Somebody get him outta here.

When will it be enough?

Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images; via  The Guardian


Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images; via The Guardian

So, Trumpie is surprised at what happened after attempting to take his insipid rhetoric and notoriously racist supporters to one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago? I've listed a few of his lovely quotes below, some were listed in Rachel Maddow's commentary and some that I'd saved for my writing. It's clear he's been building a violent, xenophobic rhetoric that angers people, which in turn further whips up his angry supporters. Taking that volatile mixture to Chicago--he knew exactly what he was doing. He incited that violence. It's shocking that it hadn't happened sooner. And yet, with all that he has said and done, people are still trying to say that the whole thing was staged by the "liberals" and "Democrats." 

"He's not a war hero--he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
"...knock the crap out of them. I promise I'll pay for the legal fees."
"I love the old days, you know what they would do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks."
"Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore."
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people."

Incitement. When is something going to be done about this man?

Unsolicited Opinion: A Thanksgiving PSA

My first video in months is fairly self-explanatory. Happy, happy holidays!


Stop Whining and Come Together

Instead of continuing the cycle of negativity, take some action that pumps love, peace, and groove into the community

It seems as though, increasingly, I’m greeted with an overflow of complaints when I sign onto Facebook. I know that I certainly do my share of complaining, but I’m not referring to complaints about children who won’t go to sleep or the stomach bug that’s made rounds through someone’s family three times. I’m talking about bigger societal complaints. The kind that border on (and sometimes cross into) outrage. The posts run the gamut from anger over the hiring of a school superintendent to hot, finger-pointing commentary on the racial issues we still deal with today.

People should certainly be able to air their grievances when they perceive something going wrong in place and culture in which they live, but if a person has made five status updates in a row listing newly discovered justifications for their (self)righteous indignation, what purpose are they serving? The person is only whipping themselves into further froth, and if there’s no solution or call for discussion and understanding proposed, such “commentary” only poisons the waters even further. 

Today I’d like to share an example of a freshening of the community waters—Columbia’s Hip-Hop Family Day, presented by Hip-Hop Live in partnership with the Indie Grits Film Festival.

At a time when today’s commentary and social media arguments seem laced with racial or racist undertones, there are times when certain aspects of creative culture are attacked or dismissed. Hip-hop has dealt with the smudge of social stigma from the time it began as an underground artistic expression of urban life in the 1970s. Over the past 40-some-odd years, the music and cultural aspects of this genre have evolved into the mainstream, where bolder, more audacious performers and negative imagery tend to attract more attention. Sherard Shekeese Duvall is leading the charge for a day of “Love, Peace, and Hip-Hop” for a third year, calling on families of every background to come together on April 18 from 11 A.M. - 5 P.M. at the 1700 block of Main Street in Columbia, SC. 

“Our goal is to ensure that hip-hop is represented properly and works as a medium that can unify our community for a day of peace, love and fun,” Duvall writes. In 2013 and 2014 that goal was accomplished and surpassed. Everyone I know who’s taken their brood to Hip-Hop Family Day has had glowing reviews, some even saying that they were surprised by the amount of family bonding that occurred as a result. Once again, this year’s party will feature interactive art exhibits, dancing, and live performances in a family-friendly atmosphere of fun and inclusion. Headliners include Nice & Smooth, Big Gipp of the Goodie Mob, and London-born Monie Love, who was the first British hip-hop artist to be signed to a major label.

Last year I’d planned to take the kids downtown and let them go wild at this celebration, but little B went down for an early nap (my attempt to get through the party without a toddler meltdown) that turned into a 5-hour sleep marathon. This year there’s no way we’re missing it (B quit napping this month!).

There’s a lot to complain about in the world, but without offering solutions and opportunities for conversation and fellowship, a persons vocal grievances can easily become something for those on the receiving end to dismiss or complain about. Be active instead. When you do so, you actually become an ambassador for a better community. One way you can start is by checking out Hip-Hop Family Day's Kickstarter page and making a donation of $25, $50, $100 or $250 to help make this day of fun and community fellowship a huge success. The organizers are half-way to their goal of raising $5,000 by midnight on April 1. I know Shekeese and the other organizers would certainly appreciate it, and because I want my community to be one that embraces all the good things that diversity brings, I would be pretty appreciative, as well.

A tough row to hoe...

Chelsea Clinton's curated blog posts for the ONE Campaign shed light on problems & progress

Last month was an overly dramatic crapshoot around here. As a result I’m sharing a couple of big moments well outside of real time, and I’m pretty okay with that because the message is just as important on March 31 as it was March 10. Hopefully I won’t have to type out a similar phrase on March 15, 2030.*

I recently came across an interesting Garrison Keillor quote while thumbing through a parenting book:

Girls…were allowed to play in the house… and boys were sent outdoors…Boys ran around in the yard with toy guns going kksshh-kksshh, fighting wars for made-up reasons and arguing about who was dead, while girls stayed inside and played with dolls, creating complex family groups and learning how to solve problems through negotiation and role-playing.
— Garrison Keillor

Considering the invisible status in which many of the world’s girls and women dwell, Keillor’s use of irony is particularly striking. Girls and boys are often trained—consciously and unconsciously—to fill certain roles that were prescribed by male-dominated governance reaching far back into the recesses of ancestral memory. Yet somehow it’s the girls—the ones who have been practicing the complexities of empathy, diplomacy and the perpetuation of social infrastructure—who are most often kept from putting those skills to use in a setting where a large impact is possible. 

As we celebrated International Women’s Month, the ONE Campaign was thrilled to welcome Chelsea Clinton as a guest and curator on its blog. In her guest post, Clinton shares a report that was put together through a partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, entitled No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project. The report is an analysis of 20 years’-worth of accumulated data from more than 190 countries, showing us where the status of women and girls has improved, and where more work needs to be done. 

There’s no doubt that women have more freedoms in 2015 than in any other time in written history, yet we still deal with the following problems around the world:

  • Around the world, only about 23% of parliamentarians are female, presenting a major problem when it comes to representing a population’s needs and demographics.

  • Globally, women aded 15 - 24 are more at risk of HIV infection than men of the same age.

  • In developing countries, 200 million fewer women have access to the internet (and therefore job listings, competitive pricing of staples and supplies, etc) than men.

  • Between 2005 and 2013, 1 in 4 girls was married before her 18th birthday, violating her basic human rights, robbing her of her childhood, and denying there control over her health, education and future.

  • Two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate citizens are women.

Throughout March, Clinton shared some staggering statistics, shined a light upon organizations and partnerships that are actively working to improve the lives of women, and revealed what parts of our own society need some work. Over the next few days I’ll post some snippets here on the blog and on my Twitter and Facebook pages. Keep an eye out, and I hope you’ll find creative ways to take action, whether they’re large and global or small and locally-focused. Stay tuned!

*The year 2030 is the goal set by the ONE Campaign, the United Nations, and other global leaders to end extreme poverty.

A Quick Note on #IWD2015

Poverty is Sexist. <-- everything is wrong with this sentence. Get ready to do something about it.

I have this backlog in my brain at the moment of all of the things I want to share with you all... from my thoughts on two of the overly-distinct boxes authors must choose between, to yesterday's congregation of political and/or activist luminaries in Selma, Ala. I'm planning on addressing all of these over the next week or two (because, let's face it; if you follow my blogging at all you know that book and essay writing, among other things, have significantly slowed my posting speed!). I don't want to let this beautiful Sunday get away from me without letting you all know about something that's kicking off today. Something BIG.

image via  wfto.com

image via wfto.com

Today - Sunday, March 8, 2015 - is International Women's Day, a global day of recognition shared by developed and developing countries alike. It's meant to honor the achievements of women across the world while also acknowledging how far we still have to go to achieve a universal recognition of women's rights at home and in the workplace. In many countries this has become an official holiday where men honor their mothers, wives, daughters, friends, etc. with flowers and small gifts. 

The fact is, however, that here in the United States and pretty much every country in the world, women and girls are the most impacted by poverty. Here are just a couple of nuggets from the mountain ranges of information proving this:

  • The United States is 1 of 9 countries worldwide that doesn't provide for paid maternity leave, leaving low-income mothers who don't have benefits to face some frightening and harmful choices.
  • Women in many countries complete equal or higher levels of education than their male counterparts, but are much less likely to work in executive management or decision-making roles.
  • More than 1 out of 7 women in America lived in poverty in 2013. That's nearly 18 million women struggling to feed and protect themselves and their families.

What's to be done?

The ONE Campaign, demanding excellence in swift action from world leaders, has been involved with the multinational and well-publicized quest to end extreme poverty by 2030. It only makes sense that a large part of this strategy would involve improving the lives of girls and women through some major activism. Today ONE released an open letter, signed by 35 high-profile women including Lady Gaga, Meryl Steep, Charlize Theron, Lauren Bush Lauren, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and many more. The letter is addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will lead the G7 Summit in Germany in June, and Chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma, who will lead the African Union Summit in July. This letter asks these two female world leaders to use their influence to create and solidify agreements among nations that will finance and create momentum around the empowerment of women and girls, lifting them out of extreme poverty by 2030.

The very idea of this fires me up. Women, as grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins and daughters, naturally set the tone for a family's success because in most cases they are the ones with the most access to the future, otherwise known as the children. 

If women are lifted up, everyone is lifted up.

image via one.org

image via one.org

The name of the campaign to rally for girls and women is "Poverty Is Sexist." These are words we don't have to be saying in 15 years. You don't have to be able to bring down the house at the Super Bowl or win Academy Award to get in on this action. ONE is running a petition to go along with the high-profile letter that will also be seen by world leaders. You don't want me to sing into a microphone for a crowd (trust me, but that doesn't mean I won't try!), but you can bet I signed that petition. You can (and should), too. All you have to do is click here to sign it and also read the letter that will be presented at the G7 and AU summits.

What are you still hanging around here for?

GO!

Sex And The Super Bowl

The connection between an American event and an international crime, and who should speak out about it

University of Phoenix Stadium. image via  TheBostonPilot.com

University of Phoenix Stadium. image via TheBostonPilot.com

Imagine the owner of a food truck—let’s say he sells specialized gourmet barbecue sandwiches and has a license to sell craft beer—who is looking for every opportunity to increase sales and grow his business. Because his business is portable, he strategically plans where he is going to park the truck each week according to where the community’s highest foot traffic occurs during lunch and dinner hours. When Christmas shopping season is on the horizon, the food truck owner makes plans to park the truck in lively shopping areas on Saturday afternoons. During the summer he sells his delicious sandwiches near the beach or community water park. He’s seizing opportunities according to time, placement, and concentration of hungry people looking for something good to eat. This is the practice of common business sense, a much-celebrated American value. Unfortunately, good business sense doesn’t only apply to legal, straightforward business industries. Many successful business people apply this good sense to increase their profits in horrific industries like human sex trafficking. This weekend, as we approach Super Bowl Sunday, the trafficking industry is probably experiencing a spike in profits that has become an annual occurrence.

The Super Bowl—one of the most American of sporting events—draws millions of football fans to watch the game each year. In 2014, 111.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the game.  University of Phoenix Stadium, the 2015 venue for the Super Bowl, has a capacity of 63,400. All of this excitement is expected to have a $500 million economic impact on the city of Phoenix, and most of the people who will be opening their wallets for lodging, food, entertainment and tickets are men—men who have been raised in an increasing culture of self-indulgence that has changed the views and values of all of who live in it. While I choose to believe that there are more good people in the world than bad, and that there are many shades of gray between the black of wrong and the good of white, some of these men will be willing to pay to add anonymous sex to their weekend of fun.

People like you and me—men and women with careers, cars and homes—have all met at least one of those guys in our lives. We went to the same high school with them, work in the same department, or they live down the block. Sometimes they’re actually friends of ours. But there comes a point when you’re having a beer with them and something tips you off that if the two of you ever ended up close to a shady situation, this guy might not react in a way that would make you comfortable. He might not turn around and walk away from it (and believe me, I know there are plenty of women who don’t stand on firm ground on that point, either). My point is that most people who will pay for sex are middle to upper middle class men whom we encounter regularly. This isn’t nearly the worst group on the human trafficking spectrum. I’ll bet most are largely ignorant of the depths of abuse and exploitation to which they’re contributing. They aren’t the pimps who see an opportunity to inflate the price for what would normally make them up to $1400 an hour for an RV full of seven girls between the ages of 14 and 18 at a truck stop. But these everyday guys are the customers. They are the ones providing the cash to keep these operations going. In the world of food trucks, they’re the equivalent of the hungry person looking for a quick and convenient spot to buy their lunch. The concentration of men in Phoenix this weekend means a lot of opportunities to sell a lot of things.

Human trafficking can also include forced labor for nannying, agriculture work, restaurant duties and more. But this is Super Bowl weekend. It’s all about the party. Most of those headed to Phoenix or planning viewing parties as I type this are looking to have a good time, and in past years we’ve seen the way big business plays to that sentiment. GoDaddy has a history as the company that used the most blatant “guy’s guy” tactics with advertisements featuring race car driver Danica Patrick that danced around the edge of tipping into the R- or X-rated. That’s just the television commercials. What about those at the Super Bowl? For about a decade it’s been about creating a bachelor party experience that exists in bawdy movies. In a story written for CNN.com, Motez Bishara says, “Each year, the likes of Rolling Stone, Maxim, and Playboy try and outdo each other to attract the most famous bands, models, and personalities to their parties, granting access at eye-watering prices.” For $850, a guy can party with Bunnies and drink in excess at an event billed as an “experience.” The promotion of this particular kind of testosterone-testing, alcohol-fueled party atmosphere is bound to have several people get out of hand. 

image via  thewrap.com

image via thewrap.com

Yes, there are plenty of women who work the Playboy and Maxim events who are employees of event companies and are paid over the table, with a paycheck that has taxes withheld and everything. There are a myriad of reasons why they’re working there. Some may need the money. Some may actually enjoy it. But these aren’t (usually) the unpaid, underage girls forced to work for pimps. The girls working a humiliating forced labor aren’t given a choice. They want a way out and don’t know how to look for one. The overwhelming majority of girls who are sex workers and prostitutes are human capital. There are some reports that claim that up to 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Some people are predicting that the numbers will be even higher this weekend. As you see, slavery is still big business in 2015.

Despite this, it’s the forced laborers who’ve been stigmatized in modern society. The victims are the ones who are arrested, rarely the pimps. We’ve been taught to believe that prostitutes are women of loose moral character, who do drugs and chose their lifestyle because they’re bad people in some way. In the movie Pretty Woman we saw prostitutes making wads of cash that could be used to pay rent on their apartments or to party. Despite the topic of human trafficking becoming more prevalent in the media lately, we’re still not careful enough with our language. Earlier this week a report by ABC NEWS opened with:

Thousands of young American women who slip into the seedy world of prostitution, advocates say, do so through no choice of their own. It begins with a pimp befriending them, giving them a place to stay, and then turning them out on the streets or in online ads to sell their bodies.
— ABC News via Nightline

While the report is aimed at exposing trafficking in America as a crime that claims a very high number of American victims, the language in the above paragraph still paints a picture of the women as salacious individuals—or at least as stupid individuals. Is this how we should address the victims of one of the largest crimes against humanity to affect the modern world?

Thankfully, as the subject of trafficking has come further out into the light in recent years, many state and local governments have developed programs that specifically address human trafficking. The Cook County Sherriff’s Office in Chicago pioneered a program called “National Day of Johns Arrests”, which targets the men who pay for sex and has partnered with 51 city law enforcement partners across the nation. Richland County, South Carolina recently announced the formation of a coalition of a strategic plan to address trafficking in a similar manner. Nineteen states currently have active programs treating traffickers as perpetrators and the trafficked as victims—but 19 out of 50 states… that’s a pathetic statistic.

What will finally catch the attention of those who can do something about human sex trafficking in America? Who can force your average guy and state governments to treat trafficking as the horrid industry that it is? Well, money talks. The organizations with the money and the clout are those that control professional sports. The National Football League knows that it has an image problem at the moment. If the NFL has a public relations team that’s as brilliant as we all know they are, the organization should use it to start a campaign against human trafficking. Require the players to wear armbands signifying an anti-trafficking stance. Splash it on the scoreboards. Send Tom Brady, Richard Sherman, Drew Brees, and LeSean McCoy to the press for television interviews denouncing sex trafficking.

Think about it. We’re supposed to be a nation of opportunity, where business and entrepreneurship are celebrated. That image has crossed into one of “profit-at any-cost.” Are we really going to continue to let excess, abuse of power, and moral blinders continue to define American culture? I hope not.

Thanks to you all...

They say Mercury will be in retrograde next week. I think they may have been a little off. Thought this had gone up the other day but just now I logged onto Squarespace to find it in draft status! One of many "whoopsies" this week.... 

Thank you all so much for your participation and conversation. Please be sure to take a look at International Justice Mission and the ONE Campaign!