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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Jubilee Project emphasizes power of social media to create a more just world

Published: February 8, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

In a ’Deis Impact event last Saturday, members of the Jubilee Project, Eric Lu, Eddie Lee and Jason Lee, visited Brandeis to encourage students to use social media creatively to inspire others to action through the power of storytelling. The event, cosponsored by Jubilee Project Brandeis, BAASA, the BPA and the ICC, was titled “Ordinary People can do Extraordinary Things” to show students that they can make a difference in the world by taking advantage of the tools they use every day.

Jubilee Project is a group of three young college graduates who seek to raise awareness of different social justice issues through their videos. They have made more than 70 videos, raised more than $30,000 and have more than four million views on their videos. They spoke about how they chose to quit their jobs and schooling to pursue video production full time.

“We said to ourselves, what are we doing with our lives? … Eric was at med school, Jason was having a high-paying salary, I was working for the president of the United States … There was something still missing,” Eddie Lee said. “We realized deep down inside that we weren’t living our true passions in life, and our passion was to tell stories and the intersection of our passion and the needs of the world was the Jubilee Project.”

As part of their presentation, they showed some of their previous videos as well as a sneak peek at a video just released online on Tuesday. The Jubilee Project writes, directs and films its own videos, using the best outside actors they can find. Videos have dealt with topics from sex trafficking (Back to Innocence), hearing impairments (Love Language) and autism (Fireflies). They feature children and young adults, navigating the world despite the different major issues in their lives. The videos focus on inspiring hope for those impacted and teaching the community about the significance of these issues and how one can strengthen her community.

“We really believe that you can use videos and social media to change the world, but in little ways, inspire people to tell stories,” Jason Lee said.

Their videos started with a small audience, not gaining many views until they produced “Love Language.”

“It was a very organic process, I think; where people just shared it on Facebook and Twitter and from there we started building up,” Lu said.

They hope to communicate through their videos to get people excited about different causes, sharing stories through entertainment with a social message. They focus on how storytelling can be used by anyone, not just corporations and people in power, to achieve greater social awareness of important issues.

While the Jubilee Project had previously focused on fundraising attempts, they now focus primarily on getting the message out and giving people the platform to tell their stories. At first, they used micro-sponsorship to raise money, where someone would pledge to donate one penny per view of the video. “We realized that we don’t want to focus solely on funds but we want to use our platform to encourage other people to more creative ways to raise funds and raise awareness,” Jason Lee said.

The group responded to a question about how they fit into the Asian Pacific American (APA) movement. “The reason we are here today is because of the Asian American community … We feel like we contribute to the Asian American movement by becoming excellent at what we’re doing, and we see that really just expanding the world for Asian Americans,” Lu said. He talked about how he hopes to encourage other Asian Americans through mentoring and helping younger Asian Americans to develop their own talents.

Although there was a small crowd, the enthusiasm in the room generated many ideas about new ways to engage others in social justice through social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The group introduced the audience to its process of making videos: beginning with a cause you care about, then thinking about a creative application of one’s own talents to raise awareness and understanding in the larger community.

After being given a chance to discuss campaigns on their own, students spoke about their thoughts. One group, passionate about climate change, thought they could create a house that mimicked the destruction that happens to a polar bear’s home as the earth warms and ice melts. Another group suggested having students wear surgical masks for a day with specific words written on the mask to raise awareness of a particular issue. A third group’s idea was to interview homeless people and listen to their stories, understanding how they got in that position and what one could do to help.

The Jubilee Project encouraged students to take risks and act upon the strength of their passion for social justice. “We’re young enough to still eat Ramen every day … why not take that leap?” Eddie Lee said. Even though they felt anxiety and fear, they demonstrated intense commitment to their goals, hoping to inspire others to do the same.

They quoted Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who asked people about their largest regrets in life, to encourage others to make an effort now to change the world. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” they said.

The Brandeis chapter of the Jubilee Project began after students Vicky and Stephanie Lee ’13 were introduced to the group at a benefit concert, and were struck by the group’s message and creative videos. “We were finally able to get them to Brandeis in the fall, also two years ago now … Then this past summer, Eric randomly messaged Stephanie and was like ‘Hey, we’re staring college chapters and we’re wondering if you would be interested,” Vicky Lee said.

Although they have religious references in some of their videos, Jubilee Project simply strives to include messages of hope, optimism and joy in their videos. “We want to live out these Christian values … but to reflect jubilee, which means joy,” Lu said. “These are our values, and we just want to make amazing videos that tell stories and really change lives,” he said.

“Art is an extension of who we are,” Eddie Lee added.