by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
It is well known that I wear two hats in the community. I've spent nearly seven years at the Seattle Gay News, first working as a staff writer and photographer, working my way up to associate editor, and then, launched Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) in October 2012. It has been an honor to work in this community at such a capacity and given all the advances at the local and national level for LGBTQ equality, I feel humbled by what we've been able to accomplish. So many people have worked for decades to secure freedoms and equality that we now have. It is a great feeling to know that the children born today and tomorrow will never know a world with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' a federal DOMA, and more. Soon we hope to achieve a nation with all gender restrooms and full equality under the law. It has been said before, and I will say it again because it is vitally important - there is still a lot of work to be done. At SOSea, our belief is to jump in and do it. Get up, get out and do something. And so we do.
On October 1, SOSea held our Third Annual SOSea Gala & Community Awards Ceremony at The Summit (420 E. Pike St.). This was our largest gala yet and a tremendous amount of work went into the event. It was a success and we couldn't be more thankful to those that showed up to support our work in the community. For $25 per ticket, attendees got a three course dinner, could bid on silent auction items donated by local comedian and artist Jeffrey Robert (Gay Uncle Time), guerrilla street artist (Woo Girls, Legendary) John Criscitello, and more, as well as cheer on SOSea and especially, the local community members who received leadership awards from SOSea for their work in our neighborhood and community throughout 2015.
All together, the community raised $3,000 for SOSea programs and projects, which include:
o SOSea Safety Vehicle: In an effort to keep people safe at night on Capitol Hill, where there has been an increase in bias crime attacks, SOSea launched a neighborhood safety shuttle, a nine-passenger rainbow colored van, that operates Thursday-Sunday, 9 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. Riders are asked to donate to gas and to help pay the driver, insurance and maintenance for the vehicle, however, nobody is charged a fare. In other words you pay what you can; but nobody is turned away if they don't have any cash. The van can be flagged down or you can download the app, which allows you to contact the driver directly, at http://sosea.igenapps.com/safetyshuttle or call (203) 441-7233.
o SOSea Self-Defense Academy: A series of self-defense classes, scheduled once per month, designed for people to begin entry level self-defense and gradually increase their skill level and knowledge through additional classes. We believe in empowerment and an individual's right to protect themselves and others against violent attack. Classes are open to all ages, held on Capitol Hill, and are instructed by world champion martial arts expert and self-defense specialist Mac S. McGregor. Visit www.SocialOutreachSeattle.com for information about when and where the next class will be.
o From the Heart: SOSea's LGBTQ homeless youth/adult outreach program. From the Heart is SOSea's most successful program to date. Quarterly, SOSea raises money, accepts donations, and conducts direct outreach to aid LGBTQ and Allied homeless youth, families and adults who are struggling to survive. To date, we've handed out more than 600 jackets, scarves, winter hats, pairs of gloves, and pants. We also hand out personal hygiene kits, tarps for wet months, feminine hygiene products and more. For more information about how you can help or get involved, go to http://www.socialoutreachseattle.com/?team=ben-haong#!from-the-heart/c1oj3.
It was a banner year for SOSea. After advocating for three years for rainbow crosswalks to be painted in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray ordered 11 crosswalks to be painted rainbow colors days before the 2015 Seattle Pride celebration in June. Our work in self-defense and safety has catapulted the organization into the mainstream conscious of the neighborhood. People cheer and give the thumbs up when the safety vehicle passes them on the street. In fact, last month, I was honored to meet with the U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch at the Northwest African American Museum to discuss community organizing and our work with the Seattle Police Department on reform and LGBTQ safety. Our board of directors consists of a multi-cultural, diverse in age and sexual orientation and gender expression, group of people that work in the Seattle Parks Department, United States Navy, area preschool, nightlife, and more. We enjoy partnerships with Gender Justice League, Washington Hero Initiative, Pride Foundation, and more. We remain a grassroots organization of volunteers that get results, make changes in the neighborhood and community to positively impact the lives of people around us, and there is nothing slowing us down.
No organization can get so much done without making friends and allies with others whose values match our own. In this sense, SOSea has worked with some of the city's most ambitious and outspoken artists, activists, and organizers. On October 1, SOSea was proud to present the following awards:
o Excellence in Leadership: Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
o 2015 Public Safety Award: SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter
o 2015 Transgender Excellence Award: Gunner Scott, PRIDE Foundation/Seattle LGBTQ Commission
o Media Award: Nate Gowdy, Photojournalist, and Jamie Lynn Tompkins, Q13
o 2015 Community Service Award: Brittin Baker, SOSea Safety Shuttle
o 2015 Grassroots Activism Award: John Criscitello, Capitol Hill PSA
o 2015 Community Partner of the Year: Brian Tracey, Empowerment through Education UW
o 2015 Sponsor of the Year: Steamworks Seattle
o 2015 Entertainer of the Year: Grant Cabebe, #LIVING Dance Competition
o Rayo de Sol: LatinRose
o 2015 Race & Social Justice Award: Tyrone Brown, Moral Mondays Seattle University
In addition to receiving his leadership award, out Gay Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen delivered the keynote speech for the evening, local drag legend Aleksa Manila (a founding member of SOSea) hosted the event, and local comedian and out Gay artist Jeffrey Robert did the official ask of the evening for donations. Several entertainers offered performances for the evening including local hip-hop dance crew + ULTRA, Peruvian vocalist Jack Mozie, a SOSea founding member and current board member, Latin music and hip hop recording artist LatinRose, and singer/songwriter Michael Cagle.
Social Outreach Seattle has set a $10,000 fundraising goal from October 1 through October 31. That is less than $1,000 a month to cover our programs and projects. It costs money to do what we do and although we are a nonprofit registered with Washington state, we do not have a million dollar budget, and we are an all-volunteer organization. We receive fiscal sponsorship through Chance Fashion, a local 501(c)(3) organization, so large donations are tax detectable. Moving forward, SOSea is raising money for the programs listed at the beginning of this article, but also for:
o HIV/AIDS Memorial: Seattle has lost thousands of people over the years to the epidemic and there are thousands more who still live with the infection every day. As a way to memorialize the dead and a sign of solidarity with the living, SOSea will raise money for the design and installment of an HIV/AIDS memorial and work with City officials and community advocates to pick a location for the memorial to rest.
o The Legacy Project documentary film: For the last three years, SOSea has conducted, in cooperation with Visual Affairs Media Company, interviews with some of Seattle's pioneers in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Interview subjects include: Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan, GSBA's Louise Chernin, Pride Foundation's Jeffrey Hedgpeth, Ingersoll Gender Center founder Marsha Botzer, Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, and many more. The roughly two-hour documentary film is in the editing phase and is set for a January or February release at a red carpet event in a Seattle theater. The film will then enter the international and national film festival circuit as well as be made available to college and high school GSA's for educational purposes.
o Rainbow Pride Flag and Flagpole 365 days a year: Seattle does not show our Pride year-round. Instead of waiting for once a year, SOSea will model the pride flagpole project after the one that sits outside of the Castro BART Station in San Francisco. While it may be true that Seattle's LGBTQ community is no longer attached to just one neighborhood, it is important to note that Capitol Hill remains the community hub and cultural anchor. Aside from the rainbow crosswalks, this is another way to recognize and honor that space.
These, of course, are just a few of the things SOSea works on throughout the year. If you can, please consider donating to an organization that yields real results. Go to www.SocialOutreachSeattlecom and click on the DONATION tab and follow the prompts to a safe and secure donation today. We thank you in advance for your willingness to help and to make certain that as the city grows, LGBTQ visibility grows with it.
Lastly, SOSea would like to thank, again, all of the volunteers we've had from over the years and the board of directors past and present that have worked hundreds of hours to make this neighborhood, our city and especially our community a better one. If you can help, then do so. If you can work, then lend a hand. If you can feel, then love. At SOSea we believe that 'We Are One Community, Working Together.' If you believe the same and want to help out or have some suggestions or ideas please contact SOSea at SocialOutreachSeattle@gmail.com.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!