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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

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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

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Jack Dorsey Gives $5M to Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income Experiment

In early March, while governments were still figuring out how seriously to take the COVID-19 crisis, Andrew Yang seems to have seen the writing on the wall. The former Presidential candidate launched Humanity Forward, a nonprofit focused on continuing the promises of his platform, especially Universal Basic Income (UBI) and data privacy by encouraging new voters and voting down-ballot, clear down to the local levels. Grassroots progress at its most democratic.

As March wore on and American unemployment suddenly rose from 4 percent to over 20 percent, Yang announced that his organization would begin experiments in offering UBI. They began with a $500,000 budget, experimenting in a small, unnamed New York town to study the benefits. On March 20th, CNN announced that Humanity Forward would spend $1 million in $1,000 payments to 500 low-income Bronx households during the crisis. 

Yang always planned to expand those numbers, if he could seek out additional funding. On Sunday, May 21, Jack Dorsey gave him some of that. The Twitter billionaire donated $5 million to Humanity Forward, and Humanity Forward has announced that plans to immediately distribute that money in $250 grants to nearly 20,000 people who have lost their jobs or their hours to the pandemic.

Dorsey, who backed Yang’s run for the presidency, believes that UBI is a necessary antidote to capitalism gone over the top, and that it can’t remain only an intellectual problem. “The only way we can change policy is by experimenting and showing case studies of why this works,” he said on Yang’s podcast, Yang Speaks.

“Not only will Jack’s donation directly impact tens of thousands of people in need during the current economic downturn, it will help Humanity Forward and our movement continue to make a case for universal basic income in the United States,” said Yang in a released statement. “We know UBI for every American is possible, and this $5 million from Start Small [Dorsey’s charitable foundation] is going to help demonstrate what is possible for families across the country.”

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A Man in India is Buying Oxygen Tanks and Giving Them Away

Months into the pandemic’s grasp, Mumbai remains one of the worst-affected cities in India by COVID-19, with over 60,000 current cases overrunning hospitals. Staff and facilities are overwhelmed, their workload far greater than they have supplies, time, space, or stamina for.

Shahnawaz Shaikh is not a doctor or an EMT, just a businessman. But for months, he’s been servicing as a pro-tem ambulance driver, ferrying potential COVID-19 patients in his cherished SUV to hospitals. It has been a selfless act of service – due to the risk of contagion, Shaikh has partitioned his house so that he doesn’t stand a chance of catching the disease from a passenger and passing it on to his wife and young daughter.

On May 28, the sister of Shaikh’s business partner passed away in a cab after being turned away from five overburdened hospitals because they had no beds or ventilators left to tend to the seriously ill. She was six months pregnant, and she drowned in plain air in her husband’s arms.

Doctor friends told Shaikh that the woman could have lived, had she been put on oxygen in time. It made him realize that he could be doing more than simply transporting the poor and ill. A little research showed him that while oxygen canisters were available to the public, high demand had driven up their price and caused a shortage.

“A friend of mine helped me contact a manufacturer directly. They were touched when I told them I wanted to buy cylinders and give them away for free.”

To finance the venture, Shaikh sold his SUV. He bought over 300 refurbished oxygen tanks and the supplies to use them, and enlisted a doctor to help made an instructional video, showing how to use them. So far, he’s provided oxygen kits to over 250 families in the poor districts of the city near him.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

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K-Pop Group BTS and its Fans Donate Millions to Black Lives Matter

BTS, aka Bangtan Sonyeondan, 방탄소년단, or the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-man boy band from Seoul. Performing, writing, and producing together since 2010, They’ve evolved from hip hop to a diverse pop-influenced style, trading heavily on the trials of personal growth and coming of age for material. Massively popular in South Korea, they used Youtube to leap into the international music market in 2017. Since then, 4 albums have topped the US music charts in the fastest rise since the Beatles. Globally, they were the second-best selling artists of 2018, and as of 2019, the group is reported to be worth 0.3 percent of South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product.

Their popularity and financial success have given the band a platform that they haven’t shied away from using. In 2017, they launched their Love Myself campaign with the aid of UNICEF, funding social programs to reduce violence against children and teenagers and to support victims of violence. The members of the band donated approximately $500,000 personally, and two years of all proceeds from the campaign’s merchandise sales. By 2019, the campaign had raised over $2 million.

Other philanthropic efforts included another partnership with UNICEF, their “Generation Unlimited” fundraiser to support continuing education for at-risk youth, and “Be the Brightest Stars,” a Starbucks initiative which raised money toward career support for disadvantaged Korean youths.

On June 6, BTS’s members revealed that they had donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, the international human rights movement addressing violence and authoritarian racism against black people. It was, at the time, one of the largest celebrity donations to come in the aftermath of the murder by police of George Floyd. The popular band’s army of fans were swift to match their donation, raising another $1 million for BLM under the hashtags #MatchAMillion and #MatchtheMillion. The fans also used their numbers to take over and drown out #WhiteOutWednesday, a tone-deaf or outright racist response to the black day of visibility, #BlackoutTuesday.

Source: CNN

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Bank of America Pledges $1 Billion to Address Racial Inequality

In 2013, Bank of America was fined $2.2 million after a judge found them guilty of racial discrimination in the hiring practices at their Charlotte, North Carolina offices. Over 1,100 African-American job seekers were denied due to what the judge called “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” over the previous two decades. While a formal complaint about that discrimination was filed against BoA in 1997, more than 15 years of intentional stalling tactics delayed a resolution until after a number of information leaks revealed corrupt tactics in those same offices.

Hopefully, they’ve had a thorough house-cleaning. CEO Brian Moynihan, who was not implicated in the above corruption or discrimination even though he was in power at the time, announced in a press release on Tuesday, May 2nd, that Bank of America would be donating $1 billon over the next four years in channels meant to help address racial inequality.

Moynihan made a strong statement that the current unrest was in no small part due to “underlying economic and social disparities” having been made worse by the pandemic, which has has disproportionate impact on minorities in the United States.

“We all need to do more,” he said.

The $250 million a year will be channeled into health services and small business support in communities of color, and BoA locations in those communities will be required to seek new employees from their neighborhoods. It is a massive expansion of BoA’s previous donations to nonprofits, and will expand their low-interest loans to small, minority-owned businesses.

While it is a generous donation program, Bank of America could certainly afford to do more. They reported revenue of $27.4 billion in 2019, as well as repurchases of $34 billion in shares. Perhaps they could donate a little more of the $1.9 billion tax refund they received in 2010, a year in which they paid no federal taxes.

Source: CNN

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Magic Johnson’s EquiTrust to Donate $100M to Support Minority-Owned Businesses

When Earvin “Magic” Johnson retired from playing professional basketball in 2000, it was already obvious that he was not the sort of man who would just retire and ride out his substantial fortune for the rest of his days. He’d already tried his hand at coaching, and at hosting a television show, and starting a record label. And he was just getting started.

Today, Johnson runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a diverse conglomerate company with a net worth over $700 million, which dabbles in dozens of different industries. Briefly, he owned 125 Starbucks locations. At another time, a chain of movie theaters in his name. For a while, he owned part of the L.A. Lakers and a Pepsi bottling plant in Washington. And he continues to own a controlling interest in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company.

Under his direction, EquiTrust is going to donate $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for business owners who have been struck down by the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing minorities and children.

The donation, which will be distributed as forgivable loans via lender MBE Capital Partners, will be governed by the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, the small business stimulus plan meant to help small businesses keep their staff on the payroll, giving them a greater chance of weathering the crisis.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said on MSNBC on Sunday, May 17. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

His statement alludes to the concern that minority-owned businesses have been left out, after the PPP stimulus has run out, been renewed, and run out of funds again, with large percentages of the package being snapped up by businesses which are not by any means ‘small.’

Source: CNN

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Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s Initiative Urges Prisons to Address COVID-19

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the flea-spread typhus was spread so heavily in prisons that it was called jail fever. It spread unavoidably between inmates because they were crowded in conditions that didn’t allow them to take care of their own hygiene. And while endemic typhus is no longer a jailhouse plague, inmates are still particularly vulnerable to crowd-spread disease.

The steps we’re all taking to keep one another safe – social distance, frequent hand-washing, sanitizer, and masks – aren’t available to inmates. As of the end of April, over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in U.S. prisons and jails.

Reform Alliance, an organization launched in 2019 by rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z, is an initiative dedicated towards prison reform, specifically aiming at challenging the for-profit prison model that many say results in over-sentencing. Their overall goal is to reduce the number of people subject to parole and probation law by one million before 2025, by changing laws and policies. But in the current crisis, more urgent goals have risen up.

“COVID-19 is ripping through our prison system and risking the lives of everyone inside,” says a pop-up when one visits Reform Alliance’s website, directing visitors to a petition they can sign with their Facebook information. The petition urges prison authorities to increase the safety of their facilities, including equipment, monitoring, and reporting.

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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donates $13.6M to Antibody Testing

In 2015 on the birthday of their daughter, pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to fight disease worldwide. In the past 5 years, most of their activities have been towards securing funding beyond the $1 billion in yearly funds coming from Facebook shares, but now they are taking a step forward.

On Wednesday, April 29th, Zuckerberg announced that the Initiative would be donating $13.6 million towards COVID-19 antibody testing in San Franscisco, and coordinating with Stanford University and the University of California to conduct antibody studies in the Bay Area.

There will be two studies, one of which has already begun. The first will test 4,000 Bay Area volunteers monthly for both active COVID-19 and for the antibodies which will indicate they’ve encountered the disease before. That one will run from April into December, and be used to track where new cases emerge, helping to guide a safe return to normal.

The second study will be localized to frontline health care workers. 3,500 doctors, nurses, and EMTs will be tested weekly to determine how heavily and quickly the medical community can be hit. It will also work on determining if prior infection means future immunity, which is so far an unknown factor. Many important things hinge on whether or not you can re-catch the disease, and no one really knows yet.

Both studies are intended to be used as guideposts in reopening business and normal life in and around San Franscisco, but their data will have world-wide applications. The Chan Zuckerberg donation is the largest single share of funding coming into this vital project.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg also mentioned combining the data from both studies with the self-report symptom surveys that Facebook has been running for a Carnegie Mellon research group, which could provide even more information.

Source: The Week

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Michael Jordan to Donate All Income From Blockbuster Documentary, ‘The Last Dance’

The Last Dance, which began airing on ESPN on Sunday, April 19th, is a ten-part documentary series about the career of athlete Michael Jordan. Using 106 interviews and excerpts from over 10,000 hours of sports footage of Jordan, the series will juxtapose Jordan’s rookie year in 1984 with his ‘last dance,’ his final season with the Bulls in ’89. Director Jason Hehir spent two years assembling the whole series. It was meant to be aired during the 2020 NBA Finals in June, but ESPN moved it up to fill the vast gaps left in their programming by current events.

According to one tracking website, Michael Jordan made nearly $90,000,000 in basketball. Smart business moves, including a number of real estate investments, have him sitting now at an estimated $2.1 billion, which makes him the wealthiest former athlete in the world.

‘The Last Dance’ is expected to make Jordan between $3 and 4 million, all of which Jordan has committed to donating to charitable causes. Which causes? He hasn’t yet released that information, but given current events, it’s likely safe to assume it will be something related to COVID-19 relief. And while that may seem like pennies in His Airness’s very large pockets, it’s hardly his only foray into philanthropy. Jordan has raised and personally donated millions of dollars to Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club Louisiana, Make-A-Wish, dozens of charities and a school in Chicago, and several hurricane relief foundations.

Other basketball players have also stepped up to the charity 3-point line during this time of crisis: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert (himself infected with COVID-19), Blake Griffin, Zion Wilson, and several other players have donated hundreds of thousands to help keep thousands of employees on the payroll at their home arenas, staff who would otherwise be jobless while professional sports are all on furlough.

Source: Forbes