[Be The Change] The Dangerous Precedent of Georgia’s Voter Suppression Laws

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Since America’s inception, the right to vote has inherently been a focal point of our society – because time and time again it has disenfranchised parts of our society into not having a representative voice in government, and the inability to push for actual change. Even though the original constitution didn’t formally establish voting rights, or ineligibility, we are still at it’s core a country founded by White, Christian Males; thankfully, we have opened up our voting system to finally include minorities, the youth, women and our African American population.

One thing I’ve discovered in the here and now – when there isn’t a law in place to actively progress society, facets of society will use that space to push back even further. That said, with new legislation, came a trove of new pushbacks coupled with a new vitriol; with new change, came those who inherently rejected that change and have done almost anything they can to make it null and void. So, pull up a seat, grab some popcorn – and let’s travel back in time for a little history lesson before we get into what’s currently happening in Georgia.

The U.S. Constitution

After the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery. Laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights activism that we’re still in the mix of in 2021, the Fifteenth Amendment is a pivotal point in American society and culture – granting the right to vote to men of any color and was subsequently passed in 1870, As a country founded on the backbones of our African American brothers and sisters, it was tantamount to the evolution of the Reconstruction era of American history once slavery had been eradicated.

Next, finally passed on May 21st, 1919, and then certified on August 26th, 2020 – the Nineteenth Amendment took almost a decade of protesting to pass; and specifically prevents and prohibits the federal and state government from denying the right to vote based on gender. At the time, it brought in approximately 26 million American women to vote in the 1920 presidential election. Unfortunately, this still left the door open to prevent giving minorities the right to vote because by in large – it was an amendment duly applied to White women, which spurred the National Women’s Party to begin their work on the Equal Rights Amendment. However, every time it seemed like we were taking two steps forward as a country, we still had to negotiate with the one step backwards.

In 1962, the Twenty-fourth Amendment was passed – eradicating the poll tax. Yes, there was a tax to vote – and primarily a way to keep the poor, minorities and women from being able to participate in government. Primarily used by Southern States of the former Confederacy, the poll tax was a reaction to the Democratic Party gaining strength and seats in state legislatures. Unfortunately, there were several states who refused to do away with the tax – including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Virginia. It wasn’t until 1966 for the Supreme Court case of Harper versus the Virginia Board of Elections that the poll tax was made formally unconstitutional.

The Politics Of Passing 1964's Civil Rights Act : NPR
Image: NPR

Through it all, the South did an unfortunately impeccable job of upholding Jim Crow laws. Brought to the forefront by the White Southern majority, the Jim Crow era of laws essentially doubled down on racial segregation and racist policies throughout the South on state and local levels. These laws were put in place solely to prevent and dissolve the economic, societal and political gains made by African Americans in the post-slavery era. Slowly, over time, these laws were dismantled. Starting with the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education trial where segregation in schools was formally deemed illegal, Jim Crow laws were formally done away with in the 60’s with the one-two punch of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is in itself an incredibly crucial piece of legislation. Not only did it formally outlaw discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin – and now, sexual identity and gender identity; the Civil Rights Act established laws surrounding segregation – forbidding racial segregation in schools or public accommodations, employment discrimination, and most important to our current discussion unequal voter registration requirements. Piggybacking on the Civil Rights Act, as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created to ensure that racial minorities throughout our country, but especially in the south, would be guaranteed the rights to vote – making literacy tests and the like illegal, and preventing discrimination against language and racial minorities.

Last, but most certainly not least – we fast forward to 1971 – and the Korean conflict, and various Vietnam wars where we’re drafting soldiers into battle yet denying them the right to have a say in government. This brings us to the Twenty-sixty Amendment which prevents states from denying the right to vote for those over 18.


Image: FiveThirtyEight

All combined, these small changes in policy in addition to the monumental amendments of grandiose importance have made it possible for millions of disenfranchised Americans to participate in their own government. However, In the absence of federal legislation concerning elections, it’s up to the individual states to establish their own qualifications; and hence the rub.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is understanding that blue states aren’t vastly more progressive than red states but that red states do more to disenfranchise their communities more than anywhere else. And thanks to current state level legislation, it feels more and more like we’re heading back into eras of voter suppression within predominantly White communities than ever before.

In 2018, NPR penned an article citing that almost half the United States had implemented restrictions on voting – noting that some states require a photo ID, which could be seen as a nuanced version of a poll tax, in addition to both Ohio and Georgia championing what’s considered “use it or lose it” legislation – essentially purging voters from participating in elections simply if they haven’t recently been part of them.

“You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it’s playing out in states all across the country.”

Ari Berman, Author of “Give Us the Ballot”
Since the 2018 gubernatorial election all eyes from the nation and from the citizens of Georgia have been glued to the polls and the subsequent election resuts.

Paired with the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County versus Holder which permitted states with long history of discrimination to bypass the federal government in discussion for changes in voting laws, Ari Berman of Mother Jones believes these are part of a bigger strategy by the GOP to restrict voting access. When the 2018 mid-terms were underway, these laws were brought to the forefront of many discussions – especially with Georgia in the mix.

Though there are dozens of states, with hundreds of pieces of legislation on the table – Georgia is the first battleground state to pass such restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

There’s a reason that Stacey Abrams is coveted so much by the BIPOC communities of Georgia. There’s a reason that everyone was so keen to get into the kind of ‘good trouble’ that John Lewis was referring to. There’s a reason our country was on pins and needles with the run-off races in Georgia, and why so many of us were championing for, donating to, and elevating Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff for their senate seats.

With their latest litany of legislation, Georgia’s GOP is actively pursuing a campaign against minority voters. As of the other week, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp signed #SB202 – an almost 100 page bill into effect after being passed in the state house and senate. Some key points to the legislation that was passed. It standardizes early voting on Sundays. This is incredibly important in Georgia primarily due to the vast amount of campaigning, busing and voter turnout that African American Churches bring to the table – making it unnecessarily difficult for the African American Democratic population to participate.

Additionally, this same bill would limit the number of drop box locations in the state, cuts back on the time to request an absentee ballot, pave the way for unlimited voter challenges, require photo ID for mail-in ballots and last but most certainly not least prohibit the community from handing out water, drinks of food to anyone waiting in line to vote. And to boot, the Georgia Democratic Representative Park Cannon – a young, vivacious, openly queer and Black Representative elected just this past year – was arrested…simply for knocking on Kemp’s door because she was concerned about the legislation. Enforcement officials (…currently) are adamant that they arrested Cannon because they feared another January 6th Riot, and arrested Cannon on the charge of “obstructing law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly”.

At the end of the day, it’s become unfortunately clear who and what the American government, as well as the American police, are propping up – and what they are actively working to dismantle. They are trying to dissolve our greatest strength, our differences and our diversity. As a society, America is a stained glass window built off of thousands of unique pieces, perspectives, and peoples. We each have our individual truths, but the fact of the matter is – we must pull back to see the biggest picture, we must view us as one whole America; not within the fractional window of White, male privileges and pride.

One thing I’d like to leave you with – we are not done enfranchising those who do not have a right to currently vote. Many states have a residency requirement, making it difficult for the homeless population. In almost every state, prisoners – current, or former, do not have the right to vote. Our country will not be free, until we are all free to participate within it; we will not be inclusive, until we include everyone.

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

John Lewis
Getting in Good Trouble. Remembering John Lewis - National Association of  Social Workers Michigan

How to Help in Georgia

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[Glow Up] Extend Your Education Beyond the Classroom

The 50 great books on education

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” ―Abigail Adams.

There are traditional routes for higher education, but in light of the recent events, like COVID-19, college admissions scandals, UC Colleges dropping the SAT / ACT requirement, school’s delayed reopening, and the like – traditional routes might not be the most fruitful or effective learning methods anymore. As more and more people find the solace and mental space to work from home, it’s a great time to consider what else you can do from home and evolve into.


On a personal level, I’ve been with my current company going on a decade, and though I’m content with my Bachelors of Science in Applied Statistics – after being in the work field for so long, there are simply some aspects of the craft that had fallen by the wayside. As the adage goes – if you don’t use it, you lose it; and it’s doubly so when we’re talking about our innate depths of knowledge.

Though I had picked up new applications and industry knowledge – I simply felt I was lacking in other areas of thinking about business and the corporate world at large. As I forayed from my former role to where I currently sit, I wanted to hone back in on analytics, as well as learn a thing or two about both accounting and economics. After some thought, and a bit of pushing by those closest to me – I made some money moves, and was blessed to have been accepted into the January 2020 Cohort of Harvard Business School Online. Fast forward to now and I’m a proud certificate holder of their CORe curriculum. Down to my core, I am so thrilled to have actually taken the plunge into higher education and can’t wait to amass even more knowledge.


The Meaning of Being Educated. Education is an ancient topic aging… | by  Lucien Griffin - Student | Voices | Medium

With infinite options and opportunities – where does one even begin?

With the ample amounts of downtime we’re all suffering from – there are ample paths to take, all of them leading to learning. So whether you’re trying to refresh your skill set, wrapping your head around something new and acquiring certifications or the pure and unadulterated pursuit of higher education – there’s a path for you. If you’re game to learning, but don’t know where to start – decide if you’d like to build new skills, or brush up on old ones. Then start doing some basic searches online to see what’s worked for other people, ask a friend, a colleague, or a peer at work. And you never know, some jobs will offer to even reimburse your schooling – however, mostly with proof of good, passing work. My suggestion would be to find a subject you care about, at an institution you respect – it makes for a great working relationship, and you’ll truly get the most out of your future education!


Due to quarantine and COVID safety, many of us have turned to remote learning over the last year. First things first, we have to face the facts: Long Distance Learning is a bit like being in a long distance relationship; either you’re really good at personal accountability, communication and your loyalty – or, you’re not. Plus, the classes aren’t exactly cheap – you’ll have to put up a pretty penny, or a few, to get your brain fuel. Good news though! The end result is that you’ll be well learned, have honed in on old skills while building new ones, and have proven to yourself that you indeed can handle that challenge – but just know that along the way, there will definitely be a few bumps and bruises.

Almost all accredited universities have an online learning component with digital departments for each and every one of us. This past year, I wrapped up my first online certificate course through Harvard Business School Online and their CORe program where I dove into Econ, Accounting and Analytics; and I’m SO thrilled that I did! I made connections, and not just between coursework and my work life, but social connections that I’m happy to have created this past year. Other institutions I was considering were: Stanford, University of Washington, UCLA Extension and Syracuse.


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One thing I’ve discovered in my older age, is that going back to school isn’t always the best fiscal decision; I often wish I had studied something else during my time at University, even picked up a minor or a second major. But, hindsight being 20/20, I’ve realized there are other ways to supplement this type of learning! In that glorious time of life before COVID, you could physically walk into a classroom and simply audit the materials. You wouldn’t have the luxury of testing, or some of the reading materials, but you would be set up for learning success by being in the ether. There are some great online resources for those that are still resigned to staying home – some of my favorites are: edX, the brainchild of MIT and Harvard; Class Central, General Assembly Free Fridays, and Coursera at least for a moment was offering free courses for college students.


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For Washington residents, did you know that our state is fucking rad? Trick question, of course you did – it’s why you’re here! When I applied for my library card, I was over the moon because I realized that with your Seattle Public Library Membership you get a free Lynda subscription; FREE! (and, if you’re not a Washingtonian, you can also get one by signing up with Linkedin Premium!) Lynda hosts all sorts of digital learning, from Photography and Photoshop to Microsoft Suite and Access, to programming with C#, Python and JAVA. Meanwhile, Washington State Library’s Microsoft Imagine Academy is dolling out free access to amazing tech learning software from Microsoft that covers applications, data science, IT, web developing and computer science.


“If you think education is expensive, try estimating the cost of ignorance.”
— Howard Gardner


What uncommon routes, courses or classes have you taken to give yourself an educational glow-up as an adult? Let me know in the comments below!

[Be The Change] Why ‘Defund The Police’ Isn’t As Radical As It Sounds

With the perseverance of the 2020 Black Lives Matters movement, I’d like to focus catchphrase that has everyone up in arms – defunding the police.

👊🏿👊🏾WHAT does it mean to Defund The Police? 👊🏾👊🏿

First, let’s just start with a few simple definitions – first, let’s just talk about what it is for something to be defunded. From the Cambridge dictionary, to defund is to stop providing the money to pay for something.

With that out of the way, now we need to focus on the matter at hand: what does it mean to defund a public community service, funneled by our tax money? I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure every person who pays their taxes deserves to know where the money is funneled through – regardless of the programs. Schools, hospitals, transportation – all get defunded, all the damn time; but, we still have them as public, societal programs.

We’re not saying eradicate and abolish the police, or decline to fund them entirely – we’re asking that communities, cities and states take a harder look at both where the funding for their police, their training and their equipment come from and the proportional rate of funding compared to other helpful civic functions – public housing and assistance, education reform, child protective services. We’re asking for a reinvestment of Black and BIPOC lives.

Rob Rogers | Defund Police

Now, we could probably try and chant “re-evaluate and redistribute our tax money through better channels of public service than a racist police force because it’s killing people“, or we could shorten it to “Reform the Police“. But let’s face facts, those slogans simply aren’t as persuasive, powerful or conversation starting as a protest march thousands of vibrant faces deep in a beautiful display of the complexities of the human condition, screaming “DEFUND THE POLICE” in unison.

• In 2019, the police murdered 1098 US citizens

• Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.

• There were only 27 days in 2019 that the police did NOT kill anyone


👊🏿👊🏾WHY are we asking to defund police departments?👊🏾👊🏿

Our current police system is rigged against Black and minority communities, and needs staunch and inherent reform from all directions. From the salaries of those at the top, to the training – or lack thereof – for new officers, and the vast stockpile of militarized weapons police forces are receiving.

“…we have everything from office equipment, clothing, tools, radios. But then we have some pretty heavy-duty things, things like armored vehicles, assault rifles, grenades and something called a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), which was invented by the Department of Defense as a counterinsurgency strategy to be able to fight IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Karim, Marketplace Morning Report

If you’ve watched any of the protests at all, you’ll notice LRAD cannons and tanks, armored vehicles and oodles of tactical gear; a stark contrast to what we’ve seen the medical community supplied with in the wake of COVID-19. Since moving up to Seattle a year and a half ago, this city has become a new home to me – and because of that, I’ve taken a vested interest in how our city has been handling the protests. Statistics provided are from USA Today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 115896358_10108235282075537_2139149364256992582_n.jpg

Population, 2018: 744,949 (20th most populated city in the US)

Police dept. funding as % of total budget, fiscal year 2020: 27.2% (5th largest out of 50 largest cities)

Total police budget for fiscal 2020: $409 million (17th largest)

Total city budget for fiscal 2020: $1.50 billion (19th smallest)

Law enforcement employees per 100K: 262 (123rd highest out of 634 cities with 65K +)

Total law enforcement employees: 1,954

Violent crimes reported per 100K in 2018: 680 (111th highest out of 634 cities of 65K +)”


👊🏿👊🏾HOW does defunding work?👊🏾👊🏿

The actual, literal act of defunding is simple, it’s just not easy: all you have to do is reduce spending to the department while moving that money to social services better suited to assist the entire community. Here’s the rub – to get there you have to go through policy makers and politicians; the same ones who are potentially bankrolled by part of that same budget you’re asking to diminish.

How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing? [Infographic]

Defunding the police does not necessarily mean getting rid of the police altogether. Rather, it would mean reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to crucial and oft-neglected areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services. (Some activists want to abolish the police altogether; defunding is a separate but connected cause.) It’s predicated on the belief that investing in communities would act as a better deterrent to crime by directly addressing societal problems like poverty, mental illness, and homelessness — issues that advocates say police are poorly equipped to handle, and yet are often tasked with. According to some estimates, law enforcement spends 21 percent of its time responding to and transporting people with mental illnesses. Police are also frequently dispatched to deal with people experiencing homelessness, causing them to be incarcerated at a disproportionate rate.

via @thecut
Don't Understand #DefundThePolice? Here Are 8 Online Activists and  Resources That Might Help - BUST

Our educational system is in disarray, many districts using outdated text books or without enough materials for all students. There isn’t enough job training for the unemployed and homeless communities to get them back on their feet, nor are there enough resources to bring citizens out of homelessness – even though there are thousands of high rent apartments that are empty. Our veterans aren’t taken care of appropriately when they return to the states. Mental illness has run amuck and there could be a vast focus on that for the betterment of society.

Each one of those functions is something that has been defunded over time, and each one of those could use reinvestment – let’s face it, that pseudo-utopian version of the United States would be beautiful, with education, access and housing for all; we could actually make America great again. Not to mention, that providing those social functions would help eradicate the future need FOR MORE law enforcement.

👊🏿👊🏾WHO would step in to... 👊🏾👊🏿

In the US, the police deal with far more than just crimes – they also deal with civil disputes, mental health issues, drug abuse and overdoses, as well as family disputes and domestic violence calls.

Let's Talk Defunding the Police in Canadian context - Canadian Cultural  Mosaic Foundation

In each of these situations, an officers lack of diversity or community training can be costly – when you’re a Black American, they can also be deadly – as we’ve seen with Jacob Blake. One look at the infographic and it’s painfully obvious that many of the reasons behind crime are wound up in mental health; and by in large, that’s something that we do not tackle as a society – drug use included; if we had better funding for programs aimed at curtailing drug additions, as well as an end to the drug war – which by in large targets BIPOC communities as well – our society would get back on the right foot again.

In lieu of police serving more social functions with no psychological or sociological background to assist them, we could send in trained mental health professionals; for non-threatening emergencies, we could simply rely on the same EMT crews that are dispatched for car accidents.

👊🏿👊🏾WHEN? The time is NOW. 👊🏾👊🏿

With the Breonna Taylor verdict, or non-verdict, on all of our minds – I know people are angry, upset, outraged. We’re taking to the streets, we’re demanding change – but what we need to do is demand it from the right people. That isn’t the President, or the Executive branch – it starts with your local officials for your city, for your county – and for your state.

Find your local officials here.

We need to remember to vote not just every four years, but every year for state office and every two years for congress. Register to vote, double check you’re registered and if voting by mail or absentee be sure to turn in your ballot as far ahead of time as possible.


Do your own research on local and state government, and truly try to understand how they’re spending their money. How are you going to be a champion for the people today – how are you going to ensure that Black lives not only matter, but are an equally important and integral part of our gestation as a nation? Which side of history are you going to be on?

Hands on Wisconsin: What does "Defund Police" mean? It's complicated |  Opinion | Cartoon | madison.com

[Be The Change] The Modern Perpetuation of American Racism

Protests over the death of an African American being arrested by Minneapolis erupted into violence.

Take a little trip back in social history, back to when the slaves were emancipated and went off to find their own land to call home; as a people – we were taken from a continent, had many native rites, traditions and languages extinguish – and then forced into a world where we were considered 3/5 of a person, then to where we weren’t allowed to own property, open a bank account, vote, go to “good” schools in “good areas”.

Fast forward to now, and these ideas have compounded with dangerous ideologies – those that protect and serve, protect and serve the majority. There is no equality, and most of all – there is no equity. Before the Civil Rights movement, Compton was supposed to be the new African American utopia – it’s why my family moved there. In the Civil Rights movement, we saw an uprising of people who were done with this indoctrination – and it was brought down by those who were supposed to protect and serve them; guess what: we’re seeing it again.

The agenda being set up, is one that is supposed to discredit and decimate the “legitimacy” of a group of people who are asking to simply be treated as HUMANS. The destruction of property is not the destruction of a people, or a community; but if what’s valued are capitalist ideals, then this sends a message – one that historically, and unfortunately, has not been listened to. And if I have learned ANYTHING from my history classes, it’s that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes until we learn from them.

So, what have we learned this week:

1. Protesting your rights to “wear a mask” and “go back to the beach” because you’re bored is fine, but protesting the human right to be treated equally somehow is not.

2. Former Presidential Candidate, and potential Vice Presidential nominee Amy Klobuchar oversaw multiple cases involving said officer, and declined to prosecute.

3. The ex-officer that was arrested has been charged…but only with third degree murder / manslaughter. This should have been second degree, or a hate crime. We’re literally saying that the death of George Floyd is no different than selling someone bad drugs; racism and ignorance are not a “bad drug” – they are detrimental mentalities which lead to the destruction of human life, vis-a-vie second degree.

If you’re curious on formal definitions – and given that 1st degree involves pre-meditation, this is how it breaks down in Minnesota:

2nd Degree: Any intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned in advance

3rd Degree Murder: Murder is not based on having the intent to kill. This charge may also result if a person sells bad drugs. The maximum penalty for murder is up to 25 years in prison.

Manslaughter: any killing committed as a result of recklessness. (also, Recklessness: lack of regard for the danger or consequences of one’s actions; rashness.)

4. Our President can somehow pull up random quotes from historical racists but somehow doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass was….oh, right, and he’s inciting a larger race riot by literally saying “LOOTING LEADS TO SHOOTING”

5. During this morning’s show, the CNN crew reporting on the events live were arrested on air by the police – let that sink in. That in America, where we pride ourselves in free speech – the police came in and took the whole crew in. What type of message does that send?

Finally: “A riot is the language of the unheard”

If you have never felt that you needed to protest, take to the streets, and raise your voice simply to be heard as an equal: Congratulations on whatever incredible privileges life has awarded you. Are you your brother and sisters keepers? Do you realize that a rising tide raises all ships? Then shape up and wake up to the realities of the current moment.

[Reading is Sexy] Catching Inspiration with ‘The Net and The Butterfly’

Oftentimes, the mind likes to play tricks on the heart, dolling out various forms of creative comas; for me, these generally come in the form of writer’s block.  Somewhere, in the back of my brain, I’ve deemed my sentences as pedantic, my metaphors aren’t juicy enough, my epiphanies aren’t anywhere near novel or the syntax resembles that of a kindergartners.   This is all fine and well if you’re not trying to make a name for yourself in the creative sector, or a living off of being a writer; but for the rest of us, well, that’s a horse of a very different color.

Enter: The Net and the Butterfly.

For all the times I’ve started a blog post and let it sit on the back burner, created a cover letter that I’ve then torn to digital shreds, or haven’t been able to put my finger on a press release, The Net and the Butterfly has released me from my anxieties of incomplete creativity and put me on the path for success. The brainchild of authors Olivia Fox Cabane, who penned The Charisma Myth, and Judah Pollack of The Chaos Imperative, this is perfect resource for any and every individual that’s looking to innovate their mental state and put a fresh spin on their success.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking for their next big break, or need a simple kick in the ass to get a project started – this is the book for you.  Take charge of your creativity and catalyze your inner momentum with engaging exercises, apt anecdotes to get your head spinning and solid solutions for whatever is sullying your sanity.

Hypothetically, you could finish this book in a single sitting – it’s wonderfully written and mentally probing, if you do it right; but by doing so, you’re  not doing yourself any huge favors, and you’re probably cutting corners by not marinating on the mental floss the book has given you. Pace yourself properly and really digest what you read by getting through one, maybe two, chapters a night and actually doing all of the exercises, you’ll be surprised by what works for you, and you’ll could be so immersed and enthralled in that new reality that you might just carry it over to your day to day life, maybe without even thinking about it. So whatever your vocation, or trepidation, is – The Net and the Butterfly posits some great knowledge and reignites the creative flame; and I’m speaking from personal experience.

For more on The Net and the Butterfly, head to the official website – or if you’ve caught the vibe and want more, snag your own copy on Amazon!

 

[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[LA Life] Drought & A Push Towards Eco-Friendly Landscaping

IMG_1770.JPGBetween the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert.  With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.droughtgif

Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought.  Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become.  It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone.  A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.

The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.  

Click Through to Original MIC Article With More Pics

At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .

There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns.  Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them.  At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.

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Lawns: A Thing of the Past?

At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water.  For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard.  As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.

Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses  in my area that are doing it right.

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If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment.  For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property.  If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants.  Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.