The Teresa Jusino Experience

Create Like An Activist

Tag: activism

Create Like An Activist: TJXP’s New Mission Statement

Soundtrack: “Chief Don’t Run” by Jidenna

I got a new agenda that I gotta carry through
When your father’s enemies try to bury you…

The results of our recent Presidential election was a gut punch, and I spent all of last week recovering. You can read the last thing I had to say about the election HERE. However, the stuff that’s of particular note reads as follows:

But while I do plan on holding Trump, Pence, and the rest of their administration accountable for any decisions of theirs that hurt my communities and continuing to fight for the needs of my communities, I’m also not going to make them the focus of activism and work.

Instead:

1) I will up my political activism game. Now is the time for me to keep tabs on my local politicians to make sure they’re doing what we need them to be doing, regularly reaching out to their offices not only when there’s something I wanna yell at them about, but also to write in praise of awesome things they’ve supported that are important to me.

I will keep up with these people, as well as midterm candidates, throughout the year so that, when elections roll around, I’ll be informed about what’s going on and who’s actually standing up for me in office.

2) Since certain issues may receive less attention from a Trump/Pence administration, I will put my time, energy, and resources into organizations that advocate for, provide awareness of, and provide services to the populations and issues that are important to me. In this case, my focus will likely be on (in no particular order):

    • Gender Equality
    • LGBTQIA Equality
    • the fight against racism and bigotry
    • Campaign Finance/Election Reform
    • L.A’s homeless population
    • the protection of Civil Liberties.

3) I will create like an activist. Now, more than ever, I am confident in the importance of stories. Not just any stories, but the stories I need and want to tell. Because a big contributor to people being so willing to throw people like me under the bus is the fact that they have no personal connection to people like me. I get that.

But I also understand that media plays that important role in people’s lives. I have a friend from the Upper Penninsula in Michigan who told me once that the first Latinx she ever “met” were Maria and Luis on Sesame Street. And she thought they were so cool. And having grown up in a majority-white, sparsely populated area of Michigan, she’s gone on to have traveled all over the world, move to New York, and be one of the most kind and welcoming people you could ever meet. Because the shows she watched, the books she read, and the films she saw gave her a glimpse of a wider world she’d never encountered in real life, and made her want more. That might never have happened had Sesame Street only been about a bunch of white people hanging out with some Muppets. 🙂

May the diverse characters I create, the diverse communities I depict, and the stories I tell be that glimpse of a wider world for someone else and inspire that person to action.

And may my work as a producer of those stories allow me to employ from marginalized communities and contribute directly to those communities from production through the release of the project, and beyond.

angela-davis

And so here I am, back to my blog after months of being away, because one of the few silver linings of this election for me is that it has lit a fire under my ass, and I’ve decided to use whatever platforms I have at my disposal to try and protect the progress already made with regard to the populations and causes I care about, as well as continue to fight for further progress.

To that end, the new tagline around here, and my new mantra is “Create Like An Activist.”

The weapons with which I am the most skilled are: my writing (fiction and non), the ability to translate ideas in a way that allows people to understand opposing views (or think about things in a new way), and my history of being a connector between people.

Media and pop culture are where I live, and where I hope to make my living for the rest of my life. It’s my area of the world, and fluffy and superficial as it may seem to some, it’s an area in which I can affect the way people think, feel, and take action. It’s an area in which I can inspire people and help them maintain the strength to keep going, and it’s a place where, eventually, I will have the power to provide opportunities for the most marginalized among us.

But I don’t believe I have to wait until I get to that place of power to start making changes with what I do. I can do it right now, through the characters I create, or the artists/projects I choose to cover in my pop culture writing. I can do it by speaking up when I see injustice being done in my industry (or elsewhere in my life). I can do it by being brave enough to turn down opportunities, or refuse to work for certain people – lucrative though an opportunity might be – if they don’t align with my ethics. I can do it by using my art as a way to help others (ie: screenings as fundraisers, donating leftover craft services to homeless organizations, organizing casts and crews for volunteer opportunities, etc).

And so I plan on using this blog as a hub for all of that work. There’ll continue to be fun stuff around here, too (and what’s more fun than helping others!), and I will continue to write about my journey through this bonkers life and career of mine, but there will definitely be a shift in focus and intention.

I will write about both the creative and the more activist work I’m doing, and I will also provide resources and ideas for work you can be doing. Especially if you’re interested in the same areas I mention above. None of us can do everything, but if we all do what we can in the areas we care about the most, we can change the world. And if you’re interested in causes like solving climate change, ending factory farming, or any other issues I haven’t mentioned, I hope that you can take any ideas that I bring up here, and apply them to whatever’s most important to you.

Sadly, I’m not confident that the government that’s currently been elected into office will operate in the best interests of all its citizens. So, in addition to resisting anything they do or pass that will negatively affect already marginalized and oppressed communities, I will be setting more of an intention both with and outside of the creative work I do to take on some of that work myself, helping others do the same.

It’s our country. It’s up to all of us to take care of it, and each other. I love you all. Yes, even you. 😉

ALS #IceBucketChallenge

The pot of ice I dumped on myself last night.

The pot of ice I dumped on myself last night.

So, I was finally tagged in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yesterday (by both my sister, Janette, AND my friend Katie L. in NY) after I wrote this piece on yucking charitable yums! I’m getting this video up under the wire, as I was told that I was tagged on my walk to work between 11 and noon yesterday. But I recorded the video yesterday at 8PM after work, so technically I DID the challenge WELL within 24-hours. 🙂

Sorry about the crappy quality. I did it after work, so it was dark out in front of my apartment by the time I got home, and streetlights don’t light as well as you’d hope. Also, I asked The Boy “Can you see me?” in the video, and The Boy said yes. I probably should’ve been more specific and asked about lighting – but I wasn’t about to stand out in the chilly night air in a tank top figuring it out. I did it, and it’s done. 🙂

And now, I nominate: Heather Harris, Mairghread Scott, and Lindsay Sawyer! **Remember: You have 24-hrs to complete the challenge from the time I tag you! And you’ll donate either $25 to the ALS Association if you DO make the video, but $100 if you don’t. Do you accept the challenge?** (I totally forgot to mention tagging them in the actual video. Mostly because I was cold!)

And I’ll be making my $25 donation to the ALS Association (sorry I called it the ALS Foundation in the video – though technically you can donate to “any ALS charity of your choice”) tomorrow!

Also, I’m likely going to also be donating to a charity called Bottles and Bookbags in South Carolina, mostly because this woman did an Ice Bucket Challenge on their behalf, and I saw her video and DIED LAUGHING. 🙂 Humor really is the best way to get people to do things! So, if helping young mothers is something that matters to you, you might want to throw this org a couple of bucks too, if you can.

Anyway, that’s it from me on the Ice Bucket Challenge front! Enjoy! And remember to send your support over to the ALS Association! You can totally just donate! Ice not necessary! 🙂

Don't "Yuck" Someone's Charitable "Yum"

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single creative idea in possession of some mainstream traction immediately becomes a bullseye for detractors. 

So, I’m sure you all have been seeing the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” videos flying around your social media feeds to raise awareness and funds to help combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, leading to lack of muscle control and paralysis. Basically, the challenge goes like this: You are challenged to either make a video of yourself having ice water dumped on you and donating $25 to the ALS charity of your choice, or you don’t accept the challenge of making the video, and you donate $100. You then nominate three other people to take on the challenge, and they have the same choice to make – and on and on.

As is inevitable with any information that travels virally, bits got lost in translation. Some forgot to mention the disease they were doing this for in their videos. Others forgot to mention the fact that they were donating, in addition to mentioning that those who don’t do the video have to donate more. It happens. But on the whole, it was a great way to get ALS in the national conversation in a way it hasn’t been, possibly since Lou Gehrig.

From a press release at the ALS Foundation website (emphasis mine):

Between July 29 and today, August 12, The ALS Association and its 38 chapters have received an astonishing $4 million in donations compared to $1.12 million during the same time period last year. The ALS Association is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from those people who have been doused, made a donation, or both. Contributions further The Association’s mission to find a cure for ALS while funding the highest quality of care for people living with the disease.

We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”

With only about half of the general public knowledgeable about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the Ice Bucket Challenge is making a profound difference. Since July 29, The Association has welcomed more than 70,000 new donors to the cause.

So the organization that stands to benefit the most from this viral giving-fest is thrilled at both the amount of donations they’ve received (four times what they received at the same time last year), and are seeing that people are now getting engaged in the fight against ALS. What could be wrong with that? 

A lot, according to internet critics.

Matt Lauer participates in the Ice Bucket Challenge on the Today Show.

This article, #IceBucketChallenge: Why You’re Not Really Helping by Ben Kosinski at the Huffington Post, has gotten almost as much viral traction as the challenge itself. I read it, and it pissed me off. Particularly this bit: 

And although the ALS Assocation has seen as much as four times as many donations during this time period than last year, just imagine with me for one second: What if the thousands of people who spent money on buying one or two2 bags of ice actually gave that money to ALS? It would be out of control.

I love how that statement has to start by totally discounting the increase in donations to the ALS Foundation. So…the challenge is a bad idea, because we should be imagining what people who wouldn’t have even thought about ALS without hearing about the Ice Bucket Challenge would’ve donated instead of buying bags of ice for the challenge they wouldn’t have heard of if this challenge didn’t exist?

THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE ANY SENSE! 

Look, the only reason why we’re even HAVING this conversation; the only reason why people even have a hook for cynical articles about how challenges like this don’t work is because of challenges like this WORKING. (Wanna get cynical? How about writers writing articles railing against something popular just for the web hits?) The fact is, the ALS Foundation has gotten a buttload of money, and has gotten people talking about a disease that hasn’t been talked about in any kind of a mainstream, high-profile way in FOREVER. Because let’s be honest – how many of us have given a second thought to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the last, I don’t know, EVER?

Also, ice is super-cheap. If you’re only giving the amount of the ice you would’ve bought, I hope you’re mailing them cash, because otherwise it’s not worth the credit card processing fee. And lots of people have ice machines in their refrigerators, or – I don’t know – got ice out of their multiple ice trays. You don’t have to spend money AT ALL to do this challenge.

Also-also, I don’t know what kind of high-maintenance, perfectionist friends this writer has, but no one I know did multiple takes of their video or bought more than 2 bags of ice, tops. This isn’t a major motion picture.

The Ice Bucket Challenge on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Here are some other common complaints, and my retorts:

1) Why don’t you just give to charity without throwing the spotlight on yourself? 

Of course people are free to do that, but it is not inherently wrong to do so publicly. The idea that everyone needs to give to charity modestly or it doesn’t count is absolutely ludicrous. Charities and non-profits COUNT on people talking about their donations in order to get others to donate. If you’re not telling people that you’re donating to a cause you care about, I would argue that YOU’RE NOT DOING HALF YOUR JOB. If you really care about a cause, wouldn’t you want to shout it from the rooftops to get other people to do it, too?

It’s all very well and good to say “Why don’t you just give to charity without the spotlight on you?” But the fact is, people don’t, and I ‘m not being critical when I say this. There are SO many charities for SO many different causes. Who do you give to? How often? Which cause do you support? There’s so much going on in the world, so many things wrong, that people often get stuck in a holding pattern of helplessness and don’t do anything. What this challenge did is get lots of people OUT of that holding pattern and donating to the ALS Foundation, regardless of the amount. “Giving to charity” can mean lots of things – and non-profits have to fight for people’s attention somehow, especially when we’re not in the Holiday Season when people are more likely to think about charitable giving. I think this viral campaign is genius. This campaign did its job – raising awareness and funds – I think nit-picking people’s intentions is unnecessarily cynical, and  trying to talk about hypothetical funds that could’ve been raised had this challenge not existed is just silly.

2) Don’t you know there’s a drought (in CA)? Don’t you know that there are people around the world who don’t have water – and you’re just gonna waste it?!

Don’t ever wash your car again. Each person doing this challenge is only doing it once. You, however, will use a crapton of water washing your car over the course of its life. Also, how do you know what this person is doing with their water otherwise? They might do this challenge, but also not leave the water running while brushing their teeth. They might “let it mellow.” They might soap all the dishes in their sink first before turning the water on to rinse them. You have no idea how they use water, so you’re in no position to talk to people about wasting it.

Also, yes, CA is going through a serious drought right now. But this challenge is a national one.

3) This is just an example of Slacktivism!

I HATE THAT WORD. Oh, my God. I hate that word with the fury of a thousand suns. The idea that spreading information about an important cause is useless infuriates me, probably because I’m a writer who makes a living spreading valuable information, and I know several writers who do amazing jobs educating people about important causes, and in doing so are activists. If you’re criticizing “armchair activism,” you’re basically pissing on my whole career, so thanks for that.

But seriously, what did you think was happening before social media? Do you think your average person was more active? NO! Not only were they not any more active or charitable than they are now, but they often just didn’t know about a lot of causes if they weren’t being promoted through mainstream media. At least now, in the time it takes them to retweet, or share, or whatever, they are thinking about whatever the cause is. The fact that they’re bothering to share the information at ALL already indicates that it’s something important to them. Once they’ve done that, what usually follows is some sort of conversation about their post through either people “liking” their post, or asking them questions about it, or agreeing with them. Very often, these small acts lead to bigger involvement for that cause later, AND it helps in the education of more people on a cause’s behalf.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article in the Washington Post about a study out of the University of British Colombia about how “slacktivism” actually works.

My point is this, there’s some people out there trying to do good stuff. Don’t you have anything better to complain about in the world than the fact that they might not be doing good stuff right? And I get it – sometimes people thinking they’re doing good can be problematic, like young, white people engaging in voluntourism.

But criticizing people for not doing enough just because the way they choose to engage is disseminating information? (revolutionaries have a long history of handing out flyers. They can now pass out flyers across continents!) Criticizing people for not going the lengths to which you would go (hypothetically)? Criticizing people for getting too much attention for helping?

Why not channel that angry, cynical energy toward a cause YOU care about? Stop yucking other people’s yums! 🙂 

ChinaShop: Unique L.A. [REPRINT]

Geek Girl Traveler will no longer be a running feature over at ChinaShop Magazine. Awwww. BUT, that just means more time for this here blog! So, yay? 🙂 (and there’ll be a bit of a change in focus here at the blog. Stay tuned!) Anywho, check out my fabulous final travel feature over at ChinaShop – a piece on Unique L.A, a great marketplace at which you can check out the best local artisans L.A. (and the Pacific Northwest) has to offer!

EXCERPT:

These days, more and more people are looking to live more ethically and sustainably. From buying locally to figuring out how to DIYDS (Do It Your Damn Self – I invented an acronym, OK?), people are seeking alternatives to what can be purchased in stores. While this past weekend brought us Unique L.A’s 4th Annual Spring Show, it feels particularly necessary this year.

Unique L.A. is a marketplace where over 325 specially-curated vendors gather to bring you the best in locally-made goods. Everything from up-cycled clothing, to ethically made jewelry, to housewares, food, and bath products made from natural ingredients can be found at the two-day event. Unique L.A. is actually one of many shows run by Unique, which also has similar events in San Francisco and New York.

The next Unique L.A. event will take place July 14th and 15th in Santa Monica. Mayhaps I’ll see you there! 🙂 And don’t forget – there are also Unique shows in New York City and San Francisco! So, NYC and SF residents, get out there and support your local artisans, too!

The Fray Project: Volunteering How-To (Activism)

Me at the National Equality March in 2009, Washington D.C. I was marching with the contingent from SWISH. (swishpride.org)

To check out my April 2012 Activism goals, CLICK HERE.

Non-profits and charities need money, there’s no question. They need to pay for their rent, utilities, supplies, and small permanent staffs somehow, and since they’re in it for others and not for themselves, they are not money-making ventures by design. This means they need to seek funds from the general public, or major philanthropists, to make ends meet and get their important work done. So, if you’ve got money to spare, and have a cause you’re passionate about, by all means, cut them a check. Nine times out of ten, you can deduct that donation on your taxes, and you will have given the organization of your choice a very important resource.

However, many of us (especially in this economy) don’t have a lot of money to give to all of the causes that matter to us. What we do have, what we can always find, no matter how busy we are, is time, and extra, volunteer hands on deck are as important as extra funds to an organization. Too often, non-profits and charities can’t afford to hire huge staffs to do everything that needs doing. The donations they receive are just enough to keep the lights on, but not enough to hire employees, or to pay people for their time for special events. So, one of the most important things you can do if you care about something, is to figure out if and how you can donate some of your time.

Part-Time Volunteering

If you don’t have a lot of time, most organizations have a mailing list. Sign up, and be alerted to specific opportunities when they might need you. For example, the photo up above is from the National Equality March in D.C. I marched with an organization called SWISH, a gay-straight alliance that works toward achieving equality for LGBT people. When I was living in New York, I was working a day job, and didn’t have very many free hours to do extensive volunteering, but when I got the call for volunteers to march one weekend in DC, I signed up! Sometimes, especially if the cause you’re interested in is political in nature, numbers are all-important, and having extra bodies present at an event or rally goes a long way toward getting the organization press and showing whoever’s watching just how many people support whatever cause it is. The Westboro Baptist Church was also at that rally, and they had about 50 people there. There were over a million people there in favor of equality. Just goes to show how important volunteers can be! I guess not many people want to volunteer for the WBC. I wonder why? 🙂

Organizations like GivLA exist for the sole purpose of matching kind-hearted people up with one-time volunteering opportunities, helping organizations meet their volunteer needs while encouraging caring citizens to help out, and helping them be social at the same time!

Me and Mariah the day we met!

Full-time, Committed Volunteering

If you really want to roll up your sleeves and help, there are plenty of organizations who could use you on a more long-term basis. For example, back in NYC, I was a mentor through iMentor, and was paired up with a high school junior in the Bronx named Mariah. I mentored her for two years – being generally encouraging, answering her questions, helping her with homework, setting a good example – meeting with her once or twice a month, corresponding weekly via email, and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Mariah and I are now Facebook friends as she navigates the choppy waters of college. 🙂

Here in L.A, since helping girls excel and making sure children have decent writing training under their belts are equally important to me, I’m applying to be a mentor with WriteGirl, an organization that pairs professional writers with high school girls who are aspiring writers to help them find their voices and give them professional guidance. WriteGirl has a sister organization in NYC, which is how I found out about them in the first place, called Girls Write Now.

Stuff like mentoring requires a firm time commitment. However, it’s usually something pretty much anyone can work around, with commitments being weekly, or once a month, or on weekends.

My boss, Bob Harris, in Kigali, following his Kiva loan money into the field for a book he's writing on microfinance for Bloomsbury. I can't traipse around the world, but I CAN speak Spanish!

Volunteering From Home

Don’t wanna leave the comfort of your own home? Look into opportunities to volunteer remotely! For example, Kiva is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve loaned money through them, but I can’t personally make a million loans. However, something else I can contribute is my knowledge of Spanish! I’m signing up to be a volunteer translator, so that when they receive blurbs from clients in Spanish-speaking countries for their website, I can translate them for English speakers. (PS – I’ve been putting off taking my qualifying test for this because it takes an hour. However, I’m scheduling an hour for tomorrow so that I can just do it already!) Once accepted, I will be able to access the blurbs that need translating from home and work at my own pace. They have a six month commitment period, but over the course of that six month period, you can “work” whenever you want. So flexible! And it’s something they need, as their entire operation is based on their website. If blurbs aren’t translated, people don’t give to clients.

So, there’s no such thing as “not having the time!” and “not having the money” matters less than you think. If you care about something, there’s always a way to get involved. Start by making a list of the Top Five things that are most important to you. Look up organizations in your area that cater to those causes. Contact them and ask them about opportunities to volunteer that fit your schedule and lifestyle. Chances are, they will more than appreciate the outreach, and will be able to find something for you to do.

Or, if the task of doing this research seems too daunting to you, leave your Top 5 in the comments below, as well as the city you’re in, and I’ll do the research for you! Let me know what you care about, and I’ll help you show how much you care in a way that won’t break your bank or drive you crazy in a special Activism video here at the blog! Looking forward to creating a volunteering army! 🙂

Why I Support the KONY 2012 Video (And Why I Think Some Are Missing The Point)

First it was nothing I’d ever heard of. Suddenly it was everywhere. Not Kony. I’d heard of him before all this. Actually, my first real lesson in Joseph Kony and the crimes for which he’s responsible was in the Vertigo comic Unknown Soldier. (Who says comics can’t teach us anything?) And a woman for whom I used to pet-sit, Leora Khan, has done lots of work on behalf of child soldiers through her organization PROOF Media for Social Justice, so I absorbed a lot from her, too.

But yesterday, I saw several people posting the following video on Tumblr, and I think you should watch it. It’s a little over 20 minutes long:

I was inspired, not just because I saw someone actively attempting to stop something on a continent that, quite honestly, few governments actually give a fuck about, but because it captured everything I think is wonderful about the technologically advanced and increasingly interconnected world in which we live. And so I passed the link around.

Today, I’ve seen several people talking about how we shouldn’t be supporting this campaign, because the organization behind it, Invisible Children, is “shady” with regard to the way it uses its money. Some have even gone so far as to say that the LRA, while a big problem (and they always qualify it, because they don’t want to seem heartless), isn’t that big of a deal now anyway, and the U.S. is already doing something about it, and Kony might be dead anyway, so why are we all gonna get invested in this campaign? Wil Wheaton reblogged a post from The Daily What’s tumblr. A friend of mine posted the following comment after I posted the video on Facebook:

Although Kony is still out there, the LRA has not been active in Uganda since 2006. And several reports have been made that he’s ill and not very active himself, possibly dead. We should find out for sure, of course, but Invisible Children has been criticized by several for leaving out facts and the group has come under investigation several times for questionable money practices and for sometimes refusing to share charity financial records. Definitely think Kony should be found and happy to spread the word, but not sure I want to support this particular video.

To which I responded:

1) the LRA “not being active in Uganda since 2006” is just flat-out not true. There was the Mokombo massacre in Dec 2009, and attacks continued through Feb 2010. Obama sent in 100 advisers at the end of this past year. No matter what the public said, Washington wouldn’t send anyone to Africa if it were considered a total waste of time.

2) Kony 2012 isn’t about charity. You don’t have to give them money at all. Purchasing the action kit and all that is optional, but the goal is to GET INVOLVED. With at least time and effort, if not money. So if possible charity shadiness is what you’re worried about, you don’t have to be. It’s just as easy to download and print posters yourself as it is to order them through their website. And the video just inspires people to action. However, just about EVERY non-profit has been, at some point, investigated because of how they use their money. Doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong. Or that, if mistakes were made, they weren’t fixed. Also, Invisible Children has all their financials on their Tri website going back to 2006 if anyone wants to look into it.

3) I’d be curious to know what reports have talked about him being ill or dead? Just did a Google search and didn’t turn up anything like that. The only references to him being “sick” all coincide with peace talks he was supposed to attend.

4) Another big reason why I’m behind this particular campaign so much is because it provides an amazing model for activism. I love that the internet really has changed the world in so many ways. From the Occupy Movement to stuff like this, people can actually get together and change things. And Kony 2012 is a very specific, focused goal. If progress is made on this front within this year (progress being that gov’t realizes that their citizens actually do care about this and don’t want the advisers pulled out), then this can be a template for change on other fronts.

I am absolutely shocked and disheartened by the “backlash” this video is getting, because it points to this generation’s seeming need to remain apathetic at all times. If people care about something too much, or if something is too popular, something is clearly awry. It’s our job to be skeptical, and if our choices are between “not having our money used properly” and “doing nothing,” people will choose Doing Nothing every time. Because, hey – at least we’ll still have our money, right? And those problems in the world? Well, it’s not like we were gonna solve them all anyway.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Occupy Movement was that the goals weren’t specific enough. What do these occupiers want? With KONY 2012, the criticism – in addition to the overly-inflated money concerns – is that this goal is too specific. Sure we’d be getting rid of Kony, but that won’t solve the real problems. God, it’s like people will use any excuse to not care! Your goal isn’t specific enough. Your goal is too specific. It’s like being stuck between a stubborn rock and an irrational hard place you wanna punch in the neck!

It’s funny, usually people are idealistic in their youth, and hardened and cynical in their “old age.” For me, the opposite has happened, and I find apathy and cynicism infuriating.

The thing is, KONY 2012 detractors have made this all about money, when the fact is, THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO THIS VIDEO THAN THAT. You don’t have to spend A DIME. On ANYTHING. The video isn’t a call to finances, it’s a call to ACTION, and that’s what detractors are missing. Giving a small amount of money is only one thing this video is asking you to do, and honestly, it’s the least important.

So often we’re totally happy to merely throw money at problems. Look how charitable I’m being! I gave all this money! But we don’t actually care where the money goes. We don’t follow up on it. If we did, we wouldn’t need people to tell us when organizations are being shady, because WE’D ALREADY KNOW. And when it comes to things like calling congresspeople or senators? When it comes to organizing people in our communities? When it comes to making phone calls, or registering voters, or merely SPEAKING UP to our friends about a cause we care about? We don’t do it.

Because it’s too much fucking work.

That’s something that’s been annoying me for a long time. Because I’m someone who wants to DO things about things! I don’t want to just write a check and call it a day. I want to be INVOLVED. And whenever I’ve tried to be involved and get others to be as excited, I feel like a cheerleader without a team. And it’s difficult to be a cheerleader with no one else holding you up in the pyramid!

Watch the video and share it. It costs you absolutely nothing. I think the video might inspire you to a) learn more about the plight of child soldiers, b) call your elected officials, c) take this issue into account when voting this year, d) take part in more grassroots organizing around this, or any other issue you’re passionate about.

And as for Kony, I think that ascertaining his whereabouts is a worthwhile goal for all of us this year. It is one thing we can focus on and help to accomplish. Even if Invisible Children is inflating their involvement in our government’s decision to send advisers to Uganda, or misusing funds, or any of the other charges thrown in their direction…what the video says about us living in an age when we can accomplish so much more because we are interconnected, and have a duty to care about the world beyond our borders? That is not wrong. That is the idea this video ultimately spreads.

That, not money, is what KONY 2012 is about.

Is Anti-Piracy Legislation Worth Your First Amendment Rights?

Answer: No.

This site has gone black in solidarity with other sites, including Wikipedia, in protest of SOPA. You know, the way Facebook and Twitter were too afraid to do. It will be “black” from midnight Pacific Time on January 18th to midnight Pacific Time on January 19th, as will my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I urge you to spend the time you would’ve spent online today looking into ways to protect it.

To find out more about SOPA, click HERE.

To contact your local representatives and tell them you don’t support SOPA, click HERE.

My livelihood depends on a free internet. STOP SOPA.

Occupy L.A. Day 2: Teresa’s First Revolutionary Sleepover

 

My first time in a tent. Also, my first time sleeping on the street.

I’ve never been camping before. Crazy, then, that the first time I’m camping out, I’m doing it on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. The things I do for a cause I believe in.

I participated in Day 2/Day 3 of Occupy L.A. spending the night on the sidewalk in front of City Hall on Sunday night. Got there just in time to catch the middle of the daily General Assembly meeting where everyone discusses the issues that matter to them and decide how the group is going to move forward. It was my first experience with Collective Thinking and People’s Assemblies, and it was really interesting. There are different committees that have formed based on things that need to be taken care of – Logistics, Action, Media, Print, etc – and each committee chooses representatives to report to the collective and takes turns making announcements. There’s an Open Mic for anyone who wants to to make proposals to the group. And everything is voted on by the entire group. Time consuming? Sure. Fraught with tension? No doubt – but so’s any decision-making process that involves, you know, human beings with different personalities. However, I was impressed by how well it actually works. Kinks are still being worked out – it was only Day 2 when I arrived, after all – but this is a decision making process that can and is working. Proceedings are run, and votes are taken, using hand signals: Agree/Support (jazz hands in the air!), Disagree (hand waved in front of your face), Hard Block (not only disagree, but this is funamentally antithetical to solidarity and the good of the occupation), You’re Repeating Yourself (move your index fingers in circles around each other), and We’ve Gotta Move On (waving arms in the air). It’s highly visual, and whenever there are Hard Blocks, the issue is tabled for another time. This way, no decision is made that any member of the group is totally against. Minor disagreements are worked through. More people are heard, and everything is done in the open, so there’s transparency. People have been skeptical about the lack of leadership in the occupation, but when everyone’s head is in the same place, there’s no need for one leader.

Los Angeles City Hall at night.

My first glimpse of the crowd on the City Hall lawn.

General Assembly

I'm not a fan of people wearing masks. We have nothing to hide, and masks make us look like criminals. But I'm down with the sentiment of the sign.

This girl was crying, caught up in the spirit of the moment. She was a great speaker who reminded the group that in-fighting is exactly the thing that will tear a movement like this apart. She successfully diffused a tense moment. Love her.

There are people that have taken the lead on certain things, as is natural when certain people are better at certain things. Someone has to start the actions off, right? But it’s all done in the spirit of “We’re not leading, we’re doing what needs doing without waiting for someone else to start.” And there is a difference. I’ll admit, when I first signed up for the Media Team, I got annoyed at first, because every time I offered my help, and things seemed to already “be covered”, it felt like I was being slighted or left out. What it took me a minute to realize was that everyone was just doing things they needed to do, and doing the stuff they knew they could do, without needing direction. There is such a sense of trust. Once I realized I could do that – once I realized all I had was freedom to help in any way I liked – I just started moving tables and chairs, being a liason between the mainstream press that came to cover us and the rest of the media team, cleaning up, whatever needed doing. As people saw me doing stuff, they asked me to do other stuff. Everyone trusts everyone to know what they’re doing – all you have to do is show that you trust yourself to know what you’re doing. It’s the kind of work environment that everyone wishes they had, but most people don’t.

Banner/Print Central.

Food Not Bombs is an organization that provides free, vegan meals for people in cities all over the country! Check them out at http://www.foodnotbombs.net

Food area at Occupy L.A. Garbage area even includes a composting can. Of course. 🙂

Random people just drove up and donated cases of water!

Wanna send a donation of food, camping stuff, clothes to layer? There IS an Occupy L.A. address! See the bottom of this flyer.

And, of course, all of this is happening in the shadow of myriad financial institutions, including Wells Fargo.

Once the General Assembly was over, the tensions of taking care of biddness gave way to a more celebratory atmosphere. A Latin-influenced drum circle formed in the middle of the park, and a whole bunch of people started dancing. Across the way, another group of Mexican musicians, with guitars, mostly, were playing different – but equally celebratory – music. There was socializing and commiserating.

Drums and dancing!

Guitars and dancing!

Saw this on a tree. People had been adding things to it all night.

This was my favorite, and the most in line with why I'm participating in Occupy L.A. at all.

Then, at 10:00PM, we had to start moving off the lawn and onto the sidewalk. Legally, we can be in City Hall park until 10:30PM. Then we have until 6AM to be on the sidewalk, when it is illegal for us to be there. So, nightly, there’s this dance from the lawn to the sidewalk and back again. Yeah, it’s a pain – but the occupation isn’t about breaking the law for the sake of breaking the law. All of the occupations all over the country are about non-violence, and excersising our LEGAL right to protest. The arrests in NYC are questionable, the macings unacceptable. Most of those arrested were arrested for no real reason, and most people participating in these occupations are doing so peacefully and legally. In fact, over at Occupy L.A. we conceded the front lawn on Day 3 and moved camp to the opposite side of the park, because a film shoot had a legal permit for the front that day long before Occupy L.A. was even a thing. There were one or two people who advocated staying on the front lawn anyway, but they were quickly outvoted. There is a time and a place for civil disobedience. This wasn’t it. To call every time you break a law “civil disobedience” is to remove power from the act.

Evening location of the Media Tent.

Campers near me busted out guitars and started singing songs. Which was nice - to a point. Note: if you actually want to get SLEEP as you're occupying, invest in ear plugs. Because people will be up all. Night. Long.

I was camping out with my friend, Mike, and he laughed and took pictures as I attempted to start putting together his tent. I’d never put up a tent before. Clearly, I’m not much of an outdoor girl, but I’m learning! 🙂 Concrete isn’t the most comfy sleeping surface ever, but I was so exhausted it didn’t even matter. Once we set up camp, I started talking to the folks around our tent. I spoke to a female high school student named Kim, who was occupying with her friends. She goes to a charter school where she does independent study and is only required to report to school an hour a day, and she chose to spend the rest of her free time occupying! Anyone who says that teenagers are apathetic needs to check this girl out! 🙂 Her parents fully support her decision (respecting her ideals – huh, must be how they raised such a smart, free-thinking daughter!), and she was sitting on the concrete next to my tent doing her homework! I spoke to a young man named Colin, who’d spent some time in the Army, but is now headed to UConn to study journalism next year. We talked baseball and the military, and about the fact that not everyone in the military is a mindless drone. I spoke to a couple, Adam and Heidi, who brought up the interesting point that this is the first time since Teddy Roosevelt and the progressive movement then that a revolution has used economic language. Really cool folks. Some might think that sleeping out on a sidewalk would be scary, but I felt nothing but safe.

"I'm gonna put together a tent!"

"OK, so there are these sticks....and, um...this tent thing....and, um...."

Also, I need to shout-out the LAPD. They were there to protect us. They were on our side. There was a minimal presence, and those that were there were there to keep us safe. There was this one crazy-looking homeless dude who wasn’t part of our group, and the cops gently escorted him away to keep him from taking (or peeing on) our stuff. Some of us talked to the officers and they totally believe in everything we stand for.

I never thought I’d say this, but apparently the NYPD could learn a thing or two from the LAPD. I’m sure there are wonderful cops who get it in NYC, too. But the bad ones are getting all the press.

Not everyone had a tent. Some were perfectly happy to sleep out in the open.

Thank goodness for the weather out here! But don't worry, Occupy Wall Street! We're getting together donations of warm clothes, blankets, etc to send your way!

5AM violin wake-up call.

The next morning, mainstream press finally decided to show up. KTLA – Channel 5 was the first on the scene, and they started doing live breaks from our site as early as 6:30AM. Other news outlets followed. I got to talking to Jennifer, the reporter from KTLA, and her camera woman (whose name I sadly forget – she was really cool), as well as Peter, the reporter from KNX1070 Talk Radio (a really smart older man who wanted nothing more than to school the young whippersnappers about what revolution really is!). I also talked to a reporter from Fox local news, a guy named Ramon, who was really sweet. They all seemed to be in our corner, and wanted to give us coverage. What’s interesting – and I’m going to write a separate piece about media – was that they, too, seemed like victims of their coprprate bosses. They’re not the enemy. They, too, are the 99%.

KTLA was first on the scene!

Mainstream Media and Occupation Media: Can they work together?

ABC 7 joined later!

 

Then KNX1070 Talk Radio showed up! I think Univision was there, too, but I didn't see where they parked their truck. Just saw the reporter and the camera guy.

 

Mike and I ended up giving short interviews to KTLA before we had to leave. He had work that morning, and I had no way of getting back home as he was my ride. Plus, I wasn’t really prepared to camp out that night. It was all very impromptu. But I will be back! I’m also hoping to check out Occupy Seattle when I’m there next week. Once I realized that so few of my friends know that this is going on because much of mainstream media isn’t covering it, I realized that one of the best ways I could help the cause was to use my skills to write about what’s going on. I will continue to do just that. Until next time, everyone! Become aware, educate yourself, and join the occupation any way you can! It isn’t just you – it’s the whole world.

Members of the Media Team being interviewed by KTLA.

Mike and I being interviewed by KTLA. Photo by Dustin Downing.

 

Morning Over Occupation. The view from the City Hall lawn at Main Street and Temple. Across from the Court House.

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