Tag Archives: activism

It’s Time to Save the World

“Is my English OK? Is the microphone on?” asked Greta Thunberg, in one of her most recent addresses. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

It wasn’t a joke. No one seems to be listening.

Nine years ago, when I was Greta’s age, I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t politically, globally, socially, environmentally aware. I wasn’t aware of what our biggest problems were–or that I, as a kid, could do anything about it, even if I did know what was happening in the world.

Nine years ago, I was LARPing (live-action role playing). For those who don’t know, LARP is a game wherein you create a character for yourself, dress up in costume, and run around in the woods at night, fighting faux villains with foam sticks. It’s like playing make-believe in the backyard when you were little, but on a larger scale, with maybe a better production value.

LARP comes in a number of forms, but the game I played was mostly like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a fantasy game. Swords and sorcery. Lightning bolts. Storming the castle. All of that.

While I knew that the events in the game weren’t “real” and that the character I played wasn’t “real,” they always felt important. They felt bigger than the small “reality” I actually lived in. I often felt that my character was better than me. She was stronger, prettier, freer. She had more goodness in her; more to give. I wanted to be like her in real life.

This disconnect–the idea that my character was false and somehow separate from me–affected my growth in a number of ways. I could write a book on it. There’s a lot to unpack. But the point here is that even after I managed to quit the game, I had a hard time developing an idea of who I was without that character.

Recently, with the changing of the seasons, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It would be the start of LARP season now, if I was still playing.

I’m still sorting through it, but one of the things that finally occurred to me was that I could be like the heroic character I used to play. I already was like her. She came from me.

But there were still situational differences, systematic differences between that character’s world and mine, dragging me down.

I posted this on Facebook:

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And, only days later, the sentiment was echoed by somebody else:

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I’ve been flailing for a solution. Something I could do to help the environment, and reconcile the reality of my apparent helplessness with the idea of once having played at being someone courageous and able to create change.

In this video, Jane Goodall advises people to act locally. “Quite honestly,” she says, “if you think globally, you get depressed.” Break it down, then. Start with what you know you can do. Do something. Even if it might seem small. “We’re all interconnected.”

I’ve been worrying myself sick. I woke up today with a sore throat, and a headache, presumably from my newfangled teeth grinding habit. In an anxious, somewhat dissociated haze, I drove to the store for some groceries, just to get out of the house. Everywhere, meat and dairy. Things packaged in plastic. Delicious things that I only felt bad about craving. I bought one of those chocolate bars that claims to help endangered species, and felt doubtful about its impact, but I hoped.

On my way home, it seemed like all I could see was trash. Scattered along the side of the road, accumulating in the ditches, washed up along the curb. Plastic bags blowing in the wind and caught up in bushes.

Enough is enough.

I found a metal stick–one of those garden hooks for hanging bird feeders or little candle pots–and I filed the end to a point on my dad’s bench grinder. I walked across the street to the park outside my house, and I attacked the garbage in the rain garden. I chased it through the foliage, piercing it with my makeshift rapier, collecting its remains.

Maybe this will help.

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Photo by Robert Stuart Lowden

I’m an adventurer. It’s my job.

And for all the shitheads out there who consume without thinking, and leave their trash lying around; for the people who continue to make a mess of the world, I have just one message:

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Kids Care…Do You?

My 16-year old daughter texted me this morning letting me know she was likely participating in a walk-out from school. This did not surprise me, she’s walked out to join protests before in support of Black Lives Matter and/or in protest of police brutality. She has taken part in a push for her former middle school to change its name (which it did!) and protested a dress code that she viewed as sexist, leading to discussions with school administration on a more equitable dress code. This time when I asked her what for she simply said, “the environment.” I then heard rumblings at work that students from one of our other high schools were all leaving after 2nd period and heading to the capitol building to participate in the International Youth Climate Strike event. So, I googled exactly what that was.

How did I not hear about this prior to this morning? Has my head been in the clouds? Have I been too distracted by work, school, and my flooded basement? How has this world-wide strike been coordinated and the first I hear of it is when my teenager texts me that she is joining it? Granted, I do not use Snapchat or whatever other apps the younger generation are using. I am “old,” so I use Facebook. The Guardian is giving live updates showing strikes, marches, and protests from around the world. There is a float of 16-year-old Nobel peace prize nominee Greta Thunberg in Sweden. There are kids in school uniforms protesting outside of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa. The protests in London took local police by surprise as they headed towards Buckingham Palace and chanted “we want change” in front of the Queen’s residence.  You can read the live updates here.

This movement, the way that the strikes were organized, and their central push to create “system change, not climate change” is tied in so well to what Manuel Castells speaks about in his book “Networks of Outrage and Hope.” In this article by Sophie Sleeman she talks about how this social movement is forming via social media and how social movements like this are “redefining political space and challenging the idea that social media platforms are only uncontrollable forces beyond our control.” Instead, she declares, they are being used to change the world.

Students in Ukraine hold signs that say, “Make My Planet Great Again” and “Don’t Burn Our Future.” In Poland, a large polluter, they hold signs that say, “Without plastic it’s fantastic.” In London they went heavy on the signage with some of them questioning why they are being forced to study for a future they will not even have if climate change continues at the rate it currently is.

London school climate strikes

What is it going to take to get the adults in positions of leadership to act with the urgency our youth is demanding? We cannot take small, incremental steps towards change or continue to act like it is something that can wait for the next decade, the next administration, or the next legislative session to tackle. Scientists around the world agree that we are either at or near a point of no return related to climate change. Some argue that we can no longer stop a 2-degree increase in global warming, and instead argue we need to do everything in our power to mitigate going beyond that. Others are still hoping we can stop it at 1.5 degrees although now that the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, as one of the largest consumers in the world, I am not sure how likely that is.

Our youth, our kids, our grand-kids will be the ones who will see and live through the effects of the decisions that we are making right now. Aside from taking on these tips for reducing our own carbon footprint, we need to consider a person’s views on environmental policy when deciding who to vote for, put pressure on elected officials already in office, and vote those out who are not voting in the best interest of this earth’s future. Saving this planet must start with us, our kids are begging us – will we listen?

 

Jussie Smollett, Why??

I believe that as a social justice activist, you are a role model for those you are empowering and you have an obligation to conduct yourself ethically and set a good example for those looking up to you.

A few weeks ago, “Empire” actor and musician, Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police that he was attacked by two white perpetrators who were yelling racial and homophobic slurs while yelling “This is MAGA (Make American Great Again) Country” which was a campaign slogan used by President Donald Trump.  He states that these men beat him, put a noose around his neck and threw bleach on him.

A precursor to this attack was a threatening letter that was sent to the Chicago set of “Empire” just days before.  The letter contained a white powdery substance and depicted a stick figure with a noose around its neck with the words “You will die black fag” on it.  Days later, the attack happened.

According to police reports filed by Smollett, the attack happened on January 29 at approximately 2:00 A.M., as he walked home from a local Subway sandwich shop after grabbing some food.

Jussie Smollett is an African American man who is openly gay and an activist for social justice.  Because of the comments made by the attackers and the content of the letter, this attack was taken very seriously and Jussie Smollett became a victim of a hate crime.

As news of this hate crime broke on main stream media and social media, Jussie immediately had the support of sympathizers, fans, Hollywood celebrities, LBGTQ community & civil rights activists.  Frankly most of the country was outraged – and with good reason!  Before knowing all of the facts, Left-wing politicians shared their disgust for this “modern day lynching” and took the opportunity to make it more political and racial, pointing out that these attackers were white Trump supporters.

As more details of the attack unfolded, conservatives became suspicious of his story and claimed it was made up.  #JussieSmollett became a trending topic of conversation on Twitter and other social media outlets with hatred being spewed back and forth between political parties, races and LGBTQ supporters/non supporters causing deeper divide and outrage.

In the weeks following the attack, it was becoming more and more evident there were holes in Jussie’s story and things were not adding up.  Chicago police uncovered overwhelming evidence that Jussie Smollett planned his attack and paid two “Empire” extras to carry out the hoax.

Subsequently, on February 21,  Chicago police charged Jussie Smollett with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report which could land him 1 – 3 years in prison.

Smollett has been outspoken politically and was a social activist devoted to such causes as:

  • H.I.V./AIDS prevention in the Black community
  • Ending apartheid
  • Black Lives Matter movement & social justice

On January 22, Jussie was inducted in the 5000 Role Models of excellence project which is a mentoring program for boys of color.  He served on the board of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), focused solely on ending the AIDS epidemic.  Jussie Smollett was a great role model and positive example of how to be black, gay, proud and successful.

When I heard the news of a hoax, it was like a punch in the gut.  There are so many levels of wrong here.  Jussie Smollett has single-handedly undermined the important work civil rights activists and LGBTQ communities have been fighting for.

It is an absolute travesty that he used the pain and anger of racism & homophobia to promote his own agenda and career.  This stunt has caused more division and disappointed so many that looked up to him – especially young African American males.  In the midst of black history month, he caused a distraction from the African American struggles that should have been recognized and the triumphs that should have been celebrated.

This was a deliberate and planned event by a well-respected actor and social justice activist that had so much potential to empower today’s youth of color.  Social justice, by it very definition is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society – nothing that Jussie did was fair or just to society.

Why this hoax is so destructive:

  • Creates skepticism of real hate crimes
  • Discourages real victims of racial violence and hate crimes to step forward
  • Introduces possibility for more hoaxes
  • Causes more division
  • Ignites a false sense of legitimacy to racism and homophobia
  • Damages credibility of activists
  • Embarrassment to community and to victims
  • Waste of law enforcement resources

Social activists, who initially were in support of Jussie, spoke out against him saying that he has set their cause back and that he should be held accountable.

Today, a press conference was held regarding the arrest of Jussie Smollett. Eddie T. Johnson, the Chicago Police Superintendent shared his heart-felt and powerful sentiment.  Before even starting the press conference, he stated that he “wished that the families of gun violence got this much attention”.  He talked about being a black man born and raised in Chicago, and seeing a history of racial divide and disparity.  He asked the question, “How can somebody use the symbolism of a noose (with the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol) and see an opportunity to make false accusations to further his own public profile?”  The comments by Eddie Johnson were exactly what this country needed to hear.  No matter your political affiliation, or what race or gender you are, his sentiment spoke to everyone.

Now is the time for Jussie to speak up and face accountability for his actions.  It may not undo the damage that was done by “crying wolf”, but it may help those who felt duped to heal and move forward.

–Follow me on Instagram 

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