13th Amendment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Section 1

Over the past couple of years, there have been many conversations and projects that center mass incarceration and the thirteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. There’s Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow and Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th to name just a couple. Celebrities like Matt McGorry and John Legend have helped to start conversations about these issues and support organizers that work to support incarcerated folks and change policy.

I was always taught that slavery ended with the end of the Civil War, with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the ratification of the thirteenth amendment. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one, as schooling here in the US generally tends to not provide a full context and understanding of history. This subject in school was always a whitewashed overview, just the bland highlights of a complicated and deeply contextual history.

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The Freedom To Marry Documentary

Recently, I saw the documentary Freedom to Marry and was thoroughly underwhelmed. A part comes from my own doubts around the now finished fight for marriage equality but another part comes from just how predictable the documentary was. Jay Weissberg reviewed the film for Variety and wrote that:

Despite a small theatrical run, “The Freedom to Marry” feels designed for TV in every way: It does its job more or less efficiently (we could do without Wolfson’s parents’ friends talking about what a bright boy he was) in cookie-cutter documentary fashion. Rosenstein, a childhood acquaintance of Wolfson’s, is unable to disguise the artificiality of certain “spontaneous” conversations before the cameras.

And that’s exactly what it felt like. The message and theme of the documentary oversaturated the film in a way that felt like you were being hit over the head with what the filmmakers wanted you to take away from it. That doesn’t mean it was completely terrible or anything – there were some great moments and the film does hark back to how gay people have been treated in the United States. But I ultimately left the theater feeling underwhelmed by the production and forgotten by the larger LGBTQ+ community. (That last part isn’t necessarily tied to the documentary and is a larger trend that I’ve personally felt in the past few months.)

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Self Care.

Self-care can mean a lot of different things – it can mean taking the time out to watch some stuff on Netflix with friends, going out to lunch, taking a nap, going on a hike. In a time of uncertainty and stress, being able to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally and making sure that you’re doing okay is important. As Melissa A Fabello describes in a video for Everyday Feminism,

So self-care is basically any set of practices that makes you feel nourished, whether that’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of the above. Self-care is putting aside time to recharge in a way that’s meaningful to you, and that can mean different things to different people.

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Supporting Trans Kids.

With one of the latest federal actions revoking federal guidelines that support transgender students to use public school bathrooms that match their gender identity. While the stance from the administration is to leave transgender rights up to the states and local schools, this move also reverses work done by the Obama administration last year and means that protections and support would vary widely from area to area.

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Actions.

There is so much going on in the world today, especially with all that the current administration and Congress is pushing through. In the midst of all this chaos, it can be easily to get overwhelmed  – I know I have been. But it’s important to keep fighting, to keep resisting, and to take care of yourself. Self-care and taking a deep breath is just as important as being on the streets and making calls.

With all the issues going on, there are plenty of ways to resist and not everyone’s activism is going to look the same. People have different abilities, resources, and schedules, which means that not everyone can march in protests but there are so many things that need to happen. With this, I thought I’d find some great and different ways to join the fight.

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Not Normal.

With Trump officially in office and already starting his term off to a bang, it’s important to reiterate that all of this is not normal. The censoring of government employees and scientists? Not normal. The Press Secretary blatantly lying about the size of the inauguration crowds, despite the fact that there is clear photographic evidence to contradict him? Still not normal, no matter if ‘alternative facts’ actually exist. The Press Secretary has even started to print out tweets that Trump has issues with and holds them up at press briefings, which is incredibly bizarre and definitely not normal. Trump and those in his administration have proven several times in less than two weeks that they are willing to lie to the American public on numerous issues.

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Last Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington and related sister marches around the world happened this past weekend and honestly, I have some mixed feelings about it all. On one hand, it was incredibly amazing to see all the crowds that showed up in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, and more. Hell, there was even a (tiny) protest in Antarctica! And I’m not going to lie: seeing the dramatic contrast between the inauguration on Friday and the march in DC on Saturday was spectacular.

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Know your rights.

Protests have become more and more common place in the past few years, or at the very least I’ve been more aware of them in that same time. These actions can be effective in bringing the conversation around to important issues and for voices to be heard. But riot police are often used in response to protests around the United States and dangerous tactics have been used against protesters in Ferguson, North Dakota, New York City, Seattle, and more. For example, water cannons sprayed cold water at #NoDAPL protesters in North Dakota in the middle of a winter night and tear gas has been repeatedly used against protesters in various cities.

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