Self help: Mockingbird youth are leading advocacy efforts by the Mockingbird Society

Mockingbird Society

Photo: Jerry Davis

“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.

‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’

Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.

“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.

In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.

Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”

READ THE FULL STORY ON REAL CHANGE

Backbone Campaign’s people-powered plan to electrify America’s railroads

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“In our fractured political climate, it’s hard to envision a cause that could unite a rural farmer with a big-city tech worker, a union laborer with a grassroots environmentalist, or a tribal leader with a government official, but Bill Moyer thinks he’s found just the cause: Solutionary Rail.”

Solutionary Rail proposes that the public electrify America’s railroads, run them on renewable energy and transform railroad corridors into electricity superhighways transmitting wind and solar energy from remote rural areas to urban centers. If enacted, Moyer said the proposal would recenter the role of rail in U.S. transportation and provide the public with a new sustainable source of economic vitality.

In other words, with Solutionary Rail, everybody wins.

“It provides almost a psychic relief from the burden of being defined by what we oppose,” said Moyer, who serves as executive director of the Washington state-based Backbone Campaign, a nonprofit that creates “artful activism.” “This offers an opportunity to be for something great, to be in dialogue with communities that we may not have anything else otherwise in common about some shared interest.”

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Excited to share my first story for Real Change. Real Change is an award-winning weekly newspaper that provides immediate employment opportunity and takes action for economic, social, and racial justice. If you live in Seattle, pick up a paper from your local vendor this week!

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Maria Bamford Wants You to Know You’re Doing Great

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In her sublime new Netflix standup special, Old Baby, premiering on May 2nd, Maria Bamford performs a comedy set in increasingly larger venues. What begins as a few jokes in front of a mirror, progresses to a living room, onto a bowling alley, and so on, until she goes out with a bang on a big stage. The special is sparkling, her jokes are original, and her audience grows more hysterical with laughter as the size of the performance venue expands and shrinks. She is truly magnificent.

Maria Bamford is my favorite comedian. I admire everything she stands for as a comic and as a human being, and told her so in stream of barely intelligible gushing at the beginning of our interview. I rarely find myself star struck these days, but Bamford is special. Her comedy has served as somewhat of a lifeline to me during particularly dark times, and I was determined to repay her with a good interview. My enthusiasm was profuse and unsettling, but she accepted it with grace. Stephen Colbert may have proclaimed her to be his favorite comedian on planet earth, but she is my favorite comedian in the history of the universe and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and adoration.

I asked Bamford several relevant questions about her comedy special, but then, throwing caution to the wind, I dove in with the 36 questions. If you’re not familiar, the 36 questions refer to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. I had recently read Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” and thought if there was ever a moment to accelerate intimacy, this interview was it. I asked Bamford if she’d heard of the 36 questions. She had. With genuine excitement she exclaimed, “let’s fall in love!” And we did. Or at least I did. Again.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON SPLITSIDER

Meet Mindy Tucker, the Eyes of New York Comedy

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“Photographer Mindy Tucker has been shooting comedians for nearly a decade. In that time, Tucker has captured a massive photographic record of performers, shows, and parties in venues all over New York. Her “Year in Comedy” series features people from across the spectrum of experience, ranging from comics who are just starting out to big household names. Tucker took some time to talk about where she’s been, where she’s going, and to reflect on the thrilling moments she’s witnessed behind the lens on the New York comedy scene.”

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON SPLITSIDER

Seattle’s Lawn Bowlers Aren’t Going Down without a Fight

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“For 75 years, the Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club has gathered in Beacon Hill on two exquisite greens overlooking Elliott Bay. Members go for the company and friendly competition. But recently they united for a different reason: a strongly worded petition.

‘We, the undersigned, oppose this blatant land grab,” exclaimed an online plea signed by 963 people. “We demand Seattle Parks and Recreation leave the history and heritage of Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club alone.’

The usurpers? An after-school program for Beacon Hill’s youth.”

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READ THE FULL STORY IN SEATTLE MET MAGAZINE

Inside Eliot Glazer’s ‘Haunting Renditions’

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“Comedian Eliot Glazer has created a live show that combines his absurd comedic sensibility with his musical gifts. A classically trained vocalist, Glazer orchestrates poorly written pop songs of the nineties like “Too Close” and “S8R BOI” into moving ballads featuring vocal harmonies and critical analysis. The most recent monthly performance of Haunting Renditions sold out at The Bell House in Brooklyn and featured Gilbert Gottfried and Phoebe Robinson. When he’s not serving as executive story editor on New Girl or writing for Broad City with his sister Ilana, Glazer is fully immersed in developing his next set for Haunting Renditions. I talked with Eliot about music, authenticity, and Ashlee Simpson.”

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON SPLITSIDER

Baron Vaughn on ‘Fatherless,’ ‘MST3K,’ and the Ocean of Joy

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“On top of being a standup comedian and a classically trained actor, Baron Vaughn will soon make his debut as robot Tom Servo in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot premiering April 14th on Netflix. He is well known for his role on the hit show Grace and Frankie alongside comedy legends Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. If that all weren’t impressive enough, Vaughn is also the subject of Fatherless, an hour-long documentary about finding his birth father premiering on April 2nd on Fusion. Vaughn took some quality time to discuss audience discomfort, being Tom Servo, and oceans of joy.”

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON SPLITSIDER