recent opinion piece in the NY Times “The End of Meat is Here” and check out his book Eating Animals.