The 22nd Annual Viacommunity Day Was All Good, All Around (the Globe)

Friday, April 20 was truly a global day of giving. Nearly 4,000 employees from 25 different regions around the world contributed ideas, talent and compassion to more than 125 projects in local communities for the 22nd annual Viacommunity Day, a celebration of the company’s values and commitment to giving back.

The day’s theme was “ALL GOOD, ALL AROUND.” The scope of Viacom’s traditional day of service reflected this motif well, as all around the world, employees did good: helping at their regular offices, like Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters; trekking to community organizations, like Chrysalis in downtown Los Angeles; or cleaning up the shores of Australia’s Sydney Harbor National Park.

Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility Director Adam Robinson woke up at 4 a.m. in Los Angeles to watch employees begin to share photos and footage from sites like these around the world in real time on collaborative video production tool Seenit.

“It was as if I was watching Viacommunity Day unfold on the horizon line,” said Robinson. “Australia, Asia, Europe, New York, Nashville, Chicago, all the way to Los Angeles.”

Watch below:

“This was my 21st Viacommunity Day,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, who circulated through the on-site activities at 1515 Broadway, Viacom’s global headquarters in New York City, this year.

“Throughout this time, I have worked in [Viacom Headquarters], downtown Manhattan, Westchester County, Putnam County and Fairfield County,” he continued. “I’ve stuffed bags, provided ideas, painted objects, cleaned in all kinds of ways, painted fences and walls, raked and moved wood chips – lots of different things. What’s always the same is the passion and heart that our employees, and a select group of our talent, show as they help the community. What’s always the same is the happiness and thanks that comes from those that are being helped.

“As I visited different groups today, that’s what I saw once again. To me, that’s what makes Viacommunity Day such an important part of our culture and heritage. It is another reason why it is such an honor to be CEO this great company. I saw many great things today. All of the people involved reminded me, once again, just how important this initiative is to our company. Thank you everyone. You represent Viacom every day. In a world where there is incredible change, where some things are evolving and others arguably devolving, overall, Viacommunity Day is a constant.”

Let’s take a tour of these incredible sites, starting with our West Coast offices in California.

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Impactful Kalief Browder Story Wins Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Time: The Kalief Browder Story has won a coveted Peabody Award, along with eight other works that will be honored in the documentary category at the 77th annual Peabody Awards ceremony later this month.

Peabody Awards highlight ways that media can expand public knowledge, encourage empathy and support those in dire need of help, which Time: The Kalief Browder Story has certainly done.

The docuseries, which premiered last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), helped mobilize support from the community, launching a conversation about prisoners’ rights and the American judicial system, specifically that of New York City.

And this conversation is already inspiring action—such as “Raise the Age,” a bill signed into law by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2017. The legislation will take steps to prohibit the state from charging as adults and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds, barring extenuating circumstances.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

Jay Z, executive producer, Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Such a law could have affected the trajectory of Kalief Browder’s life—at least, the last few years of it. Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent over three years incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, where he was regularly beaten and taunted by fellow inmates and prison guards. Ultimately, Browder’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But he hardly left prison a free man.

Stricken with PTSD from the physical and psychological torture he experienced at Rikers, Browder hanged himself on June 6, 2015.

Browder_Family_Photo_073

Kalief Browder as a child. Courtesy of Spike / The Browder family.

Jay Z, who served as the documentary’s executive producer, spoke about its powerful message last year at an event in Times Square.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids,” he said. “I say this about the movie. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

The documentary may have served as a catalyst for actual change—like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the notoriously violent prison where Browder spent the last years of his life, and laws such as “Raise the Age.”

Courtesy of Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Awards will be held on May 19 in New York, hosted by Hasan Minhaj, writer and senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Powerful Kalief Browder Documentary Earns Peabody Nomination for Sparking Conversation and Social Change

When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.

Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.

His story, chronicled in the documentary, led to the formation of the Kalief Browder Foundation, which is determined to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline prevalent in disenfranchised communities.

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All Good, All Year Pedals on With Cycle for Survival Fundraiser

Another year, another Team Viacom success story.

Part of Team Viacom at Cycle for Survival’s New York City fundraiser.

In a continuing tradition central to Viacommunity’s All Good, All Year initiative, 24 Team Viacom employees in  New York and Los Angeles joined the battle to beat rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 12th year of rides, helping to raise some of the more than $40 million in critical funds that the organization has raised for rare cancer research this season alone.

In Los Angeles, eight riders rallied at Equinox Sports Club West LA for a four-hour single-bike relay, joining the more than 150 teams sharing 300 bikes among 1,500 participants. Paramount’s Anna Sivak won a $100 Amazon gift card from a Team Viacom fundraising challenge, while Equinox named the studio’s Kim Seiniger as the session’s most enthusiastic rider, awarding her a $100 donation to her fundraising page.

“Team Viacom was in full force for the Cycle for Survival ride at the Westside Equinox Gym. There were so many amazing riders pumped for the cause,” said Mary Jo Braun, executive director of Music Clearance at Paramount Pictures, who joined colleagues Ryan Stouffer Sandra Hiestand, Agnieszka Szymanska, Kevin Chalk and Stephanie Aguilar on the ride.

In New York, 16 riders shared two bikes over four hours at the second annual Media and Tech Innovators ride at Equinox Bryant Park, which hosted 600 riders from 30 companies.

“What an honor it was to be part of such a remarkable event and ride for those who have fought and continue to fight to beat rare cancers,” said Amanda Yasoshima, a manager at Velocity Brand Partnerships.

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Paramount’s Downsizing Demonstrates Outsized Impact With an Environmental Media Award Nomination

*spoilers below*

In addition to Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations, Paramount’s Downsizing has earned a nod from the Environmental Media Association (EMA) in its feature film category. The annual EMAs honor the most environmentally conscious works in film and television.

Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.

Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.

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Viacom Welcomes Diversity Consultants for a Stirring Workshop on Transgender Inclusion

“Hey, guys!”

This is a fairly acceptable way to address teammates, regardless of gender. Right?

Well, it’s complicated.

In March, Viacom’s Talent Acquisition team invited employees to an event called Building Empathy and Awareness: Lessons from the Transgender Community. The session, which was held at both Viacom’s Times Square and Los Angeles offices, was a poignant exercise in reflection and understanding helmed by diversity consultants Marnie Florin and Kevin Perry. The event, which was aimed toward recruiters and hiring managers, broke down some of the issues and terms that are vital to understanding the transgender community: intersectionality, gender dysphoria, pronouns and advocacy, among others.

Viacom is a safe space, but how can it improve?

Florin and Perry explained further: Viacom scores 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) index for workplace protections, including having trans-inclusive health benefits and diversity training (such as Lessons from the Transgender Community). However, the company is always seeking to improve its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Viacom is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights in the workplace.

At the New York session, Florin and Perry solicited questions from the audience about Viacom policies and overall TA best practices when it comes to hiring trans employees. Some situations, they explained, can still be difficult, even at progressive companies like Viacom.

As a cisgender woman, the following situations are not difficult: showing my ID at the desk when welcoming a guest; enjoying perks like the Wellness Studio workout classes; taking advantage of on-site massages or hairstyling; flying for business travel; using the restroom.

But for trans employees, these are situations that can cause anxiety, depression or downright terror.

Florin and Perry didn’t take too much time pointing out blind spots like this. Throughout the lecture they offered myriad facts and lists, but let the audience know that they could find more information online. The goal was to re-orient us to see our work lives through the eyes of a trans employee, and help us align ourselves to be an ally.

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Kids’ Choice Awards 2018: Live Updates

On Friday, March 23, I began live blogging my Kids’ Choice Awards experience as a Viacom insider. Here’s what went down.

This post was originally published on Medium.

A sublime experience

I left the Forum about two hours ago (7 p.m. PST) and it’s finally setting in that the KCAs are over. And to be honest, I was a bit relieved — not that the event was over, but that I had successfully made it from New York to Los Angeles, to pre-parties, to the press tent (I got lost twice), to the Orange Carpet and finally to my seat.

John Cena gets slimed. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

As I was live blogging, my goal was to try and keep my “live” coverage to a minimum — a paradox, I know. But as any child of the internet age knows, you can’t truly experience anything if you’re trying to document it in real-time. I’ve made this mistake many times in life — professional and personal — and the lesson is, you retain much more about whatever’s happening in front of you if you focus your attention on what is in front of you, not at your phone or notepad.

Here’s what stuck with me.

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5 Questions With the 2017 Viacommunity Award Winners

​Congratulations to Victor Caro (VP, Nickelodeon Ad Sales) and Flora Huang (VP, Paramount Pictures Finance & Planning), our 2017 Viacommunity Award winners!

We recognize them for making a positive impact in the lives of others — Victor for helping hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico with the Warrior Angels Rescue organization, and Flora for mentoring youth in Watts, CA with the nonprofit Red Eye.

Viacom will donate $10,000 to each of the causes they champion. Hear about their volunteer work, how they got involved and what winning this award means to them.

To read more about Flora’s work with Red Eye, click here. For more information on Victor’s volunteer efforts in Puerto Rico, click here.

Video created by Viacom Catalyst.

The Viacommunity Spirit Emerges from the Eye of the Storm

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

As Hurricane Maria intensified to a Category 5 storm and set a bullseye on Puerto Rico last September, Victor Caro knew there was only one place he could go: directly into the eye of the storm.

Though he lived in Connecticut, both Caro and his wife had grown up in Puerto Rico. Most of his family still lived there, including his 90-year-old grandmother. The island’s storm supplies had been wiped out when Hurricane Irma had skirted the island earlier that month. So Caro would fly down with bags stuffed full of water purification supplies, batteries, emergency radios, and portable stoves. The day before the storm hit, he boarded a nearly empty San Juan-bound plane out of JFK airport.

Victor Caro – Headshots at Viacom, New York City, NY

He bunkered down in the family’s concrete house in Carolina with his grandmother, aunt and cousin. The wind and rain started that first night and continued all the next day. The windows shook, but the house held.

When the family finally emerged, it was to a wrecked world: electricity knocked out island-wide, cellphone service rare and patchy, clean water no longer running from taps. Land lines worked for three days and then stopped. The authorities, where they showed up at all, were slow to arrive and ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the catastrophe.

Caro stayed for a week, clearing debris, checking on friends and family, and distributing what supplies he could. The breeze quit and the family roasted in their uncooled home. Sleep became difficult. At night, they listened to WAPA radio as officials relayed information and, in one instance, desperate hospital staff delivered frantic pleas for help as babies wailed in the background.

When Caro finally boarded a charter plane back to the mainland, the immensity of the destruction he had witnessed – and the inadequacy of the official emergency response – overwhelmed him.

“I’d never felt survivor’s remorse,” Caro said. “But I just felt awful. I don’t think I’d cried in 10 years, and I just bawled that day. For weeks, being at home with my family, watching cable, ordering food, air conditioning, I felt guilty enjoying those things. And that’s part of what motivated me to get out and help the people who were screwed the most.”

Sending angels to the rescue

Actually doing something was more difficult. Bureaucratic and logistical obstacles make moving goods to Puerto Rico arduous under normal circumstances. Arcane shipping regulations meant that the only realistic relief option was to fly supplies in, an expensive and logistically exasperating undertaking.

Enter Warrior Angels Rescue, an extraordinary coalition of concerned citizens on the U.S. mainland and on Puerto Rico, headed by Valerie Edmondson Bolaños. The organization materialized out of Maria’s fumes to deliver supplies to the island and evacuate those whose medical issues made it imperative that they leave.

Over many weeks following the storm, Caro and his wife worked with Warrior Angels Rescue (which is part of the Puerto Rico Relief Alliance), to stitch together a massive relief effort. They gathered 30,000 pounds of medical supplies and donated cargo, along with the $70,000 required to fly them to Puerto Rico. When the plane returned to the mainland, it carried nearly 150 medically fragile passengers – expectant mothers, babies, the elderly, cancer patients.

Caro worked as a sort of fixer, a go-between who had the connections both on the mainland and the island to make the critical link between needs and resources for El Barrio Caimital Bajo y Alto in the Puerto Rican town of Guayama, a town that was in great need even before Maria struck. During the holiday season, their delivery arrived with 3,000 pounds of food, water, toys, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, toiletries, and more to help 46 families in great need.

The sheer scale of organizing one plane trip was incredible: moving truckloads of water, food, clothing and toys from garages and schools – even, at one point, Caro’s daughter’s kung fu dojo – in the Northeast to and through Florida; raising funds for and coordinating the charter flight to Puerto Rico; moving these materials over a mountainous island with a decimated road network; identifying those most in need of both the supplies and a ride off the island; and ensuring that medical help and transportation to a safe place awaited those who evacuated to the mainland.

Clockwise from left: holiday gifts awaiting delivery; the chartered airplane that delivered toys from the mainland and evacuated vulnerable residents; coordinating the operation aboard the plane; unloading the supplies in Guayama. Photos courtesy of Victor Caro.

His colleagues noticed. When Viacommunity – the company’s social responsibility initiative – put out a companywide call for “exemplary employees who represent Viacom’s sense of social responsibility and make a powerful impact on their communities,” for its annual Viacommunity Award late last year, multiple employees nominated Caro for the honor.

“Every free second he has is spent working with anyone that will listen to help those in need in Puerto Rico,” one said in their nomination.

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Viacommunity Hosts a Screening of Selma in Honor of Black History Month

On Feb. 21, 40 high school students from New York City and neighboring public schools made their way to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to celebrate Black History Month with a screening of Paramount’s critically acclaimed Selma, a crucial film about the African-American experience.

Viacommunity hosted the event, which featured members of The BEAT, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience, on a post-screening panel. To coordinate this celebration in honor of Black History Month, Viacom worked with nonprofit organizations The Opportunity Network and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF), which provide academic support to students from underserved communities.

Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equal voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement, a momentous part of American history. Paramount’s re-telling of this visceral moment encapsulates the spirit of Black History Month.

Students and Viacom employees at a screening of Paramount Pictures’ Selma in honor of Black History Month – Photo by Esthefania Rodriguez

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