For me, the essence of OurChart is community. And not just the lesbian community or the LGBT community or the women's community or the various labels one might apply to the array of profiles intersecting on this site. It's about a community of concerned human beings, engaged around the rights and issues that affect the dignity, politics, progress and health of our collective human future.
Communities, especially ones so dynamic and passionate as this one here, have the power to effect change -- especially when they gather together around a cause to help others. I've witnessed your combined efforts first hand, when last spring, a generous group of you raised donations for Happy Trails Farm to rescue a Percheron horse from slaughter and, in honor of my love of horses, named her "AlphaBette." Thank you.
On September 1st, I'll be participating in my first Olympic-distance triathlon. Inspired by the three legs of the competition (a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike course and a 10K run), I've selected three charities to raise funds for -- and am calling out to you, the OurChart community -- to join me in supporting these organizations.
I hope you'll take some time to read about the incredible work each charity performs and consider making a donation. Your contributions will be made directly to the organization or organizations of your choice.
And stay tuned, as I'll be checking back with OurChart to provide contribution updates and a post-race report.
PS: Did I mention I'm terrified?
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles-Center For Cancer & Blood Diseases
The Center is one of the largest pediatric hematology/oncology programs in the nation. Breakthroughs in the treatment of childhood cancer, many pioneered at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, offer children, teenagers and young adults the most advanced treatment available anywhere. Your donation supports the Center's vital services for children and families, research for cures and new therapies, and training of future scientists and caregivers.
My friend's son, Pablo, has been so well-cared for by this group of amazing physicians. In my mind, the run is for Pablo. I know he'll help me get across the finish line -- he's so much stronger than I'll ever be.
Matthew Shepard Foundation
The Matthew Shepard Foundation was founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of their 21-year old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998. Created t o honor Matthew in a manner that was appropriate to his dreams, beliefs and aspirations, the Foundation seeks to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance" through its varied educational, outreach and advocacy programs and by continuing to tell Matthew's story.
Judy and Dennis Shepard's tireless advocacy of hate crimes legislation, encompassed in the Matthew Shepard Act, is phenomenal. As a supporter of the Foundation, I know I can't rest until Congress passes an inclusive hate crimes bill.
I Live Here Foundation
The I Live Here Foundation is dedicated to telling the stories of silenced and unheard people through a series of books and other media projects about our world. It establishes creative writing programs in areas where it works, building an artistic dialogue between strangers with the belief that art is a means of survival.
The I Live Here Foundation is spearheaded by the extraordinary Mia Kirshner, J.B. MacKinnon, Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge.
Its first book, I Live Here, will be published by Pantheon Books in October 2008 and launched in conjunction with a creative20writing program in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Coming in 2009: I Live Here begins its next series on books and launches a creative writing program within a brothel in Burma.
An Update from Jennifer Beals...
I have just a few more days of training before my first Olympic-distance triathlon on September 1st (gulp), and I want to thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of support around the race and my fundraising efforts. Even if you're not able to make a donation, the encouraging comments you've shared here on OurChart are more helpful than you can even imagine.
Training has been, among other things, an extraordinary exercise in time management. Finding time to run, bike and swim between long days on set and spending time with my family is sometimes challenging. For example, we had a photo shoot for the sixth season poster the other day. My call time was 9:00 am and I knew the photo shoot would last all day. I talked my friend Alexandra Hedison (Dylan) into a 7:30 am ocean swim—in the rain—promising her adventure and the feeling of "virtue" after such a chilling endeavor. We had a blast! Just us, the seals, the crabs and the starfish. Yesterday's training was my most intense yet. I was on my bike at the crack of dawn, pedaled for 40k, ran for 8k, hit the gym, ran another 4k and then did some core work. But, I’m taking it day-by-day, buoyed up by the promise that I’ve made to all of you and to these three incredible charities to cross the finish line.
We’ve updated the donation page with tallies to date as shown below and will continue to do so. Thanks to your generous giving, we’re just dollars short of the $5,000 goal for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and well on our way to meeting this mark for the I Live Here Foundation and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. With your continued support, I know we can do it.
If you haven't yet, you can read more here about the work being done by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the I Live Here Foundation, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation and consider making a donation.
I'll see you back here next week to fill you in on contribution totals and follow up on my race experience—I am loathe to call it a race. I will be "racing" only my psyche, and hopefully the only things we as a group will be "conquering" are hate, disease and neglect.
PS: Did I mention I'm terrified?
PPS: Please say a collective prayer that I don't drown. The ocean is somehow just not the same as the pool—who forgot to paint black lines on the ocean floor?
My goodness—what an amazing day.
I wake up at 4:00 am in the complete DARKNESS. Make my way to Second Beach—my iPod blaring a combination of country music, Gwen Stefani and Amy Winehouse to wake me up. The park, the beach are both in complete darkness as I set up my bike, my cleats, my socks, my numerous gels (God bless the makers of GU gels), my running shoes, my running hat, my capris and shirt, my biking jersey, my jacket, my goggles (prescription, if you must know), my swim cap, my towel, my little bucket to get the sand off my feet, and my La Mer face cream (my friends got a good chuckle out of that last relatively useless article). In short, I have more changes than Cher at a Vegas extravaganza—except no Bob Mackie to wriggle in and out of but a wetsuit that would seem glued to my body when it came time to take it off.
Check in, get body marked—the kind woman who engraves my body with the number "207" in Magic Marker asks me if I wanted smiley faces in the "0"s. Sure, why not? A little sense of humor never hurt anybody.
It is now 5:30am. My friend Sandra arrives. I know this is not a terrible hardship for her because she is ALWAYS up at 5:00 am as she is training for a 7-day cycling race in the ALPS. I bow down to Sandra who has been helping me train—she is an endless font of information regarding nutrition, prescription goggles, compact cranks and the mysterious, esoteric uses of PAM Cooking Spray. She is possibly the kindest, most patient person I have ever met, which comes as no surprise because I met her through Rachel Shelley, also one of the kindest, most patient people I have ever met.
The heroic Alexandra Hedison arrives around 7:00 am. Along with Sandra, she walks down to the beach with me. I look out at the buoys in the water—the buoys that indicate the distance of the swim—and I cannot believe how FAR AWAY they seem. We're standing on the beach, along with a couple hundred other people, some of whom must be thinking the same thing (HOLY SHIT THAT'S FAR AWAY!).
I get in the water to "warm up." Yep, the water's cold. The first lap around the buoys and back to the beach is 750m. For the Olympic distance we have to do two laps. The first wave to go out is the Under-40 Men doing the Olympic distance. The horn blows. They're off. And they're fast. Five minutes later, the horn blows and the women doing the Olympic distance dive in. That's me. And you know what? It's Heaven. I have never felt so relaxed during an open water swim. There are pockets in the water that are warm. I actually stay with the pack, rather than lag miles behind, which is a miracle. And I feel relaxed and happy to be in the water with all these other people who are attempting such an amazing feat that will at some point require them to feel pain and to dig deep to overcome that pain.
I complete the first lap without incident. Then, as we are coming along the second lap, I start to get passed by some of the Under-40 Men in the Olympic distance. One man swims over me. And you know what? It's fine. I just think, "That's okay, I know you're in a hurry, you're competitive and that's fine." Then a woman clocks me in the head and I think, "That's okay, you're just in your own trajectory, and maybe a little panicky so it's okay." Just so you know, this is not my normal response when being struck in the water. I don't know what's happened but I feel unbelievable calm. Before I know it the swim is over, and frankly I want more. But onto the bike.
I struggle to get out of the wetsuit—Alex and Sandra there, cheering me along. Get my bike gear on, pause for a quick application of face cream (I am still, after all, an actress) and off I go for an ENDLESS bike ride. I am the slowest cyclist of all time, but I make it around the course. Four loops through Stanley Park. By the time I get out to the course it is already littered with gel packs from other riders—like condom wrappers in the Bois de Boulogne—evidence of a different kind of effort. At the bottom of the hill is a group of people cheering on their friends and family. I see a sign saying, "Go Jennifer." I wonder if it's for me—and then I see the Obama sticker on the upper right corner and I realize it must be for me. And then it hits me—here is a group of well-wishers whom I have never, ever met, cheering me on. I am so moved and so uplifted I cannot even begin to tell you. This is the spirit of the event for me—helping people you have never met—cheering on people whom you may never know. Every time I come around that corner I look forward to hearing their cheers.
The rest of the ride is quite quiet, apart from the sound of tri bikes going by at the speed of light. I take the time to think of Judy Shepard, her love for her son, her continued love of justice and love itself, if that makes sense. She has extended her mothering to all of us—to make the world more conscious, to make the world safer, and perhaps one day, to make the world more loving.
I pull my bike in and get dressed for the "third act"—running hat and running shoes—and head out for the run. I feel confident in my ability to run. The first 5k are tricky. I can't feel my feet, which have yet to recover any kind of meaningful circulation since the swim. I start to cramp a bit but I just ask it to go away and it does. My body can be so accommodating at times. Where the mind goes the body does so often follow.
After the first loop of the run I start to feel more relaxed. The second 5k is really sweet. Not as sweet as Pablo's smile, but sweet. I feel kind of elated. I start thinking of the scene Elizabeth Berkley and I had done two days ago and how brilliant she was.
Pretty soon I can see the finish line—Pablo, let's just bring this on home—I hear someone cheering me on—and I just start sprinting. It is this transcendent convergence of determination, focus and celebration—it is like flying. I cross the finish line and there are the sweet faces of my friends, Elizabeth Berkley, Mia Kirshner, Greg Lauren, Alexandra Hedison, and my beautiful family.
I did not "win." I was not fast. But I succeeded. I succeeded because I was able to keep my mind calm in moments of adversity. I succeeded because, quite simply, I persevered.
I am deeply aware of the fact that this is not simply my accomplishment. No one can accomplish anything completely on their own. On the path there is always someone there who has been a support, whether it is a parent, a teacher, a friend, a family member or a stranger who has inexplicably extended herself/himself. There is always someone. The person who taught you to read, to run, to sing, to dance, to love, to learn—to keep on going. That is a collective effort. Life is a collective effort. And every moment of every day we can be that for one another even if it is simply by sending good wishes someone's way. I thank you deeply for all your good wishes.
Below are the most recent tallies of our fundraising efforts for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the I Live Here Foundation. Thanks to your incredible generosity, we’ve nearly met our fundraising goal of $5,000 for each charity. But we can’t stop here! I encourage everyone to pass this link along to ten friends who might not have been to OurChart or read about the work of these incredible organizations. We'll keep the links available here and continue to update you on total donations.
Well, it’s officially a wrap. Over hugs, speeches, champagne and a feast of hummus, pita and veggies (this is the lesbian show), we commemorated the final day of production on The L Word. While emotions were high and tears free flowing, the overwhelming sentiment was not one of sadness but of great accomplishment at having contributed in some fashion to this show—The L Word, which has hopefully broadened our collective Lesbian lexicon (beyond “hasbian” or “shouldbian”) and encouraged a worldwide conversation about inclusion, equality, sexuality, and respect.
Indeed, something about this show—the stories of family, friendship and love that we’ve tried to tell every Sunday for the past six years—have migrated off screen to inspire real change and real connection. There is this incredible, indelible community that has sprung up around the show, a community that gathers in homes and clubs, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kansas and around the world. A community that, in some places, meets quietly in a lesbian bar that doesn’t even exist depending on whom you ask.
I’ve even seen this sense of community trickle down to envelop and inspire the crew that gathered last Monday night as we toasted the final shot of the final episode of the final season. Most of the crew has been there since our first shot. They poured the first prop lattes in The Planet. They hiked camera equipment up the freezing mountains of Whistler. They’ve built Bette and Tina’s House; Jenny and Tim’s Studio; Jenny, Carmen and Shane’s House; Max’s Studio. They’ve costumed dinner parties, gallery openings, movie premieres and shut down the streets of LA for traffic jams, high-speed car chases, Cobb salads at Toast, and helicopter landings.
Yet, perhaps one of the most visible manifestations of community is right here, on OurChart. I’m thrilled to announce that your recent contributions have put us far beyond our goal for the I Live Here Foundation with $6,060 raised. Moreover, your support of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the I Live Here Foundation demonstrates how this community can and will transcend any television show to make a real difference. Yes, The L Word may have come to an end, but your generosity here has spoken loud and clear. We can have the final word on hate, neglect, disease and all the other insidious characters that still script their way into our stories...for now, but not forever.
We've noticed how engaged and passionate you all are about the 2008 presidential campaign! I am, too. I have never been so excited about a political campaign in my life. I think we all know how much this campaign means to us — personally, nationally, and globally.
We all realize: WHAT WE THINK MATTERS. Never before have I personally known how important it is to speak up and to question the candidates, ourselves, and each other. I know you've all been speaking out and questioning each other. Along with some of you on OurChart, I am a Barack Obama supporter (Hi there Melanie) and, as an Obama supporter, I wanted to facilitate a conversation between the OurChart community and the Obama campaign.
Here's the plan: Next week I'll be interviewing Tobias Wolff, an accomplished law professor, civil rights lawyer, AND the Chair of the National LGBT Policy Committee for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. What I would like is to ask YOUR questions. I want the interview questions I'll be asking Professor Wolff to come directly from you — the OurChart community. And not just from the Obama supporters (Hi there Isa, tvethiopia, Dyke Money, and brooklyngrrl) but from everyone who is interested, concerned, or still deliberating. So, please post your questions in the comments below and I'll ask Professor Wolff as many as I possibly can in our time together - marriage equality, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, workplace discrimination, hate crimes legislation, anything and everything affecting the LGBT community. Ask away. Your questions will benefit all of us.
The full video and transcript of our interview will be posted here on OurChart in early March so stay tuned! JenniferWe've Got Answers...from Jennifer Beals and Tobias Wolff
Last week I asked you, the OurChart community, to post questions for Professor Tobias Wolff, chair of the National LGBT Policy Committee for the Barack Obama campaign. And did you ever deliver! Your overwhelming response to my blog made it the most trafficked post in OurChart history. Fortunately, Professor Wolff was more than game and we spent an entire evening (3 1/2 hours) discussing, conversing and debating the inquiries and issues you all raised so poignantly here on the site.
Professor Wolff covered so much ground that we decided to organize the material for you into several segments. I'm excited to share this first piece with you now, which you'll see touches on many of the big-picture questions and concerns you had, from Don't Ask, Don't Tell and gay marriage to adoption and immigration rights. In the coming days we'll post more in-depth discussions on many of these topics and others (hate crimes, healthcare, women's issues)--so please stay tuned!
In case you don't have time to watch the full video right now, you can find Senator Obama's open letter to LGBT Americans right here.
Thank you, Jennifer
Connect With The Obama Campaign-Part 2
As promised, below is another segment from my interview last week with Tobias Wolff, chair of the National LGBT Policy Committee for the Barack Obama campaign. In this video, Professor Wolff replies to your questions about important hate crimes legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and violence against gay youth. I hope the material discussed here continues to be useful, and above all, encourages more of the inspired questioning, debate and ownership of the issues at stake in this election.
Thank you, JenniferJennifer Beals & Tobias Wolff Part 3
In this week's podcast, I continue the discussion with Tobias Wolff, Chair of the National LGBT Policy Committee for the Barack Obama campaign. Here, Professor Wolff responds to your questions regarding women's issues, touching upon Obama's ideas for Supreme Court appointments, his stance on Roe v. Wade, poverty as it relates to women, and international women's rights. I hope the material discussed in this video keeps stirring important discussion as we approach the Democratic nomination.
Thank You, Jennifer
Jennifer Beals & Tobias Wolff Part 4