This is an exciting time for ME advocacy in Boston, Massachusetts. We are preparing for our November 12th, Sunday afternoon screening of UNREST. For those who are able, join us, because it is going to be an amazing event.
Immediately after October’s sold out screening of UNREST in Boston, where the film won a “Best Film” award at the GlobeDocs (Boston Globe) Film Festival, we kicked into high gear with our organizing for a second Boston screening.
This event is being organized by the long-standing Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association, where I am a volunteer. But we are not alone! We have support from MEAction, where I am also a volunteer, and from #TimeForUnrest, FilmSprout and Shella Films.
For our first step, we secured the historic Regent Theatre in Arlington. This is a large theater with, if needed, a balcony. Then we found two generous donors — Mona Eliassen and, separately, an anonymous family — who paid for 100 free tickets for healthcare professionals. What a gift!
Next, we contacted potential co-sponsors. We reached out to government, academic, arts, healthcare, religious, disability and women’s organizations. We made a pitch to each group, explaining why ME and this event fit with their mission and interests.
The results have been gratifying. We secured 18 co-sponsoring organizations: Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Disability Law Center, Cambridge Women’s Commission, Arlington Disability Commission, Disability Policy Consortium, Our Bodies Ourselves, American ME and CFS Society, Cambridge Women’s Center, Hadassah Northeast, ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston, Old Schwamb Mill Museum, Boston University Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Opening Doors to the Arts, Boston Women’s Fund, Mass NOW, Boston International Film Festival and, of course, #MEAction.
For most of these organizations, this will be the first time they work on an ME advocacy effort. And it is also, by and large, the first time our Massachusetts ME organization has worked with them. A win-win.
Each co-sponsor is offering a different type of support. Some posted our event on their social media, others in their newsletter or sent out a mass email to their members. One allowed me to write an essay for their blog.
It has been especially helpful to have the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as co-sponsors. Mentioning their names gave Boston hospitals a reason to help us get the word out about our free tickets for healthcare professionals. Mass General Hospital is putting our announcement in their “Perks” newsletter which goes to 30,000 employees; Brigham and Women’s Hospital is doing the same for their 14,000 employees; and the Spaulding Rehab hospital is telling their 4000 staffers. Time will tell if this translates into filled seats on November 12th.
Simultaneously, we have been focusing on the post-film panel. We approached Boston’s well-respected National Public Radio station, WBUR, and were lucky to secure a senior correspondent/host to moderate our post-film panel. The panel is made up of ME advocates, a scientific researcher, a medical professional and a women’s health advocate who has ME.
Organizing this event has taken our team a great deal of time and effort. And of course we have pre-event jitters that we won’t fill enough seats. But the truth is, a week before November 12th, the event is already a success. More Boston organizations now know about ME, more hospital staff are reading about the disease in their newsletters and more WBUR listeners are learning about ME from browsing the WBUR events calendar sent to 72,000 people. And did I mention, a local newspaper is writing an article about it.
A nice plus: In the middle of all this organizing, UNREST became an Oscar contender. What better sales pitch could the event co-organizers ask for?
Rivka Solomon is a Massachusetts writer focusing on disability and women’s issues. Reach her on Twitter at @RivkaTweets