Category Archives: feature

Remembering Danny Bobis: A Life of Wealth, Weighed in Spirit

Remembering Danny Bobis: A Life of Wealth, Weighed in Spirit

Danny Bobis was a fellow activist, a drummer, a husband, a surf coach, a math teacher, and a friend to countless people. Danny went missing almost two weeks ago while surfing in Indonesia and after an almost week-long search his body was discovered by a local fisherman. Our greatest fears were confirmed.

Danny’s right arm was tattooed with the message “Wealth is Weighed in Spirit” — a portion of the chorus from the title track of his band, Cipher’s, second full-length album, Children of God’s Fire. This proclamation was more than just a sing-along or mere tattooed lettering — these were words that Danny lived by and it is a sentiment echoed today in everyone whose life was touched by Danny’s.

Danny taught math and coached the surf team at Long Beach High School. When word arrived that Danny was gone, hundreds of his students gathered on the boardwalk for an impromptu candle light vigil, they were quickly joined by members of the community, surfers, activists and fans of his band. The gathering was an eye-opening summation of Danny’s spiritual wealth. If the people holding candles that night on the boardwalk made a point to touch only a fraction of the people that Danny did in his short life then tens of thousands of people would have their lives forever impacted.

It is people like Danny who are the game changers that will forever leave an impact on this world. In 2009 Danny helped launch a campaign with Sparrow Media that successfully halted the construction of an offshore Liquid Natural Gas substation slated to be built 13 miles south of Long Beach. In doing so he saved the fragile ecosystem of the Cholera Bank and secured the safety of Long Beach’s waters.  Danny also helped to organize fundraisers for Surf Aide International’s efforts to combat Malaria in South Asia.

For over a decade Danny’s band Cipher was, for many, their first taste of social justice activism, and for some the beginning of a life of charitable activism.  Danny used music as a medium for social change & education, playing benefit shows to fund relief efforts in the wake of hurricane Katrina or through helping to organize 100 Shows For Haiti. Cipher used their music as a means to educate at shows and Danny’s work as a teacher helped him to touch even more people.  Please join us in celebrating Danny’s life tomorrow at Laurelton Beach, NY.

The Bobis family would like to invite everyone reading this to a public memorial tomorrow, 8/7/2011 at 5:30pm at Danny’s hometown surf spot, Laurelton Beach, in Long Beach, NY (CLICK HERE FOR MAP & DIRECTIONS)  The entire community is invited. Join us as we honor a life of purpose and courage.

The memorial will be immediately followed by a paddle out to sea. All are invited to join. We will start promptly. For any questions, contact”

The Sparrow Project has screen printed t-shirts and hand printed a limited run of posters on 12″ x 19″ french paper with the this image dedicated to Danny’s memory. All of the proceeds raised will go directly to Danny’s wife Rachel.

There are many benefits for the Bobis family planned for the near future.  To stay up-to-date about events in your area please check out the following links…

Daniel Bobis Fund Tumblr Page
Daniel Bobis Info Facebook Page
Alternative Press Benefit Raffle for Danny
Eastern Surf Magazine Benefit Roundup

We lost a shining example of a person when Danny passed.  We should strive every day to follow his example and continue to move this world as he would have.  If wealth is weighed in spirit then Danny’s legacy has left us all rich.

Help Chef Ayinde Spread His Vegan Message on Bravo Television!

Help Chef Ayinde Spread His Vegan Message on Bravo Television!

Ever since Chef Ayinde Howell partnered with Sparrow Media to bring us his Wildflower Vegan Pop-Up, there has been a groundswell of press attention highlighting Ayinde’s cruelty-free contribution to the grassroots pop-up phenomena. From write-ups in The New York Times, to features on New York Magazine‘s “Grub Street”, this recent press push has helped to further mainstream vegan ideals, raise questions about our nations continued reliance on animal husbandry despite amazing vegan options, and all the while help make a name for this breakout chef.

Following the surge of press attention Bravo Television has asked Ayinde to compete on their reality dinner party show “Rocco’s Dinner Party.” Ayinde will make his Bravo appearance tonight (Wednesday 7/13/2011) at 10pm EST, 9pm Central and we as a movement of compassionate activists should use this opportunity to send a message to Bravo that we want them to have an increased vegan focus in their program mix.

Bravo TV’s website features a user contributed content forum called “twitter battles.” We invite you to join us as we participate in one of these battles during and around the show’s airing to reign in the narrative on their twitter forum by tweeting links about vegan outreach, and tweets emphasizing your interest in Bravo’s continued commitment to vegan programming.

Here are a few ways you can help…

1.) Access the twitter battle & read tutorials on how to participate at this LINK. Then log on and start tweeting. The possibilities are endless but here are two examples that you can feel free to ad-lib as you like.

I wish @roccodispirito  on @bravotv featured more #vegan chefs like Chef @AYINDE

Want to know why @AYINDE is #vegan ? – [insert link to vegan resource here]

2.) You can share the LINK to the twitter battle on your facebook page, tumblr, or twitter accounts and encourage your friends to get involved in the twitter battle as well.

3.) Tell friends & family that “Rocco’s Dinner Party” on the Bravo network will be featuring the vegan culinary stylings of chef Ayinde Howell.

4.) You can also leave Bravo a comment thanking them for featuring a vegan chef and suggest they do it more often HERE


Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, founder of Vaute Couture, the first and only vegan winter coat line on the market sat down with the Sparrow Project this fall for an interview where she detailed her 8 months of fabric research for a vegan alternative to wool that was slim & pretty but ready for a Chicago winter. Leanne is the first to use a fabric that is wind/snow resistant, designed to retain heat, and completely recyclable and vegan, lined in a windproof 100% recycled closed loop zero waste ripstop. The line is limited run and only 25 of each color and style have been produced for her launch.

One style in Leanne’s line, the Vaute, has been named one of 22 best new coats by Chicago Magazine, and donates all net profits to the Farm Sanctuary. Leanne has a laundry list of celebrity fans including Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, and Ginnifer Goodwin.

Leanne has been vegan since she was 17 and vegetarian since age 10, her background is not in fashion but in activism and start-ups, as she has been advocating for animals since she was 8 years old and helped push a bill into law at 17, for dissection alternatives in IL schools. She has been named 20 under 30 by VegNews Magazine and featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and the LA Times who had this to say about Vaute Couture, “Vegan fashion takes a turn for the stylish.”

The Corporate Theft of Water

It is essential to all forms of life, covers a third of the earth, makes up over half of the human body and yet I can’t find a way to begin my discussion of water.  Maybe it’s for the very reasons I just mentioned. The fact that water is all around us, is us and we can’t live without it makes the global water crisis a very scary one indeed.   I didn’t really grasp the complexity and severity of the matter until I saw a documentary on the issue called Flow: For the Love of Water.  You can watch the trailer here (although you really should watch the whole film).

While many aspects of the crisis merit discussion, I’d like to focus on the growing rate of water privatization through corporate control of municipal water systems and bottling.  To introduce the topic, here is a nice and short interview with Maude Barlow who co-authored Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water, which has now been turned into an award-winning documentary: Blue Gold: World Water Wars.

Water for Profit not for People

Want to know how a city loses its’ most precious natural resource?  Here’s how it happens:  A multi-national corporation (which by law is required to put its own interests — generating profits for its shareholders — above all others) creeps into an area, gains control, and privatizes the water at a pittance.  Then they sell it back to you for a bundle.  You can’t survive without water so you don’t have a choice but to buy at whatever price they are selling (or obtain even more contaminated water from other sources).

But the rising privatization of water shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  The common rally cry is that water is an essential human right and thus should not be held in private hands — but are land and food not also essential human rights? It would be very difficult to live if you didn’t have something to live on or something to eat while you’re living there!  So, while we cannot live without land and food, we pay for both.  To capitalism and corporations, water is no different.

Pumping Water

More specifically, what happens is a corporation moves into an area where water infrastructure is either lacking or entirely absent — this can happen both domestically and abroad — and entices the local government to sell or lease their water to the corporation in exchange for cash and promises of improvements to the system.   In the 1990’s there was a resurgence of privatization of water systems in the U.S., but private ownership of water was nothing new.   Private companies controlled much of the U.S. water supply in the 1800’s, but the same problems that arise when water is privatized today were issues then.  Businesses were unwilling to invest the needed capital into water systems for booming cities, people were unable to access water, and as a result government stepped in and took control over water infrastructure.  The problem now is the reverse: local governments lacks the capital to make the necessary upgrades and expansions to water works for a growing population.  Corporations attempting to control water in the U.S. today include French-owned Suez (aka United Water) and Veolia.  The largest company in the U.S. is American Water.

Food and Water Watch has an in-depth report on water privatization in the U.S. called Money Down the Drain, so I’ll just give you the highlights of what citizens can expect if their government sell the local water system, they include: rate hikes, water contaminants and service cutbacks.  History has shown that privatization of water fails again and again in every important way, yet in the U.S. alone, lured by an ostensible fix massive budget short-falls, hundreds of cities have turned over control of their drinking and sewer water systems to corporations.  Right now, my hometown of Milwaukee is reviewing bids from “ten firms seeking an advisory mandate on the monetization of the city’s drinking water system.”  I’m not exactly sure what that means, so I called Food and Water Watch for their take on the situation.

According to Jon Keesecker, a senior organizer for the Take Back the Tap campaign at Food and Water Watch, it’s one of the first concrete steps in selling the city’s water.  The Comptroller will review the 16-17 applications that were turned in, interview the applicants and eventually hire an advisor to help the city move forward with privatization.  In theory the financial advisor is impartial body which values the system and gives the city expertise to study proposals.  In reality, the financial advisor greases the wheels to make privatization happen more quickly and they do so because their payment is often dependent on it.  Milwaukee should know better, the city’s sewer system is already privately controlled, currently by Veolia.  Because of so many problems, including dumping raw sewage into Lake Michigan seemingly every time it rained, the city ended its contract with Suez in 2007.

So, what can be done? A lot.  People are fighting back against corporate control of municipal water systems all over the U.S.  Last year in Felton, CA activists with the grassroots organization Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water successfully won back public control over the city’s water supply from California-American Water after a six-year battle.  Folks in Emmaus, PA stopped a bid for privatization quickly after it began by taking out full-page ads in the local newspaper demanding a public hearing on the issue, getting 300 people to attend the hearing and over 50 to speak out against it.  The group’s work changed the minds of three previously pro-privatization council members and the proposal subsequently died.  In Milwaukee right now, water, public policy and union groups are already mobilizing to prevent the City Council from selling Milwaukee’s most valuable resource to the highest bidder.

National groups studying privatization and working to stop it include: Food and Water Watch, Clean Water Action and Corporate Accountability International.  If you live in Milwaukee and want to get involved in the anti-privatization work there, contact John Keesecker at Food and Water Watch by emailing  jkeesecker [at]