Extra Solutions that do not fit the word count :)
I would like to say the VOF assignments have been fantastic in teaching me how to offer a concise amount of information instead of ranting and hoping things eventually come full circle!
But, it was so hard this week to talk about challenges and barriers to change in my community, solutions, and how Pulse Wire fits in.
So, I wanted to further elaborate for those who want to listen!
In regard to the immigration law...I try desperately to educate people about what is really going on. Whether this is done through one-on-one conversations, petitions, marching, volunteering at places which continue to bring resources to immigrant women - there are a variety of options. One of the most important solutions I see may sound a bit involved. First, it is important for most Americans to remember that unless they are Native American, they are immigrants too. My family history only goes back three generations in this country. My great-grandmother escaped Berlin when she was only 16 years old and my mother's side of the family emigrated from Italy and Sicily also three generations ago. My mother has memories of her grandmother speaking "broken" English; I say this is because nobody else knew "whole" Italian. America is seen as one of the richest countries in the world, but what people may not realize is that we also have a large amount of the population who are lost in their own self-image, lost in perfecting their bodies instead of nourishing their minds, lost in believing their existence is defined by salary, equity, and savings. This is one of the reasons why I think it is also important to focus on de-programming as much of that population as possible. And it is possible. I was not wholly aware of what was occurring in my community or the globe 6 years ago. My experience with discrimination was limited to only my own experiences of hate crimes. My sense of abuse was still linked to fighting like hell to escape my childhood home and undoing all that had been done to me through learned behavior and observation. I know there is hope for people who are lost in an artificial idea of who they should be because they are told by culture, society, community, religious ideals, etc.
I speak intimately and deeply with people about issues that are important. I am diplomatic, but am often built of facts that other people may not have had access too, so I share liberally. I can be mindful of personal beliefs, but still stress the importance of seeing people as human instead of boxing them in so it is easy to discriminate against them.
I surround myself with strong women who want to make a difference. As a result, I have received countless opportunities to work with demographics that need the same sense of inspiration. I have been astounded by what a small group of individuals passionately working together can create and change. Three years ago I wanted to use spoken word poetry to help raise money for a fundraiser. This led me to seek out female poets. I was introduced to a woman then who still inspires me every day. She read at the fundraiser. She was introduced to a woman who heads a project called GINA's Team which works with women and girls in prison and juvenile centers. My poet friend went to do a workshop and read poetry to the girls at Mingus Mountain juvenile center in April. She came right to my house after her two-hour drive back home with tears in her eyes and relayed every detail she could muster. I have a stack of letters on my desk RIGHT NOW from the girls at Mingus, eternal gratitude - girls who tell my friend they are so thankful for her presence because she reminded them that their bodies are connected to mother nature, that they felt SO GOOD to be girls when she read in front of them, that she inspired them to use their minds and respect their bodies and think harder about prostituting themselves and doing drugs.
Another one of my close friends is always sending me updates about Planned Parenthood because she is at the very top of PP taking on large tasks. It is her who inspires me to talk freely to teenagers about safe-sex, resources for STDs, and prevention. Another friend works for Girl Scouts, empowering girls in our valley. It was her who I facilitated with last year for eight weeks at a safe house for women transitioning from crisis.
I am closely linked to a local yoga studio/cafe which hosts fundraisers annually. I have worked with them and nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about domestic violence in our community, the necessity for women to be employed and have money to learn trades in Turkey, children's cancer, and smaller fundraisers on Global Mala days where I have either donated my own time, money, and body for 108 sun salutations to engage the community and empower the people we were saluting for. I network with local businesses to support fundraisers, worked for the past four years at a job I did not entirely enjoy, but because the demographic of people I was working FOR were women in under-developed parts of Texas who were trying to embrace an education - I stayed.
I often read at the local open mic's because people know who I am and listen to what I have to say. I use this opportunity very strategically! I write poems about the issues our community faces and deliver them in a way that makes people conscious about those issues. It is one thing to stand at a podium and speak about what is breaking our community, it is another to take one of those issues and develop it into a piece of creative art and story and share it with people. Women come up to me all the time after I read and thank me for inspiring them to believe their stories have value. These same women become involved in the community as well. Self-acceptance, self-value, self-growth are all vital in working toward positive change.
My university education will never serve me as well as my bookshelf education continues to. My work experience has never been as valuable to my heart and mind as my volunteer experience. I love helping people and I know what it feels like to understand the country you were raised to be patriotic about often lies to you at the expense of millions of other people around the globe. I felt liberated when I began to understand the truth about the world I live in and I try to be the same inspiration in the lives of others.
I can begin a million paragraphs with "I" but really what breaks down the barriers and challenges that stand in the way of change in my community is...MY COMMUNITY. We inspire each other. Two nights ago Ingrid and I talked about the illegal immigration law SB 1070 over home-made gingermint lemonade and home-made arrepas. She told me about classism and religious conservative mentalities that are dictating the lives of children at the school her son goes to. He is already, at 8-years-old, being discriminated against because of his free-spirit and Spanish accent. My friend was even asked what Venezuela was like by a classmate because he wanted to see if she was a witch doctor because of "how she dresses," which is more like a hippy than a shaman! But, one thing SHE ALWAYS REMINDS ME OF is to stay aware and to accept our world as it is...not to deny that change is necessary, but to not moved forward angry and violent. It can be difficult for me to keep my cool when someone shouts "Faggot!" out of the window, but I have to remember they are built of different things than I am and I am blessed to have not been raised with that sense of discrimination toward people. I can move forward and create change by mentoring queer youth who need to know someone is looking out for them. I want them to have every resource that was not available to me. It goes without saying that they will experience hatred for who they love, but I want to show them documentaries that will educate them about WHERE that sense of hatred is born so they develop compassion instead of reacting violently. One gay teenager kills him/herself every 5 hours in the United States. In my community, which is built of religious politics and has more churchs on corners than safe houses and drop-in centers - I see a huge need to offer these kids the right information. I know how painful it is to look at the world around you and not see people "like you" mirrored back at all.
My solutions are outreach to the communities which are not represented or mis/under-represented. Immigrants, the queer community, and women. I had mentioned women being ex-communicated from the Mormon church in my assignment - but I am not saying it is just the LDS community - I have close friends who have separated from their religious upbringings and have been exiled from their families because of it. I think the religious community and gay community have more in common than either realizes. Just like it hurts when a child comes out to his/her parents and is rejected, it must really hurt when a woman divorces a man who is beating her and is then ex-communicated from the people in her community meant to support her. This should show the actual intentions and restraint of these communities and should teach us all that we are all JUST human, first and foremost, we all want safety and security. I am no different than someone who is here illegally.
The ironic thing about the illegal immigration law too is the mindset of people opposing it. One woman told me that the law is in place to protect the rights of legal citizens. This is the same woman who told me she went down to Main Street early one morning to "pick up 2 Mexicans" to do her yardwork. This blows me away and makes me sad because she has no problem with illegal immigration when her lawn is well-manicured, but when she listens to what the media tells her she easily discriminates against the same people. People want to focus on human trafficking and drug cartels when this law comes up to justify racial profiling, but most of the people who come here illegally do not do it with ill intentions. They are escaping a Mexico overrun by drugs due in part to America's need for those drugs. It is a sick cycle and the facts are seldom mentioned or empathized with.
My main solution is promising to be myself no matter what. I am a person taught to help my neighbor, no matter the differences between us. I am a person who believes in equality and the right for all people to have safe, happy lives. I am a person who refuses to believe history books and nightly news when it comes to the truth about my country. I read between the lines. I want the marrow from the history books - and I will find it, I always do. It is what I choose to do with that truth that creates change - I share it.
Also - in regard to Pulse Wire fitting in - this is an important part of the truth. I want to hear the stories about women everywhere because they fill in so many of the blanks that are intentionally left out in the United States. I share so many stories and resources that I find on Pulse Wire with people on Facebook. I refuse to use Facebook just to let people know what I am doing every five minutes. The only way people will know is if I have submersed myself in Pulse Wire or a resource for education and continuously re-post links to share them. I already see positive effects from this! I posted a brief documentary three days ago about a possible solution to solving the illegal immigration "problem" and a friend sent it to her college professor who is sharing it with her entire class tomorrow. I shared the story about Iranian lesbian filmmaker Kiana Firouz and multiple people commented and they are all people who I know will seek out her film. The columns from Pulse Wire that I re-post make people in my community aware of global violence and women's issues everywhere. This is the greatest resource I have been blessed with and I have already been tied more closely to my own community by sharing Pulse Wire with them.
So, you can see, this obviously is over 2000 words :)
I know it is a lot to read, so I hope even one person does and can offer feedback about more ways to be solution-oriented.