Jubilee Project raises awareness
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 01:10
It began with a man, a guitar and a "terrible voice." In February 2010, Jason Lee made his way to a New York City subway station raising money for the victims of the Haitian earthquake. Singing voice aside, Jason was able to get New Yorkers to drop their dollar bills into his guitar case. He then put the video of his performance up on YouTube. When Lee woke up the next morning, his video had gone viral. Lee was able to raise over $700 for relief for Haiti. After seeing the effect of his video, Lee joined forces with his brother, Eddie Lee, and former classmate, Eric Lu, to create the Jubilee Project.
This past Friday, the Jubilee Project gave a presentation in the Olin-Sang Auditorium. The event, sponsored by the Brandeis Asian American Students Association, attracted a diverse crowd of Brandeis students, as well as some faculty. As Jason Lee is in Africa conducting social justice work, only Eddie Lee and Lu were in attendance.
The Jubilee Project took Jason Lee's original idea of short videos with a message and ran with it. Using active viewership—a program on YouTube through which a sponsor donates a penny to a specific organization for every view—they have raised over $25,000. Anyone can be a sponsor.
Lu, studying medicine at Harvard University, chose the name "Jubilee Project" to mean "redemption."
Beginning in April, when Vicky Lee '13 and Stephanie Lee '13, the co-presidents of Brandeis Asian American Students Association, first asked the Jubilee Project to stop at Brandeis on its college tour, the group's appearance on campus has been eagerly anticipated. The influence of social media is well known to the Jubilee Project.
"Egypt saw the power of social media mobilizing people to start revolutions. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook save lives," they declared. The Jubilee Project uses social media to "educate and empower" others to correct social injustices in the world. During the presentation, audience members were treated to a sneak peek of a new video, "Back to Innocence," which raises awareness about the horrors of sex-trafficking. The film opens with a girl wearing a plaid skirt clutching a stuffed pink bunny. She is shown crying after having been assaulted. The video then rewinds to depict her life prior to her entrapment in the sex-trafficking industry. The Jubilee Project is aware of its directness, but the filmmakers chose to "put [issues] in people's faces," as sex trafficking is an issue that "needs more activism."
None of the Jubilee members have actually studied film. The trio learned filmmaking on their own by fooling around with cameras and watching tutorials. They also received valuable tips from Lee who made films for the Obama campaign. Starting in November 2010, the Jubilee Project has been making one video a week for any cause requiring a voice. Their causes include Hepatitis B awareness and prevention (one of the most prominent illnesses to affect the Asian-American community), bullying, domestic violence and children with disabilities.
"Dear Daniel" is about every college student's worries—the pressures of entering the real world, handling girlfriends, parents, career choices and family tragedy. The main character, John Lee, chooses—to the dismay of his parents—to pursue filmmaking over law. As the members of the Jubilee Project point out, "A life without passion is not worth living."
It is no coincidence that there are parallels between "Dear Daniel" and the life stories of the members of the Jubilee Project. Lu's parents reacted to his filmmaking as "just a hobby" and not as a real career. As of late, Lu has seen a change of heart in his parents.
The Lees' parents are internet-savvy science professors. At first, their mother would discover Project Jubilee videos on YouTube and post comments such as "Get a life!" Now she is their manager.
Eddie Lee urged the crowd to find a passion because "life is not so long" and remarked, "Don't take yourself so seriously ... because everything is going to work out for the best. So be free, simple and joyful."
Despite their full-time jobs and locations in three different cities (Boston, New York and Washington D.C.), the three still manage to get together every couple of weeks. For three hours each week, they also have conference calls.
One of their more significant videos features the members using a microphone and camera to ask people, "What is the one thing you would like to change about the world?" One Brandeis student threw this question back to The Jubilee Project. Lee said he "would love to see our generation as civil rights leaders ... because almost every major change in history came through youth."
All in all, the Jubilee Project is "not about fame or selfish motivations," but is about hope. "Life is flashing before our eyes," Lu said. "Every single day is a day we have to take advantage of."