From Kickstarter Rejection to the Indiegogo Homepage

1 Aug

10 Lessons Learned from Running a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

We made the Indiegogo homepage!

Just like James Franco, we made the Indiegogo homepage!

This past month has been incredibly inspiring (and exhausting).  Over the past four weeks, I ran an Indiegogo campaign for my first book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, a handbook for twenty- (and thirty-) somethings looking for meaningful work. The campaign raised $12,790 (140% of our goal) from 518 funders, received 1,200 likes on Facebook, and was featured in Fast Company, GOOD Magazine, Everest Journal, and on the Indiegogo homepage.

The campaign was an overwhelming success, and I could not be more grateful for my friends, family, and backers for supporting this project—which, as you’ll soon find out, twice came close to not happening. So, while the dust is still settling, here are 10 lessons learned to help you launch your crowdfunding campaign in the coming weeks or months.

1. Disconnect to reconnect

A week before I planned to launch, I woke up in my sleeping bag, in a tent, under the redwoods of Anderson Valley, California. I was wearing shiny purple tights, a pink shirt, a whistle around my neck, and a yellow bandanna on my forehead with a huge frog on it. It was the last day of Camp Grounded—I had just been a counselor at a Digital Detox adult summer camp, and had not checked my email or Facebook for four days.

As I woke up that morning, my body exhausted but my eyes surprisingly rested from not staring at a screen for over 100 hours, I thought: there is no way in hell I can launch this thing next week, I spent the last four days hanging out with people named Topless, Kitten Little, and Honey Bear—I haven’t even heard a person’s actual real name in four days—let alone written my form emails, or invited friends to like my Facebook page, or planned my launch party! I started to freak out, and nearly flinched. “I’ll launch in August or September when the book is closer to being finished,” I said out loud in the tent.

Yet, on the drive home from camp through the redwoods and rolling vineyards of Mendocino, a surprising calm came over me. I said to my friend Ducky, who was driving, “Fuck it, I can do this. It’s gonna be nuts, but I got this.” “Yep,” Ducky answered, “You got this, Smiley.” 

Running a crowdfunding campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Take time a week or two before you launch to disconnect, to step away from your email contact lists and Facebook. The break will remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place, and you’ll come back to your work fresh and inspired, ready to go. The last thing you want to do is cram for two weeks straight before the launch, and feel like you are already wiped on launch day.   

2. Don’t flinch, be flexible

My plan was to launch on June 27, two days before my 30th birthday, so that I’d already have some traction before the big day. On Thursday, June 27, I woke up giddy with excitement, and checked my email, anticipating that Kickstarter would (obviously) have approved my project. 

Instead, I received a message from Kickstarter that said: “Your project, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, has been declined.”  I figured I probably just needed to change one of the perks, or change some language on my page. But, when I read the email again, my heart slumped. I learned that, as of two days earlier, Kickstarter no longer accepted self-help projects (for good reason, assuming this was in response to Kickstarter’s  failure to pull an abhorrent “seduction” guide from their site).

I had wanted to use Kickstarter because I felt like it had the best brand recognition of any crowdfunding site (even my parents knew what it was), and numerous authors I respected had used Kickstarter to self-publish their books (it had a proven cachet). 

After pacing back and forth in my apartment for twenty minutes, freaking out, and again contemplating postponing my launch for a month or two, I took a deep breath, chugged a cup of coffee, and went to indiegogo.com.  Within four hours, I had the majority of my project uploaded on Indiegogo. I asked my videographer to edit out the parts of my video where I said, “Please support my Kickstarter!”

Because I was flexible and willing to adapt, I went from receiving the Kickstarter rejection email to pacing back and forth in my apartment to launching my project on Indiegogo, all within about six hours. Four days later, I was halfway to my goal, and had already raised over $5000. By the second week, I had been in the Indiegogo blog, the Indiegogo newsletter, and on the Indiegogo homepage.

3. Focus on the project, not the platform

There are numerous crowdfunding platforms available, but which one works best for your project? Kickstarter seems to be favored by well-known artists (Spike Lee, Zack Braff, Seth Godin, Amanda Palmer…), as well as technology and product designers, while Indiegogo caters more to non-profits, cause campaigns, and projects with international scope (and, apparently, self-help books).

You can set-up your Indiegogo project almost instantly (a nice asset)—with Kickstarter, it takes 3-5 days for your bank account to be confirmed, and then another 2-3 days for Kickstarter to approve the project. Also, Indiegogo allows for flexible funding campaigns, so you can keep all of the money you raise, even if you don’t hit your funding goal.

Ultimately though, it’s all about whether your story and your project resonates with others; are you giving people something they actually want? If so, you’ll be successful regardless of which platform you choose.

4. Video = $

When I asked friends why they liked my campaign, they often answered, “I loved your video, the outtakes were really funny!” Spend time producing an engaging high-quality video for your project. Make it unique, funny, dramatic, and inspiring. My talented videographer, Kara Brodgesell, and I, spent several days refining the script and shot listing, figuring out the most powerful way to tell my story on camera. It’s worth spending some money to pay a professional videographer who has made crowdfunding or short web videos before. Use the video to show your story, show people why you’re passionate about your project.

5. Make your project about the funder, not about you

I made it explicitly clear in my campaign that this book wasn’t about me writing a book, it was for others to achieve their own breakthroughs. I think this went a long way towards engaging supporters. The less you’re project says: “Help me do this project, I really want to do this,” and the more it shows: “This is why this project will help you,” the more successful you’ll be.

Per the advice of my friend Sydney Malawer, a crowdfunding expert who worked on campaigns for GoldieBlox ($285,000) and Kuli Kuli ($52,000), I also tried to involve the funder in the campaign perks through virtual hangouts and in-person coaching services. The more a potential funder feels agency and participation with your project, the more likely they will contribute.

6. Be very clear about where the money is going

On the campaign page, I specified exactly why my goal was $9,000, and listed my estimated costs for editing, cover art, book design, photography, and illustrations, book marketing and publicity, campaign video and promotion, campaign shipping and fulfillment, and printing costs for the first run of the book. When I reached my goal, I set a stretch goal of $12,000, and detailed where the additional funds would go.

The clearer you can be about why you need the money, the more likely others will want to support you.

7. Artists should prototype too

As artists we are particularly harsh on ourselves; we tend to wait until the last moment, until our work is 100% “perfect,” to share it with the world. Unlike product or software developers who revel in frequent beta testing and user experience research, we often treat our manuscripts, canvasses, and studios as caves, and rarely emerge to ask the public if they even like what we’re working on.

With my project, I decided to be less a writer and more a product entrepreneur; using the Indiegogo campaign as a soft launch for the book, a practice run to prepare for a future formal book launch. By treating the campaign as a beta launch and testing my product before it was finished, I learned two invaluable lessons:

 1) YES! People want the book. The idea resonated, there was demand for my product. People I didn’t know were sharing it on Facebook. At least 50% of my 518 funders were people I had never met before—they were from Lincoln, Nebraska, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Calgary, Alberta, and Portugal, India, and Iceland. People wrote comments on the Indiegogo page like, “This project lifted my spirits today,” and “I need this book right now, can’t wait to read it.”

2) NO! People don’t want the current version of the book. People were asking for more of a self-help book, and less a personal memoir. In all my conversations, my funders wanted something different than my first pass at the book. Knowing this now, while my book is still in development, allows me to make essential changes in my second draft that will end up increasing the book’s impact (and sales) six months from now. 

I would encourage other artists to use crowdfunding as a proof of concept and to prototype their ideas in development. Testing a work-in-progress is an excellent way to find out whether your audience wants what you’re working on, or something different. If you’re curious about when to launch your crowdfunding project, check out this insightful post by Nelson de Witt, author of A Kickstarter’s Guide to Kickstarter.

8. If you build it, they (might) come

Running a successful crowdfunding campaign is incredibly challenging. You can have a good idea and a good video and great perks, but you still have to get people to come to your page, and get them to contribute.

Anyone preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign should read this post by Mike Del Ponte of Soma on 4-Hour Workweek Blog, which provides successful strategies and email templates for how best to increase traffic, contact press, and reach backers.

For The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, after direct email, Facebook was by far the largest referral of traffic (and sales generator), and Twitter was a distant third. This makes sense: whenever I support a crowdfunding campaign, it’s usually because I’ve seen it on a friend’s Facebook wall.

Even though I was fairly relentless about posting on Facebook during the campaign (I don’t think I could have physically done much more self-promotion), if I were to run the campaign again, I would hire a social media manager to help increase visibility on Facebook and come up with more creative ways of engaging the Facebook community.

Now that the campaign is over, I’m still exploring ways to best engage this community of people who refuse to settle for mediocrity—if you have creative ideas for how I can do this through online platforms or in-person discussion groups/events, please contact me!

9. Passionate press is the best press

Press was another area where I learned a valuable lesson: don’t necessarily go for the large publications, instead find blogs that have a passionate following about the particular area you’re working in. Getting featured in the Indiegogo newsletter led to hundreds of dollars in contributions, because the Indiegogo community is so passionate about supporting creative crowdfunding projects.

Likewise, I wrote a piece in GOOD Magazine about my project that generated loads of traffic and contributions, because the GOOD community is so passionate about taking action on social issues. The post sparked an online hangout about finding meaningful work, which 100 people signed up for.

If I were to run the campaign again, I would focus more energy on getting featured in twentysomething blogs, career and lifestyle blogs, with a smaller reach, but a more avid readership than large, mainstream business sites.

10. 518 reasons to be grateful

A little over a month ago, I was in the woods, cursing Facebook-induced FOMO, and celebrating taking a break from digital technology. Today, I actually want to thank Indiegogo and social media—not simply for being effective fundraising tools—but for making me believe in myself. Crowdfunding is an exercise in community-building; your project no longer is about you, it’s about the people who support you, and believe in what you’re creating.   

Since the campaign ended, I’ve been avoiding the one place I know I need to go: the library—to work on my second draft, and finish writing the book. But yesterday morning, I finally looked at the list of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough’s 518 supporters, printed the list, stuck it in my backpack, and brought it with me to the library. Now, every day I try to avoid writing (which is to say, every day), I have a list which stares back at me with fierce, hungry, eager eyes: “I need this book right now, can’t wait to read it.”

And I will sit down, with 518 reasons to write.  

-Smiley Poswolsky 

Follow The Quarter-Life Breakthrough on Facebook and Twitter, and sign-up for updates at thequarterlifebreakthrough.com

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Reaches 500 Funders

26 Jul

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.28.53 PM             Good-magazine-logo1

As our Indiegogo campaign comes to an end tomorrow, I want to thank you for making the past 30 days the most inspiring of my life. This week, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough surpassed our stretch goal, and was featured in GOOD Magazine

Together, we’ve raised over $12,500 from 500 contributors! That’s 139% of our funding goal!

Yesterday, I hosted a live video hangout with members of the GOOD community–“The Purpose Generation,” who were really excited about having quarter-life breakthroughs instead of quarter-life crises.

You have provided the support and the inspiration needed to finish this book, and build a movement of people who want to align their work with their values. 

I could not be more grateful for your support. It’s because of you that this book will be shared with the world.

Thank you for your support,

-Smiley Poswolsky

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Surpasses Goal on Indiegogo

18 Jul
We made the Indiegogo homepage!

James Franco isn’t the only one who made the Indiegogo homepage.

Thanks to you, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough met its funding goal two weeks early. We’ve raised over $11,000 from more than 425 contributors with 10 days to go! This week, we were featured in the Indiegogo newsletter and on the Indiegogo homepage; which means thousands of people all over the world learned about this project. The book was also profiled in the Everest Journal

More and more people are learning about the book and the growing movement we’re building of people who refuse to settle. Needless to say, I am full of gratitude for your overwhelming support.

After we reached our goal, we set a new stretch goal of $12,000, and we’re almost there! These additional funds will support the cost of printing more books, and a robust grassroots marketing campaign.

Here’s how you can spread the word about The Quarter-Life Breakthrough:

Share the link to the campaign:  http://igg.me/at/smiley/x/3563951

  1. Email: Share the Indiegogo campaign with one person who really needs to read this book today. Who is feeling stuck right now? Who is thinking about a job transition or career change?
  2. Facebook: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Facebook
  3. Twitter: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Twitter

Thank you for your ongoing love and support.

-Smiley Poswolsky

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Featured in Fast Company

11 Jul

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough in Fast Company Thanks to you, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough is 80% funded, and we’ve raised $7400 from 250 contributors in 13 days! This week we were featured in Fast Company, as well as Indiegogo’s Team Roundup, and on the Indiegogo blog.   I am inspired by your support, your comments, and your overwhelming excitement for this book. Together, we are going to build a world where everyone reaches their full potential.

We’re getting so close to reaching our goal! Please continue to spread the word about The Quarter-Life Breakthrough:

Here is the link to the campaign:  http://bit.ly/15LL4VU

  1. Email: Share the Indiegogo campaign with friends, co-workers, family. Think of one person who really needs to read this book today. Who is feeling stuck right now? Who is thinking about a job transition or career change?
  2. Facebook: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Facebook
  3. Twitter: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Twitter

Thank you for making all of this possible.

-Smiley Poswolsky

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Raises $5500 in 5 Days on Indiegogo

3 Jul
"I get by with a little help from my friends."

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

One word continues to be on mind over the last five days: gratitude.  

Because of you, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough is more than halfway towards its goal on Indiegogo. We’ve raised $5500 from 160 contributors in only 5 days! Yesterday, we were featured on Indiegogo’s homepage for Writing campaigns. This is a truly remarkable feat, and it’s all because of you

We still have 25 days to go, but this campaign has already demonstrated that there is a growing movement of people, especially young people, that wants to find work that aligns with who they are and what they believe in.  

50% of Americans are unsatisfied at work, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your support means The Quarter-Life Breakthrough is one step closer towards becoming a published book, so more and more people can take the leap towards doing what they love.

Please continue to spread the word about The Quarter-Life Breakthrough:

Here is the link to the campaign:  http://bit.ly/15LL4VU

  1. Email: Share the Indiegogo campaign with friends, co-workers, family. Who really needs to read this book? Who is feeling stuck right now? Who is thinking about a job transition or career change?
  2. Facebook: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Facebook
  3. Twitter: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Twitter

Thank you for your incredible love and support this past week, I am beyond grateful. Thank you for refusing to settle for mediocrity.

-Smiley Poswolsky

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Is On Indiegogo!

28 Jun
The Quarter-Life Breakthrough Cover Final

indiegogo-logo1

Dear Whatsupsmiley readers:

A little over a year ago, I finally overcame my fear of sharing my words with the world, went to wordpress.com, bought a domain name for $18, and started this blog to share the emotions I was feeling while leaving my job in D.C., and planning a move to San Francisco without another job lined up.  

The reaction from readers to several posts I wrote about my journey to find meaningful work inspired me to write my first book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. It’s a handbook for twentysomethings (and thirtysomethings).

I recently finished the first draft of the book, and the book went live today on Indiegogo for pre-order!

Check out my Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign here:  http://bit.ly/15LL4VU

What’s the book about?
I’m writing a book about what has worked in my own search for meaningful work. It’s a book about finding a way to make a living, working hard, doing something you love. I believe it’s unacceptable that half of Americans are unsatisfied with their jobs, and this handbook is for everyone who feels the same way and for everyone who believes the quarter-life crisis shouldn’t be a crisis, but a breakthrough, a moment of empowerment and opportunity.

Awesome, Smiley.  How can I help?
It would mean the world to me if you could spread the word about this project, far and wide.  Here are three simple ways you can help, that will only take a few clicks:

  1. Email: Please email the Indiegogo campaign to 10 friends (the more the better!), family, co-workers… anyone you think needs to read this book. 
  2. Facebook: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Facebook
  3. Twitter: Share the Indiegogo campaign on Twitter

Here is the link again:  http://bit.ly/15LL4VU

I cannot express how grateful I am to you for reading these words, and for making this project possible through your love and support over the past 30 years—thank for refusing to settle for mediocrity, thank you for being awesome.

-Smiley Poswolsky

A Letter From Camp Grounded, Summer Camp For Adults

19 Jun

Camp Grounded

Did you ever go to sleep away summer camp as a kid?  I did, and it was the best.  I made friends overnight, ate sloppy joes, slop, sloppy joes, learned what a crush was, and stayed up all night with my bunkmates, laughing so hard we never slept.  

On Monday, I returned from being a camp counselor at Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults in the beautiful redwoods of Anderson Valley, California.  Camp Grounded was organized by Digital Detox, which plans technology-free retreats so people can “disconnect to reconnect,” so none of the 18-67 year-old campers were allowed to have cell phones, computers, or digital cameras.

The other rules at Camp Grounded included no talking about work, as well as no real names—only nicknames. Which means that for 4 days, instead of checking my email 345 times and looking at my phone 76 times to find no new text messages, I developed new crushes, typed on a typewriter, saw every star in the sky, freed the jail during capture the flag, made a truffle with my hands using almond butter, coconut flour, cocoa, cinnamon, hibiscus, and Himalayan sea salt, danced on the table after dinner to Twist-and-Shout, and made new friends named Honey Bear, Ducky, Spunky Brewster, Rikki St. James, and Lux Warrior.  

Since leaving camp is the worst part about camp, and since next summer seems so far away, I wrote myself a letter to remember everything I learned. 

***

A Letter From Camp Grounded

Dear Smiley:

If you can hear me, clap once.  If you can hear me, clap twice. 

You are turning 30 in two weeks, but clearly, you are still a child. This is a good thing. Be ridiculous, be spontaneous, play every day. Play is what makes you happy.

When you get distracted by all the millions of things you need to do or could be doing, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and open them. You are exactly where you need to be.

The most important times are timeless, they don’t happen from 4:00-4:30pm, you can’t schedule or reschedule them, they just are. Walk outside. Look up at the trees. Listen to the wind. Listen to your breath. Listen as Barnaby plays the guitar. 

The spaces in between, the moments when nothing is happening—when you are waiting in line—are for reflection, or smiling at the person next to you, not for checking Instagram.  

Don’t reach for your pocket every other minute. Look up. There is so much to see right in front of you. The orange and green duck hat with horns, the knee-high socks with two blue stripes, the guy behind the talent show stage dressed like a chicken. 

If you can’t for the life of you remember the name of a movie, instead of asking Google, ask the people around you. If they don’t know either, move on. There is beauty in not knowing the answer.

If you want to get to know someone, don’t ask them what they do. You just met 200 awesome campers and counselors—you have no idea what one of them actually does for a living—but you know how good they look in a onesie, and how fun they are to dance with at the 80s prom, and that’s more important.

Your crush has not texted you, she has not liked your status—she is waiting for you, right now—to walk with her under the redwoods, and stare up at the sky.

The Quarter-Life Breakthrough

6 Jun
Time to start my second draft.

Time to start my second draft.

Book Update #1

This spring, I set out to do the impossible and started to write a book about my journey over the last year.  The book tells the story of how I quit my job working for the government in D.C., moved to San Francisco without a job, and embarked on a career that’s meaningful to me.  It’s a handbook for twenty- and thirty-somethings who refuse to settle for mediocrity. 

A big thanks to my awesome readers for your support! Here’s a progress update: 

1)  My book has a title! It’s called The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. On a recent Tuesday night, I was volunteering with The Beat Within, a nonprofit that provides writing workshops for incarcerated youth in the San Francisco juvenile hall, and a young girl was sharing a poem with me she had written about her boyfriend. Her poem talked about how her relationship was a moment of hope and of possibility during a particularly rough time in her life.  She called this moment a “breakthrough.” I had been struggling with what to call the time period in my late twenties when I scared to leave my job but knew I needed to make a change. Breakthrough seemed like the perfect word, flipping the paradigm of the quarter-life crisis on its head, a crisis instead becoming a moment of empowerment and opportunity.  

2)  I recently completed the 100-page, far-from-perfect, first draft and submitted the draft to my amazing editor, Caroline Kessler. I’m excited to begin writing the second draft.  I published a piece in Thought Catalog about my writing process, which offers tips for how you can embrace the creative writing process (or any creative process) and share your story with the world.   

3)  I’m hard at work preparing to launch the Kickstarter campaign for the book on June 27. The Kickstarter will help pay for production costs including editing, cover art and design, marketing and publicity, and the first print edition.  This week, I’m shooting the Kickstarter promo video for the book with my talented videographer, Kara Brodgesell. It’s been a blast to write the script for the video and shotlist with Kara.  I’d love if you could support the Kickstarter campaign when we launch in a few weeks, whether you’re able to donate or share it with friends and on social media. 

4)  I’ll be sharing a beautiful cover and website with you soon. I’m lucky to have Bernat Fortet, an award-winning designer from Barcelona, working on the cover design for the book. 

In order to continue to receive updates on The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, please sign-up for the email list, like the Facebook page, and follow @whatsupsmiley on Twitter (#QuarterLifeBreakthrough). 

Thank you for your continued support, and for refusing to settle for mediocrity.  It’s going to be a summer full of breakthroughs. 

-Smiley Poswolsky

Our Story Is All We Have: I’m Writing A Book!

25 Apr
Smiley's Moleskines

My Moleskines are getting full.

“But then why do we write if not to tackle the fears that others look to us to conquer?” Joanna Penn

Less than a year ago, the voice inside my head telling me to listen to my heart and take a leap finally got loud enough that I couldn’t ignore it. So I quit my job at the Peace Corps headquarters in D.C., moved to San Francisco without a job, and now I’m writing a book about that journey and about taking the leap.

I know many of you reading are ready to make a change, to get unstuck, and to stop settling for mediocrity. With this book, I want to help you do that.

It was really scary to embrace the quarter-life crisis I was facing, move thousands of miles away, and start completely anew in a strange city—so part of this book is about that. Part of it is about empowering you to move through whatever crisis you might be going through, whether you’re about to graduate college, quit your job, launch a new company, travel the world, or turn 30 (or 40, in which case, you’re probably thinking, “Holy shit, I’m 39, and about to read a book by some dude named Smiley, it can’t get much worse than this…”). 

Through telling my story and what has worked (and has not worked) during my recent life transition (ok, quarter-life crisis), my book will be a friendly companion on your journey toward getting closer to who you are and actualizing your dreams.  I will encourage you to embrace rather than dread your current life crisis, and best of all, smile and dance a little bit more.   

The book will be closer to the length of a novella (but true!) and will have illustrations by a friend of mine who is a prolific visual storyteller. 

The goals: To finish my first draft by my 30th birthday (June 29), and have the book completed by August 1.  I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in late June to help pay for my wonderful editor, cover art and illustrations, a designer, marketing and publicity, and a book tour. 

A close friend questioned my audacity, and whether I could raise money on Kickstarter, saying “People buy cool products like watches and gadgets on Kickstarter, but why would anyone just want to read your story?,” he said to me.  Just read my story?  My story is all I have.  Your story is all you have.  Our story is all we have. 

So, if you’re with me, if you believe that I, just like you, have a unique story to tell, I need your help!  Embrace the process of creation with me.  Sign up here for exclusive updates on my progress, and sneak-peeks at my Kickstarter campaign which will launch in June.

Ways to Help

1)    Sign up here to join my mailing list so you can spread the word about my upcoming Kickstarter campaign and let other people know about the book!  If you are currently going through a life transition, or know someone who is, please sign up for the mailing list.  The point of this project is to build a supportive community of people going through this arduous process together. 

2)    Let me know if you have any ideas for my book. I’m still working on things like title, design ideas, brilliant marketing strategies, and creative book tour ideas.

3)    Know any brilliant writers? I’d love to pick their brains.

4)    Let me know if you are connected to an awesome publishing company who might be interested in my project.

Thank you!

I would not be able to make this happen without your love, inspiration, readership, and support—thank you!  Feel free to contact me at smileyposwolsky@gmail.com with questions or ideas.  And most importantly, tell your story too—whether by prose, photo, film, installation, music, dance, code, or whatever medium you love.  The world is waiting for you. 

Storyboarding my book at the library.

Storyboarding  at the UCSF library.  A couple medical students looked at me like I was nuts.

We Are All Illegal

28 Mar
Image from obeygiant.com.  Print designed by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena.

Image from obeygiant.com. Print designed by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena.

 

My Jewish great-grandparents left Germany and Eastern Europe 100 years ago in search of a better life, which makes me no more “American” than people who leave Mexico today in search of a better life. 

A front page story in Sunday’s New York Times, reports that 300 immigrants are now held in solitary confinement—for infractions such allegedly arguing with a guard or because they were gay—at the 50 largest detention facilities overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

“Detainees in solitary are routinely kept alone for 22 to 23 hours per day sometimes in windowless 6-foot-by-13-foot cells… Solitary confinement is widely viewed as the most dangerous way to detain people, and roughly half of prison suicides occur when people are segregated in this way,” reports the Times

For those that are proponents of immigrant rights, this news is sickening although not surprising; anti-immigrant officials like Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been making brutal human rights violations against immigrants for years.

What is surprising is how little Obama supporters seem to care that deportations have increased at record numbers under his administration, and that immigration detention is up 85% since 2005—or that there are more than six million people under correctional supervision in the United States, including more black men than were in slavery in 1850. 

Why do we remain silent as the prison population grows exponentially in the interest of corporate profit, and while ICE tortures immigrants?  What does that say about us as a country?  If ICE were running the Ellis Island “border crossing” these days, I’d be sitting in a 6-foot cage or getting deported back to Eastern Europe, lost from my family. 

Why do we look the other way when someone who is undocumented is mistreated, why do we ignore their human rights, as if holding a piece a paper that says you’re from the United States of America—which basically means you are a citizen of a land that annihilated a civilization of native people to make you a citizen—makes you anymore “American,” or gives you any more human rights than someone to who came to this land to make a better life for themselves and their family, and is cooking your ass dinner in the back of a restaurant in Washington, New York, San Francisco, or Phoenix?

The anti-immigrant supporters in Congress and ICE officials and Department of Homeland Security officials are all just as immigrant, just as undocumented, just as illegal, just as different, just as crazy, just as solitary confineable as I am, or you are, or the rest of us are.  

Human rights are human rights.  There is no difference between us and them.  So get them, get us, out of confinement. 

-Smiley Poswolsky

%d bloggers like this: