Education & Activism

Posts on politics, student and worker advocacy, racism, sexism, and general activism. Resist!

Grappling with Thanksgiving

I love turkey and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I love passing on family traditions to my toddler. And I especially love sandwiches stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers. But y’all, we have got to stop with this ridiculous story about the Pilgrims and Indians becoming friends over an ear of corn and living happily ever after.

I get that people want one good meal with their families, just one day of eating and drinking and not worrying about everything else. But it’s not like we’re doing this on a random Thursday afternoon. We’re doing this on a national holiday based upon a colonial myth that enables the horrible and ongoing mistreatment of indigenous Americans. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy the day, but maybe while we’re eating our turkey and cranberry sauce, we should also consider discussing the truth about our country’s history and how we can take action to support present-day indigenous communities.

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My idea is not perfect, but as a parent of a three-year-old, I’ve decided to focus on learning about the Tuscarora, a Native American tribe based in New York. The website I’ve chosen to use as my guide offers facts about things like their traditional foods, toys, and hunting tools, how they fled from North Carolina to New York because the British attacked them, and what their lives are like now. My plan is to read these facts aloud, pass around some pictures, and talk. Then, after exploring these materials, I’m going to pull up this list of online stores run by Native Americans and pick out something with my son. We white folk too often purchase “Native-inspired” products from places like H&M or Target instead of giving our money directly to the Native American artists who did the inspiring in the first place – many of whom are living in poverty despite the fact they’re making the authentic versions of the products we seem to want.

On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things, including the opportunity to learn about our Native American neighbors, to spread the truth about our history, to use my money to support an amazing community, and to hopefully inspire my son to do his part in making this country a truly more equal and accepting place.

Huge thanks to Jen Winston (@girlsupplypower) for inviting Native Americans to take over her Instagram site this week and educate and motivate people like me. Check out Allen (lilnativeboy), Urban Native Era, Corinne Oestreich, #DearNonNatives, Tranny Cita, and Cleopatra Tatbele for more info on how to support Native Americans.

Photo credits:
N085/365 Corn Doll by Helen Orozco

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Dancing with Relapse – New Publication!

No-ScaleWhile anorexia was familiar, intoxicating, even empowering, it was also a terrifying hell I thought I’d escaped from.”

After spending a decade in therapy working to finally put my eating disorder behind me, why have I spent the past five years writing a novel about a teenage artist who develops anorexia?

My latest essay, “Dancing with Relapse,” published today on Women Who Get Shit Done, reflects on recovery, relapse, and the risks and rewards of fictionalizing my past demons in YA novel Bone Girl. Check it out!

What Doesn’t Kill You – New Publication and Launch Party with The BPRS (my band)!

The past few weeks in politics have been SUPER intense and have proven to me how much we absolutely need music and literature. I am so thrilled to announce that a short story of mine, excerpted from my novel Bone Girl, was recently published in YA anthology What Doesn’t Kill You alongside 23 other authors including two-time National Book Award Finalist Eliot Schrefer. I’m extremely excited about this book (which you can buy here, if ya want) and decided that a party was in order, so on Saturday, October 20th at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, my duo, The Brooklyn Players Reading Society, is hosting What Doesn’t Kill You the launch party. If you’ve ever felt like the world’s out to get you, then this book and this night are for you.


The party begins on Oct 20th at 7:30 pm with readings by WDKY contributors Tiffany Berryman, Matthue Roth, Abby Maguire, and Eliot Schrefer. Americana singer/songwriter Eli Bridges kicks off the musical portion of the night, followed by experimental pop/rock duo The Brooklyn Players Reading Society (that’s me!).

Copies of the anthology, released on Indomita Press, will be available for purchase at $16.99 a piece (cash only). No cover, 21+, 7:30-10:30 pm.

More info:
Why wait? Buy your copy of What Doesn’t Kill You on Indomita Press by visiting indomitapress.com/our-books.

Eli Bridges is an Americana folk singer/songwriter hailing from Northfield, MA and now based in Brooklyn. Learn more about him at www.elibridges.com and listen to his tunes on Bandcamp.

The Brooklyn Players Reading Society explores the intersection between literature and rock-n-roll, channeling poet songwriters like Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Laurie Anderson. I sing and play keys, my husband drums. We’re honest and weird but throw in some pop ditties, too. Give a listen on Bandcamp.

Thanks to everyone for your ongoing support and love. I hope to see you all on the 20th. And no matter what happens, remember – keep making your art!

It’s Voting Day, New Yorkers!

i votedToday is a big day. Your vote matters – be heard!

For those of you who share in my sentiments, I included a Progressive Cheat Sheet below. But whether you agree with me or not, GO VOTE!

If you aren’t sure where to vote, find your polling site by entering your address into this website.

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Families Belong Together: Ways to Help

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I, like most of you, am completely distraught and enraged over what’s happening at our border. I, too, am worried over the Supreme Court vacancy and angry about their recent rulings. Yet I have also found hope in the fact that so many Americans have put aside political and religious differences to come together and fight for human rights. Hundreds of thousands of us have already donated over twenty million dollarsOrganizations like RAICES have already reunited multiple familiesA number of prominent politicians, including Republicans, have publicly decried Trump’s policies. And Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez just beat 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley by a huge margin! As a result of this pressure, the Administration released an executive order ending family separation at the border only days after saying they would never do such a thing. Our efforts are working.

However, this executive order is nowhere near the end. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are now living in hospitals, warehouses, detention centers, and cages all over the country. And while ICE is no longer separating families at our borders, it is still their practice to separate families within our borders by detaining and deporting immigrants who have lived here, many legally, for years, even decades. It is also still their practice to imprison children, who have committed no crimes, and hold them indefinitely, alongside their families who have also committed no crimes.

Many people are saying, “This isn’t who we are, this isn’t America.” Others are saying, “This is exactly who we are, just look at our history.” While it is absolutely vital that we address our country’s history of genocide, slavery, lynching, and more (Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, anyone?), it is also absolutely vital that we hold on to the positive aspects of our identity. It’s easy to get lost in rage and feel like America is full of monsters, but this is only partly true; America is also full of helpers.

There are so many people and organizations working for these children, their parents, immigrants, women, the working class, and human rights in general. These organizations need our donations and our volunteering efforts right now. Our Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. Even if you just have a few minutes on your lunch break, please be a helperEvery action matters.

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Below is a list of organizations to donate to and/or volunteer for, along with ways to stay updated. There are also country-wide #FamiliesBelongTogether demonstrations this Saturday, June 30th – click here to get involved, and sign the petition here.

Remember: being a helper requires taking action, but also taking care of yourself. Hug your kids. Enjoy a good meal with your mom. Tell your friends you love them. Find and spread your joy, even if – especially if – your joy feels impossible to find. We cannot let fear, anger, and hatred take over.

I am sending my love to you all. Stay strong, and keep paying your union dues.

WAYS TO HELP

Lunchtime for Change – Quick daily actions you can do from anywhere.

The New York Immigration Coalition – This fantastic organization helps immigrants apply for citizenship, provides free legal aid, organizes demonstrations, and more. You can donate here, and also join them in Foley Square on Saturday at 10 am to march across the Brooklyn Bridge for a demonstration in Cadman Plaza at 11:30 am. Text “NYIC” to 864237 to receive their updates. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Make the Road New York – “Building power of Latinx and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice.” Follow them on Twitter and FacebookDonate here. Text “ROAD” to 52886 for action alerts.

Cayuga Center
 – 
This NY-based organization has taken in many children who were separated from their parents at the border. I know this is a little fraught because they receive government money in exchange for taking these kids, which feels like they’re a little in cahoots with the Administration, but at the same time, the kids are there. They aren’t currently accepting volunteers due to fingerprinting/background check requirements, but they do have an Amazon wish list created by the kids currently being held there.

RAICES – An excellent organization based on the Texas/Mexico border. You can donate as part of this fundraiserThey also have many great resources on their website for grassroots organizing.

Mamas Week of Action – Beautiful message with actions all week following June 30th’s protest.

The ACLU – Always doing amazing work tackling not just immigration but many other human rights issues. They always need financial support.

Abortion Funds – The truth is, even under Roe v Wade, many low-income and rural women do not have access to abortions even when they’re medically necessary. Abortion Funds picks these women up, takes them to providers, gives them support and after care, and more. They need our money. Donate here.

Planned Parenthood – Making sure women have access to affordable healthcare and birth control. They are constantly under threat. Support them here.

Images taken from Mamas Week of Action.

 

Bamboozled

Did you know that toothbrushes are immortal? Unlike human beings, plastic toothbrushes keep on living even underneath tons of pounds of garbage. They keep on living even inside the bellies of dead dolphins. They keep on living even as they float all the way across the ocean until they wash up on Taiwanese beaches. Then, they keep on living even after they’ve become sculptures in the sand.

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— ◊ —

The past six months have tried to end me. The life I once lived in which I wrote, mothered, taught, sang, performed, took politic action, and somehow also relaxed, has been shattered. Instead of making art, going out, or sleeping, I’ve learned firsthand about anencephaly, the gray area of sexual harassment, and municipal regulations on basement apartments. I’ve dealt with wild hormonal swings. I’ve worked my ass off for a job I was promised that ultimately didn’t exist, then found myself in an uncomfortable situation when I said no more. I’ve packed, moved, unpacked, re-packed, re-moved, and re-unpacked – all with a cat, two dogs, and a busy-bee toddler who recently dropped nap.

I’ve never felt this much rage before, and while it has cracked me open in important ways, it has also shaken me to my core. My mind has raced in circles. My muscles have morphed into a single knot of tension. And my anxiety, after eighteen years of treatment, has found a new way to express itself: my throat is clenched tight, leaving my voice strained and hoarse, my neck and teeth throbbing with each heartbeat.

— ◊ —

Did you know that bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the word? It is also one of the sneakiest. Its roots can run underground for over twenty feet before popping up again as a new shoot, called a culm. These culms then grow up to three feet a day for the next 120 years, sending their own runners out to sprout up in surprising, faraway places.

About three to five years after its initial sprouting, a culm can then be harvested and transformed into basically anything: food, medicine, toys, rugs, clothes, bikes, houses, roads, bridges. In fact, bamboo can withstand twice as much force as concrete and can hold up to 16 tons of weight. It can also cure cancer.

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— ◊ —

Becoming a mom has turned my home into a plastic palace. I look around the living room of my new new apartment, a place I hope will last much longer than the three months we spent in our illegal new apartment, and identify eleven items that will never die.

The bathroom isn’t any better. Three toothbrushes stick out from inside a plastic cup. A plastic bin filled with plastic toys is propped precariously on the lip of the tub. I move it to the floor, out of sight, then run hot water for a bath, but as I soak my stress-induced hemorrhoids and eat the M&Ms intended to aid in my toddler’s potty regression, I can’t relax; plastic is still very much on my mind. Also on my mind: pregnant women who’ve been denied access to proper health care, immigrants who’ve been detained for going to work, animals whose homes have been destroyed by loggers. I lament my now inactive Quick Action email list, my abandoned blog, the phone calls to senators I never placed. The enormous task of surviving my day-to-day has been all consuming, and while the depths of my strength have truly amazed and buoyed me up, I also feel like a failure of an activist.

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— ◊ —

Did you know that toothbrush bristles were once made from boar hair? Of course they contained loads of unhealthy bacteria, not to mention the moral issue of how these pigs were treated before they became tooth-brushing tools, yet, because animal hair is biodegradable and nylon is not, this is the only completely decomposable option presented thus far.

There are scientists who have dedicated their entire careers toward dissecting the greater impact of a single bristle. I think of these people out there in the world and feel the knot inside of me loosen a little.

— ◊ —

I’ve always approached my activism from the angle of who needs it the most, but for the first time, I’m now approaching it from the angle of what I can most reasonably do. I am not ready to jump back into the strict schedule that once worked for me, and perhaps I never will be, perhaps that life wasn’t sustainable with or without my recent crises, but either way, here I am, dealing with effects of events that, though they’ve calmed, are still very much present: an unfulfilled due date, a static career and lingering sense of violation, an unresolved case with the Department of Buildings.

I will never solve all of the world’s problems. I will never even solve all of my own problems. But as I hold my recently purchased bamboo toothbrush and move its brand new form of bristles around my teeth, I realize, I don’t need to.

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— ◊ —

You can buy your own set of bamboo toothbrushes by clicking here. And if you need some more motivation to start the long process of giving up plastic, check out Margaret Atwood’s compelling piece in the Guardian.

Sources:
Encyclopedia Britannica: Bamboo
Bamboo Facts
Bamboo Herb
Brush with Bamboo
The Bamboo Solution
15 Creative Uses of Bamboo

Photo Credits:
1. Flotsam and Jetsam by F Delventhal
2. Bamboo by Serlunar

The Best, the Worst, Here.

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I’ve always held myself to impossibly high standards, standards that I don’t expect from other people. In fact, if someone else makes a mistake, I’m often the first to empathize and offer my support. But when it comes to me, well, I’m supposed to be perfect. Don’t my family, my friends, my students, the world, deserve the best from me?

In the first few months after my mom left her body, when I was so consumed by grief that everything else ceased to matter, I had a major revelation that “the best” doesn’t exist, that it’s just a construct we’ve created that keeps us disconnected from our present reality. During this period of intense grief, I would sometimes think the best choice was to go out with my friends, but then the moment I arrived at the bar, it felt all wrong. Other times it seemed best to stay at home and read, but then I’d cry and feel lonely and wish I’d gone out. Then there were times when whatever I’d chosen, whether it had felt right or wrong in the moment of choosing it, was exactly what I’d needed.

Because “the best” had become so nebulous and easily changeable in my mind, it started to seem not only unreal but also silly. Besides, the grief I was constantly grappling with overpowered everything else and made the process of analyzing if I should have gone out or stayed home feel unimportant, a waste of time.

Humans, or Americans at least, seem to despise discomfort. Even a little bit of it. We’re constantly complaining about how cold or hot the air is, how hungry or full our bellies are. We can’t seem to find that perfect situation. But instead of seeing that it doesn’t exist, we get lost in searching for it and then feel angry or sad that we continually can’t find it.

Now, four and a half years after my mother’s passing, I feel stronger, tougher, and wiser, but I’ve also fallen back into old habits of expecting “the best” then feeling guilty when I don’t achieve it. In a weird way, I miss those few months right after she died. I don’t miss the pain, but I miss the clarity it gave me, how it temporarily freed me from these constructs that I – we – have created.

But I don’t need all-encompassing grief in order to free myself again from these thought patterns. All I have to do is breathe.

 

Amazing comic by Gemma Correll.