Rock The Vote: Teen Vogue X TOMS Event Slayed! – Politically and Socially

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Rock the Vote Attendees at the New TOMS Williamsburg, Brooklyn Store

Covering the Rock the Vote: Teen Vogue X TOMS event has been one of the most thrilling moments for me this year. Why? It was unexpectedly delightful and inspirational. It moved me to act; to care more; to save our democracy; to donate; to tweet and raise awareness about the impact of the midterms and how each of us – really can make a difference. I had this preconceived notion that this event, geared toward Teen Vogue’s Gen Z audience, a far cry from my hazy Generation X/ millennial cusp residency, wouldn’t be relatable to me. Thoughts of ill-conceived, potentially overheard conversations I’d be succumbed to, filled my head: From Cardi B’s/Nicki Minaj’s latest feud-y clap-backs to the best unicorn hair color dye brands on the market. Boy, was I proven wrong. I was surrounded by teens and girls in their early twenties that had founded nonprofits for trans youth in need, created grassroots organizations to get women elected, and launched crowdsourcing campaigns for victims of gun violence. These girls have powerful messages to convey: Get ready. We are changing the world!

Founded in 2003 by parent company Condé Nast, Teen Vogue still caters to fashion lovers, keeping up with the beauty and fashion trends, its sister magazine, Vogue exemplifies as the beacon of  high fashion and beauty . These days, Teen Vogue, primarily a digital magazine, captures the attention and support of political and social activists. According to Alli Maloney, Teen Vogue’s news and politics features editor: “We cover news as it happens. But we also cover things that we reframe in a new lens. We get pushback every day basically with people telling us to stay in our lane, but our readers’ lane includes politics now. It’s a political world.” And on this night the political world took center stage. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was the guest speaker for the Rock the Vote discussion, moderated by Teen Vogue’s news and politics editor, Lucy Diavolo. Gillibrand, who began her political career in Congress in 2006, ran for an incumbent held Republican seat, which she defeated, and in 2009 became Senator of New York State.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, from L to R, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and News+ Politics Editor, Lucy Diavolo

Gillibrand, who’s seat is also up for re-election, didn’t shy away from audience questions on our failed political system under-serving Americans. She acknowledged the system is broken and that young people, women, people of color need to take action to see themselves represented in the House and Senate. The work is tireless and essential to protecting people’s rights for adequate healthcare, education, and women’s reproductive rights. Gillibrand became the first member of Congress to post her official daily meetings, and personal financial disclosures. Her push for transparency in politics led to the passing of the STOCK act, which makes it illegal for members of Congress, their families, and their staff to benefit from insider information gained through public service. Diavolo posed questions to Gillibrand on the minds of many Americans right now: What are the pressing issues, if Democrats take back the House and Senate, that will take precedence? Is she running for president in 2020? What are some bipartisan solutions both parties can agree on and pursue – with gun reform regulation? And of course, with Trump’s proposed agenda to erase Transgender rights, especially affecting trans youth. I asked Lucy, as a transgendered journalist, her thoughts on the following:

DSMC: In a Teen Vogue article from October 24th, you wrote: “As I said in the speech I gave during the Hell No to the Memo rally on Sunday, October 21, I believe voting alone is not enough right now. I believe it is important to go beyond the polling booth and provide direct, material support to transgender people.” Can you elaborate on this statement? What do you mean by “material support?”

Lucy Diavolo: In terms of providing material support to transgender people, I think there’s a number of options. As I wrote on the 22nd, it can be as simple as just checking in on your trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming friends with a kind word, calling a congressperson, or educating your family and friends. In terms of material support, simple things like donating directly to a trans person, taking the time to make a trans friend a meal, helping them cook or clean, giving them a place to crash if they don’t have one, or weighing in on a job application can all be very direct ways to do so.

DSMC: Should the proposed Trump bill reversing Obama-era protections for LGBTQ citizens be instated, what can the LGTBQ community and their supporters do to fight back?

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Lucy Diavolo, News + Politics Editor, Teen Vogue

Lucy Diavolo: If you’re talking about the transgender HHS memo, absolutely not. Under Obama, the LGBTQ community saw serious progress made at the federal level for the first time in history — it’s a low bar, but Obama (like many Democrats) changing his tune on marriage equality and standing up for trans kids in schools was unprecedented. Many of us believed a Trump presidency would undo much of that progress, and the HHS memo was the latest horrifying proof that the current administration is actively engaged in looking for ways to strip our community’s basic human rights.

Lucy Diavolo: Whether you’re a binary trans person, a non-binary trans person, or experiencing your gender in other ways, know that you’re valid. Being young and trans (or any kind of queer) in a hostile environment can be very challenging. I know because I was outed as bisexual in the 8th grade and spent most of high school suffering for it. My best advice for a young person in a situation like that is to look for community where you can. It can be online, where there are lots of great community spaces for learning and having conversations. Or it can be in the other folks who might be struggling at your school, who can commiserate with you over your situation, even if it’s when no one else is listening. A sense of community has made even the most difficult, painful, and ugly parts of my transition feel safe and supported.

If you find yourself in a truly untenable situation, know that, in many cities, there are people, social services, and communities that will support you. Young LGBTQ people have been running to the cities for decades, and in many places, there are not only organizations working to serve them, but entire populations of older LGBTQ folks who want to support them. Look for those organizations and people in online spaces if you feel you absolutely have to get away from wherever you are.

Apart from curating news and politics for Teen Vogue’s monthly 5 million plus monthly visitors to the site, Diavolo help founded the Transfeminine Alliance of Chicago and plays bass in the Chicago-based band The Just Luckies.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS

Rock the Vote event host and Teen Vogue advocate, TOMS, opened their new store/café – complete with an outside patio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. DSMC asked TOMS’ Director of Global Brand Marketing, Kate Faith, to discuss the – successful and impactful – Teen Vogue and TOMS collaboration.

DSMC: TOMS has partnered with Teen Vogue in the past, the recent Teen Vogue Summit in Austin last month, what makes this partnership so special?

Kate Faith: Our partnership with Teen Vogue started last year with the first ever Teen Vogue Summit where we hosted the opening day reception at TOMS HQ in Los Angeles. To continue this partnership, this year we hosted meet ups at our TOMS stores across America including Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, and finally at our new store here in Brooklyn. Teen Vogue is educating and inspiring young people to take action, which is at the heart of what we’re doing here at TOMS. We both know that Gen Z has the power and courage to change the world. We are here to support Teen Vogue as they rally the next generation to create a better world for us all.

DSMC: With over 60 million pairs of shoes donated to children around the world so far, what does TOMS hope to establish with the one-for-one model eyewear? Is eyewear as scarce as shoes around the world? Why this product line?

Kate Faith: Since our founding in 2006, TOMS has given over 80 million pairs of shoes to those in need both abroad and here in the United States. That number is something we’re very proud of, but we also recognize we can do more and have the opportunity to scale our impact beyond our shoe gives. TOMS launched eyewear in 2011 as we saw a need to help more people in a new way that would make a very big difference in their lives. During Blake’s travels, he saw many kids who weren’t able to see the chalkboard at school so would fall behind and elderly people developing cataracts which affected their work life and the livelihood of their family. Wanting to find a solution, he came up with TOMS eyewear – with every pair of sun and optical purchased, a person is provided an eye exam and given treatment through prescription glasses, medical treatments, or sight-saving surgery. We have now provided sight to over 600,000 individuals around the world. I recently was in India on a Giving Trip and was able to witness a cataract surgery first hand. It was incredibly moving to see people’s reactions when their bandages came off and they were able to see their loved ones – some for the first time! I’m proud to work at a company that is creating this level of impact in the world.

DSMC: Does TOMS support/endorse certain politicians for the midterms?

Kate Faith: Our #1 objective is to inspire and educate young people around the importance of using their voice to create positive change. Voting is one (very important) avenue for people to address the issues they care about most, and we want to provide the tools for people to make informed decisions when heading to the polls. We don’t endorse specific politicians, but our hope is that elected officials support basic human rights for all individuals. We are in this together and must create a world that works better for all of us. To learn more about TOMS global work and products, click here.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Attendees at the Rock The Vote Teen Vogue X TOMS Event

This event opened my eyes to a whole new group of passionate activists that are committed to making a difference in our nation. I had once solely perceived them as meme-creating, snap-chat happy simplistic youth consumed with finding the perfect selfie. Sure, they may engage in these activities on their down-time, as most of us have, but they are laser-focused on championing for causes that are vital to their generation and ours.

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Review: ‘Antigone in Ferguson’ Greek Mythology, Modern Times, and Social Justice Parallels

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Photo: Gregg Richards, De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson (center) and choir members 

With so many transgressions of police brutality plaguing African-American communities in our country, daily – it’s quite easy to slip into a path of desensitization. The Harlem Stage in collaboration with Theater of War Productions, the citizens of St. Louis and Ferguson refuse to let that transpire with the production of Antigone in Ferguson. One-part play with gospel chorus inflections; one-part panel discussion and equal parts entertainment, patrons of this unconventional presentation are in store for an eye opening cultural awakening. With scenes from Sophocles’ ancient Greek play, staged readings performed by leading television, film, theater actors and an unusual – yet extraordinarily talented choir – comprised of law enforcement, activists, educators, and counselors – form this experimental show.

At first, I couldn’t fathom staged readings in lieu of customary scenes with verbal and physical components performed against picturesque backdrops to illustrate the highly popularized Sophocles’ play, Antigone – done in past iterations, similar to the Classical Theatre of Harlem Stage production I covered earlier this the summer. The synopis: Antigone, it’s about a young woman who is adamant about burying her brother, Polyneices, whose slain body lays lifeless in the ancient city of Thebes at the end of the civil war, against the wishes of newly crowned King Creon. The courageous Antigone is ready to risk life and limb to honor her deceased brother and seek a proper burial for him even though he was considered an enemy of the state. The parallels, from this more than 2,500-year-old play, couldn’t be timelier, as this rendition focuses on the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014 at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. The subsequent African-American deaths by white police officers that followed in our country, the lack of action this administration demonstrates, and the perseverance of movements such as Black Lives Matter to affect change.

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Photo: Gregg Richards, (L to R) Actors Tamara Tunie and Tate Donovan

What’s fascinating about this production is that the mix of stage readings from acclaimed actors Tate Donovan (King Creon) from the Damages and The O.C. series, Tony award-winning actress Tamara Tunie (Antigone), Chris Myers from the She’s Gotta Have It and Netflix’s Sneaky Pete series (as Creon’s son, Haemon, among other roles) and Chinasa Obguagu from the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and A Walk Among the Tombstones films (as Ismene, Antigone’s sister, and Eurydice, Creon’s wife) are instrumental in telling the story, yet their performances don’t overshadow the focal point of this production – which is: solutions communities and lawmakers – can and should – come up with to end senseless deaths as a result of police brutality and gun violence across the nation with much needed conversation. Panel discussions with Michael Brown Sr., community members-turned-activists describing first-hand accounts of the night of the Ferguson shooting, members of the Man Up Project, therapists and individuals committed to make an impact and let their voices be heard – moved the audience in the theater that night: including me.

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Photo Credit: Gregg Richards, Panel (L to R): Erica Wright, Lt. Latricia Allen, Michael Brown Sr.

Artistic director and moderator of the Antigone in Ferguson production, Bryan Doerries has presented over 60 performances across all five boroughs. Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage marks a departure from the company’s history of nomadic presentations. Having mounted over 700 events at a range of venues around the world, from Guantanamo Bay to a playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn, this extended run (September 13 – October 13) will be the first time Theater of War Productions will embed itself in one location for an extended period of time. Exclusively supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the 30 free (RSVP required) performances at Harlem Stage will offer expanded opportunities for community participation in this innovative social justice project. Don’t miss upcoming performances by actors: Frankie Faison (Coming to America, The Wire) Chris Noth (Sex and the City franchise, Law & Order), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black), and Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) to name a few. For more information on Antigone in Ferguson and upcoming schedule, click here.

Parkland and Other Outspoken Student Activists Led Protests For Gun Reform – With No Plans Of Slowing Down!

march-for-our-lives-washington-17-gty-er-180324_hpMain_4x3_992In the midst of the highly anticipated and highly rated Stormy Daniels Interview on “60 Minutes” and the “Who Bit Beyoncé?” controversies, there was the student-led ‘March For Our Lives’ protest Saturday in Washington, D.C., with sister marches across cities in America supporting their mission for gun control reform. I was in D.C. for the march and I’ve been to many rallies protesting all the unfathomable and inhumane policies pushed by this new administration in New York City. But, this march was different. The cause felt universal. There was solidarity in the air that permeated and touched every man, woman, and child present. Emma-Gonzalez-MarchforOurLives-RTR-imgEmma González’s six minutes and twenty-seconds of silence included in her speech – to demonstrate the short amount of time it took the gunman to wipe out the lives of 17 victims – solidified the fact that this tragedy happened, and it could happen to ANY one of us, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. And, if we don’t fight collectively for effective gun policies from our government, these mass-shooting epidemics will cease to exist. González, one of the student organizers and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, FL sparked a movement, along with her classmates, in just 5 weeks of the massacre on February 14, 2018. There were donations and support given to the teens by some of Hollywood’s A-listers, Oprah Winfrey and George Amal Clooney to name a few. Kimye (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian) and Steven Spielberg were in attendance. As much as I love these celebrities it was great to see that their association with the protest – or even their presence didn’t overshadow these students’ mission. Although the crowd was wowed by performances from Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lin- Manuel Miranda – the true superstars were the inspirational Parkland students and fellow gun violence survivors/activists who took to the podium visiting from Los Angeles and Chicago.

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Two little girls (King, (from left-to-right) Adler) that stole the spotlight and gave the most impressive and touching speeches of the day are Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King’s granddaughter and Naomi Wadler. King led a chant that had the crowd enthralled and enamored with this spirited 9-year-old, descendant from the iconic civil rights leader. Not to be left behind, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler quickly commanded the crowds’ attention with her choice words: “I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” Wadler said. “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have just been numbers. I am here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”

The national and international ‘March For Our Lives’ protests continues to have momentum and is receiving equal parts media coverage and backlash from the NRA and pro NRA supporters. Close one million people attended the ‘March For Our Lives’ in D.C. alone. Rick Santorum, former Republican senator recently stated students should forego protesting and learn CPR – to which Parkland teens responded: “CPR won’t save gunshot victims’ lives” as drew ridicule from healthcare professionals and other ‘March For Our Lives’ supporters condemning the former politician. One thing is clear: these young leaders have proven they can articulate their message with eloquence and class and will not be silenced or bullied by adults with power. They have tenacity and conviction to AFFECT real change in Washington to prevent further mass shootings.

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad – Who’s at Fault? Everyone!

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Social Media has revolutionized the immediacy of how the public reacts to news and entertainment. Forget the days of snail hate mail of yesteryear sent to networks and celebrities in large bags. Every single person has a voice – and social forum to be heard. Less than 24 hours since the new Pepsi ad was launched featuring Kendall Jenner, one of the hottest it-models of the moment – the ad has been pulled from every marketing vehicle imaginable. What happened exactly? I follow the Kardashians on social as I’m a pop culture junkie and after I viewed the fury-inducing ad on Kris Jenner’s Instagram, I wasn’t moved, I brushed it off, yet I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was awkward in execution, odd images of Kendall Jenner abandoning her “model” duties and joining a protest. After having attended two protests this year: The Women’s March in following the inauguration and Not My President’s Day March in February. This commercial didn’t necessarily poke fun at protests – it trivialized the protesting experience. It lumped protests into the next “cool” thing young people are doing or engaged with. Similar to the “Cash me outside, How bout’ Dat?” teen or the incessant iterations on the Internet of Salt Bae. Yeah, nope. The Twitterverse was not having any of it. Everyone and their, mom, aunt, dad and grandpa had to something to say about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, posted: “If only Daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi” with a picture of cops strong-arming Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s.

Pepsi is such a well-known global brand and being asked to be a Pepsi ambassador is mecca for any celebrity: A sign that you’ve made it. Recognition is absolute. Your star power is blinding! If you look at Kendall Jenner’s Instagram post just days before the controversy unfolded, there’s a picture of her idol, Cindy Crawford in a 1992 Pepsi ad.

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Kendall and her clan (momager, Kris included) were so clouded by the prestige Pepsi invokes – that they forgot the messaging behind this partnership. It was an afterthought. No one said, “Hey! maybe this is ad’s message is a little insensitive to people’s causes” As an adoring public, fans, spectators on the sidelines, we want our favorite models, actors, and sport stars to reach the pinnacle of success with all the advertising, movie, fashion deals out there – but one misstep and the crucifixion begins. Kendall Jenner has removed all traces of her ad on her social media accounts and Pepsi has apologized and lamented their insensitivity. But we as a the public must not go on the attack and instead educate companies, and clueless celebrities about history and what protests mean and can achieve for the misrepresented and people without a voice. Not once did I see or hear anyone say: “Hey Kendall, come to my town or join my group so you can see what protesting is really like and what the impetus behind this march means.”

Is There a Mass Exodus on the Horizon for Fox News?

I receive alerts from just about every career website out there as I’m looking for a full time gig. Today’s job listings seemed peculiar to me. As I entered the New York City search this morning, five consecutive job postings came up for Fox News. Working in editorial, when a new editor-in-chief comes on board – many people are unfortunately on the chopping block. It’s the way the industry operates. New creatives bring on their trusted friends, colleagues to replace editors, creative directors – and some times photo directors (position I’ve held). As  of a few mintues ago, 6:55pm EST, I peeped mediabistro one last time and saw seven open positions with Fox News.

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My screengrab could only capture five jobs, but’s really seven.

I guess these former employees realized the maneuer this network was peddling was just too much for them to shovel or eat. I mean, if you look at their coverage of this administration, it’s clear this news network is very conservative and pro-Republican and tip-toe around all the inconsistencies the administration has stated. They downplayed the James Comey (FBI Director) congressional meeting on Monday. Comey revealed that Trump is – in fact – being investigated and there is NO evidence of wiretapping from the Obama administration. Also, political news correspondent, Tucker Carlson has refuted the EPA’s stance and claims, citing the agency is making up the effects of climate change and “attempted” to disprove scientists and their data. Biased much?!

And in today’s denouncement of the Trumpcare bill and failure of it’s passing, Trump, of course, blames Democrats. But, guess what, we will take the blame! And will continue to do so for many of the riduculous proposals presented by this clownshow of an administration. As all the news outlets post headlines of the Trumpcare fail, Fox News feels the need to report on the ‘Flip or Flop’ star, Christina El Moussa’s inappropriate bikini pic with her daughter. Glad to know you’re on the pulse of what’s important, Fox News!

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Don’t Blame U.S.!

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The first time I traveled to a non-Spanish Speaking European country was in my early 20s. I had lived in Spain for a year after leaving Cuba when I was four, but most of my memories of Spain are visiting zoos and bitterly cold wind engulfing my little face. This time around traveling to France, Germany and Amsterdam, I didn’t know what to expect. I had bought the book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Europe – to make sure I didn’t mess up greetings or customs integral to these countries’ way of life – we all know Americans have been known to commit serious faux pas.

I noticed in France, when I spoke English, some of the waiters/waitresses or store clerks weren’t very receptive. They’d answer me, because they were forced to, as I was a paying customer, begrudgingly nonetheless. As my friends and I traveled through these European streets we realized there were a lot of Canadians wearing backpacks with their flags visibly stitched on. Why would they do this? I wondered. On my fourth day in France, I finally asked a blonde book-wormish looking girl staying at our hostel and she said: “Oh, we don’t want to be confused with being American.” “Why?” I inquired. “Because of Bush, you know, nobody respects him.” It was 1999 and George W. Bush was well on his way to becoming the Republican nominee. Now it all made sense to me. The Clinton era was coming to an end and the Republicans were assuming power with Bush at the helm; the sentiment was that he was a self-fulfilling tyrant with no education; felt by these traveling Canadian citizens, and shared by the people I’d come to meet in the countries I’d soon visit. My traveling companions didn’t fare any better with the French citizens. Jen, my neighborly, pet-loving, wouldn’t-hurt-a-living-creature, blonde friend from Syracuse was almost assaulted by the subway clerk when she asked if she could use her American dollars to pay the train fare. “Noooo! French Francs! French Francs! French Francs!” At first glance, it seemed as if this clerk had a bout of severe Tourette’s; screaming at the top of her lungs at Jen, but it was clear she had some serious animosity towards Americans. I started speaking Spanish soon after this incident in bakeries, banks, hotdog and crepe stands – anywhere I had to interact with the public. I readily admitted I was Cuban and my exchanges with the French citizens were pretty smooth for me after that.

My early experiences in France recently came to mind as I read this Washington Post article I came across:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/americans-vacationing-overseas-find-themselves-on-a-donald-trump-apology-tour/2016/08/11/cb6b30ac-5fd1-11e6-af8e-54aa2e849447_story.html

Here we are in August, no travel plans in sight because of my freelance status, and I was having extreme vacation-envy from friends posting their fabulous photos on all my social media feeds. But, I hadn’t thought about what this article points out: Americans traveling overseas are having to explain why Trump is the GOP candidate for the upcoming 2016 presidential elections OR apologizing for the outrageous statements he’s made through the course of his campaign. I feel better about my stay-cationing activities. I don’t have to explain to anyone the state of our political climate because we’re all facing the same crisis. But, when you travel abroad, foreigners expect you to come up with an answer as to why America would realistically elect someone “like him.” For me, this would get annoying and intolerable really quick. It’s like running into “that” neighbor, acquaintance, enemy, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend or work colleague in the street or any place you frequent and engaging in idle chit-chat, and all the while it’s happening, you’d rather be anywhere but there: long lines at the DMV, the dentist wreaking havoc on your mouth coupled with his sardine breath, Times Square during tree-lighting season; you’d rather do all these things rather than talk to this said person(s). So no FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for me, you can take the weight of Trumplaining – off my shoulders and I will visit Jones Beach with it’s 20-foot high drown-worthy waves, and freezing black water. Have fun travelers!