Tuesday, February 20, 2018

we call BS

As you know, on February 14th, Valentine's Day, another school shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed and fifteen more were taken to area hospitals.

I haven't been able to wrap my head around yet another mass shooting, another school shooting, another weapon of war purchased legally... it's a circle of despair, horror, and anger. But this time there seems to be a spark, the call to action by America's youth, to finally change our collective reality around guns, gun violence, and our assumed right to weapons of war. 

I am not sure what I will do to fan this spark. But I know I can vote; I can march; I can support the young people who are pushing back on NRA funded politicians; I can do so much more than send thoughts and prayers.







We have to elect candidates that are not funded by the NRA this November and beyond. You can register to vote now, as long as you will be 18 by November 6th. Check out vote411.org to find out about voting in your state.

We can support Everytown for Gun Safety, a movement to end gun violence and build safer communities, at everytown.org

We can read Brene Brown's book, Braving The Wilderness, especially chapter four "People Are Hard To Hate Up Close" and "Speak Truth to Bullshit".


We can watch Emma Gonzalez's speech and be inspired:




Monday, February 12, 2018

These will redefine what official portraiture will look like.


This morning, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official, highly anticipated portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, painted, respectively, by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. 


The portraits, beyond capturing the first black President and First Lady, represent the first-ever official presidential portraits executed by black painters.

The two portraits will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery beginning tomorrow, Tuesday February 13th. While Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama will join the institution’s permanent exhibition of presidential portraits, Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama will hang in its corridor of recent acquisitions through November 2018. 


Check out this wonderful video of Kehinde Wiley and his art. It contextualizes some of the elements of his portrait of the president.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Idaho Women's March 2018

The Idaho Women's March was today -  a day after many of the national marches for 2018, but the momentum to send the same message came out in full force: Women are not backing down and we will not stop our march toward equality, equity, and intersectionality.


 I made a few signs...






And was inspired by Boise's rally signs...













There are a lot of ways to get involved and stay involved. Check out #powertothepolls,  #MeToo,   #TimesUp,  sheshouldrun.org,  @peopleforunityBoise, indivisible.org,  NOW.org,  momsdemandaction.org, PlannedParenthood.org,  InternationalRescueCommittee

Monday, November 27, 2017

Moxie Girls Fight Back

Have you read the book Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu?
It's an awesome young adult novel about the power of voice, the importance of feminism, and the empowerment of having guts, gumption, and grit.

Today I left a few copies of Moxie in women's restrooms with the following note:



Moxie is the perfect book to get for every girl you know this holiday season.






Friday, November 17, 2017

Be Kind To Elephants

On Wednesday, the Trump administration lifted the ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States from elephant hunts in two African nations.

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


In a passionate speech, Ellen Degeneres promised to make a donation to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for every share her #bekindtoelephants campaign received. Saying, "I love elephants and if you take the time to learn about elephants you would love them too. Elephants show compassion, sympathy, social intelligence, self-awareness … all the things I have yet to see in this president."

Use the hashtag #bekindtoelephants; retweet and share @TheEllenShow's post on twitter, Facebook, and instagram; educate yourself on the magnificence of African elephants.






Monday, November 13, 2017

Hope




“Hope”by Victoria Safford 
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,” but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave.

Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.
- Reinhold Niebuhr



This weekend I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. This book will break your heart as well as give you hope ... it is a whirlwind of emotions.

This is such an important book!
Get this book for anyone who believes:
"We must reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent."

From the Introduction: Higher Ground:
This book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America. It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. It's also about a dramatic period in our recent history, a period that indelibly marked the lives of millions of Americans - of all races, ages, and sexes - and the American psyche as a whole. 
When I first went to death row in December 1983, America was in the early stages of a radical transformation that would turn us into an unprecedentedly harsh and punitive nation and result in mass imprisonment the has no historical parallel. Today we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are nearly six million people on probation or on parole. One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.


Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I've come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. 
We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it's necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and - perhaps - we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

From Chapter Fifteen: Broken
My years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression, and injustice had finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn't just illuminate the brokenness of others; in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed my own brokenness. You can't effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. 
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. 

From Chapter Sixteen: The Stonecatchers' Song of Sorrow
I believe that so much of our worst thinking about justice is steeped in the myth of racial difference that still plagues us. I believe that there are four institutions in American history that have shaped our approach to race and justice but remain poorly understood. The first, of course, is slavery. This was followed by the reign of terror that shaped the lives of people of color following the collapse of Reconstruction until World War II... The third institution, "Jim Crow," is the legalized racial segregation and suppression of basic rights that defined the American apartheid era... The fourth institution is mass incarceration. Going into any prison is deeply confusing if you know anything about the racial demographics of America. The extreme overrepresentation of people of color, the disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, the targeted prosecution of drug crimes in poor communities, the criminalization of new immigrants and undocumented people, the collateral consequences of voter disenfranchisement, and the barriers to re-entry can only be fully understood through the lense of racial history.

Read this book. Get it for the young people in your life who have an interest in justice and the judicial system. Get this book for those who need a little mercy and compassion in their life. Read this book.

Also, you must watch Bryan Stevenson's TED Talk:













“We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.” This way of thinking is in line with other pronouncements he makes throughout: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” They are like phrases from sermons, exhortations to righteous action. “The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?

Then, watch the documentary 13th on Netflix featuring Bryan Stevenson:





I'll close with my favorite quote also from Chapter Fifteen:
“Rosa Parks turned to me sweetly and asked, 'Now, Bryan, tell me who you are and what you're doing.' I looked at Ms. Carr to see if I had permission to speak, and she smiled and nodded at me. I then gave Ms. Parks my rap. 'Yes, ma'am. Well, I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we're trying to help people on death row. We're trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We're trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who've been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice...Ms. Parks leaned back smiling. 'Ooooh, honey, all that's going to make you tired, tired, tired.' We all laughed. I looked down, a little embarrassed. Then Ms. Carr leaned forward and put her finger in my face and talked to me just like my grandmother used to talk to me. She said, 'That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave.' All three women nodded in silent agreement and for just a little while, they made me feel like a young prince.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

keep up the struggle in difficult times

On The Week, I saw a book list titled Brene Brown's 6 Favorite books that inspire bravery. It's a great reading list and I loved seeing Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks. It's a great book and if you like it, you should also read Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope also by bell hooks. Teaching Community is a book we all need right now.




 From Publishers Weekly:
Readers of hooks's prolific body of work on feminism, racism, cultural politics, art and education will find much that is familiar here. Grounded in autobiography and storytelling and written for an intelligent lay audience, these essays exhort readers to keep up the struggle in difficult times. A distinguishing characteristic of hooks's work is the challenge to recognize, confront and overcome "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy," a recurring phrase that captures her hallmark theme: oppression occurs at the intersections of race, gender and the dominant economic system.

Some of my favorite parts:
We need mass-based political movements calling citizens of this nation to uphold democracy and the rights of everyone to be educated, and to work on behalf of ending domination in all its forms - to work for justice, changing our educational system so that schooling is not the site where students are indoctrinated to support imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy or any ideology, but rather where they learn to open their minds, to engage in rigorous study and to think critically. 
In education especially, this community connects us with the... 'great things' of the world, and with 'the grace of great things' ...We are in community with all of these great things, and great teaching is about knowing that community, and then drawing your students into it. 
Certainly as democratic educators we have to work to find ways to teach and share knowledge in a manner that does not reinforce existing structures of domination (those of race, gender, class, and religious hierarchies). 
Whether or not any of us become racists is a choice we make. And we are called to choose again and again where we stand on the issue of racism at different moments in our life. 

To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.

I highly recommend this book to teachers, facilitators, leaders  -  or for anyone interested in deconstructing racism and the existing structures of mysogyny, and kyriarchy.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

home and hope


Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Genius, Matthew Desmond, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction for his heartbreaking book EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City. I read Evicted after hearing this story on an old Diane Rehm show on NPR.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid prose, Desmond provides a intimate view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. Evicted follows the stories of actual families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods. Readers bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast income inequality, systemic poverty, economic exploitation, and real Americans' determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

It is brutal to witness... and yet

And yet the Epilogue provides some fresh ideas for moving forward - it is titled  Home and Hope.

I'll leave you with this question from the Epilogue:
All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary. Because it is unnecessary, there is hope. These problems are neither intractable nor eternal. A different kind of society is possible, and powerful solutions are within our collective reach. 
But those solutions depend on how we answer a single question: do we believe that the right to a decent home is part of what it means to be an American?