The Blink Campaign
Life can change in the blink of an eye.
During a brainstorming session among members of a new campaign about what its name should be, the everyday expression popped up. “We realized how quickly things can change for a person in their life,” says Tyrone Farley, founder and chairman of The Blink Campaign, about the impact that HIV and AIDS can have on an individual. “Then, maybe after three hours, we decided: Life can change in a blink of an eye. We said, ‘Oh there it is.’ Blink.”
The campaign started in response to an address by President Obama in October 2009. His speech “was a call to action. He said, ‘If you guys want to make a change in the AIDS community, then someone needs to step up and do it. You can’t rely on the government to be the only ones doing it,’” Farley relates.
Inspired by Obama’s National AIDS Strategy, Farley decided to start his own campaign. He sent President Obama a letter of his intentions and launched The Blink Campaign with his company, Maginious PR and Multimedia Firm, LLC, in Los Angeles, as home base.
At first, the campaign focused on “condoms and statistics,” but then Farley’s friend, Zach, died by his own hand when he did not know how to deal with the issues around living with HIV in an unsupportive and hostile environment.
“When I lost my best friend because of stigmas—he was scared what people would think of him—we changed the campaign structure to talking about breaking the stigmas,” says Farley. “We talk about depression; we talk about family. It wasn’t beneficial to talk about condoms because we [as a society] already know about that.”
The Blink Campaign conducts outreach in high schools and has produced several PSAs, but its key activity is helping AIDS-related nonprofits and community-based organizations put together fundraisers. The campaign focuses on smaller organizations that need assistance, knowing that the well established and well moneyed community-based organizations can take care of themselves. So far, they are in communication with organizations such as Harlem United, Brooklyn AIDS Task Force, Camp Dreamcatcher, and Being Alive LA, among others, and have partnered with Until There’s A Cure and B Condoms.
The Blink Campaign asks for nonprofits to do some of the work—providing mailing lists and connections to venues in its city, and giving an educational presentation to the community—but otherwise it works its magic.
Says Farley, “We’ll supply written materials, coordinate the event, make it red carpet, get press there, charge at the door and ask for donations at the event as well. We just need the venue—we’ll bring the celebrity, we’ll bring the commotion, we’ll bring the people. And then, let’s have a good time, raising money for your cause.” Blink also makes sure that a larger percentage of the proceeds are returned to the organization.
Blink will link up with club promoters, caterers, and other businesses that, in the best-case scenario, are willing to donate goods or services to the cause. And it has also established a solid base of celebrities interested in helping out by attending events and raising awareness at their other appearances. Blink is supported by five-time Grammy-winning singer Deniece Williams, singer Dondria, actor Marcus Paulk, and actor and film producer Shedrack Anderson. Blink is currently producing a new PSA and working on a documentary. “It’s a beautiful thing—the people who are stepping up,” says Farley.
Celebrities dispense with the need of hard-sell fundraising at events, says Farley.
“I can’t look at someone and say, ‘Hey can you give me $60 to donate to the Francis House Foundation in Tampa?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh man, it’s a tough time but..okay, well fine.’ Well, let me go ahead and bring Boris Kodjoe or Howard Banks to host an event. That $60 [is donated] really quickly then. We trick the psyche of the human mind and say, ‘I can’t force you to give money to give to these organizations but I’m going to cause you to do it!’”
The Blink Campaign has a national reach with the help of an army of volunteer producers in eighteen cities and counting. And while they continue to produce red-tie events, the campaign has also started to host smaller get-togethers, such as wine and cheese benefits at boutiques and other small establishments.
Notes Farley: “I’m doing this in the name of Zach. I’m moving forward with my push, my drive. I’m funding the campaign out of my own pocket right now. I don’t have any corporate sponsors. I do have supporters…but when it comes to travel or flying people out, or fliers or advertisements or promotions, I pay for that. And I’ve made it very clear that if I need to use my last dime in this then I will do so. I will make sure this campaign continues.”
To stay informed, follow The Blink Campaign on Twitter @blinkcampaign. Visit its Web site at: theblinkcampaign.org.