President’s Column: Outreach
By August Berkshire
There are some things we do that mainly involve us talking and socializing with each other, such as picnics, our winter solstice party, and most of our dozens of Meetups each month.
Then there are other things that bridge the gap between internal and external, such as when we post our newsletter (or many parts of it) on our website, our postings on our Facebook page, our charitable contributions, and our third Sunday meetings with speakers (which we then post as podcasts).
But there are an enormous number of things that we do to bring atheism directly to the public. Our public access cable TV show and our live radio show, both of which we later turn into podcasts, come to mind immediately. This year we submitted a proposal to the Minnesota Idea Open for a $15,000 grant to start an interfaith radio program (in addition to our atheist show). Unfortunately, the panel of religious judges didn’t select our project as a finalist.
Our ongoing Adopt-A-Highway signs in Rice, were joined by our billboards in Minneapolis and St. Paul this past January, which garnered us the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a lead news story on the local 10 p.m. news, as well as other publicity. From time to time, we also get letters to the editor and opinion pieces published in newspapers.
There are many celebrations, festivals, and parades we participate in each year. In the first week of May, we host a Day of Reason celebration at the State Capitol and participate in the May Day parade and booth at Powderhorn Park.
Between June and September we participate in six gay pride celebrations around the state – in Minneapolis, Rochester, La Crosse, Duluth, Mankato, and St. Cloud. This year we are hoping to add Pine City.
We also participate in the Juneteenth festival, and this year we have the added bonus that we have become the sponsoring group of the very first chapter of Black Atheists of America (BAAm)! Finally, in mid-September we participate in the Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair in Minneapolis.
If you know of any festivals or conferences where we can have a booth, please let us know. In April there was a local women’s conference. We tried to get a booth, but they decided not to have any.
Spring is when we often are contacted by schools and students for presentations and interviews about atheism. This year I spoke at Maple Grove Senior High School; Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids (which served as a catalyst to starting a freethought group in town); and to three classes at Northwestern College, a Christian school in Arden Hills. I’ve also been interviewed by three students attending Christian colleges for projects they were working on. Eric Jayne was interviewed by three students from Calvin High School in Fridley. Stephanie Zvan gave a presentation at Normandale Community College.
This August we have three very special events that will make news. The first is a St. Paul Saints baseball game that we are cosponsoring with American Atheists on Friday, August 10. It will be advertised as “A Night of Unbelievable Fun.” We will be renaming the team as the “Mr. Paul Aints.” The team will be coving up the letter “S” on all the signs in the stadium and we will be allowed five banners to advertise our own groups. Jerseys with our new team name will be worn by the players and auctioned off later as a fundraiser for us. Tens of thousands of schedules have been printed and will be distributed that feature the names Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists.
The next day, on Saturday, August 11, we will host an all-day American Atheists Regional Atheist Conference at the Double Tree (formerly Hilton) hotel in downtown St. Paul. Confirmed speakers so far are PZ Myers, Teresa MacBain, Hector Avalos, and Robert Price. There are limited rooms available at the Double Tree at the special $99 rate. The sooner you reserve your room, the better!
That weekend will also see the publication by Freethought House of a book of essays titled Atheist Voices of Minnesota. It will have a forward by Greta Christina and will be for sale at the conference (though, unfortunately, Greta will be unable to appear at the conference).
It takes almost 100 volunteers to accomplish everything we do, and we sincerely thank everyone who helps us. This organization truly belongs to all of us. In addition, individually, each of us is a personal ambassador of atheism when we speak about it to our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and when we write letters to the editor. If you have done something to spread the good word of atheism, please let us know!
Finally, most of this outreach costs money, for things like radio time, DVDs, registration fees, and handouts. Any contributions you can make will be greatly appreciated by all of us. Thank you!