Although it may be hard at times to compartmentalize the work that we here at Sparrow do, avid readers of our blog and followers of our work will see some re-occuring themes. One theme is that we are critical of capitalism, another is that we are critical of the military & prison industrial complexes. With ever increasing privatization both of these complexes are growing exponentially at rates that eclipse many industrial trends world wide. An infographic recently released by the ACLU confirmed that the prison industrial complex is racist, growing, oppressive, packed with non-violent offenders, and a significant threat to our democracy.
Please share this infographic on tumblr, twitter, facebook, etc.
From Unity Productions comes a powerful testimonial of the 1.8 million Muslim Americans who are as “every-day” as the rest of us. All cliches aside, they’re our doctors, our police, our teachers, and our first responders. To paint this diverse constituency of millions with a broad brush of prejudice because of the actions of a dozen or so zealots, is not only to do so ignorantly, but also does our democracy as a whole a great disservice.
Despite all the measures this country has taken to further freedoms of expression we continue to live in a time of religious intolerance. Though some people’s anger is not completely misplaced, especially in cases where selective applications of religion further sexism, racism, homophobia, speciesism and other actions that directly infringe upon the rights of others, these legitimate grievances should never justify blindly ignorant or hateful actions. Through respectful discourse we should always challenge repressive elements of any social group, and its even ok if people feel offended while they sort things out, but when people cherry-pick negative attributes from a specific religion and then proceed to scapegoat that religion as a predicate for all the world’s problems we begin to traverse down a slippery slope of bigotry and xenophobia that can only end in disaster. Words do have power, especially in timultuous times. One need not look further then the recent attacks in Norway to see the vulgar fruits of seeds planted by hate-mongering bloggers and far-right pundits.
We live in a media-driven culture with an increasingly homogenized narrative. One that habitually trumps sensational lead-lines while passing on surrounding factual foundations because they are less inflammatory or take too long to explain in a 30 second segment. This habit has created a Hollywood-like news cycle infatuated with explosions, scandal, and falls from grace. In this cycle we almost only hear about Islam when it is conflated with terrorism, explosions, conflict, or the repressive elements of a minority’s interpretation of Sharia. Perhaps explaining these conflations is contributing to this cycle of xenophobia as well?
<The Sparrow Project has printed these benefit t-shirts in an attempt to combat Islamophobia. Proceeds raised from the sale of these shirts will benefit victims of hate crimes.
Less newsworthy, but far more important facts remain under-reported. Xenophobia is running rampant across America and around the world. Racist evangelical conservatives who separate “Allah” from the “God” of the Christian New Testament, disregard the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a language which shares many words with Arabic including “Allah,” as the word for God) and are ignorant of the glaring fact that all of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths worship the same single deity. The term “Islamist” is a term fabricated by right-leaning pundits and bloggers like Glen Beck, Michael Savage and Pamela Gellar, who attempt conflate non-violent Muslims with fascists. Moreover, Jihad means to “strive” or “struggle,” and this term can include everything from one’s personal struggle with alcoholism to a wider social struggle against oppression from a dictator or governing body, the true definition of Jihad is completely divergent from the contemporary adaptation of the word repeatedly used by the mainstream western media. Despite popular western belief, most fundamentalist Muslims do not endorse violence as part of their Jihad. Moreover, most Muslims are not fundamentalists.
However, these less sensational facts don’t support the right-leaning media’s hysterical narrative that at times could appear to exist for no other purpose then to perpetuate a climate of fear of Muslims and to further justify preemptive US military actions in Islamic countries. When the habitual focus of media outlets on both the left and right leave little space for factual dialogue surrounding Islam, its merits, its practitioners, and its tremendous beauty then the onus is on us to create our own inventive grassroots responses to Islamophobia and racism. The Sparrow Project applauds Unity Productions for developing this hard-hitting video short where vulgar soundbites from Michael Savage and similar Islamophobes are juxtaposed against the dominant message of beauty, peace, love, and solidarity.
Daniel McGowan is currently being housed in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the United States Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. In a controversial ruling an Oregon court ruled that McGowan’s acts of property destruction as part of the ELF although wholly non-violent were to be considered acts of terrorism and designated McGowan as such. The CMU is a designer penal program aimed at severely restricting the communications of McGowan and other specially designated inmates like him as well as cutting off their access to the outside world. This includes a ban on contact visitation with immediate family members.
Daniel and all of the men housed at the CMU need your support! For a list of things that you can do to support Daniel McGowan as well as information about Daniels case visit — http://supportdaniel.org/
To learn what you can do to fight for the rights of prisoners secretly held within CMUs the Center For Constitutional Rights has set up a webpage dedicated to the CMU at — http://ccrjustice.org/cmu-factsheet
We’ve all heard someone say lightheartedly that they “fell in love” with a new article of clothing or some similar object, but has a coat ever made you literally fall in love? what about it’s designer? what about her message?
Love is a central theme in Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart’s design sensibilities and that is reflected in her label, Vaute Couture. From fashion-forward, animal-free and ethically manufactured vegan pea coats that benefit the Farm Animal Sanctuary to her blog On Our Sleeve Leanne radiates something solar that makes the press gush floral review copy.
Sparrow has teamed up with Leanne to subvert fashion and lifestyle press with a simple message that compassion is in fashion, it’s fashion-forward, forward thinking and in the case of Vaute Couture compassion can also be effortlessly elegant high style. This week Ari Solomon owner of the vegan candle company A Scent of Scandal and part time muckraker over at The Huffington Post interviewed Leanne on Vaute Couture, her activism, and her design sensibilities for a feature in The Huffington Post’s style column. Ari’s writing and interview is coupled with a beautiful slideshow of Leanne’s designs and a one-on-one video with Leanne. Please check out the piece here, then share it with your friends on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc!
Also this week, The Coolture, a fashion magazine published out of Paris and Madrid, profiled Leanne and Vaute Couture in their magazine right along side some of the fashion industry’s most influential tastemakers. You can check out the piece here.
Usually we reserve space on this blog only for projects we are actively involved in or for activist efforts that we support but today may be one of the few exceptions.
The semi-elusive UK street artist Banksy was commissioned to storyboard the intro to the primetime animated television show The Simpsons which airs weekly on the Fox network. It is amazing that this passed, and perhaps even insulting to know that a company as crude and oppressive as NewsCorp feels ok about parodying themselves in this manner. Whether you hate Banksy or love him, there is no question that he shanked 20th Century Fox & NewsCorp in the jugular with this one. Watch, laugh, and then do your part to disassemble the corporate media…
Yesterday, Sparrow cofounder & contributor, Andy Stepanian wrote an article for The Huffington Postabout a new documentary short by Dustin Miller, Nate Williams & Eric Hires about what life is like in post-earthquake Haiti. There are serious concerns that with a lack of popular media attention that the relief efforts to Haiti will subside during a time when they are needed most.
It has been 9 months since the earthquake and only 2% of the destruction in Port au Prince has been removed, and although promised by the United States None of the $1.1 Billion dollars in relief aide has made it to Haiti; instead it is being held up in congress…
35 Seconds tells deeply personal stories, and is shot in brilliant saturated colors, with an even more breathtaking storyboard. Please take a second to visit Andy’s article over at The Huffington Post, please leave a comment, please the link & video with your friends on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc. Most of all, get active to help in Haiti! (below the image is a list of groups that are currently active in the relief efforts, please check them out!)
An excerpt from Andy’s article on The Huffington Post for the full article please click the image above…
“35 Seconds” is both a story and an invitation to become part of the renewal. As I write this Dustin, Eric and Nathan are planning their anxious return to Haiti; this time they will focus on supporting Haitian mango farmers and the surrounding communities they sustain. Most of us reading this whether it’s on our laptops, iPhones, in our offices, or via social media websites have some degree of privilege, we can easily re-direct that privilege to the people who still are in need in Haiti. Below is a list of organizations and people just like Dustin, Eric, and Nathan who have taken their privilege and used it to better the lives of those affected by the earthquake, I invite you to do the same.
After hosting the New York premiere of Bold Native, the first fiction film about the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Russell Simmons sits down to talk about veganism, spirituality and radical activism. On the nine billion animals bred, raised and killed for food annually in the U.S., Simmons says, “Aside from all the suffering we’re causing and all the sickness we cause, we’re abusing the planet as well.” He goes on to talk about the difficulty in creating a change in consciousness and the importance of films like Bold Native for doing just that.
To book a screening of Bold Native at your college contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Calling all community-based graphic designers! Author Andrew Shea is looking for projects to feature in his upcoming book. Have you used a graphic design to help a community in need? Do you have insights into this process? If so, visit andrewshea.com/book.html and submit your work.
From the website: “This book will emphasize strategies to help designers address the complex dynamics of working with communities. Twenty social design case studies will make up the bulk of the book…Each project will show how graphic designers worked closely with communities to develop design solutions that address specific social problems. While some of these projects made a significant impact on communities, others may have missed the mark. The design process will become transparent in both cases. These can be either pro bono or for profit and submission is free.”
When Open Road Film’s Denis Hennelly and Casey Suchan set out to make Bold Native they wanted to work in the spirit of revolutionary films like Easy Rider. They succeeded. Bold Native is a feature film on the subject of animal liberation but at its heart, much like Easy Rider, it’s a road film about the fight for freedom in a corrupt America.
Joaquin Pastor “Charlie” & Casey Suchan – Producer of Bold Native
Bold Native follows Charlie Cranehill, played by Joaquin Pastor, an animal liberator working outside the law and Jessica Hagan who plays Jane, a woman working for change for animals within the confines of the legal system. The film’s hero, Charlie, is an ordinary activist who accepts a challenge by his girlfriend to ‘walk the talk.’ When things go awry and he is wanted by the U.S. government as a domestic terrorist, he must go into hiding. He emerges later in the plot to coordinate a large-scale action to free animals nationwide while both his estranged CEO father and the FBI hunt him.
Interspersed into the film are clips of institutionalized animal cruelty, which provide the much-needed context to underscore Charlie’s willingness to take such great risks. The filmmakers manage to do this in a way that supports the plot and pace of the film while avoiding seeming preachy.
Hennelly and Suchan show similar bravery by including a chilling scene of Charlie’s old friends taking a tactical heinous path of their enemies, which tests the viewer’s trust in Charlie.
The dialogue throughout the film is true to the movement and at times refreshingly comical. The gripping exchange between Charlie and his father toward the end of the film will easily make Pastor a star.
Pastor captures Charlie and presents him in a way that everyone can understand. Pastor is also a musician who contributes to the film’s soundtrack along with household names like Sufjan Stevens.
The filmmakers capture the all too real conflict between factions of today’s animal rights movement. But even for a viewer who knows nothing of the struggle or it’s inner arguments, Bold Native is a great primer on the ideology of a diverse movement that at its’ core is really about life, love and freedom.
Like all good revolutionary films, Bold Native is both inspirational and challenging. The film forces the audience to confront uncomfortable notions of brutality, betrayal and greed while inspiring us to fight for justice and freedom at all costs.
Nobody went to see Easy Rider just once. Bold Native will be the same. As soon as the credits rolled, I wanted to see it again.
Last week we got a tip from a twitter follower, that the re-branding of BP & similar greenwashing campaigns came out of a design studio in the UK called Ogilvy Earth even worse they have issued a sort of greenwashing manifesto, they call their “greenwashing guide; without the greenwashing.” It takes a lot of audacity to keep doing what they were doing without even a hiccup considering the reality of the situation in the gulf of mexico. Now it would be foolish to somehow blame Ogilvy Earth for BP’s current mess, but they are a symptom in a larger sickness to which all of us that drive, buy plastics, or consume animals, take part in daily. These events will only stop when we drastically shift our worldview from that of a mentality of taking to that of peaceful coexistence. What if each of us upheld a worldview that the earth, it’s elements, and it’s animals existed for their own reasons and not simply for our consumption?
That said, our prior notions are being challenged all the time now, and not just from activists. Wether it’s figures that show a waning ecological carrying capacity, figures that show that we may have already reached global peak oil, or an exponential increase in species extinction people are being challenged with a reality that we, and the things on this earth are finite and not inexhaustible. Activists are also challenging this notions, and some of them are doing so in very creative ways. In the UK alone there were two brilliant actions last week that creatively shut down business for those responsible for the BP spill, and the destruction of the Alberta tar sands.
Greenpeace held a contest for the best re-branding of BP’s flower re-brand. This is what the very talented winner came up with, and it was so good that before it ended up on any handbills it had to replace the company flag at BP’s headquarters. This video is brilliant…