The Black Lives Matter Protests, BLM Art, and Poignant Thoughts from a Colorado Musician and Teacher

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 Act which, 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.

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[The following is a message from band member Zach who speaks for himself through the Guerrilla Fanfare music platform with gufabrass.com/ ]
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 [40]. 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 [1], their life’s work [2] and incomes [3] from this deadly virus, not to mention the staggering loss of life with over 100,000 Americans and counting dead [4]. 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 [5], 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 [6]. 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 [7], the Africans brought from the slave trade who were [8] and still are subjected to some of the worst atrocities known to human history [9], the Japanese who were incarcerated during world war II [10], the ongoing situation at the southern boarder where Central and South American refugees are put in cages [11], separated from their families [12] and subjected to subhuman living conditions and sexual abuse [13], those of Muslim and Jewish faiths who are unfairly and viciously targeted [14], and now the Asian population at large [15] for spreading the “Chinese Virus”[16] 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” [17]. While, for once, we are seeing the particular culprits charged [18], 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 [19]. 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 [20], 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 [21]. White supremacy is not limited to cops either. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging by white supremacists [23]. 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 [22].
Just this week, we have seen images of police pepper-spraying peaceful protestors including black Senators [24], using their cars as weapons [25], destroying water bottles and medical equipment that was not theirs [26], arresting and attacking bystanders with physical force and less lethal rounds used improperly to inflict maiming and sometimes lethal damage [27], openly attacking reporters violating several amendments of the constitution—for which they are being sued by the ACLU [28]—and firing on people with less-lethal projectiles for being on their own property [29]. 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 [30], 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 [31], 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, [32] and telling local governors to “dominate the streets” through force and mobilizing the military against US citizens [33]. 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 [34].
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 [35]. 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 [36], and NAACP legal fund [37], and the Colorado Freedom Fund (to help protestors post pail) [41] but there are many more.
3. Write our lawmakers supporting this legislation called the Law Enforcement and Integrity Act [38]. While you are at it, sign this petition for Breonna Taylor, whose murderers have still not been charged [47].
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 [42].
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“ [39], 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 [43] [44].
7. As you are able, please take a minute to support to a Black Artist or Locally Owned Business [45].
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 [46], 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.
-Zach, Guerrilla Fanfare
 SOURCES
7. https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/rights-protesters/stand-standing-rock (just a recent example of an entire history of book of violence)
9. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-racial-discrimination not even scratching the surface again. Also, read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol for inequality in public school.
30. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/police-handcuff-good-samaritans-protect-store-looters/ (look at featured video of looters, idk how to just get that video)
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

A Few Female Titles to Distract You from Quarantine

If you are looking for some more female friendly shows or books to catch up on, here are a few more recommendations. Enjoy!

www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/tvbanners/17803657/p17...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. Madam C. J. Walker - HISTORY

Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel - Kindle edition by McQuiston ...

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

How Judy Heumann Found Her Voice As a Disability Rights Activist ...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

Amazon.com: Suffragette: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter ...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!

 

 

 

Anti-choice and Republican Officials are Trying to Take Advantage of the COVID-19 Crisis to Restrict Abortion Access

As many of you probably have already heard, people who are against a woman’s right to chose whether or not she carries a pregnancy to term are trying to restrict abortion access during to COVID-19 outbreak. State officials in Texas, Ohio, Kentucky and Oklahoma are trying to claim abortion is not an “essential service.” As NPR reported on March 27th, 2020,

“State officials in Kentucky and Oklahoma are among a growing number of Republican officials who say abortion is a nonessential procedure that should be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Nonessential service.” Are you kidding me? According to NPR, hundreds of patients in Texas, and elsewhere seeking abortions have been turned away. This is disturbing. Abortion is absolutely an essential procedure. Whether or not to bring a pregnancy to term is not a decision to take lightly and preventing a woman from accessing this basic right over her own body is appalling.

How is the decision to prevent abortion access even legal? Let’s not forget that the supreme court case of Roe v Wade is the law of the land. It says the Constitution protects a woman’s right whether or not to have an abortion. It states that a woman has a right to do so without excessive government restriction.  THIS IS THE LAW of United States of America. Anti-choice politicians as usual are trying to bend the law to their own personal will. But it is particularly infuriating and wrong now because they are trying to use a crisis, this pandemic, to their personal advantage.

Politicians cannot quietly and stealthily chip away at women’s rights. COVID-19 should not be an excuse to deny women the basic right to make decisions over their own bodies, especially such a profoundly life altering medical situation. Abortion absolutely is an essential service.

As TIME reports,

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups also urged hospitals and clinics not to cancel or delay abortion procedures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care,” they said in a joint statement. “It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

Women have the human right to control their own body. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree: A study from 2019 found that 77% of Americans (over three-quarters of Americans) believe abortion should be legal and accessible. This is a basic right and it has been for thousands of years. I cannot believe we are still having to fight this fight!

What can we do?

  1. Make your voice heard. Talk to your friends about whats going on. Google Hangout or Zoom and bring it up with your friends and family. Bring it up over a phone call with your friends.
  2. Research more about the problem.
  3. Post info about it on social media.
  4. Contact your representatives.
  5. Click HERE if you would like to add your name and send a letter to contact Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and tell him he needs provide guidance to states declaring that abortion IS indeed an essential service. The form is through Naral Pro-Choice America. It only took me a minute and a half to add my name. 

Lynsey Bourke (below) works to make abortion accessible in West Africa and she is someone I knew from when I lived in Montana. She is a regional operations director for DKT International, the world’s largest providers of family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention and safe abortion services. She lives in West Africa, registering medical abortion pills in a many French-speaking countries. She cares about this issue, not just for women in West Africa, but for women in the United States as well.

Here is what she has to say:

In Need of Something to Watch While you are Social Distancing?

We are living in an unsure time. Many of us are at home trying our best to work from our laptops on our couches and in our free time, trying to get our minds off the impending crisis of Coronavirus. So, we are left with home bound options to get our minds off the virus.

If you are in need of something to watch while you are social distancing, here are three that I have found captivating and interesting. All are available right now on Netflix.

Image result for mission blue1.) Mission Blue: The first film on my list is a very pertinent one concerning the planet. While my other two on this list are light hearted and fun, this one is a bit heavy… but so important! We are living in a home-bound time where we might as well be aware of, not only the Coronavirus crisis, but the ocean crisis. This film is about the oceans and how one woman, Sylvia Earle, has spent her life learning about and seeking to protect the ocean blue. This documentary is beautifully filmed and very moving. It is fascinating to learn about Sylvia Earle’s life as a scientist during a time when women weren’t expected (or encouraged) to be such. And yet, her impact on the field of Marine Biology and her positive impact on ocean conservation efforts has made waves (pun intended.) Sylvia Earle leaves us with the question, “How can we use the ocean and not use it up?” Check out this film! Click here to see a trailer.

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2.) Always Be My Maybe: The second film on my list is light hearted and fun and incredibly refreshing. Directed by Nahnatchka Khan and written by comedian Ali Wong and two others, this film explores the friendships of two people who lost touch but cross paths again later in life. Ali Wong’s character is a smart empowered woman who is driven and successful in her career as a chef and uncompromising in who she is. (Refreshing!) And she has her set of multidimensional flaws as well. (Also refreshing!) This film touches on friendship, love, culture, empowered women and is all around refreshing and funny. The actors are fantastic. Check out the trailer here.

3.) Taylor Tomlinson Quarter Life Crisis: Third on my list is a comedy special by comedian Taylor Tomlinson. Her humor may not be suitable for everyone, but you never know!

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If you have more titles you’d like to add to this list involving women that are available for streaming during this time of social distancing, feel free to send them in the comments!

The Change We Need

[Author’s note: Since free time is short for me as a full time history teacher these days, with a stack of papers to grade and endless lessons to plan, this is a piece I wrote very quickly with minimal corrections, so there may be spelling errors etc.. But I nonetheless wanted to get my thoughts out, candidly, so here they are.] 

With people’s fears about the potential for another war on the horizon due to American actions in Iran recently, I have been thinking again of the importance of elevating the matriarchy. What do I mean by this? 

As a history teacher, it becomes very clear to me just how much of a pattern there has been about the type of person who has been in power and who has been making the decisions that lead to war and devastation. Over centuries, there has been one common thread throughout our connected, global human history. The people in power starting wars has been the same. It has been men in power. Although there is nothing wrong with men in power, men do tend to air on the side of violent action at times. By mere observation (and countless data) the people that commit violence, mass shootings, domestic violence and start wars have been men. I want you to know right off that bat, this is not a “venting session” against the male persuasion, this is just fact about the demographic of people who have been in power over the majority of our written history, and who statistically speaking, commit certain crimes and warfare. So what if we changed it? What if we changed the demographic of people in power? What if we avoided the pattern that Einstein so famously pointed out: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” What if, instead of repeating the trend of only men being in power making the global decisions over and over, what if we elevated the matriarchy? What if we balanced the scales more? We need more women in power. 

Research has shown that women tend to vote more on the side of social well being and gear their lives towards taking care of one another. We have also seen that women are more likely to believe the climate crisis is an important focus and to actually make steps towards alleviating the climate crisis. We need more women in power and steering us clear away from devastation and war. Have you heard the radical phrase “Smash the Patriarchy?” Well that is all fine except I don’t think that would necessarily solve things either: Because then the pendulum would just swing back and forth. I think the real change will happen when we truly elevate the matriarchy: Put women in their rightful place which is right alongside men making history and men being in power. With that type of balance, women alongside men in power, I would be surprised if we didn’t get closer towards creating a better world. 

I went on a date with a guy who I was very attracted to because of how feminist he was. Without knowing my background at all, as we were talking about world events he said candidly “I’m all about the matriarchy. And I’m not saying that to be popular or something, I’m saying that because I really am. I mean, I’m in a profession that is dominated by women (the teaching profession) and I see amazing women leaders everyday.” He then mentioned he believes women will have more power and sway in the world very soon and then he added something I’ve been talking about for years which is this: He stated, “and then once women become in power, that is when the climate crisis will truly hit and you all will get blamed for it, even though it wasn’t your fault!” And we laughed about how messed up that is but very likely could become the case. It’s like a previous president puts a nation into debt or into a recession, and the residual effects carry onto the next president who gets blamed for it. Regardless, having more women in power could be just the thing we need to change this world. It would be a long overdue switcheroo. And it might just be the recipe we need for change.

New Anti-Choice/Forced Birther Bills Being Passed

In the wake of the anti-choice news coming from the south, particularly Alabama, and even other states across the country, it has been tough for me to express just how horrible this outlawing and criminalization of abortion will be for women and men and the hypocrisy of the people who are anti-choice/forced birthers. So, instead of words, I wanted to share some visuals, news clips and words from other individuals:

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Documentary: Knock Down the House

This Netflix documentary is SO good. Seeing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other women running for the house is truly amazing and inspiring. Check out this film!! It’s on Netflix.

in 2018, never before seen in U.S history, a record number of women took their place among the men in Washington: 90 women were elected to the House of Representatives. Though we still have a ways to go for parity in politics (women still only represent about 25% of representatives in the House and Senate) the 116th congress will go down in history as a historic time. As if that were not enough, these women politicians are fighting for ALL people’s rights: Ocasio-Cortez does not just represent women, she represents the working class and progressives, female and male, and takes on the establishment to create a more equitable world for everyone. This film gives us a glimpse of what that fight for representation in government looks like.

“For one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

After seeing this film, I thought to myself, “She could be president someday.”