SOSea looks beyond marriage to an all-inclusive vision of social justice
by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On Thursday, September 6, Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), a coalition of LGBTQ and allied persons working to identify and ultimately fix social inequalities that exist in Seattle and beyond, made its intention to operate in the community public knowledge.
'I saw the need for a committee composed of Capitol Hill and Seattle-area members who are LGBTQ and allied that would plan, promote, and support events, rallies, freedom marches, and more, but also respond to social justice issues that affect not only the LGBTQ community, but all Seattle residents,' said Shaun Knittel, SOSea founder and chair.
SOSea's charter membership includes Ryan Crawford (Alere Wellbeing), Sarah Toce (The Seattle Lesbian), Yee-Shin Huang (Seattle Counseling Service), Ben Haong (Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan), Dru Dinero (Visual Affairs), Daniel Hanks (professional stuntman), Aleksa Manila (Seattle Counseling Service, Pride ASIA), Jack Mozie (local recording artist), Heather Carter (LGBTQ youth suicide prevention counselor), Howard Russell aka 'Lady Chablis' (community advocate and entertainer), Robert Matencio aka 'Gaysha Starr' (community advocate and local drag legend), Mike Andrew (Pride at Work, SEAMEC, SGN staff writer), Alexander Mentele (Mr. Gay Seattle), Robbie Turner (principal entertainer at Le Faux), Chase Silva (Seattle Pride Idol 2012), Ceasar Hart (Mr. Neighbours 2012, community advocate, drag king), and Kelsey Hart (community advocate).
'SOSea is a coalition whose time has come. We seek to inspire, motivate, and embrace our differences as a blended community in a creative fashion so that we might catapult interest into the areas of our lives that ultimately matter most - family, friends, love, marriage, service to ourselves and others, health and wellness,' said Sarah Toce. 'This is a grassroots effort that is bound to change the course of LGBT history in Seattle as we know it. I am honored to serve as co-chair.'
SOSea's first order of business is the freedom to marry in Washington state. SOSea is currently filming a series of Approve R-74 commercials featuring local LGBTQ and allied clubs, organizations, groups, and individuals. The spots will debut online on October 1.
SOSea says it will 'encourage the Seattle LGBTQ and allied communities to work together to address and ultimately fix social justice issues in Seattle and beyond.' Using social media, video, photos, editorial content, and more, SOSea intends to get the message across that 'inequality will not be tolerated.'
SOSea also intends to support equality-minded businesses, organizations, clubs, groups, and individuals. This may include, but is not limited to, LGBTQ and allied candidates seeking public office or re-election; citizens in need of an advocate; providers and mentors for LGBTQ and allied youth; and organizers of vigils, equality marches, and rallies when needed.
Knittel says he fully understands that this is a huge undertaking, which is why he has enlisted the help of such a diverse group of people - to ensure that SOSea not only sees a healthy and prosperous first year, but also has longevity.
'When I began to put SOSea together, it became obvious that in order to make the best possible impact, and if SOSea would really be able to change anything, I would need a strong group of individuals, each bringing to the committee their own style of expertise and talent,' said Knittel. 'I feel that the founding members of the current SOSea committee embody compassion, service to community, and doing what's right - especially when you have to do it in the face of what is wrong.'
From mental health and substance abuse counselors, to drag entertainers and video production professionals, to business owners and young artists - the committee certainly is representative of most economic classes as well as racially diverse and inclusive of all sexual orientations and identifications.
'It's important as a leader of any community organization to have your advisors - in this case, the community members - be representative of the very community they serve,' said Knittel. 'Through experience I have learned that organizations that tell the community what they will or will not like, what they should or should not do, are often ill-received by the constituents they intend to help.'
'It is my goal that SOSea works hard for [the] community and city that so many people know and love. With so much negativity in the world, like economic and social depression, partisan politics, and attacks on everyone from women to LGBTQ persons to other disadvantaged communities & I believe the last thing the world needs is yet another organization with yet another agenda to tear down anything or anyone that believes differently than they do. SOSea will always remain positive, because each and every committee member knows no other way to be,' said Knittel.
WHERE'S SEATTLE'S PRIDE?
Knittel says he is continually shocked at the wave of pride that exists during the short weeks leading up to the annual Pride celebration, and seems to disappear the rest of the year.
'You look around other cities like West Hollywood or San Francisco, and you see rainbow flags, rainbow signs, rainbow anything year-round. I've heard more times than I care to members of the LGBTQ community saying that the Hill isn't Gay anymore,' said Knittel. 'But I beg to differ. There are more LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses, employees, and residents living, working, and going to school on the Hill than ever before. The difference is, in 2012, not all people who identify as LGBTQ feel that this should be something they put on display just because. However, there still remains a large population that believes pride is something we should have in ourselves, our community, and especially on display in our neighborhood all year. I happen to be one of those people.'
'SOSea fully intends, with the support of allied communities, to look at ways to promote LGBTQ visibility, tourism, and goodwill on the Hill,' added Knittel.
LAUNCH PARTY PLANNED
SOSea will hold an official launch party on October 1 at The Grill on Broadway, from 7:30 to 10 p.m., which will include live entertainment, viewing of the new campaign commercials, a community Q&A, coalition-building, and more.
'Working with Matthew Walsh, who owns The Grill on Broadway, has been a pleasure,' said Knittel. 'Matthew has been supportive of SOSea, our mission and vision, revealing himself to me to be a Gay business owner who truly cares about the neighborhood he serves.'
SOSea is also planning an Approve R-74 march and rally for October 6.
SOSea envisions a city where LGBTQ and allied communities come together in response to social justice issues; help LGBTQ and allied businesses, organizations, clubs, and individuals in need of advocacy; and organize public rallies for visibility.
Learn more by 'liking' SOSea on Facebook or e-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT SHAUN KNITTEL
Shaun Knittel is an openly Gay journalist and community leader in Seattle. After serving 10 years in the U.S. Navy doing public affairs work for the government under the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, Knittel received an honorable discharge in early 2009 and moved to the Pacific Northwest to work at Seattle Gay News as associate editor, a role he still holds today. He quickly joined the LGBTQ equality movement and emerged as a leader within the community shortly thereafter.
Knittel is also a contributing writer to The Village Voice, EDGE Media Network, noiZe Magazine, and Best Gay News Magazine. He serves as online news editor at OutServe Magazine, a bimonthly publication distributed on military installations throughout the U.S. and abroad for LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans. In addition, Knittel is on the OutMilitary.com advisory board and is also media advisor for the company, a social media network for actively serving, reserve, and veteran LGBTQ servicemembers and their supporters.
Locally, Knittel is currently sponsorship coordinator and a committee member of Pride ASIA, vice president for communications at Seattle Out & Proud, and social media manager for a number of Seattle-based businesses. Knittel has served as associate producer of Pride Idol, an annual SO&P singing competition leading up to Pride, and has produced a winning video for the White House Champions of Change Pride Month video contest, where he and the other members of the video team were honored at a White House ceremony.
Knittel has produced a number of very successful fundraisers benefiting organizations that work on everything from LGBTQ youth suicide prevention to HIV/AIDS prevention. He is available to speak on panels on any number of topics, from DADT, the freedom to marry, communications training, and more, and is a skilled speechwriter, moderator, or host for events like town-hall meetings, forums, and community Q&As. Knittel lives with his husband Yee-Shin Huang in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
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