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


Voices of 3 fast food workers going to Chicago convention

by Granate Sosnoff on 6th August, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.40.59 PM

via Oakland Local – Was my honor to talk with these inspiring young people.

Meet three from Oakland who attended a national convention of fast food workers in Chicago with about 1,300 others July 26-27. Their movement for $15-an-hour wages and a union has helped bring national attention to extreme income inequality from a workers’ perspective. Recently, the NAACP announced unanimous endorsement of the $15-an-hour fight. Since fast food workers first walked off their jobs in New York City in November 2012, the campaign has spread across the country and internationally.ronnie2-752x1024


Rhonesha Victor is 24 years old, a skilled photographer, and finishing an AA degree at Laney Community College. She works at a KFC/Taco Bell in Oakland. She was drawn to the fast food movement early on in the organizing in the East Bay and has been involved with the fast food workers for two years. One of her chief motivators is the responsibility she has for elderly parents, who she cares deeply about.

“They don’t have any other people. $15 an hour would allow me to go to the store and buy groceries. Right now I go to the food bank. Both my parents are disabled and haven’t worked for over ten years. I would love to have a car to go to the places we need to go. When the transmissions went out in our cars, we had to sell them … I am no one’s charity case. I work and should be able to support myself.”

When asked about going to the first-ever fast food convention in Chicago, Ronnie said, “I’m excited about going to Chicago specifically to talk with more African-American women involved in this work. I feel really strong about this campaign and believe that we can make a change. It just takes people getting up and doing something.”


Zharia Harper is 18 years old and a recent graduate from Berkeley High. While Zharia was completing school in June, her mom was finishing up a program to become a pharmaceutical technician. The certification hours didn’t allow her mother to work, so Zharia’s $8-an-hour paycheck from McDonald’s had to cover their rent and bills. Of this difficult month, Zharia says “June was hard, it was really something.”

Zharia is a gifted dancer and part of an African dance performance group. She is attending Laney Community College in the fall and plans to transfer to a 4-year university where she can study environmental agriculture and politics. She’s been working at McDonald’s for about a year and became involved with the East Bay Fast Food Workers through a coworker.

Zharia started going to meetings and learning about the struggle for a $15 wage and the right to organize. This all made sense to her, especially given how hard it is for she and her mom (who currently also works for minimum wage pending her certification) to make ends meet.

Zharia is a straight-shooter. She has had one run-in with management at McDonald’s when she tried to do the right thing (after forgetting to clock out) but was threatened with suspension for a week because the work climate is one of “guilty before proven innocent.” In the end, Zharia was vindicated, but it was an eye-opener.

When asked what $15 an hour would mean to her, Zharia said, “$15 would make a huge difference. It would help with college. I could put money aside. I could help my mom. I’m 18 and McDonald’s is my first job, but I’m not this imaginary worker happy with minimum wage. I’m fighting for $15 for now and for the future.”

Going to Chicago is a milestone. It is the first-ever nationwide fast food workers convention and it’s also the first time Zharia has ever been on a plane. She looks forward to hearing the stories of other workers and meeting new people like her who want to change things.


Chris Higgenbotham was born and raised in Oakland. Chris is a recent graduate of Morehouse College, class of 2013 (English Major, concentration in film and journalism) and teaches high school history at Patten Academy, a private school. He’s in the process of getting his teaching credential. Chris is actively involved in the community (volunteers at youth centers, homeless shelters and coaches basketball) and works part-time at McDonald’s in Oakland to supplement his teacher’s pay. He’s worked for McDonald’s while in college and during breaks for a total of 5 years.

When asked why he’s going to Chicago for the convention Chris had this to say: “I’m going to the Chicago fast food worker convention because it’s not just about one city – it’s for all of us working in the industry to have a chance for the American dream. The government, everyone, tells us that we can achieve this dream… but since we don’t get paid right and don’t have sick days, we are highly disadvantaged compared to other industries. We just want the same benefits as others, to strive for ourselves and our families. We’re working just as hard and making sure that McDonald’s has huge profits, so we should benefit more from those profits – because they are ridiculous.”


#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.


Meanwhile Ronald McDonald gets a makeover and a twitter account

by Granate Sosnoff on 27th April, 2014



While Ronald McDonald was getting a makeover, put out this report showing the fast food industry leading the nation in income inequality. Fast food CEOs make about 1,000 times ($26.7 million a year) more than their average workers. This report comes on the heels of numerous “wage theft” cases around the country where individuals were forced to work overtime, through their breaks, or otherwise off-the-clock for no pay. A recent survey showed that close to 90% of fast food workers experience some form of wage theft. Cases have been settled in New York with McDonald’s and Domino’s and there are four cases pending against McDonald’s in the East Bay.

Fast food workers are organizing for fair wages, $15 an hour, and a union.


Fast Food Workers – Social Media Share

by Granate Sosnoff on 3rd April, 2014

Partnering with this fast-breaking campaign mostly with social media. We’ve been successful with bumping up engagement by about a thousand percent and audience up by over a third and still building… some of our artier posts here. The workers are fighting against widespread wage theft in the industry with lawsuits across the country and for $15 and a union.

rmh-2 4





Tight pants are good for the revolution: Russell Brand

by Granate Sosnoff on 26th October, 2013

The last time we heard this much talk about a revolution, from British celebrity, it was the Beatles.

Actor and comic Russell Brand’s recent “revolution” video interview was a refreshing critique of the powers that be and struck a chord with many – judging by the millions of views. His protest against voting as “tacit complicity” in a nonworking political system that “administrates for corporate interests” was much more cogent than what I could come up with in college. (I voted anyway.)

The power of our vote to create change gets sold to us every four years or so and delivers, in Brand’s view, incremental changes within an existing “failed paradigm.”

I enjoyed hearing this passionate and intelligent extremism from a celebrity with a large audience. His defense of facetiousness and reference to “Prius-owning” offered bonus and entertaining critique.

If you haven’t heard this rare shake up of the status quo, including the word “revolution” without association with a product or service, here it is. Brand isn’t playing spokesperson or do-gooder, the interview is unscripted and that’s part of it’s power.

“I am angry, I am angry because for me it’s real, for me it’s not just some peripheral thing that I turn up once in a while to a church bake for. For me this is where I come from, this is what I care about… this is time to wake up.”
(Excerpt from interview.)

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.

An app to figure out which petitions are for you

by Granate Sosnoff on 18th March, 2013


Kinder eggs v tomato

I need a child genius to create an app to figure out which petitions have legs and which ones are just hurting my wrist.

Nearly every day there’s a gigantic new problem looming that requires my clicking and double-clicking and autofilling only to get to a place that asks for info I don’t want to give out and then (oh crap) I’ll decide NOT to sign the thing but then feel guilty so I do (and unsubscribe later).

Honestly, I’m happy about all the activism, but are these petitions moving a well thought-out agenda for change or just some tomatoes getting thrown? And in some cases maybe only a largish strawberry.

Even the White House is trying to streamline how they get petitioned and has set up their own petition site: We the People. It doesn’t seem to be catching on yet though.

One of the petitions, Lift Ban on Kinder Eggs a chocolate from Italy that has a small toy inside is this close to getting 800 signatures but far away from their 100,000 goal. More important sounding petitions like “End Corruption in Congress” seems like something we can all get behind, unless there’s a “Pro-corruption” angle I’ve missed.

P.S. YES – sign things! But your best nonprofits, activists, networks, etc. should have an accompanying campaign strategy backing it up.

You’re best off with a progressive petition site like which has activist roots as a spin-off from MoveOn. The campaign for mandatory labeling for GE foods is a good example of activism with a targeted campaign, growing popular support and multiple nonprofit partners working together.

The petition: “Tell the FDA we have a right to know what’s in our food.” Is authored by Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation” and co-producer of “Food, Inc.”) and the president of Stonyfield Yogurt, Gary Hirshberg.


Targeting indifference: Extending “see something – say something” to gender-based violence

by Granate Sosnoff on 15th January, 2013
Michael Nodianos, 18, was intoxicated when he participated in a vile video in which he mocks the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl last August. The video resurfaced last week after a hacktivist group posted it on YouTube.

Michael Nodianos, 18, participated in a video in which he mocks the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl last August. The video resurfaced last week after a hacktivist group posted it on YouTube.

The good people of Steubenville, Ohio are in the middle of a modern-day gang rape case that is disheartening in a number of ways. What strikes me about the story are the displays of indifference to the drugging, dragging and public gang rape of the 16-year-old West Virginian girl this past August.

This guy (see image) should be replaced with another guy. The guy I want to read about is the guy who sends his video to the police the night of the event and calls and reports the crime.

The parents I want to read about are the parents who say, “yes, well, we raised him to be a responsible ally, it’s no wonder he did what he did.”

We need a better strategy to engage bystanders when it comes to sexual violence so that when they see something – they actually “say something.”

As the story deepens (see New Yorker article) we learn that this isn’t the first time something as cruel, vicious and illegal has happened around Steubenville High (or other schools for that matter).

“Peer pressure” is something we made fun of when I was a teen but it’s at the crux of indifference to violent crime and probably why, given the many people who had opportunities to intervene, they did nothing.

The enormously popular author, Stieg Larson, who wrote the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series fell victim to it as a teen.

Mr. Larson witnessed the gang rape of a girl, a real-life Lisbeth, by his friends. He didn’t intervene, and according to his longtime friend, this inaction haunted him the rest of his days.

Given the long life of a story on the web, I can only imagine Michael Nodianos’s future regret.

He could have been a hero.

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