BOOK REVIEW: Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesa Ramsey

In 2011, Franchesca Ramsey had been making YouTube videos on her Chescaleigh channel for a few years. Some were about her hair and how to style locs. Others were comedic, including a parody song about student loans. But the one that went viral was a parody of a few popular videos from that year. “Sh*t White Girls Say… To Black Girls” (SWGSTBG) propelled Ramsey into the national spotlight in just a few hours after posting it and started her down a path of on and offline entertainment and activism.

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist is Ramsey’s first book and in it, she writes about her journey leading up to the viral SWGSTBG video and the years after it. She writes with such vulnerability about the struggles and mistakes she’s faced while trying to break into the entertainment business while simultaneously being an activist in the public eye. There are many parts of the book that reflect on the many mistakes she’s made, how she dealt with some of the fall out, and how she learned from them all.

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Trans Roles in Media.

Recently, Scarlett Johansson made news after it came out that she will be playing a trans character in an upcoming movie. This is the second controversial casting news that Johansson has been a part of in the last couple of years (the first being her role in the 2017 film Ghost In The Shell, where she played a character that had been an Asian woman in the book the movie was based on).

And while this isn’t the first time that Johansson has been at the center of a casting controversy, this also isn’t the first time that a cisgender actor will be playing a trans character. Matt Bomer, Jared Leto, Eddie Redmayne, and Hilary Swank are just some of the most notable actors to do so. But just because it’s been done before (and with some critical acclaim), doesn’t mean it’s right.

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FOOD SERIES: ‘Harvest Boxes’ and SNAP

Growing up in a financially stable middle class family meant that I never really had to worry about having food on the table each day. While we rarely sat down at the dinner table all together, there was always a great dinner each night and my sister and I rarely lacked packed lunches or lunch money. The few times we did usually happened because we forgot the packed lunch or money at home.

I say all this because it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized just how difficult it can be to provide food for yourself and your family if you’re struggling to make ends meet. A big part of this came through interning at a food pantry one summer and learning first hand how difficult it can be to get enough food if you’re at or below the poverty line. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) doesn’t always help and despite the fact that millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables are regularly thrown out by grocery stores, getting anything that isn’t canned from food pantries can be really tough.

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Our faves are problematic (revisited).

So a couple years ago, I wrote a couple pieces for this blog about problematic faves – celebrities that many seem to adore and love but are problematic in different ways. My point with writing these posts wasn’t to be malicious or to really tear people down but instead, to really start the conversation on why we shouldn’t be putting people on pedestals and why we should hold people accountable.

People aren’t prefect – as a species, humans are messy and tend to make a whole lot of mistakes. I know that I’ve made so many mistakes that would qualify as a problematic person and I don’t deny that I’m still not making mistakes. But I’m trying to be better and I’m trying to learn more in order to make less mistakes in the future.

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Pride.

With Pride month officially done, I can’t help but think about where Pride has been, where it is now, and where it’s going. There’s no formal date for Pride but many cities typically celebrate during the last few weekends of June to (mostly) coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots on June 28th. There always seems to be some sort of Pride event in the world during the weekends leading up to July and a few that happen during the first couple weekends of the month as well.

I always feel like a bad queer person because of this but I’ve actually only been to Pride weekend once. It was years ago and even then, I only stayed during the day and I was volunteering the entire time. I think that Pride can be this amazing celebration of the LGBTQ+ community but as an introverted person with anxiety and depression, being in large crowds for any reason and any amount of time is stressful and overwhelming.

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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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Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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