A little while back, we held a storytelling night to help out the folks at Mellow Pages, Brooklyn’s only user-sourced library. Despite throwing our immense influence behind the fundraiser, Mellow Pages fell short of their goal of covering one year of rent and other expenses. Still, they didn’t close, and while they’ve been looking for new solutions, one controversial benefactor has stepped forward: none other than gigantic oil company ExxonMobil. The question facing Mellow Pages now is, do they take the money.
The founders of the library, Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson, took to FanZine to explain their dilemma. Some time after the IndieGoGo effort had ended, they say they got an email from ExxonMobil offering them ten times what they had raised in their fundraising efforts. According to an email they sent their members, it was money that could fund three years worth of operations in their studio. Still, they weren’t sure, so they threw the question to their members. They got over 40 responses from their members, imploring them to either take the money or telling them not to, because it would be an endorsement of ExxonMobil and their values. Of course, this could also be yet another strange prank, similar to the time that someone told them Kanye West would be showing up to film a video. Hopefully they researched this email a little more thoroughly.
It’s a tough place for a place like Mellow Pages to find itself, and a reminder that the selling out arguments of the 90s will never truly die. If they don’t take the money, it’s a principled stand, but you can’t pay your rent with principles. If they do take it, short of it coming with no strings attached, they’ll find themselves in the portfolio of good deeds that ExxonMobil collects in response to people who call them faceless soulless planet-destroying monsters. Of course, if the money doesn’t come with a non-disparagement agreement, there’s certainly nothing stopping them, or wrong with, taking the money up front and then holding monthly workshops on how to convert your car to run on used vegetable oil.