Sunday, November 18, 2012

Poor People Are Still Hungry After The Holiday Season

Recently some very great friends of mine with big hearts did a social media driven fundraiser for our local soup kitchen and food bank. Which reminded me of something I think of every holiday season-poor people aren't only hungry during the holiday season.

I know that my friends who put this together understand this. They are the type of people who give all year round. So this is not a direct statement for or about them. It is however a statement about how we as a culture like to only think about and value the poor seasonally. Many people put some money in the red kettle, drop some toys in the Toys 4 Tots container, maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen, and then for the rest of the year most of the country doesn't bother to think about what it really means to be poor in America.  To be clear, I as a mother living in poverty certainly appreciate and have benefited from holiday help. I have also donated.

To have a traditional holiday meal is costly and when living on a tight budget it is an expense many of us just can't justify. Yet honestly what makes feeding us poor folk so much more important on those days?  I know people want everyone to have those special family moments that happen during holiday dinners. However, what about the importance of everyday family dinners? Why it is ok for children to go hungry, skip meals, and have to eat cheap unhealthy food the rest of the year?

I raise these points to say hunger and poverty matter all year not just at holiday time and if you care than your support for programs that help should be ongoing. No matter your political beliefs there is something you can do. If you can't bring yourself to support government anti poverty programs, I won't ever agree with you but fine, support your local food bank and soup kitchen in some way ALL YEAR LONG. Volunteer, donate money, hold seasonal food drives at your church or social club there is much you can do. If you support government programs stand up for them write your congressperson and senators and help fight for them and that doesn't mean you can't help support your local grassroots anti hunger programs too.

 If you know a family struggling help them. If you know where the homeless people are FEED THEM! These things aren't rocket science they are missions of the heart. You want to help poor people have access to more fruits and vegetables support community gardens and workshops on container gardening. (Newsflash food stamps can be used to  buy seeds to grow food.) I know, I know I am one poor person with one small blog that no one reads but seriously this needed to be said and now I said it for 1 million US children that go hungry everyday and the parents who reduce their food or go hungry to feed their kids. Why because I am one of those families too. (Melissa Harris Perry recently did some great segments on what food insecurity especially related to families receiving SNAP ie food stamps looks like)

Friday, October 26, 2012

being thought of as a terrorist

Last weekend I was returning home from a conference and I had a lovely lavender sarong wrapped around my shoulders. As I was waiting for my transfer flight the sun was shining on the left side of my face so brightly that I couldn't read my book. So I took my sarong and wrapped it over my head shielding the side of my face but it also made me look like I may be covering my head for religious reasons. Apparently, to several people I looked Muslim because it didn't take long for the dirty looks to start. You know the you might be a terrorist looks. One particularly angry looking white man literally stopped about three feet in front of me and stared at me for about 5 mins. It was crazy I do not understand how our sisters wearing head coverings deal with it. Oddly enough when I received the scarf at the conference I had put it on my head and my friend said jokingly "you look like a white muslim" (BTW I'm biracial with fair skin). I almost wore it to the airport just so I could blog about what happened. Then I decided not to. Considering I had a horrible time with TSA due to the guy who pushed my wheelchair forgetting to take out my liquids its probably good I didn't. There is no telling how much worse the bad treatment I received would have been.  Frankly, I was tired and not in the mood for extra garbage from them but one day I still might. I am sick of this bias. Religious women have the right to wear head coverings without being publicly scorned. To draw a contrast there were several Mennonite women in the terminal at the very same time and while people certainly gave them some curious looks, probably thinking they were Amish, it wasn't scorn, hate, or pity. They wear head coverings too. 
Please know during this brief time I didn't feel bad for me-I felt the pain of the women who couldn't just remove their head coverings when the sun stopped shining in their face or they got tired of being stared at because they are called by their beliefs to cover their head. No one should be made to feel suspect because they are honoring their religious belief. It was worse than when I am followed in a store for being black because it was more than suspicion-it was palpable hatred. That man stared at me like he wanted to remove me from the building. In all my interactions with racism and I have had tons I haven't had that. I have felt unwelcome but not like if there were no other people there I may not have been safe. (I write this and I have served members of the Indiana clan as a waitress and stood in line with a skinhead)
I caution those of us who are not Muslim or not of a faith that wears a head covering to understand that while we may understand racism we may have never walked in another women of color (or not of color there are white Muslims)  shoes where race and religion intersects and a whole other level of bigoted ugliness arises. It is all bad and certainly one is not worse than the other. We need to respect the differences of experiences when we are discussing issues of race, religion, politics, and feminism as well. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The shaming/ punishing of pregnant teens

Recently a charter school in Louisiana came under fire for their policy regarding teen pregnancy. They were going to (they repealed the policy) required any girl suspected of pregnancy to take a pregnancy test and refusal was seen as admission of pregnancy. Apparently pregnancy is not "in keeping with the school’s goals and objectives relative to character development" as stated in the schools handbook. Thus young pregnant slutty, amoral girls must be banished to home education programs or leave school completely.

Before I get to my thoughts on the removal pregnant students from school lets first go over what this school was really asking to do. They wanted to demand a teenager submit to a medical test AT SCHOOL, with no HIPPA protection apparently.  If the teenager simply feels this is a violation of her privacy or person she is then deemed to be pregnant and kicked out of school! If she does take the test and its positive she is kicked out of basically outing her situation to the entire school community. What if she didn't want them to know? What if she was raped or abused? What if she is planning on seeking an abortion and wanted to keep this between her family and God? Never mind all that, the teachers and staff at Dehli Charter School know what is best for this teens future.

As a homeschooler and doula I firmly believe homeschooling can be a viable option for a pregnant teen who is experiencing a difficult pregnancy. However, to force medical testing on young women and then force them out of school against their (and their parents) will to a home education environment is vile.Somehow in this schools policy there is no punishment for sexually active young men who impregnant young women. No request for paternity testing so they can kick him out as well. It is premised on a belief that "sluttiness" and immorality is catching and teen pregnancy needs to be punished.   These are backwards outdated beliefs. For all the years we enforced these codes of conduct as a nation teen births did not stop. Instead they happened ending in secret adoptions, shotgun weddings, or the social shame of single motherhood. 

Let's have some have facts. The teen pregnancy rate is the lowest its been in 30 years. So we are not in some code red emergency status level that some would have you believe. Yes teen pregnancy happens but in steadily declining numbers. This is not due to the other myth that teen girls are running out in droves getting abortions either since only 30% of teens choose to terminate their pregnancies.  In states that are requiring comprehensive sex education in schools, like New Hampshire, they are showing the lowest numbers of teen pregnancies. Compared with conservative states where abstinence only is the standard and teen pregnancy tends to be the highest. Like Louisiana where the teen birth rate is 6th  in the nation choose to keep offering teens abstinence only sex education or none at all and allowing schools to come up with policies such as these.

Teen parents don't need public shaming. I could tell tons of stories of how people told me that myself and my children would be nothing because I became a mom at 16. I often found it many of these people were "pro-life" just not pro-poor women raising their own kids. If we really want to address and curb teen pregnancy then we need to get honest with ourselves about sex and sexuality so we can be honest with our kids. We can't stop teen pregnancy when we think vagina is a dirty word and that telling kids about condoms will make them have sex. Clearly saying "just say no" hasn't worked either. There is mentoring and female empowerment programs. There are many ways to curb teen pregnancy but shaming and punishing young women is NOT the way. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Of iPads, Public Housing and "What The Poor Shouldn't Have"

So a couple weeks ago residents in a housing project in New Orleans were concerned about a demolition scheduled nearby due to health concerns over air quality. A pretty big story I would think. So who could have foreseen that what really would get people going was a picture that accompanied the story that showed a young boy sitting outside playing with an iPad. People emailed and called the reporter outraged that someone poor and on public assistance had the NERVE to own such a device. Resulting in a second story about the reaction to the picture in the first story <sigh>.

For me the attack on that kid felt so personal. Years ago in my family I decided technology would be a priority. In 1997 my twins had just been diagnosed with autism, they were only 3 years old, I had read somewhere that children with autism learned better with computers. So I went to Rent-a-Center and found a previously rented Packard Bell computer (yep that long ago). Then I went to Wal Mart and bought every Jumpstart learning software program I could afford to teach my children colors, shapes letters, etc. It worked. Kora would spend hours humming and rocking back and forth using the program where she could press any key to get a response to learn. Soon she and Korina had mastered mouse control and simple games and their speech was improving.They are still wizards at the computer.

I remember when I first acquired internet the same year through a local provider. I thought internet was something only middle class people could afford and when I realized I could afford it I jumped at the chance. It opened up a world of knowledge to me. The internet and having access to it is how I learned about positive behavior reinforcement and other techniques to lessen my daughters harmful behaviors. Medicaid didn't cover applied behavioral therapy yet so I was on my own. Access to the internet made me a better parent. Taught me things like how to descalate a meltdown and also how to do some self care. I found a autism rights community and that led to my first act of direct activism-a showdown with the local school board over funding for my children's' special education preschool class (yes my children did get what they needed).

Today I am sure if some people came in my house and saw the amount of technology we have they would think we shouldn't have it. I have even had someone snap back at me once in a comment section when I said something regarding knowing about being on food stamps I must not be too poor I have internet. As if public libraries don't have internet and dial up is expensive. We have 9 computers in my house 4 desktops 5 laptops it has taken me years to acquire. I have purchased them with tax money and back child support, one was a gift and one I paid for in payments. Almost every one was used and I am fortunate to have friends that fix computers. If  people are mad they are focusing on the wrong fucking thing!

What people should be focused on in my house is what we DON'T have so we can have the tech we DO have. We rarely buy new clothes. My kids don't wear name brands. My kids have NEVER owned a video game system in fact they only have a Wii because it's my partner's. We wear Payless shoes and used shoes. We make our own household cleaners and many of our health and beauty products too. We penny pinch A LOT.  I highly doubt that any middle class family would trade places with me. Internet equals our ONE "luxury" because we never go to the movies. Let's be real in today's world internet is not a luxury it's a necessity. We constantly hear about the achievement gap. One of the factors is lack of access to technology. So we shouldn't be complaining when we see poor kids with iPads. We should be happy. Hell, that is one piece of useful technology. A child can do school research on an iPad.

My overall reaction to the story was SO FUCKING WHAT the kid has an iPad! In fact bravo to his parent or guardian. No one knows how he acquired his iPad and frankly WHO CARES! I wondered if the picture had included him sitting with a Nintendo DS would as many people noticed? I don't think so. That is something acceptable for poor kids to have and do. People think those keep black and brown kids stupid and it fits a "they're so lazy" stereotype.

Often because it is something people wanted and many don't have they pointed their fingers and said how dare he one of those people have something they can't have in the comments. For them the picture played perfectly into the welfare queen myth that Americans have been fed for 30 years now. It makes people feel better to judge others and think "those people" have something they don't deserve. It works even more if we've been told we actually DO deserve it. Even if we already have it we can sit back and say I earned mine and you didn't, so there!

The question we really need ask is what makes us so hateful and judgmental that we think the poor are not allowed to have things that others are. I have heard arguments that poor people shouldn't be allowed to buy junk food with food stamps. I have heard arguments that poor people shouldn't be allowed to have cell phones, personalized license plates, fake nails, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, and any number of other things. My question is why do the poor need to held to a standard the rest of society is not?

I know, I know I am living off your money but guess what most of us poor people do work or use to work so it's our money too!  Even if we have never worked or never will work we are not a bunch of immoral children needing the general citizenry's guidance in every aspect of our lives.

We are people just like you with hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children.  We save so our kids can have things. We barter with friends. The difference for us is we are always living on the edge of disaster. One check could make us homeless, our housing may be hazardous to our health, our neighborhood might be dangerous, our job might barely pay the bills and all these problems don't have many options for solutions. That is the difference. When you look at a person in poverty with something you think they don't deserve you are basically saying they are less than you or they don't have the brains to acquire the next level of achievement. I am here to tell you when you do that it is classist, elitist, often sexist and racist and it needs to stop.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

First they came for-you know those sluts NOT ME

First they came for third trimester abortion 
I thought that's fine women don't really need those right?
Then they came for abortion providers 
I didn't pay attention because it wasn't my fight 
Then they regulated and regulated abortion care 
throwing up hurdle after hurdle 
I didn't notice I was busy living my life
Then they came after IVF and birth control 
My reaction this can't be so 
When they hollered Abortion Free is what we'll be 
I realized this issue is much bigger than just me.
It will take us all if we wish to remain free. 

Personhood in practice/Why treating Catholic Hospitals different is dangerous and stupid

This will be a short post if you read my other post you know I almost died after being denied abortion care during an incomplete miscarriage (spontaneous abortion).  Since I have made my story public I have heard two common themes from anti choicers.

1)I could've just gone to another hospital- um NO the town I lived in had ONE major hospital it was and still is Catholic.  This is happening in more and more places as Catholic hospitals buy up non religious institutions.  To me that argument would not sound so good if we inserted another religion that doesn't "believe" in some form of medical treatment.  Let's go with Jehovah's Witnesses. Not because I don't like them just because they have a controversial belief most people know about. If they suddenly started up hospitals and said well we're not going to do blood transfusions, oh well. People would be up in arms.  Surely no one would then blame some gun shot victim if they bled to death for not making sure the hospital gave blood in their time of crisis. Who thinks like that? You don't, you go to the nearest and best hospital when you're dying. You don't stop to think if there might be "people of faith" who will let you die.

 2)That it was an individual doctor's mistake that almost killed me, a rare occurrence of bad judgement NOT the fundamental beliefs of a hospital interfering in my standard of care.WRONG! this has been documented and studied. It's policy among Catholic hospitals. Hospitals that take a shit ton of money from the government in grants, medicaid, and medicare. My point here is simply think before you speak, especially when you don't know what you're talking about. Also where would you want your loved one to be in the event of a pregnancy emergency. I have not been the only woman effected by these policies.  This is part of why fetal personhood can never work!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


       Yesterday the Mississippi senate killed HB488 the Ariziona style anti immigration bill. It's defeat gives me hope (even though one of my favorite GOP house puppets Andy Gipson is trying to revive it). Not really hope in my elected officials, many of them need to go. Since the more time I spend with them I recognize many are sheeple just going doing what someone higher ranking or a national think tank tells them to do. It's not even hope in my state government since they created the bill in the first place. It gives me hope for Mississippi and Mississippians. Never a week goes by that it seems I am in a conversation about how nothing has changed in Mississippi and we are stuck in the same dark place racially as we were forty years ago. Granted I am the first to say we have a long way to go, we have also come long way indeed. What led up to the defeat of this bill shows it.
       It took a multi-ethnic multi-generational, socio-economically and religiously diverse community to come together and say NO for this bill to go down and we did that. Mississippi Law enforcement came out against this bill along with business leaders, local politicians, and religious leaders. Who would have ever foretold that happening in this breeding ground of hate and civil liberties violations?  Members from the ACLU, NAACP, MIRA, the LGBT, and the feminist community all wrote, called, and showed up at the capitol. It has been very grassroots as well, like the young people recreating James Meredith's Walk Against Fear. This time not only fighting racism, but shining a bright light on immigrants rights too.
          So when people tell me nothing has changed in Mississippi I will have to disagree. This month MY Mississippi stood up for the rights of people. A big beautiful rainbow of people got together and fought back. We showed that indeed black, brown, white, and diverse people IN MISSISSIPPI can/will/do stand up for human rights together! From now on when people state that nothing has changed in Mississippi, how backwards we are, and that there is no hope - I can point to this. At least on this issue, in this moment I can say YAY MISSISSIPPI YAY!! There is hope for us yet :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

March Madness!

Its March Madness time!  Opposing teams are pushing it the limit and using everything in their straegy book to win the game. However, I am not speaking of basketball. I am talking about the time of year when the Mississippi Legislature goes into session and tries to meet the deadlines to push bills though. This year for the first time in a long time our state has one party, the Republican party, controling the house, senate, and the govenor's mansion. So they have a power they have not had in long time and they are rushing to use it. This year I was able to watch this process closer than most citizens do because I am somewhat of a self proclaimed activist. We will get to my observations in a moment. As many people know there is a war on women going on and it is going on strong in Mississippi.  Yet Mississippi hasn't stopped there they are on a mad cap war against "illegal", or maybe they will learn to say undocumented immigrants too. HB 488 "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act" includes such brilliance in bill writing will ensure racial profiling by requiring police check the immigration status of people who are arrested. It also would prohibit any "business transactions" including renewing a driver's license and getting a business license.  All that makes sense because hey we don't want people to have a business license so they can pay TAXES and we certainly don't want people to be able to turn on their lights, gas, or water. Let's not forget that this is a state that already sets up "random" road blocks to check for peoples insurance and driver's license these already target poor and minority communities.  Hmmm, I wonder were they will be if this passes.....  This stupid bill also opens the state up to lawsuits that of course cost money. Many in law enforcement don't even support it. I believe no person can be illegal, only their actions can and immigration issues ARE feminist issues. Women and partiality women of color are being greatly effected by these laws and they are being victimized in detention camps. We have to have solidarity on this issue.
      On to the war on women when the legislative session started we had 31 bills that were either anti women or restricting women's reproductive freedom. 31bills!!!!!  At the same time that House Public Health and Human Service Committee Chairman Sam Mims was working so hard to push though many of these bills to regulate mine and my daughters bodies he refused to even present a bill to license midwives. A bill which would make the practice safer and help to allow insurance to pay for midwife births. Pretty important you would think in a state with some of the worst infant mortality rates in the country. I digress and need to move on.Thankfully most of these bills died in committee, yet four are still with us. Yes if you have been keep up with your bracket these are our final fourHB 790, HB 899, HB 1390, and  HB 1196.  (See summary below) These bills are all threats to not only women's ownership of our own bodies but also the safety of the doctors who serve us. We have to fight back because these bills need to die in the senate where they are now because we are now in the final four its on now and March Madness is not over.

In this summary of the bills you'll see HB 16 which we thought had went away but its back- So lets call it the fatal five- credit for these summaries goes to Jennifer James and Cristen Hemmins I believe- HB 16 Child Rape Act --Its mandatory reporter requirements and fetal tissue storage mandate negatively impacts and affects every delivery room and Ob/Gyn in the state, and all health care providers indirectly. It will put doctors in legal jeopardy for the criminal behavior of others and denies reproductive health rights to women that currently exist. It is legally a step on the road to personhood. It will also negatively impact medical research and testing. This bill also contains a provision to make any person who helps a minor obtain an abortion, even if legal in the state they received it, open to legal action. HB 790 on House Calendar Outlaws the use of RU 486.--This is reverse tort reform for healthcare providers and creates a new lawsuit against doctors authorizing punitive damages and attorneys fees against healthcare providers affected by the act. Once again good doctors will be driven from the state and researchers will avoid the state. HB 899 -- Line 258 outlaws any abortion "not medically indicated." This leaves the door open to outlawing all abortions within the state except those deemed "medically indicated." The other provisions would create additional cost to every healthcare practitioner in the state, including but limited to signage, printed materials, print and broadcast advertising, websites, publications, letterhead, etc. It also endangers the safety of fertility doctors and other reproductive health care providers by requiring public signage identifying their areas of practice. For an abortion provider, this is dangerous, and could result in an attempt on the life of the doctor. HB 1196 --This is the fetal heartbeat bill that outlaws the termination of pregnancies after the the detection of a heartbeat (which is as early as 5 weeks), and/or after twenty weeks and, requires that ultrasounds be performed on all pregnant women (they have publicly stated would require trans-vaginal ultrasounds for many women) who for any reason seek to terminate a pregnancy. The costs and impacts on the medical community as well a public health are unacceptable. It also contains "personhood " language, asserting that life begins at fertilization. This is what voters rejected in November 2012, and it paves the way for future attacks on all abortions, hormonal birth control, and IVF. HB 1390--Requires all physicians performing in abortion clinics must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. It places an undue burden on healthcare providers and hospitals while negatively impacting women’s access to healthcare. Since there are already admittance agreements with the clinic and a local hospital for emergencies. Most doctors fly in from other states to perform procedures due to the risk of living where you work