In the fall of 2010, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion started a new tradition—a holiday party that would bring employees together to celebrate the season of giving, by giving back to those in need.
Give Back & Get Down (GBGD) is the brainchild of Nickelodeon Digital Publishing Executive Assistant Tara Shaw and BET News Production Manager Renee Jackson, leaders of the BEAT (our employee resource group focused on the African-American experience).
The inaugural celebration supported two vital causes.
City Harvest, the only food rescue program in New York City, collects excess food from restaurants and grocery stores—fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown out. Volunteers deliver this food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, day cares and senior centers throughout the five boroughs.
Pajama Program, a national nonprofit, helps underprivileged children have a good night’s sleep. Cozy pajamas and bedtime story books are brought to kids in foster care or temporary shelters
Employees brought donations of pajamas and food to the party. While OGI members collected these items, Grammy-winning artist Miguel performed.
Seven years later, GBGD is our annual giving celebration. It embraces the Viacommunity spirit of making a positive social impact in areas where we work and live, and gives employees at premier entertainment brands the chance to let loose and celebrate a year of hard work.
Viacom has collected approximately 60 tons of donations since 2010.
This year, we’ve partnered with Safe Horizons and Sanctuary for Families to support families and individuals impacted by domestic violence. GBGD VII is rapidly approaching, and donation boxes in our New York offices are filling up with toiletries.
Check back for a recap of GBGD VII on Dec. 7.
OGI Assistant Sarah Lee contributed to this article.
Straight out of Skidmore College, she interned and assisted at Nickelodeon during the nascent days of the now-iconic Blues Clues, Several divisions and promotions later, she is vice president of preschool production and development, regularly flying out to collaborate with Nick’s animation teams in LA and partnering with production companies in Toronto, Vancouver and Dublin. The smash hit Blaze and the Monster Machinesand the upcoming animated Butterbean’s Caféare two shows she oversees as executive in charge.
As with any successful career, however, it began somewhere. And Landy traces that somewhere back to a network of counselors, relatives and mentors who supported her from a young age. Her parents set a life framework that all but guaranteed she would attend college. A sequence of advisors led her to choose Skidmore through an immersive college application and selection process. A college professor connected her with Dr. Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Blues Clues and the person who helped Landy score her first internship.
Landy, left, with Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Nickelodeon’s hit show, “Blues Clues.” Photo courtesy of Sarah Landy.
“I realize I had a lot of help along the way identifying what would be a good fit, guiding me through the application process, encouraging me to go visit – and I can’t imagine my life without it,” Landy recalls.
Unfortunately, not everyone receives such robust support. So when Bottom Line, an organization that helps low-income first-generation students get into and graduate from college, arrived in New York City from Boston five years ago, Landy knew immediately that she had found her cause.
“I have a passion for students and equal opportunity, and it felt like a really good match,” she said.
Our nation is, without a doubt, in the midst of an addiction epidemic.
Nearly 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol, making substance abuse as common as diabetes, and more prevalent than cancer. Drug overdoses killed more people in 2013 than car accidents and guns, and an alarming 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are now expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.
So how do we turn the tide against this crisis?
It starts with getting rid of people’s long-held misconceptions. For many, that means removing the shame synonymous with substance abuse.
And it’s why Viacom announced yesterday the launch of “LISTEN” an awareness campaign in partnership with non-profit Facing Addiction to break down the stigma of addiction, promote resources to help those struggling with substance use, and encourage people to approach America’s addiction crisis with empathy, not condemnation. As informed citizens, actively listening to others impacted by this disease is the first step toward progress.
It was Christmastime. Complaints rained around him, about the commercialization of Christmas, about the excess of presents.
So he asked himself, would anyone really care if he spent half as much on presents and put the other half toward something a little more worthy?
“I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would care, so I thought, why not just do it?”
But where to put the resources? That wasn’t so hard, as it turned out. He’d been in New York a long time. He knew how difficult conditions were for homeless people, especially around the holidays.
So he and two friends met at his apartment, and they assembled a couple dozen Christmas stockings. They stuffed them with a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, cookies, gum, candy canes, a McDonald’s gift certificate, a five dollar bill.
Cantwell, right, stuffing an enormous pile of stockings at his Brooklyn apartment with fellow Operation Santa Claus volunteers Carlos Gonzalez and Viacom employee Judi Sadon. Photo courtesy of Operation Santa Claus
Then they threaded their way through Manhattan’s East Village and handed the parcels out to the homeless. They hit Tomkins Square Park and Washington Square Park and Avenue A and anyplace else where they could find someone who could use a little extra.
“We were astonished, the reaction we got from people,” Cantwell, a client planning director for Viacom Ad Sales, recalls. “They were just not expecting it.”
Cantwell has repeated the effort each year since, generally on the weekend before Christmas. Planning starts a minimum of two months in advance, with a Go Fund Me page and an email blast and social media posts.
As donations accumulate, Cantwell and “Chief Elf” Luisa Alves, who works in Spike’s inventory team, coordinate to determine how many stockings they can afford and what will go in each. A mammoth trip to Costco follows. They fill four or five shopping carts. Cantwell orders the gift cards in bulk from McDonald’s.
On the designated day, Cantwell invites everyone out to his Williamsburg home for a sangria party. A mammoth assembly line snakes through his two-bedroom apartment. Dozens of volunteers drop up to 50 items in each stocking. In 2015, they assembled 250. The goal for 2016 is 300.
It’s a novel project, a flourish of goodwill and selflessness that pushes back against the relentless commercial tide of the holiday season. People have noticed. A few years ago, NBC local news in New York featured Cantwell and Operation Santa Claus in a segment:
Each year, the event grows larger. Each year, Cantwell rouses the volunteers with a speech just before they disperse across the city.
Growing up, sitcoms were my main hub of comedy. I would watch shows like Everybody Loves Raymond with my Korean-American parents, who were trying to entertain themselves while expanding their English skills.
When I started working as a Viacom intern in the spring of 2016, I was exposed to a different type of comedy – political satire in the form of a mock newsroom. I had the opportunity to watch a live taping of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. This experience taught me how diverse comedy could be. Noah is mixed-race and born in South Africa, yet he’s hosting a satirical talk show on a major cable network about American politics.
Each year, Paramount hosts a Halloween screening of its classic, Charlotte’s Web, for pajama-clad local schoolkids. This year, 1,500 children journeyed from the Santa Monica Blvd Community Charter School and the Van Ness Blend Elementary School to watch the film at the Paramount Theatre.
Paramount has actually distributed two versions of Charlotte’s Web over the decades: the first a fully animated 1973 film; the second a live-action 2006 version produced in part by Nickelodeon Movies. Take a journey back with the trailers below.
While you wait in line to cast your vote, check out what MTV, BET, and Comedy Central are doing to represent their diverse audiences with unique media coverage of one of the most memorable elections in U.S. History. Read More
When the virtual reality headset first slid into place, covering my eyes and resting on the bridge of my nose, there was a moment of calm darkness. Then the screen glowed, coming to life, and there stood Grace Chikui, an elderly blind woman and long-time resident of the Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) hosted a unique virtual reality (VR) experience aptly named Walking With Grace, which used 360° video and spatial audio to provide employees with unparalleled perspective into the life of someone differently-abled.
“Through select audio interviews, Grace recalls childhood memories growing up in the area, helping us discover her neighborhood. Each swivel of the head and body, left, right, backward and even up toward the sky, revealed more of her world.”
Walking With Grace gave Viacom employees the chance to see the world through the eyes of somebody with a visual impairment.
But they don’t excuse anything. For survivors of sexual violence, these words – their stubborn, insistent existence – only exasperates the pain.
“He said he was sorry.”
“It was just a misunderstanding.”
“It only happened once.”
So what can be done? After all, boys will be boys. Right?
“It’s none of my business.”
“This is a women’s issue.”
“Yeah, no, we don’t talk about that.”
“We’re never gonna change it.”
“It’s sad, but, um, we’re never gonna fix it.”
The Joyful Heart Foundation does not believe that we will never fix this. That a culture that excuses rape and sexual assault is normal. That there are any excuses left. That boys will just always be boys, and what boys will be is dismissive, aggressive, willful, and, ultimately, excused.
The organization believes that we have had “Enough.” In a powerful new PSA campaign of the same name, produced in conjunction with Viacom Velocity, the organization commandeers these vile but pervasive words and challenges men to actively transform how we view and talk about sexual assault.
They brought company. Joyful Heart founder Mariska Hargitay, who also stars on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, rallied her costars and many other public figures to stand up against this archaic language: Andre Braugher, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Edwards, Blair Underwood, Chris Meloni, Daniel Dae Kim, Dann Florek, Danny Pino, Dave Navarro, David Marciano, Ice-T, Nick Lachey, Peter Hermann, Raul Esparza and Tate Donovan.
The series of PSAs, which will air across MTV, VH1, TV Land, BET, and Spike, among other Viacom properties, is a bold challenge to men: let’s change how we talk about this, so we can, some day, end it.