Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stay on Track---Don't allow this NARRATIVE to be co-opted

This morning, January 25, 2017 the US's 45th President Donald Trump tweeted the following statement:

The conversations that followed these tweets has been adding to what is seen as problematic and loaded and more than just truly investigating if Voter Fraud actually occurred. 

This statement and the continued conversation around this statement is absurd-- this man won the election, he is the 45th President of these United States. And when there was a call into question about how the results ended that way and the structure of the electoral college came into question due to the disparity of the popular vote, individuals were told it was unfair to undermine this campaigns "clear victory."

So now, you are in office and on the 5th day of your time as sitting President, you and your Administration are making claims of Voter Fraud because your ego is bruised that you didn't win the popular vote?

This statement is problematic because first there was slavery, then there was Jim Crow and now you have substantial cases where some of those structural limitations on one's ability to vote are starting to creep back. When you think about it, we haven't even fully closed the gap of the systemic fallout of slavery and Jim Crow. 

So when you see things popping up such as  Voter ID Laws  and the negative impact those have had on people and elections. There are and have been continued efforts to suppress an individuals right to vote. Cases over the last few years continue to rise to the top of each election season and has been a huge campaign in THIS particular election season as well. So when the conversation becomes a focus on Voter Fraud it causes me to raise a critical eye. What is the reason that this conversation, "voter fraud" is taking much more steam, but real acts of voter suppression have not. 

Additionally, it causes me to wonder, at what end will this "major investigation" go? It creates a slippery slope because if the investigation provides and small number of cases, the next step is to then increase restrictions to make acts of voter fraud less likely. But what really does that mean, it allows for more acts of voter suppression to occur. Any law passed allows states and other administrative offices to interpret and execute the law how they see fit. 

This conversation continues to be frustrating. 

If we want to be the change we want to see in the world, we have to call out some of the things that are happening and being said. I recognize that I am hyper-sensitive to the impact because I live in DC and have also studied and continue to be connected to politics, but it's in statements like these that we think-- yes I agree, voter fraud is something that we need to limit, but when history and data prove that voter fraud isn't as big as this Administration is claiming it to be, it creates a distraction of a real fundamental gap in basic civic duty when it comes to people's right to vote being suppressed continuously. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Don't forget who you are

It is easy in this work of Social Justice to forget that we are also human, it is easy to get caught up in our own ego sometimes when we think we have a point to win-- but don't forget who you are!

This morning I was on one of my social media accounts and I came across this post that caught my attention.

The post had the following statement:

Now what is noted as "This quoted Tweet is unavailable" might have been removed after my conversation, at least I hope so. But the article that was quoted was written by Monica Potts. It can be found here.

After reading Ms. Potts' article I felt that the individual's tweet was misleading. I don't mind the statement that there in fact could be "white women who overwhelmingly voted for Trump and White Supremacist Patriarchy and [then might now have written pieces] about how they're in danger." But the individual's tweet was misleading in assuming that Ms. Potts was one of them.

So I commented, and made the above assessment. Which turned into the individual becoming defensive. Which continued with me sticking to my point, it is unfair to use that article attributing Ms. Potts specifically as a woman who voted for Trump and White Supremacy. If we can't stand up for people and treating them fairly then we continue to perpetuate where we currently are.

But what broke me was this:

"Here you are doing the work of and for white supremacy"---WOW!
 I'll admit I had to take a breather. That on one blow made me angry, made me defensive, made me want to fire back at him. But instead I chose not to message him back- heck, he asked me not to.

But then he took it a step farther, it was fine I guess, for me to have him addressing me directly, regardless of whether or not it was public but then he did this:

I will own for me being called "white" raises so many of my insecurities. As a young girl, my friends teased me about me "talking white" or being the "whitest Black girl they know." Now I love my friends and I know they meant me no harm but the reality is it still was something I struggled with.

However, his false assumption that I was white was perpetuated by a response (see below) to a previous tweet, where in looking at this entire conversation for me just shows me how far out of being rational his thoughts were.

But here I was in the midst of all of this breaking down because I forgot what is at stake. I broke down because I allowed this stranger to tell me who I was. I let his identity destroy me for a brief moment because I let my ego define me. When in fact I know exactly WHO I am and more importantly WHO I belong to. I am a Christian, who cares about people. I will always care about people. It breaks my heart to see injustice, it brakes my heart to see inequality, but in condemning others

We are called to be Salt & Light. -- We are called to bring out the God-Flavors of the earth. We are called to be light, bringing out the God-Colors in the world. What I did was right, I would again and again stand up for that woman. It wasn't okay for her to be singled out in that manner and even if no one else saw it, it was the right thing to do. But I am also not angry with that individual who is also so misguided in his thoughts that he is literally firing shots at everyone. He was waiting for the attack and I gave it to him. 

I don't know how we get through this, but I can't lose sight of the work I am called to do. I can't lose sight of the fact that even in my anger, hurt and pain, people are on the other side of that. People deserve grace, people deserve love, people deserve the experience of the freedom that I have because of the love that I have for Jesus. People---That's what matters, that's what will always matter. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Not Okay....

These times that we are in is killing my spirit and energy softly. I have been emotionally disrupted with the events that have happened--- #AltonSterling || #PhilandoCastile || #Dallas and the many other events that caused a hashtag, a headline or a history of terror and trauma that have happened before and simultaneously with this time.

Writing is my release, my healing. I can no longer be quite in the spaces that I influence. Action will be my redemption. My voice matters, my vote matters the most and to all of my folks asking what can they do--VOTE!


Not Okay..

I am not okay
Humanity is not okay
We are not okay

I'm not okay with the state of terror that I live in//
I'm not okay with the blatant disrespect and violence against Black bodies//
I'm not okay with the FEAR, the PAIN, the DISCONTENT and DISORDER that lives within me//

I'm not okay with the silence//
I'm not okay with the neglect//
I'm not okay with the ignorance to not understand the TRAUMA that my community is facing//

I am not okay
Humanity is not okay
We are not okay

I'm not okay with some of the communities I belong to, not acknowledging that individuals they know are in pain and are suffering//
I'm not okay with your inability to say directly to me that you care//
I'm not okay with your inability to acknowledge that you are sorry for what I'm experiencing DIRECTLY TO ME//
I'm not okay with our society making basic expressions of compassion uncomfortable in this moment//
I'm not okay with it feeling like the only comfort I am able to receive, feel and internalize is from my community who is suffering through the same trauma I am//

I am not okay
Humanity is not okay
We are not okay

I'm not okay with seeing Black men & boys walking around me on the street and silently praying they aren't next//
I'm not okay with feeling that I'm making you uncomfortable for sharing my pain//
I'm not okay with feeling that my job is to make you feel less uncomfortable, when my comfort is continuously disrupted in the torment and torture of Black men and families//

Today I am not okay
Tomorrow I might not be okay
But my prayer, my fight, my hope is I will be ~ WE will be ~ Humanity will be

#THISISTRAUMA #THISISTERROR #NoMoreNames #BlackLivesMatter #IMatter

Originally posted on my Inside Keesha's World blog

Friday, July 24, 2015

In Mourning.... (Thanks Jamila)

There are many quotes that are running through my head right now as I get ready to put together this post. In particular " All my life I had to fight..." (The Color Purple)  In this current state of the Black experience in the US and even before, we have been having to fight. Fight for others to see us as human beings, to see us worthy, to see us a part of this society. There is a collective feeling of crisis for Black people in this country when we constantly are faced with more and more news that brings back these realities, these traumas of our historical experience.

Another quote that comes to mind is one of Dr. King "They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."- I have a dream 

A friend of mine posted this image
With it she expressed things I haven't been able to. I am tired, my heart is literally breaking, I walk around in silence around these issues of injustice that I have seen because my mouth hurts too much to talk about it anymore, my ears hurt to much to hear about it any more and I am just tired. I want to cry every time we add another name to the list- I want to scream every time another child is buried, I want to hit something every time I see an insensitive comment, or someone just voicing their opinion just to hear themselves talk. 

I need everyone to take a collective moment of silence and mourn, mourn for the children we are burying, mourn for the loss of innocence that continues to happen by our hands. I am about to turn 30 and I have seen too much in my lifetime that has dramatically shaped and changed my experience in the world. I can't say that it's not for the better, but when death is all too real and all to close to so many of us, when it can be prevented, we are all at fault. 

I will never be a police officer or know what it is like to have to walk out my door and pray I make it home. I hope to never have to face a moment where I am pleading for my life from someone who feels they have the right to take it. But here is the thing, those points of few are the problem to begin with. Black bodies and police officers are living in this mentality of war and have been for so long.  It is this attitude and mindset that continues to bury my innocence, my hope and my trust that things will get better. When officers walk out in an attitude of war, that attitude permeates the atmosphere in real and ugly ways.

But the same can be said for marginalized people. They walk into this world ready for battle, ready for war against the people who are set to "serve and protect."

This life that we are living is NOT NORMAL. And I need us all to stop acting like it is or this should be.  I need us all to take a pause, to take a moment of silence, not to be silenced, but to really think does it matter what our opinion is, who's wrong and who's right when a life has ended before it was expected?

I'm in mourning because I am tired of seeing the battle between two people who I consider friends on Facebook. I'm in mourning because I am tired of being let down by friends who will never understand the pain that I carry EVERY TIME another one of my collective is murdered, is made a mockery and  created into another visual example that who I am in the larger scope of the world does not matter. I am in mourning because until we as a society get it right, you will never know that 
"[our] freedom is inextricably bound."- Dr. MLK Jr. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Return to Compassion" -Monica Lewinsky

I was 12 years old when news channels were filled  with updates regarding President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. During that time, our political environment was changed drastically. For me it was the first that I had begun to understand, through my own lens what political scandal meant.  President Clinton became the spotlight of a scandal that involved too many themes, that at the time I did not truly understand.

As I look back though,  I know that President Clinton continued to be at the forefront of news, but I don't think  I ever asked the question "what happened to that young woman?"

There have been a few times since that year that her name has popped up in the news. But it wasn't until I saw it this last time that my interest was peaked peaked by hearing that Monica had participated in a Ted Talk.

Of course I was definitely drawn to this because of what she represents in history, and I am glad that I clicked.  Video courtesy of TEDTalks and Youtube


I want to commend Ms. Lewinsky for her courage to speak up and out about what she experienced during that time. What I remember the most from that time period was that it was a whirlwind for all involved. At the center of this situation was this anger & resentment directed against the President, but Ms. Lewinsky was unfortunately a casualty of that political firestorm. For years, she has stayed out of the limelight, I think like many others who feel what she felt- shame, whether that was her own emotion or what was pushed upon her from society.

Through her TEDTalk, I reflect on how I have shaped my character as it relates to the plight of others. She says,"The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we get to the human lives behind it."

WOW! I will own, I didn't think about Monica Lewinsky at all. I forgot ultimately that she was tied to the scandal- I mean, I knew that she was linked to the story, but did I think about her?- no! Unlike me, it was easy for others to not forget who she was and what she represented.  Her name has been the center of a joke (pull up Beyonce's latest album and you hear a reference to Monica almost 17 years later), but she is a REAL person, who has had to live with this choice and the consequences of her actions since then. I can't imagine walking in her shoes, knowing that she is who she is to the world around her.

Furthermore, can I just take a moment to also note that Former President Bill Clinton has virtually returned unblemished from this experience. Yes, he is associated with this experience, but he was "allowed" to live his life. He's an well acclaimed author, philanthropist, running one of the most dynamic presidential foundations, while this young woman, wasn't really given the space to have made a mistake.  Look at Anita Hill, she too has had to walk this road as the one who was wrong in her actions, while the man whom she reported gets to continue his life and at the status that he has, and every so often we are reminded of what had happened. We have allowed this to occur, publicly shaming these women for either speaking out of their own volition to say a truth that happened to them, or being forced to be outed as a young woman who made a choice, that had negative consequences.

When it comes to the growth of online communication, Ms. Lewinsky says, "We need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression... Let's acknowledge the difference between speaking up with INTENTION and speaking up for ATTENTION."

I couldn't agree more with her. As much as I like Social Media, I don't think too many actually think about what they are putting out there and how it's contributing to the advancement of society or not. Too often people just post something without follow-up or do not know how to react if another individual comments to open up a dialogue. It's within these spaces that we do not allow young people to grow- as Ms. Lewinsky notes early in her speech- how many of us didn't make a mistake or do something we regretted at 22? I will say I am STILL making mistakes today. We have all made mistakes, but in today's day and age with the rise of the internet and new media, our mistakes never really leave us- they become permanent.

We don't have an opportunity to grow, not truly, because we get silenced and others speak for us about what our behaviors mean. Our mistakes in this day and age become frozen and then associated with "who we are, at the core." I feel sorry for those who are younger than me, because the shoes they walk in is much tougher in these conditions.

I think her point for me is the most valid in social media such as Yik Yak an anonymous posting site that allows anyone to post virtually anything. The anonymity scares me. In the context of race relations, I  could be sitting next to the person who is making a racist statement online,  with no ownership of who they actually are. It reminds me of Eli Wiesel when he wrote about the silent witnesses in Nazi Germany in his book Night. Paraphrasing from Wiesel, it wasn't the Nazis that he was most worried about, it was those who didn't stand up to what was happening, that he was concerned for the most. This is how I feel about Yik Yak, it isn't the person who posted the statement that concerns me, it's those individuals who decide to encourage that thought by upvoting that does. I couldn't imagine how Ms. Lewinsky could have survived if Yik Yak had been around when her mistake was made public.

In listening to her talk, I was most moved by what she stated regarding the culture of compassion, and her reflection on those days, weeks, months and years  when her parents were afraid that she would die. When it comes to these experiences, we all have a role to play. She was 22 years old, it wasn't her choice to have this story or her life go public. But we placed her there, to stone her, to make her the "evil one." How many others will we allow this to happen to, before we remember that there is a human life attached to our tweet, yak, upvote, like, favorite or retweet?

I don't want to be numb to the human lives that are behind the story, what about you?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Silent no more....

I recently came across and article that really struck me and has caused me to rethink what is happening in the world around me.

The article, by Huffington Post, was on the topic of homeless women and sanitation issues. Here's the thing, when I think about homeless people, I realized that my thoughts are limited to just the surface- these individuals do not have a home, and what money they do have is limited.

But I have been blind to the this whole other layer of their experience. I haven't even thought about the health implications, the general inability to care for oneself. And when we think about shelters and the services that they are supposed to provide to those in need, to think about the privilege I have to be able to care for myself in this way as a woman, while another person is not, is truly heart breaking.

Reading this article totally changed my concept and made me have to reflect and segment what it means to be homeless. Having to remember that as women, there are additional barriers that are included within this current categorization of their experience.

In the article the author states," The fact that menstruation is a taboo topic to begin with, means that people who are able to help, often aren’t even aware that such a vast need exists."

This couldn't be more true for me. We don't necessarily talk about women's health in deep discussions outside of abortions, birth control etc. But when it comes to menstruation, a part of the experience of being a woman, something that impacts us all and can dramatically impact our general well-being if not taken care of, we don't talk about it. But we need to talk about it more! There is a part of our society who needs this to be a topic of discussion so that women can get the care that they need.

I would even impart those brands to consider making more charitable donations to shelters to support this need.

I do impart that if you do feel called, to consider making donations for hygienic products on behalf of women's shelters to provide for a much needed and desired service.

There is still much that we can do to change another person's experience. What do you stand for? What will you no longer be silent about?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Domestic Violence and the NFL Problem

Hey Y'all- so there are times that my love of other things converge, because the reality is social justice isn't a one lane experience. So I have a love of sports, and if you love sports too, you should check out my sports blog. But in this there is this very real social issue that is taking over the airwaves in regards to the NFL and domestic violence. I posted the following blog on my Sports Blog, but also felt it important to post here.

Why- Social Change. I think ultimately when you get out of the details of the individual story, in general, the NFL has fallen short of a real opportunity they can do to make a difference in the lives of individuals victimized by Domestic Violence at the hands of their players. I think it is important that the NFL takes a deeper look at their standards and their penalization process and looking at how they can make a more conscious effort to do better....

Ray Rice, Domestic Violence and the NFL's REAL Problem

Hello Hello, it's me SportsGal89 Innnnnnnn the Buildin'. Today I come to you with a little bit of a heavy heart. The game I love is being dominated by a really important story that is very hard to ignore, and like any person who loves the game, has feelings about how the game is being handled, but also cares about social issues in general and people, it is important for me to comment on this current story. 

The Backdrop:

 In February, a video surfaced of Ray Rice carrying is unconscious fiancee from an elevator. Many stories surfaced and finally it became clear that Ray Rice and his fiancee had gotten into a physical altercation. An act that Ray himself wasn't denying and something that his team and the NFL were aware of. As a result of the information they had, the NFL suspended Ray Rice 2 games at the start of this 2014-2015 season. 

The Current Situation:

 On Monday, September 8, 2014 a new video surfaced of what happened BEFORE Rice carried his unconscious fiancee from the elevator. This video, mind you was consistent with Rice's story as it related to him striking his now wife. The video was graphic as a visual, watching a man like Rice, punch his significant other twice, the second punch causing her to fall to the side and eventually to the ground before being carried out of the elevator. This was the first time that the public had seen the video and according to the NFL the first time that they had to. 

The Failure of the public, the Ravens & the NFL:

 Let's talk about Domestic Violence first. According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence:

 Approximately 42.4 million women in 
the United States have experienced 
rape, physical violence, and/or stalking 
by an intimate partner in their lifetime

 1 in 3 women have experienced 

physical violence by an intimate 

 1 in 10 men have experienced rape, 

physical violence, and/or stalking by an 
intimate partner in their lifetime

 30.3% of women in the United States 

have been slapped, pushed, or shoved 
by an intimate partner in their lifetime

 3.2 million women have experienced 

severe physical violence by an intimate 

 Intimate partner violence accounts for 

15% of all violent crime

 Intimate partner violence is most 

common among women between the 
ages of 18-24
 19% of intimate partner violence 
involves a weapon

So here's my thing. Domestic Violence is a troubling statistic, it is one that many people champion as their cause to shed more light on and gain more support for. This is not me being catty, but the stats are the stats. When the story first came out in February, where was the outrage and dismay? Did we really need to SEE it happen in order to know it was wrong and disturbing? A man three times the size of his wife, an active athlete told the world, he struck his wife twice and was able to knock her out and carry her unconscious body out of an elevator. That alone, should have been enough for outrage and movement.  

It disturbs me that a decision of misdemeanor assault was placed against Ray Rice with the following  entrance into the Pre-Trial Intervention program, and rehabilitation, that included anger-management classes.I think that there is a standard that should be set for athletes regardless of who they are or what they are faced against. Military men and MMA fighters can have their bodies named as weapons due to all of their training and ability to "walk away" from certain situations. I think regardless of whether or not Janay had hit Ray or was aggressive towards, him it does not at all give him the ability to hit her the way he did. He backed up, she came towards him and then he punched her in the face again... He a 200 + lb man could have wrapped her up and told her to chill if he felt she was out of hand.

Then you have the Ravens, who to this moment, I don't believe issued their own infraction at the time of the February video coverage. Instead the only group that did anything was the NFL. However, here are my concerns the NFL failed in their penalization of domestic violence cases and as a result how they handled the situation to begin with, in February. The NFL is STILL FAILING now because when the Ravens decided to release Ray Rice, that should have been their decision alone, but the NFL could have done better by not suspending Ray Rice indefinitely, but saying he is suspended for a year, with a probationary period that involves him seeking anger management counseling, marriage counseling, community service in a domestic violence shelter, charity work etc. The NFL seems to fail in their over all support in how they address not only this social issue but all social issues. If the NFL doesn't want to be chasing these issues then they need to be involved in setting up programs tools and resources that better their "investment" in the athletes they hire.  In the same way they have taken on financing research regarding connections to head injuries while playing and mental health, they could most definitely do better when it comes to domestic violence and their players. If they and really any other sporting league continue to act as if these incidents that come out in the public are one-offs it does nothing to change the underlying culture that is domestic violence and other issues within the NFL and those other sporting leagues.

I think where people are most frustrated is this tangled ugly web of lies that the NFL keeps finding themselves in. With this Ray Rice situation, the NFL and Goodell tell us one thing and then we find out they did or knew something else and then there is all this back and forth and well, stop saving your image and actually do the right thing! 

A Beautiful Convergence of things I love- Politics and sports:

My background is political science and so watching this story become as big as it is, is unfortunately fascinating for my poli sci brain. Reason being, there is this interesting backdrop of these overlap in responsibility.

In February you had an incident that occurred, that by our societies standards is the law's responsibility to do something about it. But then you have this overlap, because here is Ray Rice a football player which has it's own system of governance outside of the law, right.The Ravens weren't the ones who instituted a punishment or suspension, the NFL did and their standards are very off compared to what the public believes is reasonable for "crimes" so to speak. I think that there is an element that there are too many hands in the punishment jar (for lack of a better phrase). I think the biggest thing we are seeing right now is the disparities between the legal process and the NFL's own standards of punishment. This is why so many people are up in arms with the number of suspensions that are being added for one issue or another. It's not equal or fair, in the eyes of the public because of how loose or aggressive the decision has been. 

I mentioned briefly that I think in regards to the NFL's governance standards a little bit more they need to do a little bit more and go farther in how they are punishing their players. I work in Higher Education. Our conduct system reminds me very much of what is happening with the NFL. So when a student is found in violation of our university policies we not only provide an element that directly impacts the student, but we also provide an element that assists in the education and learning of these entire campus as well. 

Where the NFL for me fails is that there is this lost element of education and support for players when they are punished etc. Example, the NFL is heavy on suspending and fining our players from games. That only impacts the player and in most areas doesn't change the behavior by any means. I think that the NFL needs to look at how they are bettering their players rather than looking at what they look like as an enforcer of standards. Example- when a player is suspended x amount of games for Domestic Violence, aside from the suspension couldn't the NFL issue some anger management course, couple's counseling, spousal support etc. And a restriction that this is consistent throughout the season and up for review post season etc?

And in this case in particular with Ray Rice, I think the punishment was waaaaaay too much. I think the NFL failed not only the public but Ray Rice. Comments on one of my groups likened this case to Chris Brown and here were my comments:

 I think there is a huge difference between the Chris Brown case and this one. I say this one as a former avid fan of Chris Brown and one who recognizes the hardships it takes to distinguish between the law and responsibility as the NFL is involved in. Chris Brown, was charged in the court of law and was given a sentence and punishment as deemed by the court. He for what the public deems right by the justice system served his time. We didn't see what happened in that car, but we saw the results of what happened in that car. The reason why I am no longer an avid fan of Chris Brown is he still makes the same choices to be a giant douchebag and present aggressive behavior that goes against a one time case of domestic violence. He is just a violent aggressor period. In the case of Ray Rice, the reality is a visual does much more than talk. Ray Rice was upfront about what occurred, but the only image was him carrying his unconscious fiance out of an elevator. When it was clear that they had been in a fight, I think no one could have questioned or been surprised about that the video that is making rounds now. What did we expect happened? Where I don't fully agree with the decision by the NFL is the idea to black ball Ray Rice. Essentially, the NFL is taking the law into their own hands with this penalty, one because they fucked up, but it doesn't solve the problem Harbaugh, John, not Jim, had it right when he said in the press conference yesterday that the road ahead is going to be different for both Ray and Janay, but we the Ravens will be here for them however we can. That is exactly where the thought should be. I think that what occurred in that elevator is far from a one time case and what I think the NFL has neglected in this decision is their responsibility to support, educate and guide their players better. 6 game suspension for domestic violence cases, doesn't teach a player to be less violent and it doesn't provide care or support for the victim either. But what occurred yesterday was that NFL needed to recover their image.

I think ultimately telling Ray Rice that is form of livelihood is completely over is too much. I would have been happy moreso with Rice being suspended for a year after being release from the Ravens, with the provision that he seek counseling, that he get involved in community service, that he take anger management courses etc. But this actually doesn't teach anything, it just shows the world that the NFL is seriously trying to save their own asses than support their investment of the players they have. I think the NFL has a bigger responsibility because it is their image and they are responsible for the actions of their players but they can't just release people and think that fixes things. It doesn't.

It's a touchy situation, but the reality right now is that because of all the mistakes that are making, the Rice's themselves are suffering the most having to relive this awful situation and having to be ridiculed daily.

No right or wrong answer, just my reflection.

That's all she wrote folks...