What’s Happening At The Border

One of the biggest news stories in the United States over the past few weeks has been immigration and the situation at the border. Thousands of children are currently living in cages, separated from their families and are often not allowed to hug the other kids around them. Countless people have made the difficult and sometimes fatal trip to the United States and over the border. For decades, deportations and changing borders have separated families.

For me, it can be overwhelming to first understand and keep up with everything, especially knowing the context of US immigration and border policies. Then, it can be overwhelming to know how to best move forward and call for a more just and humane society.

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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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Learning From History.

Over the past few weeks, people have been comparing current events and politics to ones from history. The collection of rosaries from immigrants crossing the US/Mexico border has reminded people of the collection of wedding rings from Jewish folks in concentration camps. People have reminded folks that both the Holocaust and slavery were legal and that legality isn’t always equal to morality, as bad policies have been in place for quite some time.

In the first episode of the NPR/WABE podcast ‘Buried Truths’, host Hank Klibanoff talks about the importance of the show by saying that “… when we understand who we were, we can better understand who we are.” Learning about history and who we were can bring new meaning and context to current issues. And by looking at history and the full context, we can also better understand how these issues work, the ways in which we can combat injustice and inequality, and find role models.

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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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The Pacific Northwest.

Living in the Pacific Northwest as a white person has been interesting to say the least. We have so many quirks here (like wearing socks and sandals) but one of my least favorite things is how white people like myself deal with race. I grew up here and my family never really talked about race – living in an overwhelmingly white community and having mostly white friends meant that race was never something I had to really think about too much. The northwest is considered a ‘progressive’ place and because of that, I never learned about all the insidious ways racism existed in the region.

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Understanding this weekend.

Over the weekend, I was glued to the screen to my phone, watching the events violently unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia and trying to understand both what’s happening in real time and the context for it all. It’s difficult for so many reasons to really keep up and understand what’s been going on but here’s a brief timeline of what happened on Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville.

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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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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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Genealogy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been digging into part of my family history – something that I’ve been meaning to do for years but never really had the time. I’ve always loved learning more about my own family and hearing the stories of others doing the same. The story of the House on Loon Lake is one of my favorite episodes from This American Life and I’m really excited to hear more from the podcast Family Ghosts.

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from the rest of my mother’s family and the trips back to visit were few and far between. Those trips, much to my own disappointment, slowly stopped over time as more family moved out west and grandparents died. It was always hard and really expensive traveling thousands of miles with two kids so I don’t fault my parents for not going back as much as I would have loved to.

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