Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman for Homelessness

Name: Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman

What is your job?

Former 3X NFL Pro Bowl and All-Pro; NFL Analyst; CEO of Lights Out Brand

What social causes are most important to you?

As a child, I was the victim of two house fires and was left homeless as a result. Because of this, I’ve dedicated my time and resources to making a difference in the lives of homeless families.

What charity do you support – and how?

I established Lights On Foundation early in my NFL career to helping fight homelessness and host annual events to benefit the cause. One event is my annual coat drive which is going on its 11th year. Lights On Foundation has been able to collect over 20,000 garments through this event, which have been donated to members of the Maryland and Washington D.C. communities where I grew up. Our upcoming coat drive will be held on November 23rd prior to the University of Maryland vs. Boston College game.

Lights On Foundation has also held an annual charity bowling event with friends, celebrities, and members of the community participating in raising money for the Foundation. The event has always been extremely successful and has helped to provide food, clothing, and shelter to children and families in need.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?

Giving back to my community that supported me through tough times is very rewarding. Having spent time in homeless shelters as a kid, I understand how this impacts your life and want to do what I can to ensure children and families never have to go through this.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? Identify what causes mean the most to you personally and research how you can become involved. Giving back doesn’t necessarily mean writing a check; donating your time to help plan charitable events or work with at-risk youth can be just as impactful.

How would you define social responsibility?

I would define social responsibility as recognizing that there is something we can all do to help others less fortunate and taking action. I’ve been able to use my platform as an NFL player to help others but you don’t need to be a professional athlete or celebrity to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your work?

 “Heart of Gold” is tattooed on the left side of my chest. Whether in sports or life in general, it’s not about how fast you are, it’s about having a heart. I believe in doing the right things for people and having a heart of gold.

Check out: Diablo Rose for Little Princess Trust

jme Thomas’ Motley Zoo

Name: jme Thomas

What is your job? 

Full-time volunteer executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue

What social causes are most important to you? 

Animal welfare, primarily finding homes for pets in need.

What charity do you support – and how? 

Motley Zoo primarily, but I also started “Cancer is a Jerk” in honor of my best friend who is losing her battle to aggressive and advanced breast cancer. I have always been a person dedicated to service. I used to design clothing (came VERY close to being on Project Runway three times!) and my goal with the clothing line was to donate the proceeds to charity. Eventually, I decided that instead of trying to get from A to Z by selling the clothes, I could instead just do the work myself instead, directly to the causes I cared about. So I have now funded 2 charities, though Motley Zoo is my full-time priority.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie? 

I have always loved animals- they used to call my mother Dr. Doolittle, so I certainly got it from her, but actually, I was never allowed a dog or cat growing up-it wasn’t until college and beyond that, I actually had experience with these animals, but it changed my life. Adopting my first rescue dog was the catalyst for fostering, and that was the end of the line for me- I knew that was my calling. Less than 2 years later I founded Motley Zoo with less than $2500 and a handful of people to help. We are now an org of over 100 volunteers and just rescued our 1000th pet (since May 2009).

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? 

I would encourage them to consider volunteering or fostering for a shelter or rescue near them. Adopt, or donate too. Fostering is easier than people think- we always encourage someone to give it a try just once- the experience is the most amazing thing…you think that changing the pet’s life is the basis, but really you find it changes yours the most! Don’t be afraid to ACT TODAY in finding a way to help animals in need.

How would you define social responsibility?

It is everyone’s responsibility to attend to the little corners of their world. Everyone has some kind of a cause that gets them going- rather than talking, criticizing, and worrying ACT. Action is critical, and it starts with ONE person, one day, deciding the solution is in their hands.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your work?  

Yes, I have 2 cats on my lower back — my first 2 kitties. I have a large cat on my bicep, the incarnation of all my black kitties to date (4). I am trying to work out getting a logo of a cat adoption campaign in exchange for a grant…the others are Nike, the goddess of victory. This came initially from my love of the Misfits (my first tat was actually a Misfits fiend but done badly so I covered it up with the cats on my butt), but Nike was a goddess with fiery golden hair (same as mine) and through the many adversities in my life, I have triumphed. It is across my full back- my first anniversary present from my husband, also the artist.

He wouldn’t do it for me when we first met because he thought I’d regret it if we broke up…but I told him that was silly- and after a year, and knowing we were to marry, he agreed! I added lilies to her feet when my mother died(she bred many new kinds of them). I also have a compass, that 2 of my other friends have. My one friend died suddenly as well so it means even more to me now. All of my tats mean something important to me- and I plan to get a sleeve of animals, clearly dedicated to all my charitable efforts too.

Your artist?  

Bryan Thomas, my husband. The most talented artist ever! He only moonlights as an artist now but used to work in a shop.

Check out: Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman for Homelessness

The Slants: “Don’t be a jerk: help make it a better place for us all.”

Name: Simon Young

What is your job? I play bass for The Slants

What social causes are most important to you? I’m passionate about justice. Whether it is racism, bullying, sexism, homophobia, or inequity caused by corruption, I think there’s definitely something that we can do to make this world a better place. For the past few years, our brand has been helping rescue refugees from North Korea and raising money for cancer research.

What charities do you support – and how?

Liberty in North KoreaI donate money and help raise awareness of the human rights crisis in North Korea.
The Trevor Project: I donate 50% of my income from consulting work towards this charity.
Basic Rights Oregon: I volunteer for events, donate financially, and work with them to fight for things like trans rights, marriage equality, and gender/sexual education.

APANOI volunteer quite a bit to fight for Asian American issues in the state; we host events, the lobby at the capitol, and also raise awareness of issues. I also support them financially.

OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting): This is our state’s public radio chapter. I’m a supporting member, contribute to their Insight network, participate in discussions in person and online, and help with other resources.

American Cancer SocietyI was a former manager there and helped raise nearly $700,000 for research and services to cancer survivors. I volunteer at events, donate money, help promote researchers, and lobby for the Cancer Action Network.

Why do you have a passion for these, is there a personal tie? 

As an Asian American, I grew up knowing what it was like to be treated differently, to have a different set of rights than those around me and was subjected to bullying and humiliation simply because of my identity. It can be a cruel world but I want to make it a little better place before I go.

 Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? 

The most important thing you can do is to show up. Find something that you are passionate about and ask, “How can I help?” You’ll be given more options than you’ll know what to do with, but at least you’ll be making a difference. One of the biggest ways you can help is to contribute financially. Even if you can only give $5 per month, that’s $60 per year!

Have you done a song about any of these topics? 

Our band has many songs talking about social justice and personal experiences with it. We also donate 100% of the profits from our second release, a dance remix of our first album, to cancer research. We’re also starting a non-profit organization aimed at fighting bullying in schools – even better than a song!

How would you define social responsibility?

We’re all a part of the planet and each one of us has an obligation to create sustainable living for our communities: economically, environmentally, and through social justice. In other words, don’t be a jerk: help make it a better place for us all.

Quick list of artists:

Divergent Studios in Poplar Bluff, MS!

Name:  Aron Moxley

What is your job?

Lead singer for The Slants – I play the microphones!

What social causes are most important to you?

Human rights and animal rights. Abuse towards children really po\isses me off. Whether it’s physical or mental harm or not getting them enough to eat. Shit, I know it’s tough and times are bad. I’ve lived out of my car before but if you have children then you have to strive and roll differently. You need to straighten your perspective and get proper. And animal abuse really gets me fired up.

Portland is full of real homeless people. But then there is this fake homeless culture that stands at intersections, on-ramps, and off-ramps of highways begging for change with their dogs. Just really bums me out. I know a lot of them aren’t really homeless and they’re actually taking resources away from people who are. Outside of this bar I frequent, there was this one guy that would stand outside with a sign that said “very hungry” and he lived by my friend. He wasn’t homeless or hungry. Bar customers would buy him food when they would be leaving and as soon as the nice people would turn the corner he’d throw the food away. I’m not saying don’t have compassion for real homeless people but this guy was faking the funk. So the bartender told me he hides his sign in the bushes behind the bar. So I went back there late one night and switched his sign out with one that said “very horny” instead. It’s been 3 months and he hasn’t been back.

What charities do you support – and how?

I volunteer at the only no-kill dog shelter in Portland called Family Dogs New Life 3 days a week (unless we’re on tour). We’re not just walking cute puppies – we’re helping nurse abused dogs, clean their crates, and many baths for dogs who don’t like baths.
You have to watch their “Piteo” videos! They’re pitbull videos set to a song, theme, and acting. They are super funny. Go, go see them now!

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?

The program directors for the dog shelter used to be in a punk band with me over a decade ago called “Evening at the Black House”.  And the fact that I’m there 16 hours a week.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?

In general, going to your local shelter or humane society to help is awesome. Donate food, bleach, toys, blankets, towels, etc. And people, please spay and neuter your pets!  Never buy a dog from a breeder!  Also, Pitbulls are sweethearts! 

How would you define social responsibility?

A couple of ways. One is kindness with empathy. You need to treat everyone with respect and help your fellow human. The other one is compassion. You need to be compassionate towards others.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social work?

I have one that is of an old Chinese man sitting on the river bank flocked by dragonflies and turtles, it represents my love for animals. There’s a waterfall in the background, wind bars filling in the negative space. That piece was done by Lewis Hess of Portland’s own Atlas studios. He used to be my roommate.

Quick list of artists?

My Vietnamese name rattled down my spine (Hour Cong Do) by Kimbra Schlater. The left half of my stomach and chest of a sumo wrestler throwing water like in the traditional Japanese tuxedo style. My head is tattooed with 4 Vietnamese stars. These represent my pride in my cultural heritage.

Check out: jme Thomas’ Motley Zoo

Jesse McFaddin: Music Activism

Name: Jesse McFaddin

What is your job?  Music artist, (lead vocalist & guitarist for RIZE, member of hip-hop collective E.D.O., music producer & clothing designer.

What social causes are most important to you?

I’m most interested in causes that generate hope and opportunity for the youth or strive to make the future better than today. These are the people that are really going to make tomorrow a better place.

What charities do you support – and how?

I’m currently supporting the charity El SistemaJapan which was founded in Venezuela. El Sistema Japan is a music-centric charity organization that develops and funds music education programs for the youth. I donate my time and influence to this charity. In addition to the Venezuelan-based chapter of El Sistema Japan, I’m also working to create a branch in Japan with courses planned for the people of Tohoku which is the region of Japan that was worst hit by the 3.11.11 earthquake.

I am also the spokesperson for No Water No Chemical which is a retail ecological initiative formed by the french denim designer Marithe + Francois Girbaud. The concept is to find a way to produce quality denim that doesn’t have as strong of an impact on the environment in terms of water usage and the chemicals used to make denim.

Why do you have a passion for these in particular, is there a personal tie?

El Sistema Japan is totally in line with my current project = “Stand Up!”. It encourages the youth and gets them excited about the future. “Stand Up!” is a concept where people can connect directly with me to create mash-ups of raw tracks that I’ve created. It fosters creativity and encourages a new generation of up-and-coming producers and artists to express themselves through a positive outlet. By doing this, the project gives everybody “HOPE”.

I really feel that music is essential to life. Music is a form of emotion and it can move people in a variety of ways. Not long after the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, I started a movement called “Bring the Hope”. Basically, it was a concert-oriented event where people came together through the power of music to unify and encourage each other to give back and help their fellow man. Although it was based in Japan, it really motivated a lot of Japanese youth to become civic-minded and to donate to charities that were working on the ground in Haiti. And then almost a year later, the same type of disaster-hit Japan, and it really motivated me to keep the “Bring the Hope” campaign going, especially since I was seeing firsthand how devastating of an impact a natural disaster can make not just on the individual but on the community at large as well.

Most of your American audience may not know this, but my father, Char, is a musician as well and I grew up around music my whole life. So, I understand what kind of an outlet it can provide to the youth. It was definitely something that I turned to as a child and it has stayed with me since then. Music is like breathing to me – it’s essential! So, when I see that creative outlet being deprived of other children, I just want to help them. I know how necessary it is to have a space to express yourself, and music is the perfect medium for that.

With No Water No Chemical, it’s a similar idea to me. People in a position to make a positive change are doing so. More importantly, they’re not waiting for a government agency or a retail watchdog to tell them to make a change now. Instead, the people at Marithe + Francois Girbaud are taking the initiative and I respect and admire that.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?

Absolutely! Get involved in your community and take ownership! I’m a big believer in the idea of “Stand”. By this, I mean that I’ll stand with you and support you. And in the same way, you should stand with me and support me. This is a concept that should be practiced in the general community. It’s not just about one person, it’s about unity. By yourself, you may not feel that you have a voice or that you can make a “meaningful” impact on the world around you. But, when you stand…when you let your voice be heard, you’ll be amazed at how many people might actually share your views and want to stand with you and make their voices heard collectively.

This brings hope and ultimately changes the greater community into a better place for everyone.

Have you done a song about this topic, or dedicated a song to a charity?

I’ve actually created a lot of music that is intended to inspire or motivate my audience. In particular, is the song “StandUp” which I originally released with my band RIZE on our Spit & Yell album? And it basically focused on encouraging the youth specifically to take notice of the world around them and do something to make a positive impact, to make a change.

How would you define social responsibility?

Social responsibility means having a commitment to positively impact the society in which we are now living. But I’m not just referring to the local community – rather the global one. I think that each person has a specific mission and gift from God. And this translates to a direct field where he or she can do the most to help society with their talent. As an artist, I have focused on conveying “HOPE” via my music and other projects I’m involved with to spread the “opportunity” to motivate people. Of course, donating money is definitely important, but “Hope” is the bedrock of our lives.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social work?  

There are two tattoos in particular that really speak to my beliefs. On my collarbone is the word “Hope”. And on my back is the  Japanese character (turned upside down) for the word TEN which also describes TOP or Heaven. By reversing this character, I want to share and convey my meaning; Everybody can reach there. Because I don’t want to be the only one on top.

Check out: The Slants: “Don’t be a jerk: help make it a better place for us all.”

Pussycat Dolls’ Kaya Jones for Equality

Name: Kaya Jones, a former member of the Pussycat Dolls

What is your job?

Singer, actress, and record label owner.

What social causes are most important to you?

Human rights and to increase awareness about the alarming trend of bullying.

What charities do you support – and how?

GLAAD and Marriage Equality, as well as our Troops. I had the pleasure of visiting our troops in Kuwait and Iraq where I performed 20 shows in two weeks. I also am proud to be involved with Be-The-Link which advocates HIV/AIDS research and care.

Why do you have a passion for these, is there a personal tie?

Yes, I believe every human being deserves to be loved, receive love, and give love. Some of my family don’t have rights in our country. I speak for my fans and family. Our men and women fight for our freedom without rights. It’s not fair. Our country is about liberty for all, so until we do have that, I will keep speaking out.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?

Yes, vote! And find out what charities are near where you live. It is our duty to help our neighbors no matter how big or small the need is.

How would you define social responsibility?

We are the link and we must get involved in any way that we can to help our world survive.  It is the only way we will keep building and growing as a global community.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social/charitable beliefs/work?

I have a tattoo on my arm that says “With sincere heart and sincere mind” It’s in Chinese. I believe it to be a true statement of who I am. It’s also a good reminder to be humble and to give back. Also, my cross is on my wrist. It always gives me the strength to have faith in others and myself.

Check out: Jesse McFaddin: Music Activism

Sharon Gannon for Animal Rights and Environmentalism

Sharon Gannon, founder of Jivamukti Yoga

What is your job?

To contribute in some small way to the happiness and liberation of others.

What social causes are most important to you?

Animal rights, environmentalism, and music

What charities do you support – and how?

I give money to lots of amazing people who are doing hands-on work to relieve the suffering of animals—one being at a time. I also give money to many amazing people who are working to educate other human beings about the intelligence and sensitivity of other animals, trees, forests, bodies of water, and other ecosystems. I also like to support individual musicians who are doing wonderful musical things in the world.

All of life is alive. A bird is alive and feels and thinks and communicates. A Tree is alive and also feels and thinks and communicates. We live in a living world filled with feeling, and thinking beings who are communicating with us all the time, but we (human beings) have forgotten how to listen. I like to support other people who have organizations (sometimes it’s just them working solo) that are helping all of us human beings to remember how to live harmoniously/musically with all of life.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite non-profit organizations which I love to support:

PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Sea Shepard Conservation SocietyUrban Cat LeagueNeighborhood CatsAnimal MuktiBonobos Conservation Initiative, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Farm Animal SanctuaryAnimal Kind, Circle of Life, Gallmann Africa Conservancy, Rainforest Foundation, and Maverick Concerts.

How would you define social responsibility?

Being political. The word, politic means the body—the greater body—the community you live with. Some people may say that they are not interested in politics, that they are not political. Well, I would have to say that, you can’t help but be political because you live on this earth—you live in a community, you are not alone—you are living with other people. Even if you take yourself out of a metropolitan city and transport yourself to the “country” somewhere, you can’t get away from people—you will find yourself still living with people—perhaps tree people or bird or butterfly people or deer or bear people or maybe even elemental beings like fairy people—but still you will not be able to get away from “other” people. So for your own happiness and sanity, it would be best if you could find ways to get along with these other people. I think the real meaning of social responsibility is to be political –to dare to care—to care about the happiness and wellbeing of all the people who you live with. To be political is to live your life in a way that enhances the lives of others in your community—all others.

A great way to start getting into politics is to be vegan. To dare to care about others (animals trees—all living beings) is the most radical, political thing any of us can do at this time. We’ve all been conditioned by a culture, which has told us to look out for number one—no need to care about anyone else. This self-centered way of perceiving reality is simply not sustainable to live here on planet Earth. And besides that –it isn’t very much fun either to live so cut off from the rest of the world.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social beliefs?

On my right ankle, I have a tattoo of a black, gold, and red coral snake coiled around the alchemical symbols for entropy and evolution. It is a heavily encoded image, which speaks about equanimity of mind—the goal of yoga practice. The snake is modeled after a real person who I met when I was a little girl, living in the Florida everglades—this small snake spoke to me then—she taught me something about the power of one’s actions.

The snake is an ancient symbol of consciousness, DNA, kundalini, and perception. Entropy means to turn inward and evolution means to roll out. When we are able to bring our minds to a place of equanimity we become balanced, overcoming duality and the restrictions of time.  This tattoo reminds me of my project to try to attain some level of equanimity of mind while I am still fortunate to have a body—to be alive.

Quick list of tattoos/mention artists if you’d like:

Madame Vyvyan Lazonga—the greatest tattoo artist in the world! This talented and amazing lady lives and works in Seattle Washington, we’ve known each other since 1968—wow that’s 42 years!

Check out: Pussycat Dolls’ Kaya Jones for Equality

Joan Jett for Farm Sanctuary

Name: Joan Jett

What is your job? I am a musician, guitar player to be exact.

What social causes are most important to you?

Animal rights, environmental causes, taking care of our forests, rivers, oceans, air… to see that connection.

What charity do you support? Farm Sanctuary.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?

There is a personal tie because I love animals, and feel a connection with them. I became aware of Farm Sanctuary’s work and wanted to help. Farm Sanctuary has 2 farms where they bring the animals they rescue. One is in upstate New York and one is in California. I just went to visit overnight in New York, and it was an incredible experience! I met my namesake, Joan the pig! I really enjoyed meeting all the animals. I highly recommend the experience!

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?

To become vegetarian, or vegan. I am vegetarian, I have fluctuated between the two, but my goal is to be vegan. It helps the animals and the earth.

Quick list of tattoos/mention artists if you’d like:

I have a fighter jet on my left hip, done at Lyle Tuttle’s shop in West Hollywood, CA. Everything else was done at Daredevil Tattoo in New York City. I have a Labris inside double female symbols on my sacrum, an om symbol on the back of my neck, a Greek symbol for victory and progress on my ankle, a spiral with rays radiating out on my left forearm, a figure 8 armband on my upper left arm, and a triangle with loops and swoops above the figure 8 armband.

Check out: Sharon Gannon for Animal Rights and Environmentalism