American Woman’s Jen Bartels and Yellowstone’s Kelsey Asbille Give Back on Viacommunity Day

Jen Bartels [L], who will play a role in Paramount Network’s forthcoming American Woman, and Kelsey Asbille, who will appear in the channel’s Yellowstone, joined Viacom employees in New York City for the company’s annual Viacommunity Day.

For the past 22 years, Viacom’s annual worldwide Viacommunity Day has given back to those in need. On Friday, April 20, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands once again volunteered to make a difference in communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.

Joining the Viacom employees for one project at their Times Square headquarters was talent from Paramount Network’s forthcoming originals: Jen Bartels of American Woman (premiering June 7) and Kelsey Asbille of Yellowstone (June 20). The pair sat down with the other volunteers to decorate bags that students at Free Arts NYC can use to carry home the art they create in the program.

“Thank you to Viacom for introducing me to Free Arts NYC. It’s really important for the youth to have access to arts in their daily lives. I definitely want to get involved in their mentorship programs.” – Kelsey Asbille (Paramount Network’s Yellowstone)

Free Arts NYC is important in New York City, where one in three public schools lacks an art room. The program partners with schools in these communities to “create access to the arts and exposure to creative careers” for students. They do this by offering free art days for students and families as well as art parties and free museum days.

Bartels shared that she was, “really proud to be a part of a community like Viacom that takes time out to support others, especially our youth. Sharing our creativity to brighten the lives of the children of Free Arts NYC was extremely fun and fulfilling.”

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“That I Can Actually Call That My Job Is Awesome” – Living Viacommunity at Paramount

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

A Chicken Dinner Served Hot

When lunchtime arrived at the Jamaica orphanage, a knife-wielding worker snatched a chicken from the yard and lopped its head off, shocking the cluster of California volunteers who had stopped off at this hilltop enclave en route to Kingston from Ocho Rios.

Erin Jordan was shocked.

“That’s what they do before they get to the grocery store,” the man said. “I don’t understand why ya’ll don’t get that. But this will be the best chicken you’ll ever have.”

They roasted it over coals on the side of the road. “And you know what?” Jordan said. “It was the best chicken I ever had.”

Jordan is a manager on Paramount Picture’s corporate social responsibility team, a board member of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, and a veteran of volunteer efforts all over the world, from the inner cities of New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Phoenix to the favelas climbing Brazilian hillsides. It is these volunteer efforts, she says, that frame her life perspective and ground her sense of place in the world.

“Most of us have so much, and you don’t realize it until you meet people or communities who don’t have that,” Jordan says. “And if I have the time or resources to spare, I’m willing to do that.”

Erin Jordan on a 2002 mission to Bahia, Brazil, to deliver supplies to those in need.

Spreading the Lot’s Influence Beyond the Gates

Like all Viacom brands, Paramount Pictures throws its full weight behind the company’s annual Viacommunity Day (which is coming up this Friday, April 20), when thousands of employees turn their energies over to good causes all over the world.

But long before the trees are planted and the meals are served, the prep begins. For Paramount, that starts with Jordan and the rest of the studio’s corporate social responsibility team. For Viacommunity Day, the small but highly effective team coordinates up to a dozen sites around Los Angeles and supports the international teams as they develop projects. They wrangle supplies and secure permits, and organize an on-site petting zoo and a wrap party, which last year featured Keith Urban joining Paramount staff for game night.

The city-wide events disperse 600 to 800 volunteers around Los Angeles, but once the party raps up and Keith Urban goes home, the studio’s social responsibility team continues their year-round focus on education, HIV/AIDS, and sustainability through Paramount’s Green Team.

They don’t have to travel far. Santa Monica Boulevard Charter sits right across the street from the Paramount lot, in a neighborhood designated a White House Promise Zone under President Barack Obama, and it is a beneficiary of the studio’s Kindergarten to Cap & Gown mentoring program. Jordan helps organize one-to-one student-mentor literacy matches that stretch through most of the school year and in some cases across many years, following the students to junior high.

These immersive long-term engagements can profoundly impact both student and mentor. “When you have more frequent contact with a student as part of an overall plan, I feel that they see you want the best for them and you’re concerned with their success,” Jordan says. “That I can actually do that and call that my job is awesome.”

Classroom reading, kindergarten yoga, dance classes, science labs and playground games – all organized by Jordan and attended by Paramount volunteers on Viacommunity Day – further fuse these powerful student-mentor relationships with the studio’s neighbor.

Building a Better Place to Live

Los Angeles, with its 4 million people sprawled over a vast basin between mountain and ocean, is an easy place to lose yourself. Peppered among the endless tracts tucked within the spider web of freeways are oases for those who need a little help tracking themselves down again. Jordan’s work draws her to these places.

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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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Nick International Highlights What #KidsCan Do With Nine Extraordinary Stories

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

A 16-year-old girl in the United Arab Emirates organizes environmental clean-ups in more than 10 countries. A 13-year-old in the Philippines gives gifts and hygiene products to 10,000 street kids in his community. A 16-year-old who fled Syria starts a school for 200 children in his refugee camp.

These are three of the extraordinary youngsters that Nickelodeon International has partnered with KidsRights Foundation to spotlight through #KidsCan, an international campaign that will profile these inspiring stories for audiences around the world.

The campaign, part of Nick’s international Together for Good initiative, will air new monthly profiles, beginning this month and continuing through December, of these nine kids, each of which has been a finalist or a winner of KidsRight’s International Children’s Peace Prize.

“Nickelodeon is extremely proud to partner with KidsRights as we celebrate young people making the world a better place, one project at a time,” said Nickelodeon International Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Bradley Archer-Haynes. “Kids everywhere have the power to make a difference, regardless of age or location. We wanted to provide a platform to help amplify their stories, while pointing to resources that help young people remember they can do anything.”

Here’s a closer look at some of these incredible stories:

Kehkashan Basu – United Arab Emirates: 2016 Peace Prize winner focused on environmental sustainability.

Kesz Valdezn – Philippines: 2012 Peace Prize winner focused on child healthcare.

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On the Ground, Over the Air, Across Platforms, Viacom Supports Youth-Led March For Our Lives

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Tomorrow, students will lead an extraordinary protest against gun violence and for improved gun safety, a March For Our Lives through the streets of Washington, D.C. and hundreds of other communities across the world. This youth community, marshaled in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida, will demand solutions to end the scourge of gun violence and school shootings in America.

Viacom proudly supports these students. On the streets, on the airwaves, on social media and on mobile devices and on every platform that its brands reach, Viacom will amplify these students’ message and their voice, will stand with them as they speak up to unambiguously state that their lives and their safety matter.

Viacom’s wide-ranging support for this student-led movement began in earnest last Wednesday, March 14, when all Viacom networks went dark for the 17 minutes of the National School Walkout, a mass coordinated effort to denounce the inaction and indifference that have accompanied the stubborn persistence of gun violence.

Most Viacom networks went dark during the 17 minutes of the National School Walkout on March 14, displaying this message of solidarity in place of regular programming.

Here’s a deeper look at how Viacom’s brands will be supporting the March For Our Lives:

MTV

Seventeen people lost their lives in the Parkland shooting. More than 17 young people die* from gun violence every day in America.

On Saturday, MTV, in partnership with the NAACP and local youth organizations, will send 17 buses of young people from Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, and other communities suffering from intractable gun violence. The network will complement this on-the-streets effort with live MTV News and Social coverage.

MTV will have plenty of help to bolster the message: singer-songwriter Vic Mensa will take control of the network’s Instagram Stories account, while Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Pusha T, Halsey, Carmelo Anthony and Chloe x Halle will deliver messages of support and encouragement to the marchers.

“Once again young people are at the forefront of driving change,” said Chris McCarthy, President of MTV. Referring to a national network-led study** conducted post-Parkland to analyze teen’s reactions to gun violence, McCarthy continued, “Today’s study revealed an overwhelming 75 percent of teens polled are ‘not going to wait until they are adults to make real political change,’ and MTV is proud to amplify this youth-led activism.”

The MTV study also revealed that 69 percent of teenagers are angry that the government isn’t doing enough to prevent gun violence, and 74 percent believe adults are underestimating young people’s political power.

Comedy Central 

The main players in Comedy Central’s bustling late-night universe have been demonstrating their support for the students from a variety of different angles. Last night, Comedy Central’s The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper traveled to Maryland to host U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), before an audience of teens, many of whom plan to march tomorrow.

“Change has never in history come from Washington,” Booker said, “it has come to Washington.”

The Opposition Chaperones Democracy: Kids Just Wanna Take Guns also transported viewers into a Baltimore high school, where correspondent Kobi Libii interviewed students who are frustrated and fed up with local gun violence:

Earlier today, Comedy Central released a clip of Trevor Noah discussing the march and the shooting’s aftermath with five students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Parkland shooting occurred.

When The Jim Jefferies Show returns to Comedy Central next Tuesday, the show will broadcast a segment filmed on the ground at the San Diego March For Our Lives rally. Jefferies, who is entering his second season hosting the show, is a long-time champion of reforms to curb gun violence.

TV Land

The casts of two of TV Land’s most popular originals, Younger and Teachers, each put together messages of support for the students:

*On average, 19.4 young people aged 24 and under die by gun violence every day. Source – Everytown analysis: CDC Fatal Injury Reports (WISQARS), data for 2012-2016.

**MTV’s “Teens React: Gun Violence and Youth Activism” is a nationally representative survey of 500 teens, aged 14-17 between March 7-12, 2018

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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Viacom to Support Courageous Youth Activists Who Have Had Enough of Gun Violence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

February 27, 2018 – Parkland, Florida, United States: Volunteers hang banners, including this one reading “Stay strong, Stoneman Douglas, we’re with you,” around the perimeter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school to welcome back students who returned to school on Feb. 28, two weeks after the mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff. (Susan Stocker/SF Sun Sentinel/Polaris)

In the weeks since a gunman claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, courageous young people have marched and raised their voices to demand action on gun violence in the United States.

Viacom and its brands have a long history of supporting young people’s movements around the world, and today the company is extending that tradition by leveraging its substantial multi-platform footprint to support these extraordinary individuals and amplify the reach and impact of their activism.

This series of efforts across MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Comedy Central, TV Land, CMT and other properties will include partnerships with a coalition of organizations and students that are working to make America’s schools safer and reduce gun violence.

In addition, Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of Viacom’s Board, is personally championing the work of the student activists, contributing time and resources, including a $500,000 donation, to the March For Our Lives movement.

“This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” said Viacom Executive Vice President of Global Inclusion Marva Smalls. “With more than 17 young people dying from gun violence every single day, unfortunately no community is safe. We believe it’s critical to support the inspiring efforts of our youth, who are literally fighting for their lives. Viacom also has a responsibility to our audiences to do everything we can to elevate the many brave and bold activists to help them extend the reach and impact of their voices in this important movement.”

Here’s a sampling of the initiatives that Viacom brands have planned for the weeks ahead:

A pause to remember the victims

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, all Viacom networks and platforms will suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes. This pause will coincide with the National School Walkout, a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and to all young victims of gun violence. Students across the country will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the walkout.

The power of Viacom’s united brands support a march on Washington

Viacom’s brands will drive awareness of March For Our Lives through extensive on-air and digital coverage, as well as on-the-ground initiatives, leading up to the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. on March 24. MTV and Comedy Central will change the color of their logos to orange – in support of gun violence awareness – for the 10 days leading up to the event. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah plans to continue its ongoing coverage of the growing anti-gun violence movement in the country. So will The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper, which will build on its recent interviews with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as educators and former military officials on arming teachers, and the 2017 special he produced, Jordan Klepper Solves Guns. Paramount Network will capture powerful first-person accounts for its pro-social initiative. Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, which airs that night, will acknowledge the march for its audience of millions.

Supporting efforts to reduce gun violence

Viacom networks have begun an array of ongoing initiatives aimed at curbing gun violence over the long term. For example, MTV has set up a website where people can learn how to take further action, BET will award DISARM pop-up grants to youth activists with innovative ideas about addressing gun violence and mental health issues, and CMT will work with the country music industry on its efforts to support gun safety.

Joining gun safety leaders to drive change

Viacom is partnering with organizations across the spectrum to develop gun safety-related projects for Viacommunity Day, Viacom’s annual day of community service, on April 20.

Get Schooled expands its curriculum

Get Schooled, an organization founded through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will expand its efforts to educate young people on the actions they can take to participate in the national discussion.

*On average, 19.4 young people aged 24 and under die by gun violence every day. Source – Everytown analysis: CDC Fatal Injury Reports (WISQARS), data for 2012-2016.

Viacom Takes a “Day On” in Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, often referred to as “a day on, not a day off,” is a call for Americans from all backgrounds to unite in the spirit of Dr. King.

In the spirit of embracing the variety of backgrounds and ways of thinking that make Viacom strong, Viacommunity – the company’s social responsibility umbrella – hosted three MLK Day of Service volunteer projects in partnership with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. The events, focused on motivating and empowering students to reach their educational and career potential, took place during the week leading up to MLK Day.

Viacom employees and “I Have a Dream” Foundation Dreamers talk educational and career goals at an MLK Day of Service event at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters.

At Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, Viacommunity and the foundation’s New York chapter hosted their annual workshop for dozens of “Dreamers,” college students who had gained access to higher education with the organization’s assistance.

A panel discussion followed, featuring inspirational advice from two Viacom employees: Essence Dashtaray, manager of Human Resources and Jason Williams, vice president of Global Inclusion Strategy. A speed mentoring event then combined employee volunteers with rotating groups of students to discuss their career paths and the Dreamers’ educational goals. In a testament to Viacom’s ongoing support of the foundation and genuine connection to its students, some of the Dreamers, now soon-to-be college grads, were reconnecting with Viacom employees that they had known since their freshman year.

The Viacommunity team moderates a panel between Viacom’s Essence Dashtaray, seated right, and Jason Williams and “I Have a Dream” Foundation Dreamers at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters.

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Paramount Viacommunity Film Vies for Top Spot at Boston College Festival

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

​Each year, thousands of Viacom employees around the world unite for Viacommunity Day, helping to rebuild and revitalize their local communities with a series of service projects. At Paramount Pictures – which for the past two years has had the highest percentage of employees from any Viacom company division participating in projects – the day has special resonance.

To commemorate the titanic efforts of their employees at last year’s event, Paramount’s social responsibility team put together A Day for Unity, a rousing video recap of the landscaping, painting, organizing, and volunteering at zoos, community centers, soup kitchens and food distribution centers that took place across the Los Angeles area on Viacommunity Day 2017.

Paramount Viacommunity 2017 Video from Viacom on Vimeo.

This video testament to Paramount’s efforts is now part of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival, an annual event that honors the best in corporate social responsibility. Click here by Feb. 19 to vote for Paramount’s submission.

Viacom’s Season of Giving Kicks off Its All Good, All Year Initiative

Packing 10,151 meals may sound like a hefty feat, but Viacom volunteers took the challenge head on and held two Rise Against Hunger meal-packing events during Viacommunity’s 2017 “Season of Giving.”

Enormous as this effort was, these two events represented just a portion of the many volunteer opportunities offered during Viacom’s annual Season of Giving, which engages employees nationwide with holiday-themed volunteer opportunities throughout November and December.

Viacom employees prepping some of the thousands of meals they assembled in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger during Viacommunity’s 2017 Season of Giving.

Winter Wishes fulfilled

The corporate social responsibility team kicked off its most recent holiday-themed efforts by distributing nearly 300 New York Cares Winter Wishes letters to employees at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters and 345 Hudson office. Each hand-written letter outlined a list of recent achievements and desired holiday gifts from an underrepresented New York City elementary school student. Viacom employees selected one or more letters, then purchased and wrapped the gifts, which New York Cares distributed to the children.

Winter Wishes gifts wrapped and ready for distribution by New York Cares.

Stuffing more than turkeys Thanksgiving week

During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, a group of nearly 15 Viacom volunteers delivered nutritious holiday meals to homebound elderly in Midtown Manhattan through Citymeals on Wheels. Similarly, more than 100 volunteers united to package about 20,000 meals for the world’s most vulnerable communities with Rise Against Hunger at Viacom’s Times Square and Hollywood offices.

Viacom volunteers delivered meals to Manhattan residents in need via Citymeals on Wheels during Thanksgiving week 2017.

On the day before the holiday, as part of Viacom’s annual Kids Day – where employees bring their children to work for a day of fun and activities – the young ones gave back to their local communities, just like their parents. With help from Viacommunity and Employee Events, our young visitors helped stuff more than 200 cuddly giraffes, bears and elephants, which were then donated to children affected by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey via The GOOD+ Foundation, SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies), and Spirit Airlines.

Critters ready to be stuffed for those in need by the child guests of Viacom employees at the company’s annual Kids’ Day.

In celebration of the social media-powered global #GivingTuesday that follows Thanksgiving weekend, employees across the U.S. contributed to Viacom’s foundation partners: VH1 Save The Music, Get Schooled and MTV Staying Alive. At Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, Paramount Pictures, and Miami offices, youth carolers from local VH1 Save the Music partner schools amplified this holiday cheer with festive songs.

Children liven up Viacom’s Times Square headquarters with holiday carols during Viacommunity’s 2017 Season of Giving.

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