A Personal Sentiment On Being Gendered “she”, and a Healthy Reminder to Men Allies

Every now and then I find myself in an existential rut. A rut that I can only attribute to the toxicity of social norms and wrongful validation based on an individual’s genitalia, biology or gender expression. When the reoccurring subtle and blatant sexism of every single damn day seems to subconsciously build upon my heart, just faint enough to go indirectly noticed, but real and present enough to sink its claws into my gut.

It is a feeling that I often have trouble expressing and it is a feeling I believe to solely be empathized with and understood by women and femmes alone.

Silent and still, those daily interactions, the language, the moments that cling secretly to my sole pacify, they wait; until the moment when those slightly translucent walls between my subconscious and the forefront of my mind finally fade away. It is in the addressing of lingering emotions that leaves me momentarily feeling completely crushed by its cumulative weight.

Artist Unkown

 Experiencing such a life in the body of a girl and then in the body of a woman, is to experience existence in such a multitude of faceted roles. The ugliness and the shame juxtaposed against the strength and perseverance is perplexingly complicated. We are molded, sexualized, demoralized and then told that we only gain respect and worth when we combat those roles and myths with a sly smile upon a made up face.

Made up to either take back the power “to be” or to hide the ways that we unacceptably truly “are”.

So, a short reminder to all men who are unable (by their own socialization not because it is entirely significantly their individual fault)  to grasp the daily oppression of being less privileged  than you and the importance of equity as human beings:

 Men need to realize that when I talk about the ways society disadvantages women that I am NOT trying to take something away from you, only asking that the resources and opportunities be shared.

As a product of an inequitable society, I am willing to put forth the effort to understand all sides, all perspectives and all reasoning’s for our collective and group behavior. But that does not mean that it is women’s duty alone to understand, unlearn and reshape our collective culture. It has to be a group effort. Stop low key or blatantly defending your right to a platform and start putting forth an effort to understand how social norms and privileges affect us all. And how we all can share an equally leveled platform together.

Art by Frances Cannon

and ladies: don’t stop being who you truly are and dream to be.

Empathize and respect each other and the easier it will be to empathize and respect ourselves.

A Fiery Message To White People, About White People From A White Person

Art by Molly Crabapple

 

Disclaimer: I recognize that all people, no matter gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality come from an individually different experience, background and upbringing. I do not condone immediate hostility towards anyone who’s experience’s or identity have influenced a different set of morals, ideas or politics that might not align perfectly with my own. I believe in the power of communication, education, the sharing of knowledge and the attempt to broaden someone’s point of view before giving up. 

I consciously attempt to avoid the language and behavior that will ultimately push others away from my and our collective cause. Let’s make allies instead of maintaining enemies. But to what point must we give up on someone? The following is fueled by the emotions of defeat after an attempt at sharing education, only to be continuously shut down. It is fueled by the frustrations of our toxic society, where people would rather hold on, so dearly, to their pride then open their minds to the perspectives and experiences of others. Who would rather ignore the valid and real oppressions, that are simply unknown to them. 

WHITE PEOPLE: I do not hate you. I do not condemn you, your heritage or what pride you have in relation to where you and your family came from. I do not individually blame you for slavery, systematic oppression or the unfair distribution of goods and resources. 

I DO condemn you for avoiding communication, for denying history, for boxing your education within the walls of social media, Wikipedia and easily falsified news/facts. For refusing to speak out for those who aren’t given a platform as high as yours, for generalizing the welfare of communities by the assumptions of biased outsiders and media outlets that are paid to say or omit what *somebody else* wants the public to know or not know. 

You might say your not racist and you can wish “everyone would just come together and get along” all you want, but if you do any of the above-mentioned^ you are indeed a part of the problem that divides us. Your denial is what oppresses ALL of us. Nobody chooses the color of their skin and what socially comes or doesn’t come with that skin tone; but as white folks, we need to check our ancestry, our history and our privilege. In great detail.

No, not EVERYTHING is about “race.” But if you act like NOTHING is about or involves “race”, you are lying to yourself and your community. 

AND if you think I’m full of shit, (I generally try to avoid backing up my arguments with the fact that I am a student but if I must…. ) please take it up with my college education, the institutions that provide that education, my professors, scholarly academics who write books, hold seminars and win awards for educating on these topics. Please take it up with my mf book shelf, the endless history books and biographies at your local book store and all the people who have fought and died to speak out against racial injustice in America.

Just because the ways that America oppresses its people look different than the oppressions of other countries, whether “better” or “worse” in your biased comparison, does not mean that our battles for equality are not worth fighting for.

So, How do you educate others? Where do you draw the line? What are your tactics? White people, what do you do to appropriately be an ally? What should we do?

White people, all people, young people, old people. PLEASE. Educate yourselves and each other. Communicate.

 

Educate yourself:

What I Learned From Five Days Of Paddling Costa Rica Whitewater

 

Families lounge in the rivers; at the put in’s and take out’s, to escape humidities ceaseless smothering of skin. Mango and pineapple stain my fingers and cheeks with a rare welcomed stickiness. We shake off the winding, curving residue in our stomachs from the drive here as we tighten our helmets and drag our borrowed boats behind our guide and new friend. This is Costa Rican kayaking.

Costa Rica, for me, was the humbling reminders of life’s simplicities, the willingness to accept and let go of the stresses of existence.. the releasing of ego. A lesson who’s vast teachers I have come to regularly seek and to crave. My perspective of Costa Rica’s Pura Vida state of mind, was one that I found transpiring both on the ground as I walked the small, colorful neighborhoods as well as on the five days spent traversing the local whitewater.

Whitewater kayaking, as you may or may not know, is an extreme sport. It entails a mental and physical, fortitude and awareness that although may bear the lightness of a sort of meditation; is likewise just as capable of ensuing an adrenaline of nervousness, fear and great intensity. It is the latter that at times has the ability to get the best of you and was a feeling that crept up on me from time to time as I experienced the unfamiliarity of the tight turns and diversity of Costa Rican whitewater.

But with all anxieties, comes a precious lesson.

The juxtaposition of inwardness and trust in your paddling group is one of the things that draws me back into my boat again and again, it is the art of allowing myself to let go of my stresses and welcome the openness of kayaking’s many lessons.

Paddling the rivers in Costa Rica next to both my partner’s ceaseless support and our guide, a boater who’s gracefulness and ease fine-tuned the validity of this art for me, while simultaneously solidifying my desires to consciously carry this wisdom with me onto every river, new and familiar, from then on.

So many moments in my kayaking endeavors are comprised with a NEED to reach a certain position; from catching an eddy as quickly as possible, to ferrying with the most success and fighting my way into a surf wave. So often, my focus on the necessity of these moves leaves my lines and pathways stumbled with jerkiness and a lack of grace. Yes, I can make that eddy, yes I’ll make it to the opposite bank, but will forcing my desires to succeed to the forefront of my mind really equate to the maximum progress attainable in these moves? Not necessarily.

It is not always about fighting your way to success, but rather, fine tuning the calmness you use to reach your goals.

I believe it to be both the unity between minute paddling techniques and a certain mental awareness, both, of course, being an exercise in time, to achieve this skill and aesthetic. Paddling the waters in Costa Rica taught me that the welcoming of these subtle teachings is a key element in learning to let go of the anxieties of the extremities and relishing in that inward meditation that kayaking and so many other physical activities can bring us.

There are many moments from our trip that I hope to hold clearly in my mind for the entirety of my paddling career as well as in my reminders of why I do the things that I love to do.

From experiencing the distinct and interactive Flora, the curling of the leaves as I reach out to touch, the imprinting of its shadow when placed upon my skin; to playing soccer with the locals and bonding with folks solely through half spoken Spanish and smiles alone.

While paddling a slower section of water one day, the question arises of why we love to paddle:

It allows me to release energy, be it of silliness, adrenaline or purely of a “fuck it” motivation.

It allows me, as an often shy and small character, to do something big, to remind myself of my power.. to feel.

It completely and honestly clears my mind. I don’t think of anything else but kayaking while on the water.

Affirmations like these followed us to dinner time that evening, and it is these affirmations that inspire me to practice and to continue to seek the activities that allow me to thrive.

If I could impart one thing to my readers, my fellow paddlers and my friends who strive to seek more from this life, it would be to seek that self-consciousness that imparts on us the ability to perceive explicitly, delicately and intimately.

Don’t hesitate to learn from surprising or unlikely places and experiences. Embrace all that you take up, all the places you find yourself and all the folks that surround you.

Stay Humble. Dig deep. Pura Vida.

 

Double Fisting Dogs for the 4th? Here’s Why That’s a Rare Feat for the U.S. Prison Population

Ah, July 4th. Independence day. A weekend of grilling, corn husking and socially acceptable intoxication amongst the booming and banging of colors galore. What an illustrious day in America! One to celebrate your much-earned freedom amongst your equally liberated friends and family before you soon must fret about dealing with your post celebratory hangover on your drive to work the day after.

Yet through all these celebrations of our victorious freedoms, 2.4 million Americans remain so invisibly enslaved within the prison system. A prison system built upon greed, corruption, brutality and the viciousness of both power and the ability to take it away from so many.

As I reflect on the meaning of this national holiday I would be blinding myself to ignore the perspectives of the individuals who don’t have the choice to be with family; whose experiences are the precise opposite of why we idolize living in this country. While we sit back and soak our privileged feet in Walmart kiddie pools, other human beings living in this same country “built on freedom” will be beaten, antagonized against each other and distanced from the spaces needed to excel and rehabilitate.

I ask of you, to pause the festivities and reflect with me the nuances of this national holiday amongst what American culture truly perpetuates. I share with you two reads to help put this into perspective and I share with you in solidarity with the 2.4 million Americans who are currently incarcerated today.

First, I encourage you to weigh the words of Frederick Douglass in his 1852 speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. You can also listen to it being read to you by Danny Glover here. 

As it is a lengthy speech and knowing our lives are vastly busy and our attention spans are at times, far too small, here are some excerpts from the speech that particularly spoke to me:

“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. ” 

Artist Unknown

I also share with you the writings from prisoners when asked: “What to the Prisoner is Your Fourth of July”, by Revolution media.

A DAY TO FORGET” (NOT REMEMBER)_
A Celebration For A Country That Is Rooted In Violence,
The Truth About This Country Many Still Want To Hide It…
A Celebration For Some, A Nightmare For Others,
Memories Of What Was Done To Their Fathers And Mothers…
Never Before Recorded In The Pages Of History,
Kidnapped, Enslaved, And Beaten Is What Was Done To Me…
Segregated, Isolated, And Treated Unequal,
Locked Up For Minor Crimes, Over 2 Million People…
What To Me Is The 4th Of July?
When I Think Of All The Killings And All The Lost Lives…
Endless Wars, Drone Attacks, And Sexual Exploitation,
Poverty And Low Wages… Destroying A Generation…
What Is The 4th Of July To An American Prisoner?
A Day I Choose Not To Acknowledge Or Even Remember…
“Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death,” So Tired Of These Conditions,
Every Issue Of “REVOLUTION” Is Like My Declaration Of Independence.
The 4th Of July, A Day Of Sorrow And Regret,
A Day You Want To Remember, But For Me,
A DAY TO FORGET” (NOT REMEMBER)”

-Written by an unnamed inmate in 2013

You Might Be More Queer Than You Think: An Intro To Sexual Fluidity

My story and experience in indecisiveness about my sexuality is one that I imagine rings far too familiar amongst many others individuals. From the overwhelming awareness of young budding sexuality to those still confusing adult feelings, the ones that tend to scream “you are not happy here” in our faces while we simultaneously seem to hit an emotional brick wall head on.

These first weeks of Pride month were spent racking my brain of relatable topics I could share with you. I looked back on my story, my childhood and the questioning of my own sexuality, identity and gender. Passage after passage, I began, edited, backspaced, highlighted and.. deleted.

I touched on the assumptions of childhood peers, their questions that so often turned into bullying and shame. The influence of a society that made me think that my gayness was wrong and at times that my bisexuality was even worse.

I reflected on the times I felt I needed to keep my queerness hidden from boys and men I dated; times I felt misunderstood and misrepresented. Moments that turned into secretiveness and betrayal; both to the people I claimed to care about as well as to myself and my true desires and needs.

At the end of each of these passages about my life, I felt dissatisfied; as if there was a key element not being presented, maybe one that I still am working on fully comprehending or have not yet completely tuned in. As confident I am in knowing who I am, what I want and that I am in control of my own sex, there is a complexity to that knowledge that I have not completely dissected and found the comfort with, to so publicly share. & that is okay.

Artist Unknown- Full Comic Here

Our sexuality and what attracts us is an ever complex, miseducated subject. One that we are too often taught as a choice between two options, if even taught at all.

Our respective and individual sexualities are infinitely unique and for most or many of us, ever changing.

My journey in self-exploration has shared with me many lessons. Above all, that the truest forms of sex and our relationships are only that when we are true and honest with ourselves and the partners we choose to share it with. With that honesty, came a lesson in fluidity.

Our sexual beings are fluid and infinitely vast in their appearances.

Once I was able to accept my sexuality as the diverse, complex thing that it is I, in turn, became more  honest and at ease with the haunting question of “What am I?”

That ease of acceptance with my shifting and diverse orientation was better understood with this growing idea of our sexuality being fluid, Meaning; “…that sexual preferences have the capability to change over a lifetime, and in many cases is dependent on different situations. Specifically this idea of fluidity refers to the flexibility of sexual responses.”

To possibly better visualize the meaning of this, I share with you the Purple-Red Scale:

The Purple-Red Scale was created to replace Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s  1948 (Yes, this isn’t a new millennial discovery.) Scale of Sexual Behavior.  Dr. Alfred Kinsey created this scale of Sexual Behavior to try to map out the diversities in our changing desires and attractions.

While the Kinsey and the Purple-Red Scale, indeed have their flaws in inclusivity,  fluctuations in sexual preferences and individual means of sexual self-discovery; I think it would be instrumental if something akin to these scales were taught to both the youth as well as adults who are contemplating or practicing the exploration of their own sexualities and otherwise.

Many people, children especially, are lost, confused, bullied or even worse growing up and a great deal of them don’t even understand the reasons why. Sex and sexual attraction is something held in very high importance in this country, whether it’s in Hollywood, Advertisement, or everyday life. For those still missing that “hidden link” within themselves, who are constantly faced with media stereotypes and the objectification of the human bodies (but obviously, mostly women and queer folk – let’s be real here), scales and teachings such as these could be a healthy and beneficial introduction to individuals seeking self-awareness by teaching us how to share safely, provide respect to others and find confidence in who we are.

I bring this to you today to share my story, to invite you to learn – about yourself and other people’s sexualities. Be open to questioning your own interests, attractions and self; whether those questions simply affirm who you are in this moment, or are a gateway to new experiences. All options are valid. 

Find love with who you are. Find love in the diversities of all bodies, identities, choices and decisions of others.

Keep each other safe.

 

More Information:

Whitewater Kayaking: A Lesson in Acceptance, Trust and Perseverance

Graying clouds scattered the sky above to so perfectly juxtapose the almost sickening bright colors that speckle both the green grass and the many redressing bodies around me.

My stomach and heart simultaneously feel light and heavy while I tighten the gaskets around my neck and wrists; as I close my eyes and steady my breath; as I drag my boat to the take out spot and with the help of my partner, get skirted into my boat and pushed out onto the misleadingly slow moving water.

The activities, chances and groups that life throws at us are endlessly interesting. Never before had I imagined that kayaking would be the sport that I would latch onto or that this act; of attaching my body to a piece of plastic being carried down a river, would be one to boundlessly share lessons with me every time I allowed my nerves to partake.

DISCLAIMER: Slight paranoia and discomfort may persist upon reading the story below. This is whitewater after all.

Kayaking is an intimidating activity. Like all things in life it demands devotion and much practice to relish in it’s vast possibilities. It demands an intuitiveness to both the ways of the water; it’s levels, eddies and familiarity with the angles of crashing waves amongst boulders and rocks; as well as a trust and belief in your own body and those who share the river around you. Above all else, kayaking asks of you to relinquish your ego, find power in failure and teaches that it is only in your drive to accept those failures that you will make space for growth.

The river banks on either side of me begin to narrow, as the boaters paddle ahead of me towards, what in my mind I can only picture as an almost vertical descent. An image that quickly flashes before me as I recall my backwards paddle down it the day before; one where I flip almost immediately and swim the entirety of after a failed attempt to roll in the belly of a wave, that at that moment I can only compare with the strength of a soul crushing deity.

Knees bruised and shins aching. I swam five times that day…

I would be dishonest with myself if I said I reentered my boat and paddled away from each of those swims with a positive lesson about why it happened. Although in hindsight, I believe that those swims only made me better; in those moments I was at times overwhelmed with how much my ego resembled my bruised body.

Nonetheless, I persist.

Five swims in, two combat rolls (Successfully flipping myself back over while staying in my boat mid rapid. No swimming! I swear its harder then it sounds.) and with an extremely achey body I leave the Stoney creek river, the longest and most difficult river I’ve ran yet, grinning ear to ear and proud of my exercise in beatering.

The next morning we are geared up and back for round two. That oh so ominous rapid only feet ahead of me yet again. I slowly approach it, allowing those of my group to paddle the decent ahead of me, a determination to defeat this beast attempts to quench my fluttering nerves. Leaning forward, paddle strong, I make it past the first large rapid (“Oh, this doesn’t look so bad!”), I continue down the slope while the mantra of directions repeats in my mind; “stick left, stick left, stick le-” I’m engulfed in water. My paddle is being stolen from my grip by that same frothing beast who ate me the day before, I attempt my roll nonetheless.. Nope. Oh shit, I’m swimming…

Again, I find myself in that familiar realm of failure. Except this time, I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I grasp onto an upright kayakers boat and am brought to shores safety. Once there I shake off the cold water, paddle still in hand and laugh to myself about how completely awesome that was. I failed again… and it felt fucking great!

Although this wasn’t my only swim of the day it was by far a more productive time spent in my boat as well as one of the greatest days spent on the water so far. In accepting my prior failures and acknowledging with positivity that these failures will indeed transpire again,  I in turn, achieved.

When I stopped worrying so much about having to excel and be the best at everything I do, I became honest with myself and more in tune of the subtleties of success. So yes, I may have swam two times on this second day but with those two swims I felt myself transcend and grow in countless other ways, both in my paddling skills as well as in my mental game, my self confidence and my ability to dig deep and lean forward with a smile on my face.

This is the wisdom that kayaking imparts on me in some form or fashion every time that I get into my boat. Whether it is divulged to me by the river itself, my own inner workings or through the incessant smiles and encouragement from my partner and peers who support a at times, unlikely candidate in a male dominated sport. Who too, recognize my failures as progression and remind me with their efforts and drive that I have that same power within me to beast these rivers.

Honestly, I likely wouldn’t be experiencing this sport at all if it wasn’t for the awesome people who support me and so patiently teach. 

With these lessons and stories, I encourage you:

In whatever it is you partake in; embrace it’s difficulties, seek out those who inspire you to grow and find inspiration from the wounds that are necessary in meeting your goals. If it is whitewater that spurs you, then I challenge you to the rollings, the beaterings and the swims. Become the best version of yourself, but most of all, be YOU.

 

You Think Your Woke? What I learned from Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

African American men make up “6.5% of the U.S’s population yet 40.2% of the U.S’s prisoners”. That being, not only does the United States have the highest incarceration rate in the world but 1:3 black men will go to prison in their lifetime.

Ava DuVernay’s 13th is a history lesson in systematic and institutionalized racism.

Disclaimer: As a white person about to discuss black culture and its history in America; I am definitely aware of my ignorance in comprehending a struggle that is not my own, as well as the stories and experiences that I will never completely understand. But that attempt to weave those loose ends together is exactly why 13th should be seen by everyone.

13th is an extremely solid, powerful and easily understood historical and political introduction for anyone and everybody about racism, the criminalization of people of color and the American prison system. In all honesty, as someone who feels pretty aware of both the invisible and blatant divides amongst groups of people  and individuals, this film still undoubtedly opened my ever awakening eyes. It took facts, ideas and historical moments that I had previously been aware of; solidified and expanded them in a way that increasingly broadened my awareness while provoking new and bigger questions.

This film taught me how to better discuss my ideas, thoughts, analysis and passions to other individuals (both woke and still sleeping) with the enlightenment of specifics, facts and details I may not have fully understood before.

 

“Systems of oppression are durable, and they tend to reinvent themselves.”

-Glenn Martin

It is titled after the 13th Amendment of the Constitution; the amendment that is idolized for abolishing slavery and unpaid labor… except in the case of criminality or servitude to justice. 13th maps out the ways in which Government has found and created the loopholes to continuously imprison and enslave people, especially people of color.

13th documents and fluidly untangles the events that led to the normalization of systematic racism and the criminalization of people of color since the elusive emancipation proclamation and the “freeing” of the enslaved. It threads together the loose ends of social inequality, the American prison complex, 1960’s-70’s social activists movements, the ever dominating capitalism of governmental America and other injustices that infiltrate so many of our daily lives, consciousnesses and social media feeds. This film will awaken even those most revered for their woke timeline shares and ‘regrams’; for the 13th documents precisely the ways in which we have today collectively found ourselves in this societal struggle and imbalance of powers.

 The film begins post-civil war, with the discussion of the “end of slavery” in 1865 when African American’s are “deemed free”, yet both individual and institutional racism continues to run rampant and the mythology of white vs. black, good vs. bad is engrained into the white mentality. This mythology is reinforced through the means of film (1915’s Birth Of A Nation) and culture and terrorism (KKK rising and in turn lynchings and police force). From the beginning, media and white culture portrays African Americans as criminals and are arrested in mass for minor crimes and burdened with unpaid labor, strangely enough, just in time to help in the rebuilding of a dying southern economy.

 

 

From this point on, discrimination is legalized through Jim Crow laws and segregation, which in turn leads to the era of the civil rights movement. From the 1970’s and forward African American’s, both prominent civil rights activists and, more or less, ordinary citizens, are continuily portrayed as “criminal and dangerous” through politics and the media, mirroring the blatant racism in the catalyst film, Birth Of A Nation. This is reinforced with the enactment of many different policies and laws put into place that silently replaced Jim Crow law. Definably, during the presidencies between Nixon and Clinton.

Policies such as; Nixon’s “war on crime and drugs”, which truly meant- war on activism, justice and communities of color; to Bush’s 3 strikes law, mandatory minimums and finally Clinton’s 1994 Federal crime bill which caused a mass expansion of the prison system, as well as the militarization of the police state.. the very same establishments still in place today.

The film sheds light on the reality of what was being fought for during 1970’s civil rights activism movements, in comparison to what the media was falsely displaying to white America about these leaders. What the media depicted was an over representation of African American’s as criminals, including the representation of their leaders more so of a terrorist groups rather than advocators for the underrepresented and oppressed. This era of change during the 1970’s is vital to the social movement we are experiencing today, as these men and woman are the backbone to so many of the strong ongoing movements, from feminism to black lives matter and their intersecting ideas for equality and integrity.

As people like Fred Hampton and Malcom X became stronger in their voices and followers, government became stronger in their fear and attempts to strip out entire generations of African American leaders who were revealing the truth about unjust divides and racial policies. This was enacted through the use of FBI targeting outspoken individuals and ultimately assassination or incarceration.

On the other side, the film reflects on forces such as Angela Davis and Assata Shakur who managed to beat false media allegations and, like Davis, took it a step further to bring the power of her experience and voice to the courts, the news and in turn, the world. These people, whether their time was unjustly cut short or still speak out today, changed the way millions of people analyze society and the laws around us. They were some of the first to fight for both undervalued minority groups and human beings as a whole; for this it is necessary to go back to their lessons, their experiences and struggles; because they are the stepping stones to fighting the continuing struggles we all face today.

Lastly, I would like to touch on the films lessons on the power of corporations in politics and their ruling and fueling in the creation of the harmful policies that aid in the functioning of mass incarceration.  Although many of us are probably very aware that government and capitalism no doubt go hand in hand, it is less often we are educated on the specific groups and corporations that disempower us.

ALEC is a 4 decade old lobbying group that consists of both politicians and corporations; They had a hand in the passing of bills that both privatized the prison system as well as allowed outlets for the law to widely harass and incarcerate individuals. Bills such as SB1017, Stand Your Ground and Mandatory Minimums. In turn, the more people imprisoned by similar bills, the more opportunity ALEC has to capitalize the prison system by inflating prison prices with the many ALEC affiliated corporations whom provide something to the system; Provisions such as, food, phone usage and the enslaving of inmates (who receive very little income for their work) to create products and commodities in turn for these companies. It is exactly these groups that hold the power to disenfrancise the voices of the people that in turn bear the brunt of their billion dollar slave fueled wealth.

Art by Katie Wohl

 

“People say all the time, ‘well, I don’t understand how people could have tolerated slavery?’ ‘How could they have made peace with that?’ ‘How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that?’ ‘That’s so crazy, if I was living at that time I would never have tolerated anything like that.

And the truth is we are living in this time, and we are tolerating it.”

-Bryan Stevenson

 It is our role, our work to identify the core of these injustices. To find the means to represent those who have suffered from these socially normative oppressions. Allow yourself the ability to witness and to acknowledge what and who capitalism attempts so poorly to stigmatize in justifying their selfish greed. From Kalief BrowderSandra Bland and Trayvon Martin; Educate yourself on those we have unjustly lost in direct consequences of the policies, false media and corporations mentioned above. Watch 13th, create that awareness, ask those much needed questions. Share this film, it’s lessons and this ever persisting movement with your partners, your peers, your parents and your elders.  Utilize your voice,  your autonomy to choose and stand up for whats true. Protect each other.

You can view 13th on Netflix.

More resources:

Masturbation Is Real Sex.

“Masturbation is our first and natural form of sexual activity and if that’s inhibited or damaged, then we suffer for the rest of our lives.”

– Betty Dodson

May is National Masturbation Month

The act of masturbation, although generally universal, remains shamefully taboo. Even in our often hyper sexualized society and especially for women and non-binary individuals. It is likely the last sexual activity to be apprehensively discussed amongst peers although it is the very first sexual activity we will ever experience (at least for many or most of us) and hopefully our most familiar one. When it does come up in conversation, it is often facetious or deemed an act saved for those who lack partnered sex. It is socially discredited as a valid act of sex. But…

Masturbation is real sex.

Through masturbation we explore both an innate desire for pleasure, as well as the subtleties of our individual and unique appetites. Masturbation and the simple act of touching our own bodies opens up a much needed dialogue with ourselves. It invites us to find comfort and acceptance in our bodies, these vessels that as long as we know them, will be the primary catalysts in all that we do both within the realm of our sexuality and outside.

“Masturbation is not only an expression of self-regard: it is also the natural emotional outlet of those who…have already accepted as inevitable the wide gulf between their real futures and the expectations of their fantasies.”

—Quentin Crisp

When we allow ourselves to embrace the spaces we occupy, when we allow ourselves to embrace ourselves completely; we can only benefit from our experiences in oneness. It is not an act of guilt or loneliness. Masturbation is an act in power. It is a performance steeped in self-education and self-love. When we invite ourselves to become familiar and comfortable with our own sex, we are also inviting those we choose to share it with to allow access to that same empowerment; that same knowledge to create and decide our own fantasies, desires and boundaries.

I invite you. Explore, discover and create what feels good for you. Whether it is normative, supple, exquisite, odd or deviant; all forms of your sex and pleasures are valid as long as you make the space to truly know them. If the yearning and interest is there, don’t let shame hold you back from trying something new.

You’re not alone.

Furthermore, if masturbation does not interest you, you too, are not alone. The capability to understand one’s identity needs not to be drenched in the guilt of validity only through mainstream sexuality. We are all capable of sexiness and sensuality, as well as the ability to give those words our own individual meaning.

Let’s rewrite and recreate the ways that we communicate with our bodies and each other. Knowing ourselves is empowering. Let’s share that feeling with those around us, those lessons in oneness, those explorations in fervor. Let’s open up the spaces for discussion, education and celebration of our unique gratifications, needs and wishes.

Communicate with yourself and each other.
I am always grateful to hear your stories, your quirks and your questions.