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.

do it yourself: a q&a with david wilson

do it yourself: a q&a with david wilson

I recently had a chance to chat with David Wilson, founder of the True/False Film Festival and our creative director here at Aggregate. We talked about the DC punk rock scene of the 80s, the Do It Yourself (DIY) culture it fostered, and the influence these things have had on the way he works.


Melissa Duque
Hi David! Let’s start by talking about what DIY culture is.

David Wilson
DIY culture is an outgrowth of punk rock and came about in the U.S. in the mid 80s. It was a distillation of the spirit of punk—positioning music as just one of many forms of expression that could be “punk” and recentering the movement around an ethos of Do It Yourself energy and enthusiasm. The idea was to value and prioritize individual (or small group) creation and expression, rather than assuming that things (art, culture, objects) had to come from a top-down economy.

This includes selling your own music instead of being part of a record studio and the focus of playing in garages instead of “typical” establishments?

Right. The emphasis was on not only writing the music, but taking control of every aspect—where you played, where you recorded, making your own records. In doing so, one could reject the gatekeepers and create whatever inspires you.

“reject the gatekeepers and create whatever inspires you” 

I love that.  So how has that played out for you? Is that part of everything you do?

I think I steeped in that culture long enough to have it permeate my bones. So yeah, anything I do now, I tend to think of the entire pipeline. And, if I’m passing off parts of a project to others (which happens often—DIY is really all about collaboration), I try to be extra mindful of how all those pieces fit together.

“DIY is really all about collaboration”

How hard has it been to get to a place where you think that way? Do you see it as something anyone can do?

Yeah, there’s nothing exclusive about DIY culture. If anything, it’s the opposite. But, be warned, it’s a very “active” mode of creation. It’s more work, and more things to worry about. But the end result is worth it, I think.

And even when we’re not actually creating things ourselves, we can apply these tenets to lots of aspects of daily life. I may decide that I don’t want to make my own shoes, but I’m going to be more inclined to buy shoes from a company that gives me a clear sense of its manufacturing process and demonstrates a high regard for ethics and the rights of its workers in that process.

What are some iconic examples of DIY culture?

For me, DC punk was my first exposure to this culture. Dischord records started to put out albums by their friends—by the early 90s they were selling hundreds of thousands of albums, while still staying true to that ethos. They were followed by Simple Machines, run by two women who not only got their label off the ground, but wrote a booklet that contained step-by-step instructions for how to start your own. They legitimately inspired hundreds of small labels to get off the ground.

The confluence of DIY culture and small-town culture is really important to me, too. In a small town, there are far fewer opportunities, so if you want something (a skate park, a concert space, a movie theater) you have to create it yourself.

This really helps me understand True/False…

You’re totally right. True/False exists because a group of people—first small, then bigger and bigger—decided that there was no reason there couldn’t be a world class film festival in the middle of Missouri. One of my favorite T/F moments came in the second or third year, when a friend (a writer) typed personal welcome letters to each filmmaker and put them in handmade envelopes. It blew our guests away that we’d devote that much individual attention to them.

Fantastic.  How do you see DIY culture and Aggregate?

Aggregate rose up out of the bloated corpses of big agencies. They’d built an unsustainable model, and it crashed. By being light on our feet and working instead with a dynamic and ever-shifting pool of collaborators, we are able to do world-class work without the excess of a bigger agency.

Also, Aggregate cares, legitimately, about our clients and their missions. And that spirit, that energy—you can’t match that, no matter how much money you throw at something. We’re going to always be working to find the most elegant, efficient solutions to problems. And we’re never going to be afraid to turn away from something that’s not working.

“that spirit, that energy – you can’t match that, no matter how much money you throw at something” 

How do we embrace this culture?

I think it takes a certain confidence to be willing to step outside the usual systems. And once outside, it takes more work. You’ve got to marry the boldness to find new solutions with the roll-up-your-sleeves determination to realize them.

“you’ve got to marry the boldness to find new solutions with the roll-up-your-sleeves determination to realize them” 

Interested in learning more about DIY Culture? Check out these sources!

powerful photography for social change

powerful photography for social change

Using documentary photography to inspire positive change in attitudes, behavior, and policy? That’s radical.

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.

Photography speaks to people differently, and often a simple image isn’t simply an image. As a photographer I’ve always been enamored with the art form and the myriad ways it can be used to improve the world by mobilizing a community to make a change, or even just brighten someone’s day.

Blue Earth Alliance sponsors artists and works to ensure photographers and filmmakers around the world are given a stage to present their work on critical environmental and social issues. They have helped raise almost a million dollars through membership donations, and require all sponsored work to be educational or informational in some capacity. The Alliance has focused its efforts on issues like global warming and the Artic, but also issues that are sometimes outside of the scope of the mainstream media, such as racism in the farming community, grandmothers in AIDS-ravaged Africa, and the loss of open space in Los Angeles.

Many of the artists who have worked with the Alliance have gone on to win accolades, be featured in galleries, publish books, and receive grants. One such artist—Seattle-based Daniel Beltrá—is currently a featured artist and was the 2011 Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the Natural History Museum. Daniel Beltrá’s newest project, Our Warming World, “asks us to consider the landscape as a place we have altered, all while striving to coexist within the natural world.” According to Beltrá, “rather than merely recording the changes in the environment, this body of work seeks to enhance our awareness of the intersection of nature’s power and fragility, asking us to reconsider our view of the planet and how we inhabit it.”

Also currently featured is Amazon Headwaters by Bruce Farnsworth, which highlights small groups of residents across the upper Amazon region leading cutting-edge programs in research, conservation, education, and sustainable communities. The final featured project is The Truth Told Project by Sarah Fretwell, which highlights the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including daily realities and the rampant sexual violence.

Later in 2014, Blue Earth Alliance will host Collaborations for Cause, a two-day conference in Seattle for nonprofits, photographers, change-makers, and communications professionals. The conference will cover the collaborative future of storytelling and will feature panel discussions, case studies, and breakout sessions. Keep an eye on their news page for more details in the coming months.

Want to learn more about Blue Earth Alliance? Like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, learn more about their featured projects, read their blog, and be sure not to miss them on Instagram.

Did you miss our other Radical Locals features? Read more about Project Violet, Seattle’s Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, the Seal Sitters, and Undriving.

Image by Daniel Beltrá from his new book SPILL.

getting your undriving license

getting your undriving license

Instead of pledging money, what if you pledged to change your behavior and challenge your daily routine? That’s 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.

Minimizing your car use can reduce carbon emissions, ease parking and traffic congestion, and enhance community connections. Undriving is an organization that challenges residents of Seattle and the surrounding neighborhoods to “get creative about getting around” and to pledge to reduce their car use or stop using a car altogether. As part of their campaign, you can sign up to receive your Undriver’s license for a donation of $20. You can include your own photo and your pledge is printed on the card as a reminder of your commitment. Undriving envisions this movement going national, so non-Seattle residents can sign up, too.

Named No. 1 on a list of walkable U.S. cities by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, Seattle is the perfect place to make an Undriving pledge. Seattle was recently ranked as one of the top cities with the fewest number of cars per household, so we’re on the right track. If you pledge to reduce your car use, or stop using your car completely, you’ll be in good company.

Minimizing the use of your car might be more of a radical change of your lifestyle and schedule than you think. Think about how often you truly use your car. Is it one hour a day? Two hours a day? For those who sit on congested highways getting to and from work, five hours a day? A quick trip to the store might not be as convenient when you factor in waiting for a bus, catching the right one, and timing your trip properly. Add in bags of groceries or a baby and a stroller and complications arise.

I live a short 6.5 miles from the office, a quick 15-minute drive without traffic. That trip turns into 45 minutes during rush hour, regardless of my means of transportation. In an effort to reduce my footprint, I forgo my car and use the local bus system to commute. Taking the bus has resulted in other benefits in my life. I have increased my activity level during the day walking to and from my stops, I’m saving money on parking and gas, I am able to make a small dent in my current book on the way home (Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow, in case you are wondering), and I have noticed new things around downtown Seattle, like the street art on the electrical boxes or an interesting architectural detail on the building across the street.

I’ve started minimizing my car use in other ways, too. Instead of driving a mile to the dog park near my house, my dogs and I walk there together. If I have errands to run that require my car, I’ll plan them all on the same day so I’m not going across the neighborhood more than once during a week. These are small changes, but I like to think they make a difference.

For more information on Undriving, peruse the website, like it on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter.

Did you miss our other Radical Locals features? Read more about Project Violet, Seattle’s Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, and the Seal Sitters.

Image credit: Press Office, City of Münster, Germany

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.

radical rock camp for girls

radical rock camp for girls

Using rock music to engender education, self-empowerment, self-advocacy, teamwork, and leadership? 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.

I love the idea of using music and community to build confidence in girls and spark social change. Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls started in Portland, Oregon, in 2000 and similar programs have opened across the country, and the world, ever since. Seattle’s Rain City Rock Camp for Girls is dedicated to building self-esteem and encouraging creative expression through music. Any girl can participate, even if she has never sung a note or picked up a musical instrument.

Rock Camp runs throughout the year at various venues across Seattle. They provide summer programs, yearlong programs, advanced programs, and even weekend programs for those of us 19 and over. The weeklong camp for girls and the weekend camp for adults both culminate with a public concert performance at a local venue. If you don’t want to be part of a band, you can donate or volunteer to help staff their summer camps. They need music instructors, camp counselors, mental health supporters, receptionists, and even a camp photographer.

The nonprofit program provides grants for tuition and educates campers on body image, song writing and the history of women in rock and hip-hop, focusing on putting an end to oppression, gender bias, and bullying. Rain City Rock Camp for Girls practices non-discrimination, and individuals who self-identify as female, trans, or gender non-conforming are welcome to participate. Everyone who completes an application, and is able to cover costs or receive financial aid, is invited to attend and are accepted on a first come, first served basis.

There’s something special about the inclusivity of the music community. I joined choir in elementary school, was involved in music programs through high school, taught myself to play the guitar, and was a founding member of a women’s a cappella group in college. Throughout my involvement – from elementary school to college – I learned invaluable lessons, made great friends, and gained confidence. Attending Rock Camp when I was a kid would have been an incredible chance to step outside the choir box and truly express myself and strengthen my skills in a welcoming, creative place. Rock Camp provides a fun, safe place for girls to learn, build relationships, and, most importantly, be themselves.

To learn more, peruse their videos and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.