Jan. 8 was a great day at my church, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset. Amy Goodman, head of the independent Manhattan-based news organization Democracy Now! gave the sermon at a worship service and then moderated a panel discussion with Veatch grantees. The grantees talked about redoubling their efforts, under a Trump administration, to work for equity and social justice. The Veatch Program is our long-standing grant-making vehicle for funding nonprofits dedicated to systemic change.
Democracy Now!, a longtime Veatch grantee, has grown in the past 20 years from having a program on nine outlets to now being shown on 1,400 public radio and television stations nationally. “It’s because of the hunger for independent voices,” Goodman said of that growth. “What matters is what actions and positions candidates have taken…so you can make a responsible [voting] decision.” She lamented that during the 2016 presidential campaign, “not one journalist [outside of her group] raised the issue of climate change…and yet we have seen a movement grow among climate change [activists] as never before.”
She praised activists over the summer whose protests stalled construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota because of concerns over possible contamination of drinking water and because its route would have taken it through sacred Indian lands. She said members of 200 tribes and others gathered to “say we cannot depend on fossil fuel and an economy that imperils us all.” She said demonstrators handed police bottles of water, saying, “we are protecting this for you and your families.” More than 600 protestors were arrested.
Goodman described the scene as protestors were confronted by dogs, bulldozers and private security officers from Energy Transfer Partners, which is trying to connect a pipeline for fracked oil to existing pipelines in Illinois. “It was terrifying,” she said, adding that film shot by Democracy Now! “got 14 million Facebook views and was shown on every major TV network and on sites around the world.” The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the pipeline, which was to have crossed the Missouri River in several spots, until an environmental impact assessment is done.
Meanwhile, Goodman said, a warrant was issued for her arrest on a charge of rioting, which if upheld in court carries a possible one-year jail sentence. She added that “the judge who had to sign off on it refused to do so.” Goodman said all she is guilty of was filming demonstrations.
Goodman spoke sarcastically of Trump’s conservative cabinet nominees Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions, and said liberals and the independent media must speak up against injustice if the administration tries to roll back the clock on civil rights and environmental protection. “What is most important,” Goodman said, “are the movements that have shaped this country…We’re experiencing the greatest inequality [in personal wealth] that we’ve ever seen…It’s critical that we bring out the voices of these movements. I look forward to building independent media in this country and around the world.”
She compared independent media to the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany and shouted: “Democracy Now! We will not be silent.”
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The panel discussion included heads of Veatch grantees Lisa Abbott of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; and Cristina Jimenez of United We Dream. Jimenez said her father’s wages were stolen when he worked for a Queens car wash, and since he was an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant, he had nowhere to go for help. That experience fueled Cristina’s activism; she was part of the committee that led to President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which protects more than 1 million young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The program could be threatened under Trump. “A lot of communities live in fear,” Jimenez said, “and the fear is real.”
Dorfman described responsible philanthropy as “philanthropy that’s responsive to the people with the least wealth.” He added of liberals, “we’re going to be playing a lot of defense on the national level, trying to prevent things from happening…resisting the more harmful elements of Trump’s agenda.” He said the Veatch Program “is the single best national giving program in the U.S…The return on its investment is 115 to 1…It’s really, really good philanthropy.”
The NCRP offered “5 Ways Foundations and Donors Can Combat the Trump Agenda”:
*Invest in broad-based resistance with groups that have the resources to win.
*Use grants and donations to protect and defend the most vulnerable.
*Fortify our nation’s civic engagement infrastructure.
*Collaborate with other donors who share your values.
*Lead with love.
The panelists said issues such as environment justice, immigrants’ rights, health care, reproductive rights and voting rights are connected. “We really need a broad resistance, an ecosystem of organizations which are resisting the worst aspects of Trump’s agenda.”
Goodman said of Democracy Now!’s role, “We broadcast live daily in New York at 8 a.m. on 99.5 FM. It’s important to get accurate information from leaders of grassroots organizations all over the country and the world.”
Abbott urged funders to “invest in women’s leadership and the men who are within our movement. In climate justice, women are providing leadership with a courageous vision. Don’t forget the needs of working class women – health care, day care, a living wage, etc. Talk to your neighbors and friends about important issues.”
Cristina said, “It all comes down to people’s stories, people’s emotions, people’s hearts. Through telling our stories, you find common ground.” She said in Houston, Texas, a cross-community group gained traction in two years as a lobbying force. “It’s not impossible,” she said, “but it’s hard work. And it can lead to accelerated change.”
I am a 1966 graduate of Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY. I graduated from Nassau Community College in 1968 and Hofstra University in 1970. I was a sports reporter at Newsday from 1966-1999, covering 5 Super Bowls and 9 Stanley Cup Finals. I was a features desk copy editor from 2000 to Dec. 31, 2014, when I retired. I am married to Lynn, a social worker, since April 9, 1978, We have one son, Peter, 33, an air traffic controller in Ohio.