Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chum Chat: Shannon, Gay Pride and Bono's 'One'

My friend Shannon is a real go-getter!  She always seems to be involved in some humanitarian project or another and I knew that I if I could just get her to sit still long enough she would give the most interesting interview in the history of ever!  The opportunity finally presented itself and I was able to talk to her about jamming onstage with Bono, helping out with the organization One, and getting involved in the Gay Rights Movement.

JOAQUIN:   Hey Shannon!  So I heard that U2 recently came to Utah and you were somehow involved in that…  Do you mind explaining a bit?

SHANNON:  My friend, Mike Monroe, works for the organization One—a humanitarian organization co-founded by Bono.  Basically, One is a political advocacy organization that educates, gathers petitions, and puts pressure on law and policy makers to support initiatives that help the developing world—or what many people consider to be the former "Third World.”

J:  Oh, I see.  So what does this have to do with the concert?

S:  For the concert, Bono wanted to focus on getting people to join One and sign a petition supporting childhood vaccinations in poorer countries like those in Africa and South America.  So my friend Mike, who was in charge of coordinating volunteers, called me up and asked me if I wanted to help out getting signatures at the concert. Of course I said yes!

J:  Of course you did!  You wouldn’t be Shannon if you said no!  Ha ha!  So tell me more about this petition…

S:  Sure.  Three and a half million children under the age of five die every year from Diarrhea and Pneumonia.  That is crazy!  I mean, do you ever hear about a kid in the US dying from Diarrhea?  Yet 3.5 million kids are dying from it each year!  That's more than the number of children that die from HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis COMBINED.  And these deadly diseases are completely preventable with vaccination.  That's just not right.

J:  That’s horrible.

S:  So One decided to do something about it.  They gathered over 150,000 signatures on a petition asking President Obama to pledge 450 million dollars for the distribution and development of these vaccines at an upcoming Foreign Aid Conference in London.  After receiving the petition and getting thousands of emails, letters, and calls, the White House contacted One's headquarters.  On June 13th, Obama pledged 450 million over the next 3 years!

J:  That's great! So I’m sure you are dying to plug this organization.  Where should someone go if they want to find out more about One?

S:  Just go to www.one.org.  There you can read more about what One does and how to join.  And the best part is, there are no dues or donations required!  One is 100% funded by people like Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett. So we never have to ask for money.  We just ask for your voice.

J:  So even somebody poor like me can get involved?  That’s really awesome!  So what was your favorite part of the concert?

S:  My favorite part was DEFINITELY going onstage during the song "Walk On.” 

J:  What??  You got to go onstage!?

S:  Bono has dedicated that song to Aung Sang Suu Kyi, a political prisoner in Burma who's been under house arrest for about twenty years.  She also happens to be the legally elected president of the country and a personal hero of mine.  Anyway, she's recently been released and in order to honor her and remember all the thousands of political prisoners around the world who remain behind bars, U2 has volunteers walk onto the stage carrying Amnesty International lanterns and stand there throughout the song.  Because I had the third highest number of petition signatures from that afternoon, I got to be one of those volunteers!  It was so cool standing there in front of 60,000 people, onstage with U2, standing up for something I really believe in.  And afterword, the band played a recording that Aung Sang Suu Kyi made for U2 fans and the political activists that supported her.  I have a real soft spot for Burma and Ms. Aung Sang, and it felt like she was talking directly to me.  It was a really special experience overall.

J:  You just like being front and center don’t you?  Weren’t you in Salt Lake City’s Gay Pride Parade as well?

S:  Ha ha.  You know me.  Always the entertainer.  I DID get to march in the parade.  I even got to ride in a convertible.  It was great!

J:  How did you swing that?!

S:  Well, my roommate, Aaron, is really into politics and a couple of years ago he interned with Ralph Becker, who is the mayor of Salt Lake City.  Becker, who has done a ton for gay rights in Salt Lake, was receiving the Suazo Political Action Award and marching in the parade with a bunch of his staffers.  So Aaron invited me to come march with him and his boyfriend Rigo.  Luckily, when Mayor Becker asked for volunteers to ride in the convertible while he walked, Rigo grabbed Aaron's and my hands and said, "We will!" So there I was, front and center, AGAIN!  Ha ha.  It was a lot of fun.

J:  That’s awesome.  What was your favorite part about Pride Festival this year?

S:  You mean besides the bangin' transvestite walking around wearing nothing but body netting and big yellow "Censored" stickers over her nipples?

J:  Ha ha!  Yeah, besides her!

S:  Probably the atmosphere.  It was so cool to be surrounded by all these people dressed in these crazy getups, just being themselves and proud of it!  I even got to see a former BYU friend dressed in his drag persona "Wilma Blowem.”  Hee hee.  It was awesome.

J:  Do you think it’s important for straight people such as yourself to get involved in the Gay Rights Movement?

S:  Absolutely.  Gay Rights is about Human Rights.  It's about refusing to allow having second class citizens in our society.  We as a people are better than that.  If we aren't willing to stand up for our gay friends and family members, how can we create a better future for ourselves?  How can we be proud of our lives and our communities knowing there is so much injustice happening all around us?  Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, said it best:  "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

J:  That’s a terrific quote, Shannon.  Thanks for sharing it.  So what other fun adventures do you have coming up??

S:  Well, I'm going to New York City next week to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway and I could NOT be more excited!  After that, I'll just be working on finishing my Peace Corps evaluations and HOPEFULLY getting an invitation to serve at the end of the summer.  Keep your fingers crossed!

J:  I will, Shannon!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE U2!!!


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