SOSea launch party draws diverse crowd, unveils new campaign ads
by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On October 1, Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), a Seattle-based LGBTQA coalition, threw its official launch party at The Grill on Broadway. SOSea officials answered questions about the organization, signed up volunteers, registered voters, and offered an impressive night of entertainment featuring 2012 Pride Idol winner Chase Silva as well as drag performers Ceasar Hart, Jack Mozie, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yee-Shin Huang.
SOSea showed four of its 15 Approve Referendum 74 commercials that will debut online each day through early October. The ads feature local artists and entertainers, political leaders such as Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen, and all manner of everyday people. Some of them are funny, some of them are serious, but they all are well-produced, shot by local filmmaker Dru Dinero, also a member of SOSea.
'We deserve to laugh a little,' said Shaun Knittel, founder and director of SOSea, referring to the comedic spots. 'Since when did the movement become so serious? You know, it is OK to win and have a smile on your face. Someone should alert the Tight-Ass Committee and have me run out of town for having some joy in my life.
'Humor is a great way to get a message across without boring people,' Knittel added. 'If you are LGBTQ [or] allied and you can't find something to smile about in 2012, then you've got a serious problem. We are winning, folks, it is actually happening right before your eyes. This time in our history, for our movement and our people, will never happen again. Do you want to remember it with a frown on your face, or a smile?
'We don't need to act, walk, and talk straight to achieve marriage equality,' said Knittel, and the commercials reflect this.
SOSea says one of the reasons the group is so proud of the set of ads is that they are 'a reminder that the LGBTQ and allied communities are a beautiful group of diverse, interesting, and compassionate citizens who advocate for the freedom to marry in [Washington] state.'
'[Referendum] 74 is the best thing to happen to Washington,' said one partygoer, Dirk. 'I think SOSea will be one of the greatest organizations that's supporting [R-74] because of their diversity.'
'I want to be clear - there is a breakdown in the local LGBTQ community when it comes to race relations,' said Knittel. 'You've got Entre Hermanos sitting in an office overlooking Broadway and nobody can tell you what it is they do. You've got POCAAN, which has a strong and proud history, but damn if you can't get someone 25 or younger to even tell you what POCAAN stands for. Why is that? What happened along the way that made this divide?
'I'm not worried about going back in time to find out the answer. Forward motion is more my speed. The [SOSea] founding committee is multicultural and predominantly nonwhite. You know what the really cool thing is? That wasn't on purpose. As founder of the organization, I just listed the positions I needed to fill and then looked around for the right fit. It just so happened that in the process of doing that, SOSea naturally progressed into a multicultural group of people with very different backgrounds but very similar morals and ethics. We've all got nothing but love for each other.'
Knittel brought the diverse group of members onstage and introduced them to the public as he talked about SOSea's mission and vision, outlining what the organization had planned for the rest of 2012.
BEATING BIGOTS WITH THE BALLOT
'A win here [in Washington] would be considered a win for the movement as a whole,' said Knittel. 'This would be the first time the bigots were beaten at their own game - a popular vote. That's huge! Remember how we all felt in 2011 when New York legalized marriage equality? It sent a signal to the whole country that if they could do it, then we could too. That is what we are going to do in Washington state when we get this referendum approved!'
Added SOSea member Mike Andrew, 'The other side never gets tired of pointing out that they've won every election on marriage up to this point. Breaking that trend, especially if we're part of a three-state sweep with Maine and Maryland, is crucial for carrying the national agenda forward. For one thing, it will show that the tide has turned and that public opinion is trending in our favor. It also makes it much easier for people in other states to raise the resources they'll need for their own electoral battles if one or more states show that it's possible to win. And finally, once we can look at the numbers and see who voted how, I'm certain we'll see that there are fractures even in supposedly anti-Gay institutions like the Catholic Church - with many Catholics, just for one example, lining up on the side of freedom and equality in spite of their bishops.'
'I can't vote for my own rights,' said Jack Mozie, SOSea's LGBTQ youth and ally outreach director, who isn't a U.S. citizen. 'So I'm counting on all of you.'
Currently, it's Mozie's job to work with high school GSAs and college LGBT clubs to get the word out on campus about the Approve Referendum 74 campaign.
A NEW HYBRID
Knittel says he believes that SOSea is poised to play a strong role in the greater LGBTQ movement because 'in some ways we already are.'
'We are a new hybrid of sorts. This is an all-inclusive, non-executive, and completely transparent organization whose sole purpose is to do good. We aren't raising money for salaries. We don't need $200 galas where guests are served bad chicken and everyone in the room is white. We are about the $5 spaghetti feed or the 'donate what you can because you are still welcome' crowd. That is our scene. All of our events, with the exception of a few, will be all-ages. I think that is important.'
'I'm optimistic that we'll win [Approve R-74] and I'm already thinking of what that will mean for the political tasks our community will face after marriage is legal,' added Andrew. 'How, for example, can we build a local economy based on family-wage jobs that will support our newly enfranchised Gay and Lesbian families? How do we ensure that labor agreements cover everyone in the community? How do we protect Trans people from discrimination, for example? And how do we support people in our community who now live outside of the boundaries of family and work - homeless youth, for example?'
HOMELESS YOUTH A PRIORITY
The problem of homelessness among LGBTQ youth is one of SOSea's most ambitious projects, and the group plans to tackle it head-on after the election.
'We don't have anything set in stone at the moment,' said Knittel. 'That is our focus. As the leader of this group it would be a mistake if I got ahead of myself and started to plan all of that when we haven't even won marriage equality yet. & I can tell you it will be a million-dollar project and probably take three to four years. But I am in this for the long haul. Those kids need us.
'Throughout my role as a community leader I have learned that each individual who makes up our collective community might have a different dedication to the movement. I think it is important to remind people that all of this 'stay on message' talk is complete and utter nonsense that your average 'I don't give a rat's ass about politics' Gay does not hear. It goes in one ear and out the other faster than you could blink your eyes. And you know what? That's OK. You've got to reach [people] where they are,' said Knittel. 'You can't expect anyone to come to you and just accept your likes and dislikes or opinions on everything as fact. Open and honest dialogue where everyone has respect always yields good results. It's tricky, especially when talking about politics and religion, because it is true - we LGBTQs are a dramatic bunch. But somehow, we manage. We take care of each other because we know, deep down inside, no one else will.'
MARCH AND RALLY SATURDAY
SOSea's next event is an Approve R-74 march and rally set for noon on Saturday, October 6, starting at Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. More than 500 people are expected to attend.
'We're not going away after the November vote, Knittel promised. 'Without question or demands, we are here to serve the community and will be something that Seattle is proud of. Now let's get out there and win this thing. Approve Referendum 74!'
To learn more about SOSea or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or 'like' Social Outreach Seattle on Facebook.
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