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communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.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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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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“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

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.

Lifting Up Those Left Behind in L.A.’s Forgotten ZIP Codes

Watts is a Los Angeles neighborhood with a legacy of poverty, racial tension and violence. It’s notorious for the Watts Riots, a nightmarish five-day 1965 clash set off by police brutality and intensified by poor race relations. Today, residents of Watts’ low-income housing projects are still hindered by the city’s lack of interest in rehabilitating and modernizing their neighborhood. Children growing up in the area have more options to pick a gang than a college, and their tap water is potentially contaminated with lead or arsenic.

The 2017 Viacommunity Award winner, Flora Huang, was recognized for her efforts to help stop this cycle of hopelessness. Huang is Paramount’s vice president of Financial Planning, and she embodies the Viacommunity spirit of giving back year-round. Huang volunteers as a youth mentor for Red Eye, a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization focused on creating a network to connect the “the up and in” with the “down and out.”

Flora Huang helps a young mentee decorate for Halloween. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

“My goal is to provide consistency to kids who otherwise don’t have access to positive role models,” said Huang, who learned about Red Eye in 2016. “I let them know that there are alternatives beyond joining a gang and that they can be champions for their own success.”

As a mentor, Huang spends her Saturdays with Red Eye at the Imperial Courts Housing Projects in Watts.

“This is a part of the city most people choose never to venture,” said Huang. “This ZIP code is often forgotten; these kids are left behind. I choose to come here for the kids.”

On Huang’s first day at Red Eye, she spent the afternoon coloring and painting nails with a little girl named Kenayla. “She looked me in the eyes and asked if I would return next week,” Huang said. “She had pure joy in her eyes just from the hope that I’d be coming back.”

And so, she did.

The children who attend Red Eye’s Saturday mentoring sessions pose for a group picture. Photo courtesy of Flora Huang.

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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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217 Years to Women’s Equality? Not on Viacom’s Watch

The World Economic Forum is concerned that, if nothing changes, full global gender parity is likely 217 years away.

Viacom thinks that we should start closing that gap today.

Today, March 8, is a good day for it: it’s International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual celebration of change-makers fighting for gender equality. Viacom, along with other media companies, nonprofit organizations, charities, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists around the globe, will celebrate women in a tradition dating back to the suffrage movements of the early 20th century.

Today, Viacom brands, talent and executives will spread a message of equality and social activism through the company’s global platforms, through a series of fan and employee events, and through support for larger movements lending a megaphone to women’s collective voice.

Here’s the breakdown on how Viacom will promote International Women’s Day:

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