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

Image

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

Donate to the Georgia Democratic Party

Donate to ActBlue

[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] Resources for a Movement in a Racially Divided Moment

Say THEIR Names!!! by What Would Naomi Do • A podcast on Anchor

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Only when we can fully embrace the humanity of all of our brothers and sisters, we will never truly be human. Please take some time to reach out to your African American friends; this is an unprecedented moment in America, and what we’re slowly understanding is this isn’t simply an American problem – thanks to the spread of colonialism, and the continued exploitation of natives from Africa – the idea that Black Rights Matter isn’t local, or national; this is an international, humanitarian issue.

Image

Over the last 72 hours, we have seen incredible uprising and support from allies around the world – from France and England, to Germany the Netherlands and New Zealand. Now that we’ve risen, we need to see and inspire a re-education to rewrite the current narrative of African Americans. We have to literally go back to school and unlearn the teachings, or how many leaders have pointed out – actually teach children the true history of this country, so they can understand how the backs that built this country finally broke.

I have way too much to say right now about the unlawful militaristic patrol of our communities, improper use of police force by those sent to ‘protect and serve‘, Trump’s pathetic and bewildering stunt yesterday to move protesters for a photo opportunity, the mobilization of a military wing of the government that has duly promised that they would prevent terrorism both foreign and domestic, as well the use of war weapons on civilians that have been banned by the Geneva convention, but let’s put that on the back burner and revisit that later. ‘

As a Black, Jewish woman – I have always felt the weight of the world was against me, but I also recognize that I’ve had incredible privilege due to my education, and the experiences that life awarded me. I “pass“, most people think I’m a different race completely, someone even has asked where my tan comes from (I know…), and know that I most certainly haven’t endured the plight of the Black American – so even I’m trying to grapple with what I can’t comprehend. If that’s my reality, I can only imagine how someone who has barely or never been marginalized is wrapping their heads around this.

So, how do we learn from the past, engage in the present and move forward to assist our Black brothers and sisters? This is a list of media that has affected my personal outlook and understanding on race, I hope you and yours find them beneficial as well.

For the Frontliners:

Image

ReadingBlackout: 29 Books to Read This Black History Month - Bookish

Books: Just one simple search, and you’ll discover thousands of books by thousands of unique Black voices, telling poignant stories. I could list them all, but here are the ones that have stuck with me all these years:

Bonus books for those wanting to also understand from a mixed race perspective, or just conversations about race in general:


TV Shows and Movies:

  • Insecure (HBO)
  • Snowfall (FX)
  • Mixed-ish / Black-ish (ABC)
  • 13th (Netflix)
  • American Son (Netflix)
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Ghosts of Mississippi (Amazon Prime)
  • Queen and Slim
  • Dear White People (Netflix)

Donate: Put your money where your mouth is with these organizations


Petition: against a demilitarized police force and better training, more empathetic politicians in office and a more inclusive, diverse community:

What are you doing to lift up the Black community right now as it experiences the compounded effects of years of systemic racism? Any resources you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t complain, activate.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 99557637_10108092502990967_4693604058513014784_n.jpg

[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.

[Be The Change] The Women’s March: Where Do We Go From Here

Source: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Facebook

For the record, I’ve never once really considered myself a political personality – but in our current climate, I view it as a complete disservice to both myself and the world to continue to hold my tongue. As the clock on 2016 slowly rolled into the ever so needed New Year of 2017, many of us mused to ourselves that ‘we made it’, that the nightmare year of 2016 is over.  And over the last few days, it’s felt like 2017 has said: hold my beer, I’ve got this.

On the very first day of Trump’s new administration, any mention of Climate Change, Immigration LGBTQ or Civil Rights was been removed from the White House website. And as of today, not only has Trump has overturned both the rulings on the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines, but the funding for the EPA has been frozen – and as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, employees of the EPA have been banned from discussing anything on social media or with reporters. A while back, Trump produced a list of his proposed actions within his first 100 days as President, and the actions within his first 5 days have set an ominous tone for the next 95. As a nation, we’ve found ourselves swimming in a polarized, political predicament made magnitudes worse by the gross ignorance of pockets of our population, many of which are neighbors, family or even friends.  Though I’ve found myself up in arms, both nervous and frightened by the potential of impending doom looming over the horizon – it’s also why the Women’s March this past Saturday is all the more poignant, and the movement all the more important.

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

On Trump’s first day of office, he spoke – loud and clear, and we all listened with heavy hearts and bated breath. The next day, millions of women around the world woke up and had an equally important message for the world: We will not stop passionately pursuing human rights for all – for those of faith and the impoverished, for the physical disabled and sexually abused, the LGBTQIA community and native populations; we fight for all – for all colors, all ages, all ethnicities, all genders. Sure, in name – it was called a Women’s March – but in reality, this was a Human’s March, representing the underlying need for us to be treated equally as humans that inhabit this planet side by side. The Women’s March was a march for reproductive rights and against the defunding of Planned Parenthood; it was a march for ending violence including police brutality and racial profiling, a march for LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental rights. It was a march for you, a march for your children and your grandchildren after that – and a march for the betterment of our country.

Collectively, the Women’s March was over 5 Million Strong worldwide, with half a million peacefully protesting at our nation’s capital in Washington DC – now considered the largest inaugural protest in United States History.  Los Angeles alone was responsible for nearly 15% of the national population – drawing over 750,000 into the heart of downtown as they marched their way into history, or rather – herstory.

In just the last few years, America has seen the beginnings of several great progressive movements – including Operation Wall Street, and the Black Lives Matter – generate magnitudes of national support.  But what these movements have all seemed to lack is the leadership and internal administration to push the movement forward with a common goal and a voice. So, here we sit with the Women’s Movement at the same conjuncture as with those recently passed progressive movements – and now we must face a similar question – where do we go from here?  Good news, is there are some answers.

The Women’s March didn’t end Saturday evening – and truth be told, our movement has only just begun.  Just as Trump has his actions for the first 100 days, so does the Women’s March. Meet the ’10 Actions / 100 Days’ Campaign. The first matter of business on the agenda is a call to action – urging people to reach out to their Senators and representatives and talk about pressing, pertinent issues and let them know how you‘re willing to fight for the issues alongside them.

This is not a time to remain silent, this is a time to be heard.   Be willing to call attention to important issues and have discussions – with friends, strangers and everyone in between. Find a local organization in your community and join forces, or find a national nonprofit group that fits your fancy.  Many organizations have partnered with the Women’s March and could absolutely use the assistance – some of those include Planned Parenthood, the National Resource Defense Council, Greenpeace USA, the ACLU, GLAAD, Girls Who Code, Free The Nipple, and more.  For the full list, head here.

Rise up and join the Movement – because if one man can create our current state of political unrest, certainly a group of strong, supportive women – and the men that support them – can right the wrong’s they see in the world.

Vital Links

Women’s March // National  | Los Angeles

`Volunteer // Los Angeles

March and Rally: Los Angeles // WebsiteFacebook

Image result for women's march 2017

[Get Political] Be The Change You Want to See In The World

Throughout my childhood, it was implored on me that there are three things you don’t discuss with strangers: sex, politics, and religion.  I don’t know about you guys, but those are three super interesting conversations that I’m always itching to have with anyone who will participate.  From what I can tell, previous generations weren’t just closed off about what others thought, nor were they closed minded – they literally never had the opportunity to engage with other viewpoints and have their opinions changed, nor change anyone else’s. In just the last twenty-four hours, I’ve engaged in discussions in the waiting room for the doctor, in line at the pet stores and during a work luncheon – and no one has shied away; if anything – they’re enthralled. Throughout each of these conversations, I continually question why this wasn’t okay for my parents before me, and their parents before them. Were they worried they were on the wrong side of history and scared of change, facts, and knowledge?  Or, were they right in the idea that certain feelings and ideals be kept private, for a select audience of our peers?

At the good ol’ age of 31, I’ve been around to see several elections now.  When I first left the Bay Area for college in Santa Barbara, I distinctly remember how anxious and nervous both Bush campaigns made me; I was determined, albeit slightly jaded, in the idea that I could effect a positive change in the world.   Then, I remember being part of history: I remember voting for Obama twice and bearing witness to a monumental moment with our first minority president. At the time, I remember thinking at those times how important it was to be part of the electoral process and if I could, I would double down on that sentiment today.

government of the people.  From the get-go, it was clear that there was a struggle looming ahead of us – but no one was privy to just how hard it would be.  I was, and still am, a proud Bernie supporter – hell, I even wore my ‘Feel The Bern’ shirt to the polls yesterday (and to that token, Los Angeles – you’ve got your election fashion on lock). Watching the election results come in reminded me of a disappointed parent:  it’s not that I didn’t know America was steeped in racist roots or had a slightly misogynistic flair.  But in all fairness, I was hopeful.  Hopeful that people had enough personal experience to negate any external bigotry, hopeful that people could see through the terrible charade of Trump and align more with Clinton’s character, but that’s not at all what happened. Clinton by in large is considered a member of the old guard, and for all intensive purposes – it’s the reason that Gary Johnson garnered up to 3% of the vote in pivotal states – taking necessary votes away from Clinton and ensuring Trump would take the lead. Trump, though bombastic, eccentric and politically incorrect, is not.  He’s made of his families money, can speak straight to America’s diminishing, white middle class – and make minorities cringe when he says “Make America Great Again”.  But he’s different, he’s anti-everything we dislike – and there isn’t a Bernie anymore, so what’s a misguided, poorly informed country to do…right? Sigh. 

The further we push away from the election, the easier it becomes to assign blame.  If the Democratic National Committee hadn’t sabotaged their own party and conspired against the genius that is Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party could have had a chance in the election.  If the media had pulled back on their liberal bias, the public could have had an unadulterated look at our actual political climate.  If the Republican Party could have gotten their act together under a solid message, then an anti-establishment bigot wouldn’t have ran away with the election.  But, I also believe that the fault is equally mine.

As a blogger, as a writer, as a multicultural female, as an American – I deliver information in concise packages with flowery, verbose bows on the outside. It’s my duty to get the facts and information into the eyes, ears and minds of everyone around me and to that token – I feel that I’ve failed.  I didn’t get ahead of the issues, I didn’t delve into the policies or research the politics – for the most part, I had discussions in person, but I didn’t use my influence, my creative prowess, or my passion to push the message further.  So now, I have to hope that this isn’t falling on deaf ears.

More often than not, I’m met with the incorrect (il)logic that ‘One Vote Will Not Change Anything’. The fundamental flaw with that logic is dissuading people from engaging in our current political process.  One voice in a crowd is relatively quiet, but the voice of the crowd can echo far and wide. For minorities, for women – it hasn’t been an easy road.  We’ve been fighting tooth and nail for the right to be part of this process, which makes it all the more infuriating when people choose not to vote.   Unfortunately for those of us that participated, there’s a large percentage of the population that either didn’t vote, chose to vote third-party, or wrote in some asinine shit like Harambe or Hennessey as a protest vote. Granted, Snopes outed everyone’s claim that 15,000 actually wrote in Harambe – but if half the country truly did vote for Trump, it’s not that hard to believe.  Not to mention, voting for a Third Party candidate in such a divisive election, or otherwise even, is a selfish symptom of socio-economic privilege. If you’re one of the people willing to give up your vote, why not think of giving your voice to someone who can’t vote – including anyone in the penal system and undocumented workers; those options are real, and they give a voice to the people instead of taking it away from them.  It’s a right to vote, it’s a freedom – and to be quite honest, I personally wish it was rule of law.

Image result for politics memes

Beyond the President, there were several key races in California, as well as throughout the United States that I was keeping an eye on:

California

Medical Mary-J: Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em! California has joined states like Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada in their approval of recreational weed; voters in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted in approval of medical cannabis and forever a black sheep of American politics – Arizona voted against.

The Death Penalty: This is why California can’t have nice things. We had a majority vote to approve Prop 66 to expedite the death penalty – but the majority also voted no on Prop 62 to repeal it.  I’m sorry, but killing someone for killing someone to prove that killing is wrong will never make sense.  In good news for the penal system, California did agree to allow parole consideration for non-violent felons.  It’s a small win, but it’s definitely a win – especially compared to Nebraska where they voted to repeal the repeal of the death penalty.

Other key California measures that passed include Prop 59 which recommends California push to overturn Citizens United, Prop 64 which requires the legislature to put bills online for 72 hours prior to a vote and Prop 63 putting background checks on purchasing ammunition, creating one of the strongest anti-gun law states in America.  Last but certainly not least, congrats to Kamala Harris for becoming California’s first African American Senate Representative.

Massachusetts

Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment – In an effort to battle intensive animal confinement on farms, Massachusetts is joining 11 other states with bans on confinement.  The new law prohibits methods including the use of battery cages for hens, veal crates on baby calves and gestation crates for pigs.  On top of that, Massachusetts is going the extra mile – barring the sale of meat and eggs produced via these methods, regardless of their point of origin.

Washington DC

What’s better than 50 states? Well, according to the residents of Washington DC – 51.  With overwhelming support, DC voted to ratify themselves as the state of New Columbia.  The decision is now in congress’ hands.

Colorado

Last night, Colorado became just the sixth state to endorse assisted suicide in conjunction to consultations with two different physicians.

For the next two years we’ll be dealing with a Republican Senate, a Republican House and an anti-establishment President who caters to the conservatives that will be electing justices to our Supreme Court. Meaning – we have two years to get our shit together as progressives; two years to undo all of the undoing that is about to occur. Two years until the next midterm elections and four until the next presidential cycle.  As a minority, a female of color who will eventually raise a child that is also a minority, this country makes me nervous. As someone who wants to have a family in the next four years, I’m beside myself at the social climate and culture I will be raising them in. But I refuse to be anything but hopeful…adversity creates strength and resolution, and this election has sent a powerful message:

The sun is still shining, the world is intact and we’re going to get through this…together. It’s easy to throw our hands up, search for ways out of this mess and get frustrated – so instead, get educated, get active in your community and actually BE the change you wanted this election to be. Find an issue you’re passionate about, volunteer on a campaign, join a committee, organize a rally, raise your voice and be heard. 

Let this propel you to passionately pursue what drives you, use this tumultuous energy to create instead of destroy, try to understand the other instead of demonize them and we can get through this better than before. 

PS. Obama, I miss you already.

 

 

[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation