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Questioning everything is the supposed holy grail of law school. Or any kind of school at that. Cynicism, criticism, multi-perspective-ism…you go through all kinds of “isms”. Professors are always encouraging us to argue about issues, raise our voices, and take nothing at face value. Phew! All that “university” jazz.

Sometimes, I get tired of it all though. A Burn out.

Is there ever a time when we’re not being subjected to opinions? Is it a race? I sit in class and wonder, is it such a crime to want to be a “passive listener” instead of the “active participator” once in a while? With all this information and expression overexposure, I fear, we’ve reached a point, where silence is inadvertently taken as a symbol of lack of intelligence. This all comes off as hypocritical, since I’m venting out my frustration here, on a public forum. I know. Somebody please sue me.

One of the psychologists that I encountered during the post earthquake phase told me it’s a symptom of survivor’s guilt. Anger, and feeling lost. Pointlessness. There are so many problems in the world, and you’re trying so hard to make a difference, and you’re so tired that you just want to ship yourself to an island somewhere, with a basket of cookies and a book. Maybe some wine wouldn’t be so bad either. An escape, a legitimate escape.

I really don’t know where all of this babbling is coming from. One minute I was writing about the epic debate we had at seminar class today, over the legalization of abortion. Then I logged into facebook, and there’s all kinds of posts on the legalization of gay marriages or the aid that’s coming in or not coming into Nepal. I check my assignments. Damn, I had to read about the pros and cons of euthanasia, and sex education and ethnicity based federalism and so forth. Talk about a headache. So what do I do? Google cute cat videos. Cute baby videos. Pictures of trees. And oranges.

Why am I writing this out? Or posting? Defeating my own arguments about over exposure to the randomest of the opinions? Maybe it’s to reassure myself that it’s ok to be tired once in a while. To admit that you’re only human. That the problems in the society terrify you, that it takes effort to put up a brave face and work to smoothen out the sharp edges of society. I know, that when I wake up tomorrow, I will want to revisit that abortion issues, and LGBTI rights, and need of sex education, and politics, and activism, and advocacy. But I also know, it’s equally important to not tire one out. To not get so caught up in world’s bigger pictures that you forget the exhilaration that comes from doing normal quirky stuff. Like saying stuff instead of things.

So until I get recharged, I want to look at cats and babble self absorbedly. If any of you folks feeling the same, cheers! Shared misery is half misery. Maybe we’ll watch “Into the Wild”, and celebrate how we feel like a rebel for not wanting to be rebels tonight. Just so that we can wake up tomorrow, and charge back into the action. Amen!

 

 

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The word “refugee” has meant different things to me, at different points in my life.

Credit to the few  months of refugee law classes, I can now quote the definition of the term, from memory. A mosaic of images, and words…the Cartagena Declaration, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Lhotshampas, Rawanda, UNHCR…flash across my mind, in a blur. I smile to myself; at the heaps of information, facts, data, and definitions that I now know; happy at how my comprehension of refugees has garnered that “professional-academic” touch.  “Refugees…people with a well-founded fear of persecution, because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” I recite to myself. I sound like such a law student. It makes me feel proud at times, and then, at times, so very, very disappointed.  Nostalgic. And Doubtful.

Choosing to study refugee law wasn’t an academic or career-oriented choice, it was a personal one. I am not a refugee. I do not have all the facts about the various burning issues of refugees, straightened out. Yet, the impact that refugees have had in shaping my personality and values is monumental.

Up until five months ago, the term refugee produced a very different mental picture for me. Rebecca, Anne Frank, Ezra, Sundara, Amir, Henry Sir, Susan… all heroes, some in fiction, some world renown, and some unsung.

Rebecca is a refugee. I came to know her through a chapter on my value education book, in the 5th grade. My teacher had recited a poem written by her, entitled “Always Have a Dream”. She’d then explained about what refugees were, the hardships they were forced to endure, how we should learn from their strengths, and why we should count our blessings. I don’t remember which country she had taken refuge on, or which country she had been persecuted from. I don’t remember her picture imprinted across my value education book, nor do I remember the facts. But I’ll never forget how she made me feel. I went home and copied her poem onto my journal, and I have it safe with me till today. Her story was my first ever taste of exposure to the atrocities prevalent in the world, to wars, statelessness, and homelessness. I keep wondering how an eleven year old girl, rendered an orphan and refugee at such a tender age, could write such a positive piece? Where did that resilience come from?

Rebecca’s story peaked my interest in refugees and wars. Given my penchant for novels, I chose to explore those unchartered territories through novels, rather than newspapers. I learned about the Jewish refugees and the Holocaust through the Diary of Anne Frank. The plight of those internally displaced, due to the atomic bombings in Nagasaaki and Hiroshima, is the story I lived through Ezra in “Phoenix Rising”. I met the Khmer Rouge, lived the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, and became a refugee in America through Sundara’s eyes in “Children of the River”. The Afghan war and refugees were introduced to me by Amir in “The Kite Runner”, and Liela in “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.

Then came the transition years in school, when we had refugees as classmates and teachers. Most of the books I’d read, painted refugees as these people bound to catch your attention, and that too, for all the wrong reasons. Be it the look of fear and helplessness in their eyes, or the cultural shock evident in their faces, their shabby clothes, their foreign accent or their malnourished bodies. It was an altogether different experience to find oneself in the company of refugees who’ve refused to let their legal status define their persona. I never knew Susan and Henry Sir were Bhutanese refugees, until they left school for resettlement in the U.S.A. Because I identified refugees as victims of persecution, I always expected them to act as victims. I now realize how much of a childish and demoralizing view that was. There will always be people in the world who’ve been subjected through atrocities, be it refugees, or be it any other vulnerable party. And it is our duty to assist them. However, there’s a very fine line between sympathy and empathy, and not all people who’ve been victimized will want, or be appreciative of both. Learning to respect the dignity of people who’ve had their rights and lives violated, is another important lesson I learnt through refugees.

I’ve always had the habit of orienting myself to reality through fiction. That’s the path I chose with regard to refuges. Maybe that direction then, is the source of my discomfort now. It’s such an inexplicably strange feeling to sit in class and discuss refugees with legal objectivity, when I’ve shared such an emotional attachment with all these people. I say people. And not fictional characters. Because, a book lover like me, tends to grow as much with people in books, as with people outside them. It’s quite a transition for me, to learn to visualize refugees as a collective term, a concept, rather than as Rebecca or Anne or Sundara.

What scares me is if there’ll come a day in time, when I’ll start viewing refugees as just one of the plethora of issues challenging the world. Like surgeons who become so attuned to surgery that they start seeing people as mere bodies. Like laureates who spend hours trying to find hidden rhetoric, metaphors and similes in even the simplest and most unadultered forms of expressions. However, like all “what ifs”, that question is the kind, whose answer I’ll have to wait to find out.

 

 

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The world has always been the social place for all human being. From the origin till now; it has not changed it’s phase neither for men nor women. The discrimination of men and women had only been set by the society we live in. Few of the people in the society have rooted their thoughts on the discrimination of women so deep. But facing every difficulties and struggling; women has always proved themselves at their best.

The world is never perfect; as we all know that. Likewise; Nepal also has hypocrite who has dominative thoughts on women. Most of the people within the city also did had that sort of thoughts until the empowerment of women after the disaster in April 25 take place in Nepal. When Nepal faced the disastrous earthquake in April 25, 2015; every youth, adult as well as old people worked together to reconstruct Nepal. Regardless of gender, age group; everyone did their best to help themselves and others. Women from different ages helped in their own method. Many girls were even seen clearing the rubble in the earthquake devastated area. Many were taking food supplies and other resources; cooking foods for the victim. One of the most inspiring thing was: One old lady leaving far from capital at the age of 50’s made more than 1000 of cotton mask within few days and supplied to capital “Kathmandu” to send it to affected area to prevent from epidemic. A group of young girls at their teen age were found cooking food daily for the earthquake victim at Bhaktapur. The determination of helping others from young girls and adult women were really inspiring for other women within the country and was the strong slap on the face of hypocrite who discriminates women.

The earthquake brought lots of helping hands together regardless of any discrimination. The strong bond were set between the youths and adults. Everyone was inspired by the empowerment of women. I hope the women would be more empowered in future even after post quake and forever. So that world can see the better Nepal build from the hands with no any discrimination.

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I sweep the home for it would be easy to work.

I help her to wash clothes so she would get rest.

Still she pressurizes me every day for not cooking.

I may not,

I may not cook since her love is the thing that makes the food tastes good.

I divide a hand in doing the other kitchen chores.

Why don’t she realize and expects more and more.

She has learnt a bad part of the gender issues in the society

She wants me to be her slave instead of being equal.

If so she or the many women like her would keep each and every relation in edge?

Otherwise every family of the society would?

We are the better half of each other

Then why not she sees I too suffer

 

I wish she could realize there is a division of work.

While she works inside,

I work to fulfill her demands.

I have not forced her to limit within the doors of the house.

The small family of ours

Me and her.

Not a big deal to work for

I wish she could understand I too had hectic day in office

I too can be tired

After all it’s a human body

Just like she has one.

She has a group of women leaders today behind her,

If I touched her unknowingly and she felt harassed.

 

I want to ask her some questions

Where is the issue of a man like me today?

Don’t I feel exhausted?

Don’t I feel harassed when a girl touches?

Remember my wife I am also the human like you

I also feel everything that you feel

Just I do not express and you keep on blaming me?

I wish you could see the tiny aspects of life where

I compromised to live the life with total happiness for you

I know I do all but never you never get satisfied with my instincts

I want to feel both of us equal.

I feel we should be two sides of a coin

If not two wheels of a cart

If not two eyes

I love you but you love me to be your slave.

I wish you had understood,

Gender equality depicts us both s to be equal.

Not the one to be superior.

Really , you misunderstood “gender Equality”

 

 

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Recently, I have been wondering what place menstruation and menstrual health has in the reproductive justice world and in all of the work that we do for to promote reproductive justice. There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about the unregulated amount and usage of chemicals in traditional sanitary products like tampons and pads. People with vaginas who use these products are being exposed to dangerous chemicals, to this is definitely an issue of health disparities and injustice. Traditional menstrual products are also expensive and bad for the environment.

My first encounter with alternative menstrual products was in a CVS drugstore. I had gone in to buy tampons buy ended up finding SoftCups. I had never seen them before, but they seemed worth trying because you could wear them longer than a tampon because the cup collected the blood instead of absorbing it and you could have sex while the Softcup was in. Long story short, I ended up really liking the Softcup. Softcup is a very basic disposable menstrual cup so once I had mastered touching my vagina, inserting and removing the Softcup I decided it was time to some research and move on to a more long-lasting menstrual cup. I watched youtube videos, looked up picture comparisons of different brands of cups, and read tons of consumer reviews to decide which cup to get. For $35 I got a MeLuna Menstrual cup in “sport” consistency in small and medium sizes and the cups can last 2- 10 years or until they begin to fall apart. The cup is made of a medical plastic and goes in the vagina and sits above the pubic bone. The cup uses suction to collect only blood and should not leak.  Since using the cup, I have gotten to know the days of my cycle and when my period comes and how much I actually bleed. I feel much more in touch with my body now that I use alternative menstrual products, and now when I have my period I feel cleaner than I ever did before and I never run out of supplies because everything is washable.

There are other options available if a menstrual cup doesn\’t seem right for you. Cloth pads and liners can be purchased online or you can sew your own version from one of the many patterns available online. Pinterest is a great place to look for cloth pad patterns if you are interested, or you can simply copy the shape of a pad that you already have. Sea Sponges or foam sponges are alternatives to tampons that can be used the same way you would use a tampon that has no applicator. The sponge holds the blood until you remove it and wash the blood out. Another reusable option is crocheted tampons which are made of cotton string that is crochet into a tampon shape with a string that hangs down for removal. After one us you wash the crochet tampon and dry it and then reuse it. The last healthy alternative menstruation option that I have researched is free bleeding which is where you don\’t use any menstrual products and the blood just goes where it goes. For people who have light cycles and may want to free bleed, the use of reusable cloth petals is a good way to start. Cloth petals can be placed between the labia to direct and collect blood flow for people with a light flow.

Here are some good links that give more detail about alternative menstrual products:

http://theecofriendlyfamily.com/2011/01/lets-talk-about-feminine-products/

http://www.ancestral-nutrition.com/guest-post-need-know-menstrual-products/

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There’s been times where I was faced with a situation where I didn’t know what my next move was,  where I started doubting myself and what I was capable of.  There were times when I wanted to give up because I made myself believe that what I was trying to accomplish wasn’t real, that it couldn’t be done or else I wouldn’t have a road block. When people are telling you “no” and “it’s impossible ” you say “yes” and “it’s possible” .

Something I had to discover by myself is you have to be your #1 fan. You must encourage yourself first to not give up on your dreams, even when your back is against the wall.  Like my mentor use to say, ” you can’t expect someone to believe in  you, if you don’t believe in your self . I’m not only saying this to who’s reading this but I’m also speaking to myself.  Lately, I’ve been faced with a lot of trials and tribulations but I’m not going to give up on my aspirations,  despite setbacks both great and small,  I’m just ganna pick myself back up,dust off and keep going.

Remember,  it’s not about how you start but it’s how you finish.

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Earthquake – The most powerful natural disaster has stroked Nepal some days ago making east-southeast of Lamjung as its hypocenter. The magnitude of earthquake was recorded as 11.5 Richter scale at Lamjung and 7.9 Richter scale at Kathmandu.

The death toll is is believed to be reached 5000 and still some are said to be missing and many are injured according to the Medias (Radio, Television and Internet). The earthquake triggered causing most of the historical sites a massive destruction including some of the world heritage sites.  This is the most catastrophic event in a very poor nation, where reconstruction and repair works would take a few years. It is said, it can take US$ 5 billion to do the reconstruction which is 20 % of the Nepal’s total GDP. Massive international disaster relief is needed urgently and also the technical and financial assistance for the long term reconstruction of the economy.

People are living under the open sky due to the fear of earthquake. Many people are psychologically disturbed due to the fear of losing their family members and relative and also because they saw their shelter damaged in front of their eyes. The situation has made our country mourned in terror and fear. We have no option than praying god to keep us safe.

Let the disaster do mercy on us. We do not want to live half-dead.

 

 

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So this will be a very personal post.

GYT stands for getting yourself tested. That’s something I know is vital to your health and the health of your current relationship. It is something that both partners should do to be sure they wont infect one an other or complicate things.

I knew this, I knew it’s a must to get tested with your partner even if they are the cleanest person or a virgin or whatever! But I didn’t and now it’s too late.

My partner was a virgin. I was his first everything! I didn’t expect to contract any STD from him.

A couple of months go by and I begin to notice some differences about and around my body. “But how can this be?” I thought to myself, “He was a virgin!”

I decided to get tested for the very first time in my whole life and they found a minor STD. He got tested as well and learned that he has had this secret infection for a long time through sharing personal items. It wasn’t sexual, but it happened. And since I didn’t think getting tested before hand was necessary, I got infected.

I now know the importance of getting tested and not assuming someone is “clean”. It was a tough lesson but I learned and am now better. I am lucky it wasn’t a serious infection but I’m definitely lucky.

GYT is super important and I am going to make sure to keep on advocating on its behalf because I don’t want more young adults to go through what I went through.

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Part of my childhood was spent living with 14 other family members, not including myself. Growing up, a part of the conversation at my home was about not talking (at school,) about the times when my uncle would slap my aunt, or get so angry that the sofa would end up in his arms, and thrown across the living room. I remember that one time, I forgot and mentioned the violence to my teacher: tension at home grew when the elementary school called and wondered how safe I was in a home where domestic violence was “normal.”

 

Years later in college, I came to realize that it wasn’t O.K. for my uncles to throw chairs at their spouses, or that it was not normal for my aunts to cover up black eyes with makeup and sunglasses. Then I understood that my aunts were not in the position to go to the authorities, in a country where they are invisible and disregarded by police: their brown skin marks them as immigrants and targets, and because that – the same brown skin means they must do nothing more than be complacent, and survive.

 

I within the first year of college, I was exposed to the reality that the LGBT community experienced high rates of sexual assault, domestic violence and rape. I dreaded to even think of where the intersection was between the immigrant community queer communities, in regards to statistics of sexual assault. I then visited an immigration Detention Center and met an undocumented teenager (19,) named Saul. Saul was from Peru and made the journey through Peru, to Central America, to Mexico and finally to the United States. He chose to migrate because he was being assaulted in Peru due to his perceived sexual orientation. Now in the United States, the American guards sexually harassed him. Saul hinted at a possible assault, but couldn’t speak much because guards loomed over us while we had our conversation. When I spoke with him, he’d already been at a different detention centers, but was moved around because of the sexual harassment/assault(s) he was experiencing.

 

It broke my heart to think that this 19 year old was fleeing violence and prosecution, only to be prosecuted and assaulted in the United States. He was queer and an immigrant – and he was a reflection of myself: A queer immigrant (or child of immigrants,) who had seen too many scarred faces and bruised lips from his family members. As soon as I left the Detention Center, I made the decision to forever include both communities, when having conversations about sexual assault. Not too long ago, I delivered a “know your rights” training to the Latin@ Student Alliance at school – and made sure to include the LGBT community in the conversation short after. Understanding that there is power in storytelling, and in knowing that the U.S Constitution protects all people living in the United States brings a sense of relief to my already vulnerable and fearful heart: Fearful that I won’t be able to reach the hundreds of thousands of folks like Saul, or fearful that there are immigrant men and women who are survivors or currently experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence.

 

I think about the times when my uncles threw chairs at my aunts, or when I was strictly told to not mention the violence at home; now I also think about how powerful it is to talk about sexual assault in my immigrant community, in my queer community and in both: Making sure that folks like Saul, my family and thousands of others are represented and heard.

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“Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” The theme for the International Women’s Day 2015 reiterates the principle that women empowerment lies at the heart of the empowerment of humanity. Empowerment aims at; and consequently, is reflected by women’s participation in all spheres of public and private lives. Only when creation of opportunities aimed at provisioning equal and equitable share in economic, social, cultural and political decision making is complemented by the creation of conducive environment enabling women to access those opportunities; can women empowerment be realized in practice. Otherwise, women empowerment policies would be redundant and reduced to an analogy of inviting women to a buffet, with dishes served to their liking, and then lining the subsoil of the pathway connecting the entrance to the buffet table with a minefield.

I am a woman. I have had the privilege of access to an education and opportunities. I am not a feminist. I am not a cynic. I have faith in the world community’s commitment towards women empowerment. Yet, I cannot help but wonder, befuddled, time and again, at the hypocritical indoctrinations and stances that we, as society, uphold and inculcate. What I wonder at, is not, whether the hypocrisy exists. It does. Anybody and everybody would vouch for that. What I wonder at, is, if we’re aware that we’re being hypocritical when we are.

As has been the fortunate tradition of progressive societies, International Women’s Day 2015, like past commemorations, will witness the world celebrating womanhood. Society will trumpet women’s rights, recognize the need for gender equality, and express their vision of a world where women can freely exercise their choice, without fear of violence, discrimination or stigmatization. There will be speeches, rallies, talk shows, articles, and face book and twitter posts, heck even hallmark’s greeting cards. Yet, every woman out and about on her day, be it a journalist, student, a participant of the rally, a mother, a daughter; will undoubtedly start worrying about her safety as soon as the sun starts setting.

Empowerment feels like a far cry; a luxury; when a right as basic, inherent, inalienable, and fundamental as safety cannot be guaranteed. Every second a woman is getting raped. The five seconds it took me to write that down, five women in the world have already been violated. Every woman, out of three, will be subjected to violence, be it physical, psychological, or emotional. It’s not a mere statistic you read off this paper. It’s a brutal reality, for every woman out of three in the world. And yes, when we’re talking about the women of the world, it’s not only the women in Africa, or some other far off continent; distant and unknown; it’s also the women in our lives, in our families. Our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, wives, nieces, aunts, friends, classmates, colleagues; one out of every three of these has already been or will be victimized in her lifetime.

However, these atrocities aren’t what I consider the hypocrisies of our society. Crime is pervasive. Crime is a tragedy. If A gets murdered today, society will shed tears for the bereaved and stigmatize the murderer. What is hypocritical is that crime against women, specifically sexual assaults, is interpreted with an entirely different shade.  The first question society raises with regards to sexual assault will be with regard to the victim’s appearance, the inches of her clothing, her character, whether or not she was participating in drinking or drugs, and her sexual history. Rarely will the initial questions be about the perpetrator. The socio-cultural indoctrination that forms the basis of such behavior stipulates that it is the woman\’s responsibility to safeguard her from rape, assault, harassment; stalking and abuse because men will be men, and are genetically hardwired not to have any control over their sex drives, thus  can’t possibly be at fault. Rape is painted like a crime of provocation, such that in case a forty year old man rapes a fourteen year old girl, the girl must have lured and provoked him with her “slutty” behavior, such that the poor man couldn’t help himself but rape.

I don’t negate the necessity of prudence amongst women. How a woman dresses or acts is not an “invitation” to whistle, cat call, taunt, harass or assault her. Yet, when you’re aware how perpetrators wrongfully interpret a mini skirt or a hug or a glass of wine as an ‘invitation’, one has to be careful. There’s a thin line separating common sense from courage. You don’t drive without putting a seatbelt on, or leave your home without locking it. We can’t change the fact that there are sexual perpetrators. There will always be. I concede that parents, and teachers, and society is justified in expecting women, and not only women, but every human being, to take certain precautionary and protective measures to safeguard oneself from being a victim of any crime.

However, the adamancy of society’s belief that the blame of every sexual assault originates in the victim’s actions itself is highly irrational, unfair and patriarchal. Such values are stifling women empowerment. The “protect yourself\” angle is not a complete solution to curbing the pandemic of violence against women. In fact, it is counter-productive as it evolves a culture where men don\’t feel the need to bear responsibility for their actions.

Every parent-daughter and husband-wife relationship witnesses continuous inquiries and monitoring of the concerned woman’s daily activities and whereabouts. Why does society invest so much time and energy to mould its women to behave according to its prescriptions, all in the name of their safety, and then completely neglects the other half of the responsibility of teaching its men to behave humanely? There is much truth behind the women’s demands that pleads society not only to teach its daughters to be safe, but to teach its son not to rape. It’s not a mere slogan resultant of pop culture. It’s an outcry resultant of decades of injustice and domination.

Men are not born violent, nor rapists. It’s the misguided socio-cultural environment that leads people rouge. Manhood should not and cannot be used as an excuse to justify violence against women. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, women believe in men’s humanity and worth. All we’re asking is society, both men and women believe in a woman’s worth as well. That expression of faith and respect cannot be inculcated unless our sons and daughters are brought up in an environment where they realize the equality and complementary nature of their rights and duties. It’s the responsibility of the parents to educate not only their daughters but sons alike about morality, ethics and respect. Empowerment begins from home.

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Hearing of Purvi Patel by accident on social media, I rushed and clicked the link for this story about feticide and abortion charges brought against her. I’m pretty sure that most of my South Asian friends probably never heard of Purvi Patel. It’s not every day an Indian woman makes headlines, but when I saw feticide and neglect in several headlines, I could not look away. Most headlines about Indian women and South Asian women overall pertain to some sort of achievement, something to brag about at the family table. Feticide, neglect, abortion: these are topics never mentioned in social circles or at family gatherings. One of my close friends messaged me at the same time, and I was like “please read this when you get a chance.” I shared the link with her, as two South Asian reproductive justice advocates would do. We starting talking about the implications of this decision and what it means for Indian women and South Asian women cohesively. What now? What does Purvi Patel being convicted of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, with the potential for up to 70 years in prison, mean for young South Asian women navigating their reproductive health care options and choices? Bringing these issues up with their family and friends? Even thinking about how this case pertains to our own sexual and reproductive agency?

I can say that South Asian men may not be publicly involved in or aware of this issue, but there are strong roots of South Asian patriarchy written all over this case. I’ve read several articles about this, and not a single one has mentioned anything about the man involved in the pregnancy. They’re all focused on Purvi’s actions, lifestyle, upbringing. Within the South Asian community, there are higher standards of modesty for women as opposed to men and much more shame associated with women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s. These attitudes and notions further restrict the autonomy of South Asian women, who are always under the gaze of their family and those outside of the community to be upheld to the rules of the patriarchy. Typically, American society views South Asian women as docile, obedient, desexualized, stereotypes that consume us based of racist immigration laws, media depictions (or lack thereof), and orientalist views.

So when abortion, feticide, and reproductive health in general are viewed as “things we do not consider” unless we’re discussing issues “back home” or “things only immodest girls discuss,” we are continuing to be constrained by our depictions of what people want us to be and not who we want to be. I’ve read articles and statements about Purvi Patel and only wonder about the future of the criminalization for reproductive choices for South Asian women and women of color collectively. Purvi Patel is not the first and will not be the last woman of color to be charged with crimes for her reproductive actions. But one is more than enough to start the conversation. It’s time for the South Asian community to start integrating these issues into our daily conversations and to slowly challenge the ways we view South Asian reproductive and sexual agency.

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Everything takes long generation to change and thereafter a drop of light is seen for the issues fought for years. Sadly! The practice of change differs from practicing it from old generation to new generation. It’s called generation gap. Generation gap has been a misery to today’s teenagers. Parents do not think the way their children think and children take their parents view for granted because they think they know nothing. They are used to live in the way, how they faced the issues. It can be dangerous since it can cause distance in relationships. These can create tension in parents and children are prone to go wrong ways. They desperately may go for wrong relationships, bad sexual relations, mental health (depression problems) and the situations may get worse. There are various challenges in maintaining parents and children’s relation nowadays. Since they have problem in understanding each other i.e. parents feel their children do not get the suggestions they have gained due to their experience. And children think their parent’s thoughts are decrepit or senile. Therefore there is a need of frequent interaction between both of them so that they both can understand each other. Parents must keep another thing in mind that they should give enough time to their children. They must not keep their schedule busy always. Interactions make children believe that it’s not a big thing that parents do not understand and so they can influence them with their talks. And parents can take it easy that “time changes.” They both should adjust and compromise something .Therefore, it can lessen the teen problems and keep parents mind free.
“Finally it is a conclusion that busy schedules has bad effects on children mentality – since it creates restraint between them.” Parents must understand that their children need their presence more than their presents and children should know they are not always right, they may not have proper knowledge of all things they do. They must listen to their parents. A foremost need of today is time. Let’s give it to each other fellows (parents and children).

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Women are considered as a beautiful flower which needs to be covered and secured. According to some religion or people from specific communities, the covering of the women determines her security.

Is it true?? Is there really a specific dress code for women to determine her security?? Does the length of the clothes determine any women’s values, personality?? These are the particular questions that are being common nowadays. And the answer to the question is different according to the different people. Some might say “YES” because the length of the skirt or the shorts of a girl may act as a catalyst for men to indulge in negative thoughts and action. The percentage of exposure of any women determines her security.

But there might be a big “NO” as answers to the above questions. The thought that women’s clothing influence men’s behavior might be ridiculous. Every people in this world are human being before terming differentiating them on the basis of gender or sex. So, one must respect other.

 

As for me, I would also support the “NO”. Everybody are beautiful in their own way. The girl with the scar covering half of her face, the one legged boy; everyone of them are beautiful; it just matters on how other thinks. No one should have restriction in living their life in their own way unless they violate others freedom. I personally totally agree with the answer “No”. After all human beings are the most superior living beings on the earth and the superiority is because of the ability of the humans to think and judge between right and wrong.

Many parents have bounded daughter,wife,sister within the four walls and restricted them to wear short clothes or any fashionable clothes that they prefer just because of the fear of society. They’ve got their respect level to maintain rather than caring of their daughter,wife likes and dislikes. They prefer less gossips in the society about their women in the house for which they restrict their women from exploring new things and pursuing their interest most of the times.

Now it’s time for all the people to come out of the box and see the world with different vision where a lady can rule over the nation; a lady wearing fashionable dress with good attitude earns more salary than the man in the suit; a lady has stepped foot in the moon and kissed the pinnacle of the world(Mt. Everest).

#globaldev #girlsandwomen #girleffect

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In order to get pleasure
They rape her-and so break her self –reliance
They smash her
They lessen her self confidence
After that
They question on her character

In case she does not obey them,
They make her pray of witchcraft
They blame her
They force her to eat excreta
After that
They make her live in threatening environment always

In case she revolts against it,
They do their best to prove her wrong
They misinterpret her
They declare her as deceiver
After that
They make her believe there is no justice to suppressions

In case of revenge
They throw acid on her face to make her die within
They menace her
They terrify her to walk with free mind
After that
They make her tangle between life and death

They take it as their accomplishment
Yes they are proud
For they defoliated her
Defy and play with her life
But they don’t know she still possess hope to live
She is numb still, does not mean
She do not know how to fight or combat
She is waiting the time when they will get ‘patan ‘on themselves

She has extreme patience
It makes her win someday to get justice
That day she will say “her taciturn revolt was her weapon”
That why she is women, she fights with peace
She always does not change the thought
But she also leaves the footage behind
She has distinct way to rebel
That’s why she is extraordinary
That’s why we should respect her

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Every year our Youth Council get the opportunity to travel to Tallahassee, FL to meet with legislators and talk about some of the bills that are on the table.  Going up there our main focus was the Florida House Bill 633, that mandates a women to wait an additional 24 before going forward with an abortion. We got the chance to speak to many representatives such as Alan Williams, Reggie Fullwood, and Kevin Rader who were all 100% supporters of Planned Parenthood.

Even though our meetings with them were brief, it truly meant a lot to me because I truly felt like a leader, that was standing up for what I believe in and it made it even better that we had some members of our government behind us. In all it was a very rewarding trip, and I look forward to it next year again!!

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Before I ask my question, I am going to provide background information. Also, I would love to hear some advice from all of you out there once my question is asked.

August 2, 2014 was the day my parents discovered my sexuality. Of course they freaked out, they even told me they want me out the house by my 18th birthday. I was going through a very tough time and just wanted to end my life because how in the world was I suppose to actually make a living for myself while still in high school and not having the adult mentality yet? That isn’t my question.

Three months later, I fell head over heels for a friend who helped me a ton and supported me no matter what. His name is Bruno. Once my parents realized that I was dating a boy ( let me emphasis BOY) they said I can stay home and began treating me like their daughter again. Why did that make such a difference? This still isn’t my question.

Now, five months into my relationship with Bruno, I’ve come to the realization that I’m completely crazy for him, but I still love women, and he is cool with that. But there is one problem, his sister hates me and thinks I’m disgusting for liking girls and told her parents, Bruno’s parents, THEIR PARENTS! They told Bruno he should stay away from me and he, of course, rejected that motion and got even closer to me.

So, one day I decided to ask him what his parents think about him dating a girl who likes girls, and he said, “I told them you were experimenting, going through a phase”, I felt absolutely disrespected. Even though he doesn’t believe that, which people say is the most important thing, I still don’t like that his parents believe that. He is basically lying to them about who I am. MY parents even know I’m not going through a phase. Yeah, they don’t agree with it, but they at least respect it now.  When he told me that all I said was, “Cool”, and just let it slide.

Finally, my question is, should I have let it slide or have told him how I felt about it? His parents not knowing means we can be together, but it also means lying about who I am and hiding a part of me that is important to my identity.

Being an activist in Broward County Youth Council, we stress the importance of being who you are and embracing it no matter what. I know I should tell him how I feel, because not only am I standing up for myself, but it shows people that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of. I just don’t want it to put a strain on my relationship.  This is important to me because I don’t want my future kids growing up having to hide their identity to certain people to make their lives easier. If only sex ed was taught from the beginnings of time, this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s my job now, to make a change and have our future generations grow up in a society that doesn’t frown upon the LGBT individuals.

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Many times in life I get chaotic with the diversity of education I get from my home( my first school) and my school ( my second home). I then feel like questioning to myself “which teacher is precise?” I fail to distinguish between which teachers instruction should I rely on? – The one who gave me birth and then impart and enlighten the knowledge on various backgrounds from my childhood or the one who indoctrinate every simple things to me which is printed in the book. After that again perplexity of book comes in my mind which book should I get convicted to? – The one that is in printed graphic form or the one which is already practiced and experienced practically within family since childhood.
I want to join this disoriented state with the controversy of menstruation we face in our daily life. “Menstruation” – According to the acquaintance of facts I get to acquire from my school “Menstruation is a normal process that occur in every female after they enter the phase of adolescence. It is discharge of the blood, elements of the uterine mucous membrane, dead endometrial cells and dead ovum from the vagina at the interval of one month.” At this time females get weaker and they should get adequate warmth of sun, nutritious food, proper rest etc. And then According to the pedagogics of ascertainment I get to learn from my home and society –“It is the normal blood outflow of blood but the practices change in this process till four days, females are not allowed to see the sun and they cannot pray to god. In case of pain, we cannot tell anything to our male members in family because we are told to be shy. Some days ago my sister had her periods and father called to make a tea and immediately she came to me to request about tea making. Since she is restricted to do that. And she is shy to convey it to our father. Till now us girls even cannot talk about the simple menstruation process with family members, then when will we know or get education about sexual and reproductive health and rights properly? And here comes the contradiction of studying in schools again. My sister believes in parents experience then what she read in books and what I taught her. Now again the question is whom should I believe then? And my answer will be – “With Truth” , “With Easiness” , “With our sound Health”

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Nepal is a country consisting of multicast, multilingual, multi religious peoples based on multi society. It is said to be the garden of 4 castes and 36 sub castes Different castes people live here and follows different norms, cultures, values, customs and traditions and they have variety of rituals and to be performed. They follow this because their old generation have been doing so and because they want to continue it. These things have both positive and negative aspects. Some customs have right impact in our society since they keep people united while some are only the hindrance in the society and cause serious problems in people’s lives. Mostly women’s are facing these kind of problem and their sexual and reproductive health and rights are in shade. They are called ‘Prathas’ or customs and they exist in different rural parts of our country Nepal. Some are presented as under
Jhuma Pratha- Jhuma pratha is the one which exists in the Sherpa society in which unmarried girls from Sherpa society are offered in Buddha monasteries. They are not allowed to marry. The child born by the illegal relationships with the lamas of monastery are considered to be the future Lama.
Danguwa Pratha- It is mainly practiced in Rajbangsi community in Nepal. A widows from the community can keep any stranger as her husband. If a women wants a man to be her Danguwa then she can forcefully take him house at night-covering his face by a piece of cloth. Even when they live as husband and wife, male member is always discriminated in the family and female dominates here. The children’s born from him are not given any ancestral property. Danguwa since does not have right on the property of his better half, he also cannot participate in rituals and customs.
Deuki pratha- It is an antique convention practiced in the far western region in the temples of Seti and Mahakali Zones of Nepal. It is the process of offering female children to the deities as a sacrifice of different problems like infertility, health recovery and various other accomplishments. It is said deuki pratha gave rise to girl trafficking as well as prostitution since the so called “pujaris” used to use those girls for physical pleasure. They believed that having sex with deuki would wash away their sin.
This kind of ‘prathas’ have been abolished to some extent but their effects are still hovering in different parts. such practices should not be encouraged and should be abolished if still in existence.

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Even if it’s the 21st century, women are yet to be independent and economically able. They are still being the victim of old social and cultural taboos. They are being constrained to go outside the territory of their houses and talk to society`s people. Getting education is a far-fetched dream of a village girl. They are just trained to do household chores and married off as soon as possible. Parents feel that they have accomplished their duties just by choosing a right husband for their daughter. As per our religion (Hindu), this act paves the way to heaven after death.

The above mentioned case is still prevalent in majority of our Nepalese society. But, for sure, the things are changing. Slow may be the pace, but positive changes can be witnessed in our society too. I, personally, have witnessed many girls going to school even if their parents are economically vulnerable. The sole reason behind this is the enlightment on the importance of knowledge. Girls do go to schools using their bicycles in various parts of our Tarai region (southern part of our country). They are being allowed and supported by their families to travel to the cities for the sake of education and employment. Women are even travelling to foreign countries to pursue higher education. They are being well recognized in the scholarships too.

In the context of Nepal, in few cities, women are openly helping their families economically too. Strange may it seen at the first, but it have been a habit now for the people to see female drivers swooping the tempos in the busiest road of our capital, Kathmandu. Moreover, they are seen running tea shops and groceries too. They do not hesitate to help their male counterparts in economic aspects.  Women are also actively showcasing their cookery talents by marketing some of the mouth-watering pickles and sweets these days. And we can never outcast the scholar women who are now the pioneer of different sectors like banking, education, government jobs. Definitely, the bright side of women empowerment.

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Last week, President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget request to Congress. While the President’s budget “wish list” means little to Congress, it means a lot to those of us who are looking to the Administration for strong leadership on youth sexual and reproductive health in the U.S. and abroad. It is an important advocacy tool and the last time in his presidency that President Obama has a chance to lay out an agenda for the government going forward. So, all of us policy wonks got settled in to do some thrilling budget analysis.

Details are still emerging from the request but it’s clear that his budget is a mixed-bag. At the highest level, many of the key programs that Advocates monitors received slightly higher funding in the President’s request for the first time in a couple years, but bad policy riders are still included and the funding isn’t as high as it needs to be.

Now, let’s get wonky –

The Good:

  • Like last year, the President’s request would cut some funding for abstinence only programs, proposes that the important Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which awards grants to state agencies to educate young people on both abstinence and contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, be reauthorized for five years, and eliminates restrictions on abortion coverage in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment for the District of Columbia and Peace Corps volunteers;
  • Though we’d love the funding levels to be even higher, the President finally proposed funding increases for sex education, reproductive health services, and global health.

 

The Bad:

  • 2011 saw massive cuts to many of the programs that affect young people’s sexual and reproductive health. While it includes some increases, the President’s request does not restore funding to pre-2011 levels.
  • Though we have asked the Administration to eliminate harmful restrictions on abortion funding, the President’s request also still does not eliminate numerous policy restrictions, including the Hyde and Helms Amendments.

frustrated gif animated GIF

The Ugly:

Unfortunately, the President’s budget request is D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) in the halls of Congress. We expect the newly Republican-controlled Congress to instead spend the next six to seven months arguing about how to fund the government next year. Current funding runs out October 1st, and if Congress can’t agree on a budget, automatic cuts to programs across the spectrum could result. Though the President’s budget request aims to stop further cuts, Republicans have already come out against it.

Either way, Congress has to find some way to fund the federal government by October 1st. The Advocates policy team will continue to follow the budget battle and fight for the sexual and reproductive health of young people to be a priority going forward. Let the games begin!

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Women have always been backward in getting #government beneficiaries due to lack of advocacy in the promulgated rules and regulations. Nepal government passed out a rule that, Women should get the #”Female Reservation Seat” reserved for them in public vehicles many years ago. But till near about six months ago we girls could readdress the problem of traveling in crowded vehicles and could sense the difficulties of getting physically and mentally harassed. Even after looking at the clearly written words -” Female Reservation Seat”, so called civilized peoples used to easily ignore it. They rarely cared for it, so they used female reservations for their easiness. In Nepal clearly a bill has been passed that women must get 33% reservation in each sector. Six months ago government started #strict #monitoring and #supervision in public vehicles, whether women’s were getting their right or not? After that people became little aware of women rights. The number of people increased who left the seat for women’s in public transportation. The process ran for nearly one month and again the same happened i.e. women had to suffer again. People started ignoring the rules again. This happened due to lack of continuity in strict monitoring.
No matter, even it was for the short period of time it brought positive changes in by empowering the women’s. Their ability to speak out for the rights they possess took an amazing turn. Now it has been two months women’s have not looked back to fight for their own rights. Government #levies fine to the peoples who are found breaking the rules as well as punish them severely. Due to the strict monitoring today people leave other seats too if they saw any woman standing. Civilization has been groomed now since people are aware of providing women’s a suitable and ease environment in such transportation. The cases of harassment and women violence have been decreased within Kathmandu city; even it seems lots have to be done outside Kathmandu city too.

“People knew, to strive and for our right was our strength Women’s, that’s why we need each other to tackle with it sometimes. Now here we succeed. It is a story of succeeding in our little target we will do more.”

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“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to formant a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”
To portray or delineate the difficulty of women’s we should not have to explore throughout the world. We should not have to penetrate in society since we can see the problems emerging from every house. In every house, every woman has the story of #disbelief, #suppressions and #role restrictions imposed upon and also the fudge factors which make them muzzle to protest for the right they have. From many generations these things have been practiced. Our mother’s used to face those all and we kids face the same today. It is 21st century but their thoughts could not be changed yet. Each woman faces the problem of not being able to go out of home because of the pressure of the male members from their family. They have the problem when their women come late from her job. They have the problem while she travels out of the house at night for work. What then? Is that necessary she should stop to live her life or tolerate the mental pressures everyday for the #cost of living? Yeah; our male family members fear the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals like rape, sexual harassment etc. But by doing this so called patriarchs are discouraging women empowerment “The power to protest for the suppression, harassment we face every day.”
According to the #Part 3, #Article 13, #sub -clause 1 of Nepalese Interim constitution 2063 “Every person has the right to live with a dignity” and the clause is termed as “Right to Freedom.” If a woman wants to live her life in her own way why she is to be treated differently? Why her capacity to raise her voice is being stopped? Why nobody understands, she can handle herself?
Any restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women should be stopped. We all women’s love to go out and grab the world by lapels.
Please understand “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to #create, #nurture and #transform.” – Diane Mariechild

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I work in a 5-star resturant,s o you can just imagine the type of people who come in to eat.

Yes, all rich stuck up guest, some nice and some not so nice and are usually white.  But that isn’t the topic here. If the people who come in to eat are mostly white and rude, the managers who control the resteraunt are worse.

I walked to the back of the kitchen the other day to get more silverware and all of a sudden i hear a manager yelling into the face of a kitchen worker. And FYI, ALL the kitchen men who do the cleaning and cutting of food are black.

“This is a kitchen! You need to take this serious! So, get my way, watch where you are going!” yelled the manager, and all the guy did was nod his head and said “Yes mam!”.

Ten minutes later a server bumped into the manger, (again, FYI, all servers or greeters are white or hispanic) and guess what the manager did…. NOTHING!!!

WHY?! Because the server is white?!

I literally hate that till this day there is still a difference in how we treat people because of skin color.

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Since February is literally tomorrow and it’s Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, I figured I’d talk a bit about dating violence and things to keep in mind when you feel you’re ready to live for yourself again.

I firmly believe that I was in a sort of emotionally abusive relationship. I don’t want to go into detail, but take my word for it when I say that it was the worst—but coincidentally, it has helped me reach my best.

Nothing is better than experience, but with enough knowledge, you can know just who you are and just what you want without having to acquire the battle scars.

All you have to do is listen.

It’s very difficult to see through the haze of love. You could look back years from now and damn yourself for not listening to the people around you that actually cared about your well-being. Maybe you’ll even see how your abuse was dressed in a gown of gold, and how eager you were to call it beautiful.

My abuse was a stunning white light that I thought lit up the path to everything I ever wanted, but I realize now that, when I finally reached paradise, my blind eyes didn’t let me appreciate it.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Don’t let anybody force you into doing something that you don’t want to do just to keep them satisfied or around.
  • People say what they mean. Those little backhanded comments that evolve from tiny whispers to proclamations are not jokes, they are not just kidding.
  • You’re not a guitar to be fined tuned to someone else’s standards. If they aren’t willing to accept your songs, leave. It may feel like the wrong option to make because you’ll be lonely and maybe they say that you won’t find anyone with ears precise enough to stand your pitch, but you can listen to the radio while you recover.
  • There is someone out there who will love you like you deserve and it’s not the person who says there isn’t.
  • Make decisions you know you are comfortable with.
  • Do not let somebody work their way into your mind and plant a seed that your rich soils are too healthy to nourish; don’t let somebody turn your garden into a swamp.
  • You’re not selfish for wanting to do something to please yourself instead of somebody else.
  • If you are in a relationship you feel you can’t get out of because of what they may do to you, seek help.
  • Not everyone is your enemy.
  • It may sound incredibly hard to believe, but there are forces in the universe rooting for you, whether it be any God(s) you believe in, or the callouses on your hands that remind you of the things you’re able to grasp now that you’ve gotten past a pain you thought would last forever.

As you read this—at every second that you inhaled and exhaled and let your eyes flicker from one word to the other—you were changing as a person.

You have the power to break constancy. Don’t be the same you, you were a second ago.

Be stronger.

 

 

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Have you ever been in a controlling relationship?

You know, the ones that you always have to make sure whatever you want to do is okay with your partner?

“I want a new ear piercing!” says the girl.

“No!!!!” says the partner.

Yes, they may be sweet, treat you like a princess, make you feel like the most important person in the world, but something so small, like not allowing you to get a piercing, can turn into something so big like not allowing you to ever hang out or talk to anybody else other than them.

Partners who are controlling can also be abusive mentally, psychically, or emotionally.

Just please make sure you’re not in one. It may seem small and possible to change, but we all know that’s least likely to happen… Its not impossible, but it will take out a lot of energy that isn’t worth losing.

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{December 31st,2014 10:22pm}

As we countdown the last couple hours of the year ask yourself did I accomplish all my goals for this year? Did I make the right choices concerning my education, my granth, my relationships and my body? Did I inspire anyone? Was I inspired?

This year may not have went the way you planned; life has a way of throwing curve balls,you just just gotta know how to catch it. But now you have the chance to start over. A chance to make new friendships/relationships, rebuild old ones, get involved in an organization, and spread the word about youth empowerment and health education.2015 will be your year of growth, success, happiness and  prosperity!!

 

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With the holidays coming up, most of us will be sitting down to a meal and cup of hot chocolate with family and friends who we rarely see. There will be laughter, stories and the predictable football talk. If your family is anything like mine though, after all of the small talk is done, the conversation will come to a plateau. Small talk will lead to awkward silences and stares. And then, undoubtedly, someone will open their mouths and drop the bombshell: The dreaded controversial subject that your mother told you time and time again to avoid like the plague.
Feminist
Many of those controversial conversations happen in our very day lives. Some of us may fiercely post about them on Facebook or Tweet the day away with hash tags galore. But…when that controversial political slogan comes out of your grandmother’s mouth, as we reach for that last bite of pie: we freeze over what to say.

This is very true in my own life, as someone who with Advocates for Youth, an organization that champions international reproductive health and rights and LGBTQ rights and as someone who belong to a very southern family who are big proponents of abstinence, believe that homosexuality is a sin and are staunchly pro-life, I feel that it is my place to talk about the issues that I feel passionately about. But of course, the key is tactic!

Below are some great tips on phrasing, wording and how to approach tricky topics, but remember that at the end of the day disagreements may arise, people may take things personally and feelings may be hurt, but being honest and speaking from the heart is also your right and your duty to your beliefs.

1. Use “I” statements.
2. Break down generalities, such as grouping all people with few things in common into the same category.
3. Ask them about why they believe or support what they do (and really listen).
4. Try not to affiliate certain beliefs or opinions with political parties, social groups or religions.
5. Really listen when someone else is talking, and question what they say in a positive way.
(Often repeating back to someone what they’ve told you can help you to both understand the statement and move toward the underlying ideas.)
6. Watch body language and pay attention to tone
7. Choose to not feel offend or personally attacked by their views or opinions.
8. Pick a good space to have the conversation, one that is safe for both participants and where you can have a comfortable dialogue without interruptions or “gang ups” by others.
9. Concentrate on Commonality.
10. Always finish on a positive note that you are family and that means supporting one another past disagreements.

 

 

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Unlike many undergraduate sorority members, I don’t often wear my paraphernalia though I own quite a bit. I joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorportated recently, in March 2014 at Spelman College. I told maybe five people about it beforehand because I don’t like people looking at me and I wanted to avoid people knowing for as long as possible. I still rarely wear my letters unless there is a specific reason to do so because I don’t like the attention it draws to me. When I tell people this, I get strange looks because many seem to think that Greek Organizations and my organization in particular, only attracts people who want other people to look at them. I won’t deny that there is prestige in being an AKA, like there is a prestige attached to being a Spelman Woman, and many expect members of those two illustrious groups to flaunt it.

But that’s not why I joined.

I joined the organization because owe much of who I am to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. My mother and my grandmother raised me among their sorors and many of my ideals about the strength of black womanhood, the importance of philanthropy, the necessity of culture, and the vitality of community service came from sitting in at my mother’s chapters meetings, attending the opera with her chapter, and volunteering all the time. Like.

All the time.

I have always known the legacy of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and I have always known the caliber of women that are among its ranks. My co-initiates have only reinforced this knowledge, as my thirty-four sisters are some of the most dynamic women I have ever had the pleasure to meet, not to mention my amazing immediate prophytes and the myriad of women, (especially from Mu Pi) who I have met and admire greatly. They have all been added to the list of remarkable AKAs that have been an inspiration to me, a list that started when I was a baby.

One thing that Alpha Kappa Alpha has shown me is that black women are, in no way, a monolith. Though we are affectionately (and sometimes not so affectionately) known as the “pretty girls”, having been surrounded by AKAs all my life I can assure you that each and every one is disarmingly beautiful, but that none of them look the same. There is an aura of grace and refinement in AKA women that is perceptible on sight, but we are not automatons. Just as we differ in appearance, we differ in action. We disagree about how to best achieve the goals of organization. The important thing is that we do not have to agree in order to work toward the betterment of the black community, and of black women. As I have said many times, the revolution is multifaceted and it will take a variety of skill sets and beliefs for us to make America the paragon of justice it claims to be.

In the wake of the recent police brutality incidents I have seen many of my sorors who believe in protest organize marches, carry signs, yell chants, tweet, boycott and do whatever they can to aid in this effort. Every AKA in the world is not going to agree on what is the best course of action in regards to Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, etc. But the wonderful thing is that we don’t have to. Again: We. Are. Not. A. Monolith. As an organization, our paragons are the celebration of black womanhood and the empowerment of the black community. We have those goals in common, but how we achieve them has always been and will always be different from soror to soror.

I made a point to wear my letters to every rally I have been to. Every time I went, I had a piece of paraphanalia on, proudly displaying that I was an AKA because I felt that this was the moment to do so. This was the moment that I would allow myself to be looked at, because it was important to me that  people could see that my organization undoubtedly knows that #blacklivesmatter. To be part of these protests was to enact everything I knew the women of AKA to be: Strong, educated, empowered individuals who fought for the betterment of the community as a whole.

So the email sent urging sorors not to wear their letters to rallies was a blow for me. We have received numerous emails that detailed our International President’s and our organization’s disapproval of the rash of unarmed shootings of black men in the last few months. It was baffling to me, then, that we would receive an email in which we were encouraged to express that disapproval through protest, but to take steps not associate our organization with that disapproval.

This is a problem. This is not what AKA is about. Forgetting for a moment that these protests are vital in the fight to ensure that #blacklivesmatter not only to us, but to the state and society as a whole, forgetting that the right to wear the letters of the organization is not a cheap one, neither in time nor expense, and thus restrictions on that right need be carefully considered and concretely defensible, forgetting that many AKAs (and Deltas) are at the head of these protests and are utilizing their sorors as support systems to do this vital work, it is extremely important to remember that we are not, we are not, we are NOT a monolith. For me and for many of my fellow sorors, to protest is to embody the beliefs of our organization and our founders. We wear our letters because AKA is Ferguson. We are the inheritors of brave women who reclaimed space through solidarity with each other. We were protest once. We are, by virtue of being accomplished black women who are unafraid of our own power, protest now. We must continue to be protest as we see our children killed at the hands of a desensitized police and their murders discarded at the hands of a corrupt justice system.

Just like America, the beliefs of the organization itself does not always align with the beliefs of the general body. Many of my sorors have organized and protested. They have led. Those same sisters love the organization and believe in it with all their hearts. As do I.

Whether we are wearing our letters or not, AKAs are part of this movement. We are helping to organize, rally, protest, educate, and create lasting change. Whether we are wearing our letters or not, AKAs will be doing the work that our Founders meant for us to be doing, work for the betterment of all mankind.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated is more than an organization, it is a sisterhood. As long as my sisters stand with me and the rest of the revolution in solidarity, AKA will always be a worthy organization to be a part of. But the critique of AKA the organization stands: Ferguson, and the protests inspired by Ferguson, are in my humble opinion, the start of a new era. They are the building blocks upon which I feel we will be fighting for justice and equality. They are the road to real and lasting change.

The question is, will I be asked to refrain from wearing my letters as I walk it?

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Since when does mass media publicly value rapists excuses and denials more than they value victims stories?

Rolling Stone has set a precedent within their own publication with this note. They have made a statement to their readers. They have taken a very public and obvious stance against survivors, and they have even started attacking a survivor and their credibility.

When people share their stories of such violation, cruelty, and violence, it is one of the most difficult things they can do. It is choosing to relive that experience over and over again, bleeding yourself dry hoping that no one will ever have to bear the same wound.

I know this, as for the last two years, I have worn the word ‘survivor’ like a piece of armor, and sometimes, the heaviest weight I can’t ever seem to bear. I have shared my story, hoping for change, hoping for future ‘Caitlyns’ to never have to go through this.

(Not my photo/Not me)  Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Mary-Stands-With-Survivors/407233096039349

(Not my photo/Not me)
Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Mary-Stands-With-Survivors/407233096039349

I have had my credibility tested, questioned, and attacked. I have had prying noses, pity stares, and half-hearted apologies. I have spoken to media outlet after media outlet, each one tending to see my story as an attention grabber, a selling point, a juicy story. To see Rolling Stone paint Jackie’s rape in such a way, almost with a borderline entertainment factor, layered with unnecessary and re-victimizing descriptions, has been a painful experience that I simply can’t even put into words.

Further more, to see that they wanted ‘the other side of the story’, and regretted honoring the survivor’s wishes, it makes me question how much respect they have for Jackie, for women, for survivors, for ME.

I fear, every day, that my rapist might see the stories, see my statuses, see me on the local news, and identify that it is him that I am speaking about. He has never known of the fact that I have shared my story as I simply didn’t know to report or press charges when it happened. It took me years to identify, name, and share my story. To this day, I cannot gather the bravery or courage it would take me to make such an allegation to the court of law, or furthermore, to his face.

With my situation, as well as many other survivors, it would simply be too dangerous to give a name, report, or have our stories get back to our assailants. If a news outlet were to contact my rapist, I’m almost certain it could mean an immediate threat to my safety. The fact that my credibility and my side of the story could come under such scrutiny and question is a direct disrespect and disregard to the already stigmatized survivors that choose to share their stories.

When our world begins to ignore the stories we, as survivors, share, for the denial and accusations of our rapists, there is more than a problem.
When our media outlets begin to paint our stories, our violations, our rapes, and our assaults as a vivid movie-esque source of entertainment, there is more than a problem.

When our stories are denied, when our voices are silenced, we are re-victimized.

When our rapists are again more valued than we are, there are all these messages being reinforced that society already spoon feeds us.
“You aren’t enough.”
“You’re less than.”
“You deserved it.”
“He is the one of worth, the one of value.”

These messages are ones that replay in my head. I expect media outlets, such as the Rolling Stone, to do everything they can to dismantle these thought processes, and to validate and support our survivors.
Anything else is simply unacceptable. Re-victimizing and further violating such brave folk that choose to use every ounce of strength within them to step out of the dark, again and again, is simply despicable.

#IStandWithSurvivors. Rolling Stone doesn’t.

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Basically, my parents found out I’m gay. IT WAS HELL! But it has been four months and now they love me… Why? Because I’ve been bringing around this boy who I spend most of my time with, to my house. They think we are dating, and I don’t care to correct them.. Yes, it hurts that I’m still lying to them, but i need to survive my last year of high school on a good note with them. I don’t want extra stress and I don’t want more troubles with them. I’ll be in college soon. Once I’m there I know I’ll be happy because I will be able to date all the girls I want and just be who I am!

 

So I’m kinda pissed off that I am back in the closet, so to say, but at the same time, happy time is going by pretty fast.

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Election day is never nearly as participated in as Black Friday or other yearly events. If more people in our communities actually participated in the election days, then the opinion of the people would be passed through the votes and seen in the community far more rapidly. This is a great theory, but in order for this to happen, people need to learn to care about themselves and their community more than a yearly sale.

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Last night, President Obama announced actions that he is taking to grant relief to many young immigrants and families currently stuck in our unjust immigration system.  Millions of currently undocumented immigrants can now apply for protection from deportation and work legally in the country. It is a big deal that the President is taking these actions – in doing so he is standing up for the rights of immigrants across the country, and bringing them one step closer to full citizenship. However, the President’s actions are far from enough to guarantee that young immigrants and their families are able to build empowered and healthy lives in the U.S.

First, President Obama’s actions reflected his admirable commitment to supporting families, focusing much of his administrative relief on the legally recognized parents and families of U.S. citizens. As we applaud this, however, we must remember that our immigration laws – as well as many of our others – often fail to recognize LGBTQ families and individuals, leaving them out of this historic moment.

Second, equality is not just a matter of being granted legal status – among many other things, it includes the ability to access the healthcare you need. Last year in the administrative relief President Obama granted to DREAMers – undocumented young people who entered the U.S. as children – he decided not to extend eligibility for the Affordable Care Act exchanges and subsidies to them. Now, President Obama has repeated that unfortunate decision and  the millions of immigrants who will now be able work legally in this country will not be able to access the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges and subsidies – exchanges and subsidies that their tax dollars will support. Health insurance coverage, and the no co-pay preventive services that coverage comes with, is a critical tool in ensuring that all young people can lead healthy lives. Access to the health exchanges and subsidies could be a game-changer in addressing the serious disparities in access to health services young immigrants and their families currently face. Instead, millions will remain excluded from the ACA’s promise, and forced to rely either on limited and unaffordable options for their health insurance or go without.

President Obama took a historic step towards remedying the injustices that young immigrants and their families face in this country. In the days to come, hopefully he and Congress will remember that they have the power and the duty to stand up for the rights of millions of immigrants to remain in the U.S. no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as for their ability to access the health care they need and to build healthy lives.

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What started as mild and snarky criticism of a casually sexist shirt from some scientists, science enthusiasts, and a few people on Twitter grew into another vitriolic discussion on how feminists are offended by the smallest issues and are reacting wildly.  But that’s not quite what #ShirtStorm is, forget what most of the Internet tries to tell you.  Cathy Young’s teeth grinding, eyebrow raising editorial on Time, “How To Turn a Cool Moment into a #ShirtStorm” is another piece I wouldn’t trust.  I recommend reading it only if you are prepared to contort your facial muscles and vocal chords to their limits when you come across her paragraph on how feminists stigmatize and oppress straight men for their sexuality.

(The shirt in question — photo from the ESA news stream, via @RoseVeleth’s Twitter feed)

Landing a probe on a comet is really cool.  It’s a great scientific feat that took about ten years to accomplish, major props to all involved.  But does an achievement of any kind really make one immune to criticism?  Why are we not allowed to acknowledge both the impressive landing and the problematic shirt?  And let’s be honest here, was this ever really just about a shirt?

Do I think Dr. Matt Taylor is a misogynist?  From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like it.  It just looks like a classic case of a person who does something problematic but doesn’t realizes it until he’s told exactly why it was offensive and even detrimental.  Yes, I know it was made by a woman.  Yes, I know he was only trying to promote her artwork.  And okay, maybe you might even wear the shirt yourself.  It’s clear that his intention wasn’t to hurt anyone.  None of that changes what wearing that shirt meant to some women struggling to no fault of their own in STEM fields, areas of academia and careers we know too well are disproportionately male-dominated.  The impact is what we’re looking at.  And knowing the context and history, how can we even begin to consider intent ever being more important than impact?

When confronted with criticism, Dr. Matt Taylor quickly and tearfully apologized.  And everyone, including Dr. Matt Taylor, moved on–or at least, that’s what we all thought would happen.  You see, what really made #ShirtStorm wasn’t the small, but diverse group of people who had the courage to speak up about the casual sexism and privilege of an accomplished scientist.  It was misogynist keyboard warriors making false parallels of judging a man’s shirt to rape culture and sexual objectification.  It was another round on the internet of rampant strawman assertions to the rest of the world on what feminism really is.  Sadly we’re not living in a world in which #ShirtStorm is a hashtag describing how misogyny is thriving on the media’s poor representation of people’s concerns over decades of a troubled relationship between women and STEM fields.

#Shirtstorm is just a new name for the same old practice of shaming and silencing those who dare to speak up. 

Phil Plait makes a great concluding point on Slate:

If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.

So yeah, it’s just a shirt.

And it’s just an ad.

It’s just a saying.

It’s just a TV show.

It’s just the Internet.

Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.

It’s just a catcall.

It’s a compliment!

It’s just that boys will be boys.

It’s just that she’s a slut.

It’s just that your dress is too short.

It’s just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma’am.

It’s just it’s just it’s just.

It’s just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.

 

 

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No one said being an activist would be easy. You knew you were fighting the good fight and some days would be rough but there are some things you just don’t expect. Nothing could of prepared me for the way that people would respond to me though. Apparently this isn’t something strange in our line of work.

I recently met another amazing fellow activist and the majority of our first conversation was filled with similarities of our experiences with other people. It was our first common ground. She told me she was discussing her education with someone. She has a Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Reproductive Health and Contraception from Emory. She’s a smart lady. Shouldn’t she be respected and admired for that? Instead the response she received was, “You went to school to learn to give blowjobs?.”

I’ve realized responses like this just come with the work. It’s not fair and is definitely the struggle. So I’ve prepared a quick summary f of all the false stereotypes and labels I’ve received.

  1. I like to have sex… lots of crazy, wild, out of control sex.

            Obviously since I promote sexual health this statement must be true, right? Because I know how to correctly use a condom and a female condom I must use them all the time… everyday. Or because I care about my sexual health and others and recognize the importance of checkups I must have STIs? All of these assumptions are insane. I care about sexual health because it affects everyone no matter who they are and I believe everyone should be well educated and feel comfortable discussing it.

  1. Since I support the LGBTQ community, I must be gay because straight people don’t support the LGBTQ community.

I support the LGBTQ community because they are people just like me. They deserve the same respects and rights that I have as a straight female. I care because I am a person and they are my friends and I support them. Because I support the LGBTQ community nothing should be assumed about my sexuality or gender identity.

  1. I have AIDS because I work with AIDS Alabama.

            Working at AIDS Alabama does not mean I have AIDS. It means that I support their mission and their programs. It means that their work is important to me. It means the people there are special to me. It means that the community we serve is important to me.

  1. I like to kill babies.

I am pro-choice. I believe abortions should be legal and easy to access. As a woman I should have control over my own body. This does not mean I like to kill babies. It doesn’t mean I hate children. I just want to have control over my own body.

 

And finally,

 

  1. All the causes I believe in are because they have happened to me.

            I must care about abortion rights, sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual health because of a terrible experience with these topics. I care about these topics because they matter. They are important to me because they affect a lot of people. I don’t need a personal attachment to care.

 

Being an activist means a lot of judgment. Everyone is watching every move you make. It means the spotlight is on you. The assumptions are on you. Sometimes you just need a reminder that it doesn’t matter because you are making a difference.

 

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No doubt about it, last Tuesday’s results were tough to take. We’re painfully aware of the ways that the 114th Congress can have a serious impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people. But, there were some silver linings to remember as we look at what is to come. Here’s what went down this week:

The Good:

 

  • Most ballot measures were positive on issues important to young people: Voters approved extensive background checks for gun purchases in Washington, an equal rights amendment in Oregon, the reduction of some criminal penalties in California, paid sick leave mandates in Massachusetts and several New Jersey towns, marijuana decriminalization in Oregon, Alaska, Guam, and DC, and minimum wage raises in South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, San Francisco and Oakland, and they soundly rejected personhood amendments in North Dakota and Colorado.
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen – a champion on sexual health issues who has sponsored key legislation on abortion access and birth control – ran a successful campaign with a reproductive rights platform, making Scott Brown the first man to be defeated in a Senate race by two women in two different states.
  • Many of our progressive champions in the House were re-elected. To brighten your day, check out this interview with one of our sex ed champions, Barbara Lee, on the Colbert Report (skip to 6:24 where they talk about comprehensive sex ed!).
  • At the state level, Tom Wolf defeated Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who had an abysmal record on reproductive health issues.

 

The Bad:

  • In Tennessee, voters approved a ridiculous abortion amendment to their state constitution, while Georgia voters approved a measure to cap state income tax at 6%, which could result in some big cuts to their social programs in the future.
  • Aside from Sen. Shaheen in New Hampshire and possibly Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia (where he currently has the lead), progressives and moderates lost seats in the most competitive races, including Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and Mark Udall in Colorado. Progressives also failed to unseat incumbent conservative Senators in a few key states, including Kentucky; or capture toss up open seats in Georgia or Iowa.
  • Both Maryland and Massachusetts, two states considered to have strong progressive bases, elected Republican Governors.
  • We are awaiting results in two states: Mary Landrieu (D-LA) faces a tough runoff election on December 6th, and with 100% of the precincts reporting, Mark Begich (D-AK) still has not conceded to Republican Dan Sullivan.

 

 

The Ugly:

  • Despite record numbers of turnout in places like North Carolina and Missouri, overall, the turnout was one of the lowest in recent history.
  • While most progressive ballot measures won at the state and local level, the same voters primarily elected conservatives into office, signaling a growing discontent among voters with the lack of strong progressive candidates.
  • The Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, with the House Republicans having their largest majority in more than 60 years. This allows extreme conservatives to hold presumed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accountable to his campaign promises, and push for draconian measures on issues of abortion, immigration and Obamacare.

Now what?

While most of the news was bleak from Tuesday’s results, there are still some positive take-aways:

  • While overall the youth turnout was down, where young people did turn out to vote, progressive issues did really well. Young people and women of color voted in larger numbers than they did in 2010’s mid-term election, and voted for reproductive health champions, likely keeping races closer than they would have otherwise. Young people’s voices will continue to be important for progressive candidates in the 2016 election.
  • There has never been a better time to change the conversation about abortion, birth control, and other reproductive justice issues. Instead of allowing the conversation to be dragged to the right, let’s to start a new conversation to once again spark imaginations about what strong communities look like, with policies that allow every young person to make healthy decisions.
  • With the Obama Administration in its final two years, we need to continue to push the Administration to get actual change for young people.

Decisions about issues affecting young people don’t end with the ballot box, so our work can’t end there either!

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When we figure out our most embarrassing
moments in the era of solitude, we begin to see
reasons why hope and faith is of utmost
importance to the benevolence of prosperity and
growth. Sometimes, we say our words cannot
rouse our current situation to a glorious height,
and our feelings for vague reasons is not good
enough to strike a deal with change.
The question is: are we giving twice as much or do
we live in nightmares?
For so many reasons we–youths, have failed to
understand why certain things happen: most
youths attribute unpredictable events to “chance
and luck”. I don’t believe that prosperity happens by
chance, or that unexplainable scenarios take place
when the mind is at rest. I put my trust in destiny:
as it is written, so shall it be.
Well, it may interest you to know that there are two
kinds of attitude towards life–when we are almost
on the verge of giving twice as much to hope and
faith for a new beginning.
*There are those who will never figure out that
They were used to achieve a purpose,
&
*There are those who will, at a late time figure out
That they were exploited to achieve a goal.
Do you know how it feels to be trapped in this
scene,–“It is like going to heaven on bare feet.”
The most profound aspect is understanding the
essence why ones life is useful in a particular field,
the environment or why it is important at all.
The first portrays the picture of Understanding ,
and thousands of youths have faulted in this act.
Understanding the reasons why you are needed for
an objective to work out, why purpose is necessary
to harness the goodwill of change, and why ones
environment plays a huge role in the
transformation of his “Mutual Being,” signifies the
understanding of self.
The latter, exemplifies purpose: why is it the way it
is, what is the objective on the one hand, and why
is it necessary–will the course change? And if it
does, will we?
Grace provides youths with the leverage to do
more with less, to raise boundaries with little
effort–it doesn’t work without a thorough
understanding of why certain things are needed.
The best way to get ahead, and dwell in the throne
of grace is to “Understand Purpose.” It is what
differentiates the major from the minor.
We are youths for change–let it remain the way it
is.

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After reading a beautiful article written by two Harvard College students, Brianna and Kirin, about their experience at Advocates for Youth’s Urban Retreat 2014 and their involvement with “the movement” for sexual health justice for young people (http://bit.ly/1nAOKZH), I decided to reflect on my own experiences and activism work. Here are five of the most important things I have learned by joining “the movement” that I think other people would learn, too. I’m sure the list will grow.

5. Friends will support you, but not always agree with you. I am incredibly passionate about some very controversial political and social issues, including abortion and comprehensive sex education and LGBTQ equality. For me, these are not even controversies, they are rights, but I have learned and been reminded that everybody is entitled to their own opinions. Just because one of my best friends disagrees with me on abortion rights, does not mean that one of us is more correct than the other. More importantly, it does not mean that we cannot be friends. Respect can go a long way.

4. Answers can create more questions. Recently, I was asked to speak at a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 101 class about STD/HIV prevention on college campuses, contraception, and general reproductive justice as it effects my peer group. It is all too easy to assume that everybody has had the same education as you. They have not. There will be questions about consent, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming that will worry you and allow you to question society as a whole. You will have to explain dental dams and female condoms. You might be embarrassed at first, but you can do it. It is a worth-while experience.

3. Activism may lead to assumptions. One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that people want to know how your activism work specifically relates to your personal life. People are willing to cross those boundaries. Recently, I was asked by a stranger, someone much older than me, if the 1 in 3 statistic (stating that 1 in 3 women in their lifetime will have an abortion) was my “personal statistic.” I wasn’t offended, but I was surprised. I would never feel I have the right to ask another woman so blatantly and personally about her own experience. Some people do and they will ask.

2. “The movement” will change the people around you. You will be so delighted and thrilled to find that your friends and roommates and people you don’t even know are willing to support you and your cause. I recently started a student organization on my campus, the Student Alliance for Sexual Health, and found that the people who really care about me are willing to stand behind me for my cause. That leads me to the number one thing you will learn from “the movement.”

1. “The movement” will change you. If you let it, “the movement,” will open your heart and soul. It will fill you with this invincible passion that infects your day-to-day choices, that clears a path for where you need to be in life, for where you’re going, and where you have been. It will cast light on all of these shadows in your life and fill the spaces you need it to fill. Your passion for change is what causes you to become “the movement” yourself. You are not alone. You are a part of a whole. Cherish it.

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Today the world celebrates the third annual International Day of the Girl Child, a day to recognize the position of the girl and her unique challenges she faces around the world. This year, the focus is on ending the cycle of violence.

But why focus on violence? Don’t girls face other problems around the world?

Yes, they do. Girls lack access to basic rights, such as education, access to health, political and economic opportunities, amongst others. However, violence against girls intersects all other disparities girls may face. As the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action states, “violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms…In all societies, to greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.”

Unfortunately, girls around the world face violence every single day. The UNFPA estimates that about 1 in 3 girls and women have experienced violence at least once in their lives. Much of this violence stems from the socialization of the boy and the reinforced societal position of girls and women; girls are taught to keep quiet while boys must dominate and treat girls as their inferiors.

Fortunately, there are ways to stop and prevent violence against girls. All across the world, creative solutions are not only protecting girls, but empowering them.

Boys- and Girls-Only Discussion Groups, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

The DRC currently faces an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The conflict has excited the problem of sexual violence, genital mutilation, and other forms of gender-based violence. Within displacement camps, UNICEF and Association of Volunteers in International Service have created Adolescent Discussion Groups to give young people a safe place to discuss violence and gender equality. Girls discuss issues pertaining to safe sex, healthy relationships, and sexual violence. Boys are empowered to act as allies in the fight against gender-based violence. Since 2009, the program has supported about 2300 participants. To learn more about the program, watch this video.

Engaging Girls in Sports, Multiple Locations

Engaging girls in sports gives girls a safe place. While playing a sport, girls gain confidence, they learn how to use their voice and they become more aware of their bodies. Coaches can sit with girls, talk with them, and provide counseling for survivors of gender-based violence and can provide girls with any other resources they need. Currently, programs exist in all over Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Australia and the United States. For more information, watch this video.

HarassMap, Egypt

In Egypt, 83 percent of women have been sexually harassed and 67 percent of men admit to being harassers. The growing social acceptability of the problem led to the creation of HarassMap, an online and mobile system that maps reports of sexual assault submitted by texts. In addition to the reporting system, volunteers are trained to go into their communities and talk to people, such as kiosk and shop owners and doormen, about standing up to sexual assault and harassment. HarassMap also helps communities develop safe zones for girls and women. Safe zones can be shops or entire streets where sexual assault is not tolerated. Here is a video to learn more about HarassMap.
As you can see, all around the world people are working hard to ensure the safety, security, and equality of girls. Let’s take this day – and everyday – to reflect on the issues girls face and continue to take creative approaches to end the cycle of violence against girls.

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Doing the Youth ShowOUT challenge I learned that you have to be a bouncy ball.  Of course you will fall and hit the ground, but you only fail if you do not bounce back.  At first I was working alone – it seemed as if getting the first 25 voter pledge cards were harder than trying to ace an AP Calculus exam.  I often felt defeated because nobody would take the time to even listen to the importance of the cause.

 

One day, I got tired of being overlooked so I asked my teacher if I could make an announcement during class.  When I made the announcement and explained how much it meant to me, immediately all of my peers raised their hands in order to fill out the voter pledge cards.  It was like Christmas came early.  After class, three of my classmates stopped and asked if they could help me with the process.  Of course I said yes a million times and offered to bring them candy, even though they turned it down graciously.  At that moment, I knew that I was not alone.  At that moment, I knew that my community supported me through this.  At that moment, I knew that I had finally bounced back after failing.

 

After receiving my box from Advocates for Youth containing all of the shirts, buttons, and stickers, I knew that the fun had just begun.  I had people coming up to me asking if they could help pass out buttons, stickers, and voter pledge cards.  I would walk into a classroom and see backpacks and binders full of stickers.  People that I have never even spoken to would come up to me and ask if there was any way they could help.

 

Doing the Youth ShowOUT challenge not only affected me but my community as well; I could not have gotten over 80 without their help.  It raised awareness that voting was not a black, white, gay, or straight thing…it was a peoples thing.

 

It is important for young people to vote because it is a right granted to them that could never be taken away; voting allows young people to vote on laws that impact their lives directly. Who knows what the youth needs better than the youth? Being civically engaged is an opportunity for people to make a difference in their communities. Although the process might not be an easy and fast task, getting your peers involved make the process a lot better.

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This year was my first year ever being involved in a program like Advocates for Youth. I\’ve been in several other programs before doing community service, hosting plays, and educational programs(not sex ed of course). No adults ever wanted to hear our (YOUNG ADULTS) opinion about sex as YOUNG ADULTS. I just wanna give a major shout out to all of the adults who actually value our (YOUNG ADULTS) opinions and are giving us (YOUNG ADULTS)  a chance to speak up.  Also, Urban Retreat 2014 was one of my best experiences thus far this year. I hope I can return next year to attend Urban Retreat a second year.

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Menstruation is a monthly-periodic process of discharging useless blood, mucus and dead ovum out form vagina. It starts after the menstruation of reproductive organs in adolescent girls. The first menstruation is called menarche and it takes the place at the eleven to thirteen years mainly. Menopause is the end of menstruation with the cessation of reproductive power. It takes place at the age of 45 to 50 years. Thus, the fertile age of a woman begins form menarche and ends with menopause. It occurs normally at the interval of 28 days; but sometimes it can be a little bit earlier or late.

When the ovary starts developing an ovum in it, the uterus starts the preparation of implantation of fertilized egg. During this preparation of implantation, there is formation of an internal layer on the internal wall of uterus consisting of many new blood vessels and mucus membrane. An ovum is developed every month but there is no chance of presence of sperm every time when there is ovum. If there is no fertilization, the preparation works of uterus, i.e. new layer of blood vessels and mucus start to degenerate, Due to this; there is discharge of blood from vaginal opening. Process of discharge of useless blood and mucus with the unfertilized dead ovum from the vaginal opening once in the month is called menstruation.

 

*source: Ministry of  Education, Nepal Government

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reposted from Miriam Zoila Pérez, Colorlines

This summer, Minnesota passed a first-of-its-kind law improving the treatment of pregnant incarcerated women. In addition to extending an existing ban on the use of restraints during childbirth for up to three days postpartum, the law also allows incarcerated women to have a doula. 

Doulas are trained birth attendants who provide physical and psychological support during pregnancy and birth. Doulas have gained popularity in recent years. Doulas of North America (DONA), just one of a handful of training organizations, now boasts 6,500 members; in 1994, there were only 750. As the community and movement has grown, doulas have worked to bring their model of care to many different arenas. As a trained doula, I’ve participated in groups such as the Doula Project in New York City, which brings doula support to people having miscarriages and abortions. Other groups focus on providing low-income women with this kind of care, and a number have also tailored their work to support incarcerated women. 

This a great step towards providing care to incarcerated pregnant people.

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According to International Labour Organization (ILO), The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

It refers to work that:
• is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
• interferes with their schooling by:
• depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
• obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
• requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

Based on various surveys and reports, in Nepal, total child population below 16 years of age is 9.2 million, which is 41% of the total population. Out of 9.2 million children, 2.6 million children of age 5-14 years work as child workers.

Children are forced to work in the different areas like agricultural, industrial, mines and kilns, shops, tea shops / cafes, informal sectors (Rag-picking, Tea-shops and Restaurants, Porter, Scavenging, Shoe Shinning, Street Vendoring, Rickshaw Driving etc.), construction works, domestic works, and other worst forms of labour (Bonded Labour, Child Sex Trade) and so on. Almost the same number of
child labour in Nepal is adult unemployment in the labour market. 1.7 million working children do not have any access to education and are involved in different forms of child labour for survival and family subsistence. Studies have shown that the number of girls who drop out of the school are more than the number of boys as girls are more involved in child labour. Moreover, the studies have shown that the increase in number of school going children is the decrease in the number of children in labour market.

Challenges of Child Labour
1. Lack of Awareness on Child Labour
2. Lack of Laws and Regulations and their
implementation
3. Lack of Political Commitment and Will
4. Lack of Integrated and Coordinated Actions
5. Lack of Sustainable Programmes and Resources
6. Lack of Follow-up, Monitoring and Evaluation

Solution to Child Labour
1. Ensuring Education for all Children
2. Protection of Children, especially from trafficking and violence
3. Employment opportunities to the people ( training opportunites for unskilled ones)
4. Government plans and strategies to encourage the poor families to educate their child
5. Protection of children from conflict situations
6. Ensuring Free and Compulsory Primary Education
7. Promoting Meaningful Education for Social Change
8. Implementation of the declaration of CZOP (Children as Zones Of Peace)

Conclusion
Child labour is a significant problem in Nepal. Its prevalence is shown by the child work
participation rate which is quite high. One of the major determinants of child labour in Nepal is poverty. Even though children are paid less than adults, whatever income they earn is of benefit to poor families. When families are faced with monetary hardships, they are often forced to send their children to work, sometimes even in extremely hazardous conditions, merely to attain basic subsistence. Goverment needs to bring long term plans to ensure every child joins the school. Until and unless government introduces the plan to encourage people to educate their child than forcing them to work, the vicious circle of poverty always rises.
Data source: ILO

 

 

 

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Like me many of other may be confuse about this abbreviation. What is this abbreviation really means I’ll explain as I know After hearing this word 2, 3 month after I get to know about it and could able to write about it. Let’s start • L : lesbian What is Lesbian? Well lesbian are those who are girls they have same sexual organs as girls have they are totally similar as girl only a change they like Females. Male can’t attract them like other normal females. They always attracted with females. • G: Gay What is Gay? Gay is those who love Male. Yes even they are male they love male. In this case female can’t attract the Gay males because they love male. Male attractions towards male we can say this. • B : Bisexual What is bisexual? Well bisexual are those who can be attracted with both male and female. They even go for male and for female too. Bisexual can be found in all walks of society, and everywhere in the world. • T : Transgender What is Transgender? Transgender is state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither both) or gender expression not matching ones assigned sex. Transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual etc. • I : Intersex What is Inter-sex? ‘’Inter sex’’ is a general term used for a variety of condition in which a person is a born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside.

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“Marriage” is legally, religiously, universally accepted social institution whereby two people are bounded in a relationship of husband and wife to continue their generation. But does this indicate the relationship between only two people? It is a debatable topic. But for me, I don’t think its only the matter of two person.

When two person are married, its not only that two person are interconnected but it creates a connection between two families. These two individuals are brought up in two different families. Before marriage, they both have their two different world, two different families. They have their own near and dear ones. So when two individuals are bounded in a relationship, it has some effects to other members as well. Especially when we are brought up in a culture of living in a group i.e. in joint family. It’s not only the matter of two people. Though their part is major and their priority must be high. However, it can’t just be their only matter. In our culture bride needs to go to her husbands house leaving her own. So in this case she needs to be well adjusted with her husband’s family as well. After all, family have their own importance in a person life. It’s not only the wife but husband too needs to take care of his wife’s family.

So its not only the matter of two people to have the better understanding and happy married life.

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1. Civil society …people must be at the center of development irrespective of their backgrounds. They have to be involved at all levels (people participation)

2. There is a greater need for young people and women’s involvement in governance at different levels to help drive policies that impact that.

3. Gender equality and equity needs a greater presence in politics and governance, we do not have enough women in critical decision making processes.

4. Politics and governance should ensure that at all times their actions are in the best interest of ALL their people. Development in a lot of countries, especially developing countries has showed that structural inequalities cause for resources to be skewed and not everyone has an equal chance of benefit

5. Harmful… outdated laws and policies that foster stigma and discrimination, abuse of power and no transparency must be done away with.

6. There must be sustained on the ground communication channels between policymakers and society.

7 .There must be institutions set up to see to the independent inverstigation and prosecution of public servants as a part of the accountability framework

8. Laws and policies must be evidence based and must compliment each other cross sectors so that there is a holistic and congruent enabling environment ( health, education, youth, justice etc)

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(image reposted from DLCentral)

(This post contains SPOILERS.  Trigger warning: misogyny and homophobia.)

 

The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC (downloadable content) came out on Valentine’s Day 2014 with rabid anticipation and celebration from fans of the original Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us and TLoU: American Dreams comic series.  But not everyone was thrilled with the game.

I won’t hide that I’m personally a huge fan of this franchise.  I waited years for The Last of Us and kept track of various nuances in the video game design, legal matters, and updates.  I beat both the game and the DLC several times on different difficulties.  I’m above hundreds of thousands in terms of skill and rank on the The Last of Us multiplayer leaderboard.  I’ve also read the comics.  So, let there be no doubt that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this.

The Last of Us excels in many ways that other games do not.  The graphics are miles above the majority of games that came out in 2012 and 2013.  The gameplay controls and mechanics are solid and allow players to make choices on how they want to deal with the conflict of each chapter.  Want to sneak around like a silent and deadly assassin?  Or would you rather jump in on danger with molotovs and nail bombs and guns blazing?  Players even get the option to have conversations with some of the NPCs (non-player character) and AIs (artificial intelligence) of the game, with prompts provided of course.  The game also limits how much ammo or supplies a player receives. It’s a tactic that makes the players really think about how they should use their items and re-think their strategies against the infected and enemy humans in this post-apocalyptic world.

The first ten minutes prove to be an emotional experience.  Each character’s personality, although existing in a fictional post-apocalypse, comes off real and the interactions of these characters are crafted masterfully. Any gamer knows that video games are notorious for having horrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. The Last of Us forces other game companies watching the success of this installment to re-think how they handle these things.  Sometimes it’s just not enough to spend hours going pew pew pew or smashing things in a story full of holes and ineffective voiceovers–even though that can be extremely fun too.  One of the things that really makes this game is the way it forces companies as well as fans to re-think how they treat people who identify as women in their own stories and gaming community… well, it’s almost there.

Girls and women make up 45% of all gamers in the community.  While that’s not a majority, it is still almost half the entire community.  And despite such a significant number of girls and women playing video games, our representation still only fluctuate around 17% in TV shows, movies, video games, and even Congress.  If we break it down for just the entertainment industry, women only make up 18% of directors and executive producers, 15% of writers, 4% of cinematographers, and 11% of protagonists in a story.

What does this have to do with The Last of Us?  Well, the game isn’t perfect.  I still felt it lacked female characters even as miscellaneous extras.  Most of the humans the player will come across will be men.  Most of the women I came across were mushroom infected hordes, officially known as “clickers.”

(Great female representation, huh?)

So what made this game different from the others before it?  In this game, women actually made up a half or more of the main characters, which is sadly a rare occurrence.  All the main women had motivations that were separate from the male lead, and this isn’t just a rarity, it’s almost non-existent in any form of media.  These women were three dimensional and complex.  They were flawed, vulnerable, and yet so fierce.  Players even get the opportunity to play as a teenage girl in the video game as well as in the DLC.  These are all good things when we keep in mind of how much female representation, especially good representation, is lacking in the media.  But we shouldn’t get too excited about the bare minimum.  It would definitely pass the Bechdel test but while this progressive move is noted and celebrated, we shouldn’t be setting our standards for basic decency so low.  As much as I love The Last of Us, the game still followed the same tired formula of brooding white, middle aged man with women being hurt at his expense.  So what did MRAs (Men’s Right Activists) and your general misogynists have to say about this bare minimum in treating women as if they were humans capable of complex thoughts?

It provoked angry nerds and geeks to crowd the forums with complaints like:

“Feminists did it. They are ruining one of my hobbies. For anyone who plays video games as one of their hobbies, The Last of Us is a pretty fun game…. The feminist messages were close to ruining a game I waited a year for…”

“…will my games be misogynist? You better ****ing believe it. Misogyny The likes of which will make duke nukem blush.”

(source: Men Going Their Own Way)

“At no point in the making of this game can you imagine Naughty Dog sitting down and saying “what we should do with our apolocayptic epic, is try and tackle feminism!”

“I’m all for stronger female characters but i also am sick of this sexist modern feminism which suggest been an attractive women is a bad thing. I also think it’s sexist to try repress straight male sexuality by suggesting its wrong to find women attractive by referring to it as objectification.”

“There are far more males play games than women…fact.Sick of hearing the constant nagging about sexism.”

(source: these comments are replies to The Last of Us isn’t the solution to sexism in games, but it’s a start.)

Some gamers took issue with the fact that many of the leadership roles in the video game were occupied by women, especially one woman of color named Marlene.  She’s the leader of the Fireflies.  It’s a rebellion group that’s focused on finding a cure to save humankind from this horrible zombie fungus affliction and dismantling the militaristic government system.

 

(Photo of Marlene, image reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)

While the game faced heavy criticism from misogynistic players, The Last of Us hasn’t been left untouched by homophobia.  In video games, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are either killed off, villains, or aren’t featured at all.  I mean, the same can be said of most venues of media.  So there’s no surprise when some of the heated backlash over the progressiveness of the game found its way to one character named Bill.  He’s extremely paranoid, tactless, and rough but he’s very reliable.  The game heavily implies with obvious subtext that Bill is gay.  And it’s not just subtext, it’s been confirmed by one of the directors at Naughty Dog (company that created the game).  GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) voted Bill onto their list of most intriguing characters of 2013.  And here’s what they had to say about him:

“One of the characters the player encounters over the course of the game is Bill, an unstable loner in the town of Lincoln with a talent for fixing things. Through dialogue and backstory, the player learns that Bill once had a partner named Frank who he loved, but the plague drove them apart and led Frank to a bitter end. Both helpful and contentious, Bill is as deeply flawed but wholly unique a gay character found in any storytelling medium this year.”

(photo of Bill, reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)

 

I thought the creators would leave all mention of queerness at subtext and podcast interview like so many others (J.K. Rowling, anyone?).  But Naughty Dog took a brave route with their addition to the full game.  While this DLC serves as a prologue to the actual game, Left Behind revolves around just Ellie and her friend Riley.  Making a video game that completely centers around teenage girls with their own personal motivations and feelings is already unheard of.  And how fun, as best friends, they can even take selfies in a photobooth with the players choosing the poses and backgrounds.  But Naughty Dog takes it one step further. The writers created a scene of vulnerability, tenderness, and love between two girls in a world ravished by violence, oppression, and plague.

You can watch the three minute scene here.  I would recommend that the comments should be left alone though.  But in case you need an extra warning, the comments are along the lines of:

“Yeah…. I threw the game in the trash cause of this…….

NAUGHTY DOG! NEXT TIME LET HER KISS A GUY!”

“It makes me angry seeing gays trying to take over media now Games?!”

“the team was influenced by feminism, disgusting.”

“the gay kiss is totally perverted and f***ing sick… Naughty Dog is dead to me.”

(I copied and pasted these comments by the way but decided to leave the commentators anonymous.)

The creators of The Last of Us confirms that Ellie is gay and that the kiss she shares with Riley is of love, not just understandably reaching out for warmth and affection in a cold world, but a kiss with intentions of romantic love.  Has anyone ever seen a game like that other than a manipulation of some Sims that we may or may not have made in the past?

It’s taken great steps toward progress, but we should still be fighting for more representation of identities in our media other than the usual white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual.  This game, while it probably won’t be a catalyst for a culture shift, should be the kind of thing that gamers use as a standard, a bare minimum for what’s considered acceptable.  And as the giants we are, we should go beyond that.

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Generally Pornography is the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement .Wikipedia defined it as the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease.
Porn short form of pornography is now the avoided entity of society and with the advancement of the internet and other social media it’s form, accessibility and of course effect is also increasing day by day. Pornography can be exciting for an adolescent boy to watch, but it can also be intimidating leading towards the misconception on sex and the sexual behavior. While watching porns on early teenage, one’s brain chemistry can become shaped around the attitudes and situations that he is watching. Sadly, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality and relationships that can create an expectation for real-life experiences that will never be fulfilled. I think pornography affects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects, whether you are a man or woman struggling with watching it. You may think you have not been affected by porn, but you have because it’s embedded in the surrounding culture and I tried to list those affects as follows:
o It contributes to the social, cultural and psychological problem to viewer as peoples who become addicted to porn neglect their schoolwork, office work, spend huge amounts of money and time they don’t have, become isolated from others, and often suffer depression, highly introverted, dissociative, distractible, narcissistic, curious, and have high anxiety and low self-esteem and finally leading to several negative haunting psychological experiences.
o I think porn converts sex into masturbation resulting Sex as self-serving  . It becomes about your pleasure and not the self-giving, mutually responding relationship, familiarity or say spiritual linkage that it was designed for.
o Porn Degrades and Objectifies human as pornography is inherently self-centered–something a man does by himself, for himself–by using another woman as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume or vice-versa.

o I think porn degrades the beauty of human body structure and specially yes!! the beauty of naked women .it was told that For most of human history, the erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women but today a real naked woman resembles just a bad porn.
o I think Porn has numbing effect on reality of sex life and sexual behavior.it may make the real sex and even real world boring and imperfect. It may particularly anesthetize the emotional life of a man.
o Sexual harassments and sexual violence before and after marriage may increase due to pornography when sexual partner desires the level of simulated satisfaction as in the pron.
o Porn may lead to the high sexual activity of human and specially the adolescent and teenagers leading to numerous rape and attempts.
o Pornography shows us a world where relationships mean nothing and immediate sexual gratification means everything. Therefore, the adolescent viewer’s brain is being wired to expect that sex and relationships are separate from one another.
o Moreover the main effect is the addiction of the pornography. Addiction of it may make one’s passive, depressed which makes the most productive age generation of country useless.

But on other side , a rising number of children are learning about sex from watching pornography because sex education lessons are inadequate, researchers have found. Children are naturally curious about growing up, how their bodies work and how humans reproduce. Their questions need to be answered honestly, using language and explanations appropriate for their age and maturity, thus avoiding unnecessary mystery, confusion, embarrassment, and shame. Various researches also shows that teenagers are starting to watch porn because schools are not handling the positive aspect of sex and provide the adequate knowledge about sex that they want to know about. If they are learning something about sex and finds what they need to know then why we should not integrate this to the sex-educational curriculum. Besides as society and parent thinks porn is not always bad and have only the single form. Porn has become a cultural mediator in how young people are understanding and experience sex. Porn is being as our most prominent sex educator as well.
Teenage is the time of great curiosity and great confusion because they budding sexuality opens them up to many questions, fantasies, and urges that have not existed before. Adolescent boys have historically sought out information about sex through friends, family members, and pornography, hoping that this knowledge will fulfill their newfound curiosity and urges. But in today’s digital world, most adolescents turn to porn for answers-and pleasure–and when porn becomes an adolescent boy’s primary mode of sexual education, it can be harmful to his brain’s sexual development and also many as I listed above and more. So the parents must certainly observe about their children behavior regarding internet porn watching and also could interact with them provide the supplement knowledge of sex. However as pornography is being so popular among teens then to solve the problem, surely its attributes must be included in the curricular matter of sex education and the better form of it may also help to educate teens more effectively about sex education. BUT before we determine that the solution lies in adding pornography education to the school curriculum, we need to ask searching questions about precisely what such lessons would consist of and about the moral framework within which the subject would be addressed…

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It is a dangerous thing to convey mouthpiece status on oneself in situations where one cannot completely identify with the group of people spoken for. Pharrell Williams has left a lot of black people irritated with his claim of being “New Black”.

“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “New Black” dreams and realises that it’s not pigmentation: it’s a mentality and it’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re going to be on.”

Easy for him to say. He’s had a very successful career and it could be said that his status, both financial and social, have enabled him to progress past the point where he would suffer through most of the issues that make being black in America difficult.

As far as I’m concerned, Pharrell is in that group of black people who are allowed to sit at the cool kids table because Eurocentric society has deemed them good enough. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Oprah also sit at that table. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them turned around and said the same thing tomorrow.

His statement is so idiotic. With race as a continuously controversial issue and all the news coverage about systematic inequality, one has to wonder where he gets this sh*t from. Blackness is a mentality? Well forgive the rest of us for failing to recognize that all these years while we were struggling to understand why centuries of slavery was not enough; that we still have to contend with dehumanization and second-class status every day, on a multitude of levels.

With that said, dear black people everywhere, our great leader Pharrell has spoken. Our time would be better spent deprogramming our minds from this nonsensical notion of institutionalized racism. Oh golly! It makes me mad to think about all the time we have wasted getting blue in the face instead of just flicking the mental pigment switch.

Perhaps Oscar Grant and every other wrongfully murdered black person would have been alive today if they had only realized that they could voluntarily distance themselves from the microaggressions and stereotypes that they inherited the moment they fell into the world from their mothers’ wombs.

Please sir, use the royalties from “Happy” to buy yourself a few million seats and have ALL OF THEM. Just because no one came for you for featuring in that parallel reality “feminist movement”, and just because people all over the world are now dancing to your undeniably uplifting song, does not give you the right to try and pull this level of extravagant nonsense. Get yo’ life.

 

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And read an abridged version of her talk here

 

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Prom season is in full swing! Students across the country are reserving limos, renting tuxes, and posing for those classically awkward photos for their parents. But while we’re enjoying the glamour, let’s not forget safety! It’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #promswag!

Share on FacebookIt’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #PromSwag. http://bit.ly/PromSwag

tweet-now-toutProtect yourself and your partner while getting your #PromSwag on http://bit.ly/PromSwag #safersex

abstinence #promswag
condoms #promswag
condoms #promswag
patch #promswag
pill #promswag
#promswag

Show your love for contraception methods, while getting your prom glam on.

Share on FacebookIt’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #PromSwag. http://bit.ly/PromSwag

tweet-now-toutProtect yourself and your partner while getting your #PromSwag on http://bit.ly/PromSwag #safersex

Keep calm, and Prom on.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

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Many a time, I have tried to deduce the consequences of some ; Arrogant notions displayed by most youths. The world we live in is Profoundly able to garnish our being to prosperity, and at the same vein make us subjects to harsh circumstances – which will carve us into : Strong, Unrelenting and Determined youths, if we work towards perfection. And destroy our aspect for a Futuristic goal if we reduce our stance, by ploughing the roads of havoc.

Today, we have youths in Prisons, for violating governmental laws and the Commandments ( which is induced in,”LOVE”).

Most parents have Been great and worthy of note, because they have nurtured and trained their children in the right way – using the right principles. Still at this, most youths feel reluctant and partake in ; corruption, rape, killing, cults, sex scandals and other illegal acts.

It’s stated that – “we (Youth(s)) are the leaders of tomorrow.”

But 88% of the world most populous crimes are done by youths. Youths whose future glow more than the stars.

Who is to blame ? Is it the Parent ? I don’t believe that a mother will advise her child to kill or rape a girl.
And I don’t believe a Father, in his sane mind, will propels his son to join a cult.

So who is to blame ?

The environment has a very tremendous phase to play as an assisting dictator of youth growth.
“But should we allocate the illegal acts, committed by youths to the environment ?”

Also, the Government. Poor governance has reduced the overwhelming growth of most countries, and as a result destroyed the countenance of most youths.
This has made most youths swear the, “Oat of Allegiance”, to evil.

Should we then, blame the government ?

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What is it about twins that are so fascinating? Many of us have either envied them or idolized them. Twins are two off springs produced by the same pregnancy. Twins are rare and special. About 2 in every 100 pregnancies around the world are twins.

So how exactly are twins formed? The various studies show that the chance of having a twin pregnancy is increased by maternal age (30+).

There are basically two types of twins, fraternal and identical. But there are also the cases of third type called the conjoined twins.

Fraternal (Non-identical) twins: They are formed when two egg cells are fertilized; each egg by a different sperm so that two embryos are formed. Fraternal twins can be of the same or opposite sex and they don’t have to look at all alike. These non-identical twins are no more alike than any other two siblings. Non-identical twins are more common. Fraternal twin girls have twice the chance of giving birth to twins than singletons. One-third of all twins will be identical and two-thirds non-identical.

Identical twins: They are formed when one egg after being fertilized by one sperm, divides into two halves. The two halves are genetically identical. Identical twins are usually of the same sex.Identical twins share the same DNA but do not have the same fingerprints.About 1 in 250 pregnancies results in identical twins. No one knows what causes identical (monozygotic) twins. It appears that all women, irrespective of ethnicity, have an equal chance of having identical twins. Identical twins do not run in families.

Conjoined (Siamese) twins: They are formed exactly like identical twins, but during the split, the embryo does not separate completely to form two separate babies and the twins develop attached to one another.

Whether identical or fraternal, same sex or not, multiple child births are still one of the most amazing and mysterious births to present themselves to families and mothers everywhere. As fascinating as it can be, it can also invite the complications. Thus, the pregnant mothers should possess knowledge about twin birth.

(Facts are deduced from different sources)

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The American porn industry: a world of opportunity for both actors and consumers. Everyone wins, right? Actors and actresses with “desired features” have sex and get paid for their performances; meanwhile, consumers happily perpetuate a market with an estimated value of between $10 and $13 billion, which boosts our nation’s economy. By virtue of increased access to pornographic content through the Internet, the industry has permeated American culture so much that the average person views their first pornographic image at the age of 11. Moreover, by 2006, pornographic videos were released on an average of one every half hour.

This is how capitalists would describe the porn industry. They love it because it’s profitable… and it’s also seemingly becoming more “normal.” But while it can be easy to “normalize” the porn industry in light of statistics like the ones above, the porn industry is far from normal. Notably, the actors and actresses who star in pornographic films are subject to abnormal, oftentimes degrading treatment by the same people who consume their products. This fact may not be readily apparent for most of us – how many pornographic actors do we know personally? More than likely, we know none. Porn actors per capita in an arguably moral nation like the U.S. are few; moreover, those who do star in pornography use stage names – most of the time to protect their anonymity. However, for one freshman at Duke University, the struggle to function in society while performing in pornographic films took a serious turn when her anonymity as a porn star was stripped away from her.

Most of America knows her by her stage name, “Belle Knox.”  Her real name is Miriam Weeks, but she has only recently divulged her birth name – out of fear. This 18 year-old Duke University freshman has starred in over 30 pornographic films. Weeks has claimed that starring in pornography brings her both confidence and economic stability. On the one hand, Weeks says that as a degree-seeking 18 year-old, no other job could provide her with enough income to pay for her education – a hefty $50,000 per year bill. On the other hand, Weeks states that freely doing pornography is a part of her agenda as a person – she confidently approaches the adult film industry as a way for her to express herself as a woman and to take a stand against the way sex workers are ostracized.

However, after a fellow Duke student “outed” her name to her classmates, Weeks’ struggle as a pornographic actress trying to live a normal life has spiraled. Her ideals and her dignity have been shattered by threats of rape and death, opinions of her perceived economic freedom, critiques of her morality, and objectifications of her body above consideration of her personal ideals. Intense public scrutiny of her aspirations of becoming a respected member of society while working in the porn industry have done an injustice to the human worth of Miriam Weeks and highlight several important problems with the way this country treats sex workers.

By virtue of our technological society, it is much harder for sex workers to remain anonymous. And when these workers are put in the spotlight, our culture’s perpetual stigmatization of their profession leads to many negative, unwarranted responses on a large scale. Disagreeing with sex work is one matter. However, “slut shaming,” often in the form of death threats, rape threats, belittling, bullying, and objectification are unwarranted but present byproducts of being “outed” as a sex worker in our morally conscious culture. While it can be easy for us to think that sex workers have the ability to shrug off degrading comments because of their knowledge of how many people perceive their work, studies have proven otherwise: Extensive literature on the psychological state of sex workers has shown that the suicide rate among sex workers is six times that of the rest of the population. Clearly, these degrading comments are unsurprisingly degrading the mental and emotional state of sex workers at an unconscionable rate.

A second issue at stake for men and women like Miriam Weeks is society’s perception of the true freedom of sex workers. In Weeks’ case, many have argued that the pressure of paying for college has “coerced” the Duke freshman to seek sex work as a means to survive in a country that often prioritizes the value of an education. This is simply not true, according to Weeks, who claims that the money is only one of several reasons why she loves staring in adult films. However, although Weeks has asserted that she feels completely free to choose to do porn, it is not fair to say that all sex workers engage in their work purely out of their own free will. Sometimes, we hear stories of men and women in disparaging economic circumstances, who resort to sex work as a means to stay alive.

But why do some of us instantly typify Miriam Weeks as one of these people who do sex work as a “last resort” – a way to survive economically? Maybe its because when it comes to sex work, many of us are sharply divided on the issue, even though all of us are trained by society to find compassion for others, especially the “marginalized” members of our community (e.g., sex workers, as you probably guessed.) It’s not necessarily our fault: as soon as a conversation about porn starts, so starts the stigma, and instead of believing the possibility that a human being could ever want to do sex work, some of us tell ourselves that the person is just short on money. They’re just getting by until some other opportunity comes up. We excuse them for making the decision to sell their bodies. But when we perceive sex workers collectively as un-free workers, we all too often put words in their mouths. We rob them collectively of the value of their ability to choose. We rob them of their dignity as a rational human being.

Dignity: a word normally not associated with sex workers. But is there any inherent dignity working as a porn star? Miriam Weeks argues that this question is perceived with great bias by a majority of our society. I couldn’t agree more. There is an inherent dichotomy in the ways in which our society thinks about pornography. Although roughly 50% of American citizens freely admit to watching porn regularly, Weeks thinks that society at large has a tendency to shame pornographic actors and actresses publically and professionally while they cannot get enough of it privately. I cannot help but agree with Weeks that this enigma is one of the great plagues of our society. We jerk off with one hand, and we point our fingers with the other.

Breaking down this dichotomy will be a fundamentally challenging but necessary step to search for justice in the many issues surrounding our perception of sex workers. But the struggle for fair treatment of sex workers only begins there. We as a society also need to stop slut shaming as a means of expressing our discontent with someone’s profession. We need to realize that nobody likes being degraded; even if we consider someone derogatory, they are still a human, equally deserving of dignity and respect. Moreover, we need to give back the freedom of choice that we oftentimes take away from sex workers. Instead of being content with telling ourselves that sex workers as a whole are economically disabled, we should work to ensure that all sex workers are economically enabled. We should help those who are not as fortunate as Miriam Weeks and are struggling economically to be able to choose a career just like everyone else.

In closing, I’d like to address that I say “we” throughout this article because this issue affects all of us. Even if you have never watched pornography (I will be a little skeptical of that, but I will take your word for it) or you have not engaged in sex work, I’m sure someone you know has directly or indirectly struggled with the sex-negativity that so pervades our culture. We need to break the stigma surrounding sex work in our society because the reality is that some of us desire to engage in sex work. And no human being deserves to hear that their desires are disgusting.

By: Eric Thomas Roy

Sources:

1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_the_United_States#Economics and

          http://www.xojane.com/sex/belle-knox-duke-university-freshman-porn-star

2.  http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

3.  http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

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Tennessee Sends Religious Anti-Discrimination Bill To Governor

Reposted from The Huffington Post  | by  Shadee Ashtari

Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill on Monday that seeks to expand religious liberty protections for students in public schools.

The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed the state Senate 32-0, would permit students to express religious beliefs in their homework, artwork and written and oral assignments without academic punishment or discrimination.

The legislation’s primary sponsors, state Rep. Courtney Rogers (R) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R), introduced the measure after a teacher asked a 10-year-old student to choose a subject other than God to write about as the person she admired most, according to the Associated Press. The state House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 90-2.

Haile characterized the legislation as a pre-preemptive safeguard against potential lawsuits challenging school officials for permitting religious expression, according to the Tennessean.

The proposal would also allow religious students to organize prayer groups and other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the “same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups.”

Opponents of the bill contend that existing laws already protect students’ rights to religious expression and that the new legislation would only expose students of different faiths to unnecessary religious coercion.

“While purporting to prevent discrimination against students expressing religious viewpoints, SB 1793/HB 1547 crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students,” the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union said in a recentstatement. “Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs.”

Similar legislation, modeled after Texas’ 2007 Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act, unanimously passed the Oklahoma Senate in February.

The Tennessee bill now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s (R) signature. Given the measure’s overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House, a veto by the governor would likely be overturned.

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Wellesley-College1

Since I’ve started my activism, and met my BCYC coordinator, my goal has been to attend Wellesley College.

Why?

After all the research I’ve done to see if this school truly is right for me, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, this college is perfect for me. Not only does it have a relaxing environment, but it has the major I’m currently interested in, which is economics and political science. I have my heart set to this school, I’d probably enter depression if I were to not get accepted. Nothing will stop me from making my dream into a reality, except my parents.

I have not confirmed to my parents that I am a lesbian, but they have strong suspensions. If they were to find out that Wellesley is an all girl private school, they would hold me hostage in their home till they “pray away the gay”. I talk to them so much about how happy I would be to attend Wellesley, hoping they will understand once they find out it’s an all girl school, but they won’t.

I got an invitation today from Wellesley telling me to “come on over to the Junior Open Campus” and it just made me so sad because their is a strong chance I won’t be able to make my dream come true, because of my parents! I keep looking at it and re-reading it just picturing myself on the campus taking a stroll, sitting in a classroom receiving the best education, or reading a book in the beautiful greenhouses, it just sadness me to think that my parents don’t want this for me.

I lie awake at night thinking of plans on how to hide the fact that it’s an all girl school from my parents, but it won’t work out. If I tell them I feel likes it’s me coming out to them, and if that’s the case, they won’t help me financially or emotionally with anything in my future.  And I know I need them.

Sometimes I just think of settling at a college I know I won’t be happy at jut to make my parents happy, but it’s my life… I want to be happy.. I don’t know. I keep pushing this dilemma back because I don’t want to deal  with it, but time is running out and I need to be a women about this.

I’ve considered living my life in debt just to go to Wellesley, I’d do anything, I’ve already started to sign up for scholarships! I’ve pushed myself harder in school to make sure nothing education wise messes up my chances.

I guess I’ll see what happens.

Categories: Other
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WWD 2

In the past years, I have volunteered my skills and time on a number of community projects. But the feeling I had this morning after digging for the laying of pipes which will convey potable water to  the community of the of the Bassa Industrial area especially those of the “Plateau Guinness” neighborhood was  special. Special because sparked by the smiles on the faces  of the adults of this community who had come out in their numbers to contribute to the building of the taps from which will flow this so much talked about “Precious” liquid which some have said is “Life”. The smile on their faces was as radiant as I have only seen on the faces of children enjoying every minute of their life on a school playground at break.

These persons have every reason to smile because Cameroon’s water sector is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained. According to a United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), about 92% of Cameroonians living in cities have access to improved water while only 47% of Cameroonians living in rural areas can access potable water. This situation has not only been the cause of the repeated Cholera outbreaks that the country has experienced recently but caused untold damages in families and communities especially rural communities.

World Water DAY 2014In fact, these people who are not alone in their case have had their sisters, daughters, and mothers raped as they moved to the stream to fetch water, they have missed their lessons or being late to   school because of they have to move for long distances to fetch water for the family every morning while their peers are in class, and have lost a loved one to diarrhea and other water related diseases. This has no doubt contributed to the lamentable state of rural areas in my country Cameroon.

We must all make the progress our world is currently enjoying benefit all. It is only when the fruits of the progress the world is currently experiencing are enjoyed by all that the development we are so much clamoring for will really be sustainable.

Knowing that atrocities such as those described above are experienced by a countless number of people in other communities around the world is revolting because we live in a world of plenty and can all afford to make life better for all. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 800 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water .May the below extract from Reflections on Water  by the  Ecumenical Water Network, a project of the World Council of Churches, inspire you to act  in your own small way for this liquid as we observe World Water Day today, March 22nd  2014.

 

Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily.

Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty,

or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth’s most precious

and vital resource is unconsciously wasted.

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Meeting the President has by far been one of the most enlightening moments of my life. From chatting up with the secret service to networking with tons of awesome people, I truly enjoyed myself! Throughout his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of gaining a higher education. Through his story I think we all can learn that we can do whatever it is that we put our mind to. I find it ridiculous that almost half of the nations students fail to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) causing a surplus of over 100 million dollars in unclaimed money from the government! How crazy is that? After his speech, I gave an impromptu speech to all the kids in my class on the importance of filling out their app even if they felt that they wouldn’t qualify because a little goes a long way!

Categories: Other
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“Nothing decisive,Nothing sustainable,can be done in our country as long as this important part of ourselves remains in the oppression imposed on them by different systems of exploitation….the true empowerment of women is that which makes the woman responsible,that includes her in productive activities, and in the fight against the different challenges faced by our people. The true emancipation of women is that which forces consideration and respect from men”
Though these words may sounds like those of a convinced women’s rights activist of the second decade of the 21st century, they aren’t. These are words from Burkinabe revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara to women gathered to celebrate International Women’s day on March 8th 1987 a few months before his assassination.
The above was not only an appeal for women to never lose sight of the fundamental role they play in the progress of a society, but above all, a call to men and society as a whole to support them as they selflessly invest in the nation’s future at times through acts of courage that are often taken for granted or ignored such as beautifully balancing their role as mother, caretaker of the family, and increasingly bread winner for most families in my part of the world.
Rural Women deserve more……
 The brave women of the rural areas of Cameroonlive what I call “A life of service to the community” by waking up early to prepare the children for school; prepare breakfast for the family; toil all day in farms; return home late and despite the hard day’s work prepare dinner for the family. This makes me so proud of these women and reinforces my conviction that they merit more attention than is currently being accorded them by politicians and policy makers in the far away capital cities and comfortable skyscrapers in Yaounde, Addis Ababa, and NewYork.
Women make up more than half of Cameroon’s vastly youthful population. A majority of this very “important part of ourselves” live in the most ignoble of conditions in its rural areas and are on a daily basis subjected to torture, rape, and abuses of all sorts by men who are themselves oppressed by a society in which the gap between the very rich and the very poor is ever widening.
Economic Injustice is an Effective fertilizer for the Oppression of Women
Yes, a man who is powerless in the face of  his family’s inability to eat to their fill; cannot pay  health bills for his family; and cannot afford to send his children to school,  transfers the injustice done  him by society to his wife, sister, and daughteronly  in the face of whom he feels  “a real man”.Non-inclusive redistribution of a country’s resources therefore leads not only to economic inequality among a nation’s citizens but aggravates the already existing inequality through abuses of all sorts on women and girls.
Achievement of Millennium Development Goals is impossible without women 
Thus, greater economic opportunity is to be extended to rural area dwellers if the Millennium Development Goals to which this year’s International Women’s Day is dedicated are to ever be achieved and this cannot be done without the brave women who though living in these socially challenged areas, have put their lives “at the service of the community”

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It has nearly been four months since Eastern Visayas was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) yet the situation of the people remains difficult and our future uncertain. No words can aptly describe of our situation in those trying moments. In just four hours, Yolanda destroyed our homes, offices, schools, and our source of livelihood. Along the rubbles that the mighty current of storm surge have carried are the lifeless bodies of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and loved ones – many of whom are still missing, or have joined the count of dead bodies waiting to be identified and be given proper burial.

 

I am deeply grateful and touched by the love and support of my friends and families abroad. For five days of uncertainties, they have filled-up my Facebook walls and my e-mail with messages of hope mixed with concern and prayers that have sustained me. I want to personally thank my amazing family in Advocates for Youth (especially to Nicole, Mimi, Janine, Sulava, Urooj and everyone), my orange family – Y-PEER Pilipinas (especially to Ate Zai, Kuya Mario, Ate Aiza, and everyone), and my relatives who sent their help in many forms that help sustain our temporary exile from Tacloban.

 

My unwaivering faith with my God has inspired me to move on and go on with life. It is the first time that I wrote a lengthy blog. I have to admit that the super typhoon has somehow robbed a part of me and somehow that emptiness has also made me not inspired to write with gusto as much as before. Now, I am back. Inspired with the new hope that the city of my birth will rise above the rubbles, I returned to Tacloban last January 11 to begin anew but dealing with the stress and trauma is not easy.

 

The days, weeks, and months that followed after Yolanda were particularly difficult for us as we try to come into terms with our loss and face the uncertainties of future. After four months, we are continuously hearing of the rebuilding and rehabilitation plans that our national government was able to come up and will be implementing. The people are being forced to accept this plan but the pressing questions are these: Were they able to exhaust their means to consult the people on the kind of rebuilding and rehabilitation that we, the people affected by Haiyan wanted? Were our voices heard in the process? Have they taken into account of our welfare and well-being?

 

We have decided to act. Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. We must not allow the national government to come up with a rebuilding and rehabilitation plan that will send us back to the situation that made us vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and poverty. That is why the Freedom from Debt Coalition together with the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Eastern Visayas ngan Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) will be organizing a March Rally tomorrow, March 8, 2014 so that the national government will hear our cries, the people will listen to us. Let us make it known to the government our demands which include the following:

 

1. Livelihood fund for women. Women are one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. They should the capacity and means to rise above from the ruins of Haiyan so that they can be self-sufficient and so that they can help their families as well.

2. Assistance for farmers and fisher folks. In agriculture, the farmers especially those in the coconut industry and the fisher folks are the ones whose livelihood was badly affected by the super typhoon. They need assistance in order for them to recover their source of income.

3. Student calamity fund for students in Yolanda-affected areas. Allocate a budget for State Universities and Colleges in Haiyan-affected areas so that it can help their students especially those whose parents are financially incapable of financing their studies in the form of: scholarships; employment opportunities such as hiring student assistants; and other ways and means in which the fund can help the students.

4. Automatic PhilHealth coverage to all families affected by Yolanda since most does are not capable of paying their hospitalization and not all areas in Region VIII have a public hospital or health centers.

5. Lower the price of commodities. Government should implement Price Freeze and strict monitoring on the prices of commodities and implementation of the law by government-designated agencies such as DTI.

6. Temporary suspension of the Value Added Tax (VAT) to basic commodities in Eastern Visayas and other areas directly or indirectly affected by Haiyan.

7. Regular and permanent jobs, not only Cash for Work. Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their livelihoods to super typhoon Yolanda and most of them cannot go back to their former livelihood.

8. Assistance to homeless families in order for them to rebuild their homes. We have heard of the construction of bunk houses and plans for permanent shelter for homeless families. Bunk houses constructed without following international standards should be reconstructed. Permanent shelters should be built not later than soon. Those whose houses are damaged but still habitable should also be extended with help.

9. Climate Justice for all victims of Haiyan. Super Typhoon Yolanda was brought about due to the unabated Carbon Dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by factories and machineries of developed countries since the start of Industrial Revolution which resulted to global warming. Developed countries are accountable to developing countries like the Philippines for their historic and current role to climate change and global warming. Therefore, it is but right that they should pay developing countries in a form of reparations such as the Green Climate Fund which can help them be more prepared and adaptive to climate change and so that they can mitigate the effects climate change that is unavoidable.

10. Fund for climate change induced calamities and poverty such as what President Aquino signed in 2012 in what now known as the so-called People’s Survival Fund Law which allocates 500 million pesos for Climate Change adaptation and mitigation which remains un-allocated and un-programmed since the Aquino administration has yet to craft its Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR).

 

Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Haiyan-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. That is why we must not bide with time and wait for the government to act. This is an opportunity for us to be stand in a common ground and be united. We must not allow a “business as usual” recovery and rehabilitation. Yolanda left us a hard lesson and a grim reminder that Yolanda may not be the last super typhoon to visit Eastern Visayas. Let the memory of those who die will not fade in our consciousness. Do we want that the events in November 8 happen again in the future?

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February is Teen Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is unfortunately a regularly accruing act of violence in society and yet it’s long lasting and devastating impacts are often under spoken about on a societal level.

Domestic violence is not something that happens to only a certain group or type of person, it’s universal, and for approximately one third of teens it is a reality. Teen domestic violence is some times over looked or “explained away” because of age, “growing pains”, or can be viewed as normal to some young people. When Rihanna was psychically attacked by then boyfriend Chris Brown many young people, approximately 50% in a Boston survey, made flippant and harrowing comments about how it was Rihanna’s fault that she was attacked because she must have done something to deserve it.
Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks had an episode of the Oprah show in which they discussed domestic violence and had high school students join them via video. One of the high school students stated that many teens do not view domestic violence as the serious situation that it is and that students would say they were “going to Chris Brown” (physically attack) one another as if it was a joke. [The high school students join in around the 1:40 mark]
Domestic violence in the teenage years has long last effects that can and will stay with both survivors and abusers for the rest of their lives.
Experiencing dating violence when teens began to date can be an isolating, scary, and confusing time for young people. The pressure of being a “good boyfriend or girlfriend” can potentially lead to not addressing the violence you are experiencing or telling some one about it for fear of judgment and retaliation. Furthermore, there is no real curriculum in schools that addresses what healthy dating is versus an unhealthy relationships so young people are left with little to no real point of accurate information to help them better understand and be able to identify what is abuse and what is not abuse.
While Teen Domestic Violence awareness month comes to a close it is important to remember especially while working with and for young people that we must address domestic violence in youth as the serious and some times lethal problem that it is.

Categories: Other, Young People
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Okay, this is a bit of a personal entry….. But I’m curious.

I recently got dumped by my girlfriend of two months. Well, it was by letter. A type of breakup that drives me nuts. This was a week ago. We go to school together, and I don’t see much of her, but it feels like I’ve been seeing more of her now that we’re not together, like she goes out of her way to avoid me. Not that I’m upset, I just don’t get it.

It’s also been just two weeks since I’ve gone completely Trans. I’m now wondering if that’s what it’s about.

Has anyone had an experience like this?

HELP!

Categories: Other
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At The Grammys, Beyonce and Jay-Z Made The Case for Marriage That Most Conservatives Can’t

“And in my favorite recent example, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z got on the Grammy stage last night and did what conservatives have been dying for someone to do for ages: they made marriage look fun, and sexy, and a source of mutual professional fulfillment. As Caitlin White wrote in her review of Beyoncé’s self-titled album: “She claims female pleasure as pure and grown, something dominant that can coexist with monogamy and marriage and her own status as an artist.” And that’s particularly true of the song Beyoncé and Jay-Z chose for their Grammys collaboration.”

via Think Progress

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Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)

Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members

As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.

We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.

From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.

Adrian’s Story

Adrian NavaI consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.

As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.

I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.

My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.

However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett JimenezI am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.

On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.

I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.

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As I transitioned from high school to college, I thought that my student outreach efforts on behalf of Colorado Youth CREATE would get easier. With a bigger campus, more people, and more freedom, I reasoned that I would easily be able to reach more people to join our youth activist network and support our cause of increasing the availability of comprehensive sex education on local and state levels. However, I soon realized that the climate of students at my private university was very conservative and not very supportive of sexual health education. This was something that I found to be completely ironic because people are definitely “doing it,” and people are definitely gossiping about it. But no one wants to discuss safe sex, healthy relationships, or sexual assault.

The first few times that I tried to talking to some people I met in college about my work with CREATE it did not go well. They stopped me mid-sentence and told me that I was wasting my breath because they had conservative values. In another instance, someone physically put their hand over my mouth and told me, “Stop. Just tell me if you’re from an abortion clinic because I don’t want to hear it!” Even when I was able to get through my one minute spiel about being an advocate for comprehensive sexual health education, I was often met with very judgmental stares and gaping mouths, as if I had just confessed that I was drug lord. People at my school felt uncomfortable with my messages and I was beginning to be labeled and dismissed as the “raging liberal.”

I realized that I needed to change my approach. I knew that the issues I was talking about are things that we all face, both as young people at this university and in this world. To me, the issues that I advocate for are about human rights—the right to identify however we choose to identify and love whoever we may love. The right that we, as citizens, have to access to affordable health care and services. And the right that we, as young people, have to receive truthful, medically accurate and culturally inclusive education. I realized that I needed to frame my message in a way that was not received as a partisan issue, and instead illustrate how comprehensive sex education truly affects and concerns us all.

I was received much better when I used a more holistic and rights-based approach with my audience. Below are a few strategies that I developed in order to reframe my advocacy message about the need for comprehensive sex education:

1. Cultural Competency/ Sensitivity- Always Walk Your Talk!
It is important to keep in mind that people may come from different backgrounds or have different ideologies from your own when you’re doing outreach. Just like in a comprehensive sex education class, your conversation should recognize what the other person values! For example, if the person you are talking to has chosen to abstain until marriage, note that that’s great for them- abstinence is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs. However, you will both be able to agree that not everyone will share that decision. You can point to the national rate of teen pregnancy and talk about how comprehensive sex education not only can help reduce that number but also includes a strong abstinence message.

2. Personalize Your Message!
If you feel comfortable and safe enough, share a story as to why you do the work that you do. This helps transform the issues into something very human and relatable. Through storytelling, your message is framed in a way that shows the effect that sexual health has on everyday people.

3. Keep The Door Open For Conversation
No issue is easy or black and white. Allow for discussion about the issues, as long as it remains respectful and non-intrusive to you and your personal space. I have found that in some situations it is very important to draw this line, like when I felt disrespected for just defending myself. Openly discussing your issue creates an opportunity to learn about what is valuable and important to the other individual while also sharing what is important and valuable to you. Both parties can end up a little more enlightened about different perspectives from even a short exchange of ideas. You may not always agree, but you may find that they, and others alike, will be more willing to approach you later about the issue. Look for common ground in some aspect of sexual health and go from there!

In the past few weeks that I have adopted these ideas, I have found that the people I talk to are a lot more receptive and the conversations I have are a lot more meaningful. Even though we as advocates often find ourselves in communities that are not supportive of our issues, this is the place where change happens. Being in this tough environment these last few months has reminded me about the importance of my work, and I see every new day as an opportunity to further our cause. CREATE is working on developing tools to support young people and their advocacy efforts in the community, so stay tuned!

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So the other day I was talking to my mom about my goals for this year,

  • Get awesome grades in school
  • Pass all my college entrance exams
  • Get into my dream school (which is Wellesley College in Boston)
  • Work on becoming a healthier young person

After I told her my goals, she asked, “How do you plan on paying for everything?”

I replied, “I’m the money I earn at my job, and hopefully I earn scholarships, but also, with the help of you and my dad.”

Then she replied, “You know I’ll always help you, unless I find out your living with a girl.”

Once she said that I knew what she was talking about. I felt my heart sunk into my stomach and my head began to feel heavy on my shoulders. I calmly said, “Well, I’m not rooming with a guy mom!”

She gave me look that said “Don’t play dumb with me” but I ignored it. After a minute of silence she said, “I’ll always love you, I’ll always talk to you no matter what, but if you’re a lesbian, I’m not helping you with anything., you’re on your own.”

I quickly changed the subject because I just couldn’t deal with how uncomfortable I felt.

I try to make it not bother me but I can’t. Half of me wants to just not try to go to college and give up, but the other half is saying to keep going with the flow and eventually I’ll succeed. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I’m being positive.

I believe I can make it, I believe I will succeed, and I believe one day, my mom will come around.

Now, my goal as a young activist is to convert other LGBTQA youth to believe in themselves and that all it takes to come out a winner is believing.

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When I’m in feminist/activist spaces I’m always hesitant to voice my concerns on discourses on and about white feminism and white-savior complexes. As a radical feminist (I’ve decided I’m beyond progressive), I think that sometimes these notions are not fully explored. As a woman of color, raised by women of color, white women always belonged in that social-worker box for me (trust there is no shortage of white women there). In college these women took on a different role, they were the “bearers of knowledge,” they were my professors. However, learning about and from white women played a crucial role in my educational attainment and the cultivation of the activist I have become. Don’t get it twisted for 2.0 seconds, I will call a white feminist on her power and privilege in a second, but I believe that in this movement there is more work to do. Yes this means work for us women of color, and I’m starting by acknowledging the roles that white women have played in my life good or bad.

In college I was a part of a program called the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP), which was the crucial to my success and graduation from Syracuse University. This program financed my education but also provided the social-emotional support fundamental to my survival in the institution. My academic counselor, Marian, provided this support. When I first met Marian, I did not completely understand how our relationship would work. For starters she was a white woman. Secondly, I was expected to meet with her frequently and talk about stuff. Again, I did not see how this was going to work. To my surprise, I would grow to love her, and love her hard. I recently had a conversation about “chosen families.” Basically they are families that you are not born into but ones that you create who love and accept you as if you were family. I’ve built a chosen family, not by choice but out of survival. Lately, I’ve been interrogating my support systems and how they have helped me healed. Today, I explored my chosen-mother, who ironically has the same first name as my biological mom who passed away when I was one. Her name is Marian, and she is not only a support but also an integral part of my activist work.

As I stated before, I initially wasn’t hip to this relationship. That would change. For a while I developed a color-blind ideology with Marian, not because I wanted to assume a level playing field, but it made it easier for me to love her. Institutionally and personally, white women had been connected too much of the pain that I experienced growing up, whether intentionally or by solely being ABSENT and a figment of my imagination. So if I could see this person that I had come to know and love as “just like me,” I would not have to acknowledge this trauma. But in the same ways I did not want to acknowledge these differences, Marian did. She didn’t do it in ways like my peers, unbeknownst of their privilege, but in ways that said “my whiteness has colored my experiences and those of my colleagues in a ways much different than yours and that I MUST acknowledge.”

I never felt compelled to teach her about my oppression although I often did…..

In academic/activist spaces many of us feel that we need to tell white folks the 411, and we have learned that this can lead to secondary trauma, serious burn-out and a path to no where. I re-learn this lesson everyday. However, I never felt that I needed to “put Marian on” to the daily wrath of oppression that I was experiencing. First,  she had heard it for years before I became her student and secondly her and other counselors made it their business to know about the challenges their students were facing. I was taken aback about the fact that Marian never used “disparity” language and flat out named the systems as they were: racist, sexist and classist. She also provided me with a space to be unrelenting and unapologetic about my past and present experiences. As a social worker in training, I can attest to the fact that I would lay on the biographical trauma that is my life real thick on a snowy Wednesday. She never silenced me and would even move her other appointments when I was in crisis.

She wasn’t interested in “saving me”….

As a white woman who is an academic counselor to “economically and academically” disadvantaged students it is easy to see how one could apply the white-savior trope to someone like her. Don’t, I’d straight up fight you. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from HEOP, was how to save myself. It was first by learning that it was not my fault! That because I did not look like 80% of the incoming class, did not mean I did not belong there. In fact, it was her pushing and believing in me when I felt I could not believe in myself. She always held me accountable for my actions. I did not feel accountable to her because she was my “academic counselor” or a person in power; it was because of her love and her belief in my talents that gave me no other choice. Imagine a world where love and solidarity, make us hold each other accountable.

 She understood that my education was more than coursework…

At some point in college I became a community activist and campus leader. These things became just as important as my Women’s Studies courses and my organic chemistry classes. At 19, a fellow classmate and myself, decided to build a grassroots organization for girls in Syracuse from the ground up. We had people that doubted us, one most embedded in my memory, a white woman in the community service field. Marian backed my project emotionally and financially. She connected me with community resources and found ways for me to use my education at Syracuse to support my social entrepreneurship. She helped me be the BOSS I was destined to be. She understood that the work I did on and off campus fed-me intellectually in ways that the classroom could not.

She pulled me by my the “bootstraps” til’ completion…

Lets be real…some of us do not make it unfortunately. Although I will have you know, HEOP students have a 6.5% higher graduation rate than the national average. There are a host of things that keep young people from completing their education. These include financial barriers, academic rigor, institutional and interpersonal oppression, and lack of support. I’d say while all are extremely important, it is almost impossible to get through college without support. For an orphan like me hailing from the then poverty stricken and violence-infested neighborhood of Bed-Stuy (now up & coming = read gentrifying) this could not be more true. However for me, the perils that would impede on my education became even more real while at college. In my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness,  that caused me to visit the hospital over 20+ times. As much as I want to stand on a soapbox and tell students with chronic illnesses that you can do it because I did, I know that I did not get through this by myself.  Without the unwavering support of friends, family, professors and Marian the completion of my degree would have not been fulfilled in the time it did. I say she pulled me by bootstraps, because it was just that. She pulled me by something I did not have, she pulled me from nothingness. She nursed me to back to emotional health when I had to accept taking an extra semester to finish what I had started. She forced me to put my pride aside, value my worth and be unapologetic about both my abilities and differently-abledness. She worked above and beyond her job description.

We all have different experiences, many of them traumatic; I try to stay away from twitter for that exact reason. But some of us have had positive experiences that may act as a glimmer of hope into a feminist future. I am a more fearless and unapologetic person because of her. When I am in a room of white women, I am unafraid. I hold white women accountable, because I know it is not impossible to be in solidarity with them, and even more to love them and them love me. In 2014, I am calling for a feminism that radically shifts the divisions and adjective-feminism (Transnational feminism, hip-hop feminism, Muslim feminism, etc.) that we know and embrace today. I am calling for the one that is affirming of our multiple identities, positions of power and experiences of oppression. I am calling for a feminism that allowed this Black girl from Bed-Stuy to learn to love a white woman, and call her my chosen-mother. However, this post isn’t about hope or solidarity, it is about my unwavering and unapologetic love for a woman, that because of all things wrong and oppressive in this world, I had to learn to love! And I do and will forever love her!

 

 

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Drunk in Love = Safe in Love?

A few weeks ago, Beyonce quietly dropped an album (thanks for being awesome #QueenBey), and a hit single “Drunk in Love” is blaring from every angle. Corner stores, cars on the highway, my dentist’s office. You name it, and “Drunk in Love” is on everyone’s playlist. While the entire album is well received by her audience, “Drunk in Love” raises a bigger question about the role of sobriety in sexual encounters.

As a third-year college student in America’s biggest college town, I’ve seen and heard all the effects of alcohol in sexual encounters.

“It makes flirting easier.” “It makes cumming faster.” “It makes talking smoother.”

Easier. Faster. Smoother.

Things alcohol does to your hook-up/sex life (because not all hook-ups involve sex). Sounds good, right? But, then glance over at the role of alcohol in sexual violence and the role of alcohol in America’s rape culture, especially among young people. While there is no direct correlation between alcohol and sexual violence, is there a safe way to be drunk during sex and, of course, during love?

For Beyonce and Jay-Z, one of the most powerful couples in the entertainment industry, their marriage seems like something out of utopia: a child, money, love, fame, etc.

But most couples aren’t like this. In fact, how many women can say that they completely trust their partner when they are drunk? How many times are women left feeling comfortable in their vulnerability and sexuality with their partner?

That’s what struck the most in this song. Beyonce feels safe enough to trust Jay-Z when they’re both drunk. And that’s actually so rare. Society places so many preconceived notions of sex and alcohol, especially on the role of alcohol to get women drunk for sex. With sex comes vulnerability and trust, the trust to be with someone during your most intimate moments and the vulnerability to linger with your most intimate thoughts.

While “Drunk in Love” represents a part of a relationship rarely depicted in media, I would like to see other women feel more safe and secure in their relationships, sober or not.

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Buffer zone laws are meant to serve the simple purpose of aiding legal protection to abortion access and vary state to state, even country to country. They are viewed as bordering provisions for anti-abortion speakers and protestors to not infringe on the safety and well-being of an abortion provider’s patients and staff. In a few weeks, the Massachusetts buffer zone law will be heard in the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists and abortion activists ready and waiting. Reporters have already covered both sides of the story, and everyone in the reproductive justice community in Massachusetts is keeping a close eye on this decision.

 

With the Supreme Court hearing on Jan. 15, I wonder how the verdict will turn out. While anti-abortion activists will claim freedom of speech and assembly, these freedoms are not justified with previous histories of aggression, violence, and libel nationwide.

For those who work at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, this decision hits close to home. Nearly two decades ago, a shooter entered a Planned Parenthood in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two people and wounded five others. As a result, Planned Parenthood moved to a new location, but the memory of those who died and were affected by this tragic incident sparked a movement to further protect staff and patients in abortion-providing settings.

Fast forward to 2013, and as I walk into Planned Parenthood for my internship, I see signs of defaced babies and crowds of people distributing anti-abortion material. The amount of anti-abortion activism varies, but it’s enough to know that the anti-abortion movement is strong in Massachusetts.

Let’s see what the new year brings.

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I’ve been following the #twitterfeminism conversation since I read Meghan Murphy’s piece The Trouble with Twitter Feminism the other night. All day and night I’ve been sneaking Twitter time at work and staying up too late just to see what everyone has to say about the topic. It has been very inspiring to see the overwhelming amount of support that people have showed for Twitter feminism.

A great conversation ensued about the good and bad, but mostly good, of Twitter feminism, and the problematic aspects of Murphy’s blog post. There were conversations about the exclusion of PoC, WoC, LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, sex workers, poor people, and many others from mainstream cishet white feminism, and about how Twitter feminism gives all of these people a voice and a platform.

There were side conversations about appropriation of a PoC’s (Ngọc Loan Trần) words in Murphy’s piece to prove her point. Something that the author was not okay with, and how Murphy has been pushing back against the idea of removing the quote from her piece. And of course, there was talk about how she misgendered the author in her piece (and then later apologized and edited the post.)

There were conversations about bullying, exclusion, appropriating, and other types of oppressive behaviors among Twitter feminism as a whole, but also even within the groups of marginalized voices on Twitter. Naturally, there were very interesting discussions, but there were also arguments and personal attacks. Wrong assumptions were made, insults were hurled, users were blocked, and things got personal for some people.

I found all of this fascinating. I love observing dialogues on Twitter as they allow me to hear perspectives that are different than my own. These perspectives help me grow as a critical thinker and as as someone who is committed to social justice. And a part of me that I’m not so proud of enjoys a little Twitter drama like I enjoy a good telenovela.

But notice how I said I love “observing” dialogues. That’s because I don’t usually offer my own opinions on things, especially if I have a dissenting opinion from the masses of Twitter feminists. I’ve seen people get vilified for presenting an opinion or asking a question that implies that they might have a different opinion.

And sure, people need to get called out, but is it really necessary to demonize them in the process? And yes, tone policing is not cool, anger is justified, but does that give one license to always be malicious to someone who gets something wrong? Just because feelings are justified, doesn’t mean actions always are. (I might be really mad at someone for cutting me in line, that doesn’t mean I get to punch them in the face.)

So for this and a few other reasons, I try not to say much on Twitter if I have even a slight inkling that someone will disagree with me and send a horde of Twitter users after me. (And perhaps part of my lack of participation has to do with my social anxiety, and my lack of time to actively participate in Twitter conversations between two jobs.) Is this my problem? Yes. Has just sitting back and listening been incredibly beneficial for me? Yes.

But aren’t we talking about amplifying marginalized voices here? If my voice, a queer woman of color’s voice, is silenced because I would rather not participate in the popularity contest and boxing ring that is Feminist Twitter, then what does that tell you? I wonder if there are other voices out there like mine who would rather not say something because of what they think might happen.

So while reading Murphy’s piece, I couldn’t help but agree with many (but not all) of the points she raised.

Now some of you reading this may automatically assume that I am a Meghan Murphy fan because of that last sentence. So in order to not be attacked as a Murphy supporter, as I expect that Twitter feminism might do, I must offer the following disclaimer.

I am not nor have I ever been a Meghan Murphy fan. We disagree on things such as sex work, and in fact, just the other day I was shaking my head while reading her piece in Vice about how the sex work industry is to blame for human trafficking, and how apparently no one can possibly choose to do sex work (!). She also uses the phrase “prostituted women” in her piece, which is of course very offensive.  Many others have pointed out the problems with her politics. I think it’s possible to agree with certain things that people say or do, and to vehemently disagree with other things.

tweets

Here’s where Murphy and I agree:

  • It’s easy to make things up about people on Twitter. This is a no-brainer. I mean, it’s the internet. And it’s very easy to use those made up things to vilify someone.
  • “Twitter doesn’t like nuance. Twitter likes statements. Preferably dramatic ones.” This is incredibly true. Everything is often so black and white on Twitter. Someone is either good activist or a problematic asshole. You can either love, worship, and defend Beyonce as a feminist like she’s your firstborn child, or you hate her and all successful black women. You can either praise Twitter feminism is wonderful, useful, and flawless, or you’re just a hater who is butthurt that marginalized voices have a platform.
  • “We’re all showboating, trying be Most Right…We often succeed in being Most Right by proving that someone else is terrible. Winning by default or destruction is a popular Twitter strategy.”  Come on, we’ve all seen this, sometimes in the form of call outs, sometimes during arguments. We’ve all seen people called names, demonized, or ruthlessly taken down on Twitter because of a comment or a blog they wrote. We’ve seen popular tweeps use their popularity and follower count attack others. Everyone is eager to show how smart they are or who much they know, even if it means humiliating others.
  • Also, people on Twitter don’t argue about their ideas, they throw insults at each other and argue about who they are as a person. So instead of saying “That thing you said is problematic because…” people say “Shut up you fucking racist shithead. I hope your house burns down. Btw BLOCKED.”  I don’t want to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with me if they’re going to resort to assumptions and personal attacks.
  •  Many people aren’t on Twitter. About half a billion people do use Twitter, and that’s a lot, and they represent people from all different walks of life. But it seems like a lot of people IRL don’t use Twitter at all or that much. Or they don’t use it for social justice. Think about people you know IRL; are they on Twitter as much as you are? I think it’s safe to say that many people are represented on Twitter, but those on Twitter may not be completely representative of the population.
  • ”Twitter tends to amplify certain perspectives and voices and erase others — either because they aren’t there or because they’re too scared to speak up, lest they become the next target. Thinking about who is on Twitter and whose voices are loudest on Twitter is worthwhile.”  This is very important. Because of the way Twitter is, people like myself are too afraid to participate in conversations, as I said earlier. People are more likely to listen to you if you’re established and have a high follower count. This makes perfect sense, and I have no issue with people being popular on Twitter. However, this means that when the popular tweep attacks a less popular tweep, the less popular tweep has to deal with the wrath of the popular tweep, their popular tweep friends, and all of their followers as well. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon to vilify this person for whatever they said or did, and suddenly they are the most evil person in the world and should never be forgiven.
  • Twitter feminism is far from perfect, because we are human beings and as activists are far from perfect. Every single one of us has done problematic things. We have made mistakes. There was a time when we did not know as much as we know now about social justice. We’re all growing and learning. And so it really angers me when I see people being attacked if it’s because they aren’t as enlightened about social justice issues as some of us are. Also, the people attacking others for not being as enlightened are sometimes academics, who have had the privilege to get a masters degree in [insert social justice related field of study here], while others have not. While it is true that knowledge in this day and age is free, and can be found on Twitter, Tumblr, at the library, etc, it does take time to learn and become an expert in feminist theory or intersectionality. If you’re working multiple jobs or have kids or are otherwise busy, you might not have that time.

But it is great that Twitter provides a medium through which people like me who haven’t formally studied feminist issues in depth (though I have had the privilege of getting two Bachelors degrees) can learn and discuss these issues. There are many other great things about Twitter feminism.

If you read through the hashtag, many people have already adequately explained why hashtag feminism and Twitter feminism is very valuable, online and offline. There are some of my favorite examples of Twitter feminism and Twitter social justice from 2013.

  • #TexasWomenForever (As much as I am not a fan of how the pro-choice movement continues to use trans exclusive language) this campaign raised thousands of dollars for people seeking abortions in Texas. That’s real money that is going to help real people.

These are just a few great examples of how Twitter is used to give a voice to marginalized groups of people who may not have been heard anywhere else, or who cannot, for one reason or another, do “on the ground” or “in real life” activism. But the way, the internet in some ways IS real life. The issues mentioned above are real, and the actions of people on Twitter have real consequences.

Also, Twitter has introduced me to brilliant activists, organizations, and writers like those mentioned above, and many others. It has opened my mind to so much. My views are constantly changing and gaining depth, and at times it is challenging for me, but I am grateful. In other words, I love Twitter feminism. And I would disagree with Murphy when she says that it isn’t productive and that it’s intellectually lazy.

I love #TwitterFeminism. I love it so much that I am willing to admit that it’s not perfect, and that we can do better. So let’s start doing better.

Categories: Other
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Examine My Depth:

 

Examine this depth because it hasn’t sprung from nowhere – my rage is not a fire hydrant that opens with a tap and strikes everyone close by.

 

My ache has been rooted and carefully harvested for centuries.

 
My rage is Mandela, King, Malcolm X, Corky Gonzales, Susan B. Anthony, and Dennis Goldberg.

 
Please tell me why my presence seems to be scrutinized by the public eye.

 
My misery lies within the hard cold walls of the daunting penitentiaries in which my people lie.

 
Open me up and dissect my pain. Tell me that my mother deserves better than minimum wage while working at a hotel – tell me that we didn’t cross el rio Bravo: monstrous and alive, ready to take our lives, only to live a white, superficial hell.

 
That my aunt wasn’t sexually assaulted on the border, only to find herself lost and lone in the land of the free, in fear of a deportation order.

 
Let me know that the “New Jim Crow” does not exist. I want to hear that Michelle Alexander is wrong when she says “Jarvious Cotton cannot vote….His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

 
Take a closer look at my disgust when I say that five Middle Eastern men had the police called on them at my university for looking like they did not belong: they were students.
They were no more than 18 year old humans.

 

Tell me that my father did not hold on to the rails of a train for 24 hours in order to be here – only to drive in fear of deportation. What good is the free land if we are closed off and barred in our box of a home in isolation?

 
I wish Alexander was wrong when she tells us “A black man was on his knees in the gutter, hands cuffed behind his back, as several police officers stood around him talking, joking, and ignoring his human existence.” – This or course, on Election Day: As we introduce the first black president of the United States

 
I yearn for the day when statements like these are not true – when black and brown people are not just labeled as a form of “resistance.”

 
Examine my anger. Look deep into my soul. Take a look at the land you’ve settled and grounded your beliefs on – notice that my angst was not born this morning, or last night, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Notice that I have been destined to fail and crumble for centuries – see my pain and then take a look at the Anglo reign.

 
Examine this depth.

 

__________________________________

Once entering College, I found myself being the only queer youth of color in most if not all of my classes – and also found myself angry at people with privilege because they made sure to make me feel less than human every single day. However, I keep on doing advocacy work and telling people my story, in hopes of changing mindsets and perspectives.

I wrote this poem about youth of color, and people of color in general because we are often no more than a statistic: a reaction to the dominant culture – and we are often left out on conversations that deal with health care, LGBTQ issues, or sexual health.

Latin@ people of color matter.

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Do I need to trim, go bald or add some jewels? Who knew this would revolve around talk of the vagina. To shave or not to shave has been a popular topic of discussion surrounding the genitals. It’s in the media, there are articles on it, commercials for it telling us we should do it but none have answered the more important question, is it safe?

When someone shaves, waxes, tweezes or removes the hair around their genitals, much like when people shave their legs, microscopic wounds can be formed. These wounds provide an entry point for bacteria and viruses. The irritation combined with the warm and moist environment of the genitals creates a happy place for STD growth. This means that any kind of hair removal can provide an opportunity for contracting an STD.

This is not to scare you away because at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Despite media’s attention or persuasions from friends or your partner, what you do with your pubic hair is your own business. If you choose to remove your genital hair, go to a professional to have it safely removed. If you opt to do it yourself, be careful not to nick yourself.

Always remember to practice safe sex each and every time you have sex because safe sex is the best sex!

Categories: Other
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I ran across an article about a couple that refused to leave their waiter a tip because of his sexual orientation. This is the note the couple left on the back of their receipt:

“Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. Faggots do not share in the wealth of God, and you will not share in ours. We hope you will see the tip your faggot choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for God’s love, but none shall be spared for fags. May God have mercy on you.”

This got me thinking, why are we so busy judging the lives of others when we can’t even handle our own? Why do we insist on telling people what to do, how to look like and how to live their lives when we get upset when people try the same with us? Most importantly, why are we so rude about it? There’s something to be said about those who can share their beliefs while still being respectful to persons who have a different opinion.

We are all different because we need each other’s diversity to thrive. We wouldn’t be who we are today without the people who’ve indirectly shaped us.  Our lives are meaningful because everyone comes with different shapes, colors, sizes, sexual orientation, personalities and beliefs. The sooner we can come to this realization the sooner we can provide this world with peace. To those who have already recognized this, accepted it and or welcomed it… we can all learn something from you. This couple could have just as easily not left a tip, and kept their disrespectful and hurtful comment to themselves. Instead, they chose to be rude.

Moral of this rant: It’s cool to have your own opinion; it’s not cool to be offensive about it! At the end of the day we all inhabit this earth, and we all deserve RESPECT.

It’s simple.

Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.

Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one.

Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.

Don’t like sex? Don’t have it.

Don’t like your rights taken away?

Don’t take anybody else’s.

 

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Today (November 25, 2013) is as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Earlier on in the year

MINISTER with responsibility for Information Sandrea Falconer says there is an urgent need for a broader national dialogue and engagement to tackle the issue of violence against women.

“Violence against women happens too often…I am sure everyone has had a friend or an acquaintance who has been a victim of intimate personal violence and it has to stop,” the minister emphasised, as she addressed the recent launch of the report Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

She noted that not enough has been done to tackle the issue, but the Government has made some progress through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and through programmes in the ministries of health, labour and social security and the Office of the Prime Minister.

The minister cited one such intervention as a high level multi-sectoral consultative committee commissioned by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller late last year to address violence and sexual crimes against women and children.

She said this committee, which she chairs, is charged with developing a holistic approach to tackling the problem by assessing and streamlining measures, recommendations and activities so that national action will be better co-ordinated, more comprehensive and effective in utilising limited resources.

The areas being focused on include public education, institutional strengthening, shelter services, and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.

The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) report has revealed that intimate partner and sexual violence against women is widespread in the 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries surveyed.

Done in collaboration with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the report presents a comparative analysis of data from surveys conducted in 12 countries, including Jamaica.

For her part, PAHO/WHO Representative, Jamaica, Margareta Sköld, said it is hoped that the report will contribute to increasing knowledge about violence against women.

According to a PAHO fact sheet on the report, in the 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries studied, between 17 per cent and 53 per cent of women interviewed reported having suffered physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In seven of the countries, more than one in four women reported such violence.

In Jamaica, more than 8,000 women aged 15 to 44 were interviewed for the study. Of these, close to 20 per cent reported experiencing either physical or sexual partner violence at some point in their lives and almost half reported experiencing controlling behaviours by a partner.

In addition, the data revealed that only 31 per cent of Jamaican women who had experienced violence at the hands of a partner reported seeking institutional help to address the violence and 37 per cent said that they had never spoken to anyone about the violence they experienced.

 

 

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(original image by The Stigma Project)

About them:

We are a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising. The Stigma Project seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background.

Social media has rapidly become one of today’s largest mediums of news, culture, and education. We hope to embrace that with effective campaigns each season that bring awareness to the current state of HIV. Please, whether you’re HIV-positive, negative, or you don’t know (and should), we need your help. Ask your friends to join us in starting a revolution: an “HIV Neutral” revolution. Like us, Share us, Re-tweet us. The more people we reach, the more effective our project. The more successful our mission. YOU can make a difference.

Their mission:

The Stigma Project seeks to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS on a global scale, through awareness, art, provocation, education and by inspiring a spirit of living “HIV Neutral.”

Their vision:

The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.

I’ve already posted this image before but without credit to the original poster, so here it is!  I’ve also added information about this organization!

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Living in Jamaica I’ve always wondered why we care about how others lived their lives, why does it matter if that girl is a lesbian? or why does it matter if that boy you use to be friends with is gay? but then it dawned on me, Jamaicans are just a bunch of nosy people who poke their noses into the lives of others to distract themselves from the reality of their own sad and shameless lives which only God and their neighbors could tell you about.

the average Jamaican is communal and makes it his or hers duty to know all your business, some do this out of love and some do this out of just plain envy and grudge hoping to use it against you but hurting someone because they choose to love the guy or girl they love is just wrong.

 

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Why ’12 Years A Slave’ Is

Different From ‘The Help’

And ‘Django Unchained’–

And Why It Matters

[originally posted on ThinkProgress by Alyssa Rosenberg]

[TW: racial slurs, movie spoilers, rape]

This post discusses plot details of 12 Years A Slave in depth.

“Forgive me,” Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tells his wife Anne (Kelsey Scott) when he returns to Saratoga and to freedom after more than a decade of enslavement in Southern states. “There is nothing to forgive,” Anne tells him. And of course, Solomon is in no way responsible for being kidnapped into servitude and for being out of his touch with his family for twelve years, except for the errors of judgement he made in trusting the men who deceived and sold him. But the exchange between the reunited spouses reveals, in plain language, what makes Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave so strikingly different from many of the movies about slavery, race, and the South in recent years. 12 Years A Slave is concerned with Solomon’s character arc, rather than the moral development of a white woman like Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), the misfit socialite who becomes a reporter and goes to work for a publisher in The Help, or Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), the bounty hunter-turned-hater-of-slavery in Django Unchained. And the movie treats whiteness not as a neutral thing, but as a complex construct that, in its intersections with class and gender, creates a landscape more unstable and risky than any Palmetto swamp.

Unlike Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the housekeeper in The Help, who goes from quiet acceptance of her lot to speaking her mind, or Django (Jamie Foxx), who begins Django Unchained in irons and ends it galloping off towards freedom with his wife, Solomon spends much of 12 Years A Slave traveling an opposite trajectory. At the beginning of the film, his freedom has granted him the privilege of being trusting when two men, Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Hamilton (Taran Killam) offer him a job playing his violin at an exorbitant salary with a circus. “Your generosity is extraordinary,” Solomon tells them over a rich dinner in Washington, DC, where he’s traveled for what he believes will be a two-week engagement. Even after he wakes up in irons, Solomon refuses to believe that Brown and Hamilton have betrayed him, protesting that “They were not kidnappers, they were artists.” And even more tellingly, he believes that some sort of justice is within reach. “I promise you, upon my liberation, I will have satisfaction for this wrong,” Solomon declares to one of his jailers.

For much of the next twelve years, Solomon spends his time being disabused of the notion that fellow artists are trustworthy, that his talent will save him, and that decency and fellow-feeling trumps race. And he comes into uncomfortably close acquaintance with he’ll do to survive, and to be free again.

Solomon’s education takes place in three acts, the first, and swiftest in a form of violent gaslighting designed to swiftly transition him from thinking of himself as a free man to accepting an identity as a slave. “You ain’t no free man. And you ain’t from Saratoga, you’re from Georgia…You ain’t nothing but a runaway nigger,” his jailer in Washington, DC tells Solomon as he beats his new identity into him. “You’re a slave. Your’e a Georgia slave.” That man’s partner teaches Solomon the other part of the essential lesson of servitude, that he’s meant to be surprised by any generosity show him, rather than feeling entitled to it. “Got no gratitude?” the man tells him, when he comes to offer Solomon a replacement for the shirt that’s been shredded and irreparably bloodied by his beating. And when Solomon arrives at his destination, the custody of a slaver named Freeman (Paul Giamatti), he’s punished when he doesn’t answer to the new name bestowed on him, Platt. “You fit the description. Why didn’t you answer when called?” Freeman demands of Solomon, making sure that his latest commodity will behave as expected before he’s sold off.

If Solomon becomes convinced of the value of docility to his survival in the first stage of his journey South, it’s in his second that he learns that his talents and intelligence need to be deployed carefully, and the extent to which race trumps class for Southern whites. The man who purchases him is a plantation owner named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) who fancies himself a benevolent owner. Ford’s first attracted to Solomon in Freeman’s establishment when the slaver tells Ford that “This is a nigger of considerable talent,” and Ford hears Solomon’s playing. That respect extends beyond Solomon’s music. Ford is willing to accept Solmon’s advice on transporting lumber through the swamps around his estate. Tibeats (Paul Dano), a foreman who’s taken an instant dislike to Solomon on the grounds that he doesn’t know his place, asks Solomon “Are you an engineer or a nigger?” when Solomon volunteers his experience working on a canal crew as proof of his plan. “I’ll admit to being impressed even if you won’t,” Ford tells Tibeats and Solomon, giving Solomon a chance to prove his idea viable.

But Eliza (Adepero Oduye), who like Solmon was kidnapped in Washington, and has been sold to Ford along with him but away from her children, sees what Solomon cannot in these gestures of respect. “Ford is your opportunity?” she asks Solomon, recognizing that Solomon’s displays of his talents only make him more valuable to Ford, rather than convincing Ford of his humanity. Solomon’s first inkling of this comes when Ford gives him a violin, telling Solomon “I hope it brings us both much joy over the years,” envisioning a placid, and permanent, coexistence with the slave he’s come to enjoy.

Even if Solmon accepts that might be his lot, he fails to recognize that the means by which he expresses his usefulness may someday erode the risks Ford is willing to take for him. His error is in continuing to challenge Tibeats, treating the white man as if he’s foolish, telling him “I simply ask that you use all your senses before rendering judgement,” and when Tibeats criticizes his work, declaring “If there’s something wrong, it’s wrong with the instructions.” When their repeated confrontations finally become violent, Solomon acts as if his skills outrank the whiteness of Tibeats’ skin, beating him rather than allowing himself to be physically abused. When Tibeats declares after the fight that “You will not live to see another day…I will have flesh and I will have all of it,” it’s another layer of the instruction that Solomon first received when he was kidnapped: he’s in a place where reason matters very little, and race and class are everything.

In one of the most intellectually complex and visually harrowing sequences in12 Years A Slave, Tibeats rounds up a lynch mob, only to be interrupted by Ford’s overseer, who informs Tibeats that “You have no claim to his life.” This doesn’t, of course, mean that Solmon’s life is his own. And to remind him of it, the overseer leave Solomon hanging just low enough that he can relieve the pressure on his neck by pointing his toes in decidedly unstable mud. The slaves around him, better-trained in the art of self-preservation, largely go about their work as Solomon languishes there. Children play near the tree from which he’s hung. Mrs. Ford watches Solomon struggle, then strolls away from her viewpoint on the porch. A woman sneaks him a drink of water, but she can only ease his comfort, not relieve him of it. The one person who can do that is Ford, who ultimately cuts Solomon down with a machete. But that assertion of ownership comes paired with an acknowledgement that Solomon himself has transgressed so far in his beating of Tibeats that Ford cannot–or will not–assert his class privilege over the poorer man’s racist outrage in order to save a slave, even one he’s grown fond of. “You are an exceptional nigger, Platt,” Ford tells Solomon as he prepares to sell him to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). “But I fear no good can come of it.”

It’s on Epps’ plantation that Solomon learns submission and compromise, which, paradoxically, are the qualities that will allow him to save his own life at the end of the film. On the Epps plantation, Solomon’s skills are turned against him. Far from being able to win Epps’ respect with any knowledge he might possess, Solomon proves poor at the one thing Epps wants of him, picking cotton. His musical skills, once a source of consolation, become part of Epps’ macabre entertainments, as Epps forces Solomon to play for grotesque dances he forces his slaves to hold in the middle of the night.

And amidst the brutality of the Epps plantation, Solomon learns to do what the people who saw him being hanged and did nothing did on that day: to ignore what he sees, and to keep quiet. When he contemplates running away when Mrs. Epps (Sarah Paulson) orders him to run her errands at a store, his flight through the woods brings Solomon upon a lynching party. Solomon effectively promises the white men in the group that he will forget what he saw. He tells Mrs. Epps that “No m’am. [He encountered] No trouble,” on his route, erasing the experience from his official account of the trip. And Solomon and Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a slave Epps describes as “Queen of the Fields,” and who Epps rapes regularly, warning his wife that “I will rid myself of you before I do away with her,” are lectured on the value of patience and submission in Christian terms by Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodward), a slave who accepted the role of mistress to another white man. “Where once I served, I have others serving me,” Mistress Shaw counsels the two younger people. “In good time, the Lord’ll manage ‘em all…The sorrow of the pharaohs is no match for what awaits the plantation class.”

This education saves Solomon when he is caught in a dangerous ploy, trying to convince a former overseer-turned-cotton-picker named Armsby (Garret Dillahunt) to deliver a letter to his family. “Well, Platt. I understand I got a learned nigger writes letters, tries to get white fellows to mail ‘em,” a drunk Epps tells Solomon, clearly eager to use this knowledge against a slave who’s irritated him, but not quite given him the excuse Epps needs to dispatch him by violence. Solmon, by this point, knows enough to play Epps’ class suspicions against Armsby. “He made the story out of whole cloth because he wants a situation,” Solomon insists, and Epps believes him.

But submission also means that Solomon is pulled deeper into complicity with Epps’ cruelties, nowhere more so than in the case of Patsey. At one point, Patsey begs Solomon to kill her and to make her body disappear, telling him “I ain’t got no comfort in this life. If I can’t buy mercy from you, I’ll beg it.” But Solomon declines, even as he becomes witness to her escalating suffering. When he returns from a stint on another plantation, where he was allowed to play his violin and earn money for himself, Solmon sees all the blood vessels in one of Patsey’s eyes broken, whether as the result of abuse from Mrs. Epps, or as an assertion of authority from Epps himself. Later, when Patsey is not available to Epps on a Sunday, a day she’s traditionally been free to go visiting, his wrath is dreadful. And it escalates when she explains that she was visiting Mistress Shaw to get some soap because Mrs. Epps has denied it to her. “500 pounds of cotton a day, more than any man. And for that I will be clean. That’s all I ask,” Patsey begs for her dignity. And Epps, telling her “You’re doing this to yourself, Pats,” orders Solomon to whip her, and then to whip her harder when he makes a show of the beating rather than administering it properly.

And when Mr. Parker (Rob Steinberg), Solomon’s white friend, comes to Epps’ plantation with evidence of Solomon’s freedom, 12 Years A Slave makes wrenchingly clear that Solomon’s freedom depends on his willingness to simply accept it and go. “Get away from him, Pats,” Epps warns Patsey as she insists on saying goodbye to Solomon. The price of her minor act of dignity is likely to be severe, and during her whipping and the treatment of her flayed back afterwards, we’ve seen what that cost looks like. And the price of Solomon’s freedom is his willingness to turn his back on her, as he looked away from her injured eye, as he refused to risk Epps’ wrath or his soul to kill her before she suffered more.

None of this is to say that the decisions Solomon makes are wrong, or to argue that he should have martyred himself on Epps’ plantation and died forgotten, rather than living to tell his story and to become an abolitionist activist, a chapter of his life that’s left out of the film. But 12 Years A Slave is a remarkable film because it examines the ways in which slavery coarsened the moral sensibilities not just of the white people who practiced it, but of the black people who were held in bondage. And unlike Aibileen Clark, who is a saint, or Django, who is an action hero, Solomon can be damaged by slavery, he can do terrible things to survive, and the movie extends to him the privilege of never sacrificing his claim on our immense admiration and respect. When Solomon tells his family “I apologize for my appearance, but I have had a difficult time these past several years,” he is speaking not only physically and emotionally, but with a veiled honesty about the terrible compromises he has made to return home to them. In between 12 Years A Slave and Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler’s remarkable debut film about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), who was shot to death on a BART platform in 20009, 2013 may prove a waster-shed year for cinema in the long-overdue assertion that black men don’t need to earn the value of their lives or their dignity, that they simply possess them.

12 Years A Slave is also admirably corrective for sidelining the moral development or degradation of the white people in Solomon’s journey. This is not to say that the characters are poorly sketched. With the exception of a badly miscast Brad Pitt as Bass, a white Canadian who eventually delivers news of Solomon’s fate to his friends and family in Saratoga, McQueen has gotten remarkably rich psychological portraits from his cast. Fassbender seems likely to be a strong Best Supporting Actor contender for his performance of the louche, self-loathing Epps. And it’ll be a shame if his work overshadows Sarah Paulson’s enraged, humiliated plantation wife.

But for once, we have a film about the South where the highest concern is not whether Skeeter Phelan turns on her racist friends and finds fulfillment in the world of publishing, leaving the black women who gave her the material for her first book behind in Mississippi, or whether Dr. King Schultz acts in accordance with his newly-awakened conscience and dies in a blaze of spectacularly impractical glory that puts Django and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) in greater danger than a show of deference to violent planter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) might have done. To 12 Years A Slave, whether individual white people are good or bad, compromised or virtuous, cowardly or courageous is simply less important than their collective impact on black men like Solomon Northup, who must navigate their whims and class prejudices to survive. Really, what does the small kindness of a Mr. Ford matter when men like Epps live and bear lashes? 12 Years A Slave dismisses the moral myopia that governs movies like The Help and Django Unchained, which reduce the experiences of black people down to the importance those experiences play in white people’s moral educations.

Those learning experiences are not unnecessary to social progress. But the movies have often given the impression that this is a one-sided process, in which white people of good will must learn to recognize the ills that they have unconsciously done and benefitted from, and find some small way to renounce them. 12 Years a Slave is a powerful corrective in its illustration that racism in America is a matter of mutual, continual and detrimental education, in which all parties learn to read privilege and respond to their position relative to it, rather a monolithic and impersonal institution.

Excellent review, analysis, and description of this film I watched a couple weeks ago by Alyssa Rosenberg.  Though I would have ventured more in depth about Ford’s character and how even though he is much kinder than your typical slave owner, he is still a slave owner and in the film it was clear that his compliments and actions were still dehumanizing.  He represented another face of racism and oppression.  And that would be it, because I choose not to speak on a character whose role was only less than ten minutes.

And I say this as a response to the overwhelming amount of praises for Benedict Cumberbatch who played as Master Ford.  Admittedly, Benedict Cumberbatch did very well in his less than ten minutes on the screen.  Of course with personal perspective, I did not find it spectacular.  Not even close.

I see no reason to extend more than a few kind words for Benedict Cumberbatch’s role when the movie was not even about a somewhat kind, but very cowardly and oppressive white slave owner.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon) and Lupita Nyong’O (Patsey) were the real stars of the movie.

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Yes, there were a few elections yesterday across the country yesterday. Some of the results wouldn’t necessary impact our work, per se, but they may be helpful to know for some of us (especially since a lot happened near our geographic region).

So here’s a brief snapshot of what happened:

One of the main takeaways is that Tea Party-backed candidates are losing steam – and Republicans are more actively separating themselves from the movement. They’re realizing they have to focus on a more moderate Republican base and this could be a hopeful sign as we move into 2014 elections.

Virginia – BIG WIN

Terry McAuliffe (D) defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to become the next Governor. This was a very close and battleground race, especially for supporters of progressive ideas and/or women’s reproductive health. One of the huge battles was about Obamacare, one in which McAuliffe fully embraced and Cuccinelli fully opposed.

–          Where he stands on a few of our issues: Medicaid expansion a major part of his plan; supports LGBT rights; pro-choice and actively attacked Cuccinelli about his anti-choice anti-abortion crusade; said he’d work toward “protecting VA women’s access to BC, preventative health care, and safe and legal abortion” – took a pledge to stand like a “brick wall” when women’s rights come under attack. This is a huge win for our issues and our work, especially since VA was a leading state in abortion regulations and restrictive legislation the past few years.

More Virginia: Sen. Ralph Northam (D) won Lieutenant Governor; Attorney General race is heading for a recount with Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) and Sen. Mark Herring (D) being neck in neck.

New York City – Bill de Blasio (D) won NYC Mayorial race

–          Where he stands on a few of our issues: has said he would pass legislation that would ban racial profiling and carry out the changes to “stop and frisk” (also dropping the city’s appeal of the ruling); on record supporting birth control and EC in city schools; has not addressed parental consent (which is required); strong supporter of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act; supports expanding bike lanes and putting more $$ into encouraging cycling (okay, not “our” issues, but pretty cool)

New Jersey – Chris Christie (R) won re-election for Governor

–          Where he stands on a few of our issues:  has cut funding for family planning centers (including PP), repeatedly vetoed bills that would restore the money, saying low-income women could get birth control and health screenings at other clinics; opposes gay marriage; vetoed pay equal pay legislation calling them “senseless bureaucracy”

–          This victory is seen as a step towards a possible residential GOP race

–          Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour and amends the state Constitution to tie future increases to inflation.

Alabama – Former State Senator (R) Bradley Byrne defeated Tea Party Candidate Dean Young in a Congressional GOP primary runoff. While it’s only a Primary – important to note that the Byrne is seen as an “Establishment” republican which means the Tea Party is losing steam (in one of the most Conservative areas of AL). The Business sector backed Byrne and we are seeing that regular conservatives are becoming more favorable than Tea Partiers in even hyper conservative environments.

Other areas of interest:

–          16 and 17 yr olds in Takoma Park voted for the first time! In May, Takoma Park City Council voted to become the first city in the United States to lower its voting age from 18 to 16.

–          Illinois: MARRIAGE EQUALITY! Both Chambers voted for the same sex marriage bill and the Governor has pledged to sign it (date not specified). YAY!

–          Hawaii: Marriage Equality is on its way to the full House for a vote (after 55 hours of testimony in House committees) – after being passed out of the Senate

–          Washington: Seattle is on its way to confirming  former state Sen. Murray, the city’s first-ever gay mayor! Murray led the campaign in Washington for same sex marriage last year.

Also, Voters defeated a measure to have manufacturers label GMO foods [okay. So not OUR issues, but it was of interest to me.. :)]

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

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Here at Advocates for Youth, my job is to focus on engaging young men in sexual and reproductive health. This means highlighting the young men already doing excellent work to influence their peers and it also means helping others improve their work with this demographic. It’s hard to explain exactly what so many different guys are experiencing as they come of age in America today – the pressures, the inconsistent messaging about who we’re supposed to be and how, or the insecurities we might feel but are rarely able to voice. (more…)

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I just wanna go home,” My little sister pleaded to me between panting breaths. “why can’t we just go home?” “Just keep peddling and follow me.” I replied. 
 
Our innocent summer bike ride had turned into a forced game of hide and seek with a group of grown man chasing us down in their car while we peddled vigorously on our bikes trying to get away. They were hooting, hollering, and laughing at our fear and innocence as they chased us.
Ducking in and out of alley ways and streets, trying to lose them, forcing our tired legs to peddle faster, and me trying to calculate our next move in hopes of losing them while comforting my younger sister that everything would be alright- although I had no idea if it would be and I was holding back my own tears of fear.
As much as I wanted to race straight home I knew we couldn’t because if we did they would know exactly where we lived and who knows what they would have done after that.
Street harassment doesn’t end at the door of your home. In fact, it gets more dangerous if it reaches the door of your home. It gives the aggressor another vital piece of personal information that they can use in whichever way they want against you. It lets them know where you live and if they want they will observe your home to see what time you leave, your parents leave, when you’ll be alone, and when they can break in if they choose to.
Whether we finally lost the car full of grown men that were following us or if they decided to stop following us I’ll never know. What I do know is this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me, it wasn’t the last, and at 12 years old I shouldn’t have had to feel that my life and the life of my 7 year old sister was an imminent danger during our sunny summer bike ride in the middle of the day in our neighborhood.
Street harassment happens earlier than people imagine, the conditioning of “being careful” that is forced on young woman begins earlier than 12 years of age. Thats why I knew to hide our bikes in the back yard instead of leaving them in the front yard for the men to see and remember, why my little sister and I decided that playing Barbie’s inside was a better than riding our bikes, and why my daughter at age 5 asked me why ” ‘those boys’ keep yelling at us when we walk by?”
Despite unpopular but common belief it’s not the job of those being harassed to alter the way they WALK DOWN THE STREET to “stop the harassment,” it’s those who harass that need to be addressed and told to change their ways.
For more information on street Harassment and how to deal with it visit iHollaBack.com.

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Seeing Capitol Hill for the first time is something I will never forget.

Just a little over a month ago, I was walking the hallways of the Cannon House building, on my way to my first meeting of the day. Lobby day on The Hill, another amazing opportunity granted to me by Advocates for Youth. I’d lobbied before, but I’d only ever lobbied my state senators and assembly-people. Needless to say, I was nervous. The day before at the training, I was feeling overly confident until I saw that we would also have meetings with some people I thought would be less in favor of the bill I was so desperately lobbying for- the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a comprehensive sex education bill.

When I saw our first meeting slot, though, I felt comforted. Representative Dina Titus is a household name in my family, and she is someone I have known of very fondly. My mentor, and close friend, Annette Magnus had worked in Rep. Titus’s office in the past, and she has always spoken very highly of her. It also helped lessen the tension when I saw that Rep. Titus has a 100% approval rating of Planned Parenthood, something I expected, as she is quite the progressive, liberal woman!

Upon arrival to her office, I saw a big Nevada State doormat, the only doormat I saw in the entirety of Capitol Hill. A little piece of home was smack in the middle of a Capitol Building’s hallway, and trust me, it is hard to miss. I soon met Katie Cassling, the staffer that was meeting with me for Rep. Titus. I sat down along with Katie, another fellow ‘lobbier,’ and Julia Reticker-Flynn, a wonderful Advocates staff member. Ms. Cassling was wonderful from the get-go. I had gone over and over what I planned to say the night before, and I had already said a lot of it before since I had recently lobbied for comprehensive sex-education on the state level.

Ms. Cassling listened very thoughtfully when I told her of the sex-education I had received (and all that I had not.) I spoke from the heart and from a very personal level when I told her of my struggles entering an abstinence-only-until-marriage sex-education class as a rape and sexual assault survivor. I continued to tell her of the battle we had fought very valiantly for comprehensive sex-education in our home state and sadly lost. I think one of my most proud moments of the meeting was when I was able to hand over a stack of petitions in support that I had personally collected. I flipped through the pages with her, and she seemed very impressed. It was overall a pleasant experience, and she gave me constant affirmation that Rep. Titus supported such things. She ended the meeting with the remark that it was highly unlikely for Rep. Titus to say no to the bill! This lifted my confidence, and I was floating on air for the rest of the day.

Lobbying is an adventure for me, and it is a constant challenge on making that connection with the person you are speaking with. You only have a certain amount of time to communicate your message. I am always up for a challenge.

Overall, the meeting with Rep. Titus’s office was an experience I will not soon forget. It was a pleasant, safe environment, and I am incredibly happy to hear that Rep. Dina Titus co-sponsored the bill! Representative Dina Titus took into account what her constituents wanted, and it is a wonderful thing to feel heard. She is the first one to sign on to the bill from Nevada, and it feels amazing to have had a hand in that.

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Immigration has taken a huge toll in my life. I was brought to America when I was three months old, so I basically had no say. My parents were lucky enough to find employment that didn’t require proof of citizenship, but it didn’t stop their fear of having to drive without a license and risking getting pulled over. Money was always a problem, and the feeling of being powerless caused a lot of emotional problems in my family as well.

My sister, at the age of 18, got married to a citizen and became a citizen in less than three years. After she got all her documents, she asked for my parents. It took 3 years for them to become permanent residents; their citizenship should be coming next year. My parents asked for me, but we haven’t heard a response, so we applied for the dream act, and lucky I got it.

Now, the point of this post isn’t the story of my families immigration struggle, it’s about how even though I now have a status in America (the dream act), I still feel powerless because I am closeted lesbian to my parents. If I ever decided to come out to them, they would kick me out the house and tell me to never talk to them until I become “normal”.

I need them to get my papers so I can be able to apply for college, create a profession for myself, and live in peace (not having fear of deportation), but I won’t get them if my parents find out I’m a lesbian. I depend on them too much, and it’s truly unfair that my dreams can’t happen unless I stay in the closet. I can’t get my license, I can’t work, and I can’t apply for colleges or scholarships. It devastates me. I wish I could apply for my papers on my own. I’ll do anything for them! Ill save up the money and do all the work if it means I can get my papers and be who I am and most importantly, be happy.

As of right now, I’m dealing with the hurt of hiding myself until I get my papers. Once I receive them, I’ll finally be able to go to the college of my dreams and pursue my goals being who I am and my parents not being able to stop me. I say that’s my American dream.

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“A new report, compiled by Guttmacher, finds that in 2008, 2 of 3 unplanned pregnancies resulted in births that were publicly funded, and the combined cost of all those births was $12.5 billion.”

http://jezebel.com/better-birth-control-could-save-taxpayers-12-5-billion-1450734314

 

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Malala Yousafzai, along with her father, are education activists in Pakistan striving to end educational inequality despite the institutional oppressions put in place. When the story of Malala’s assassination attempt by the Taliban made news about a year ago, this was the next the shot heard around the world. Hundreds of journalists and bloggers wrote about her involvement in girl’s education and the role of the Taliban. Fundraisers and sponsorships emerged for South Asian education development for girls, making this a prime example of consumer capitalism on a structural issue of educational inequality in Pakistan (1). Fortunately, this girl survived and made a steady recovery. She has wowed the world with her resilience, and for that, I am honored, especially from the lens of another South Asian Muslim woman.

However, her success doesn’t come with scrutiny. I’m not surprised that she gained so much fame as a result of a vicious attack by Pakistani Muslim extremist men. I’m no stranger to the way the media covered the story and perceptions of Pakistani Muslim men in general, and nothing will be the same post 9/11 for Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Muslim (AMEMSA) men (2). They are always deemed as “barbaric, savage, and backwards,” words frequently used to describe them and other men of color and the atrocities they do without a mention of the harm inflicted on women of color bodies by white men via imperialism, colonialism, and sexual violence (3, 4).

Yet, my hope for Malala is that the Western gaze will not impede her goals with their “peaceful” interventions or continue to deem the Global South as a hindrance to gender equality. I hope she can overcome the oppressions instilled in these countries by the Western world and current policies affecting women of color bodies (3, 5). As Malala said on the Today Show with Jon Stewart, “we don’t understand the importance of anything unless it’s snatched from our hands.” (6) Now is the time to understand the complexities of social oppression and its influences on the security of women of color everywhere.

Sources:
(1) http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/brand-malala-western-exploitation-of-a-schoolgirl/
(2) http://m.colorlines.com/archives/2013/06/seven_surprising_facts_about_asian-american_and_middle_eastern_boys.html
(3) http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/12584/transnational-anti-imperialism-and-middle-east-wom
(4) http://disciplesofmalcolm.tumblr.com/post/43584250163
(5) http://iranwire.com/en/projects/1777
(6) http://www.upworthy.com/watch-this-incredible-young-woman-render-jon-stewart-speechless

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THE CRYING CHILD……., When I hear the cries of a child my step fails me my thoughts become disoriented all I hear is the child’s voice in my soul, screaming that something is wrong and pleading for help, please help me my mouth will soon deliver me from the turmoil inside of me as I ask ‘child what is wrong’, still my body and soul won’t let go, till I do something to stop the crying child.

It is our responsibilities to make sure that children in our environment are being taken care of, by this doing you can put a smile on the face of a crying child. Very small number of people can have quite a BIG effect so what can u do to stop a crying child?

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Often times when I’m doing the work I’m doing, whether it’s going to retreats, screening films promoting comprehensive sex ed, or simply going to rallies in order to support issues that I care about, others ask me why I do the things I do. Whenever I get blank stares or confused faces when I ask people to support comprehensive sex ed, female reproductive rights, or anti bullying laws I myself am confused and a little lost as to how to handle these situations. To me, being an activist or advocate for these issues concerning young people is part of who I am. More importantly, it’s my responsibility as a young woman living in today’s society.

Now I realize that’s a philosophical approach, one that not everyone shares, but isn’t it kind of like being on the right side of history? Have you ever seen those pictures of people during the Civil Rights Movement? You know, the ones where the Little Rock 9 are attempting to integrate the schools and those horrible women are screaming in the background all over the death of “separate but equal”? Remember the Woolworth Counter pictures, where students black and white practiced civil disobedience in order to integrate lunch counters in the Jim Crow south? Every day, I ask myself where would I have been back in that time. Inaction is a dangerous thing…would I have watched these people have their rights stolen and not do anything to help them? I want to be on the right side of history.

I want the future to be different. I want it to hold pictures of me marching next to LGBTQ youth in support of them as individuals and human beings. I want to stand for love and be able to see people regardless of their gender or orientation be able to be with the person that they love. I want women to feel safe and protected in our society because one day I want my daughter to be able to have sexual agency and desire without being shamed and called a “slut” or “whore”. I want teenagers to be comfortable enough with their sexuality and responsible enough to make the right decisions, so they don’t have to raise children while they are children themselves. I want teenagers to be treated like adults, so that they can start acting like adults. I want the discourse in this country to change from shame, condemnation, and fear to something more positive and hopeful. I want us to have hope in young people because we’re the ones that make the world what it is. We are the past, the present, and the future and we are the ones that have historically marched, bled and died for what we believe in.

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(reposted from The Nation, originally posted by Katha Pollitt)

How could something so basic be in such short supply? Diapers are expensive—up to $100 a month—particularly for women who don’t have transportation and must rely on bodegas and local convenience stores. Some women reported spending 6 percent of their total income on paper nappies. And before you say, “Let them use cloth,” Marie Antoinette, bear in mind that diaper services are expensive, few poor women have their own washing machines, most laundromats don’t permit customers to launder dirty diapers and most daycare programs don’t allow cloth diapers. Like fresh fruit and vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products, and organic baby food, cloth diapers are the province of the well-off.

Despite this clear need, however, diapers are not covered by the food stamp program (SNAP) or by the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program. The government apparently finds them unnecessary, like other hygiene products (toilet paper, menstrual supplies, toothpaste, even soap), which are also, unlike food, subject to sales tax. Never mind that babies can’t choose not to pee and poo and did not select their parents. Never mind, too, that those grandmothers who are the hardest hit caregivers are performing a crucial social task—and saving the taxpayer millions—by keeping those kids out of foster care.

Food, it’s true, is even more basic than diapers. But some people believe low-income children don’t really need that either. If House Republicans have their way, 4 to 6 million SNAP recipients may soon find themselves bounced from the rolls. This, at a time when the Department of Agriculture tells us that 17.6 million households regularly go hungry, up from 12 million ten years ago. Proving yet again that there really is a difference between the parties, Republicans want to cut the food stamp budget by $40 billion over the next ten years.

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(Image reposted from Amplify Facebook – click here for more)

Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier.  Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound.  We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share.  We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world.  All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives.  But we celebrated our diversity.  And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.

I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first.  I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend.  It was a place I had never been to on my own.  I would be surrounded by strangers.  But these strangers quickly became my friends.  And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them.  And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well.  Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders.  And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives.  It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.

I even got to meet Janet Mock!  We talked and had dinner.  She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!

It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice.  And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource.  Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan.  I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore.  The realization was bittersweet.  But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.

 

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Texas woman drives four hours to Planned Parenthood after being shamed for hickey

Reposted from: Raw Story, written by David Edwards

A Texas woman who was shamed by her doctor for having a hickey and wanting birth control says she is now forced to drive four hours to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health care due to the state’s new anti-abortion laws.

Athena Mason told KUT that her first visit to the doctor as a student at Texas A&M was awkward.

“I had a hickey and the doctor was just like, you shouldn’t be doing that,” she recalled. “I’m like, ‘It’s a hickey, it’s nothing major.’ But I got a big lecture. [He said] my boyfriend was abusive and all of these things. And then I asked for birth control. I did not hear the end of that. So I said never mind, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Mason started using the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. But that facility is one of four women’s health service providers that closed in August after the state passed new regulations restricting abortions.

So Mason now drives four hours to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin for health care.

In 1998, Cadence King was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells on her cervix and became a patient at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. She had returned for regular checkups in the years since, but she has missed visits in recent weeks because the clinic closed.

King is now struggling to find a new health care provider. Her only options are driving three hours to Beaumont or waiting four months for the next opening with the one Bryan clinic that’s willing to take her case.

 

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Being at the retreat this weekend felt surreal. It was a magical place where everyone there agreed with me on social issues and no one was afraid to talk about sex, LGBTQ topics, or reproductive rights. I was living (temporarily) in a place where I needed no filter — where I was treated as an equal, rather than a student.

Well we’re back to reality now.

This morning, as I drove to school behind someone with a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, I realized that I was no longer in magical liberal-land. I had been pushed back into a reality where we didn’t all agree with each other. I’m appreciative of the fact that we don’t all agree, but it was reassuring being surrounded by people who are on the same page as you are. As my hiatus concludes, I remember what it is like to live in the real world… and how much more fun debates are when the other person doesn’t agree with everything you’ve said.

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The definition of an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. The definition of being passionate is having strong feelings or beliefs for something. I am an Ohio advocate because I encompass both traits and now have an outlet in which I can help implement policy change that reflects what I support and believe in.

There is a huge inequality issue not only on the federal level but also on the state and local level. There needs to be a regulated comprehensive sex education program implemented in Ohio, there needs to be an end of making the LGBTQ community second class citizens and the bullying and dehumanizing of students in schools everywhere needs to be put to a stop. Through Ohio advocates, I now have the tools, support and voice to help change the black and white values and patterns of society.

I am an advocate for all people, regardless of size, age, race, sexual orientation or gender. I am passionate and hopeful for the equality of all people in the state and country. My name is Hannah, and this is why I am an Ohio advocate.

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I believe in speaking your truth. I believe in speaking your truth when it’s unpopular and/or uncomfortable. I believe in speaking your truth when it will make your life harder. I believe in speaking your truth always, no matter the potential consequences.

Throughout my life, I have never been drawn to conflict. I will bend over backwards to make a losing situation into a win-win scenario. This has worked well for me; it made me friends and allowed me to feel at ease in many drastically different social situations. Allow me to clarify: this had worked well for me until very recently. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I began hanging out with new people. These guys made me feel welcome and loved; it was as if I had just gotten five overprotective, older brothers over night. They made me feel comfortable and safe, despite my being the only girl there. Everything was great until one of them called another one a faggot for doing something stupid. When I heard that word it was as if battery acid was being poured into my stomach. This word appalled me. I chose not to speak up for fear of alienating myself in this new group of people, and I dwelled on this choice for the rest of the night. The use of that word, my least favorite word in the entire English language, made me lose respect for these guys that I loved. And even worse, it made me lose respect for myself because I didn’t voice my discomfort.

The next time it happened a little bit differently. Instead of using the word faggot someone said that something was gay, implying that it was stupid. The use of the word gay in a derogatory fashion was nearly as bad as using faggot. I remembered how I had felt the night before when that terrible f-word was used and how much respect I had lost for myself. This time, I spoke up. I told them that using that kind of language was supremely homophobic and hateful, even if they didn’t mean it that way. They were taken aback at first and didn’t really take me seriously, but at that point, the ice was broken. I was now able to bring it up again and again every time they said something similar to the first two instances. I kept letting them know how much it bothered me, and they really tried to change the way they spoke. Now they are more aware of how they speak in the world and around me. I was able to gain back my respect for them, and also for myself.

This experience opened my eyes to two things; the first being that I have to stand up for the things that I believe in, because I can’t count on anyone else to do it. And the second, that though it might be risky or uncomfortable, you must always, without fail, speak your truth.

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Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog.  It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr.  Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10.  And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session.  Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal.  Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education.  No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active.  If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!

The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:

I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.

Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!

My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice.  My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both.  I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources.  I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives.  Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me.  What’s your vision for sex ed?