Snaps for Social Impact

I've been pretty obsessed with Snapchat lately, as you can see here and here.

Clearly, the augmented reality video messaging app isn't just for kids anymore. I started digging around and found some clever ways that nonprofit and social impact marketers are using the platform to connect audiences to their mission in meaningful ways.

Laurie Keith, director of National Media Accounts at The Ad Council, launched a partnership on the platform, called "I am a witness," to combat cyber bullying. Snapchat influencers and fans told their stories and pledged their support to stop bullying, using custom filters. 

Photo via Laurie Keith.

Photo via Laurie Keith.

Disease-fighting organization (RED) offered three special photo filters on World AIDS Day. Every time a user snapped with a (RED) filter, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $3 to the organization’s crusade against AIDS.

Image via re/code.

Image via re/code.

WWF in Denmark brought attention to crisis of animal extinction with its “Don’t let this be my #lastselfie” filter on close-up photos of endangered species. The disappearing nature of the photos on Snapchat mirrors the urgency of real life.

Similarly, nonprofit OndAzul of Brazil shared snaps to educate viewers about environmental disasters.

For its #BringBackOurChildhood campaign, UNICEF teamed up with Snapchat artists and influencers, like Shaun McBride, a.k.a. Shonduras, to send out snaps based on drawings done by children displaced by the violence of terrorist group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

On a lighter note, as a fun and ridiculous way to engage their young community, DoSomething.org used a combination of Snapchat and text messaging to get followers to sign up for the Would You Rather financial literacy campaign.

Photo via Mashable.

Photo via Mashable.

Outside of the nonprofit world, Snapchat is used to raise awareness about important global affairs. Panorama, BBC's flagship current affairs program, was a Shorty Award finalist for its Snapchat "day-by-day digital documentary," covering the refugee crisis and migrant journey from the Greek islands into Western Europe.

Another news organization, National Geographic, didn't quite get the memo about how Snapchat works...and created a series of print ads showcasing Snapchat's Face Swap feature, in hopes of delivering the message to "swap prejudice for knowledge." The campaign was supposed to inspire compassion and empathy. I don't know about you, but the creep factor was high for me on this one.

Image via PSFK.

Image via PSFK.

This is my fifth blog post in a series for #The100DayProject, a project by Elle Luna. I'm naming it the #100Days ofBenevolent: an attempt to kickstart my daily blogging habit, which has been idle for years.

The Healing Power of Poetry

When life gives you lemons, release a high-profile HBO special with celebrity cameos and a "visual album" to stream exclusively on Tidal.

Beyonce's "Lemonade" had the Beyhive buzzing all weekend, with people speculating about infidelity and marital strife, applauding #blackgirlmagic and #blacklivesmatter, and dissecting the personal and political implications of an unfolding pop culture saga.

No doubt, "Lemonade" is a statement on being a black woman in America. It includes an audio clip of late civil rights leader Malcolm X, who is heard saying: 'The most disrespected person in America is the black woman." Later, the mothers of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner appear, holding framed photos of their deceased sons.

The stylized music videos are interspersed with spoken word poetry by Kenyan-born, Somali-British poet laureate Warsan Shire. The interludes are adapted from some of her poems, including "For Women Who Are Difficult To Love" and "The unbearable weight of staying (the end of the relationship)."

What gives "Lemonade" emotional depth is the use of Warsan's poetry as the voice of the protagonist, both a truthseeker and nurturer.

ANGER // "I don't know when love became elusive. What I know is, no one I know has it. My father's arms around my mother's neck, fruit too ripe to eat. I think of lovers as trees... growing to and from one another. Searching for the same light."

ACCOUNTABILITY // "Your mother is a woman and women like her can not be contained. Mother dearest, let me inherent the earth. Teach me how to make him beg. Let me make up for the years he made you wait. Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head? Am I talking about your husband or your father?"

FORGIVENESS // "Baptize me... now that reconciliation is possible. If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken."

Warsan regularly teaches poetry workshops to uncover and heal trauma. She has written on painful subjects, from her struggles with bulimia to her experience as an undocumented refugee.

"I know that poetry has saved my life," she has said. "It helps me make sense, articulate, heal, revisit, rewrite, reimagine, celebrate, curse, ask, feel and understand."

In an interview, Warsan said "apathy is making the world rot." If apathy is the root of destruction, then feeling is the perfect antidote, the first step towards creation.

For the sake of black women, faithful lovers, growing girls, grieving mothers, yes, let's hope.

Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, who died August 2014.

Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, who died August 2014.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, who died February 2012.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, who died February 2012.

Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who died July 2014.

Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who died July 2014.

This is my fourth blog post in a series for #The100DayProject, a project by Elle Luna. I'm naming it the #100Days ofBenevolent: an attempt to kickstart my daily blogging habit, which has been idle for years.

Menstruation Goes Mainstream

This is my first blog post in a series for #The100DayProject, a project by Elle Luna. I'm naming it the #100Days ofBenevolent: an attempt to kickstart my daily blogging habit, which has been idle for years.

I'm already 2 days behind, which means I will have to catch up. My inertia came from a scarcity mindset - is my project good enough? Is it going to be worth it? Will anyone care? What should I write first? Will I run out of ideas?

Today, I decided, just start. With abundance.

The topic: woman.

Menstruation is so hot right now.

Poet, author and spoken word performer Rupi Kaur made headlines last year for a photo she posted on Instagram intended to "demystify the period," as part of a series she developed for a visual rhetoric course in her final year at university. 

Photo by Rupi Kaur.

Photo by Rupi Kaur.

Since then, media outlets have been riding the wave, so to speak, of the conversation about blood flowing out of a woman's vagina (yes, I said vagina!)

Just look at Newsweek's most recent cover story: "THE FIGHT TO END PERIOD SHAMING IS GOING MAINSTREAM."

Photo via Newsweek.

Photo via Newsweek.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, students at Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore, Pakistan got press mentions for sharing handwritten messages on sanitary pads stuck to their campus walls, as a protest to end the shame and stigma around periods.

Messages say things like  “This blood is not dirty” and “Periods make us hornier."

Photo via Pakistan Today.

Photo via Pakistan Today.

Art as protest is nothing new, but art as shame-busting, period-mainstreaming is relatively trendy. See “Beauty in Blood" by Jen Lewis, who used her period blood to create an art project, with the images taken by her husband Rob Lewis.

Art by Jen Lewis via Buzzfeed.

Art by Jen Lewis via Buzzfeed.

Perhaps Ygritte and Jon Show in Game of Thrones foreshadowed all of this, back in 2014.

Ygritte: "What's swooning?"
Jon: "... Fainting."
Ygritte: "What's fainting?"
Jon: "When a girl sees blood and collapses."
Ygritte: "Why would a girl see blood and collapse?"
Jon: "Well... Not all girls are like you."
Ygritte: "Girls see more blood than boys."