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John Oliver Offers $55,000 Donation for Sewer Plant Memorialization

Danbury, Connecticut is a modest city about 50 miles northeast of New York City, with a population around 80,000. The original white settlers wanted to name it Swampfield, and its biggest claim to fame until recently was that American hat-making was briefly centered there in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

In mid-August, Comedian John Oliver focused a diatribe about racially biased jury selection in Connecticut in the town of Danbury–and locals took offense. Rather than just grumbling on their Facebook and NextDoor groups, the citizens took their grievance to the mayor of Danbury. And Mayor Mark Boughton posted a video to Facebook that he’d like to name the Danbury Water Pollution Control Plant as the “John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant.”

“Why?” said Boughton on his video. “Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.”

Boughton walked his rant back the next day, saying it was just a heated joke, but Oliver was publicly disappointed.

“Wait, so you’re not doing it? Aw (expletive) you, Danbury,” said Oliver during his show on the night of Sunday, August 30. “You had the first good idea in your city’s history, and you chickened out on the follow through. What a classic Danbury move. Listen, I didn’t know that I wanted my name on your (expletive) factory but now that you floated it as an option, it is all that I want.”

Not content to leave it at that, Oliver was quick to turn the public spat into a philanthropic opportunity. He has offered to donate $55,000 to Danbury, splitting it between local food banks and requests from Danbury teachers, if the city follows through on Boughton’s threat.

If they don’t, Oliver said he would give the money to Danbury’s “rival” towns, Waterbury, Milford, and Torrington.

Danbury city officials are currently considering the offer, which Boughton called “very generous.”

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Artist Hopes To Raise $30m Selling the World’s Largest Canvas Painting

Sacha Jafri was traveling in the United Arab Emirates in April, when COVID-19 closures were beginning to block avenues of travel. The British citizen wound up stuck in Dubai when the UAE locked down travel five months ago. Unable to remain idle, the artist worked out an arrangement with Atlantis, the Palm, Dubai’s legendary luxury hotel. Since the hotel has been unable to use its enormous Atlantis Ballroom, a space meant to seat 500, Jafri turned the space into an artist’s studio for a massive undertaking.

Titled “The Journey of Humanity,” Jafri’s abstract painting is over 21,000-square-feet, around the size of two full-sized football fields. Painted almost entirely by Jafri alone, it has taken nearly five months so far. When he finishes it, it will be the world’s largest canvas painting.

Jafri describes his style, which consists of intensely chaotic and colorful abstract patterns made with both traditional brushwork and drip-painting, as “magical realism.” He has works in the collections of Barack Obama and other celebrities.

“Journey,” which is overwhelming in the way it fills the ballroom like a graffiti carpet, is divided into eight “portals” based on which colors are dominant. And at the center of each portal, Jafri has featured a piece of art created by a child from somewhere around the world, submitted over the past few months through his website.

When finished, Jafri intends to cut “Journey” into 60 pieces, each approximately 10’x10′, frame them, and sell them in a Dubai art auction in December. He hopes to raise $30,000,000, with the aim of donating it to Humanity United, an umbrella charity supporting children in poverty.

“Each person that buys a panel will (not only) own a piece of the largest painting ever created in the world,” said Jafri, “but they’ll own a piece of history, because what we’re doing with that money is huge.”

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“Watchmen” Creator Raises Awareness of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

On May 31st, 1921, a mob of white supremacists, protected by the National Guard, burned down 35 city blocks of black-owned homes and businesses and an all-black school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing as many as 300, injuring over 800, and leaving an estimated 6,000 people homeless.

Contemporary reports downplayed the deaths, but three mass graves have since been tied to the event. To date, there have been no reparations, and not one member of the mob was convicted of any charges for the deaths, injuries, or property damage, even though they ousted the mayor of Tusla by force and took the city in a coup. In the aftermath, white city developers tried to force through a law banning black people from owning property in the city center, allegedly for fire prevention.

The anniversary of this tragedy is coming up, and the people of Tusla want to ensure it is commemorated. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission was formed to spearhead that commemoration, dedicated to projects which would educate and honor the losses suffered that day.

“Watchmen,” the 2019 HBO series flexibly based on Alan Moore’s 1986 comic series, is set in an alternate-reality modern-day Tulsa, and it features flashbacks to the Tulsa Race Massacre, setting its tone of vicious racism and corruption. The flashbacks were many American’s first introduction to the events of that tragedy.

Damon Lindelof, the creator and executive producer of Watchmen, isn’t just using history for shock value, as Moore did Vietnam in the original comics. That raising of awareness is part of why he made the show in the first place. And it is why he’s donating $19,021 to the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, challenging other philanthropists to match his donation.

So far, Oklahoma Humanities has risen to Lindelof’s challenge. Their money will go towards opening the Greenwood Rising history center, a permanent exhibit to honor the anniversary in May.

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Serena Williams Donates 4.25 Million Masks for Kids

Serena Williams, one of the most highly decorated athletes of all time, is one of many celebrities taking public health into her own hands during the COVID-19 crisis. On Sunday August 9th, the tennis star announced on her Instagram that she’s teaming up with clothing company Bella Canvas, publishing company Scholastic Inc, and the National School Board Association to donate 4.25 million masks to underserved schools around the country. Additionally, the team-up, going by the hashtag #MasksForKids, wants to distribute educational materials about masks to every schoolchild in the country.

Schools will also be able to buy additional masks for students, with a mask donated for every mask sold, on top of that initial 4+ million.

“Getting back to school this fall means having #masksforkids to wear,” Williams wrote. “I’m grateful to be able to help educate our schools about this resource, and to be given the opportunity to serve so many students.”

While scientists almost universally agree that children in the U.S. should not be going back to school in person this fall at all, in many states, classes have already begun. For instance, in Georgia, schools began in the first week of August. North Paulding High School, where a student’s pictures of crowded, maskless hallways went viral after she was suspended for taking them, has already seen nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in both students and staff.

If students are going to be back in class, despite these risks, they must be given masks. And the wearing of them must be enforced, along with education of why it is so important to do so. Too many Americans simply don’t or won’t understand that wearing a mask is an act of compassion, not a sign of fear. Education is the key to moving past the politicization we’ve seen these past few months and stopping this pandemic from spreading even further.

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Michael Jordan Rallies the Black Vote

Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand, a subdivision of Nike, are together donating $2.5 million towards supporting the Black vote in the United States, according to an announcement made on July 29th.

The donation will be split among three groups: the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. ($1 million), the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People and Families Movement ($1 million), and the Black Voters Matter organization ($500,000). These were chosen because Jordan is looking for a swift impact, for his money to directly benefit black voters in critically underrepresented cities and states before the 2020 Presidential election in November.

“We understand that one of the main ways we can change systemic racism is at the polls,” said Jordan in a statement spread by his Twitter.

“We know it will take time for us to create the change we want to see, but we are working quickly to take action for the Black Community’s voice to be heard.”

This $2.5 million is just the first wave of $100 million pledged by Jordan and the Jordan Brand in June to be donated over the next decade to build up defenses against systemic racism by supporting social, economic, and educational justice in underserved communities.

“The $100 million commitment was just the start,” said Jordan Brand president Craig Williams. “We are moving from commitment to action. Our initial partners can directly impact the social and political well-being of the Black community. We will have a disciplined focus on social justice, economic justice and education, as the most effective ways for us to eliminate the systemic racism that remains in society.”

Critics are lambasting Nike for backing Black Lives Matter-adjacent philosophies while ignoring the forced labor and racism in their own supply chain, not unfairly. But $100 million will go a long way, and perhaps will convince their own upper echelons that making the right choice will, in the long run, be more profitable.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Creators, Cast Donate to Protester Bail Funds

During the protests over police brutality in the United States after the death on video of George Floyd, the police arrested over 10,000 protesters across the country in just the first two weeks, and they haven’t stopped. Some of the arrests for looting and violence, but others have been plainly unjust, such as the arrest of Evan Hreha, who was arrested for “unlawfully discharging a laser” by a mob of cops while walking his dog a week after his footage of a 7-year-old child screaming in pain after police pepper sprayed him directly in the face went viral.

Hreha was released without bail after 43 hours, but many have not been so lucky. A variety of charities have been launched to provide bail funds for the hundreds of protesters who are still awaiting charges or trial. For many, waiting in a cell is life-ruining. Every hour they remain inside, they risk losing a job, custody of their children, or their apartment, and they’re made less able to participate in their own defense.

The cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a comedy show which satirizes the police and has an excellent track record of not shrinking away from the either issues of police corruption or the risks they face, has been vocally on the side of the protesters since this began.

“The cast and showrunner of ‘Brooklyn 99’ condemn the murder of George Floyd and support the many people who are protesting police brutality nationally,” tweeted Dan Goor, the show’s co-creator. “Together we have made a $100,000 donation to The National Bail Fund Network. We encourage you to look up your local bail fund: the National Bail Fund Network is an organization that can lead you to them. #blacklivesmatter.”

Stephanie Beatriz, one of the show’s lead actors, also made a personal donation of $11,000 to support bail funds, and said she regards it as her moral responsibility.

“I’m an actor who plays a detective on tv,” Beatriz tweeted. “If you currently play a cop? If you make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in residuals from playing a cop? I’ll let you do the math.”

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine donations is just the latest in a series of large donations to Black Lives Matter and related causes. K-pop group BTS and its fans donated millions, and Bank of America pledged $1 billion to address racial inequality.

Photo: A June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.

Credit: Kalen Martin-Gross / Shutterstock.com

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Greta Thunberg Wins $1.15M Climate Change Award and Donates All of it

The Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, awarded in Portugal, recognizes people or groups who have made impactful, novel, or innovative contributions to fighting or adapting to the reality of climate change around the world. It is a one million euro ($1.15 million) award to aid the efforts of its winners and extend their reach.

For 2020, the winner is Swedish activism celebrity Greta Thunberg.

The teenager won for the way she “has been able to mobilise younger generations for the cause of climate change and her tenacious struggle to alter a status quo that persists,” according to Jorge Sampaio, chair of the prize jury for this year.

Thunberg called the prize “more money than I can begin to imagine,” but has no intention of keeping any of it.

“I’m extremely honoured to receive the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity.” Thunberg tweeted on July 20th. “We’re in a climate emergency, and my foundation will as quickly as possible donate all the prize money… to support organisations and projects that are fighting for a sustainable world, defending nature, and supporting people already facing the worst impacts of the climate- and ecological crisis – particularly those living in the Global South.”

So far, she has announced that 100,000 euro each are going to the “SOS Amazonia” campaign, to help deal with the impact of COVID-19 in poor communities in the rural Amazon, and to the Stop Ecocide Foundation, which campaigns to make ecological damage resulting in genocide-like conditions an international crime. Her foundation will continue to make decisions about where to donate the rest of the windfall in the next few weeks.

Just a few days before receiving this award, Thunberg and a number of other young climate activists used their platform to launch a climate emergency appeal to EU leaders, supported heavily by the European science community.

Source: The Guardian

Editorial credit: Liv Oeian / Shutterstock.com

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Donation News The Power of Giving

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sells Valuable Guitars for Climate Causes

David Gilmour has been on the world stage since he joined Pink Floyd in 1968, just a few months after they released “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and made the charts. In ’85, he took over leadership of the band after Roger Waters departed. It’s in no small part to him that as of 2012, Pink Floyd was one of the best-selling bands of all time, with over 250 million sales worldwide. The music world recognized that, inducting him into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and a CBE in 2003.

Gilmour’s net worth is estimated between 115 and 180 million pounds, and he has poured much of that into various charities over the years, going so far as to sell his own home to English nobility and donate every cent of the proceeds, over 3.6 million pounds, to Crisis, a U.K. charity which supports the homeless with housing, employment, and health care.

In 2019, Gilmour found himself touched by the vehement activism of Greta Thunberg, the young voice for the environment whose message swept the world. And he put his life on the stage to the service of that message, auctioning off several of his most famous guitars for charity.

“The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face,” tweeted Gilmour. “We need a civilized world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.”

He donated the black Fender Stratocaster which he plays in “Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd’s most legendary album, as well as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and also a 12-string Martin he played in “Wish You Were Here.” The black strat sold for nearly $4 million, making it the most expensive guitar ever sold. These two, along with three others he sold, raised $21.5 million, all of which he donated to ClientEarth, an international environmentalist charity which uses its funds to ensure companies are held accountable for their pollution footprint.

Source: Mother Jones

Editorial credit: Quique Ortega / Shutterstock.com

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Donation The Power of Giving

Dwayne Johnson Donates Water to Essential Workers

In April, the nation was calling its health care workers ‘Essential heroes,’ and applauding as they left for work. But now it’s July and the applause has faded, as a sort of COVID-19 fatigue has set in on us all, and our health workers remain as they were before all of this; underpaid, understaffed, underappreciated, and critically overworked.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, of wrestling and acting fame and Instagram’s highest paid celebrity, partnered recently with VOSS water to do just a little to help ease that. Together, they donated 700,000 bottles of water to health care and front-line workers.

“This message is for some very, very special people out there. I’m talking about our front-line workers, our health care workers, who are working so tirelessly day in and day out for months and months now, and you continue to do so,” said Johnson in a video released on Instagram on Sunday, July 12th.

“We, on our end will continue to be disciplined – wearing masks, being smart, social distancing, etc. We ust do our job. As you all continue to do yours,” he continued in text on the same post. “Keep holding the line and stay strong. You inspire us all.”

Johnson is a big advocate of wearing masks and being cautious, and is outspoken on both topics on his Instagram. He’s even posted a video of washing his hands in time to a song from Disney’s Moana, in which he starred along with Auli’i Cravalho.

Water may seem a small thing, but the recognition is as important as the charity. Johnson and other celebrities continue to speak out about the value of these most essential workers, and to leverage their platforms to speak for higher wages and better schedules. Johnson also hosted a concert in the last week of June which raised $6.9 billion in aid to support the global poor during the pandemic.

Source: Fox News

Editorial credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

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Donation News Organizations The Power of Giving

Sam Mendes Establishes Fund for Theater Workers with Help from Netflix

On Monday, July 6, the British government announced a £1.5 billion effort to help hard-hit arts organizations in the UK through the pandemic. Art institutions like the National Gallery have only just begun reopening, but performance venues still probably have months to go before they can resume operating at their normal occupancy levels. Several major venues have already announced they’re overrun, and won’t be able to re-open at all. Art lobbyists have stated that they don’t expect things to return to normal until April 2021, at best.

While the government package is encouraging news, the process of dissemination its funds has not yet even begun, and many businesses, and the people they’ve already had to lay off, are in dire straits now. It has been nearly four months since all theaters, venues, and cultural sites were closed.

In light of this, film director Sam Mendes, and the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, has established the Theatre Artists Fund. The new initiative is meant to directly help British arts workers whose livelihoods have been cut off by the pandemic.

Money for the fund has come from Netflix, who announced a £500,000 ($625,000) donation to initiative the fund.

“Playwrights and directors, theatre artits and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” said Anne Mensah in a statement about the donation. Mensah is the vice president of original content at Netflix.

The fund will deliver £1000 grants directly to freelance and laid-off theatre workers who suffer under the ongoing effect of the pandemic.

The money is specifically intended for “theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether,” said Mendes in a statement. He hopes that further donations will be forthcoming.

Source: Forbes

Editorial credit: Piotr Zajac / Shutterstock.com