All posts by Sally Archambault

NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services and Napa Valley College Team Up for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 15, 2019
For Immediate Release
Media Contacts:
Karen Calhoun (707) 252 – 3687
Email: karenc@napanews.org

NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services and Napa Valley College Team Upfor Sexual Assault Awareness Month

(Napa, CA – April 15, 2019) – Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), recognized each April, aims to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.   NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse services is committed to reducing incidents of sexual violence in Napa County while providing victims and survivors with support services.  In recognizing that sexual violence is a community issue, NEWS will be engaging the community in prevention and awareness campaigns throughout the month of April.  This year, NEWS partnered with the Napa Valley College SAVE Taskforce to bring two notable SAAM events to the college campus.

“What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation comes to Napa

A survivor art installation entitled “What Were You Wearing?” will be available for viewing from April 2nd to April 26th on the Napa Valley College campus. The installation is open to the public and will be displayed in the lobby of the 1500 and 1300 buildings.   In collaboration with NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services and the Napa Valley College SaVE Taskforce, this exhibit is the first of its kind in Napa.

“What Were You Wearing?” has been curated on college campuses across the country featuring outfits recreated from the stories of student sexual assault survivors.  The project is inspired by a poem written by Dr. Mary Simmerling entitled What I Was Wearing, which details the outfit she was wearing when she was sexually assaulted: a white t-shirt and a knee-length denim skirt. Her poem will be on display throughout the showing.

Napa Valley College and NEWS are fortunate to present this recreation with permission from the original creators and the stories utilized were donated by survivors and used with their consent.  This installation provides a tangible response to one of our culture’s most pervasive sexual assault myths and asks participants to understand that sexual assault is never about the clothing.  The act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors.  This violation is not simply woven into the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor’s new narrative.

“If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes.  Instead it requires all of us to evaluate what enables us as individuals and as a society to ask, “what were you wearing?” in the first place.  NEWS is honored for the opportunity to collaborate with Napa Valley College and bring this powerful survivor art installation to the campus.  The hope is that it will be a learning experience where those viewing the exhibit will formulate healthy attitudes and beliefs regarding the common “clothing causes sexual violence” sexual assault myth.” – said Heather Bailie, SAVS Outreach and Education Program Manager.

One of the goals of the Installation is for participants to see themselves reflected in not only the outfits, but also the stories.  This realization moves us away from blaming the victim for violence and places responsibility where it belongs, on those who cause harm.  The hope is that survivors who experience the Installation feel heard, validated, believed, and know that the assault was not their fault.

“Sexual violence is a very real problem on every college campus.  It is important for us as a college and Napa as a community to continue to do its part to fight against it.  Napa Valley College is excited to partner with NEWS on bringing the powerful and impactful “What Were you Wearing?” Survivor Art

Installation to Napa.  The hope is to continue to open people’s eyes about sexual violence, remind them that this problem exists everywhere, and help victims know they are not alone and that we support them and their battle to rise above.”- said Amber Wade, Chief of Police, Napa Valley College.

Still We Rise Survivor Art Exhibit and Reception

Join NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services for an artful journey of healing and empowerment in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  On Tuesday, April 30th from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the Napa Valley College Community Room #1731, an art exhibit and reception will celebrate the courage and resilience of local survivors.

United through a shared mission of rising above trauma, survivor art offers a voice to the unspoken realities of our time.  Participants from NEWS’ Writing Ourselves Whole writing workshop and the Kintsugi Healing Art workshop will display their artwork and artwork submitted by local survivors and allieswill be on display.

At the reception, NEWS will recognize champions in the Napa community who demonstrate outstanding service to end sexual violence and support survivors.  Because of their hard work and extraordinary commitment to survivors of sexual violence, NEWS is honoring many individuals from the Napa community with Teal Ribbon Awards.

Still We Rise Survivors Art Exhibit and Reception is free to the public and complimentary food and wine will be served.

According to US National Statistics –

  • One in five women and one in seventy one men in the US will be raped at some time in their lives.
  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • 20% – 25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college.
  • Rape is the most underreported crime. 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, NEWS and the Napa Valley College SaVE Taskforce are collaborating to provide advanced advocacy for victims of crime.  They both share an interest in and are providing preventative and supportive services to those impacted by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault regardless of gender, race, age, religion, ability, sexual orientation, etc.  This collaboration increases access to services and improves awareness on campus and in the community.

Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent).A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual coercion.  Sexual violence can be carried out by other students, school employees or third parties.   All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.

About NEWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

NEWS was formed in 1981 when a group of community members realized there was no safe place for women and children to go when they were fleeing abuse at home.  Volunteers had been taking battered women and their children into their own homes to protect them, and the need for a safe shelter was clear.  Our founders worked in partnership with local leaders to acquire a house where women and children could find safety and support, and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Today NEWS has grown into a strong organization with a dedicated group of staff and volunteer domestic violence and sexual assault counselors, providing direct client services as well as shelter 24 hours a day/7 days a week, to approximately 1200 people each year.  We work on prevention through education and outreach programs.

The NEWS Board of Directors is a group of leaders from a wide cross-section of the Napa community, providing governance and support to help NEWS meet its mission.  They give their time, talents, andsupport to keep NEWS going strong, always guided by the belief that everyone deserves a safe place to call home.

About Napa Valley College SaVE Taskforce

Members of the Napa Valley College community, guests and visitors have the right to be free from sexual violence.  The SaVE Taskforce consists of both campus and community representatives who meet monthly to discuss policy and bring information to the campus regarding sexual harassment, domestic violence, stalking, dating violence and sexual assault.  The SaVE Taskforce endeavors that students and employees receive support service awareness, on-going education, prevention information and develops campus programming intended to stop sexual violence.

CONTACTS:

Heather Bailie, SAVS Outreach and Education Program Manager
1141 Pear Tree Lane Ste. 220
Napa, Ca 94559
Email: bailieh@napanews.org
Phone: 707 – 252 – 3687

Amber Wade, Chief of Police, Napa Valley College
2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway
Napa, Ca 94558
Email: awade@napavalley.edu
Phone: 707 – 256 – 7771



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Support Al Otro Lado’s Vida Libre Bond Fund!

The Vida Libre Bond Fund is a revolving bond fund for asylum seekers, migrants and refugees being held in detention centers. Bail is often set well beyond the means of our clients, most of whom represent the most impoverished and vulnerable populations. Because they can’t pay bail, our clients are forced to wait in detention where essential medical care is inept, emotional, verbal and even sexual abuse occurs regularly, and access to legal counsel is severely limited. It’s a for-profit system designed to break the human spirit.

The Vida Libre Bond Fund will pay for our clients’ bail and offers one of the few ways that they can be restored a sense of dignity and autonomy, and fight for just immigration proceedings. We believe freedom is a basic human right and not a privilege only accessible to the wealthy. Once our clients meet all legal obligations in their final immigration hearing, their bond can be refunded, and that money goes back into the Vida Libre Bond Fund to help more people and families!

We would love if you could consider a recurring monthly donation, however we are grateful for any amount. Click on the link to donate and please share!

Loving shout out to Ashluka for designing this graphic for us!

https://alotrolado.networkforgood.com/projects/68785-vida-libre-bond-fund

Al Otro Lado is  a bi-national, non-profit organization, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico. The bulk of our services are immigration-related.

WEBSITE:   alotrolado.org

FACEBOOK:  @AlOtroLadoOrg



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Start Texting with Resistance Labs

It’s not too early to get involved.  You might even say it’s the best time!  People are throwing their hats into the ring for the 2020 race and when things heat up, you can be ready!

There are always issues coming up – with or without the 2020 race.

If you haven’t texted before, try it now.  It really is easy.  And Resistance Labs does everything they can to make it as easy as possible.

Click here to sign up for a shift and find out more.



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Volunteers Need for Women’s March Napa Valley

In preparation for the upcoming Anniversary March on Saturday, January 19th,  Women’s March Napa Valley needs your support as a volunteer for the following duties:  1) Safety & Security and 2) Chant Ringleaders.  Grab your friends and support the March!  For your service, you’ll receive a March Third Anniversary hat — yours to keep.

WMNV March - Security & SafetySafety & Security will handle:  Route Monitoring, Safety and Clean Up.  We need 30-40 Volunteers for this group.  Volunteer training will be: Tuesday January 15th,  5:30pm- 6:15pm, at WorkMix (950 Randolph St., downtown Napa).  Volunteers will provide a presence at the 5 intersections along 3rd St, with 2-3 volunteers on each side of each block.  To signup or ask questions, contact Ernie Weir, “Minister of Security” at ernieweir@gmail.com.

Chant Ringleaders will WMNV March Chanting & Singing with Melanie deMooremingle through the March and lead call⁄response chants. We need 20-30 enthusiastic Volunteers for this group.  Volunteer training will be  Wednesday, January 9th, from 5:30-7:00pm (two 45 minutes sessions)  at WorkMix (950 Randolph St., downtown Napa).    To signup or ask questions, contact Antonia, “Mistress of Ringleaders” at alandels@ppnorcal.org



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

VOTE for California Assembly District Delegates

ALL Napa Democrats are invited to take part in the ADEM elections that will be held on Jan 13th.   Activists are vying for this delegate to the California Democratic Party position including 4 NCDCC members: Ricky Hurtado, Karen McNair, Esperanza Padilla, and G. Anthony Phillips.

ADEM delegates from the 80 California Assembly Districts make up 1/3rd of the delegates to the California Democratic Party convention. They are also eligible to be appointed on the subcommittees of the CDP.  These subcommittees include legislation, platform, resolutions, rules and several others. Your vote for Napa activists that will be on the ballot can help to direct the actions of these subcommittees and the CDP in general. Also, many of these delegates will be motivated to seek to be a delegate to the Democratic Party National Convention. With your vote Napa has the opportunity to insure they “are in the room where it happens”. (Thanks to Hamilton!)

AD4 election is 10 AM Jan 13 @ IBEW 180 and 10:30 AM @Veterans Memorial Center in Davis.

Our NCDCC candidates are part of a slate, the Rural Progressive Alliance for AD4. All RPA slate candidates would appreciate your vote. Please see their facebook page for more info on the slate candidates.

COME VOTE if you live in District 4 (if Bill Dodd is your California State Senator, you live in District 4).

Read more at the Event Listing.



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The #365 Hats Project: Crafting a message, one knitted hat at a time

Evy Warshawski The Arts Landscape: The #365 Hats Project: Crafting a message, one knitted hat at a time

Napa resident Evelyn Zlomke, a nurse educator by profession, is also an activist and an avid knitter since age 12. She’s knitted pink pussy hats for the past two Women’s Marches, as gifts for speakers and special guests including Rep. Mike Thompson, and taught others how to knit them as well.

After the last local Women’s March on Jan. 20, 2018, Zlomke came up with the “#365 Hats Project.” She decided to knit a hat a day until the third annual March, taking place in downtown Napa on Jan. 19.

“When it was first conceived,” she said, “I realized I could knit one hat in an hour, and that’s a commitment I could keep. Even if I get behind, I can get ahead.”

When I visited the Zlomke house a few weeks ago, 13 large boxes of completed hats, all with those familiar pussycat ears, were waiting to be unpacked and stacked on the dining room table for photographing. Only 19 were left to knit before the year-end deadline.

Except for size and pattern, based on the original pussy hat design, each hat is colorfully and thematically unique. (One size fits all suitable for men, women and children.) Slips of square white paper inside each are numbered and descriptive. Zlomke can recall her inspiration and yarn choices for each hat on sight.

I was privy to a preview of the combined contents of three full boxes and in awe of Zlomke’s creativity, knitting expertise (she uses from two to seven yarns at a time) and breadth of topic inclusion. Each day’s knitted hat, embodying complex, complementary-colored patterns, was been created “in honor of” or a “remembrance to.” There’s power in numbers here.

“I started out as prosaic, but got more political, depending upon what was happening in the news,” Zlomke said.

Subject matter drives the colors selected by Zlomke, who said she is grateful for multi-year donations of yarns from Yarns on First plus friends Terry Beck and Vicki Green. For example: purple denotes domestic violence; peace is green; orange signifies gun violence; blue evokes science, oceans and environmental action and consciousness. A deep red embodies women’s heart health and a nod to indigenous women who have, in Zlomke’s words, “never found justice.”

There are also hats that pay tribute to the 9/11 Memorial, Thanksgiving, mermaids, Halloween, the global climate summit action, Chanukah, the #MeToo movement and Betty Reid Soskin, a 96-year-old ranger with the National Park Service.

There are two upcoming opportunities to meet Zlomke and her hats.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Napa Main Library Community Room, all hats will be on display and available for adoption. This event is held in support of three nonprofits that focus on women’s issues: Napa Valley Women’s March, Northern California Planned Parenthood and Napa Valley Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. For information, email 365hatsproject@gmail.com or call (707) 255-5370.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, at 9 a.m., Zlomke will be selling her hats to keep you warm at an outdoor table in the Sullivan Parking Lot, at 725 Coombs St., as part of Women’s March Napa Valley. All proceeds support Women’s March expenses. For information, visit womensmarchnapavalley.org.

“Any hats left,” says Zlomke, “will be donated to Syrian refugees in Greece.”

After knitting 365 hats, Zlomke is contemplating her next project to use up leftover yarn.

“I may be knitting dolls, knitting for peace – a doll a day, who knows,” she said. “The dolls would be ‘comfort dolls’ for refugee kids in Central America. A lot of them have lost everything.”

“I started out as prosaic, but got more political, depending upon what was happening in the news.” Evelyn Zlomke, a nurse educator by profession, activist and avid knitter from Napa



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

EJ Bradford was shot in the back trying to help people.

It’s a different day but the same painful story–police have murdered another Black person. This time it was 21-year old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. On Thanksgiving evening, the sounds of gunfire caused chaos at Riverchase Galleria, a shopping mall in Hoover, Alabama.1 An off-duty police officer wrongfully assumed EJ was the shooter and killed him.2 Not only is EJ’s family left distraught and without a son, but the family is not getting any clear answers from the Hoover Police Department about what happened. Right after the killing of EJ, Hoover Police Department Captain Gregg Rector said: “the man who fired was confronted by officers as he tried to flee.”3

Emantic Bradford Jr. did nothing wrong but Hoover police killed him anyway.

This is where the Hoover Police’s lies start to unravel: The day after the shooting, the police issued a statement saying “one of the officers encountered a suspect brandishing a pistol and shot him.”4 Then later that same day, the Hoover police issued another statement admitting that there’s evidence that EJ was not the shooter. The next week, police issued another statement saying, “With certainty, Mr. Bradford brandished a gun during the seconds following the gunshots.”5 Eventually, the police backtracked again and stated EJ wasn’t brandishing a gun at all–and autopsy reports confirmed he was shot in the back.6 The failure to hold police accountable is and has been killing us. For years, our communities fought back against the lies and damage police violence has caused, putting immense pressure on law enforcement leaders to better hold police accountable. And just recently, after Color Of Change members stood with the Dallas community and the family of Botham Jean, his killer Amber Guyger was finally charged with murder. When we stand up for justice, we can win–and that’s why we must continue this fight. While the investigation is in the hands of the state, it is still up the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office to file the charges. Right now, we must build up the pressure on newly elected Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr to do the right thing and bring charges against the Hoover police officers who murdered EJ.

Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr must turn his words into action: EJ deserves justice.

Jefferson County, Alabama District Attorney Danny Carr has become the first Black person elected to this position after beating 35-year incumbent Mike Anderton. But this new DA has already worked in the Jefferson County DA’s office since 2000, under Mike Anderton’s leadership. DA Carr has said that fairness and transparency are his top priorities — we must hold him accountable to his words. DA Carr still must prove he can do what’s right.

The police killing of Emantic Bradford Jr. is just another heartbreaking reminder that Black people are constantly seen as targets and threats in this country — even when making the sacrifice to protect others. Cops wield lethal weapons and openly hide behind their badges. But when Black people legally carry weapons, their right to bear arms is stripped away with the threat of death. According to EJ’s family, he likely had a gun with him as a form of protection. Alabama is one of 45 states that have an open-carry law.7 Yet police saw EJ as a threat and assumed he was the gunman. Just two weeks ago, Jemel Roberson, a Black father to a nine-month-old child, was killed by police while working as a security guard at a bar. He restrained an individual who pulled out a gun and began shooting. But instead of being acknowledged as a hero, police again assumed he was the assailant and killed Jemel with no warning.8

Right after the horrendous mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”9 But that is never the case when Black people step up to protect themselves, their communities and loved ones. We still remember the painful viral footage of Philando Castile’s death, who was outright shot and killed in front of his partner and daughter, during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, in Minnesota. Philando notified the officer that he had a permit to carry. Philando was not dangerous or violent and yet in an instant, the cop ended his life. While mass shootings across the country in high schools, movie theaters, malls, grocery stores, and religious spaces continue to be perpetrated by white men, Black people are still deemed dangerous simply for being Black.

Demand District Attorney Danny Carr prosecute the killer cops.

Police officers continue to wreak havoc on the lives of Black people with no end in sight. In just this year alone roughly 876 people have been shot and killed by police.10 Of that, nearly 200 Black people have been killed by police.11 Very few officers are even prosecuted for killing Black people. Now EJ has been added to this horrific list. District Attorneys must step up their leadership in holding police officers accountable and stop letting cops get away with murder. Elected prosecutors remain the most influential role in law enforcement and criminal justice. The outcome of the investigation should be clear — charge these cops.

The Bradford family will now have to do the unthinkable in going forward with their lives without EJ. Ensuring the person who killed EJ is held accountable is just one step towards real justice.

Sign the petition: Justice for Emantic “EJ” Bradford.



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Take Action Before December 10th to Protect Working-Class Immigrant Families

 

There is Still Time to Make a Difference. 

This is urgent. You have until Monday, December 10th, 2018 to submit comments that can influence whether the proposed changes to public charge, which will have devastating consequences for low-income immigrants, will be thwarted.

If the proposed changes go into effect, immigrants could be denied green cards or permanent residency if an immigration officer thinks they might someday use government programs that offer essential healthcare, food security, and housing assistance. The proposed changes also make being a child, being elderly, or being low-income a negative weight on the public charge test. Creating a litmus test that gives preference to those with greater wealth is the antithesis of everything the United States stands for and is against our values.

The fact is that immigrants make enormous contributions to our country. Immigrants contribute more to the U.S. economy than they receive and play an important role in sustaining social security and the social safety net. The proposed changes to public charge will hurt not only immigrants but the United States as a whole.

The government must review all public comments before the changes can go into effect. Please help us fight back against these devastating proposed changes. Your comment will make a difference.

Submit Your Comment
 

 



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why TOMS is taking a stand to end Gun Violence

The day after a gunman opened fire at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 8, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie was in the back seat of a car on the way to his office when his wife, Heather Lang, called. “She was emotional–the shooting was 20 minutes from our house–and she said she wasn’t going to take our [4-year-old] son to school; she didn’t feel safe anymore,” Mycoskie says. “She said she was tired of thoughts and prayers and no action–we had to do something.” He pulled out his laptop in the car and drafted “the most intense email I’ve ever written” to the board of directors at TOMS and to the brand’s CEO, Jim Alling (who took over after Mycoskie stepped down in 2015). In it, he made the case for TOMS taking a stand on ending gun violence–and in the process, overhauling the giving model that made the brand famous in the first place.

Having founded a brand that’s become synonymous for corporate giving and social engagement since it launched in 2006, Mycoskie is highly attuned to pressing societal issues and the role that business can play in finding solutions. TOMS has given shoes to over 86 million people to date through its signature buy-one, give-one model (though the efficacy of using this method to address systemic poverty has been questioned over the years). Through the sale of its sunglasses, the company has helped finance eyesight restorations for 600,000 people, and proceeds from coffee, offered at its retail stores since 2014, have delivered clean water to communities where the beans are grown. Mycoskie remains confident in TOMS’s ability to make an impact in these areas, and cites the brands’ loyal customer base as evidence that people want to support companies that take a stand on social causes.

[Photo: Toms]

But delivering shoes to those who don’t have any and restoring eyesight to people who can’t see are missions that are hard to object to. They’re not political. As a brand, TOMS never has been. “I’m a Christian guy from Texas; my belief in starting TOMS was that we have a responsibility to take care of our neighbors,” Mycoskie says. That message has resonated across the political gulf in the U.S.: The company surveys its customer base regularly, and every time, the split comes back even: 50% Democrat, 50% Republican.Taking a stance in the gun violence debate represents a radically different approach for TOMS, although in Mycoskie’s mind, it’s in line with the company’s original mission. “This is a human issue,” he says. “It’s become political, but ending gun violence is about making a better world, which is what we’ve always been about.”

On November 12, Mycoskie announced his idea to Bain Capital, the private equity firm that’s owned a 50% stake in TOMS since 2014: TOMS would donate $5 million to nonprofits working to end gun violence (including Everytown for Gun Safety, Faith in Action, March for Our Lives, and Moms Demand Action), use its platform and social network to call on lawmakers to pass universal background checks, and permanently alter its giving model to prioritize issue-based efforts of this magnitude going forward. He was done avoiding politics. “If we have this much power as business leaders, we have to use it,” he says.

It was a lot for Bain executives to absorb. They were not opposed, Mycockie says; one of the firm’s partners is among the top contributors to Everytown for Gun Safety, and TOMS’s board had already been meeting with consultants for two years to discuss how the brand could evolve its approach to addressing social issues. But Mycoskie’s End Gun Violence Together initiative presented significant risks for the company.

Gun violence is one of the most polarizing and politicized issues in the U.S. today. Even though studies have found that 90% of Americans support universal background checks, advocacy efforts around ending gun violence tend to get pulled to the extremes. “Any mention of ending gun violence gets spun as, ‘You’re going to take away our guns,’” Mycoskie says. Few brands have taken a leadership position on the issue, and those that have, have faced opposition. When Delta rolled back a pre-existing discount for National Rifle Association members, the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature threatened the airline carrier with cancelling a tax break that was saving them millions on jet fuel. Dicks Sporting Goods, which made a statement explaining why it was tightening its gun sales after the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida, lost contracts with firearms companies. Customers in favor of unrestricted access to guns boycotted the companies.

Levi Strauss quietly pledged $1 million in corporate donations in support of ending gun violence in September. When Mycoskie called Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh, for advice this past week, Bergh told him that engaging on the topic is “a lonely position to take.” He also suggested that Mycoskie line up a security detail for himself. Emotions run high in the gun violence debate, and the risks for high-profile people like Mycoskie who take a stand are significant. Some believe that this is why many country music stars—who arguably would have the most sway in the call to end gun violence–have remained silent on the issue.

[Photo: Toms]

There were more practical risks, too, such as branding and sales: Mycoskie was proposing a complete overhaul of TOMS’s website, advertising campaigns, and in-store displays the week before Black Friday and the busiest time of the year for any consumer brand. “We had this whole thing lined up with fluffy slippers for the holidays,” Mycoskie says. He proposed swapping that out for “End Gun Violence Together” imagery, with a link on the website that visitors could click to send a postcard to their elected officials, calling for universal background checks. “We timed it, and it takes 22 seconds,” Mycoskie says. He hoped that “maybe after that, [they’d] decide they like what we’re doing and take a look at the shoes.” It’s not exactly a product-first approach.

While managing his family’s evacuation of their Topanga, California, home due to wildfires, Mycoskie spent the next few days on the phone with his partners at Bain and with his team at TOMS, who pitched in overtime, and last Tuesday, he got the sign-off he needed.

Today, just 12 days after Mycoskie received that phone call from his wife, the TOMS website has been redesigned to promote the End Gun Violence Together initiative. All of TOMS’s in-store displays–from Austin, Texas, to the Mall of America in Minnesota–will amplify the brand’s new direction. The company is bolstering security at retail outposts in more pro-gun regions, and anticipating that some customers will drop the brand entirely. But he’s also hoping the initiative starts a conversation. “We want to educate people that ending gun violence doesn’t mean taking away guns–it starts with passing universal background checks, which would keep domestic abusers, terrorists, and felons from buying weapons,” he says. “Right now, you can be on the terrorist watch list and walk into a store and buy an AR-15. I don’t think anyone thinks that’s a good thing.” He wants the phrase “universal background checks” to lodge in people’s mind as a common-sense goal to keep citizens safe. Meanwhile, the file-sending company WeTransfer has dedicated $1 million in advertising space on its platform to the campaign, which WeTransfer estimates will reach 40 million people during the holidays.

TOMS knows that it’s likely to lose consumers who would rather see the brand steer clear of politics. But Winter Minisee, a 17-year-old from Riverside, California, who helped organize the National Youth Walkout, thinks that the initiative might win the company a new audience. “People are always trying to figure out how to market to young people, but we’re waiting for brands that reflect our needs,” Minisee says. Over 1 million people participated in March for Our Lives, the protest against gun violence that was led primarily by students from Parkland, and 1 million young people walked out of their classrooms during the National School Walkout soon after. In the midterm elections, she says, young people who could vote “turned out in numbers never seen before.” These are the people truly leading the charge on ending gun violence, and Minisee and her fellow youth leaders are energized by companies like TOMS using their political and financial heft to support them.

As for Mycoskie, after a whirlwind seven days of developing and implementing an initiative and a new direction for the company, he’s building out a list of other CEOs and brand leaders he might contact to form a coalition around the issue. But that might be a task for another week. “I’m not going to be calling people up on Thanksgiving Day,” he says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company’s Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.



Share This  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Providing the platform for progressive action in the Napa Valley