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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where's the Money? Two "Can't Stop the Serenity" Cities Fail to Hand Over Cash to Equality Now.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jun 19, 2008 at 1:05 PM

Oh, man. Awkward.

In today's Mercury there's a story I wrote about Can't Stop the Serenity, an annual worldwide benefit organized by fans of Joss Whedon's TV show Firefly and its spin-off movie, Serenity. Basically, it works like this: Fans show Serenity in movie theaters and charge admission, and the proceeds are then donated to gender equality group Equality Now.

I've attended the event since it was founded in Portland in 2006, and I'm looking forward to this weekend's screenings. But that said: Whoa. Somebody fucked up. A couple of people fucked up, actually, and they fucked up pretty bad.

Turns out that two of the cities that participated in last year's Can't Stop the Serenity screenings failed to actually, you know, hand over the money they earned. Equality Now has reported that they never saw the funds from the 2007 events held in Denver and Dallas/North Texas, which ostensibly raised a combined total of $7,500. Portland blogger the One True b!X, who founded Can't Stop the Serenity, broke the news on his blog today.

In the case of Denver, the person ultimately responsible for the estimated $1,900 raised... has since disappeared and reportedly become completely incommunicado. That money, as near as anyone can tell, simply is gone forever, although no one knows why. Equality Now reports having no record of those funds.

In the case of Dallas/North Texas, the roughly $5,600 raised wound up in the account of the lead organizer there and got “lost”. He currently is under a signed agreement to make monthly payments over the next two years to Equality Now.

The fact that these two cities had “missing” funds has been known for some time--at least since February, in fact....

B!X also notes that in the Can't Stop the Serenity community, there's been some debate over whether, and when, to come out with this information:

While this year’s organizers in both cities on Wednesday posted a statement to other CSTS [Can't Stop the Serenity] organizers, the global coordinator (and some other local organizers) requested that those statements and the facts they contain not be made public. I disagreed with the notion of a delay, as I have for some time now.

The event-going public has the right to know what happened. There is no ethically-defensible way in which to withhold the fact that someone’s money did not go where it was supposed to, while asking them to give more money again this year.

I just got off the phone with Anna Snyder, one of the organizers of this year's Portland screenings. "We really haven't decided on our position on this," Snyder said. "Obviously we're talking about it. We're taking it very seriously." I asked Snyder if Portland's screenings had ever had any problems with getting their money to the people at Equality Now. "No!" she answered. "Not at all. Ever."

Portland's Can't Stop the Serenity events will proceed as planned. "We're hoping that people realize that it was just two cities out of 40-plus [cities]," Snyder says. "It's not the norm. I'm hoping people will realize that it's just two cities. We expect people to still come out and still support Equality Now and support what we're doing."

Whedon fans and Can't Stop the Serenity participants and volunteers are talking about the issue over at Whedon nerd hangout Whedonesque. The full blog post by b!X on the matter can be found here.

UPDATE. Local writer and cartoonist Mike Russell--who has volunteered with Portland's Can't Stop the Serenity event in the past, and who tipped me off about b!X's post--summed up the situation pretty well, describing it to me as "embarrassing and appalling." "Each city's screenings are separately organized and run," Russell wrote on his blog, CulturePulp, "and Portland's effort has always been (A) the biggest earner nationwide and (B) completely transparent and reliable, to the best of my knowledge."

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