Read and Resist: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

hateugive_10-10snapI did not know much about The Hate U Give when it was released, but I remember having two immediate reactions. First, I thought, Everyone seems to love it. I must read it. Then I asked myself why the author used ‘U’ instead of the word ‘you.’ Like the grammar snob I am, I was annoyed at the title…but not annoyed enough to refuse to read it. It was, after all, a book. Hermione and Belle can never resist a new book, and neither can I.

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Please take a moment to appreciate the fact I used this GIF because Emma Watson plays Hermione and Belle.

Fortunately, my co-worker and fellow book lover loaned me her copy of The Hate U Give.  She had told me that the book was about racism, but I had no idea how absolutely relevant and poignant the plot would be–especially in our current political climate. As soon as I read the description, I was heartbroken:

 “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

The plot is clearly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and so I thought I would be reading a book about things I already knew. I told myself that I was white, but I wasn’t like those white people.

How wrong I was.

My thinking still reeked of white privilege–and I’m so glad that The Hate U Give was there to knock it down.

 

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Khalil is shot within the first few chapters of the book. He is driving, and Starr is in the front seat. When a cop pulls them over, Khalil is obviously agitated. He talks back to the officer a few times; still, he does not exhibit any threatening behaviors. He is unarmed.  It’s obvious the cop is wrong, and still, I found myself wondering if there is anything that Khalil could have done differently. But like so many his real-life counterparts, Khalil was innocent of any crime.

Khalil did not deserve to die. Period. 

Starr’s life is seemingly full of contradictions. As one of the few black students at her school, Starr has a lot of white friends; her boyfriend is also white, and they are often blissfully unaware of what Starr endures on a regular basis. As she explains: “It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.” While she often finds herself unable to express her pain–especially after Khalil’s death–it’s clear that her enemy is not white people. Her enemy is racism and white supremacy, and these are evils that creep into all of our lives. These evils should be my enemy, too.

Similarly, Starr’s uncle is a police officer. Uncle Carlos is like Starr’s second father, and again, the book is made clear that you can hate a system without hating its people. More specifically, you can support Black Lives Matter and police officers. In an interview, author Angie Thomas explains:

“A lot of people are quick to say that saying “black lives matter” makes you anti-cop. All lives should indeed matter but we have a systemic problem in this country in which black lives do not matter enough. This not an anti-cop book. I intentionally made Starr’s uncle a cop because I have law enforcement in my family and I understand the struggle that black cops deal with particularly. One [relative] told me, “Well, in the uniform, I’m a sellout to some of my own people, but outside of the uniform, I’m seen as a suspect.” That’s a constant struggle for some of them and I wanted to show someone in law enforcement who holds other officers accountable. At one point in the book, Carlos [Starr’s uncle] says, ‘You shouldn’t be a cop if your first instinct is to shoot someone.’ I think the more we see more officers holding each other accountable, the more we will see people trust cops in this country.”

And the ‘U’ in the title? There is a reason for that, too. Khalil and Starr are listening to 2Pac songs when Khalil explains how truly revolutionary the artist was:

“Man, get outta here! Tupac was the truth.”
“Yeah, twenty years ago.”
“Nah, even now. Like, check this.” He points at me, which means he’s about to go into one of his Khalil philosophical moments. “‘Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What?”
“Listen! The Hate U – the letter U – Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society give us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?”
“Damn. Yeah.”

As the story develops,  the meaning of ‘THUG LIFE” becomes even more important. So, yeah. I can stop being such an asshole about grammar.

The Hate U Give is a difficult and honest book; yet, I found myself reading for hours at a time. Starr feels more like a friend than a narrator, and the book is unexpectedly hilarious at times (the constant High School Musical and Harry Potter references had me especially giddy). While The Hate U Give  was written for the young adult market, its message is not limited to teens. It is for all of us.

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Thoughts and Prayers

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I was a freshman in high school when I first considered the possibility of a school shooting.

Someone had made an off-handed remark about shooting his classmates. Regardless of his intention–a failed attempt at dark humor, or maybe deeply-rooted cynicism– it was received as it should have been: seriously, and as a threat to our safety. That week, rumors spread throughout the school like wildfire: it would happen on Friday. He had a list. A few people were on his ‘safe list.’ We analyzed his personality and behavior. We asked ourselves if we were surprised.

Our principal composed a letter that we, in turn, gave to our parents. It stated the nature of the threat, the rumors, and how the faculty members were responding. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember what it boiled down to: we would be safe.

Even so, many of us debated if we would come to school that Friday. That Thursday night, I pored over my Bible and texted my friends about how scared I was. I didn’t know what to do.

I’m not sure how or why I decided to attend school the next day, but I did. I wrote a Bible verse on my hand, because it gave me courage. My friend Lindsey wore a Superman shirt, simultaneously a cheeky response to the rumors and a middle finger to danger. Many of my classmates did not come to school. I didn’t blame them. There was fear and tension in the air that did not disappear until the last bell rang.

And thankfully, we were safe.

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I was twenty-three when I was told one of my cousins had been injured in a shooting. It was the sort of moment where everything stops. Nothing felt real–because we spend years watching the news and hearing these stories over and over again and it’s a distant problem, one defined by distant sadness and stilted sympathy, and then it happens to someone you love.

I stayed home from work. At the time, I was living with my friends Rose and Christina, as well as my older cousin, Chris. Our cousin Alyssa lived nearby. She came over. None of us wanted to be alone. We ordered pizza, because pizza fixes everything. Or at least, it used to.

There were many mass shootings before these horrible days in my life. And there have been many mass shootings after.

Columbine.

Sandy Hook.

Orlando.

Las Vegas.

Parkland.

So many, in fact, that I know this does not even begin to cover it. I cannot name or remember them all, and that horrifies me. Is this what we consider normal? Massacres that we cannot recall? Yet another news story that states that a shooting was the deadliest in our nation’s history?

To put it simply: I’m tired.

We should not have to live like this. High school students especially should not have to live like this. They should be shopping for prom dresses and dreaming about college–not organizing marches and calling our leaders out on their bullshit. And the victims deserve a hell of a lot more than our government’s thoughts and prayers.

You may not agree with me about gun reform. I can accept that. I’ll accept that begrudgingly, but that’s a rant for another day–and quite frankly, you can Google all the data that has led me to my current convictions. At the end of the day, violence is a multi-faceted problem and it requires a multi-faceted solution.

I only have ideas about what gun reform should entail, but I do know that thoughts and prayers are not enough. I don’t think they are meaningless–I pray every single day because I a) I am a Christian, and prayer is an integral part of my faith, and b) I believe it changes my heart, which in turn changes the world around me.

But faith without works is dead. And until we actively respond to this violence, we are worshiping an abstract, absent god instead of the God we claim to serve: the God of divine Love who is made manifest in Her people.  

Jesus prayed. He prayed a lot, actually.

And then he did something.

What are we going to do?

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First and foremost, we need to speak out.

Everytown has started a campaign called Throw Them Out, encouraging constituents to tell Congress that they support common sense gun laws. Remember: our government represents us–not the NRA. My personal hero Glennon Doyle explains more in this video:

 

Consider attending a protest in your area. The Women’s March is organizing a walkout on March 14; another is scheduled for April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine shooting. On March 24, there’s March For Our Lives, a protest in Washington DC (and other cities across the US) to demand gun reform legislation.

We also need to respond with an outpouring of love. Support the people who have been affected by this most recent shooting; they have a long road ahead of them. Write a letter to students. Donate to the victims and their families. Give your loved ones an extra hug.

Have open conversations. Destigmatize therapy and mental illness. Hold our government accountable.

This issue is not a gun issue OR a mental health issue. It is AND/ BOTH. Which is why I am a mental health advocate AND a gun reform advocate. It’s also about toxic masculinity. It’s also about media glorification of killers. It’s ALSO about guns. Instead of arguing- Pick one and get to work. It’s gonna take all of us.

Glennon Doyle 

It will not be easy.

But we can do this.

Let’s make history.

Read and Resist: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! 

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Between how outraged I always am with the patriarchy and how our nation is in the midst of important conversations regarding sexual assault, Moxie could not have found me at a better time.

I’ll admit it: I judged the book by its cover. How could I not? The library had it proudly displayed with other new young adult novels, and in case you don’t know, I am all about  badass ladies. And hot pink.

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Vivian, the book’s protaganist, was especially relatable to me because she is seen as someone who abides by the rules. I always feel like marching into a temple and flipping over some tables, but at the end of the day, I reallyreally hate getting into trouble. Similarly, when Vivian sparks the feminist revolution at her high school, no one suspects it was her–and she constantly wonders what her mother, grandparents, and friends will think when they find out.

The revolution begins after a boy in Vivian’s class quips that a girl should make him a sandwich. Considering that every girl I know has heard this “joke” a bazillion times (and guess what, everyone? It’s never funny), I immediately believed in Vivian’s small-town Texas high school. After a few similar incidents, Vivian takes inspiration from the Riot Grrl movement of the ’90s and anonymously distributes a zine to her classmates. She calls it Moxie, and invites fellow Moxie Girls to fight back.

One of the most wonderful things about Moxie is how it addresses intersectional feminism and internalized misogyny. In one of my favorite scenes, Vivian and her friends are discussing a Hot-Or-Not-type system created by the boys in their school. The winners, Vivian realizes, are always the same type of girl: skinny and blonde. When her African-American friend points out that they’re always white, too, Vivian admits that she has never noticed. “Well, no offense,” her friend replies, “But you wouldn’t have, because you’re white.”

 

Vivian’s mother also admits to not including black and brown women during her days as a Riot Grrl. The scenes are honest and poignant, and Vivian is able to acknowledge her privilege in a way many of us are not.

In terms of internalized misogyny, Moxie recognizes that some girls are hesitant to identify as a feminist. In Vivian’s case, her best friend thinks the word ‘feminist’ is too strong and the feminist movement is too radical. Her boyfriend, too, has trouble understanding some of Vivian’s views. It’s an especially heart-wrenching look at how we love those who do not share our own convictions. As Vivian’s mom so wisely puts it, we all grow up hearing the same bullshit.

And Vivian has her fair share of bullshit to deal with. Later on in the novel, she becomes friends with a cheerleader–a cheerleader who she used to judge and do her best to ignore. I did my fair share of cheerleader-bashing throughout middle school and high school, and this aspect of the novel made me want to hug every girl I once needlessly despised.

Reading about the Moxie Girls is a beautiful experience. Instead of tearing each other down, they lift each other up. It’s the feminist community I dream about. They start to break barriers built by race, sexual orientation, and high school hierarchies. When shit gets real and the girls start to fear suspension and expulsion, they fiercely protect one another. In every page, Moxie reminds you of the power that every girl has inside her.

“It occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Fortunately, Moxie Girls exist outside of the realm of fiction. Moxie Girls Fight Back! is the book’s official Tumblr, and the blog includes feminist resources and even a mix tape!

Needless to say, Moxie gets all the stars. Five out of five, I guess, if you’re making me follow these arbitrary book review rules. I still don’t like getting into trouble. But Moxie there are more important things–namely, taking part in the revolution.

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How do my fellow Moxie Girls fight back? What feminist books are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments or contact me through Goodreads or Twitter

Art, Activism, & Apathy

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I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).

At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.

Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:

Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.

Drew: That would be hilarious. 

Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t! 

Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”

Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW. 

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So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.

That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.

In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West

After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change.  I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day.  I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.

This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.

Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.

But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?

That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.

We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be. 

***

A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day.  We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.

That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.

And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government.  My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.

“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”

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I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.

We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.

Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.

Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.

Rethinking Animal Advocacy

Like many young girls, I used to dream of being a veterinarian. Then, of course, I learned that vet school required far too much math, science, and handling blood–none of which I consider my strong suits. I later realized I wanted to be a writer, but I still love animals and often wish that our house could become a sort of animal sanctuary.

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Not that we could responsibly care for so many animals. Drew and I are already the proud parents of Constable Chubs. She’s been a part of our family for over a year, and even though I may act like an overbearing mother (“Constable Chubs, you are so cute. You are a literal angel. GOD HAD THE BEST DAY WHEN HE MADE YOU!”), I cannot imagine life without our sweet feline friend. Our roommate, Kate, also has a cat named Sam. He and the Constable usually get along, but I don’t think they would be too thrilled to share their food with another cat.

I’m lucky to be with someone who understands my soft spot for animals. For instance, we have a strict no-kill policy when it comes to spiders, but Drew and I are both extremely afraid of spiders….so releasing them back into the wild is always a very dramatic process (BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Live your life, little spider. Just…please don’t come back inside, okay?).

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne

A few months after I moved to Atlanta, Drew and I started volunteering at a local animal shelter. It was wonderful, but like many wonderful things, it soon fell out of our weekly routine. Once I found a steady job and a regular schedule, I started volunteering at another shelter.

Even though I love all animals, I signed up to work with cats. I have more experience with kitties, and I (usually) know what to do if a cat gets frightened or stressed. I didn’t want to work  at the front desk or provide adoption counseling, either–I’ve had enough of customer service jobs, and didn’t want my introvert self to get burnt out from something that was supposed to be fun.

Of course, that’s where I went wrong. Caring for animals definitely relates to caring for people, but it goes far beyond adoption fees or customer service. The goal of any shelter should be to find permanent homes for each and every animal; with that kind responsibility, how could we not extend our love anyone who passes by?

After all, I know how my pets have changed my life. I want everyone to have that chance: the children who visit and read to the cats; the mom who is trying to decide which cat to bring home; the couple who has too many pets but wanted to say hello. Adopting an animal is a win-win situation for everyone–you get a friend, and an animal finds a home.

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There are a lot of awful things in the world that we cannot change. But maybe we can learn to care for a lost puppy, or save a spider from being crushed. Peace starts with empathy; empathy starts with us. If we can learn to take care of tiny creatures, how much better will we be able to take care of each other?

Has an animal ever changed your life for the better? How have animals helped you become more compassionate towards people? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments! 

 

Change the World, One Step at a Time

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For every tragedy or major political event, I spend hours reading the news. Headlines and Twitter threads become my bedtime story; my heart breaks for people I will never meet, and they become my prayer.

And so often, that’s where it ends. I whisper kind words and send happy thoughts out into the universe, and then they are oh-so conveniently forgotten. Our paths split as soon as they meet on my wishful spiritual plane, because the world is too damn big, and there is nothing I can do.
If there is anything I have learned in the past year, it is that I have bought into a horrible lie: that, in order to help others, I need to do something drastic. Growing up, I heard stories of environmentalists and imagined what it would be like to handcuff myself to a tree. Now, I see people going on strike or going on hunger strikes. They’re running for office or becoming billionaires and donating every penny (okay, that’s basically just Bill Gates and J.K Rowling. But you get my point).

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank

If you’re watching the news and feeling a bit discouraged, take heart. The fact that you feel this way means that you care, and there can never be a surplus of love in the world. Politics are important, of course, but our own circle is an excellent place to start. Here are a few activism-inspired habits that I’ve been putting into practice–and some tips you can use, too!

Practice self-care. Too often, the concept of self-care gets watered down to coloring books and taking a bubble bath. While there is nothing inherently wrong with bubble baths or coloring, we all need to consider what truly restores our souls. If you are burnt out, stressed, or feeling scatter-brained, you probably won’t have the energy for anything other than watching Netflix. Remember the basics: do the dishes, eat a good meal, stay hydrated; then, take a day just for yourself. You deserve it.

Be kind. Be kind to your cashier. Be kind to your barista. Be kind to the homeless man you pass on the street. Be kind to the receptionist. Be kind to your neighbor. It’s not that hard. Really.

Speak up! Contact your Senators and House Representatives–calling their office only takes a few minutes, and every phone call is tallied. If you are like me and absolutely hate calling strangers, websites like 5 Calls  provide scripts you can follow. You can also download Countable to learn more about various issues and send your reps a message.

Share informative and encouraging posts on social media. Whether you get caught in a heated debate or realize you’ve spent hours reading news articles, it’s easy to get stuck in the black hole of despair that is social media–but the Internet can still be a force for good. Share posts from a variety of (accurate) sources, and say something inspiring to go along with it.

Read. Aside from the all the fascinating things you’ll learn, reading can reduce stress and make you more empathetic. If you’re already a bibliophile, change up your reading habits: support indie authors or add more diverse books to your reading list.

Speaking of which…support artists! Writers, painters, photographers, musicians, filmmakers–they all make the world a more beautiful place, and they all need to eat. Check out Patreon and consider donating to an artist you admire. If you are unable to donate, spread the word. Share their posts on social media. If you love their work, TELL THEM! It will make their day, and your support will help them share their work with the world.

Start using apps and browser extensions that make a positive impact. Put all those hours online to good use! Install Tabs for a Cause to donate money to various organizations; ditch Google (gasp) and plant trees with Ecosia. If you’re an obsessive Amazon user, try AmazonSmile.  See? The world’s looking brighter already.

Adopt an animal. If you’ve been looking for a four-legged friend, visit your local shelter. There are millions of homeless animals in the United States alone; you are bound to fall in love with at least one, right?

Be generous. If you are financially able, donate money to your favorite organizations or non-profits. If you are on a tight budget, give your time instead; most non-profits have  volunteer programs. Find something you are passionate about–it doesn’t have to feel like work in order to be helpful!

Listen. Until we listen to someone else’s story, we will only ever see the world through one lens: our own. No one just decides what they are going to believe, and no one magically  becomes woke. It’s a process, and open dialogue can go a long way.

Pray. I know not everyone shares my beliefs, but I have found that just saying my intentions out loud can work wonders. Change starts with us, after all.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of good deeds, but for me, they have become a manageable starting point. Together, I think we can accomplish just about anything.

How do you incorporate activism and kindness into your life? Tell me on Twitter or leave a comment! 

March On, Sisters

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This post was inspired by Samantha Chaffin’s blog post about the Women’s March in LA. The title is not meant to exclude the wonderful men or gender non-conforming people who attended marches, and I love each and every one of you who showed up to support the cause.

November 8, 2016: 

Election Day. It’s finally here, and it feels like Christmas Eve and finals week all at once. Something exciting is happening, for sure–but I also know that things could go horribly, horribly wrong.

I wear the only political shirt I own, which is emblazoned with a donkey, an elephant, and a cat. The donkey and the elephant have no votes; the cat, however, is rewarded with a confident check mark.

I voted early, but I make the now-obligatory social media to encourage others to do the same. I listen to NPR and say a prayer for my country.

Please, God. Just let America truly be a country for all of us. 

November 9, 2016: 

I wake up early. My alarm still hasn’t gone off, and there is an anxious ache in my chest. With a forced sort of hope, I look over at Drew and say, “I hope Hillary pulled through.”

“I already checked. She lost.”

I immediately reach for my phone and open my CNN app. The first story is bright and bold and impossible: PRESIDENT ELECT DONALD TRUMP. 

It doesn’t feel real, but it is. It is so, so, real, and I close my eyes and try to forget–but of course, it’s all I can think about.

January 20, 2017:

I’m driving to work, and for the first time in weeks, I don’t feel like listening to NPR. Instead, I listen the Hamilton cast recording. I sing along–badly, loudly, happily–as I sit in traffic.

I’m just like my country/ I’m young scrappy and hungry/ and I am not throwing away my shot

But we’ll never be truly free/Until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me

When you’re living on your knees, you rise up/ Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up/ Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up

Thirty minutes later, I take the exit that leads downtown. There’s an explicit anti-Trump banner hanging from the bridge; it’s painted with sloppy red and black spray paint and for the first time that day, Donald Trump’s presidency becomes real.

I think of the rise of dystopian young adult novels. Perhaps we romanticized them too much. Perhaps we dismissed them too soon.

I take a deep breath, and I keep driving.

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January 21, 2017: 

I can’t stay off Facebook.

But it isn’t because I am left shocked and helpless by the news. It’s because there are so many people in Washington, D.C, marching for social justice.

And it doesn’t stop there.

There are people in London. Melbourne. Los Angeles. Chicago. St. Louis. They’re holding up signs that say things like ‘THE FUTURE IS FEMALE’ and ‘WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.’

In Atlanta, it’s raining. We planned to march, but it doesn’t look good: the forecast includes severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch.

Drew can’t decide if he should go. “I just don’t want to be there if there is lightning,” he says. He tells me he feels guilty.

“I don’t want you to feel unsafe or uncomfortable,” I tell him. I understand completely–normally, I’m terrified of thunderstorms. “I just feel like I have to go.”

And I do. I feel it deep in my bones. That’s what Jesus did, isn’t it? Stand with the people who were ostracized and oppressed? Besides, I’m tired of feeling so helpless. I want to march. I want to remember why we have to keep fighting for what is right.

I’m finishing getting ready when Drew comes charging through our room.

“I changed my mind,” he says as he pulls on his shoes. “I’m coming.”

I squeal with excitement as he grabs a backpack and stuffs it with umbrellas and jackets.

“Should we stop somewhere and grab ponchos?” I ask.

“Nah. We aren’t wimps.”

I laugh, and after a quick lunch, we head out the door.

 

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We arrive to the march around two o’clock. I love Atlanta more and more each day, but this is by far the most amazing sight in the entire city.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people, holding signs and wearing shirts in support of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the Affordable Care Act, and the environment. People ask to take pictures of my shirt. I ask to take pictures of signs. I want to hug everyone and tell them how good and inspiring they are, but I figure that would be a little weird. By some miracle, the rain has stopped and the sun is starting to peek through the clouds.

“We’ve been blessed!” Drew says. He’s making a joke, but I think there’s some truth to it.

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Little by little, the crowd begins to move. We’re heading for the Capital building, about two miles from our starting point at the Civil Rights Museum. Soon, the crowd begins to chant:

“BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS!”

“LOVE, NOT HATE, MAKES AMERICA GREAT!”

“PEOPLE UNITED–WE’LL NEVER BE DIVIDED.”

I look around. I love this place. I love these people. And despite everything, I have so much hope.

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During his campaign, Trump promised to make America great. I never believed him. We can’t change the fact that Donald Trump is president, but we can damn sure keep him accountable.

Today was only the beginning. March on, sisters.

The march in Atlanta was a peaceful and incredibly positive experience. Thank you to everyone who organized the marches across the world, and thank you to anyone who offered support in any way. If you have any questions about my political beliefs, the march or the reasons behind it, feel free to contact me.