Give It Up: A Few Suggestions for Holiday Giving

December 21, 2013, 4:01 pm

Alfred_E_Neuman_as_Santa_by_ZigZag123Finished your holiday shopping? Sick of materialism and the constant prodding to buy more and more stuff? I get that way too sometimes. That’s when it’s time to ask yourself: Have I given away enough money this year? So we at Tenured Radical are going to take a short station break from debating the future of the American Studies Association to play my favorite holiday game:

Where Is Tenured Radical Giving Money This Year? (An Annotated List)

Queers for Economic Justice. This organization is, unfortunately, defunct, due to the fact that we, as a community,  didn’t give enough money before now — or maybe because so few people care about the projects promoting economic justice right outside their door. This New York based nonprofit was only twelve years old, and a shining light in a GLBT politics that has increasingly pushed racism class analysis to the margins of its concerns. QEJ cared about the queer people you don’t see on TV: the jobless, the homeless, the incarcerated, the refugees.

Why I am giving them money: They have debts to pay, and we should kick in to pay them, liberating these brave activists to start their work all over again somewhere else. Go here.

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol. This New York City community youth organization was founded in 1994 by Khary Lazarre-White and Jason Warwin. At the time, they were seniors at Brown University and saw the need for an outreach program that connected college students with impoverished youth in Providence, RI. After graduation, these two friends established Bro/Sis as a program for young men in Harlem; joined by Susan Wilcox in 1998, the programs were expanded to include women as well. Among other things, Bro/Sis helps students stay on a college-bound track, connects them to global issues through travel and study, and trains participants in anti-homophic, anti-sexist, and anti-violence peer activism.

Why I give them money: It’s a feminist project that understands what it means to build community from the bottom up; Bro/Sis knows that every child is precious and deserving.  You can give here.

One National Gay & Lesbian Archives. Like many queer collections, this began in Los Angeles activist Jim Kepner’s apartment. Initially named the Western Gay Archives, Kepner moved the collection to a West Hollywood storefront and renamed it the National Gay Archives, and then the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. In 1994 the collection merged with ONE Institute, and in 2000, it moved to the University of Southern California. Now part of that university’s library system, it claims to be “the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world.” Whether that is true or not, I’m not sure, but it’s a wonderful place all the same.

Why I give them money:  It’s a somewhat unconventional archive, very much reflecting the community spirit of its founding. The collections I have used are full of ephemera, including press clippings from community newspapers long gone that tell complicated stories about the queer community in Los Angeles, as well as films, videos and books you won’t find anywhere else. The archivists are cheerful and open, at least one is a genuine old-school hair fairy, and although the lack of supervision makes me worry for the safety of the collections, the reading room is a remarkably relaxed place to do your work. Click here to make your donation.

The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. You thought the Occupation was all about the ASA, right!? Wrong. Things are really dire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and regardless of how you feel about the academic and cultural boycott, you can help alleviate some of the suffering by giving money. This organization is endorsed by Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich and numerous physicians who donate their time to help provide for the overwhelming health needs of Palestinian children.

Why I am giving them money: I have a general aversion to charities that collect for children, because generally adults in war-torn regions need help just as much. But given this is a place to start making a tangible difference to places that are often literally cut off from aid. Your donation can send kids to camp, pay for their health and dental needs, provide life-saving surgeries, and supply the basic necessities of a healthy life. Give a general donation, sponsor a child or an activity, but don’t just be a windbag on the topic of Palestinian rights. Do something.

The Wikimedia Foundation. How many messages from Jimmy Wales have you just brushed off while looking for a date you need for a lecture? Wikipedia — which is only one of this  501(c)(3)’s projects — is getting better and better. I think these folks have, with relative modesty, changed our world for the better. I now sit in the archives and when I run across a name I do not recognize, I look it up in Wikipedia! You can’t always take all the information to the bank, but I have made more than one useful connection that I might not have made otherwise. Yes, there are #toofew. But even that is a conversation that we might not be having without Wikipedia.

Why I give them money: Just because information should be free doesn’t mean it is. Do you use it? Well then, why not say thank you by going here to give a few dollars?

Planned Parenthood, Inc. Don’t be fooled by the h8ters, and if you are put off by Margaret Sanger’s history in the eugenics movement — well, let’s out it this way: she’s been dead for a long time. Today, Planned Parenthood is the largest women’s health care provider in the United States, and one of the few organizations focused on the sexual health of men of color. Conservatives like to focus on PP’s role as an abortion provider, but the fact is that this organization has gone well beyond its founding mandate to be the only community based primary care provider that many people can afford. In addition, they run peer sex ed programs for youth, convene healthy relationship workshops, give vaccines, help people quit smoking and more.

Why I give them money: It’s probably clear by now, but should I add that their president, Cecile Richards, is totally hot? Go here.

Jacobin Magazine. Talk about plucky youth! What could be braver than starting a socialist publication in the 21st century? This “magazine of culture and polemic” is everything you would want it to be: fresh, well-designed, sometimes a little raw and pugnacious, and each issue has a few dashes of serious Marxism. This year, in addition to an article by your favorite Radical, they did outstanding coverage on the issues behind the Chicago teacher’s strike. Recently, they have become canny enough to not let you behind the paywall until a month after they go to press, and who knows what will happen next year? I say jump on it.

Why I give them money: Because I like them. Their 501(c)(3) is not fully established, although they promise it will be in time for the tax man. Hey! I have a great idea! Why don’t you make a donation and subscribe? And send a gift subscription to that left wing relative who has everything?

Lighthouse International. I first encountered this group, then known as Lighthouse for the Blind, back in the mid-1980s when a dear friend of mine began to lose his sight to an AIDS-related condition. Lighthouse was one of the few social service agencies in New York that embraced People with AIDS unambiguously: my friend received counseling, vision aids, and the best thing was a radio where he could listen to The New York Times and dozens of other publications. Before there were audiobooks, there was Lighthouse: they arranged for large boxes of cassette tapes to show up in the mail so that someone who had never passed a day without reading didn’t have to give up his world.

Why I give them money: Gratitude, I suppose, but also the belief that if I live long enough, I may need their services too. Vision loss is the disability that most of us can count on either having to deal with ourselves, or help a family member adapt to: go here to give and learn more.

Readers — who are you giving to this season? Don’t forget to leave links!


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