Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

I am the Activist who took the “Heartwarming” Picture of the Soldier and Little Girl in Baltimore

I’m the girl that took the picture of the soldier and child in Baltimore that went viral. I meant to capture a sad moment, one of wasted resources and failure. Who knew that so many people think all of our race and economic problems could be solved if someone would just think to smile at a child?

The accusations of being a pot stirrer, a know-nothing liberal, and race-baiter have been coming at me almost faster than I can read them. Good. Keep it coming. You wouldn’t hate me if I didn’t make you uncomfortable. Keep telling me to forget the misery and to just see the happiness; keep criticizing me for bringing it up. Keep talking about it, because that is the first step. But let’s keep it real when we talk about it.

How can you look at a picture from Baltimore that could easily be from Afghanistan and think it shows a promising future? The problems leading up to this picture continue to be swept under the rug while people mindlessly smile over a picture of a child. How about we focus on the fact that 86% of public school students in Baltimore get free/reduced lunch? How about we focus on the predatory payday loan and checks cashed establishments that people in this neighborhood are subjected to, continuing the cycle of poverty they are in? How about we focus on the fact that I took this picture on Fulton Ave about a month ago, and it’s pretty average for much of Baltimore:

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I don’t find my picture to be tragic because I hate the military or because I hate guns. It seems to me that 30 seconds of critical thinking would clarify that. I find it to be tragic because we don’t give a damn about these communities until the destruction threatens the rest of us. If this was a picture of a child on a field trip to the Pentagon, I’d see how it’s cute. Adorable, even. But that isn’t what this is. This is a community being told they are too vile and worthless for anyone to give a damn about them until they start to burn things down — and even then, people only care long enough to be keyboard activists with uninformed opinions.

Baltimore has a lot of problems, but being a city full of people that want to loot and riot isn’t one of them. I think it’s pretty clear why there was a riot — what did the police expect when they loaded up with riot gear, turned off public transit, didn’t allow children to leave, and instigated pissed off kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully developed? Yet here we are, painting Baltimore as a city of lawlessness. If we’re going to talk about lawlessness in Baltimore, let’s talk about the millions of dollars used to settle and hide cases of police brutality.

I have watched news anchors and the internet in general wonder why people felt the need to burn the businesses in the community, consequently limiting their own options of where to shop. Over my week in Baltimore, I listened to and talked to a lot of people, from those who were pro-riot to those who were pro-peace. The impression that I got wasn’t that all people necessarily hate all businesses that aren’t black owned — it’s that they hate that the businesses won’t pay living wages or promote people of color. Without the ability to build capital (or even pay rent) and without the experience of being more than entry level employees, how are people supposed to start their own businesses? How will there ever be more black-owned businesses in primarily black communities?

In my opinion, the onus is now on wealthy business owners of all races in Baltimore and the surrounding area to do their part in making the city a more livable place. It’s on the middle and upper middle class residents of Maryland to change the way things are run. I saw an incredible amount of unity build up in one week of Baltimore protests; a level of unity that is rare for any kind of movement. The revolution is here, and “us vs. them” is not going to be black vs white. It’s going to the people who have hopped on board vs. those who haven’t. Do not stand on the wrong side. Support the organizations that are on the ground making a difference. Support the organizations working to feed the hungry children of Baltimore and working to make the streets safe. Do not shop at places that do not allow their entry level employees to grow. Nothing will change over night, but it’s time we start working to provide education and opportunities instead of casting judgement when most of us can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in West Baltimore.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to my blog here.  A version of this post also appeared on my Huffington Post blog.

CNN

As I’m sure many of you are aware, I was on CNN earlier today. The response has been a little overwhelming, but I’m working on writing about it. If you’ve reached out to me, I promise I will respond — just give me some time. I’ve seen some backlash because I don’t talk about cops who die in the line of duty. Here’s the thing….everyone has their focus. My focus is checks and balances for the police. This encompasses police brutality, police terror, the war on drugs, etc. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for accountability of government employees. To get to the root of the problem we need to look at places like West Baltimore and see how people are living and what is making them vulnerable to abuses by those who are paid to protect and serve. If your focus is on protecting police lives, that’s okay too. Maybe your focus is your career. Maybe it’s tax reform. At the end of the day, you can’t expect people to fight every battle.  You have to pick the ones that speak to you, and I picked mine a long time ago.

I’m a strong believer in Libertarian ideals, but the only way we can get the Libertarian philosophy to work is by being active. And so I’m here, and I’ll keep fighting.

Please check out the 300 Men March — they’re Baltimore’s anti-violence group that I refer to in my interview.

Videos From Baltimore

On April 30th, Joseph Kent talked to the crowd about his first arrest — the one that was live on TV.

Remember Kwame Rose, the protestor that got into an argument with Geraldo on the 28th? On Thursday he had round 2 with Geraldo’s security. I watched Geraldo see him, instigate a fight, and then vanish.

After Mosby announced the officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray would be charged, the area around the Penn North Station was a celebration for the rest of the day. This ranges from 2:30 to 9:45…and the chanting at the end quickly became “we young, we strong, we marching all night long.”

This is Baltimore

Today at Penn North is a lot different than Tuesday.

** Since I originally posted this, I was (very briefly) interviewed on CNN to discuss how I feel about the first picture  and I have composed my thoughts in a blog entry— basically, not happy. Obviously I’d love if you read my thoughts, but let me sum up the problem by saying I’m a white girl from DC who is invited to go on national news programs to discuss life in West Balto. **

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Baltimore, Joseph Kent, and Peaceful Protests

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Baltimoreans love Baltimore like Texans love Texas. Maybe more. And everyone loves the birds — Canton, Sandtown, Fed Hill, it doesn’t matter…tourists, if you walk around in a Ravens or Orioles hat, at least one person will stop you to tell you how we’re gonna win it all this year. They’ll assume you’re at least semi-local, even if you stick out in whatever district you’re in. If watching the news has made you doubt the love people feel for Baltimore, just stop. There are a lot of problems in Baltimore, and I’ll write about them later. But this post is about my experiences walking around Balto yesterday.

When you come into Baltimore from the 295, the first thing you really see are the Ravens and Orioles stadiums. After you pass the stadiums you can make a right hand turn and go to the Inner Harbor, or go straight and left and end up in West Baltimore. I went right, and this is what I saw:

The parking lots for the stadiums are being used as camps, complete with medic tents. Restaurants and stores were closed indefinitely (though it appears many things opened today). Did anyone else notice how last night the news anchors asked where the National Guard was when it was after curfew? Now you know – they were busy protecting the wealthy and touristy areas.

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Then we backtracked over to Penn-North. We got caught up in a peaceful march before we hit the now famous intersection, so we left the car and joined them. The intersection was packed – it honestly reminded me of a festival. People were holding hands and praying, others were singing, some were playing drums. There were some arguments but none of them turned violent (even the ones condoning the rioting), and people would hug each other after talking it out. It was everything a peaceful protest should be, and it was very much a celebration of shared love and pride in the city, and it was beautiful.

Especially interesting to watch was an argument with one person saying rioting was okay, since the businesses weren’t black owned and there should be a focus on using business that are black owned or that pay black employees well (my favorite quote: “No one WANTS to work at CVS and make $8. They HAVE to. And that’s all we have.”). While I don’t support physically destroying other businesses, I agree with his point. Why patronize the places that pay you and your friends absolute shit just because they can? He kept explaining himself, but kept condoning the riots instead of community boycott. While his argument was with one woman, other people kept stepping in. One girl pointed out she lived here, but worked in a bar across town. Now she’s making $0, because the bars are closed. Another pointed out that now people can’t eat because they can’t find places that are selling food. Perhaps the pro-riot guy just wanted to end the conversation, but I watched him be tripped up their points. He seemed to relent, and the once heated argument ended in a hug with both parties agreeing they just want to improve their neighborhood.

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The other side of the blockade was at North and Carey, and it was definitely a different vibe. The police were lined up, and over here they had bearcats in between the riot police. Other than me, my friend, and a couple members of foreign media it was relatively empty. The only other people were those who lived in the neighborhood doing their daily business like walking their dogs or trying to find somewhere open to buy food. This end of the blockade was definitely more tense — at one point during the day, some people threw some bottles and tried to throw a trash can at police. Certainly nothing crazy or rioting, but I was still thankful when it was quickly shut down by other people.

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I stayed at North and Carey until about 9 pm. For almost the entire time I was there, an activist named Joseph Kent was standing in front of the cops. He moved cones and helped their food delivery trucks back in, he acted as a liaison with angry community members. We talked to him a bit, and he told us about his experiences in Ferguson and how it’s different now that it’s in his own hometown. I personally guarantee you every single officer knew who he was. There wasn’t much going on at our end, and the cops were asking to pet people’s dogs and talking baseball with civilians. They were bored. They had nothing to focus on. Joseph Kent was not a blip on their radar as they anxiously did important things. No, they mostly stared slack jawed straight ahead, and he was there. So tell me why at 6:39 they were sharing their water bottles with him, and at 10:39 they weren’t just arresting him, but blocking the media from filming it as they threw him in the vehicle. Yes, I understand he was violating curfew — but was that necessary? No. He has since obtained a lawyer who will be giving a press conference tonight.

Other than the Kent arrest (which obviously happened after I was gone), I didn’t see much that alarmed me. If you live nearby, please go. Go have a crabcake at Faidley’s (because Lexington Market was a ghost town when I got lunch), go buy some groceries in the city and drop off some food for those who can’t get groceries, go eat lunch out and leave a big tip since so many folks who work in restaurants will be losing money this week.

Purvi Patel, A Modern Witch Hunt

I waited until today to write about the horrifying case of Purvi Patel, who has been sentenced to 20 years for a miscarriage. I guess I hoped that it was all a big April Fool’s Day prank, and not something that actually happened in the United States of America. Patel bought abortion inducing drugs online (which is illegal) and sent text messages to a friend indicating she had taken them. While her toxicology report came back clean, it turns out there isn’t a test for these specific drugs so that’s up in the air. She says when the fetus was born it was already dead, and she panicked and threw it in a dumpster and went to the ER.

Feticide, the crime that Purvi was charged with, was apparently originally put on the books as a way to protect pregnant women. Since lawmakers apparently aren’t allowed to be critical thinkers, no one ever suspected that it might end up being used against pregnant women. 

Feticide
    Sec. 6. A person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide, a Level 3 felony.

The prosecution used 17th century technology called a “lung test” to see if the fetus had taken a breath (making it a baby). Their cutting edge test “proved” that the fetus wasn’t stillborn, but was actually a baby — of course, this test was proved to be unreliable and complete bull shit about 100 years ago, but who needs science or facts when we’re discussing a fetus? Personally, I’m not one to let reality stand in my way of criminalizing women who don’t want their uterus to be occupied.

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Also a float test

Patel isn’t the first woman to be charged with feticide (though she is the first to be convicted). Bei Bei Shuai tried to kill herself with rat poison soon after her boyfriend left her and their unborn child. 33 weeks after conception, her attempted suicide resulted in a miscarriage — and she was charged with feticide. When Bei Bei’s case went to court, people were concerned that it could result in the government going after women who had miscarriages. I find it shocking that so many people act like women’s rights activists are exaggerating the danger at hand, even when they’re spoon fed evidence like this case.

At what point does a woman lose the right to have legal control over her own body? I’d like to think it isn’t at 25 weeks, or even 33. We live in a society that both disallows sterilization of young women, and takes away your rights once you become pregnant. We discourage drug addicts from getting abortions, and then we punish them for not being magically cured of their addiction while pregnant. We expect that being a mother will cheer up depressed women, and then we penalize them when they tried to end their lives. We picket Planned Parenthood and shame women for taking control of themselves, and we don’t do a goddamn thing about the unwanted babies that are born — except, apparently, lock up their moms.

In my brief career waiting tables, I was told that we had to serve alcohol to pregnant women, and that it was illegal discrimination if we didn’t. Our managers told us that they would take the drinks out for us if we were uncomfortable doing so, and it was stressed so much that I felt like there must have recently been some kind of incident. So on one hand, we recognize it’s discrimination to treat pregnant women differently, and  bartenders have to give a visibly pregnant lady a shot of Everclear or potentially face a lawsuit; on the other, consumption of said Everclear could result in 20 years in prison for the pregnant woman. What the fuck kind of logic is this? 

People wonder why I want to be sterilized, and it doesn’t even cross their minds that I don’t want to accidentally become state property.

Ferguson Police Department: Probably a Bunch of Awesome Guys

If you search “Ferguson” in Google news, you’ll see journalists taking back the negative things they said about the FPD, numerous comparisons of Ferguson to Benghazi, and now an officer who says the stress of Ferguson protests caused him to drive drunk. What you won’t see much of is discussion of the DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department.  To be fair, I found that the CIA torture report was an easier to get through (though much longer) read. The 105 page PDF took me an unusually long time to get through, but now that I have read it…well, I wish I could say it was shocking. It’s definitely some fucked up shit.

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The FPD created  an environment in which the sole purpose of the police force was to make money for the city. If that sounds reasonable to you, please recall the purpose of the police is to protect and serve the citizens, not to rob your of your rights via your wallet. How does a $571 fine for tall grass or a $302 fine for manner of walking sound? To me, it sounds fucking absurd. To the FPD? Reasonable! Of course, I guess absurd crimes deserve absurd fines — after all, what is manner of walking? Since 95% of the people arrested for it were black, one can assume it’s for being black while walking.

In a city with a per capita income of $21,000, it doesn’t take a Mensa scholar to realize that forcing citizens to pay $571 for having weeds in the yard might be an impossible task. Fortunately, the city found a way to fix that: you can be arrested for not paying your fine in full and on time — many times people are given court dates within a week, so hopefully everyone in Ferguson just stockpiles all their extra pennies in case the police decide to fuck with them. Of course, police often incorrectly write the court dates or times on the citations, so even if you do have the money to pay…you might still get a warrant! Pretty messed up, huh?

But wait! There’s more! Let’s imagine you’ve been given a ridiculously high fine and you want to pay it, but you can’t afford to pay it all at once. So you send the court $20 or $50, with a letter explaining why.  Joke’s on you! Ferguson wants its money, and it wants its money NOW! The court has repeatedly rejected partial payments from citizens, claiming it can’t process them. Nothing says “we care about protecting the people we serve” like locking away old ladies for not mowing their lawns!

Oh, hold on! I’m wrong. I know what makes it clear you care about the citizens you serve: fuckin tasing them for no reason!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.05.44 PMThe report repeatedly drives home the fact that the FPD uses their ECWs (Electronic Control Weapons) as the only option. While other police are trained to diffuse situations, the FPD fires their ECWs first and worries about consequences later — oh, wait. Just kidding. They don’t worry about the consequences, because there is no accountability. Almost no one bothers to fill out the reports when an ECW is used, and if they do it’s so poorly done they might as well not. Keep in mind there’s an easy way to track whether or not you fired your ECW: you have to replace the cartridge.

But it’s okay. I’m sure if the DOJ investigated other police departments, they’d be golden. I’m sure this is a one off situation that isn’t deserving of national attention. Those crazy race and class baiters should be ashamed of themselves!

Ah, yes. Totally reasonable.

I’ll Have Belle for my Wife, Make No Mistake About That!

With the sucess of 50 Shades, I’ve been questioning the messages behind other popular movies. Unfortunately, it has led me to one of the Disney films I remember really liking as a child. This may or may not be well discussed by others, but I don’t know; in general I’m not one of those people that enjoys Disney movies as an adult. It wasn’t until very recently that I started wondering if Beauty and the Beast was just a story about a bunch of abusive assholes and terrible people.

Beauty was my favorite Disney movie because I always related to Belle. As a child I was so shy I’d cry if people (not strangers. Just anyone) talked to me. I would rather read a book than talk to people or look where I was going. As an adult, I’m super excited for every movie Emma Watson makes. What I’m saying is, re-watching this movie made the past 90 minutes of my life suck.

I’m going to assume you have some idea of the plot of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is pretty but a bookworm, and everyone thinks she’s weird — including Gaston, the asshole handsome guy who declares he will marry her, despite her disinterest. Meanwhile, there’s the Beast, a formerly handsome prince turned into a beast for being an asshole. When Belle’s dad gets locked away by the Beast, Belle offers up herself as the Beast’s prisoner (or guest) instead. The Beast obliges, Belle’s dad is too weird for the townspeople to believe his story, hijinks ensue. In order to break the Beast’s curse, he needs someone to love him while being a beast.

From the first moment the Beast’s house supplies talk to him about Belle, he says of course it has crossed his mind she will be the one to break the spell. That means he’s thinking about her falling in love with him when he does things like lock her away and refuse to feed her.

Of course, the Beast grows in the movie, and both the Beast and Belle are outcasts of society. But she is a prisoner during the Beast’s transition. If that could have been expressed in any other way, then this could have been a charming story of watching the Beast struggle to understand politness and how to get over his anger at being shunned by the world around him.

Pro tip: if you’re close with your dad and he calls your boyfriend that “horrible fella,” you should run away. Fast. Same thing if your boyfriend prohibits you from seeing your father.

What do you guys think? Is my mind just 50 Shades-ed out, or does this rub anyone else the wrong way as an adult?

50 Shades Shittier

I promised a round two of why I hate 50 Shades, so here we go. After I wrote about the books last month, I had a bunch of people explain to me how it isn’t abuse and Christian becomes an amazing guy in the end. Thankfully, I actually read the last book instead of listening to the Champions of Grey; no, no he does not stop being a terrible piece of shit. One passage stands out to me more than any other, and I’ll get to it in a moment. 

First, has anyone else ever listen to a friend bitch about a guy and not know what to tactfully say in response? You know, a nice way to say things like he doesn’t call you because he isn’t interested? Or it probably isn’t that he hates relationships, he just hates the idea of one with you, and nagging won’t change that? Or his decision to fight with you whenever you go out without him is a controlling and damaging tactic, and not something you should just get over? Because I find so many women (and I’ve been guilty of this, too!) brush off these actions by making excuses — he’s mysterious, he’s a bad boy, he needs changing, he’s just like Christian Grey, whatever. For people who felt the need to school me on my stance, that right there is the problem. 50 Shades encourage the idea that asshole men can be changed, that manipulative behavior is endearing, and that it’s fine to emotionally manipulate women into being in relationships they repeatedly say they aren’t comfortable with. If someone is doing these things to you, reading it depicted as great and romantic can make you feel like you’re overreacting.

My worst nightmare is being forced to have a child. In order to help avoid that, I do things like not date men who want children. Apparently it’s Christian’s nightmare, too — except he doesn’t run for the hills when Ana expresses her desire to have children. In one of the scenes I personally found most uncomfortable, Christian forces hormonal birth control on her — motherfucker, how about you get snipped if you never want kids? When Ana, who is depicted as being the dumbest person alive (despite her college degree), inevitably forgets her demanded Depo appointments, she gets knocked up. Over and over she worries about how angry Christian will be. When she tells him…well, there’s nothing I can do but show you. Keep in mind they are married and her father just almost died.

“Christ, Ana!” He bangs his fist on the table, making me jump, and stands so abruptly he almost knocks the dining chair over. “You have one thing, one thing to remember. Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid?”
Stupid! I gasp. Shit. I want to tell him that the shot was ineffective, but words fail me. I gaze down at my fingers. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. “Sorry? Fuck!” he says again.
“I know the timing’s not very good.”
“Not very good!” he shouts. “We’ve known each other five fucking minutes. I wanted to show you the fucking world and now … Fuck. Diapers and vomit and shit!” He closes his eyes. I think he’s trying to contain his temper and losing the battle. “Did you forget? Tell me. Or did you do this on purpose ?” His eyes blaze and anger emanates off him like a force field.
“No,” I whisper. I can’t tell him about Hannah— he’d fire her.
“I thought we’d agreed on this!” he shouts.
“I know. We had. I’m sorry.”
He ignores me. “This is why. This is why I like control. So shit like this doesn’t come along and fuck everything up.”
No … Little Blip. “Christian, please don’t shout at me.” Tears start to slip down my face. “Don’t start with waterworks now,” he snaps. “Fuck.”

God, I’m so glad that Christian is reformed. Maybe people get that impression because we learn that Christian is into BDSM because his mother was a crackhead. I can’t even.

Out of some sick curiosity, I tried to watch the movie…but it wasn’t available on Time for Popcorn, so never mind.

A blog about things that irritate me

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