Exclusive Interview: Help Jae Help Creator Jae Rodriguez Wants Allies To Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

There are many marginalized people out there who need help, but sometimes it can be hard connecting with others to get that needed leg up. This is particularly true with people who are at the center of several marginalized communities, such as queer trans people of color (QTPOC). One person who knows the types of struggles QTPOC face on a daily basis is Jae Rodriguez. Full disclosure here: I went to high school with Jae and I consider them a good friend of mine. I’m glad that Jae has been able to turn their experiences into fuel to help others find an outlet for support.

Jae has started Help Jae Help, an initiative that highlights the crowdfunding campaigns created by marginalized people in order to give them more exposure to allies who want to help bring about positive change to people’s lives. Currently, Help Jae Help is up and running on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a website coming soon.

How Help Jae Help works is simple: You follow the Facebook page or other social media accounts, take a look at the featured fundraisers, all of which are made and managed by the fundraisers in need. You find a campaign (or several!) you want to support, click the campaign’s link, and then you’re taken to that fundraiser’s direct campaign page so you can give directly to that person. For instance, if I went to Help Jae Help and wanted to give to a someone, I’d click the featured link to that person’s GoFundMe campaign and I’d able to give directly to them.

What Help Jae Help provides is a quick and easy way to find out how you can support others. Cutting out the middleman is something that aligns with Jae’s mission to create more hope and caring in today’s harsh world. I was very excited to be able to catch up with Jae and learn more about their initiative. You’ll read how they came up with Help Jae Help and what they hope the initiative evolves into as time goes on.

Monique Jones: What is Help Jae Help?

Jae Rodriguez: Help Jae Help is my new project where I essentially connect accomplices to marginalized folx who need money, specifically money for a fundraising campaign. My hope for Help Jae Help is that…if folx want to help and be in solidarity with marginalized people then…I hope folx focus more on people asking for help and answering the call.

MJ: What inspired you to start Help Jae Help?

JR: As you know, I did a fundraising campaign for my top surgery. I ran the campaign for about three weeks…and I know that from watching other people do fundraising campaigns, it can take a lot out of you…In three weeks, I raised $6000, but it was a lot. It was very emotionally demanding and to an extent physically demanding, just to be on like that all the time. After raising all that money, I wanted to feel relieved and happy, and I was, but mostly I was exhausted and the immediate feeling was relief that the campaign was over.

I don’t have any formal fundraising experience…but I helped with fundraisers to an extent. In grad school, we took classes for business and entrepreneurship for artists and I think a lot of things I learned a lot of things I’ve applied for my fundraising. Those principles and skills are very hard to develop, for me, anyway, and I wouldn’t have had access to those things if it wasn’t for being able to go to grad school, all these layers of educational privilege.

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…After [the campaign], being so drained, I was like, I’m exhausted and I have all the resources to do this, and I successfully met my fundraising goal. I know a lot of queer trans POC don’t have all of the resources or don’t have the time towards managing their own campaign. Even the planning for the campaign requires a lot of energy that people who are marginalized really don’t have. What can I do to help people raise money? I realized, I actually enjoy doing the fundraising, it was just exhausting because it was about myself.

MJ: What are some issues you think there are when it comes to marginalized people trying to have a successful fundraiser? What are some of the institutionalized problems or systematic problems that you think marginalized people face when they’re trying to raise money?

JR: In a system sense, there are plenty of organizations who have money to give to marginalized folx. The problem is accessing and figuring out who those organizations are and how you qualify. Maybe there’s a time limit–by the time people realize they need something, the offer might be gone. Even applying for those things takes time, something that marginalized people don’t necessarily have, or anybody, to be honest, because you’re working jobs, you’re tired and you’re also trying to do research and contact these organizations and put together an application.

It’s also tough to figure out how much money you need and for what and when and marginalized folx, particularly multiple-marginalized folx, have a lot of financial insecurity and it’s difficult to say you might need in three months’ time. Maybe something bad happens and the money you had set aside for your first and last month’s rent for this new place you need money to move to so you can be closer to your job. That fell through because you now have to pay hospitalization fees.

That’s just from a system sense. When it comes to actually campaigning or simply asking people to spot you some cash, maybe 20 dollars, 50 dollars, it’s difficult because a lot of people that one might trust or are safe to ask are also in the same boat. Queer trans POC spaces that I’m in, most of them are online so I’m not actually physically close to a lot of my friends who are queer trans POC. We’re all over the United States or the world…A lot of folx that I follow are sharing other multiple-marginalized folx’ Venmo, CashApp or Paypal links and are asking anywhere from five to eight thousand dollars for all sorts of things. And while I think it’s really important and really good that we are able to share amongst ourselves and across our networks, I think one of the biggest hurdles is getting all that information to people who actually have money without putting them in a tight spot.

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It’s basically queer trans POC helping queer trans POC a lot of the time. We help each other out, that’s just what we do, but it’s just not really sustainable…If you are actually interested in helping someone in their actual life, you need to show up for them and a lot of times, that looks like giving them five dollars, 10 dollars so they can have lunch, something that I think is incredibly valuable, but something that people take for granted, especially people who have never experienced food insecurity. There are so many different problems that I think people getting over themselves and giving money directly to folx would solve.

MJ: What do you envision for Help Jae Help in the future?

JR: I envision, as there are more featured fundraisers, that in the process of how I’m recruiting people to donate or asking people donate, that we’re going to find a balance in supporting people across the country and around the world as well as supporting people across the street from you…I think to cook someone food so they can eat or give them five dollars so they can get a coffee, check in with your actual neighbors. Ask your friends if they’re doing okay. And if you realize you’re not friends with multiple-marginalized people, ask yourself why is that? Because we exist. We’re around.

…I feel like the network I’m connected to [in Boston] is national and international, and we’re always asking each other for help, but where’s the help that we need in our immediate vicinity? I don’t know, It’s very sparse. A lot of my friends who are QTPOC feel like they can’t trust people who are nearby who are not also QTPOC. There’s very real abuse and violence and trauma that people are experiencing in their real lives. I was thinking about how can that be addressed? I just keep wondering where are the people who want to be accomplices? Where are they in your immediate community?

I think also, too, that social media and the internet makes everything seem different than what it actually is. I think there’s a difference between people sharing their status about standing in solidarity and actually standing up in real life. I guess that’s also where Help Jae Help is trying to connect. I’m trying to connect with folx who say they are accomplices or allies or want to be, but aren’t doing the work they could be for whatever reasons. My hope is that Help Jae Help first and foremost helps marginalized folx but also helps people practice being accomplices and putting their money where their mouth is, maybe starting with someone they don’t know and maybe they’ll start connecting with other folx in their community about what they can do.♦

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.