How can we get the defense of Black churches on the gay agenda?

by Granate Sosnoff on 15th July, 2015

gay agenda

The power of the rainbow is in full glow this summer. The significance of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is concretely meaningful for so many, and symbolically meaningful to everyone.

#LoveWins this summer, but not for everyone and not if you plan to get married in a Black church. Because it is a summer of hate this year as well.

Parallel to the civil rights victory of same-sex marriage is a growing state of emergency of violence against Black people in the U.S. Late this June, eight African-American churches were set on fire in a period of ten days in the South. It is a time of terror.

Race-motivated crimes are at a boiling point in this country. The church burnings, together with the race-hatred murders committed by Dylann Roof, and the ongoing and undocumented police murders and brutality of African Americans is bringing combatting racism to a priority need for any political group concerned about human rights.

A gigantic item is getting checked off for LGBT advocacy groups. Winning same-sex marriage in the highest court of the land is historic, but for many in this community it is also a relief to be able to shift gears and move on.

But there is no published gay agenda. And if there were, it would be created by leadership in organizations who do not always reflect our gender and racial diversity.

One of the largest and most powerful LGBT political groups is Human Rights Campaign, a group recently confirmed through their own commissioned report as riddled with discrimination and diversity problems, and essentially a “white men’s club.”

At this historic moment, where #LoveWins it would be an incredible shift to intentionally put LGBT money and power in support of Black organizing.

Without losing the mission of focusing on LGBT rights and equality… organizations have an opportunity to extend at this time and become real allies in the fight against police brutality, racially-motivated hate crimes, the burning of Black churches and other terrorism targeting Black lives and Black freedom.

Because we are not all white and male and in charge.

In the tradition of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, and so many other Black LGBTs we stand on the shoulders of, the gay political powerbase that’s emerged should find a supportive way to step into this battle and unleash some gay power into this arena in a meaningful way.

Granate Sosnoff is a Bay Area writer who directs Southpaw, a social change communications group supporting advocacy and social justice. @granate


#Palestine #Gaza

by Granate Sosnoff on 17th July, 2014

Getting slain by the slowness of change.


In 2009 we created this HOPE art for Jewish Voice for Peace after a horrendous round of bombing in Gaza. Since then many more bombings… and now  the current onslaught. The US plays a pivotal role as a chief supplier of arms to Israel. But more and more the voices for justice are overpowering the voices of reactionary defense of Israel. Our growing dissent in the US and a new movement for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel — until compliance with international law — will prevail. The occupation has to end in Palestine. There are fears about anti-semitism and there is real anti-semitism but neither should prevent justice for Palestinians.


Thanksgiving and the modern land grab

by Granate Sosnoff on 28th November, 2013
Photo of Papua New Guinea logging operations from the film On Our Land from the Oakland Institute.

Photo of Papua New Guinea logging operations from the film On Our Land from the Oakland Institute.

Reposted from Oakland Localol-logo-1

In a short while most of America will sit down to a hearty meal commemorating the human kindness of Native Americans towards settlers to the new world. We celebrate the practice of being grateful while toasting glasses and carrying on.

Yet it’s hard to celebrate the beginning of the end of land and other rights for Native Americans.

Far from wanting to wreck a day for gratitude, I ask you to consider the parallels of what occurred in the U.S. a few hundred years ago and what’s happening right now in regards to land grabs, and to devote a small part of your day to questioning how and why we should challenge this.

The modern land grab is occurring

in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, and many areas in the Global South. Land is being unfairly taken, not by settlers, but by corporations in search of fast money and fertile ground often for biofuel crops. Depending on the source, estimates put large-scale land acquisitions at between 20-60 million hectares, (minimally the size of Texas, 50 times over).

Some of the corporations feign green agendas and use the language of environmental sustainability to acquire land. One such group, Herakles Farms in Cameroon, proposes cutting down old-growth rainforest to plant palm oil trees in a quest for sustainability. Many local people aren’t buying this convoluted logic or the development strategy and are working to stop the deal.

In Papua New Guinea, where the Constitution protects customary land rights, residents are being coerced into signing away their heritage by a government whose strategy is to unlock land so that the country can progress. Even after admitting to widespread failure, in a process riddled with corruption and deception, the government continues with a development strategy that gives foreign companies bloated rights to log and destroy rainforest.

This kind of global activity by governments and corporations can feel unstoppable. But it isn’t.

For example, in Tanzania, AgriSol Energy was in deep negotiations with the government to move 172,000 people so that the company could develop an area already thriving with small farms, markets, and community. After the Oakland Institute, an independent think tank, brought attention to the ugly realities of the deal, it fell apart, and 172,000 people remain in their homes, on their land.

In the current global land rush, many stories of unoccupied, un-owned lands available for development are false, and echo the idea of empty lands discovered and taken in America.

At Thanksgiving time as I eat a familiar meal and think about some of the dark history of this country and what it all means I will also feel gratitude. Not just for human kindness, but also for persistence, and the work of people all over who stand up to injustice and do what seems undoable. I will feel gratitude worthy of a whole new holiday.

UN ad campaign on women

by Granate Sosnoff on 23rd October, 2013
TAGS: , ,

Campaign so worth checking out – Actual Google autocomplete results. Take a look.

UN ad campaign

Selling a better world

by Granate Sosnoff on 21st March, 2013


No – Official Trailer (HD) Christopher Reeve, Gael García Bernal – YouTube.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. This is your brain on drugs. Just say no. You’ve come a long way baby.

I have a love/hate relationship with slogans. Trapped behind a Volvo in Berkeley and faced with the bumper sticker “War is never the answer” my response is: what if the crossword is a three-letter word for extended battle?

In the right context, slogans and iconic imagery do some heavy lifting in getting messages across and motivating a crowd.

If you want to see that in action or if you have any interest in communications for advocacy, please go see “No,” the Oscar-nominated film about an ad man’s social marketing campaign that helped end Pinochet’s reign of terror in Chile.

Brief history: Pinochet’s brutal 17-year regime started after a U.S. supported military coup that overthrew and caused the death of Salvador Allende, the first elected Marxist president in Latin America. Pinochet’s military dictatorship was notorious for torture, murder and corruption.

But “No” isn’t a continuation of “Missing,” it’s a story about an ad man with a leftist background who gets talked into producing a series of 15 minute segments for late night television to combat the government’s dominant messaging and control of the media.

It’s a one-time opportunity leading up to a yes/no referendum for Pinochet. And even though it’s widely held that the election will be rigged, bystanders from the West are watching, and there is hope for change.

Prior to engaging the ad exec, the allied social democrats and leftists produce a moving docudrama that shows the violence, repression, and suffering they believe will motivate the masses to come out and say “no.”

The ad exec pooh poohs the effort and states: “esto no vende.” That doesn’t sell.

Much to the chagrin of the stalwart leftists involved, he then produces a spot that at first looks a little cheesy (it is set in the 80s) – think Coke meets New Freedom mini-pads, with a catchy jingle.

The rest is storybook, movie history. The ad man takes the aspirational slogan-jingle “Chile, Happiness is Coming” to a battle cry level, infuses the creative with more meaningful content and inspires a majority to give showing up a chance and saying no a try.*

For people involved in advocacy communications it’s a potent reminder to keep asking: What will motivate your audience? What are you offering them?

After almost two decades of murder, disappearances and repression, an ad man in Chile played a pivotal role in changing history with a catchy jingle, rainbow logo, people on horseback and scenes of a bucolic picnic. That’s a powerful tale for progressives here.

The movie showed a winning strategy that combined both the ugly truths (images of loss and repression) within a frame of smart motivation (hope for a happy future) to get to a new dawn moment.


*No, it’s not exactly how it happened, but it’s one aspect of the winning campaign. Apparently the filmmaker got some flak (NY Times article). But it’s a good movie and the message is worth heeding.

May 17 – Prior to Obama’s meeting with African Leaders

by Granate Sosnoff on 4th June, 2012

Investing in hunger: Africa

This Saturday President Obama will meet with African leaders to discuss food security at Camp David. One thing they probably won’t discuss is the role of foreign investment in causing food insecurity.

Most of us know that the US offers huge amounts of aid to governments like Ethiopia (over a billion a year since 2007) including funds for famine relief. What we don’t all know is that at the same time that we taxpayers and donors are giving aid to help African nations, American investors are hindering Africa’s food production by accumulating fertile, breadbasket lands there.

Investing in agricultural projects in Africa that provide food or jobs to buy food would make sense. But investors aren’t supporting the production of staple foods like cassava and maize for sale in African markets. They’re making money off growing exports like sugar in Ethiopia and palm oil in Sierra Leone and creating very few new jobs.

The World Bank has facilitated this process as it continues to promote a welcoming investor climate as the road to successful development. Unlikely investors such as university endowments, pension funds, and foundations are drawn to both the promise of 25% returns and the added flash of supporting development and responsible agriculture.

Critics of the World Bank’s strategy, say that they are not opposed to investment that is actually responsible. They argue that promises of infrastructure and jobs have not been realized. And what should be a boost to African communities has instead only added to existing problems.

Tragically, land deals have had a deep downside in Africa. Including the fact that huge groups of people have to be displaced to make way for them.

In Ethiopia, 70,000 are being forcibly moved in Gambella. The government has said that people are going willingly to new villages where promises of schools, health care and food await. But Human Rights Watch, the Oakland Institute and other NGOs have documented that this is hardly the case. They found that the ongoing displacement has been fraught with violence and coercion and that promises of benefits have gone unrealized.

The World Bank estimates that more than 96 million acres, an area the size of France, is engaged in land deals. Much of this land was previously occupied by villages and utilized for food production.

Take Tanzania for example. AgriSol Energy’s website markets their partnership of American technology and know-how to help underdeveloped global locations.

The reality is that some of the land AgriSol intends to develop is home to thriving, robust communities successfully producing food for themselves and nearby villages. AgriSol’s deal is reliant on moving 162,000 people. Bad press and ugly events on the ground has prompted Iowa State University, a key partner in the charade of responsible agro-investing, to pull out entirely.

What the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, found in investigations of fifty land deals in seven countries is that investors are in Africa to make a lot of money, not improve the lives of Africans.

Simply put, foreign investors are taking some of the choicest lands in Africa and offering little in return. This ceding of Africa’s fertile lands is not only unfair it is laying the groundwork for fresh tragedy as small farmers are being forced off their lands and losing the ability to provide food for themselves and their communities.

It makes little sense to promote this kind of investment in Africa. It displaces communities who then add to the ranks of those already dependent on foreign aid.

It’s one of those win-lose-lose situations: investors get huge returns on their investments; Africans lose their land; and taxpayers and donors pay for more aid.

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