ActivismAfternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: Help Make the World A Better Place

I recently asked one of the women who I sent to TAM this year to write down her experience so I could share it with you. It is really difficult to figure out if you are actually making a difference when you do various outreach activities such as fundraising for a grant program. I was able to count the number of women (15) who could attend the event but did it affect anyone? Did it change lives? Did it matter? Should I do it again next year or just go find a hobby?


In the words of Ayanna:

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending TAM 9 in Vegas, thanks to the generous efforts of Amy Davis Roth and her donors. TAM was truly a life changing experience. I had never been in the company of so many skeptics, at one time. The workshops were a huge eye opener. I learned a lot on a variety of topics, ranging from the universe to cognitive dissonance. I even developed new ways of evaluating some beliefs that I held.

TAM served as a forum where skeptics could freely exchange ideas using logic and reason to support their claims. Despite whether the parties agreed or disagreed after the discussion, we all were making plans to share drinks later that night. (Of course, we did not spend the whole time debating. There was plenty of time dedicated to partying.)

Skeptics are constantly challenging the status quo. As I looked around, I realized that these people are precisely the type of people that help make the world a better place. These individuals, however, hardly ever receive recognition for their efforts.

I recently started a program called Science Cubed under my organization -Black Atheists of America. The program seeks to strengthen the critical thinking skills of our youth. Too often, many of us are comfortable with students providing the right answer instead of focusing on how they arrived at the answer. I hope to see the next generation engaging in conversations similar to the ones I experienced at TAM.

Overall, it was an amazing experience. I can’t thank Amy enough for this experience. I will certainly be attending next year!

~Ayanna Watson
CEO & President
Black Atheists of America, Inc.

Yay! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us, Ayanna! It really does help put into perspective the fact that I was able to directly affect someone. Sometimes it seems so abstract. I hope your program is a HUGE success and I really am honored that I could help inspire you in a some way and do indeed hope to see you again soon!

Now, my question to all of you who are reading this is the following:

For the past few years I have been choosing a different charity to support each year. I do this by raising money for the charity or non profit by making and selling my artwork. One year I raised money for Doctors without Borders and the next year I chose the American Cancer Society. Next, it was the women’s grants and the JREF. What do you think I should do this coming year? Should I continue the women’s grant program for TAM since it was so successful or should I focus on a different area? Should I instead help raise money for an animal shelter or help with homeless problems or promote family planning clinics or something else entirely? Are women’s grants to skeptical and science events important enough or are there more pressing issues in our society that we need to focus on?

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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14 Comments

  1. OK, I’m biased on this issue, since I also was a grant recipient this year. So of course I’d like to see the grants continue, so perhaps one of my daughters could participate next year.

    At TAM, I felt like I had stepped right into the internet. Suddenly I could talk with all the people that usually I just read, or read about. It was OK that I didn’t have my computer, because I was hanging out with all my favorite bloggers. Since I got back I have been writing like crazy to try to boil all the wonderful information I got down to hour-length classes for teens. People afterward often asked me “TAM? What is that?” My usual answer has been that it’s “a summit meeting for the movers and shakers of the skeptical community.” And I left the meeting feeling like I’m now one of those movers and shakers. Perhaps it’s not yet in a big way, but I no longer feel like I’m on the sidelines, watching. I’m part of this now.

    And on a totally unrelated note: Woo! We had an earthquake today! It was big enough that my office building evacuated. Scary at the time, but now it’s just really cool.

  2. I would say if not TAM scholarships (or say scholarships to another skeptic event of some sort) stick with something “small”. Doctors without Borders is wonderful, but I think you will get a lot of satisfaction out of hearing what a good time the people you sent to TAM had. As well as life changing. Maybe sending some kids to the Camp Inquiry? Or something with music. Use your art to support the arts! Music programs are being cut right and left.

  3. Time for my shameless plug: You can help animals and homeless people through HoPe Veterinary Center. I volunteer at their monthly clinic, where they provide free veterinary care (wellness and illness) and food (pet and people) for the pets of homeless people. Since I’ve been silently tolerating a hoard of evangelicals donating food (and preaching to our clients) for the past couple of months, it would be nice to have some secular support.
    Website: http://www.HopeVeterinaryCenter.org

  4. Kudos to you Amy for donating the proceeds of your artwork. I just give to charities at yuletide (instead of useless obligatory presents for people who have everything they need) , so any suggestions here would be handy for me too.

    Nice to give to something that is close to you and you can get to meet the recipients and see your making a difference.

  5. “Should I continue the women’s grant program for TAM since it was so successful . . . Are women’s grants to skeptical and science events important enough . . . ?”

    Yes and yes–and count on me to donate again next year. Thanks for making it possible, Amy.

  6. Helping a cause that is near and dear is meaningful, and I am certain that skepticism is close to your heart! I love that you make skeptical jewelry and ask skeptics for donations and then it goes back to help other skeptics! There are no worries that the funds will be tied up in administrative costs, or otherwise diverted, as they are in some large charitable organizations.

    There are no end of good causes in this world! I donate fairly small amounts to numerous causes and wonder if my money would be better spent if I gave a larger donation to just one cause. On the other hand, as a fund raiser myself for our local library, I see that the smaller donors make up the bulk of our donations.

    Good luck with your fundraising!

  7. I got to have lunch with two of your fortunate grant recipients at TAM (and Sam Ogden :), and I have to say, there was some unquenchable joy at that table.

    This program was meaningful and successful beyond measure.

    If you chose to do this again, we will gladly and proudly support you in it again.

  8. While there are plenty of worthy charities out there (Amnisty International comes to mind) and orginizations that we should support (i.e. ACLU) I can’t think of anything that would make the same impact as what you did this year; especially one that you can measure. I am not in the situation to be able to afford, well anything, but if I have the means next time I will happily support a second round of scholarships.
    In fact I do my own type of crafts (I refuse to call it art in deference to real artists) and if you wanted to expand your charity sale to include outside art (a big commitment and PITA that may not be worth it) I would be happen to contribute in that way. (Or I could design a couple of Surlyramics designs if you are aminable to it)
    .
    Anyway, I would love to help if I can. :)

    1. That is actually a really fantastic idea! I am going to think about how that might work. If there is a way I could involve other artists I would be very happy. Maybe some sort of a coalition of artists for skeptical charities. Hmmmmm….

  9. Some nice folks sent my daughter to Camp Quest for the first time last year. She spent the next year saving her money in order to send herself this year. She wanted that scholarship to go to another camper. She says the experience was life changing. The community she found there did not stay there. They are keeping in touch and counting the days until they see each other again. I’d love to see more fund raisers for Camp Quest.

  10. I vote that you stay on the grant program because I’d love to be a part of that. I would love to go to TAM.

    One of the charities I’ve had a good feeling for since I found out about them is Love 146
    http://love146.org/
    (DON’T go to that webpage if you’re feeling sensitive, you will cry)What these people do is so brave and important and one day I hope that we don’t need they anymore because child sex trafficking doesn’t exist.

    I am myself crafty, and will make a donation of something I made if you want to raise some money (I do not have cash, but I can make things). I just raised 122$ for a cancer charity by auctioning a bag I made. (see http://madfishmonger.livejournal.com if you want to know about it) because fuck cancer.

  11. I think this is an excellent cause to put money towards! It’s small enough that your donations can make a real difference and it promotes exactly what a lot of your work seems to be all about (at least the way I see it? I could be totally wrong): increasing the presence and impact of women in the scientific and skeptical community, making that community less exclusive of women and less male-dominated, allowing space for feminist concerns in that dialogue, and increasing interest in this stuff for women. So… yeah, there’s thousands of wonderful, worthy non-profits and organizations and scholarships out there, but this one seems so perfectly fitted to what this site is all about!

    And to happily jump on Mr. Misconception’s wagon… if there is any way you might be able to involve other artists and creators (or just supporters), I’d love to help, and I’m sure lots of us would! Just because we’re a science-y crowd doesn’t mean we can’t also be an artsy crowd!

  12. I agree Amy. My personal philosophy has, for a long time, included: Do what I can and what I am passionate about and trust that others will do what they can for what they are passionate about.

    My focus is HIV.

    Having said that, I’d be happy, as an artistic skeptic, to donate something for future auctions.

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