Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Katy’s Top Ten Organizations to Give to in 2011

The end of the year brings about two things in my world of note – top ten lists of the best of and year-end giving appeals for nonprofits, arts organizations, and community groups. I wanted to compile a list of my top ten favorite projects to donate to this holiday season. In difficult times such as these, organizations doing visionary work need your support more than ever. Consider giving as generously as you can this year to work that moves you, and also remember you can donate in someone’s name as a gift to them at the holidays!

1. Service Women’s Action Network – SWAN takes on the difficult work of advocating for gender equality and safety in the military. SWAN works to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans’ services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families. They provide a Legal and Peer Support Helpline for service women, veterans and their families, as well as free yoga for vets. One of the bravest feminist organizations I have ever seen, doing work that is difficult and vital.

2. New Paradise Laboratories – NPL is an experimental, interactive theater company based in Philadelphia. I am in love with its projects, and I don’t know much of anything about theater. New Paradise Laboratories (NPL) was founded to create surprising, meticulous, spiritually challenging, and wholly distinctive experimental theatre productions that investigate physical expression, on-stage and in life. These productions are assembled using collaborative creative processes developed by the company. The work tends to value wild humor, shock, a concern for history, a muscular visual sensibility, and a fascination with the utopian impulse. The project is also meant to engage people like me, with a large part of its theater drawing you in online – for those of us who aren’t accustomed to going to the theater.

3. District Alliance for Safe Housing – DASH is a Washington, DC based no barrier domestic and sexual violence housing and advocacy program. They operate a myriad of projects to provide vital housing and other services to women and their families who are fleeing abuse. They also partner with government and corporations to strategize about how to create more housing possibilities. Domestic violence and homelessness are intricately connected, and this organization aims to tackle a social crisis holistically, with lessons learned made available to the movement at large.

4. Life Pieces To Masterpieces – LPTM is a Washington, DC based youth arts organization. Since 1996, they have served hundreds of young African-American men ages 8-22 with an engaging human development arts program afterschool. They believe in instilling in youth a resiliency and skillset to turn the grave challenges they face in life into possibilities, and value them as creators.

5. Men Can Stop Rape – MCSR exists to mobilize men to use their strength in creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Their work is international, social and cultural – with direct training, public awareness campaigns, messaging, and community activism. MCSR takes the vital work of sexual violence prevention and education into schools and organizations, and into the hands of men and boys who can play pivotal roles as allies and empowered bystanders capable of combating rape culture.

6. Girls Rock Philly – Help support the next generation of young women musicians! Part of an international movement of music and empowerment camps for young women, GRP supports girls who are interested in playing music, connecting with other young women, and expressing themselves. In addition to donating money, the camps always need equipment. If you don’t live in Philly, investigate the camp nearest to you!

7. Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive – Run by an incredible woman Cyndee Clay who I went to college with, HIPS assist female, male, and transgender individuals engaging in sex work in Washington, DC in leading healthy lives. Utilizing a harm reduction model, HIPS’ programs strive to address the impact that HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, discrimination, poverty, violence and drug use have on the lives of individuals engaging in sex work. HIPS is a nationally recognized program that meets the needs sex workers and assists them in their efforts to eliminate the transmission of HIV, increase sexual health, and reduce violence and harm associated with sex work and drug use.

8. Compassion Over Killing – Please give to this visionary, awesome animal rights and vegan/vegetarianism education organization before you EVER give to PETA. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on cruelty to animals in agriculture and promotes vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world for all of us, both human and nonhuman. The organization also hosts a number of social events, and can tell you great places to eat as well as animal-friendly products to consider buying.

9. Sylvia Rivera Law Project - Transgender, transsexual, intersex and other gender non-conforming people face persistent and severe discrimination in employment, education, health care, social and legal services, criminal justice and many other realms. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. The organization believes that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, people of all genders must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence. Also, look up the work of SRLP Founder Dean Spade – social justice genius and brilliant speaker.

10. Decarcerate PA – I learned of this organization because of my best friend and bandmate Diane. You can give this organization your support, your phone calls, and your energy. Learn more and stay involved. Decarcerate PA is a coalition of organizations and individuals seeking an end to mass incarceration and the harms it brings our many communities. Decarcerate PA seeks mechanisms to establish and maintain whole, healthy communities and believes that imprisonment exacerbates the problems we face. The organization therefore demands an immediate and lasting moratorium on all new prisons: no new prisons, no new county or city jails, no prison expansions, no new beds in county jails, no immigrant detention facilities, no private prisons. If you are new to issues of the prison industrial complex, investigate the work of Angela Davis and check out the book The Celling of America.

These are urgent times. We may all feel down, defeated, depressed. However we have to stay vigilant and engaged, and remember that change is possible. These ten organizations made 2011 better for thousands of living beings. Help make 2012 easier for them.


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