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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Get Out.

Despite being an avid lover of ghost stories and haunted houses, I’m not much of a horror movie fan. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to this film genre – I saw the film Quarantine and barely slept for a few days and there were some episodes of the show Supernatural that freaked me out if I watched them too late at night. But when the film Get Out came out with wild praises, I was intrigued by and ultimately loved the film.

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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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Existing Online.

Last night, I was thinking about why I get anxious over visibility and hypervisibility in any sort of context (but especially online) because any sort of unusual uptick in blog views or retweets on Twitter or anything like that gives me a ridiculous amount of anxiety. This has happened to me for years and when I really started to deeply reflect on it, I realized that it’s in large part because I unconsciously associate visibility in any sort of context with harassment and bullying.

When my blog does start to get views, when anyone retweets one of my tweets, when people notice my existence online, I immediately think that the harassment and bullying is not too far behind because that’s what has happened to me time and time again. And the potential harassment also brings a massive amount of anxiety for me.

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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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#NoDAPL

In the midst of Thanksgiving and Black Friday this week, much of the US is deep into traditional meals, gatherings, and shopping but the camps and water protectors in North Dakota are still standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline. These protectors are frequently met with violence and intimidation from police and others. Just a couple days ago, those on the ground were sprayed with water cannons in the middle of the night and in North Dakota at this time of the year, that can be fatal. One medic shared his story about that night and many others countered the police’s narrative and shared that the protectors have been nothing but peaceful.

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