Perhaps like you, many people knew about the Rex Foundation from attending Grateful Dead Rex benefit concerts. As they danced to the music with their community of friends, they were also playing a part in helping others. There was an unspoken understanding that Rex provided a way to extend to others the good will and largesse of the entire Grateful Dead community.
In 2001, to launch its renewal in the absence of Grateful Dead benefit concerts, the Rex Foundation began to raise its grant making funds in a new way that involved those very elements of its legacy – music, connection, fun, creativity and community spirit – which hold us together. In this new phase of Rex Foundation work, we seek to continue to connect with our familiar support group of Grateful Dead fans. We are also reaching out to others beyond the world of the Grateful Dead who share our values, support the kinds of programs we’ve been funding, and appreciate the arts as a catalyst for positive change. As we extend these connections we are building a broad grassroots philanthropic community – the Rex Foundation continuing on with all that we started with, and more.
Along the way, we’ve been asked some very good questions about Rex, including,
- Why do we make grants that address so many different types of issues?
- What are our ideas about social change and how are we helping to support such change?
- How do we further human rights?
We hope the words that follow provide some answers, are helpful and thought-provoking, and inspire you to be part of the Rex Foundation Community for many years to come.
The Rex Mission, formulated in the 1980s, continues to be our basic guide: “To help secure a healthy environment, promote individuality in the arts, provide support to critical and necessary social services, assist others less fortunate than ourselves, protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure their cultural survival, build a stronger community, and educate children and adults everywhere.”
In May 2003, at a Rex Foundation board retreat, we defined “Being an impetus for social change” as one of our long-term direction-setting goals, toward which we would direct our resources and efforts. With concern that the term “social change” can be associated with political leanings, we seek to clarify how we apply the term in Rex Foundation work.
“The Rex Foundation views social change as the gathering of momentum to realize globally the conditions under which all societies operate with principles and values that embrace the right of every human being to experience equity, justice and the pursuit of happiness.”
Towards Social Change
Grassroots activity is vital to social change because its very nature embodies the engagement of individuals at a primary level, to create movement. The often-used quote of Margaret Mead speaks to this: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” * When we examine the programs that the Rex Foundation has supported over the last 26 years, it has usually been the passion and commitment of one or a few people that has enabled the programs to begin, take hold and flourish. The results have often been real shifts to behaviors and conditions that support social change. Many examples can be found in the write-ups of our beneficiaries found on this website.
In its grant making, the Rex Foundation has emphasized grassroots programs which often fall under the radar of mainstream funding entities. With this approach, the very programs we believe are vital to social change are supported. By funding a wide spectrum, we help encourage the conditions for a broad social movement in support of biospherical and human rights, as those spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such a movement would demonstrate the power of grassroots community, service and the arts.
Buckminster Fuller stated in the early 1980s that we could now solve all the problems of hunger and need across the world because we had the available resources and technology; all that we needed was the political will. The challenge we face today is how to foster the political will to bring about social, economic and political equity. The current social environment is severely oppressed because of the seemingly perpetual “war on terror” that spreads fear and a sense of doom. The antidote to such oppression is to rekindle hope, optimism and a sense of community connection. In this way, more and more people are likely to engage in vital civic and community activities, such as voting, participating in local government, neighborhood associations, and social action efforts, to help generate and “be,” as Gandhi suggested, “the change they want.”
In addition to our direct grant giving, the Rex Foundation is working in several ways to foster the community connections described above:
- The presentation of benefit concerts across the country, which we call Black Tie-Dye Balls. These bring together local communities around music, a joyful ambience and connections to local philanthropy. The enthusiasm is palpable. And, we experience on-going connections with all of the participants, from those attending, to local in-kind contributors, the musicians, and the beneficiaries.
- The publication of newsletters and annual reports which present perspectives on the issues described above. The recent Perspectives on Being Human provides viewpoints on the meaning of the “human rights framework” — seeing action across a broad spectrum of areas, such as environmental rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and social and economic justice, as being unified and amplified by the common goal to further human rights for all.
- In April 2006 we introduced new website features called Food for Thought, Musicians Spotlight and Ripple Effects, providing more in-depth information about Rex beneficiary programs, the Rex musician community, and the results of our joint efforts.
- We have launched the Rex Foundation Blog to generate more connections by encouraging online discussion of the Food for Thought topics, hopefully raising awareness about these issues of social change and how to participate in addressing them.
- We built on what was presented in Perspectives on Being Human in a way that fosters the creative arts while also supporting excellent non-profit programs. We commissioned three Bay Area non-profit organizations that use drama, movement and spoken word in their work with youth, to create a dramatization about human rights, called The World As It Could Be – A Declaration of Human Rights. The dramatization was presented at a convening at the Presidio in San Francisco on December 7th and at Balboa High School in San Francisco on December 8th. Please read the full description of this program and check out the video of the Balboa High School presentation. And, we are now working on the next phase of this successful endeavor.
In these ways, together, as participants in the Rex Foundation community, we are fostering the power of community, service and the arts to help generate positive social change toward health, happiness and prosperity for all.
* Courtesy of The Institute for Intercultural Studies, Inc., New York