Though it has become a cliche: those who neglect the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat it, I’d like to open this month’s newsletter with the positive version. We can see farther than our predecessors by standing the shoulders of giants. This month, I want to talk about a local giant, Anne Mardick. I’ll also share with you a sneak behind the scenes peek at how to nurture a secular community, how you can directly participate in growing our community, and how you can get involved in our new multimedia group!
The Passing of Titan: Anne Mardick
It’s hard to start with sobering news. We’ve had several deaths lately that has been taking a progressive toll on our minds and hearts. Being an atheist with no expectations of an afterlife, there is little to say about the death of Anne Mardick, but let me tell you about the woman and her accomplishments in life.
The Appeal of Freedom and Mexican Food
I met Anne many years ago when I was still trying to figure out this whole atheism thing. Unsure of what I was or what to do about that, I used this newly-found web service called “Meetup” to find activities around the valley. An innocuously named “Americans United for the Separation of Church and State” group was meeting at a local mexican restaurant and I cautiously RSVP’d.
Parking for the establishment was in the rear and I entered and naively tiptoed down a hallway. I asked the hostess for the American’s United meeting and she tactfully pointed to the meeting room behind me. I sat down and met a few people as I waited for the meeting to start. A brunette woman diligently set up a powerpoint presentation on her laptop while Richard Miller, whom I had met while he was a speaker during one of the lunches at JB’s Restaurant with the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, fiddled with the projector to get it to appear perfectly on the pop-up backdrop. The presentation readied for primetime, she passed out pamphlets to everyone at the meeting.
As you may have guessed, the woman was Anne. She casually introduced herself at the start of the presentation. As she proceeded to talk, Anne opened my eyes to the dusty, antiquated machine that is our state legislature with her update on the bills and changes that were being proposed by our leaders that hurt religious freedom while representing itself as its savior. Anne was quick and direct. I liked her immediately. I went to just about every meeting after that.
Passionate. That’s the word. Anne had a fire in her that burned through the distractions and pivots. She was a verbal crucible allowing the impurities of convention, habit, and societal privilege to be safely burned away and dross cleaned off the top. I later learned that Anne had set up nearly everything in those meetings. She founded the local American’s United and Freedom From Religion chapters and ran them almost entirely by herself. Anne booked the space, created the presentations, booked the speakers, and coordinated with the national organizations. Every piece she touched and owned with a singular dedication to that to a darling offspring or finished master work of art. Not only did she frame her arguments and statements plainly and comprehensively, but also with a pragmatic and efficient compassion.
In just a few sentences, Anne made you feel understood and valid. With a masterful balance, Anne made you feel like a small piece of a larger organism while explaining how large of a role you as an insignificant cog of society can play on the local, state, and even national scene.
Let me be clear: Anne Mardick bootstrapped the grassroots secular political movement here in Phoenix. Ever the Pythian, Anne had the foresight to recognize and foster the next generation of voices in the local, national, and international secular movement. Each year, she has booked Roy Zimmerman to stop his magic musical comedy bus here in Phoenix and serenade us secularists in satirical songs, a duty we are honored to continue. Roy sent HSGP a touching sympathy letter to us about Anne, someone who has clearly made an impact on his life. He was not the only major talent she brought to the valley.
I remember meeting David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, for the first time in that little meeting room. He was selling his new book about being a firebrand atheist. I was able to meet a national idol in my own town because of Anne.
She booked Seth Andrews back when he was just starting his Thinking Atheist podcast on YouTube, which was before even I realized that I was an atheist. When Seth came back to visit HSGP last year, he recalled to me how she welcomed him to stay at her home. He recalled with a lingering surprise how he was greeted by a full-size skeleton seated at her dining room table. I never did get to ask her about the skeleton. Perhaps it was a curiosity or perhaps a gallows reminder of the ultimate fate we all share.
Anne had started building the foundations of our local and national conversation about what it is to be secular and irreligious.
Do not close the book on Anne just yet, dear readers. My stories are but stolen glance at an amazing and talented woman who I am honored to have met and whom I consider one of the founding pillars of all that we secular humanists, atheist, agnostics, and even believers who hold to true religious freedom hold dear. Though Anne has passed and has left no apparent successor, we cannot allow her momentum to dissipate.
Part of our mission here at The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, is to foster the secular community and matriculate the leaders of tomorrow. The torch may have dropped, but we will not let its light and the fires of Anne’s turn to ember and fade. Now is the time honor her legacy. Now is the time for the local American’s United and Freedom From Religion chapters to rise again and continue the fight for justice and equality. This is your time.
You are not alone. We leaders of the secular organizations throughout the valley stand ready to collaborate on the goal of a better tomorrow for all. With your help, we can make it happen. Get involved today.
The Humanist Society is honored to host the memorial services for Anne Mardick. Though it has been requested that there be no flowers or gifts, bring your stories. Please share with everyone the life of the irreplaceable, extraordinary individual that is Anne Mardick.
Please join us in celebration of the life and accomplishments of Anne Mardick in the afternoon of March 24, 2018 at the Humanist Community Center in Mesa, AZ. RSVP on Meetup today. Bring a favorite beverage and story to honor the great Anne Mardick.
Behind the Scenes: Community Upkeep
Building a community like Anne did is hard, but there’s also a lot of sustaining work, too. Each year, we board members create and approve a budget. We see all the costs in terms of dollars and human-hours to keep the building maintained. It’s been suggested by you, our members, to share where the money goes. As members, you are always welcome to sit in on our regular board meetings and take part in the discussions. However, as a convenience for you, we’ll get into some financials in this newsletter.
Our Treasurer, Chris Appleton, has done a spectacular job and has written an explanation of our affairs. I’ve reproduced his part below:
Treasurer’s Message by Chris Appleton
2017 Income and Expenses
In this newsletter I present and discuss an overview of our 2017 income and expenses.
Nearly all of our income comes directly from our members. Membership dues are a starting point, but we also depend upon additional donations as well as fundraising activities and events during the year. “Events” include Darwin Day lunch, Flying Spaghetti Monster dinner, Flat Earth breakfast and the Solstice Party. “Activity” income is donations received at Game Night or Inquiring Minds, as examples. Fundraising is income from breakfast and the programs at Bashas and Fry’s. In 2017 our income, after accounting for fundraising and event expenses, was $42,179. Thank you, members and supporters.
2017 presented us with some out of the ordinary expenses. We repaired our roof, our fire safety sprinkler system needed significant mandatory repairs, and we repaired one of our air conditioners. Thanks to several generous individual donors, we easily met our responsibilities and ended the year with a surplus.
“Outreach and Social Action” is an important expense category that encompasses our support for the Secular Coalition of Arizona, Camp Quest, and Gay Pride.
Expenses were $38,362 in 2017. If you have further questions, contact me at email@example.com.
Finally, I just wanted to remind you that board positions are unpaid. We serve the community because we believe in you, our members and what we can become and accomplish. The above chart makes it plain as day that our membership dues are unable to cover much more than a quarter of what it takes to run the community. It takes donors with vision like you to make this dream a reality. Thank you for continuing support. Thank you to our fellow volunteers who take ownership in this great experience.
Showing our Pride
The Phoenix Pride Festival and Parade are just around the corner! This year, pride falls on the weekend of April 7 & 8! As Humanists, we affirm the inherent dignity and value of our fellow humans without regard to sexual orientation or identity. Each year, we like to show our pride and support by hosting a booth at the Pride Festival. Our mission is to ensure that everyone in attendance knows that they have a community that will welcome them for who they are and not what they aren’t or how some parts of society think they should be.
In order to accomplish this mission, we need your help! Staffing the booth takes time and love. The more people we have to help, the lighter our collective burden will be. Come hang out with you fellow humanists at one of the greatest festivals in Phoenix while raising awareness of our community and the services we offer. As a volunteer, we make our exhibitor passes available to those who wish to help us staff the booth. We have limited access passes, so sign up to volunteer so you can be sure to get yours!
Thanks and we’ll see you at the festival!
Monday, Mar. 19 @ 7:00pm
Are you or somebody you know suffering from an addiction to alcohol, smoking, drugs, food, or something else? Are you looking for a secular support group for those addictions? We all know about other 12-step groups and the lack of a scientific basis for support, but what about programs for the non-believer? Introducing, SMART recovery!
Sunday, Mar. 25 @ 10:00pm
Weaving together humanist tenets, experiences as a trans individual, and the empowering effect of community, James tells his story of growth and the important place our community played in it.
Sunday, Apr. 8 @ 10:00am
Roger Naylor’s new book celebrates adventuring photographers. Travel writer Roger Naylor has released his latest book, The Amazing Kolb Brothers of Grand Canyon.
Thursday, Apr. 12 @ 6:00pm
Herb will speak about his book, “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt,” which describes his journey from Orthodox Judaism growing up in Philadelphia, to apathetic atheist, to accidental activist atheist when he moved to South Carolina. He will talk about his encounters with Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, and others when he ran for Governor of South Carolina. He will also discuss his latest book, “An Atheist Stranger in a Strange Religious Land,” a compendium of some of his writing for the Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Humanist, and other magazines and blogs.
Participate Study of Non-theists with a Community, chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift card
As a member or guest of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, you’re probably a non-theist and we’re a non-theistic community! Roy Speckhardt of The American Humanist Association needs your input! He’s putting together a dissertation and needs raw data from awesome people like you. He needs quite a few people to participate. It only takes a few minutes and is completely anonymous.
After you’ve participated you may optionally sign up for a chance to win a $20 gift card. HSGP is not running the gift card contest. We are not affiliated with Amazon, Inc. No endorsement by Amazon is expressed or implied.
We Humanists are now in full production mode for all of our Sunday Speaker events. If you can’t make one of our meetings, don’t fret! Go to The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix channel right now and subscribe! Don’t forget to click the bell icon to get notifications when we post new videos or when we stream live. We don’t do this too frequently, but only when we’re holding an event.
Creating the YouTube Channel Trailer
Now that we have our brand-spanking new channel, we need a trailer that will showcase our community center, speakers, and membership. We need a talented team to help produce, direct, star in and edit the trailer. This is a great opportunity to get more involved and showcase your talents! Contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org today!
If you like what you read above and like what we do, please consider making a donation. If you wish to become a sustaining force for good, please consider joining our fast-growing community by becoming a member. HSGP is 100% funded by donors like you. Every little bit helps build the secular community here in the valley. Thank you for being a part of the future!