Supporting Those Who Make Good Trouble

Magnet available from the American Library Association

I called it good trouble. I called it necessary trouble. And ​every so often, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just — you have to say no, no.”

–John Lewis

In my work as a pastor, I cross paths with a lot of “Good Trouble” makers. Some are church-related and others not religious at all. Some are connected with big international groups, others work at the national or state level, and still others are involved with seat-of-the-pants local organizations with a small board and a couple of key volunteers. What they all have in common is what John Lewis talked about – they saw something that is not right, not fair, not just, and they said no. They said “no” to what is, and then rolled up their sleeves to say “yes” to what is needed.

As we approach the end of the year, I want to lift up a number of these makers of Good Trouble. If you want to enjoy their stories, read on and then go link-hopping through their websites. If you share their passion for standing up against a particular wrong, a specific injustice, or a structural unfairness, I urge you to make a little Good Trouble of your own, by finding the “Donate” buttons on their websites and help them out.

Legal Disclaimer #1: What follows are *my* comments, and do not imply any endorsement by, Marcy Wheeler, or anyone else here at EW. Information at the links (or quoted here from their websites) are, of course, the statements of those groups, and they are responsible for how they describe themselves.

One group of Good Trouble makers I interact with a lot are those involved in feeding the hungry — hungry being people without homes who have been caught in economic distress to entire communities devastated by a natural disaster. Either way, the Good Trouble makers in the groups below are people who see someone in need of a basic meal and say “this is not right, not fair, not just — we gotta get these folks some food.”

Feeding America:

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.

Our mission is to advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters, and the communities we serve.

Feeding America is an umbrella organization made up of food banks that span the country. A food bank is a wholesale operation, designed to collect donations (especially in-kind) from farmers and food companies and then making them available at little or no cost to local food pantries who do the retail work of distributing it to those in need. Feeding America has a big directory of regional food banks, and each of these food banks has its own list of food pantries they support.

Here in metro Kansas City, Harvesters is our food bank, and I’ve worked with them and a number of food pantries they support. Harvesters is a top-notch, transparent operation, and they expect nothing less from the food pantries that utilize them. To gain access to Harvesters, a food pantry has to have their location inspected and their leaders have to go through a Harvesters training program, in part to familiarize themselves with the Harvesters reporting obligations,  and in part to make sure that the gifts Harvesters has received are put to good use. No letting stuff spoil, no making clients sick, and no taking some off the top for your own organization.

Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 760 nonprofit agencies including emergency food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others. We also offer education programs to increase community awareness of hunger and teach about good nutrition.

Harvesters is a certified member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks. In 2011, Harvesters was Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year. We are a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

One big element of of Harvesters is that they require that any food pantry that uses their resources must be completely free to the people in need, and free of any religious requirements. Not only can these groups not charge any financial fees, but they cannot require their patrons to attend a bible study or other religious event. A church-run pantry can say “We operate this food pantry because of our Christian faith” but they cannot require people to attend worship before getting a couple sacks of food.

If you are interested in dealing with food insecurity in the US, whether at a national, regional, or street level, Feeding America and its affiliates offer a wealth of places that could use your support.

Other hunger-related organizations are aimed at disaster relief. Two that I long have supported are World Central Kitchen and Operation BBQ Relief (a group that our own Jim White works with). These are groups that come in after a disaster has hit, and work to get the community back on its feet with immediate support, feeding both the local residents affected by the disaster as well as the medical folks, utility crews, and others who have come to deal with the medical and logistical work of recovery.

World Central Kitchen:

WCK responds to natural disasters, man-made crises, and humanitarian emergencies around the world. We’re a team of food first responders, mobilizing with the urgency of now to get meals to the people who need them most. Deploying our model of quick action, leveraging local resources, and adapting in real time, we know that a nourishing meal in a time of crisis is so much more than a plate of food—it’s hope, it’s dignity, and it’s a sign that someone cares.

Operation BBQ Relief:

Armed with a caravan of cooks, mobile pits, kitchens and volunteers, Operation BBQ Relief delivers the healing power of BBQ in times of need, feeding first responders and communities affected by natural disasters along with year-round efforts to fight hunger through The Always Serving Project® and Camp OBR™ programs.

Another group of Good Trouble makers that I am becoming more familiar with are those who work and speak from the margins of society. Some groups work to challenge those at the center, those with the power, those whose work is causing pain at the margins. Other groups work with those at the margins to simply say “we are here,” lifting up and encouraging one another not to be content with scraps from the master’s table. Note, please, that both groups do challenging and uplifting things, just with a different emphasis and approach.

For example, consider the following groups, all associated with the Native American community.

Association on American Indian Affairs:

The Association on American Indian Affairs is the oldest non-profit serving Indian Country protecting sovereignty, preserving culture, educating youth and building capacity. The Association was formed in 1922 to change the destructive path of federal policy from assimilation, termination and allotment, to sovereignty, ​self-determination and self-sufficiency. Throughout our 100-year history, we have provided national advocacy on watershed issues that support sovereignty and culture, while working at a grassroots level with Tribes to support the implementation of programs that affect real lives on the ground.

Native American Rights Fund:

Our Mission: The Native American Rights Fund holds governments accountable. We fight to protect Native American rights, resources, and lifeways through litigation, legal advocacy, and legal expertise.

Native American Journalists Association:

NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures.

NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression. NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.

Indian Country Today:

Telling the stories of indigenous communities by indigenous journalists is at the core of Indian Country Today. Since our beginnings in 1981 as a weekly newspaper, ICT has grown into the largest news organization serving Native American communities. In April 2020, we expanded into public broadcasting through a daily newscast about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected American Indians, First Nations and Alaska Natives.

With this bold new step into public television, Indian Country Today has become a spacious channel through which it distributes news across multiple platforms. Coverage includes digital, print and broadcast news outlets featuring top stories, news, lifestyle and classified job listings.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society:

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a national nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers.

Founded in 1977, growing the AISES membership above our current 5,900 individual members is key to achieving our mission. AISES supports 230 affiliated pre-college schools, 196 chartered college and university chapters, 3 tribal chapters, and 18 professional chapters in the U.S. and Canada. We promote the highest standards of education and professional excellence to widen the STEM workforce and grow sector support. We highlight the geographic, economic, and social aspects of STEM education and careers.

In addition to awarding nearly $12 million and counting in academic scholarships, AISES offers internships, professional development and career resources, national and regional conferences, leadership development summits, and other STEM-focused programming.

I could go on like this for a long time, but let me offer just one more example of Good Trouble makers, whose passion is to stand against book banning and book burning.

In both Kansas and Missouri, public libraries and public schools are seeing more and more challenges to books written by Good Trouble makers who write to address matters of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other similar things. The folks challenging these kinds of books say “Don’t get political” but what they really mean is “Don’t trouble the waters and make us look at uncomfortable things.”

On the one hand, the fact that these folks are upset with libraries and schools is a good thing. It means that the Good Trouble maker writers, librarians, teachers, and administrators are having an effect. They are making Good Trouble, and it’s causing problematic people to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, these writers, librarians, teachers, and administrators need support, to encourage them to keep on keeping on.

PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Our strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission.

PEN America, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and chapters in seven regions.

American Library Association:

Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”

In pursuing our mission, the Association’s core value statements define our deepest aspirations and how we approach our work together. They are:

  • Extending and expanding library services in America and around the world
  • All types of libraries – academic, public, school and special
  • All librarians, library staff, trustees and other individuals and groups working to improve library services
  • Member service
  • An open, inclusive, and collaborative environment
  • Ethics, professionalism and integrity
  • Excellence and innovation
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Social responsibility and the public good
  • Sustainability

Like I said, I could go on like this for a long time.

But what I really want to know is this: Who are the Good Trouble makers that you know about, that you support, that you work with, that the rest of us should know about? Put them in the comments, give us a link, and tell us how they go about making Good Trouble.

Legal Disclaimer #2: What follows in the comments are the comments of the person posting them, and do not imply any endorsement by, Marcy Wheeler, or anyone else here at EW. Information at the links (or quoted here from their websites) are, of course, the statements of those groups, and they are responsible for how they describe themselves.

With the great mix of commenters here, I’m sure there are plenty of Good Trouble makers you’d like to lift up. I’m also confident that this is the kind of question that might draw out some of the lurkers here. Some do not comment because they feel out of their depth with the subject of many of the posts — but on this post, YOU are the experts, because YOU know who the Good Trouble makers are in your neighborhood.

So have at it, and tell us who makes Good Trouble that deserve props and support. Oh, and if you are so inclined, you can help support the Good Trouble made here at Emptywheel too.

40 replies
  1. Ed Walker says:

    In Nashville, we supported the Nashville Rescue Mission:
    which provided a range of needed help including rooms for the homeless, domestic violence shelter, and more. In Chicago, we support the Pacific Garden Mission.

    This is thankless work with few success stories. But at least I know someone is trying, and at least I know some of my neighbors aren’t sleeping under a bridge and ransacking the dumpster behind a convenience store.

    There are similar groups in lots of cities; maybe see if there’s one near you.

  2. Alan Charbonneau says:

    I support Freedom Grow Forever:

    “FREEDOM GROW is an all-volunteer non-profit 501c3 organization. We help cannabis prisoners regain freedom while we support their sacrifices through ’The Wish Program’. The Wish Program helps prisoners with commissary money, books, magazines, family outreach, and public education.”

  3. rosalind says:

    thanks for this thread, Peterr! Local food banks and Community Foundations have been depleted through pandemic (over)work and are always a good place to share some love. “Books to Prisoners” is one of my annual donations:

    Another new org I donate to is “” founded by Little Steven Van Zandt, long time guitarist for Bruce Springsteen. The website offers free lesson plans and materials covering a range of arts including music and film. Really great stuff:

    • Peterr says:

      That’s the thing about food pantries and food banks. When things are rough, demand for food goes up and donations go down. When things are really rough, donors become clients, which is really demoralizing for the folks staffing them.

      Volunteer coordinator: George, great to see you. We’re all good with volunteers today, though. We could use some help on Thursday, if you could work then.

      George (looking down at his feet): Actually, I’m not here to help. I’m here . . . I’m here because I *need* help.

      Volunteer coordinator: Oh . . . I’m sorry . . . Wow . . .

  4. bloopie2 says:

    The comment on “books to prisoners” reminded me of the film “Walk The Line” that I recently caught on TV, and recalled the one line from it that has most stuck with me. [Prison Warden]: Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t want to hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists…trying to cheer them up. [Johnny]: Well, they’re not Christians, then.

    Now that’s making good trouble — although I’m not sure how I can support Johnny Cash any longer. But at least I can say to the writer who crafted that line and that scene, bless you, whoever you are.

    Thank you for this.

  5. ThingWithFeathers says:

    I support Communication First, a national nonprofit protecting the civil rights of people who cannot reliably use speech to communicate regardless of the cause.

    From their website:
    “Dare we envision a world where those who cannot speak…

    Live free from discrimination, neglect, low expectations, and isolation?
    Exercise autonomy and self-determination?
    Enjoy equal rights and opportunities?
    Are valued as integral members of their communities?
    Are treated with respect and dignity?”

  6. Beth from Santa Monica says:

    The ‘problem’ with threads like this is that I can’t not cry when I read it. Thank you for reminding us all that there are good people caring for others all over.

    My shoutout goes to Prof. Mike Manville of UCLA and the work The Lewis Center is doing to get California back to building housing for all. Every person deserves a roof over his/her/their head. Every person deserves housing that does not eat up 50-60-70% of his/her/their income. We are a rich country; there is no excuse for the cavalier callousness with which we treat each other. It’s time to respect each person’s – to use the exactly appropriate German word – Würde.

    • rosalind says:

      Rant Incoming! I grew up in a Menlo Park, CA neighborhood where our parents worked at IBM & H/P. It’s hard to explain the damage Google & Facebook & the Sand Hill Road Venture Capital-ists have done to the area. Where once the working poor lived in the area between 101 and the bay they’ve been priced out as the TechBorg spreads its tentacles.

      I attended the now-closed James Flood Elementary School which the Ravenswood School District is trying to turn into desperately needed housing for its employees. The single family home neighbors revolted and have sued and delayed it for years. Meanwhile they bitch and moan that their fav restaurants are only open at lunch and oh all those help wanted signs and gawd nobody wants to work anymore…

      Meanwhile the TechBorg tears down the old money Atherton mansions to erect Meta-lopolises as the City leaders try and fail to come up with an affordable housing plan to satisfy the State’s requirement. The idea of the hired help not leaving at sundown – quick fetch the smelling salts!

      And don’t get me started on the Palo Alto homes sitting empty bought up by oversees money for “just in case”…

      • Former AFPD says:

        Rosalind, I heartily concur. I live in SF. Tech culture has wreaked havoc on our economy, our civic life, and our multi-cultural community lives. Don’t get me started.

        Regarding the topic of this post, as a former Assistant Federal Public Defender, the work of FAMM, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, is really important. This organization fights against mandatory minimum sentencing and assists the incarcerated and their families. I have seen the unfairness, inequality and cruelty of these sentences first hand. They do great work.

        Another organization that does great work was started by Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative. You may have read his book “Just Mercy”. EJI memorializes the history of lynching in this country. The attorneys there litigate all manner of capital cases and cases dealing with the inhumanity of southern prison conditions. They represent the forgotten and continue to dredge up the intentionally hidden history of lynching. Amazing people doing amazing work.

  7. PeteT0323 says:

    Much needed and appreciated post.

    We live in an “upper middle class” city/neighborhood – whatever that really means – but the point is the need could very well be in your neighborhood as it is and has been in ours. Looks can be deceiving and need can be hiding in plain sight.

    Local “food banks” have struggled here, but people do their best to keep them going.

    It has been many many years, but wife and I were on food stamps – as it was then called – maybe 45 years ago.

    Here’s to supporting Good Trouble and – again – hope and effort for some meaningful change in a new year.


  8. H. Candace gorman says:

    The Guantanamo Survival fund lends support to the released men. Most continue to carry the stigma of Guantanamo as they try to rebuild their lives. Our country has accepted no responsibility for the many men wrongly imprisoned without charge for years. And the countries these men went back to (or were settled at) want nothing to do with them. This is one organization that tries to give these men a helping hand.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes indeed, and some, like Dhiab for instance, are so traumatized by their treatment and stay at Guantanamo that they may not even be able to function much at this point.

      And Happy Holidays Candace.

  9. Emily says:

    Along with PEN America and the ALA (specifically the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the ALA’s legal arm, the Freedom to Read Foundation) the National Coalition Against Censorship does excellent work in the area of book banning and freedom of expression:

    (Full disclosure: I’m chair of the board).

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. We also have more than one community member named “Emily” or “Emilie.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Peterr says:

      I really *love* the resources you have at the website for students, teachers/administrators, librarians, parents, and others. Thanks to you, your board, your staff, and your members for putting them together and making them available.

      I will definitely be sharing them with some of the local educators that I regularly deal with!

    • Savage Librarian says:

      There is a difference between opposing censorship and being apologists for propaganda. Organizations and institutions can have both strengths and weaknesses. They can have insight and blind spots. It seems ironic to me that this letter about Assange features so prominently on the NCAC website, especially since it is directed to the emptywheel site:

      “NCAC joins CPJ joint letter to express concerns regarding Julian Assange criminal and extradition proceedings – National Coalition Against Censorship”

      • bmaz says:

        Blah, blah blah. Every one of these things fails to mention or acknowledge that much of what Assange did was not journalism. It is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          It’s from the site Emily recommended. You seem to have a blind spot. You are missing the point. Just like everyone missing the Santos info.

          • bmaz says:

            Oh, I am not missing any point, I am pretty up on things Assange, and have been for many, many years. I neither like nor respect him, think he is a creep and a criminal that should be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. I think letters like the one put up are asinine and wrong. That is my point, and I will stick with it.

            • Savage Librarian says:

              Solicitations for donations to a site that supports Assange should come with a full disclosure. That’s my point.

              I know that you and I agree about Assange. But I just think that other people may not realize that their donations to that site would also be supporting misinformation about him.

  10. Suburban Bumpkin says:

    I gave to Food Share of Ventura County, Performances to Grow On, the UC Master Gardeners and Kids Gardening. There is definitely a theme to my giving. A lot of it is food for the body but Performances to Grow On is food for the soul.

  11. Zinsky123 says:

    Thank you for this opportunity to give a shout out to worthy charities. Without disclosing too much personal information, I live in the Upper Midwest and Second Harvest Heartland does wonderful work in this area, battling food insecurity. I give a large sum monthly and do other work for them. Healthy food is fundamental to good health which is fundamental to human happiness. No American, or any human being, should go to bed hungry at night.
    I also give annually to other liberal causes including Sierra Club, Doctors without Borders (who do insanely humane things in war zones like Ukraine, a friend was a doctor who died while in Africa) and Habitat for Humanity. I am retired and very healthy and do as much as my time, body and wife will allow me to do! God bless the world and best to all of the regular Empty Wheel contributors, from whom I learn so much! Here is to a joyous, prosperous and peaceful 2023 that sees Donald Trump in prison!

  12. LaMissy! says:

    I’d like to point to Partners In Health, founded by Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl. Not only do they provide medical care abroad in countries such as Haiti, Perú and Liberia, they do so here at home on the Navajo Nation and in places like New Bedford, MA. Additionally, they train local populations in medical care such as nurses and midwives and have established a world-class teaching hospital in Mirebalas, Haití. They have addressed the hard stuff: maternal deaths, covid, ebola, HIV and tuberculosis.

    Right now, donations are being matched.

  13. mospeck says:

    I support Wikipedia. In a way it’s kind of obvious what they’re doing — physics-wise, anyway. Trying to teach the generation coming on in simple straightforward style, maybe illuminating an idea to some wicked smart young kid in Jakarta or Katmandu with an IC who’s gonna be a new Doctor Wu.
    Yea, she didn’t win the Nobel, but she sure shoulda, right along with Yang and Lee. Those 3 cracked the world wide open back in 56 by showing weak force violated parity conservation. At the time mirror worlds were right and proper, Pauli was shocked and all 3 were thought to be crazy. But then that’s how it goes, trail followed on, and the upshot now seems to be that there’s this teenie tiny slight broken symmetry why matter wins over antimatter and why we’re here. Hey Happy New Year :)

  14. Dredd says:

    Banned “books” in PDF format are composed of text … usually.
    The banning is of ideas, not paper and ink, or ASCII text in a PDF file.

    I have discovered that the DEPOSITIONS of the January 6 Committee that have recently been released are banned in the sense that they are screen shots rather than ASCII text.

    In other words, one cannot convert them to text files by a copy and past into a text editor.

    Think of doing a screen shot of any post or comment here on emptywheel blog. After doing the screen shot and saving it to a PNG or JPG file, you can’t do any analysis with text parsing software. You are locked out.

    Bear with me.

    That means that the Jan 6 Committee depositions can’t be analyzed by word analyzing software (here is an analysis of the Final Report as an example of what text analysis software produces https:// blogdredd. blogspot. com/2023/01/january-six-committee.html.

    The depositions, unlike the Final Report, cannot be analyzed that way … example you want to put the software to the task of finding out which witnesses used the word “hotel” and on what page the did so … it can’t be done on the depositions because they are images not text.

    Anyone know why?

    Analysis of the “books” … transcripts by software IS BANNED whether by accident or on purpose.

    Either way, it cripples some of the methods of analysis.

    [You have been warned repeatedly to stop pushing your blog here. We do not have the time to vet your site nor the time to continue monitoring your blogwhoring. It ends now. /~Rayne]

    • bmaz says:

      Meh, it can get done just fine and is not impossible at all. The government releases things in this non-searchable format all the time (try living with PACER). Nothing will be crippled.

      • Dredd says:

        I download files from courts all over the place on my PACER account. That is usually PDF and those files are text based PDF, not graphic based (e.g. screen-grab) based PDF files.

        — getting back to Jan 6 depositions —

        For example: “How many times does the word ‘QAnon’ appear in each of the ~150 depositions and on what pages in those depositions?”

        Software can do that (and does do that) in less than a second in text-based PDF files. Not so on screen-grabbed graphics based PDF files (graphics based files can not be parsed like text-based PDF files can … try loading one of the deposition PDF files into your word processor, and do the same for the Final Report to see the difference).

        That is the critical difference between the depositions and the Final Report.

        It’s like hyper-speed software analysis of the depositions is banned.

        Software analysis is orders of magnitude a better tool for some things that reading it line by line visually until one falls asleep from boredom.

        But human analysis is far better on some critical aspects of getting to the bottom line.

        • bmaz says:

          I may not be that smart on all things tech, but you are blowing complete shit. Acting like it just cannot be done is specious.

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