Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Farewell Goth Help Us

Been to draft this post for a while.

Goth Help Us International folded at the end of Ocober and was a campaigning organization which only started in April 2006 by Rebecca K Hohm. They had their detractors in recent times, but they also did some good things and help raise awareness that goths can be useful members of the community. Considering the hugely negative press goth often gets, especially in the States they have to be applauded for that. The San Diego branch appeared in this report on the local news.

This is part of the introduction to what was their website before it was taken down:

Goth Help Us" was founded in April 2006 in the United States and is a grassroots effort to help humanity. Hopefully we'll help the world realize that goths are much more than strange or odd people. We want to try to prove to everyone that goths are also compassionate, loving, and extremely caring people. We also know that depression plagues many of us, and the only true way to rid yourself of depression is to go out and help other people. Maybe by helping others, we'll find our smiles again.

This organization is about wanting to help people and to network with other goths in hopes of trying to help humanity in general. We are organizing blood drives. We are helping the homeless. We are making dreams come true for sick children. We are helping fund animal shelters. We are helping to beautify our cities again. We are helping each other and helping others.

We just want to spread peace and also try to help stop the violence against goths.

We collaborate with already well-established charitable organizations, such as The Red Cross, The Humane Society, and Habitat for Humanity. We are NOT a charity. We are a humanitarian organization. We are a peaceful and compassionate sect of people and now we're proving it to the world.

Here are some of the projects they were involved in.

* Drivers for ride shares in a Need-A-Goth program for people under the influence
* Escorting and assisting grieving elderly individuals at cemeteries
* Food service at homeless shelters for adults and children
* Blood drives
* Toy drives
* Beach clean-ups
* Housing cleanup for the disabled
* Animal care for the Humane Society as a volunteer caregiver walking and exercising animals, in food preparation, or even protesting of animal cruelty

Goth Help Us were involved in the early stages of the aftermath of the Sophie Lancaster case and helped tell people about it. Their collapse came about partially over arguments over the implications of the whole Hate Crimes debate which the death of Sophie caused. It was Goth Help Us who originally raised the idea of using Hate Crime legislation to address the issue and promoted it. Their campaign got somewhat carried away in some of the imagery they used. As we noted here before that whole issue aroused strong feelings both positive and negative see Hate Crime and Subcultures - the debate.

It was from that idea the more successful hate crimes campaign in the UK developed.

From what I understand it seems that in raising the issue prominently the organization became internally divided. You can read a little about this here. The group also had external critics.

It is sad that an organization which in its short life did much good fell apart in such a way.

The San Diego Branch was particularly active and its organisation was prompted over a particularly nasty case of assault on some local goths:
Synchonicity is the best way to describe the chain of events that occurred to make Goth Help Us San Diego happen as it did. A negative act with positive repercussions. Goth Help Us as a whole is still a new organization and at the precise time that was necessary to get everything moving in the right direction, a wrong was done. Jim Howard, the current president of Goth Help Us San Diego, and a small group of friends and family were accosted on the street by a number of drunk, belligerent people. As Jim was assaulted it was made clear that he and his group was chosen due to their subculture affiliation. This can be otherwise known as a “hate crime.” The courts will not recognize this attack as a hate crime at this time.

People painting over grafittiThis act came as a blow to the San Diego Goth community as the people that were involved in this attack were well respected members of the community. Alongside the choice of target, the Goth community is appalled that the courts will not recognize subcultures as a motivation for hate crime. Jim was, unfortunately, rushed to the hospital and had to undergo surgery in order to repair the damage that was done. Rather than acting in a similar fashion and attacking others, verbally, physically or any other way, Jim decided to act out and motivate the San Diego community to work together and help dispel the negative image that Goths have.
Here is the report on the case from Angst zine in September:

As many people in the Southern California region are aware, there has been a problem with violent crime against the Gothic community. None of us are certain precisely why this is, but we can guess; bad press, bad public image and misinformation undoubtedly top the list. The most notable California violence was the attack on 4 San Diego Goths. Outside of the United States, two young Goths were attacked in the United Kingdom and one lost her life while the other, at the time of this writing, is still comatose. Alongside these two attacks there have been many other attacks large and small across the globe. The first thing that should be stated is that this is clearly hate motivated. There is no rationale that can be used to defend these mindless acts. In San Diego, California, though, justice has been served and a blow has been struck against the would-be attackers and dangers to the Gothic community.

After a year-long wait, the four Goths from San Diego finally found justice in the courts. They were attacked by a Navy man and his brother, which resulted in the hospitalization of Jim Howard, the current Goth Help Us - San Diego Chapter President. As of the end of August, the Navy man that attacked Jim, his wife and two friends was found guilty by a jury of his peers on 4 related counts, 2 of which were felonious. The brother is set for a trial potentially for 2 felony counts. Furthermore, the San Diego District Attorney should most definitely get a mention as they fought for the rights of the attacked and the San Diego Gothic community. *

Here is an article on the group and an interview with its founder.
The Denver branch is continuing as an independent organisation as is San Diego under San Diego’s Gothic Volunteer Alliance (GVA). So locally the good work will continue.

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