A close friend of mine who works for a small opera company in New York posted on Facebook a troubling article from The Hill news site the day before Donald Trump’s Inauguration. The article claimed that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was to be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts would be eliminated entirely. She also posted an article from The Washington Post refuting that these claims could have been chalked up to the “Fake News” phenomenon.
I was incensed, to put it mildly.
The National Endowment for the Arts, since its institution in 1965, has provided enormous gifts to countless arts organizations in the United States. The vast majority of these organizations fall under the nonprofit category. As an advocate for the arts and a student of Nonprofit Leadership at the School for Social Policy and Practice (SP2), I felt obligated to write an impassioned Facebook post about the implications this move would have on the nonprofit arts sector. Spoiler Alert: it isn’t pretty.
It’s no secret that the Nonprofit and Government sectors exist together in a balance; however, this is not common knowledge among the average American social media consumer. Simply put, nonprofits provide services where the government cannot and government provides some funds for these nonprofits to stay afloat. Nonprofits also serve as an experimental agent of social change; this means that nonprofits possess a margin for error in which they can try out different policies on a smaller level. If something works, then that’s great! The government can begin plans to make these plans public. If something doesn’t work, the nonprofit closes, and we can try again. Governments can’t just do this, because if they implement these experiments and fail, they lose efficacy and capital. Governments, in their heart of hearts, know that they can’t afford to lose either.
I noticed that on my Facebook Trending Topic panel, #SaveTheNEA appeared only on Thursday and fizzled out as the weekend began, what with the Inauguration, the Women’s Marches all over the world, and reactions to the two. It’s understandable why this hashtag went unnoticed, but one does wonder if it was a conscious decision to report this information before a newsworthy weekend. But that’s neither here, nor there. The fact of the matter is that two extremely important, incredibly different events took place this weekend, and it is only right that the denizens of social media should explode with these topics. I was one of them. I engaged in political discourse on Inauguration Day and attended the Women’s March here in Philadelphia on Saturday.
It’s now Monday. How do we renew our sense of purpose?
An easy way to do this on social media is to post about it. Share articles. Write your feelings. There is a new whitehouse.gov petition making rounds on Facebook. As an avid Musical Theatre/Opera nerd, I have seen some Facebook postings from Playbill.com, BroadwayWorld.com, and OperaAmerica imploring their followers to make their voices heard.
I’ve also noticed that people have not been using the #SaveTheNEA hashtag on their posts. As of 1:15pm, only 1,000 people are using the hashtag on Facebook. None of the entities above who have posted about this have used the hashtag. A hashtag is a simple, yet powerful way to draw attention to a matter on Facebook. There are almost 2 billion Facebook users. To not use the hashtag is a mistake.