Monday, May 24, 2010

GetEqual Explains $250,000 Donation

(Screen capture from Kip Williams' Facebook page.)

Congratulations are in order for the GetEqual activist org on securing a $250,000 contribution from gay businessman and philanthropist Jonathan Lewis. Kip Williams, co-founder of the org, shared some info about the donation on his Facebook page recently, and I sent him and his colleague Robin McGehee a few questions.

They replied with more details about their operation, and I am sharing our exchange. Also, follow up questions went back to Kip and Robin, and when they reply, I'll share that exchange.

I must say I've been impressed with their protests at the White House fence, in Congressional offices and hitting other targets, and think they're doing much good to change the Gay Inc business as usual approach that I find so stifling. Nice to see they are receiving serious money to continue their activism.

Here's our exchange:

Q: Is the check related to getequal or other gay-related matters?
A: Yes.

Q: Who cut the check?
A: The check is from Jonathan Lewis, who has helped incubate GetEQUAL over the past six months.

Q: Are you compensated for getequal work, and if so, how much?
A: Yes, both founding directors make less than $90K per year (we were offered the opportunity to work on this project and take sabbaticals from our regular jobs - Robin must decide if she will be going back to teach at College of the Sequoias in the Fall). And we are proud of the fact that we have spent less than $135K overall since December 2009 to create and launch GetEQUAL (that does not include about $45K we spent on the Highlander activist retreat we did in January).

Q: Who makes the decisions about how the money is spent?
A: We are putting in place a very diverse board of directors, between them, our staff mentioned below, the community of volunteers and the Co-Founding Directors we usually come to agreement.

Q: Is anyone else being paid expenses or other compensation for work they’re doing?
A: We have three other staff to help with direct actions, outreach, planning and implementation, but everyone else is a volunteer—no one who has participated in an action that either risked arrest or were arrested were paid for their participation.

Q: Will you disclose the donation(s) on the getequal site?
A: We have a planning retreat in June where we will make decisions concerning transparency—but are open to suggestions.


AndrewW said...

So, we should blame Johnathon Lewis for this embarrassing bunch of toddlers.

These silly publicity stunts haven't helped our community in any way and most people laugh at their childish "demanding."

They believe irritating people and pissing on our friends are viable strategies. Barney Frank was right GetEQUAL is "childish and stupid" and their actions 'don't change any minds."

We need results, not embarrassing attention. The only result we get with this group is $90,000 salaries for the ring leaders.

Demanding is NOT a strategy.

Bob Schwartz said...

Andrew disparages the strategy of direct action, the strategy that delivered the goods for African American civil rights, facilitated the organization of the powerful CIO coalition of labor unions, and helped to end the vicious US attack on Vietnam.

Quoting Benedict Barney Frank, Andrew, does not help your cause because Mr. Frank's first loyalty is to his pals in the Democratic party-- the same folks who are blocking action on our agenda. That would be Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

AndrewW said...

Wake up Bob - it's 2010. We're not Black. We're not a "labor union" and our community certainly can't be compared to the Vietnam War.

These silly GetEQUAL publicity stunts do not change any minds. They don't even create sympathy. They are childish and annoying.

All of this explains why "less than 2,000 people" participated in Harvey Milk "direct action" rallies throughout the US this past weekend. It doesn't work. Most see it (honestly) as a waste of time.

Demanding can be useful, but not without a threat. We don't have a threat. That's why it makes us look silly.

We are a very creative, very clever group of people. We can do better than yelling or pissing on our friends. Complaining doesn't win any support, it's just annoys everyone.

Ask other LGBT person what they think. I did focus group research and nearly 95% said "protesting" was ineffective. Further evidence that we are a smart group of people.

larry kramer said...

these kids are doing a dynamite job and congratulations to jonathan lewis for dreaming it all up and funding it and being a truly great mensch to this new movement.

larry kramer

Anonymous said...

Actually Andrew, I think YOU are the only person annoyed.

And frankly you are a predictable bore.

I don't see how your griping that taking action is less productive than fawning over shell game playing politicians like Pelosi and the rest of her Party members.

You don't like it. Swell. Keep sucking Joe Liebermans dick and see where that gets you...besides a case of TMJ.

Ken Howard, LCSW said...

I'm not sure how I feel about GetEqual yet; right now, I can see both sides of the argument.

I think the focus should be on, what DOES get results? Obviously, direct action protests like the Alabama bus boycott and protest action DID help in the early Civil Rights movement; it's not like Rosa Parks was a rich, paid lobbyist gently cozying up to politicians to plead her case for a seat on the bus. And,certainly, the gentle, milquetoast "cozying up" of rich HRC executives (and other rich Gay, Inc. executives) to even richer Democratic politicians produces nothing, as we've seen time and again.

You are absolutely right that there needs to be a "threat", some kind of "teeth" or leverage, or our protests mean nothing. That's the MAIN reason why LGBT rights are relatively "blow-off-able" by far-too-many Democrats and of course nearly all Republicans; nobody really gives a shit because all too often we appear as a small and insignicant constituency as a maximum of ten percent of the population, and not even everyone in the LGBT community votes (a thing we need to "fix", fast).

My guess is perhaps the "threat" will be a coordinated withholding of LGBT votes; that might get politicians moving on voting for our rights, as that kind of threat certainly gets politicians moving when it comes from the Christian Right or the NRA. Politicians become their little gimp-like biyotches when one of those groups cries foul. Nothing is as pathetically cowardly as a politician who comes within the "sites" of the NRA.

True change will happen when we have "teeth" in our protests, and we "do what works" in terms of achieving policy change.

Now, the challenge is, what constitutes "teeth", and what constitutes "doing what works"? I don't know, but I'm hoping these "Gay, Inc." people who make all the big bucks can figure that out.

I don't see much of that happening from our well-paid Gay, Inc. leaders, but that's what we donors are paying them to do, right?

And if they're not doing it, perhaps we should all follow Johnathon Lewis' example and donate to people who WILL.

Nothing succeeds like success. We probably have to try a lot of things, and see what works. GetEqual still needs to be given a chance to see if their tactics work. If they don't, try something else. And keep trying until DADT is repealed, DOMA is repealed, ENDA is passed, and gay marriage is legal and Harvey Milk Day is a paid holiday in all 50 states and U.S. territories! That's not impossible; it is a task that's possible if it is undertaken by the people with the skills to achieve it.

AndrewW said...

Does Direct Action work?

Good question. People like David Mixner and Larry Kramer love "direct action" because that's all they've got. But, they don't explain HOW it is helpful. Instead we get illogical comparisons to efforts of the 60s and 70s.

If yelling and complaining were effective it would be very easy to say "how." I think the proof lies in the reality that this is a very small band of angry misfits. They have been naively convinced by Mixner and Kramer that "demanding is a strategy." It isn't. Demanding without a threat is what a toddler does.

This past weekend was a combination of Harvey Milk Day and the GetEQUAL and EqualityAcrossAmerica "rallies." There were 28 events scheduled around the country. 2,000 people attending. "Almost 200 in NYC" and "maybe 100 in LA." This is evidence that our community understands that these "direct actions" are childish and stupid. They are also embarrassing.

Recent research indicates that 95% of our community sees protesting as counterproductive. A small band of self-described activist have romanticized the idea of being an "activist." They, too would like their very own $27.99 David Mixner T-shirt some day. It is silly.

Direct Action that includes talking to fiends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers IS effective. Yelling at them or marching around making "demands" is not effective. It is irritating. If it was as easy as "complaining," we'd all take to the streets. But, most of us think before we yell, or march, or piss on our political friends. We actually consider the consequences before risking the decades of work that has already been done.

These advocates of protest and demanding need to provide some rationale for its effectiveness. Simply naming historical figures is NOT evidence.

AndrewW said...

@ Ken Howard:

I appreciate your thoughtful comment. We DO need to figure out how to be effective - that isn't being done now. There is NO strategy to actually succeed. Gay Inc. has fundraising strategies and GetEQUAL is only about getting attention. Neither has figured out how to win.

Withholding our votes is not a threat. Even withholding our contributions to the Democrats is not a threat. The issue of homosexuality raises money from either side. Those against us typically donated more than 100 times the amount we do and that side has 60 million voters, we may have 5 million.

We're not a threat.

The only threat GetEQUAL has is to come back again and this time bring 8 or 10 people to "demand" action. They're simpleton threat is honor our demands or we are going to keep on embarrassing you. It's childish temper tantrums - nothing more.

When they heckled the President in San Diego he simply told them "they were in the wrong room" and then laughed at them. He wasn't uncomfortable (the GetEQUAL goal) but most of us in the LGBT Community were. That's simply because most of us know that we don't need to act like children, we need to figure out how to change minds. We need to add to our support, not piss on our friends.

We win when we get people to join us, not avoid us. GetEQUAL is really just about a very few self-described "activists" getting their 15 minutes of fame - at our expense. It should be discouraged. We're much smarter than expressions of anger or empty "demands."

The world has grown up. We should, too.

Travis said...

In honor of the recent, inaugural Harvey Milk day, I'm going to remind you all that some of Harvey's most compelling, inspiring words were about HOPE. In order for a movement to be powerful, or effective - in order for us to win, we had to have HOPE. Because without hope, we give up.

I don't think anyone is giving us that hope. Everything that's started cropping up in the last few months: the GetEqual demonstrations, or QueerRising actions, or any of the angry heckling and protest-arrest-theater; there is nothing hopeful in that. There is only desperation - the violent thrashing of a people "betrayed" (or simply let down) by those they had considered their friends - the violent thrashing of a people who realize, as November approaches, the hour has already passed.

Read Harvey's HOPE speech again - we cannot rely on 'friends.' This is something that we have to do ourselves. But in our current vacuum of hope, a vacuum which falls at least as much on the shoulders of GayInc as it does GetEqual, our community does not have hope. Our community is not inspired by the potential of a real victory and a better world. Our community does not believe that HRC's backroom handshakes with the administration will get us any further than GetEqual's on-camera middle fingers. Those yellow brick roads don't lead us to Oz, and the vast majority of LGBTs know it on an instinctual level.

We have to bring hope back into the conversation, and we can only do that on our own, through our relationships with the people we know. Hope doesn't come from scheming, and it doesn't come from screaming. It doesn't (sustainably) come from friends in high places. It can only come back through honest conversation and understanding.

AndrewW said...

The Top Ten Unanswered Questions for GetEQUAL:

1. Who started GetEQUAL? When?

2. Who decided how much to pay everyone? And, why?

3. With only two major funding sources, who sets GetEqual's goals and priorities?

4. Who's accountable for GetEqual's actions? Who is in charge?

5. Will the GetEQUAL soon-to-be-formed Board be packed with cronies and allies or will it consist of a respectable and diverse mix of seasoned and new activists? What is the criteria for selection?

6. What is GetEQUAL's strategy and what are the results you must achieve to be successful?

7. How do the "crazy shenanigans" (Cronk's words) benefit the LGBT Community?

8. How do efforts to embarrass our political friends (Democrats) help the LGBT Community?

9. How does "demanding" lead to changed minds or additional support for the LGBT Community? What threat is attached to these so-called "demands?"

10. When will GetEQUAL organize formally and comply with legal and disclosure requirements for Non-profit organizations?

Any honest, sincere organization would gladly answer these important questions before engaging in "crazy shenanigans." But, even late is better than never.

Kip Williams and Robin McGehee have a responsibility to the LGBT Community to answer ALL of these questions completely.

AndrewW said...

Robin McGeehee to answer questions about GetEQUAL: