Our Best Oxfam Jam Yet! Oxfam Action Corps NYC Celebrates International Women's Day

Oxfam Action Corps Co-Organizer, Andrea, Vocos, introduces Kiran Gandhi.
There is nothing quite like music to get you to listen.  Music unites people through a common message that is vibrant, colorful, and undeniably unique.  So what better way to celebrate International Women’s Day and address issues of gender inequality than by listening to four fantastic, female fronted music groups?

Armed with a sound as fierce as their social message, the musicians playing at the Third Annual Oxfam Jam at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory presented a wide range of genre-crossing sets, running the full gamut from mellow to dramatic, upbeat and uplifting to poignant and powerful.

Ellen Winter started the night with her voice and keyboard, unaccompanied and unapologetic.  Her relatable lyrics had the crowd smiling and nodding knowingly to the familiar tribulations she shared in each of her songs.  This was followed by Amy Leon’s masterful infusion of music and poetry.  The Harlem native’s carefully crafted words spoke volumes about the diverse challenges to inequality that we all face everyday; her haunting melodies lingering long after she left the stage. Local artist Sarah Valleri did live, improvised artist inspired by the music. Next, the sister-fronted The New Tarot picked things up with the musical equivalent of a sequined tennis shoe – loud, fun, sparkly, and the perfect pop to any outfit – er, show. Lastly, headliner Madame Gandhi, fronted by drummer Kiran Gandhi of M.I.A. fame, hit home with thumping drum solos and fearless bass lines that brought the audience to their feet.  Her set kicked off with a short talk about the feminism  and intro by female Brazilian drum troop, Batala NYC. If that wasn't enough fun Vice and WhoSay were on site to experience the action first hand, check out their reviews here: Vice video, Whosay, i-D.

Each one of these women (and their fantastic back-up bands of all sexes) brought their diverse voices and sounds to the issues we face and successes we have had, honoring women as a force for change on International Women’s Day.  Halfway through the show, Oxfam Action Corps volunteers shared a powerful message: 62 individuals pulled away from the crowd.  This incredibly small number of people own the same amount of wealth as half of our planet.  This inequality hits women the hardest: despite the strides we have made, as many as 70% of the world’s poorest are female.

Watch Kiran talk about Oxfam and Women's Issues Below:
The night raised $1,100 for Oxfam's work with women and brought out close to 200 people.  However, there are things everyone can do.  We can spread the word, share the facts with those we know, and support powerful women here and across the globe. Click here to check out all of Oxfam’s current campaigns, sign a petition, contact your elected representatives, and receive more information about hosting your own outreach event or volunteer activity.  We're able to make it to show, you can still donate here. Know a musical artist who would want to join Madame Gandhi and all of the International Women’s Day performers in supporting Oxfam America?  Click here to learn how to host your own Oxfam Jam.
                                          Ellen Winter, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                          Ellen Winter, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                          Amy Leon, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                          Amy Leon, Photo Credit: Sam Monaco

                                          Sarah Valleri, Art created during Amy Leon's Set.

                                         The New Tarot, Photo Credit: Niya Sinckler

                                         The New Tarot, Photo Credit: Niya Sinckler

                                          Kiran Gandhi, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                          Madame Gandhi, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                         Madame Gandhi, Photo Credit: Sam Monaco

                                          Madame Gandhi, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

                                     Kiran & Amy Post Show, Photo Credit: Brittany Wilson

Left to Right: Liz Tilman, Oxfam NYC; Andrea Vocos, Oxfam NYC;
Kiran Gandhi; Amy Leon; Brittany Wilson, Oxfam NYC;
Liz Olsen, Oxfam America.

Watch videos from the night on our YouTube Channel!

Blog written by Oxfam Action Corps NYC volunteers Zoe Johannas edited by Karen E. Lund.

3rd Annual Oxfam Jam

This year, we are excited to be combining our annual volunteer-organized Oxfam Jam benefit concert with International Women's Day! We're proud to feature a talented range of feminist musicians, as well as a live painter, who are all passionate about Oxfam's work. 

*For more information on the artists, please see the official press release
*Facebook event link here
*Tickets will be $10 in advance and can be purchased here
*Show is open to all ages.
*All proceeds go to Oxfam America. 
*If you are interested in helping with promotion or logistics, we can use your help! 

Even It Up

Did you know that the richest 62 people in the world have more (combined) wealth than the poorest half of the entire global population?! 62 people is one crowded subway car and way less than the number of Facebook friends you have. And half the population is 3.5 billion people! That's crazy. And they keep getting richer and richer. Just 5 years ago the number was 388 and 1 year ago it was 80. Did you know that as much as $7.6 trillion of personal wealth is being hidden in offshore accounts? Or that the poorest countries lose about $100 billion dollars every single year to international corporate tax dodging. That's enough money to get every child into school four times over. Sensing a connection here? The mega-rich are getting richer at the poor's expense. Oxfam sees the injustice in this situation. That's why they launched the Even It Up campaign. They are calling on Congress to pass The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. This would close some corporate tax loopholes in the US while increasing transparency abroad. You can take action by signing the petition here and by calling your Representative and asking them to support the bill. Together we can Right this Wrong.

The 21st Conference of Parties met this month in Paris to discuss climate change and how the global community will work within their own borders and collectively as a whole to combat the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions. After tireless negotiations that ran past the deadline and into the wee hours, an agreement was finally decided. The following bullet points are just a few of the commitments that came out of the Agreement. To read the full Agreement, please see the link at the end.

-In total, 187 countries, or 97% of the global air pollution, will enact emission reduction plans for action after 2020 specific to their country. (Commitments to reduce emissions by 2020 were previously made in the COPs that occurred in Copenhagen and Cancun.)

Here are a couple of examples to give a sense of what these country-level commitments look like…
US: cut economy-wide emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025.
China: peak carbon emissions no later than 2030, while increasing non-fossil fuels to 20% of their energy mix, and also reducing emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Unfortunately, each country’s commitments to reducing emissions are voluntary and no set levels are obligatory, but their plans will be announced in 2023 and their progress will be reviewed every 5 years after that. In this regards, the agreement calls for transparency. While the commitments are nonbinding, hopefully pressure from citizens and other countries will enforce these plans and efforts and real progress will be shown at these check-ins.

-Commitment to keeping the rise in global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius while endeavouring to limit it to 1.5 degrees.

-Commitment to peak global emissions asap, but unfortunately no actual projected date was mentioned. 

-Beginning at some point between 2050 – 2100, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity will be limited to the same level that trees, soil, and oceans can absorb naturally.

-On the matter of ‘climate finance’, the $100 billion commitment was reaffirmed to assist the more poor and vulnerable countries with adaptation and preparation. It also lists specific ways that developed countries can assist these countries with infrastructure and resources.

While these commitments are made by the governments, Secretary of State Kerry called the Agreement “a critical message to the global marketplace.” Countries and citizens are becoming more serious about climate change and adaptation and the consumer market would benefit by greening their business ahead of trends or even (hopefully future) obligatory regulations.

To read more about the talks and Agreement, here are a few articles:

They Swarmed Us: What would happen if the Wealthy Rebelled?

What Would Happen if the Wealthy Rebelled?
By Karen E Lund.

(Recap of our 2015 World Food Day Hunger Banquet. Originally posted on Circle of Ignorance on November 2, 2015)

A remarkable thing happened recently. The Oxfam Action Corps in New York City hosted a Hunger Banquet and things didn’t go according to plan.
That’s a good thing.
Spoiler alert: The best way to understand a Hunger Banquet is to actually attend one, no expectations. It’s a participatory event to make issues of hunger and poverty real, and words can’t do it justice. So if you’re planning to attend one in the near future, I recommend you wait to read this after the event. But if you’ve attended a Hunger Banquet before, of if you’re not sure where or when you might be able to, read on!
We had a good turn-out at St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn on October 14, about 50 people in a venue that supposedly holds 70, but still it seemed crowded.
As guests enter a Hunger Banquet they are asked to pick a ticket from a basket. Those tickets describe hypothetical people all around the world, divided into the high-income group (about 15-20% of the total), the middle-income group (about 30% of the total), and the low-income group (about half the participants). These represent the global demographics of rich, middle and poor.
The general program of a Hunger Banquet is simple:
  • Some introductory remarks and a little “global socioeconomic musical chairs;”
  • The banquet;
  • Discussion afterward.
Several Oxfam Action Corps volunteers shared the emcee role, and I got assigned the “musical chairs” section. So I promoted a few of our low-income participants to the middle, and demoted a few middle-income participants to the bottom. They were good-natured about it, even though being demoted means giving up a chair to sit on the floor.
At a Hunger Banquet, the low-income participants sit on the floor.
At a Hunger Banquet, the low-income participants sit on the floor.
Yes, we make the low-income participants sit on the floor! The middle group gets chairs, and the high-income group gets chairs around a table.
When the introduction is complete, dinner is served. As with the seating arrangements, the differences are stark. The high-income group gets pasta with tomato sauce, a salad, bread and butter, and a nice drink. The middle-income group gets rice and beans and clean, clear water. The low-income group gets rice and our own special “dirty” water (not actually dirty, entirely safe to drink, but made to look authentically dirty and gritty); they don’t get dishes or utensils.
I was self-assigned to the kitchen, and for convenience the high-income group was seated close by to make serving easier. So I had a perfect opportunity to hear the discussion at the table.
As the food was being passed around, before anyone had taken a bite, one woman asked, “What are the rules here? Are we allowed to share our food with the others?”
People at the high-income table wonder what the others are doing.
People at the high-income table wonder what the others are doing.
Startled silence from me and Jennifer, the one Action Corps member sitting at the high-income table. We’ve had people ask this before, but never so early. The question, if it is asked at all, usually comes about half-way through the dinner portion, when the high-income folks realize that there is more than enough food for them, but the low-income people have only rice–and no utensils!
Jennifer said that the rules were fairly open and they were permitted to share if they wanted.
“Well then, let’s share,” somebody said. And the whole high-income table got up from their seats and went to the middle of the room, where the low-income people were still trying to figure out how to share their pot of rice without bowls or utensils.

“They Just Swarmed Us”

When we discussed it at the end of the event, one of the low-income participants said, “They just swarmed us!” High-income participants at the table swooped down carrying bowls of pasta, sauce and salad, plates of bread, plates and utensils. They proffered bowls or spooned food directly onto plates. Because the amount of pasta we’d prepared was predicated on a small percentage of the total attendees it ran out, so some low-income participants got tomato sauce spooned over rice. They stretched out the salad and bread as much as possible.
People from the high-income table serve the low-income group.
People from the high-income table serve the low-income group.
Me? I watched in amazement from the kitchen and almost forgot to get some food for myself. This was my fourth Hunger Banquet (one as an attendee, three as an Oxfam volunteer) and I’d never seen anything like it. Neither had any other Oxfam volunteer. Eventually I grabbed my camera and took a few photos, then took a little food.

What If the Rich Rebelled?

Ever since witnessing this most unusual Hunger Banquet I’ve been wondering: What if the wealthy rebelled? What if, instead of the poor and hungry demanding a fair share of the world’s food, the well-off demanded that their consciences were relieved by sharing the bounty?
Of course the world’s problems are not as easy to solve as this. For one thing, rich and poor rarely sit (physically or metaphorically) so close together. It’s not as easy as standing up from the table and walking across the room. The poor and hungry are often hidden from our view. Homeless people on the streets of New York City, many of whom are mentally ill, can appear scary. And many of the world’s poor and hungry live in places like Syria and Afghanistan, which aren’t safe to visit. The logistics of hunger reliefare more complicated than a Hunger Banquet in a storefront church in Brooklyn.
But are they impossible? No.

It Started with a Question

One thing we can all do is speak up. Every great social movement started with a few people who questioned the fairness of the status quo. Sometimes it takes years, even decades, before that changes and justice is done, but it starts with a question.
“Is this fair?” “Is it just?” “Does it have to be this way?”
“Just what are the rules? Who made them and why do we have to obey them if they are unjust?” That’s essentially what happened at our Hunger Banquet, and minutes later everything had turned upside-down. The rich were serving the poor.
Perhaps this is what the inventor of Hunger Banquets had in mind all along?
I’m still working out the finer points of what this means, trying to get past the metaphors that don’t scale from a group of 50 people to the world’s 7 billion. (You could say this has pushed my Circle of Ignorance a bit farther than usual.) What are the questions I need to ask? What’s been bugging me that I need to speak out about?

And you? What’s the question you’re dying to ask, the injustice you want to point a finger at?

Huge thanks to St. Lydia’s Dinner Church for hosting us! And special thanks from me for the opportunity to cook on their gorgeous induction cooktop; if I could I’d have taken it home in my tote bag. I’ll gladly cook for you again!

You Are Invited!

We will be hosting a Hunger Banquet in honor of World Food Day. For those of you not familiar, a Hunger Banquet is an interactive event that brings hunger and poverty issues to live. Just like our resources and opportunities in life, it's the luck of the draw; will you sit with the upper, middle, or lower class? Will your status be the same by the end of the night? Join us for this memorable event and find out.

When: Wednesday, October 14th from 7:00pm - 9:30pm
Where: St. Lydia's 304 Bond Street, Brooklyn 
Cost: Free, just come with an open mind and please rsvp for an accurate headcount 

Geeks Who Drink Bar Trivia

In collaboration with Geeks Who Drink, a national group that brings trivia to bars across the nation every week, we will be holding a bar trivia fundraiser to support Oxfam's relief efforts in Nepal. 

Date: Thursday, June 11th
Time: 6:00pm 
Location: Bar None (98 3rd Avenue between 13th/12th Street)
Cost: $5
-Teams can be as few as one person or as many as six. 
-Come solo or come with friends. You don't need to have a team ahead of time, join up and make friends when you get there. 
-You don't need to be a genius or awesome at trivia, it's at a bar...
-Yes, there are prizes

Red Nose Day

A huge thank you to everyone who purchased a Red Nose from Walgreen, helped promote the event, and tuned into NBC for some laughs on the 21st. It was a huge success. $21 million was raised in total. This money will be equally divided among the 12 amazing charities that were selected. And who said you couldn't laugh away poverty :) Can't wait to do it again next year!

Oxfam Jams at Piano's

The Oxfam Action Corps NYC's 2nd Annual Oxfam Jam hit the stage this Thursday night at Piano's Upstairs Lounge.  This all volunteer curated event is part of concert series to fundraise for Oxfam's work and create awareness of hunger and poverty issues around the globe.

The night kicked off with the amazing songstress, Dyllan who enchanted us with her beautiful voice and melodies.  Next on stage was a wildly creative set from Tattoo Money.  Not only did his set bring every last person on the room who wasn't already standing to their feet, but his stage graphics created a visual experience unlike no other concert.  Corey Cambridge rounded out the night with a high-energy set that got the whole room jumping.  Corey was definitely a crowd pleaser, performing practically in the audience.  Talk about crowd participation - we love it!
Of course we can't forget the incredibly talented Laura Brooks who live painted throughout the night.  Her beautiful painting was part of our raffle and given to one lucky winner at the end of the night.  The raffle also included pieces from our favorite Action Corps designer, Lysa Ann.  This brand new clothing line creates unique pieces to let every girl express herself and is focused on fit.  Most importantly, pieces are "green," being made from either vintage or upcycled fabric, all to benefit nonprofits or others in need.

The night was a huge success with high energy and good vibes flowing throughout the night with a diverse mix of music and art.  We shared the night and Oxfam message with approximately 125 people and raised almost $250 that will go directly to Oxfam's work.  To put that number in Oxfam perspective, $250 can buy: 1 water pump for clean water in communities that would otherwise have to walk miles, 1 treat mosquito net to protect a whole family against deadly disease, buy school supplies for two students, and irrigate a farmer's land for 2 months. Thanks for making a difference!

Big thank you to everyone who made this night possible and for everyone who came out!

Photos below:


 Tattoo Money:

 Corey Cambridge:
Laura's Painting Almost Finished:
Oxfam Crew:

Interrobang Rocks Oxfam Jam


This Tuesday, Interrobang took the stage at Rockwood Music Hall to rock Oxfam Jam, and rock they sure did!  With a full set consisting of beautifully reworked covers, you felt as though you were part of a little secret watching their wonderful musicianship unfold throughout set over a variety of diverse tunes.  Covers ranged from 60's favorites such as  The Temptations, The Beatles, and The Monkees all the way to the 80s. 

Proceeds from the night went directly to Oxfam's work.

Check out some photos and videos below of Interrobang's Oxfam Jam by Sam Teichman:

"Don't Look Back":
"Life's About to Imitate Art":