Jerry Ashton

Jerry Ashton

Jerry Ashton walked into Occupy Wall Street in 2011 as a debt collector, and walked out of that experience two years later as a debt forgiver – literally rethinking his profession to co-found RIP Medical Debt in 2014 to reverse the ills caused by that industry. Six years later at the time of his retirement, his charity had successfully abolished over $2.7 billion in unpayable medical debt for over 1,800,000 Americans across the U.S. As of this writing, the total debt abolished is over $5 billion over almost 4 million people.

Jerry founded Let's Rethink This in late 2020 with the intention of seeing that lightning can strike twice. This time as a “B” Corp and not a charity, Jerry and his co-creators intend to bring about $1 billion in social and economic good this time through a unique Searchlight/Spotlight/Ignite model.

Hospital Costs and Treatment - Anything Funny About This? Dr. Marion Mass Doesn’t Think So. That’s Why She is in The Funnies!

Hospital Costs and Treatment - Anything Funny About This? Dr. Marion Mass Doesn’t Think So. That’s Why She is in The Funnies!

Until Let’s Rethink This came along, one of the most overlooked ways of making the public both aware, educated and ready to take action on a social problem is to turn the problem into a cartoon and someone solving that problem into a “S/Hero.”

Not to simplify, but to “pic-tify.” You know, the usual picture-is-a-thousand-words idea. This is the approach we adopted in featuring Dr. Marion Mass as our superhero #2 in a series that we will be publishing. (The first hero: Clayton Banks of Silicon Harlem.)

Given the egregious faults found within America’s dysfunctional medical system, and the attention that Dr. Mass has attracted as a physician-advocate in her rethinking of America’s healthcare, we couldn’t have found a better (almost militant) candidate.

Dr. Mass is co-founder and Executive VP of The Practicing Physicians of America, an organization that advocates for patients by – what else – advocating for the profession of medicine. As they describe themselves: “We advocate that physicians (be able to) practice medicine that is in the best interest of their patients and not for the benefit of special interest groups that have taken over medicine.”

Hmmm, now who could those “usual suspects” be?

Easy enough to tick off on the fingers of one hand: Big Pharma, Big Hospitals, Big Insurance, Big Lobbyists and Big Business.

Almost automatically, these groups fall into the “too big to fail” category – but not in the eyes of Dr. Mass and the physician/supporters she has accumulated along the way.


Dr. Mass is a pediatrician in the Philadelphia region where she practiced in hospital Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care settings. A graduate of Duke University Medical School and trained in pediatrics at Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago, she has been writing about life inside medicine and has been published in the WSJ, Washington Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as guested on radio shows and BBC broadcasts.

Oh yes, and if the legislators and lawmakers are brave enough to learn from her, she advises lawmakers at the state and national level.

The Artist and “Cartooning”

Vic Guiza, recently added to the LRT co-creation team, has his own credentials which comprise 30+ years of experience in rendering graphic novels/images that catch the eye and attention in a delightful fashion.

We can start with Disney, The Simpsons (Bongo Comics), Marvel Comics / Upper Deck and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not to mention the different awards earned for his work as a childrens’ books illustrator and that Vic holds a Master of Product Arts from Disney Consumer Products.

Everyone knows the basic plot of a comic or graphic novel. There is a s/hero, a wrong that needs to be righted, and an outcome that only someone with superpowers could possibly bring about.

That’s where LRT introduces the super-artist to the super-candidate – to take on the “Too Big To Battle” forces that are costing our country its very blood and treasure.

That’s where the magic of art and the education born of wisdom is put to its destined purpose: change-making.

And, it is you, the reader, who are the ones to make this happen. If making a difference is embedded in your genes, you arrived at the right place. Join us, and join in.

Clayton Banks – Inaugural “LRT Super Hero” Vanquishes the Digital Divide

The gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.

Clayton Banks – Inaugural “LRT Super Hero” Vanquishes the Digital Divide

“In this day and age, high-quality internet service is a necessity, not a luxury,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio when he announced this month a major milestone in the city’s effort to bring new internet connectivity options to its residents.

“By investing in broadband infrastructure” the mayor declared, “we drive forward a recovery for all of us – both by delivering much-needed resources to NYCHA families and making significant progress on our commitment to close the city’s digital divide.”

Five ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) were awarded executed license agreements to bring this into being. Silicon Harlem and its CEO, Clayton Banks, received one of these coveted licenses.

“Silicon Harlem applauds New York City for taking a bold Broadband commitment to ensure everyone is connected,” Clayton said in acknowledging the contract.

“We must continue to break down barriers to broadband access for lower-income communities, knowing that doing so will enable multiple generations of all New Yorkers to become more fully engaged in the world. Silicon Harlem is thrilled to provide new and innovative ways to deliver the internet to every home without having cost being a barrier,” he added.

It was a long and winding road that brought Clayton to this high point.

From growing up on military bases where his Marine Corps father was stationed to graduating from a California state university with a double major in communications and business administration to landing his first job at Showtime and becoming an executive there, working at Sega Channel, on to Comedy Central where he teamed up to launch South Park, an entrepreneur stint in technology and finally starting Silicon Harlem (SH) in 2014. Phew!

In the years since Clayton has taken this dream of an educational and data center and brought it into reality. At this point, SH is recognized as a major center for uptown technology and innovation.

And now, a Super Hero in his own right

Thanks to Ted Schulman, one of LRT’s co-creators, a meeting was arranged between Clayton and Jerry Ashton in the spring of 2021. They realized they shared the same vision – a world in which technology would become the sustainable engine of community.

Clayton set about to open a presence on the LRT site and the two looked for other ways in which to attract the attention – and the capital – that would be required to help fund the task of installing broadband and other services in Harlem and beyond.

The fruit of that collaboration is the very first LRT “Rethinking” Hero realized in a comic panel featuring Clayton as a Hero in his community. The strip was created by another LRT discovery, Victor Guiza of Mexico City who brings to the table a long and successful career as an illustrator and comic strip artist. Even that introduction was created by an LRT co-creator, Cary Harrison who is Vic’s agent and himself a successful radio personality.

All of this, discovery, revealing, and propelling people to unexpected successes exemplifies the LRT main drivers to bring attention to our featured partners and communities: Searchlight. Spotlight. Ignite.

Per our formula, Clayton and Silicon Harlem have been searched out and now in the spotlight…can Ignition be far behind? Stay tuned. This story is a page-turner.

LRT’s Inaugural Artist – Ernie Paniccioli

It is with the greatest sense of appreciation that on the debut of the Let’s Rethink This (LRT) website we present famed Hip Hop photographer, Ernie Paniccioli as our Creative Community’s Impact Artist of the month.

It has been declared that “If Brother Ernie has not photographed you, then you are not Hip-Hop.”

But that is not the story that Brother Ernie wants to leave behind.

“I want to be known for the breadth of my work beyond Hip Hop. I want there to be an awareness of my global, racial, political and social activism,” he states emphatically. “The press is ‘cut-and-paste’ lazy. They will put you in a box, stick you on a little postcard – and that is deadly to the person we truly are.”

For those who are not familiar with this legend, a few background snippets:

  • Activist as well as artist
  • American of Cree and Italian descent
  • Inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame
  • Spokesman for the Temple of Hip Hop at the United Nations Hip Hop Peace Conference
  • Featured 2021 Speaker International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show
  • Nearly 20,000 digital versions of photographs by Ernie Paniccioli are stored in the Cornell University archives, providing an unprecedented visual history of Hip Hop culture of the 1980’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.
  • His work has appeared in publications such as Vibe, The Source, Rolling Stone and The Village Voice.
  • Author of Who Shot Ya?: Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography (2002) and Hip-Hop at the End of the World: The Photography of Brother Ernie (2018).
  • His lens has captured legends LL Cool, Run DMC, KRS-One, Queen Latifah, X Clan, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G., “Puff Daddy” Combs and so many more.

NFT’s As Example

Ernie, with the help and guidance of his daughter and Director of the Paniccioli Group, Melissa Paniccioli, is exploring the world of Non-Fungible Tokens – and he is excited.

“I and other artists of all mediums need to get involved and put our work out on an auction channel like Open Sea and elsewhere to get experience as well as earn from our work in a way we might never have imagined.” is his take.

“Economically, it expands the artist’s ability to survive. For the first time ever, they can benefit from residual revenue should their art be sold and resold again (each sale includes a stipulation that a percentage on each sale is paid to the artists even when sold by new purchasers.)”

“Think of the expanded financial ability for artists to give back to their community,” he continues. “We use the technology of rockets and satellites to expand our ability to solve things. To rethink them. In a like manner, Monies generated by NFT’s can help with social problems like homelessness,” Ernie says. “Certainly, a donation of even a small share in the sale of a digitized piece is helpful. But it does something more important. It brings awareness of the problem.”

“So, when the time comes that I release an NFT of my art or photography to my Hip-Hop community, it will also be an attention-getter that will illuminate my other work,” he adds. A diamond has many facets – and each needs to be shined up to show value. We activists/public figures are no different.”

“An artist has to constantly rethink their life and their work in that fashion,” Ernie instructs. Whether through my work in “Indian Country” (he is of Cree ancestry) public speaking or educating the youth – I will continue to redefine myself as long as I draw a breath.”

Life Thought Hopeless as a Refugee – Rethought Powerfully as a Journalist

What Heroes Do

Life Thought Hopeless as a Refugee – Rethought Powerfully as a Journalist

Thakur Prasad Mishra – known as “TP” professionally, in media, and among his friends, has a past few of Our Newspaper’s readers would have chosen willingly even though it has a happy outcome. One of those is being selected as one of our “rethink” heroes.

This is likely the first in our series where the supporting article’s value is only that of providing the details. The cartoon by Let’s Rethink This artist Vic Guiza tells the story quite well.

So, the background.

Have you ever heard of the South Asian nation of Bhutan, supposedly known to the outside world as one of the happiest nations on the planet? Or of the brutal regime that drove TP’s people to flee that country? Did you know the rise of the dictatorship was driven by the 1988 census?

When the ruling “Ngalop” population learned that they were on the way to becoming the minority, they instituted their cultural traditions like the "National Norm" to preserve their culture and marginalize non-natives. They went so far as to require the national dress code of their culture to be worn during business hours and even removed Nepali as a language of instruction in schools to preserve theirs as the national language.

The resultant “one nation, one people” policy, made ethnic pluralism an impossibility.

The horrors began, and TP’s family felt all of them. Escaping the country and living in refugee camps was the only choice left if they wanted themselves and their families to live.

A refugee’s long road to resettlement

The stories of these dispossessed people caught the attention of a New York Times reporter in December 2010, and TP – then 26 years old and having survived almost two decades of refugee camps – was interviewed in Raleigh, N.C.

“It’s a tough decision, trying to move from one place to another,” he said then. “But obviously when you compare the life, it’s better.” Today, ten years further on, he is married and the father of a daughter he touchingly welcomes to her first day of school in this article he penned for Let’s Rethink This’s, Our Newspaper

Culture shock, lack of English language skills, and the challenge of navigating the subways in New York City were all, very difficult. Although he had worked as a journalist back in Nepal, he was happy to take manual jobs.

About that journalism…

It was by the grace of an Australian contingent that visited TP’s refugee camp which singled him out for his writing skills and gave him an award – that’s all it took to confirm for TP that journalism was a way to bring attention to the plight of those whose lands had been stripped from them.

TP studied up to the tenth grade inside refugee-camp-based schools run by a non-profit organization called the CARITAS-Nepal. Classrooms were crowded and lessons were often taught by unskilled teachers with minimal training. There were no libraries, computers, or labs in camp schools.

But, that is in the past. Where are his interests now?

Who stands with Bhutanese refugees in Nepal?

“It is not too late to repatriate the remaining 7,000 Bhutan nationals still in camps in eastern Nepal,” he says…reaching for his computer keyboard to expand on a story he published in the Nepali Times in 2019.

Because that’s what heroes do.

Reasserting the Role of Citizen Journalism – The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Countdown Day 10 to Occupy Wall Street’s 10th Birthday

Reasserting the Role of Citizen Journalism – The Occupied Wall Street Journal

It had to happen in 2011. There had to be an alternative rag to main street newspapers which were doing a terrible and largely biased job of reporting on the Occupy phenomenon. But, so brazen a theft! To actually expropriate the moniker of the Robber Barons’ favorite mouthpiece and bend this new iteration towards financial news you would never find in it or elsewhere.

The WSJ itself recognized the importance of the movement and of this new publication, notably ignoring the likely trademark infringement. “Occupy Wall Street Has History on Its Side – Previous Protests Haven’t Lasted as Long – or Accomplished as Much,” headlined its October 20, 2011 issue.

As the Museum of the City of New York reported, “We are the 99% expressed precisely what [OWS] is fighting,” The Occupied Wall Street Journal explained. “It is fighting the astonishingly unfair distribution of wealth in our country … It is fighting the reality that Wall Street and Capitol Hill are one and the same.

Bravo, Anonymous

Well, not exactly anonymous. Real Occupiers with real names were putting their journalist creds behind the launch of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. One of those people,  Priscilla Grim, aka grimwomyn, I managed to collar for a story (as well as a radio interview for an internet station operating at the time).

As I described in that radio piece, I first encountered Priscilla in September 2011 without knowing it when I picked up the maiden issue of the OWSJ at Zuccotti Park. At that time, she was a founding editor and Director and Project Manager of Occupied Media.

A week or so later when I did snag a personal meeting, I found her modest about her pioneering role as she largely credited others, such as Justine Tunney who founded the site and co-founder of the journal, Jed Brandt.

There was nothing modest about the work performed by the OWSJ in getting out the word. There were the General Assemblies happening in Tompkins Square Park, the daily skirmishes with New York’s Finest, features on the people carrying signs, the “hard grounders” who slept on the Zuccotti concrete, fundraising and handling media inquiries. Oh yes, and the sharp-edged articles pounding away at Wall Street’s iniquities.

I’ll take some credit for being a tad omniscient when I then remarked that “only time will truly confirm (OWSJ’s) importance, but it deserves noting that many museum curators around the country are avidly collecting copies of the OWS Journal (among other such items such as signs and campaign buttons) in anticipation – years from now – of the historical relevance of the Occupy Movement and its major figures.”

Ten years forward, Occupiers are celebrating their movement and its historical – and current – relevance. As fate would have it, Priscilla is now a co-creator along with me and a handful of others of where she serves as editor-in-chief of Our Newspaper.

No one knows how many people will physically show up at Occupy Wall Street this coming Friday, September 17, or recreate a few of the many Occupy encampments around the U.S. and the globe – at one point estimated at over 80 countries, 900 cities, and 600 communities.

We could be surprised. The organizers have always been known to be tight-lipped, but very effective, in their planning. You can be sure of this: those who show up this time will be seasoned, savvy and likely ready to even more vigorously tackle the wrongs that a decade later are yet to be righted.

Is it time for Occupy 2.0?

This story originally appeared on LinkedIn


The Environmental Movement and the Greening of Occupy – Ted Schulman as the Town Crier

Countdown Day 9 to Occupy Wall Street’s 10th Birthday

The Environmental Movement and the Greening of Occupy – Ted Schulman as the Town Crier

People who are just now awakening to the very real horror of climate change should have listened to Occupy Wall Street. Occupiers were raising that warning flag almost from the beginning. But, as was true of many of the alarms raised by OWS, it was dismissed with a yawn. This may be to their/our everlasting regret…however long we last.

Ted Schulman can be credited at being at the vanguard of eco-awareness and for promoting the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit held in Brazil in June 2012. He was an unlikely candidate, given his being a member of the Mad Men culture celebrated by HBO; he was a group manager for the TBWA\Chiat\Day global ad agency. Yes, martinis and all.

(For those not familiar with Rio+20, this was the historic 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development – UNCED - held in Rio de Janeiro. It has been acknowledged as a key milestone in placing sustainable development as a top priority for the international community.)

Living in the Wall Street area, it was easy for him to walk two blocks to be one of the very first citizens of the Zuccotti Park world of Occupy. Being someone who understood both business and societal needs (his degree is in Social Anthropology) and one who had honed his media and tech skills at the agency, he was there to establish order “with people 20 years my junior” and took part in creating the OWS TechOps group and was instrumental in writing Open Source into the principles of OWS.

This skill came out of his creating an award-winning interactive tech demonstration project at The Learning Center at Ellis Island and modeling HarlemNYC as an online community as a Federal Empowerment Zone. Yes, I know. Today real old news and forgotten, but cutting-edge stuff back in the day.

Tree Huggers Meet Wall Street Bashers

In an accompanying HuffPost article to the above interview, How Green is My Occupy? I opined that this conjoining of the still-fledgling Occupy Movement with the veterans of the environmental movement (now gaining its second breath and traction) would be billed by MSM as “Tree Huggers Meet Wall Street Bashers.”

Listen carefully to this interview in which Ted weaves together the two worlds of climate and financial concerns.

Being both under-reported and poorly reported, the struggles to save our planet as well as our economic well-being by both #Occupy and #Green were met with tepid enthusiasm or even resistance.

Will there be an OWS/Climate +20 in 2031? Will we have become “woke” enough to finally carry through on making the critical changes in our thinking about the Green world we all need to survive? Or will we continue to the path of extinction?

If that happens, it won’t be because of the lessons given us by the OWS movement; it will be because they were ignored.

Story originally published on LinkedIn

Let's Rethink This is licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) 4.0 License


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