Navalny is dead. Long live Navalny.

Navalny is dead. Long live Navalny.
A wall on Inspiration Alley, Boise, Idaho.

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You’re likely aware that Russian human rights champion Alexei Navalny died recently in a Siberian prison.

This is a story about Navalny and other champions of social impact, intertwined with the creative ways business can create social and environmental impact using the experiential power of art.

In 2020, we launched the Inspiration Alley Project, large-scale murals painted by local artists on our building in Boise to honor icons of social and environmental justice.  We started with two, Maya Moore and Colin Kaepernick. We got a positive response from the community with the exception of a few Kaepernick haters. Several months later, honored Dolores Huerta and Malala Yousafzai with murals. I paid for the initial murals, which were painted by the talented duo of Solomon Hawk Sahlein and Collin Pfeiffer of Sector Seventeen.

In 2022, I wanted to engage the community more deeply in the project and launched a crowdfunder to add new murals. We sought to create murals for seven more heroes, from around the world, representing different ethnicities and causes. The community responded and we raised more than $20,000. This allowed us to wrap the entire building in murals and seed the first mural beyond our office building, this one on the side of Red Bench Pizza in Boise's Bench neighborhood.

One of the new murals honored Navalny, who had returned to Russia with the promise of imprisonment upon arrival. I’d like to think that when faced with similar challenges, and consequences, I’d respond in a similar way. But the truth is, I don’t believe I would have the courage to act in the way Navalny did or many of these champions.

This past week, the large mural with his likeness has become a makeshift memorial with flowers and messages of support for Navalny, his memory, and for human rights. In a small way, it’s helped people in our community deal with this tragic loss – and, I hope, sent its own micro-burst of positive vibrations into the universe in support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Inspiration Alley murals are visited frequently and have made impacts in other ways. A class from Foothills School makes an annual pilgrimage to view the murals and write reports on social and environmental leaders. ESPN included the Maya Moore mural in its 30 for 30 documentary of her life. I’m told the mural of Dolores Huerta has been especially meaningful to the Hispanic community and others here.

Students from Foothills School.

The champions on Inspiration Alley all made significant personal sacrifices to serve others in pursuit of social and environmental justice. Some of the honorees are famous, and others are little known. Navalny gave his life, joining another of our honorees, Homero Gómez González, who was murdered for his work protecting monarch butterflies in Mexico's El Rosario butterfly preserve.

If you’re reading this newsletter, you likely strive to intentionally create social and environmental impact through your business or your career. One way to accomplish this is to simply paint it on a wall and let art’s magic do its work. In the case of Navalny's passing, it acts as a salve for pain and, I hope, an inspiration to others in the figure for human rights.

Alexei Navalny is dead. Long live Navalny.

Homero Gómez González is dead. Long live Gómez.

Godspeed, friends.


P.S. Others honored by the Inspiration Alley Project are Chef José Andrés, Mitsuye Endo, Rosalie Fish, Dolly Parton, Greta Thunberg.

💬 Quote of the Week

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel

💥 Quick Hits

Alexei Navalny inspired me to start Pussy Riot - A great audio clip from Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova on the inspirational legacy of her friend. Listen here.

🤔 Trivia Time

It's a Leap Year, friends, which means day after tomorrow is Leap Day, February 29th. So, how about a little once-every-four-years trivia?

Which of the following superheroes was born on a Leap Day?

• Elektra

• Batman

• Incredible Hulk

• Wonder Woman

• Superman

Today's trivia answer can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.‌‌‌‌‌

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Trivia Answer

Turns out that a Leap Year birthday is a Super Birthday - February 29th is Superman's birthday (which means that this year Superman turns 86, or 21-1/2, depending on how you look at it.)

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