Tag Archives: Russell Simmons

Celebrities Demand President Make Japan’s Dolphin Slaughter “a Key Factor” in Next Round of TPP Negotiations

Celebrities Demand President Make Japan’s Dolphin Slaughter “a Key Factor” in Next Round of TPP Negotiations

LOS ANGELES, CA — Dozens of celebrities and activists have joined hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in calling upon Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to pressure President Barack Obama to refuse signing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) until Japan abandons its practice of drive hunt slaughter and capture of dolphins and porpoises. The letter does not assert a position in regards to the TPP, rather, it attempts to inject the growing concern over Japan’s wanton slaughter of cetacean species into the next round of trade talks scheduled to be held from February 17 – 19, 2014. News of the letter, sent to Ambassador Kennedy’s office yesterday afternoon, was broken by the Associated Press at 12:00pm in Japan, and triggered an avalanche of international news coverage overnight.

Sean Penn, Jennifer Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Oliver Stone are among a portion of the laundry list of undersigned celebrities, each expressing outrage over the slaughter. The letter specifically focuses on the seasonal drive hunt held annually in Japan’s Taiji Cove.

“Since the start of the Taiji drive hunt season on September 1, 2013, over 600 dolphins have been slaughtered,” states the letter “…and over 149 were taken captive, slated to live lonely, degrading, psychosis-inducing lives analogous to enslavement at amusement parks, as chronicled in the film ‘Blackfish’. The drive hunt and slaughter of 20,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales that occurs throughout Japan each year is Japan’s shame. These barbaric drives, that began in 1969, must be stopped immediately.”

The TPP and the process in which any agreement will be reached has remained largely shrouded from public discourse. The letter expresses some of the groups frustration regarding the TPP’s lack of transparency and avoidance of democratic process…

“Corporations have spent the past two years marking-up the language of the TPP to serve their interests, should human compassion not be afforded the same privilege as business interests?”

The full text of the letter can be read below. A Japanese translation of the letter is available to share HERE.  A copy of the original can be viewed HERE

Russell Simmons
February 5, 2014*
Dear Ambassador Kennedy,

We, the undersigned, ask you to personally deliver this petition to President Barack Obama urging him to NOT sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) until Japan bans the slaughter and capture of Dolphins in Taiji.

Following the graphic news reports on January 17th that five pods of Bottlenose dolphins were driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove, leaving 40 slaughtered and 51 captured, people watching from around the world were left heartbroken. In the wake of this massacre, thousands expressed their gratitude to you for expressing your opposition to these killings and captures on social media. We join them in gratitude for your concern for the dolphins of Japan.

Images of the panicked Bottlenose (more than 250 in total-including a very rare white calf who may be blind and/or deaf) broke the hearts of millions, as they watched the live-streamed coverage, or viewed photographs taken by those present during the drive hunt. The widely-shared video documenting terrified families of dolphins clinging together as Taiji fisherman ran them over with their boats, cordoned them off with nets, and drove them towards the killing cove, has sparked an international outcry to end this brutality.

Since the start of this Taiji drive hunt season on September 1, 2013, over 600 dolphins have been slaughtered, and over 149 were taken captive, slated to live lonely, degrading, psychosis-inducing lives analogous to enslavement at amusement parks, as chronicled in the film “Blackfish”. The drive hunt and slaughter of 20,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales that occurs throughout Japan each year is Japan’s shame. These barbaric drives, that began in 1969, must be stopped immediately.

We, the undersigned, are not using this petition to assert a position in regards to the TPP, rather we are underscoring that your influential voice in defense of the dolphins of Japan is instrumental in expressing to the White House the importance of making their slaughter and captive trade a key factor in the negotiations ahead. Corporations have spent the past two years marking-up the language of the TPP to serve their interests, should human compassion not be afforded the same privilege as business interests? Although we understand that the negotiations have been quite lengthy, at this point, we feel the only way to end these heinous crimes against dolphins migrating through Japan’s waters is to inject our position into the current conversation regarding the trade agreement.

The world is looking to you, Ambassador Kennedy, and to our government to send a clear message to Japan that this atrocity must be banned NOW.

For the dolphins, For all of humanity,
Russell Simmons & Simone Reyes
Sean Penn
Mia Farrow
Sam Simon
Ann Wilson
Emily Deschanel
Ingrid Newkirk / PETA
Diane Warren
Courtney Love
Captain Paul Watson
Susan Sarandon
Chris DeRose / Last Chance for Animals
Jennifer Hudson
Nick Cannon
Melissa Carbone / TTO Productions
Shannon Elizabeth
Oliver Stone
Trevor Neilson / Global Philanthropy Group
Nathan Runkle / Mercy for Animals
Ellen DeGeneres
Gene Baur / Farm Sanctuary
Ian Somerhalder
Olivia Munn
Kellan Lutz
Shannen Doherty
Charlize Theron
Cameron Diaz
Alicia Silverstone
Channing and Jenna Tatum
Woody Harrelson
Pamela Anderson
Sharon Lawrence
William Shatner
Tony Kanal
Gwyneth Paltrow
Jennifer Aniston
Josh Gad
Nancy Wilson
John Salley
Denise Richards
Ric O’Barry / The Cove / The Dolphin Project
Reverend Jesse Jackson

To arrange an interview with Simone Reyes or Russell Simmons regarding this initiative please contact Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. information about how to take action to stop the Taji dolphin drive-hunt is available via The Cove Guardians HERE as well as from The Dolphin Project HERE 

All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets: George Martinez’s Response to Jay-Z

All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets: George Martinez’s Response to Jay-Z

[NEW YORK, NY] George Martinez grabbed national headlines when he became the first Occupier to qualify as a major party primary candidate for the United States House of Representatives, but few know that the fledgling politician also has a seasoned career as a celebrated hip-hop emcee in New York City’s grassroots political hip-hop scene.

Last week when Jay-Z was interviewed for a cover feature in the New York Times Style Magazine he indicted Occupy Wall Street as a directionless cloud of ideas. Local press was buzzing with how Occupy would respond, would they ignore it?, would they protest?, would Jay even care if they did? Hip-Hop media mogul Russell Simmons quickly seized this opportunity to open up a dialogue with Jay-Z surrounding money in politics. Simmon’s political director, Michael Skolnik quickly followed suit with his own thoughtful response, but in order to fully capture Occupy’s & Hip-Hop’s response to Jay-Z’s uninformed comments it would be best to have the response come from an Occupy Hip-Hop artist.

The following is George Martinez’s letter to Jay-Z & Russell Simmons…

First, I want to thank Jay Z for his recent public statements regarding the Occupy movement. I respect his honesty and I welcome this exchange as an end to the “Government For Sale” syndrome corrupting our democratic processes.

Second, I want to thank Russell Simmons for his response to Jay in an attempt to educate and build solidarity. His response was a thorough and thoughtful summation of the macro issues that Occupy has raised over the last year. In particular, Russell helped to illustrate the connections between “the corrosive influence of money in politics and elections” and repressive policies like stop and frisk.

Jay, I would prefer to build with you instead of slam you, and I know that you are already supporting a number issues that make up the cloud of “Occupy,” like… ending the war on drugs, supporting job creation and supporting the president on marriage equality. And let’s also be clear, I know progressives don’t want to plunk tens of thousands of dollars per plate on campaign fundraisers when they know that the money could be going to directly helping people and directly investing in the community. But because some have highjacked our democracy through Super PACs that spend limitless amounts of corporate cash in politics, hope and opportunity get stifled. This process has driven our country towards the brink of economic ruin.

In response to this process a coalition of activists, artists and various segments of the community have taken on the challenge of getting money out of politics and putting the people back in charge of their democracy. To get the money out …and put the voters in!

Our public and political institutions should not be allowed to operate under the same rules the govern regular commercial industries, since our constitution and our republic exist only through a social contract bound by the consent of its’ people. Thus “we the people” vest trust in our public institutions and must raise up when that trust is violated, or when special interests join to undermine the integrity of our public institutions, politicians and their elections. Imagine Jay, some people believe that corporations are people like you and me. They believe that these corporations have the same rights as people. Then, with a Supreme Court decision called, Citizens United v. F.E.C, the “Super PAC” was born allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections because of their individual rights to “free speech” just like you and me. I hope you would agree, that this is wrong. In fact, President Obama, has also said he supports exploring a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the “Citizens United” decision.

For me, “Occupy” can be easily understood from a Hip Hop perspective.

With Hip Hop we bum rushed school yards and sidewalks and transformed them into dance arenas for breakers. We didn’t ask James Brown or anyone if we could sample their records. We “borrowed” electricity from lamp posts to power our amps. We painted subway cars and inspired a global phenomenon that is literally saving lives around the world through the convergence of 5 elements: Dj, Rap, Aerosol Graffiti, B-boy, and Knowledge.

What happened in Zuccotti Park was similar to the spirit of Hip Hop; in that an unauthorized assembly of like-minded and creative people, created a space for community building and organizing to directly address local community concerns. More importantly, “Occupy” took on the overarching barrier to addressing these concerns due to the corrupting power corporate money has on our democratic processes and institutions. Through this organic coalition, a framework was created to mobilize around the reality that “another world Is possible.” By creating this framework, a model was built that embraced a diverse set of strategies to encourage everyday people to find where they could fit into the movement to work towards the overarching goal of reclaiming our democracy and building opportunity.

At the beginning of my involvement with OWS, I also observed that there was a “cloud of issues,” however, I quickly recognized many of them as issues that I and others in the Hip Hop community had been vocalizing and organizing around for years. Through keeping an open mind and participating in the democratic and community-building processes, I learned from others and was able to build support to identify specific strategies and actions to focus the movement on addressing issues that impact my immediate community. This included focusing on strategies to challenge the power of money and its’ corrupting influence on our democracy. We did this by building a grassroots movement and providing tools to empower the hood through a “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY), direct democracy engine that would facilitate community deliberation of important issues, implementation of community solutions and community resource management. Additionally, we inspired people to “Occupy” local political office. My personal “direct action” involved running for Congress by building a “Block by Block, and City by City” electoral direct action movement called Bum Rush The Vote (BRTV). The premise of BRTV is simple, build a people’s machine that can compete against the power of the corporate control over our democracy.

Five months into the Occupy movement, I declared my candidacy, for New York’s newly redrawn 7th Congressional District. This included my home neighborhoods Red Hook and Sunset Park and your home neighborhood of Marcy Houses. Throughout the course of my campaign, I met with thousands of people on their neighborhood blocks, highlighting their stories in order to move the dialogue beyond the macro analysis of the issues to the real-time effects on our neighborhoods. One issue in particular, that Russell also highlighted, involves the relationship between money and the prison industrial complex which has particularly harsh repercussions in the hood. Studies document that there is a dollar for dollar relationship between dollars cut from public education and increased investment in the prison industrial complex. Furthermore, in New York, your home neighborhood of Marcy Houses falls in the police district with one of the highest rates of youth “stops and frisks,” all while local schools and youth programs are either failing or are being shut down.

This is our opportunity to “HEAL” once again. To hold those accountable who have corrupted the political system with corporate interests. The end result includes the reality that communities we come from are further disempowered, underserved and deliberately targeted by the prison industrial complex to the point that there is a dollar for dollar correlation in cuts to education and investment in prisons. KRS ONE, said it so eloquently in his lyrics to HEAL Yourself, “…black and white ain’t the real fight, that’s the only thing the media hypes, the real fight is these major corporations, holding back on real education…

This is why I occupied, this why we are the 99%, and this is why we need the 100% who want to reclaim our democracy and our communities. I believe that the space of transformational hopefulness that is at the core of “Occupy” is available to everyone, and that we all have a part to play in finding solutions. I have committed my non-profit organization, the Global Block Foundation, to developing and distributing Bum Rush The Vote as our official political literacy initiative. I invite you to join us, or, in the spirit of “Occupy,” get in where you fit in. Working Together, Block by Block and City by City, Another World is Possible.

All Day, All Week, Occupy All Streets!

George Martinez, is the first OWS organizer to qualify as a major party primary candidate for the US House of Representatives and creator of Bum Rush The Vote. He and his wife are the creators of the #OWS Hip Hop Anthem: Occupation Freedom He is an artist/ activist who believes in the power of Hip Hop culture as a force for positive world change and serves as a Hip Hop Ambassador with the US Dept of State. He is a former Democratic District Leader of the 51st Assembly District in Brooklyn, a professor of Political Science at Pace University and the Founder of the Global Block Foundation. He has appeared on MSNBC, HuffPost Live, Telemundo, TEDx and was the subject of a cover story in the Village Voice. Follow George on twitter at @hongeomartinez Follow Bum Rush The Vote on Twitter at @bumrushthevote

Occupy Wall Street, Patti Smith, Russell Simmons to Honor the Spirit of Dr. King with Vigil at Riverside Church

Occupy Wall Street, Patti Smith, Russell Simmons to Honor the Spirit of Dr. King with Vigil at Riverside Church

In the past week The Sparrow Project has had the privilege to work closely with Occupy Wall Street to coordinate, promote, and execute a PR campaign surrounding a massive global solidarity event honoring the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Continuing King’s message of non-violence, racial equality and economic justice Occupy Wall Street & the #J15 Organizing Committee have crafted a luminous movement towards global systemic change.  Below is our press release for the event and a roundup of press coverage that includes interviews with Occupiers and Sparrow volunteers.

Religious leaders, artists, and members of the Occupy movement will unite globally on January 15th, 2012 to honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  At 6:30 p.m. in New York City hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists will assemble on the steps of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Avenue) and at 7:00 p.m. begin a massive candlelight march to nearby Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive). The group will join additional feeder marches and members of the community at Riverside Church for a candlelight vigil and celebration renewing King’s message of peace, justice, and equality for all, regardless of race or economic class. The action will culminate in an assembly featuring performances and speak-outs from artists, celebrities, religious leaders, and activists. Performances by Patti Smith, Steve Earle, Stephan Said, and Kozza Olantunji, as well as many more, will complement the inspirational words of Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Yoko Ono, Russell Simmons, Reverend Stephen H. Phelps, Daisey Kahn, Norman Siegel, Sumumba Sobukwe and Malik Rhasaan of Occupy the Hood.

“Poverty, an issue to which King showed increased focus in the years just before his death, finds its way into the darkest chapters in American History. Dr. King sought to shine a light of justice against those dark chapters of war, repression and racism, our candles symbolize that light,” says Abigail Keegan of Occupy Wall Street.

“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.’” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

 Riverside Church has been an intersection of faith and social justice in the greater New York metropolitan area for over 80 years. At Riverside in 1967, Dr. King gave his historic “Beyond Vietnam” speech. On King’s birthday and in the spirit of his vision for racial and economic equality, peace, and non-violence, activists will return to Riverside in solidarity with others holding candlelight vigils from California to Cairo; New York to New Orleans; Germany to Nova Scotia, to unite our world in a global movement for systemic change. The Riverside Church (www.theriversidechurchny.org) is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. The 1,200-member Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has a rich tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers include: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President William J. Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

This candlelight vigil kicks off more than 24 hours of Occupy Wall Street-organized events and actions including a march on Monday, Jan. 16th at 9am from the African Burial Ground to the Federal Reserve Bank for a rally for economic justice. For more information about the January 15th action visit http://j15global.org

Bloomberg Business Week
→ PRN→ Politicker NY
→ Atlantic Wire (mention)
→ The Nation→ KPFK Pacifica, Sojourner Truth
→ Thom Hartmann Radio Show
→ Buzz Feed
→ Death & Taxes
→ Daily Finance
→ The Huffington Post
→ Paramus Post
→ Girlie Girl Army
→ Park Forest E-News
→ New York Amsterdam News
→ Metro Latino News
→ PJ Media

NPR Thom Hartmann Radio Show – TK
Pacifica Paleocrat – TK
The New Yorker – TK
The Progressive – TK
The Guardian – TK
Citizen Radio – TK
Democracy Now – TK
Wire Image – TK
Getty Images – TK
Film Magic – TK
Pacifica “Living Room” – TK

Russell Simmons on Activism, Spirituality & Bold Native

After hosting the New York premiere of Bold Native, the first fiction film about the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Russell Simmons sits down to talk about veganism, spirituality and radical activism. On the nine billion animals bred, raised and killed for food annually in the U.S., Simmons says, “Aside from all the suffering we’re causing and all the sickness we cause, we’re abusing the planet as well.” He goes on to talk about the difficulty in creating a change in consciousness and the importance of films like Bold Native for doing just that.

To book a screening of Bold Native at your college contact danielle@sparrowmedia.net