resist

Gratitude, A Photo Journal: Brain-Picking Becky #14

I just can’t with the news this week – so much violence, anger, fear, greed. I decided that rather than focusing on how awful our world leaders are, I needed to take a break from current events and focus my energy on the little things in my day-to-day life that make me grateful. In the past, avoiding the news felt like I was being irresponsible, neglecting my duties as a citizen, but now, taking the space I need to focus on gratitude seems like the best way to resist the hatred and negativity that’s spreading through our country, our world, like a disease. It’s a lot easier for me to be kind to others and treat them with respect and compassion when I’m feeling full of gratitude, and kindness, respect, and compassion are exactly what this world needs more of right now. So whether you continue to tune into the news or not, I strongly encourage you to also tune into the grateful wavelength. It might take some reminding at first, but we are all capable of making this choice and sticking with it. Here are some photos and thoughts to hopefully get you started.

IMG_1027I very much appreciate green things growing out of rocks. I also appreciate the sound of lapping water and my silly/awesome star tattoos and the way sunshine feels on my
bare feet.

IMG_1019There is beauty everywhere if we allow ourselves to see it, even in steel and machines and concrete. I also love the fact that five different countries were represented on this single subway car; NYC is proof that people from all of the world can live together in harmony.

IMG_1024From the subway to the bay to the ocean. My commute is special. When I look out at this body of water that goes on and on until it reaches another continent where someone of a different race and a different language is, like me, staring into its depths, I feel grateful that I am so small yet also connected to something so tremendous.

IMG_1016Not everyday can be sunny. And that’s okay; I appreciate a gray sky and the smell of rain and the sound it makes as it falls against my umbrella.

Okay, I confess it’s perhaps ridiculous to have this many animals in a Brooklyn apartment, yet at the same time, it’s magical. I love my little menagerie and I love being loved by them. I greatly appreciate that we all make it work.

IMG_1059And, of course, this boy. Every day I am grateful for him; becoming a mom is the most incredible and rewarding thing I have ever done.

BeckyLewCryingAlso, the craziest. But I’m grateful for the imperfect moments, too, for the screams and the exhaustion and the ink stains on towels. I’m glad that life is complicated.

IMG_1077And I’m glad that in the midst of these complications, we find opportunities to relax and reflect. As a child I dreamed of something different than the cow farms and cul-de-sacs I grew up with, and now here I am thriving in New York City. May all people have a dream and the gumption to go for it.

IMG_1084And may all people also have the luxury of a summer afternoon with Prosecco, good friends, and a beautiful view.

Click here to learn more about the ongoing column Brain-Picking Becky.

Women of Color on Feminism Part 2 – “Can It Be That Your Tent Ain’t It?”

Two weeks ago, I shared my thoughts in Brain-Picking Becky #10: Still a Feminist on the feminist movement’s inclusivity problem and the danger of defining what a feminist is. I began by describing my experience of feeling criticized for of my choice to embrace domesticity, then concluded with the incredibly pressing issue of racism in feminism. White feminists have been talking about the movement’s race issues for over a decade now, but this conversation hasn’t changed anything at all. Instead, we need to be listening to people of color, practicing more empathy and open-mindedness, offering not only our ears and support but also our willingness to change. In an effort to promote this type of dialogue, I posed two questions to women whose voices we need to hear: 1. What does feminism mean to you? and 2. What is your advice to white feminists on how to create a more inclusive movement? I received some incredibly thoughtful, smart, and important responses from these women, and shared the first two in a post yesterday. Here are the final three today. PLEASE read and respond and share freely. It is time for us to listen.

Twisting It Up.jpg“Twisting It Up” by torbakhopper / Creative Commons

Abdula Greene, Civil Rights, Family & Criminal Lawyer:

I liked your article. I’m glad it pointed out that one can be a feminist and still embrace being either a working woman or a homemaker. Too often women are categorizing and excluding other women based on their political or religious beliefs. To me, being a feminist means not being afraid to accept a man’s help or compliment and to enjoy being a woman, knowing that I deserve to be treated equally in employment and status and not being afraid to acknowledge that there are just some things I’d rather leave to men! As to your second question, it is too complex to answer in this short format [a Facebook neighborhood group]. However, to sum up my answer to your second question, white women and black women have different issues. It would be a great task.

A writer and educator who wishes to remain anonymous:

Well, as a woman of color born from women who’ve had to be mothers/providers/friends/etc, feminism for me and my two daughters (who are half white/half black and identify themselves as girls no color attached because they’re still too young to understand), it’s being able to be independent and most importantly able and comfortable with charting one’s own path as you see fit. Feminism is being able to speak out on what you believe in and stand firmly in your truth. My daughters are young, but in our house I believe in giving power to their voices and concerns and supporting everyone – even if you don’t believe in their beliefs or choices. No one has the right over anyone else to make THEIR choices.

Gosh, I really don’t know [how to create a more inclusive movement]. I think it’s important to remember that for women of color, there is always extra work involved. As a woman, no matter your shape, size, education level there is always that need to prove that you are good enough for whatever it is that you want to achieve. For women of color, there is an extra layer – to have to prove yourself because not only are you a woman – you’re a woman of color. Just be open-minded as everyone’s struggle is different.


jessicamingusJessica Mingus, Social worker, Educator, Writer and Founder of In Our Own Skin (pictured left):

In my opinion, “mainstream” feminism has become interchangeable with advancing the priorities of white, cis-gendered, able-bodied women with economic privilege. Countless women’s realities don’t fit within that framework. Because that feminist ideology is underwritten by so many sources of privilege, it gets treated as if it’s the definition of feminism. Let me be clear: Feminism with white supremacy floating around unchecked will not heal what ails us.

Do I consider myself a feminist? Yes. But do I treat it like it’s the single most important component of my politics? No. Patriarchy is everywhere, everyday and I butt up against it everywhere, everyday. But feminism is incomplete unless it incorporates how race, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, nationality, culture, religion impact our experience as women.  Feminism can’t be concerned only with gender. Intersectionality is critical.

Some of the most harmful racial microaggressions I’ve experienced came from straight, white cis-gendered women who waved the feminism flag with deep pride but had no critical consciousness when it came to their race and class bias. The more I have reflected on those experiences, I came to see that the feminist flag they waved so zealously was staked on whiteness and affluence.

My conception of “being a feminist” is propelled by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s assertion that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I try to hold myself accountable to continually deepen my understanding of what real justice would look like and to ensure that my personal fight against the forms of oppression that impact my daily life doesn’t push aside, minimize, or otherwise silence other folks’ experiences of oppression and my responsibility to take that on in addition to what limits me.  I love Cornel West’s definition that “justice is what love looks like in public.” I try to evolve my politics with that core belief at the center.

feministfist.jpg“Feminist Fist” by Eva the Weaver  / Creative Commons

So, what’s my advice to white feminists to make a more inclusive movement? First and foremost, step back from that question and examine it. What’s so essential about “your” feminism that the goal is to bring everyone else inside that tent? Is white feminism a common denominator? No way.  I encourage white feminists to ask themselves what is it about holding on to this power of invitation, this sense of entitlement to define the terms? I want white feminists to talk less about how they can make everyone “feel more included in their movement” and unpack how “their” feminism adversely impacts all the women who aren’t inside that tent right now. I think the conversation about inclusion in feminism often winds up supporting rather than subverting other sorts of oppression. Can it be that your tent ain’t it? Where would we all meet if you challenged yourselves to move outside and join the rest of us?

How can white feminists engage multiple forces of oppression in a shared struggle for equity and justice? I would caution white feminists against tapping women of color to tell them how. Authentic relationships with people that don’t look like you or live like you are some of life’s great teachers. But white feminist women must be sure not to tokenize difference or absolve them of the struggle and discomfort that’s needed to figure out a way forward. I urge white feminists to engage in continual self-reflection around privilege. Race privilege is their intergenerational knot to untie.

So…Yes: Be feminists. Challenge patriarchy every damn day. But recognize it as but one form of oppression that must be deconstructed if justice and self-realization are the ultimate goal. 

Women of Color on Feminism, Part 1 – “Every Woman is Going to Have a Different Experience”

Two weeks ago, I shared my thoughts in Brain-Picking Becky #10: Still a Feminist on the feminist movement’s inclusivity problem and the danger of defining what a feminist is. I began by describing my experience of feeling criticized for of my choice to embrace domesticity, then concluded with the incredibly pressing issue of racism in feminism. White feminists have been talking about the movement’s race issues for over a decade now, but this conversation hasn’t changed anything at all. Instead, we need to be listening to people of color, practicing more empathy and open-mindedness, offering not only our ears and support but also our willingness to change. In an effort to promote this type of dialogue, I posed two questions to women whose voices we need to hear: 1. What does feminism mean to you? and 2. What is your advice to white feminists on how to create a more inclusive movement? I received some incredibly thoughtful, smart, and important responses from these women, and will be sharing them with you over the next two days. PLEASE read and respond and share freely. It is time for us to listen.

raquelRacquel Henry, Writer and Editor (pictured left):

“Feminism to me means the right to choose. I frequently discuss this particular subject with my students. When I ask them what they think of when they think of feminism, the response is usually something along the lines of radical women who hate men. They think of women who prefer to work and don’t want to stay at home to take care of their families. I never tell them what to think, but I try to guide them to the idea, that feminists are not radical. Men can be feminists, too. A feminist is someone who believes that women deserve to have equal rights/pay, but can also choose whether they want to be a stay at home mom or be the CEO of a fortune five company. To me, a true feminist believes in empowering women to be the best they can be without judgement and regardless of their career choices.

My advice to white women on how to be inclusive would be to understand privilege. I myself didn’t feel that I fully understood what that meant until the recent political elections. I was always fed the idea that everyone has the same opportunity. But the truth is that there’s a gray area there. In fact, despite the fact that I’m a black woman, I’ve had a degree of privilege myself. I’ve experienced a lot of racism, but I am certain my experiences are totally different from another black woman’s. And it’s not just race. Women face inequality based on sexuality or because they’re disabled. I’d like white women to understand that my experience with gender inequality is probably different from my white counterpart’s. Every woman is going to have a different experience. We need to recognize that. There is so much more that women of color have to face other than simply not getting the job because they’re a woman. If we were all to examine our privilege and really listen to each other, then I think we could make real progress.”

vivelaresistance“Vive la Resistance” by Letisia Cruz

Letisia Cruz, Artist and Poet (who identifies as Cuban American rather than woman of color):

“Many of the struggles that we as women face and have faced are, of course, rooted in the issues of our time. But they are also rooted in our culture. And our culture has largely been one of exclusion, of suppression, and of judgement toward women. Currently, many of us are divided politically. Given the recent political climate and how passionate we all feel about our positions, this can strain the most rock-solid sisterhood. In my own family, we do not all see eye to eye. It’s a challenge (to say the least); even simple communication becomes difficult. But what I’ve come to realize is that we are women first. We must cultivate love toward one another. We must practice compassion. We must accept, protect, honor, elevate, and embrace one another. There can be no presumption, no ego, no superiority. We are women first. This is everything.

So, in answer to your question about what feminism means to me, as a Cuban-American girl growing up in a typical Cuban household, I was raised to respect tradition. But what is tradition? Tradition is the ritual that we instill in our daughters. Tradition reminds us that we carry the strength and will of our grandmothers. Tradition calls us to return to our roots—so that independent of race, religion or political affiliation, we are women first. We must stand together. This is what feminism means to me.”

Leave your thoughts in the comments section and check back tomorrow for part two.

“We Can Find the Way” – New Song from The BPRS!

I’m so pissed that our Representatives voted to screw us all over, to take away our access to affordable maternity care, mental health services, prescription drugs and oh so much more, all so that they and their rich friends can get a tax break. These are the people who turned their backs on us – make sure you remember their names in 2018.

Yes, I understand that the AHCA bill has many steps and changes to go through before it takes effect, I get that the Senate is “going to fix it,” but none of this changes the fact that these assholes let it pass through the House. The greed and selfishness is SO SICKENING.

But more and more of us are paying attention now. More and more of us are fed up. And more and more of us are taking action. I actually wrote the words to this new BPRS song during the Obama years and sadly, the angry parts about our capitalist society run amuck are even truer than ever. But you know what? So are the hopeful parts. We’ve got this, ya’ll. Don’t let your anger/sadness/fear negatively affect your day-to-day. Smile at people. Hold doors for them. Tell your friends and family you love them. Remind yourself of all the things you’re grateful for. Spreading love and building community are two powerful ways to resist. Stay strong.

Check out The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s Bandcamp page to hear more of our music.

solidarity“International Women’s Day, Solidarity” by Giulia Forsythe / Creative Commons

May Day Actions!

maydaybannerMay Day Banner by RNZ / Creative Commons

It’s May Day! Yes, this day is a pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer, but more importantly, this is a significant, historic day for workers’ rights and labor unions, going back to 1886 when over 300,000 workers went on strike in an effort to secure the 8-hour work day, something we all currently take for granted.

Now, it’s our turn. Trump, his administration, and many of our Congressmen and women have targeted our most vulnerable people, attacked our unions, threatened our immigrants, in fact have threatened most of us in one way or another (job security, healthcare, education, you name it). Get out there and show them that we will not stand for it. We are the resistance, and this is a perfect opportunity to RESIST.

For New Yorkers, here’s a list of day-long protests, meetings, and other actions.

For teachers, here’s a drop box of resources to use in your classroom.

Brain-Picking Becky #9: War

War. What is it good for? Making rich people richer.

I’ve been avoiding writing this piece. The topic of war has been swarming around my brain so much this past week but I can’t seem to organize my ideas. The task of putting my thoughts into a cohesive essay feels impossible. I’ve decided instead to free write for most of the two hours I allot for a Brain-Picking piece, leaving about 20 minutes at the end for some editing. We’ll see what comes out.

greed.jpg“Greed” by Liz West / Creative Commons

There are so many facets to war, it’s easy to get lost on a tangent and realize that I only brought up thousands of questions without any clear concept of how we can end war. And that’s the thing. I want to end war, but it seems like most people actually don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about the military-industrial complex and feel myself roiling with so much anger that it’s difficult to breathe. I even hate the way we reference it – the military-industrial complex – like it’s some kind of academic topic fit for a text book as opposed to the horrible reality that a handful of rich people, including many of our elected government officials from the past many decades, get richer and richer off of killing children. The whole thing is a gross business, yet we talk about it like it’s some kind of cerebral debate.

I don’t understand the greed, the rampant, bipartisan greed that seems to be ever-present in our country’s (our world’s) leaders. How do these people live with themselves? I don’t believe that our current Administration actually cares about the recent events in Syria. Trump’s prepared lines about the “attack on children” having a “big impact” were useless. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. A, we know he lies and changes his mind so frequently that we can’t trust a word of anything, and B, his actions speak louder. A Syrian refugee ban followed by dropping bombs on Syria? The lack of care for actual human life is sickening.

There’s always some self-serving, underlying motive, for Trump, Clinton, Obama, all of them. A small group of rich assholes are currently running the world, they’re exploiting, hurting, killing anyone so that they can get more money and power, our politicians are working for them, and it’s all going unchecked. I get that the situation in the Middle East is more complicated and involved than this, but if we were somehow able to stop these money-grubbing, war-mongering pricks, we’d see major changes right away.

So how many pictures of drowned children do we need to see before we demand that our leaders show some kind of consideration for human life and make a real attempt to end war? God, the image of that man wailing over his dead wife, the videos of him burying their dead twins. Can’t get it out of my head. Tears in my eyes right now.

What the fuck.

And do not throw the fake news argument back at me. Yes, fake news is a real problem. But all of our masters, no matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, are using fake news to their advantage while denouncing the other side for doing it. It’s like our livelihoods and our lives are all one big game to them. So let’s please not argue with each other over this. Whether you believe the images you see and the journals you read or not, the fact is: Syrians are dying every day and our tax money goes toward bombing them, toward bombing Koreans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghanis. That’s right – America conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes in dozens of different countries under Obama, and Trump has already demonstrated his desire to follow this example.

Interesting how all of these people in power decided to stop using the word “war,” decided to control how our so-called free media reports on these bombings, decided to feed us lines about how our government is protecting democracy and how we Americans simply can’t stand for these war crimes. You know what all of this translates to? BULLSHIT.

We Americans are the war criminals.

quitwar.jpgDavid Owen / Creative Commons

So let’s not argue with each over who is or isn’t using fake news; they all are. In fact, let’s please not argue over the vast majority of absolute ridiculous shit we keep arguing over. Our masters are so brilliant, they have us all staring at these tiny little devices that track our every move while stripping us of our ability to communicate face-to-face. Then they use these devices to thrust advertisements at us that tell us how badly we need more – more clothes, more electronics, more money, more youth. They have us competing over minimum/unlivable wage jobs, they’ve convinced us that immigrants are the enemy of the working class, that black people are criminals who are killing each other and should be feared, that education is not a right but is actually some hoity-toity liberal bubble elitism, when in reality, we’re all getting fucked and WE SHOULD ALL BE WORKING TOGETHER. We’re sitting here in the same boat competing over trite nonsense like wrinkles and weight and hairstyles, judging each other’s lifestyle choices as if any of it matters, staking out our tiny bit of space and jumping to aggression the second someone dares to “threaten” it, instead of talking, listening, accepting, sharing. We’re doing exactly what they want, we’re fighting each other instead of banding together to fight the CEOs who are stealing our wages, the real estate moguls who are destroying our neighborhoods, the war hawks who are denying us healthcare so that they can kill, kill, kill while putting more money in their own pockets. I wish we could come together better, that we could stop being so angry at each other and instead work together and direct that anger at our masters. If everyone in America who makes less than $100,000 a year refused to spend money for a day, just one single day, it would have such a strong impact that this whole rigged system would implode. We have power, we just don’t know how to organize and use it.

And I’m not saying I know how to use it. I can organize on a small scale, and that feels good and rewarding, but I have no idea how I can convince people that race and ethnicity and whether you live in the city or on a farm shouldn’t be barriers, that we do have the ability to listen to each other, to heal wounds, to come together and demand something better. I also have no idea how to go about changing the capitalist greed that currently rules our world to a more compassionate form of ruling. Our election and voting systems seem set up against this, so while I do exercise my right to vote, I’m not positive it does much when I’m presented over and over with variations of the same shit. And I can’t just march into the president’s office, stomp my foot and say, “It’s time you give a damn!” Even if I did manage to get into that office, even if I were taken seriously, I’d just be given some lip service and sent home with no results.

We type our names into petitions. We post our repulsion on Facebook. We raise money for organizations that are doing good work (and this probably goes the farthest out of all these actions). But at the end of the day, we just don’t have the same level of power that the warmongers do. And this is the thing that really depresses me: good, honest people who want to end all of this killing don’t become President of the United States, of Russia, of Syria.

But this doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going. We have to make our small difference, for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, our future. Our small actions will spread and grow over time. They may never equal the actions of Trump or Putin, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, that makes them even more important. And there are so many organizations and people doing good work. We have to support them, encourage them, let ourselves feel buoyed up by their existence.

Add this to your action list: call or email an organization or politician you support and let them know you’re grateful for their work. This is how we oppose war – through daily acts of kindness. Spread love. Put down your damn cell phone and smile at a stranger. Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Thank your roommate or your mom or your husband for being around. Remind yourself every night of the good things you have.

gboweeLeymah Gbowee / Creative Commons

I’ve decided that I’m in it for the long haul. Like, the millions of years from now long haul. Those of us who support peace talks and compromise, empathy and compassion, building community and opening our borders to refugees, we’re the more evolved humans. I read an article recently about scientist Michael Wilson’s long-term study of chimpanzees, and it seems that human warfare actually isn’t a modern invention but rather goes back to our deepest ancestors. When I first learned in high school about the Locke vs Hobbes debate, I was immediately on Locke’s side. Of course people are born good, I thought. Babies don’t discriminate, they don’t care about race or religion, they say hi to everyone. They don’t use labels like rich or poor, they don’t pass judgment on others like we adults do. I believed that humans were taught to be evil, that badness came from our nurture as opposed to something in the fabric of our being. But now, I think it’s not even a matter of being inherently good or evil – this concept is yet another human construct that allows us to become too cerebral and judge each other. Humans are simply products of evolution, and it’s actually great progress that we’ve seen people like Martin Luther King Jr., Leymah Gbowee, Thich Nhat Hanh, it’s amazing that the UN exists and that so many people care enough to run organizations like the American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. When looking at the timeframe of the universe, maybe we humans are doing okay.

I’m reminded of a lesson my Granny taught me over and over: You always need to leave things cleaner than when you found them. She was talking about physical spaces, about cleaning up after yourself, but now I understand her deeper message and find great comfort in it. So, humanity, I’m going to try to leave you cleaner than when I found you, and that’s honestly the most any of us can strive to do.

granny-1My very wise Granny

Endnotes:
I edited for 45 minutes.

Regarding fake news, I sincerely hope you’ve done the research and can trust the sources you read.

When I say open our borders to refugees, I mean screened refugees. No one is saying, “Hey everybody in the world, it’s a free for all in America right now, run on in!” I hate how black and white these issues are often portrayed.

Click here to learn more about the ongoing column Brain-Picking Becky.

Quick Actions – Take Three Minutes Right Now to Resist!

Quick, easy ways to take action and resist right now:

piaraymond.jpgCall and email your state and national congresswomen and men. Don’t know who they are? Go to Find My Senator and Find Your Representative or just do a quick Google search. You can email or leave messages about specific bills and issues, or you can be more general and say something like, “I am urging you to vote for more money for public schools.” If this still seems daunting, follow me on Facebook for regular updates on specific reasons and ways to make calls/send emails.

Use the Resist bot – text RESIST to 50409 to contact your officials. “You’ll be prompted to provide your name, zip code, and a message you’d like to send to your senators. Once you’re happy with your message, Resistbot will format it to look professional and fax it to both of your senators.” (Thanks Aviva Buivid of #100Daysofgoodstuff for the tip – check out her site if you’re looking for some hope right now).

Share your ideas, opinions and ways to resist on social media. Don’t fall into the trap of keeping politics off your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat feeds. This is exactly where politics should be. We need to unite and spread the word, and this format makes it easy. Tip: When you want to share someone else’s post on your Facebook feed, copy/paste the message instead of using the sharing button – it reaches more people this way.

Get educated. Know your rights and spread this info. Knowledge is power.

Donate! Pick whatever organization you want (like Planned ParenthoodACLU, American Refugee Committee – you’ve got a plethora of choices when it comes to organizations under attack right now!), go to their website, and give some money. Even just $10 helps.

Host a fundraiser. If you’re an artist of any kind, turn your next gig into a way to support an organization you can get behind. The NYCLU even has a DIY kit! Obviously this takes more than three minutes, but it’s worth your time, it’s fun, and you’ll feel good afterward, I promise.

Participate in local elections. Do a quick Google search on your local government and candidates. Find one you like, support him/her, and vote in your local elections. Your voice is louder at this level and you’ll directly see more of the effects of your vote. If you’re in Brooklyn, let me make this even easier for you: vote Pia Raymond for City Council (pictured)She’s a badass activist, organizer, social worker, and mama, and she’s exactly what our government at all levels needs more of.

Stay strong and keep it up! We’ve had some important victories so far, including the latest Supreme Court ruling that shut down Muslim Ban 2.0, and there are only many more to come.