Gulf (P)Aid?

By Mariko Toyoji (mariko@labucketbrigade.org)

On Sunday despite a rainstorm and flooded streets concert goers tuned out for the Gulf Aid Benefit Concert put on by the Gulf Relief Foundation to aid “organizations focused on supporting wetlands/coastal environmental issues & the well-being of fishermen, and the regional seafood industry.”  At the request of  our friends at WWOZ, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade recruited and organized 30 volunteers to help out at the Gulf Aid Benefit concert.   With the time and energy of our staff and volunteers we provided services that helped make the event a success.  Unfortunately, our efforts were not met with appreciation and we were almost kicked out of the event and threatened with police force.

Prior to Sunday we asked and were granted  permission from WWOZ and Rehage Entertainment the production company putting on the show, to table at the benefit.  We distributed fliers and talked to people about the Oil Spill Crisis Map, a new mapping tool to track the oil spill, and encouraged them to report in if they were being affected by the BP spill.  We were excited to get the word out to a large number of people that are concerned with the situation in the Gulf, or at the very least a bunch of Lenny Kravitz fans.

At around 4:30pm, nearly six hours after we had set up our table we were ordered by a man, describing himself as a facility representative, to pack up in five minutes and leave the premises immediately or he was going to call the police.  Completely baffled, as to what prompted this order we asked why we had to leave.  Apparently the problem arose from donations we received from concertgoers that wanted to support our efforts in the Oil Spill.  All proceeds from the event were supposed to go to the beneficiaries of the Gulf Aid Foundation, (who have yet to be named).  Our offer to stop taking donations did not settle the dispute and we were told to shut down our table immediately or the cops would be called in.  Reminders that the we had received permission to table and were coordinating event volunteers were dismissed.  He said they wanted to keep the volunteers, but that the Louisiana Bucket Brigade could not “spread its agenda” at the benefit.  He said that orders had come from “The Board,” which is strange, because he said that it was an issue with the facility originally.  Apparently this Board is fine with using a local grassroots organization for its volunteer base, but will silence its efforts to raise public awareness for a mapping tool.

Several other people involved in the event, including Geoff from WWOZ defended our presence at Gulf Aid.  Finally, after far more arguing than necessary, we were allowed to keep our table under one condition; we took down our sign that reads, “Concerned about the BP Spill?  Come over here.”  We were told that the problem with our sign was that it specifically mentions BP.  Excuse me, but its not going to be news to anyone at the event that BP is responsible for this oil spill.  It wasn’t clear why exactly we were being asked to leave in such a hostile manner and among the confusion an inconsistencies something  definitely seemed strange at Gulf Aid.

Our table: Before and After

The order to shut down our table was not the only attempt to silence LABB.  Ani Difranco invited us on stage with her to talk about the Oil Spill Crisis Map for a couple minutes during her set, but that was shot down by managment because, “The day is supposed to be about the music.”  Although, Ani pulled through and still gave us a shout out.  Thanks Ani!  🙂

This concern with the mention of BP, the silencing of LABB, the exclusion of local environmental groups from tabling (LABB was the only local environmental advocacy group allowed to table at Gulf Aid) and the lack of named benefactors should raise some red flags around the agenda of the Gulf Relief Foundation.  There is very little available information about the foundation.  My attempts to contact them have been futile.  Their website lists no contact phone number or email address, just a P.O. Box.  The “Recent News” section features a lone article on BP’s last attempt to stop the oil gusher, with no mention of news regarding their constituency, fishermen and wetlands.  Something seemed fishy at Gulf Aid, and it wasn’t the seafood gumbo.

Benefit attendees: For the sake of local fishermen, keep your eyes on the Gulf Relief Foundation, find out where your ticket money is going and demand accountability for your donation!

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About mtoyoji

I am the Research Associate/Media Coordinator at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
This entry was posted in BP Oil Spill, Oil Spill Crisis Map, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Gulf (P)Aid?

  1. John Dorsey says:

    wow. i guess i should be surprised but i’m really not. definitely going to repost this to spread the word. everyone should realize that not all efforts to save the gulf are as legitimate as they seem. it’s an unfortunate truth but we have to make sure that the efforts we take are not in vain. this does not mean in any way that we should stop trying. it just means we have to work harder.

  2. Jamie Hansen says:

    I just recently read the Bucket Brigade post regarding the recent Gulf Aid concert, which was designed to fundraise monies to assist those negatively affected by the oil disaster. The post, which you can read here, explains that the Bucket Brigade was almost asked to leave the show (for rather vague reasons involving targeting British Petroleum through one of their signs and asking for donations). It also raises the concern that the recipients of the Gulf Aid fundraiser have yet to be named.

    Eyebrows raised, I called to check in with WWOZ General Manager and even Co-Founder David Freedman to see what was up with the Gulf Aid monies.

    Freedman verified that recipients of the Gulf Aid fundraiser haven’t yet been chosen: “We’re trying to get on the ground, visit these groups, and widen our pool so we consider all the possible groups [that are worthy],” he said.

    Freedman is one of the three members of the Gulf Aid board, along with plumbing contractor Joe Jaeger and Sidney Torres of SDT Waste and Debris Services.

    Freedman said the final tally of the funds raised through last Saturday’s concert wasn’t completed yet, and declined to give an estimate of what those funds might be. He did estimate that the amount — and likely the names of the beneficiaries — will be released Friday.

    According to a Times-Picayune article, the board is using the following criteria in selecting those beneficiaries:

    “The foundation’s creators are hoping to support organizations that meet the foundation’s three standards: Money must go as directly as possible to beneficiaries, not operating costs; it must help either wildlife or people whose livelihoods were directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill; and it must target needs not being addressed by government…”

    It sounds like the board could use some help finding the best — and most legitimate — groups to donate to. To encourage the Gulf Aid group to donate to an organization you think deserves it most, email David Freedman at david@wwoz.org.

    Also, stay tuned as we continue to cover how much Gulf Aid raised and where the money will go.

  3. mtoyoji says:

    Thank you Jamie for checking up on the allocation of the funds. We really need the foundation to know that, for the sake of benefactors, people are concerned with how the donations are distributed. What a great idea to have people take a proactive approach and suggest deserving recipient organizations to the foundation. Thanks again for your help!

  4. Pingback: Weit ist der Weg vom Ohr zum Herzen, aber noch weiter ist der Weg zu den helfenden Händen… « Laila's Musik Blog

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