Today, January 20th, 2021, a woman became Vice President of the United States. Also, the first African American and South Asian American to hold the position: The second highest position in the country.
This is a deeply important moment, not just for women, but for humankind, in taking a step towards creating some semblance of balance. We still have a long way to go, but we are further on the trajectory towards a better world, one where power does not rest solely in male, white hands.
Thank you Kamala Harris, for taking this enormous step forward for us.
I saw this clip from the Washington Post today of Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez speaking out against Congressman Yoho who called her “disgusting,” “dangerous” and a “f*cking B*tch.” Cortez points out,
“Every congresswoman and every woman in this country, all of us, have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape in our lives. And I want to be clear that Representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me, because I have worked a working class job. I have waited tables…I have walked the streets in New York City. And this type of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used words like Mr. Yoho’s and I have encountered this type of harassment on the Subway in New York City. This is not new. And that is the problem…It is not about one incident: It is cultural. It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women and an entire structure of power that supports that.”
And I do think this kind of abhorrent treatment is becoming more brazen under the current administration.
This clip really rang true for me because I watched it today, the day after I was called a sexist slur, a “cunt,” by some random guy screaming at me out the door of his Mustang.
Hell yes to the women who fight back and reclaim that word! (Or to the ones reading the phenomenal book Cunt, by Inga Musio.) Ladies, own that word: Do your thing! But if you are a man using it to demean a woman, no. The comment from this man honestly ruined my day: It made me feel like garbage. I know I shouldn’t have let some random nobody, pathetic guy whose pent-up anger is probably only the beginning of his issues, ruin my day and make me feel that way, but I couldn’t help it. It is comments like these that are aimed at putting a woman “in her place.” When men use that word towards women, what are they trying to accomplish? They are trying to insult a woman based on her gender, diminish her and put her back “in her place.”
AOC is a true hero. She speaks for the people and she speaks up about the way women are treated, saying, ENOUGH. Thank you AOC for standing up for us all.
Whew! Thank goodness for upholding this basic right! Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in this case and thank goodness he has come around! Four years ago that was not the situation.
The Ramos v. Louisiana court case, a case from Louisiana in which anti-abortion people sought to restrict women’s access to abortion by creating unnecessary obstacles, was brought to the Supreme Court. It was struck down in an historic win for reproductive rights yesterday!
The case was brought to the Court as a means of anti-choice individuals to try to take the first step to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. Thankfully, the right to an abortion is still is upheld! This is cause for celebration and I cannot tell you how incredibly relieved I am about this news.
BUT, attacks on this basic right are still happening across the country. A New York Times article alludes to this fact in their title,
“The Supreme Court Stopped Anti-Abortion Momentum. For Now.”
It is still incredibly difficult and costly to exercise bodily autonomy in many, many states. Anti-abortion/forced-birther people are still fighting. But we pro-choice people will continue to fight to uphold our rights!
Women are not ovens! We are living, breathing people, with the right to exercise control over our bodies.
What we really need is for Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would make sure that women have access to abortion without undue burden.
“The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) is a federal bill that would protect the right to access abortion care by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that apply to no similar medical care. These harmful restrictions are threatening to eliminate access to abortion care in large swaths of the country, and prevent people from making personal decisions about their health, their lives, and their futures.”
If you are a gal or a guy and you realize the importance of this bill and want to do your part, tell your representatives to support the Women’s Health Protection Act bill!
Act for Women creates a message for you so all you have to do is type in your information. It helps to add a personalized message though, something I do recommend. You can use mine as a template if you’d like:
I am a Social Studies teacher and woman of reproductive age in Colorado. I urge you to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. My basic bodily autonomy and health is at stake, and so is other women’s. Please pass the WHPA.
Together, we can win this fight so that women can make their own choices about whether or not to have a child: So that no woman will be forced by the government to carry and birth a child.
As Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center of Reproductive Rights said in a statement which was repeated by a Washington Post article,
“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected.”
Northup concluded her statement by calling on Congress to pass the “Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would ensure the promise of Roe v. Wade is realized in every state for every person.”
Yesterday a few friends and I participated in a protest demanding justice for Elijah McClain, a young black man who died last year in police custody in Aurora, Colorado. The march shut down the highway in both directions. It was incredible. Some altercations that happened between police officers and protestors and bystanders were intense…
Before I continue though, you might already be aware of the case of Elijah McClain, as it has recently made national news. But if not, here is a summary:
Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store after picking up iced tea for his brother. He had anemia and therefore would get cold easily. So he sometimes wore a ski mask around his face to keep warm. Someone called in about a suspicious person but specifically mentioned he did not seem dangerous. Police stopped him. He said he was just going home, that he was an introvert and to please respect his boundaries.
As The Cut reports, “In the 15 minutes that followed, the officers tackled McClain to the ground, put him in a carotid hold, and called first responders, who injected him with ketamine. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and died days later, after he was declared brain dead…McClain’s family maintains that law enforcement’s use of excessive force led to his death. The officers, however, were subsequently cleared of wrongdoing, apparently on the basis of questionable body-camera footage and an allegedly inconclusive autopsy.”
Understandably, Coloradans are angry upon hearing about yet another wrongful death coming to light, this one in particular, in our state. So people took to the streets (and highways) yesterday to protest.
My friends and I were a bit late to the march and were hoping to meet up with marchers wherever we could. Driving over a bridge over the highway, we looked to our left and were amazed to see a massive crowd overtaking both directions of the 9 or 10 lanes of highway. The sight brought goosebumps to my skin and a sense of awe at the power of the people.
So we parked our car, jumped a fence and hopped up and over a wall to get onto an onramp to join the masses on the highway.
We were at the far back of the pack walking across empty stretches of highway when cars started to approach. We thought, “Wow. Police are letting cars back on the highway but there is still a massive amount of people not off it yet.” Whoever in the police department made the call to allow cars again did so preemptively. Because most people were still just barely making their way off the off ramp of the exit. So a group of protesters linked hands to stop the cars from driving until people were off the highway.
A police car drove speedily onto the scene, coming within inches of rear ending the car in front of him and flung his car door open. “Get out of the road!” He shouted and he bounded towards us, motioning the cars onward. He was intense. He sped towards us and someone shouted “Back up! He’s going to start arresting people!” We started backing up and moving our wall backwards but the police officer continued furiously, motioning the cars onward. Someone shouted at the officer, “Just wait! There are still a lot of people on the highway and off ramp!” A woman in a wheelchair moved forward, recording the scene on her smartphone and the police officer started to back up and we backed up as well.
The whole confrontation could have been avoided if the police officers had just waited another twenty minutes or so for everyone to be off the highway and offramp.
But another two altercations that were about to ensue came very close to hurting people.
As we moved at the tail end of the march along a commercial street in Aurora, a car came whipping around and swerved to try to hit a protestor! The people jumped out of the way and threw water bottles at the car, shouting. The back windshield of the vehicle had cardboard in place of glass which made me wonder if this particular car had already tried to do something of the sort recently.
But the marchers marched on, chanting call and answer chants like, “Say his name!-Elijah McClain!” And “No Justice- No Peace! No racist- Police!”
People are calling for justice. I understand police have a hard job and there potentially is a necessity to have a career dedicated to protecting the people, but what police officers did on the night they reprimanded Elijah McClain and so many others, is not protecting the people. The officers in this case made a mistake. They reprimanded a young, innocent kid for no reason, but continued to further do damage until they did such damage the young man died in police custody. That is just wrong. Just like in the death of Breonna Taylor, which, by the way, the officers responsible for killing her are still at large.
The officers who killed Breonna stormed her apartment, (as the NYTimes reports, they did not make their presence as police officers known thanks to the no-knock warrant) and shot Breonna 8 times in her own home in the middle of the night during a search raid that should not have taken place anyway, because the person they were after was already in custody! Are you kidding me?! So the officers killed a woman in her own home, and no one is facing charges?! It’s infuriating and wrong. Just like it is wrong that Elijah McClain was forced to die after trying to get his brother some iced tea at a convenience store.
So the marchers continued on towards the Municipal Center to rally in front of the police headquarters.
We were marching at the back of the pack, the sun beating down on us and the hot pavement, so people rode on bicycles strolling by offering free bottled water to protestors and snacks for anyone running low on energy. Everywhere you looked, you could see protestors looking out for one another, and people striking up conversations with strangers. One woman walking along with her child in a stroller was chatting with other protestors, saying, “Thank you all for being here.” It truly was a beautiful community of people fighting for what is right. And having to face antagonizations from police and threats of cars ramming protestors was crazy.
So as we approached a stoplight, a car was in the middle of people walking along in the march. Suddenly, we saw a flurry of movement and heard a loud “thunk” and the sound of smashed glass. It looked like the car had rammed some people! My friend sped to the scene and I approached cautiously. The windshield had a massive
spiraling break on it and people were yelling at the person in the car, “You just hit someone!” The crowd surrounded the car, but one protest organizer yelled, “Let’s move aside and let her out of here!” So the protesters made a clear pathway for her to drive away from protestors, despite she had just bumped someone with her car, seemingly on purpose. But the woman in the car didn’t budge! Why wasn’t she slowly driving away! Instead, she just continued to shout at all of us as we were all motioning her onward, saying to her, “Just go!”
The same lovely black woman and her child in the stroller came to the scene. She said to the woman in the car “Just go lady! You have a clear path! Go!” But then she pulled the stroller backwards and furthered herself and her kid from the scene, pointing at the woman in the car, stating- “She’s got a gun! Everyone back up, she’s got a gun!” The crowd stepped even further away from the car, but still the woman in the car with the gun would not leave! Until finally, with more yelling, the car jolted fast and whipped around for a U-turn, almost hitting a black man protestor, before speeding away. It was one of the most intense things I have ever seen. Thankfully, someone got her license plate number.
We arrived at the Aurora Municipal Center for the rally to hear speeches and to demand better action from DA Dave Young. (Luckily, as NPR reports, Gov Jared Polis has appointed a Special Prosecutor to reopen probe into Elijah’s death.) The crowd gathered and the energy was calm until protestors started consolidating near the corner where the police were stationed nearby. The crowd started shouting “We don’t see no riot here, why are you in riot gear!” The energy began ramping up.
I do think some protestors wanted to rial things up, which would have been counterintuitive. Thankfully, one of the black women organizers pleaded with the crowd through a megaphone to instead move towards the speeches. After several attempts to have her voice heard, it worked, and the protestors moved away from the contentious scene and instead towards the speeches taking place nearby. Whew. I could feel the energy relax a bit. This woman had successfully redirected the crowd away from potential violence and instead towards the productive, peaceful rally. I think black women are going to save this world.
So- We had marched and listened to speeches and later left the rally with thoughts of the day heavy on our minds; a combination of feeling purposeful, empowered and exhausted. It is high time police violence ends. These past many weeks have been a major time of reflection, education and understanding for me, as I further navigate my own white privilege and do what I can to be an ally and advocate of anti-racism. I have long been aware of these types of issues, but I am all the more aware now and am thankful for the BLM movement for opening eyes like mine. This is a powerful movement and an important time to make positive steps for a better society, one which works better and equally for all.
The question is, how do we come together and enlighten people, like those who use their cars as weapons, or refuse to see the purpose behind protests such as these? How can we affectively come together as a nation, and heal and rebuild to dismantle systems of oppression to create a better society? Some general, big idea solutions- 1.) Education. 2.) Political and legislative policy changes. 3.) More women and men of color representation in politics and positions of power 4.) Investing in community resources instead of heavily into the police 5.) MORE ideas that I’m still exploring.
I hope my experience of the protest yesterday enlightened you in some way. I wanted to share what it was like on the ground and to bring light to the amazing things BLM protestors are doing, despite the odds.
Stay safe, be well, and affect positive change in whatever ways you can.
“Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.” (Netflix description of the film.)
This film is eye opening and incredibly informative. The film opens with a statistic as stated by Barack Obama that, “The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that.”
This statistic is just about accurate from 2013 (as the Washington Post verifies,) and is likely even higher now. The film walks us through the steps that have progressed from the Nixon era up until the present, where a “Law and Order” and police system has disproportionately disadvantaged people of color. Throughout the years it has ramped up and ramped up and has gotten us to where we are today. Riots and protests have ensued when people are outraged at the free-reign of police brutality against black and brown bodies. In order to continue the progress towards fixing a broken system, we must first understand how the system has become broken: This film helps us do that.
You can watch all of the film for free on Youtube here. Or, you can watch it on Netflix. Just to be aware, there are some disturbing images of police brutality. A lot of communities see this kind of violence frequently and so we must all know what is going on.
The past few weeks have been a pivotal time. The Black Lives Matter movement has come to the forefront demanding change like never before. It’s time we all take a stand and speak up for positive change and to demand justice and equal rights for people of color across our country. I have thought meticulously about how to best write this post and which aspects to focus on most, but instead, I’ve decided it would be most powerful to relinquish my platform to my friend who is a person of color, musician, and teacher, and whose thoughts are poignant, informative and powerful. With each point he makes, he backs it up with a source for others to further inform themselves. (Thank you Zach.) I’m also first going to add some art pieces that speak volumes which will be seen below.
First, here are a few suggestions that we can all do to affect change. Our actions as individuals are valuable.
1.) Vote Trump OUT;
2.) Vote Mitch McConnell OUT to oust the backwards Republican majority leader and replace him with Senator Amy McGrath who is wonderfully close to beating McConnell in the upcoming Kentucky race. OR, as I just learned today, we can replace McConnell with a young Kentucky representative named Charles Booker. Both appear to be fantastic candidates.
3.) White people can use their platforms to elevate people of color’s voices;
4.) We can sign petitions and donate in support of BLM, participate in protests (only if you and you and your family feel safe to do so during COVID) inform ourselves and vote vote vote for progressive change at the local and federal levels. (If you live in Colorado, you can sign your name to support the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Actwhich, if passed, will hold police offers accountable for their actions and could help bring justice and protect black lives from police brutality. If you live in a different state, see if similar bills are being introduced.)
5.) And lastly, if this revolutionary movement’s momentum carries into a a complete dismantling of the current political systems, (which could happen looking at trends in history) we would absolutely need to have ideas for what would take it’s place. Because in the presence of a political vacuum, something would take it’s place, and we want to make sure it would be a decent change. If something were to happen, we would need a progressive alternative to current political structures, and I don’t know what that would be. [Editors note: I was going to post this without thoughts of an alternative system but I DO know a rough outline of the political replacement we would need. We need something different than white patriarchy. We need NO patriarchy. Throughout history that is the one common theme that has persisted. If we want to avoid trajectories of violence and domination, we need to try something different than the pattern of the last hundreds of years. Therefore we need a BALANCE of power between men and women of all backgrounds. Notice I don’t say female domination. That would just send the pendulum swinging on the other side. We need a a true balance of power in which men and women of all backgrounds have an equal say, that benefits all.]
So, in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement, I would like to give you some art pieces that speak volumes. Then, below are poignant and powerful thoughts shared by Zach, a brass musician and teacher in Colorado.
Thank you. Be safe, be well and affect positive change in whatever ways you can.
I’ve been posting almost exclusively on my personal page for a while now, as this page has pretty much been shut down since COVID save the occasional Ad-Hoc jam we’ve been able to do amidst social distancing. While we thought that by limiting our posting amidst this chaos to only positive and substantive things such as those jams we would help cut down on unnecessary noise, I felt it necessary to post some personal thoughts to our followers regarding the tragic events we see transpiring now. I am speaking out now as a musician, and because this platform exists as a result of efforts from a history of Black musicians in this country. Our form of brass band was born in Louisiana by slaves in Congo Square . It is an African American art form and tradition that we have based our music upon as Guerrilla Fanfare, and we pay respect to that culture through performance in performing music, actions through volunteering with the No Enemies Brass Bands and through words such as the statement I have prepared today.
Tensions are running high. The state of affairs in this country was already a breaking point for millions who have lost their livelihoods , their life’s work  and incomes  from this deadly virus, not to mention the staggering loss of life with over 100,000 Americans and counting dead . It is an unmitigated disaster. People are mourning. People are scrambling to get by. While the wealth inequity in this country was already an unacceptable issue , it is made now even more grave. People are afraid, and people are getting fed up with the same tired excuses and empty rhetoric from politicians we have heard time and time again.
Similarly, the ever growing divide in our country has been made very clear by our “leadership” from the oval office. Racial inequity in this country is nothing new . Our nation’s history is rife with racism, and our society is undoubtably built on the backs of the groups deemed lesser by those in charge. The First Nation indigenous populations whose cultures we destroyed , the Africans brought from the slave trade who were  and still are subjected to some of the worst atrocities known to human history , the Japanese who were incarcerated during world war II , the ongoing situation at the southern boarder where Central and South American refugees are put in cages , separated from their families  and subjected to subhuman living conditions and sexual abuse , those of Muslim and Jewish faiths who are unfairly and viciously targeted , and now the Asian population at large  for spreading the “Chinese Virus” to the United States all make up a non-exhaustive list that immediately comes to mind when we get on this subject, a list that is sadly far from complete.
Now we are all seeing shocking images of police brutality in response to peaceful protests of the wrongful police murder yet another black man, George Floyd, effectively sentenced to death by the judge, jury and executioners we call “law enforcement” . While, for once, we are seeing the particular culprits charged , the work of dismantling our nation’s systemic white supremacy and actively undoing its harms needs to continue. George Floyd was the latest unacceptable travesty in an ongoing history of police violence and brutality that disproportionately targets people of color especially those of the Black community . Look no further than a few days prior (or since) his wrongful killing and you will find more. David McAtee a pit master in Kentucky who regularly gave cops free meals gunned down by cops and left to rot on the street for nearly twelve hours , or Breonna Taylor, who was a victim of extrajudicial murder by an inept police force incapable of even finding the right house or checking to see if the suspect was already apprehended. She was my age . White supremacy is not limited to cops either. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging by white supremacists . Those are just a three names, three lives, three loved ones who will never come home again out of the countless lives lost at the hands of the police and through systemic racism .
Just this week, we have seen images of police pepper-spraying peaceful protestors including black Senators , using their cars as weapons , destroying water bottles and medical equipment that was not theirs , arresting and attacking bystanders with physical force and less lethal rounds used improperly to inflict maiming and sometimes lethal damage , openly attacking reporters violating several amendments of the constitution—for which they are being sued by the ACLU —and firing on people with less-lethal projectiles for being on their own property . Yet again, this is an incomplete list. While that does not excuse the behavior of opportunists who are looking to steal some surfboards at the expense of public favor of Black Lives Matter , the authoritarian actions undertaken by these paramilitaries we call “law enforcement” have gone too far and should create an outlook of shock and shame, and serve as a sobering look into the police state of “the land of the free.”
The national disgrace who occupies the White House, and occasionally the underground bunker near the White House , continues to stoke the fires of racism in his base, and sow seeds of division with our neighbors and fellow countrymen, calling himself the “Law and Order” president as others have done more effectively before him,  and telling local governors to “dominate the streets” through force and mobilizing the military against US citizens . We must not allow him to continue to damage our country, and ensure a decisive victory against hi, in November to ensure the continuation of our Democracy .
While it feels inadequate, I find solace in putting outrage to action. These are a few actions that can benefit the Black Lives Matter movement.
1. Register to vote, and vote Trump out in November . Research your local representatives in local government, and make informed decisions.
2. Give money to organizations who help combat systemic racism. I have specifically given to the ACLU , and NAACP legal fund , and the Colorado Freedom Fund (to help protestors post pail)  but there are many more.
3. Write our lawmakers supporting this legislation called the Law Enforcement and Integrity Act . While you are at it, sign this petition for Breonna Taylor, whose murderers have still not been charged .
4. Get involved in the movement either through active peaceful demonstration if you are physically able and comfortable to do so amidst a pandemic, or otherwise continue to share stories of outrage highlighting the injustices you see. This week, there were peaceful demonstrations in all 50 states. Here is a list where you can support this movement all across the country .
5. Have conversations, especially with those who don’t agree with you. Simply declaring moral supremacy and shutting out those who don’t agree by labeling them as “racist,” or as Hilary Clinton put it a “basket of deplorables“ , does not help. This is not easy, but we need to do better at making it safe to be an advocate – especially because people who are new to this will not be perfect at the beginning.
6. If time allows in your busy schedule, self-education and self-reflection makes a difference. I am by no means perfect. In fact, looking back on my past I now clearly see plenty of instances where I was wrong and wished I would have acted differently. Self-education and self-reflection helps spare the future of the same injustices of the past. Resources linked  .
7. As you are able, please take a minute to support to a Black Artist or Locally Owned Business .
Our success and support as a band has no doubt been impacted by our privilege, and for that we are grateful for your continued support and recognize that we are very fortunate to have the privileges that we do. Law enforcement personnel are undoubtedly in a predicament , and there is an ongoing national conversation about what role police should play in our lives as this relationship they have as an institution with the general public is clearly untenable. Should these words put you in a situation where you no longer feel included in our community, I encourage you to examine why your reaction to a plea for black equality makes you uncomfortable and read the resources mentioned on action point #6. We want to have the conversation, and we strive to make our music fun for people of all walks and backgrounds, but not at the expense of being tolerant of overt and flagrant racism.
Know that each of you are loved. Take care out there, and we can’t wait to see you all again in person when the time comes.
40. Driscoll, M.T. (2012) New Orleans brass band traditions and popular music : elements of style in the music of mama digdown’s brass band and young blood brass band. DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) thesis, University of Iowa. https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.4uq7e4ro
If you are looking for some more female friendly shows or books to catch up on, here are a few more recommendations. Enjoy!
1.) Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. This Netflix series is fantastic! It is based on the real life of Madam C.J. Walker (played by Octavia Spencer) who is known as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. She is powerful, driven and a complex character. The series was fascinating and a joy to watch. Below is a photo of the real Madam C.J. Walker in her car with friends.
2.) Red, White and Royal Blue. This New York Times Bestseller book, written by Casey McQuiston, is a page turner. I just finished it for my feminist book club and it has it all: Humor, politics, a woman president of the U.S and a sexy romance between the First Son and the Prince of England at the center of the book. It was a great distraction from quarantine.
3.) Crip Camp: This documentary takes you on a journey from a camp for teenagers with disabilities all the way to a revolution. It highlights the amazing accomplishments of the disability rights activists during and after the civil rights movement. The film was
released under the banner of Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. It features Judith Huemann, a powerful activist and polio survivor, who fought tirelessly to lead the campaign for basic rights and for the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was shocked by some of the things people with disabilities had to endure before the ADA. This movement truly has not had near enough light shed on it that it needs. This film makes the Disability Revolution more visible and highlights one of the amazing women behind it.
4.) Suffragette: 2020 marks our 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States! Although this movie takes place in Britain, it is still a great way to celebrate this victory for womankind. The movie is a thrilling look into the world of what it was like for
women fighting for the vote in the early 1900s in Britain. Starring Meryl Streep as the infamous Emmeline Pankhurst, this film was a good refresher for me to remember what our foremothers had to endure in order for future generations like mine to be able to vote. Women in the United States, just like in Britain, had to endure years and years (it took 72 years to get the vote in the U.S) of humiliation and violence (like being force fed) but these incredible women made it a right for us to vote today. Thank you to our British and American women who fought for us!