Dream Defenders
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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The time for honest conversation about the innermost parts of ourselves has long since passed. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There are countless think pieces, blog posts, articles and memes framing and reframing what it means and could mean to be Black in America. Innumerable excerpts are snatched from essays. Book chapters and research study conclusions are fragmented and cited to substantiate the creator’s theories and opinions.

 

To be Black in America is all too often to be silent about the things we should be loud about – even as we use our voices to selectively express dissatisfaction. The discomfort that is a derivative of our material conditions deserves a place at the table. Disturbances that often plague folks and don’t easily dissipate shouldn’t be kept from the light of processing and possible solution.

 

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We must be working on getting our people what we need all the while envisioning and enacting the future that we want.

The Abolinitionist Framework

I had heard about the Highlander Center, but I never knew just how integral it has been to the liberation movement. It is a place that energetically grounds itself in personal transformation as well as the transformation of our society as a whole. Leaning on history we see the sister I’d call the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Septima Clarke, and how she used the highlander space to teach former slaves how to pass literacy test so that they could vote under Jim Crow.  Organizing Black folks who could pass the literacy test had transformational effects on our society including  the creation of the CIO, the first inclusive union, which  was facilitated at the Highlander Center. The highlander is where people who are concerned with our condition in this country go to transform their lives, their values, their circumstances, their communities; it’s a place that transforms  the overall human experience in Amerikkka. Since its creation people have gone there to plot the revolution and dismantle the dominant white narrative.

 

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We had a team of radical educators create a curriculum that can teach children about revolutionary organizations.

In February and March, Dream Defenders engaged our base through a cultural art education project that focused on revolutionary organizations from around the world and highlighted their elements of REBELLION. It’s been an enlightening process for the organization and for the squaDDs to uncover how each of these revolutionary organizations have garnered power in the past to create transformational change.  It wasn't enough for us to create the artwork, we want to share this knowledge far and wide.  

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Patriarchy

To be honest patriarchy is still as abstract of a subject as it when I was first introduced to it. While I understand theoretically that Patriarchy is a system that values masculinity and men over women in a way that devalues us, exploits our labor, and systemically rewards and perpetuates masculinity as superior to femininity. Whether patriarchy rears it's head in my language when I say sorry excessively to white, entitled men at my hostess job, or reflects in the dollars and cents in my paycheck - it's presence is known. 

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Blackout Reflection: No One Hand Should Have All That Power

We live in the age of uploaded insecurities and weaknesses in the name of forming community.  And yet, somehow our tangible feelings become lost in the experience of impersonal expression. Social media coddles an individual’s expectation for recognition and a false sense of connection through that recognition. 

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Studies confirm that being on social media actually makes us depressed. When Sandra Bland was killed, my timeline was filled with images of her in her death and as the week went by, tiny pieces of the story came out one headline at a time, with each one flooding my entire timeline for hours...

Blackout Reflection: The Opium of the People

note, this is a part of a series of reflections made during the 73 day social media blackout that Dream Defenders just ended.  Find out more here.

Before I joined the Dream Defenders, I was one of the many organizers around the world whose work did not reverberate through social media with thousands of likes and follows. Even though I was doing amazing grassroots work with some of the dopest people in the world, I felt voiceless and powerless because I didn’t know how to talk about my organizing online. I used to get together with friends and ask them how they did it, feverishly writing down tips for how to make my work attract attention because I felt like I had to. When I shared this with other Dream Defenders after arriving here in July, I was surprised to hear that even people who I had perceived as having the power of a huge organization, still felt invisible as individuals over social media. In the age of the internet, power and exposure have become increasingly relative - you can always have more followers and retweets and you’re bombarded with examples of others who have all of these things all the time. It’s clear that social media creates a feeling of loneliness and inadequacy for many of us regardless of our positionality.  

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As we entered The Blackout, we wondered, “Is everyone talking about Black lives matter or is everyone on our timelines talking about black lives matter...or about the genocide in Palestine, or about kids getting kicked out of classrooms, or about all of our family, friends and community members who are stuck behind bars.

Our Social Media Blackout is Over.

On September 21, we began a 10-week online hiatus that ends today.  Our stated goal was to step back and deeply analyze our engagement with our movements’ most powerful medium - social media.  We all felt that something was...off. And, if we’re being totally honest, we were tired.  After three years of feeding the news, we found it nearly impossible for our feet to keep up with our mouths and thumbs.  And, we weren’t well.

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Alex was a human being, a son, a father, a husband, and most of all, a friend to so many. But beyond that, Alex was a Palestinian-American. That 2nd designation after the hyphen is supposed to mean something to the most powerful government in the world. As Palestinian-Americans, we are told that here, in the U.S., we are equal, we are deserving of all of the protections and rights under the color of law that any other American should have. Alex, like Fred Hampton, was taken away from us by powerful bodies that feel threatened by our quest for true justice.

Alex Odeh and the Indomitable Palestinian Spirit

The Palestinian people have been resisting the colonization of our homeland for almost 7 decades now, and the dream of freedom, human rights, and justice is still in sight. The colonizing force, state Zionism, will hold no punches as it seeks to obliterate the very foundation of Palestinian life, culture and history. The people of Palestine have despite it all shown to have a truly indomitable Palestinian spirit and continue to resist both in Palestine and abroad. 

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What the statistics won't tell you about Stand Your Ground's impact in Florida over the last decade

What the Statistics won’t tell you about Stand Your Ground’s impact in Florida over the last decade.

            Earlier this summer, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body that reviewed the United States for its human rights record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), announced that it was giving the U.S. an unsatisfactory grade of C1 for its failure to take steps to address its recommendations to roll back “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Committee found “Stand Your Ground” laws to be “inconsistent” with the right to life under Article 6 of the ICCPR when it examined the U.S. in March of 2014 in Geneva.  The U.S. Government finally responded earlier this month, in which it admitted it had “nothing further to report” on Stand Your Ground laws, not having yet completed an investigation into the discriminatory impact of these laws that the Unites States Commission on Civil Rights began in March 2013.[1]

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Dr. Brené Brown, a scholar, author, research professor, and one of my biggest heroes, writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that the true definition of courage is “speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”. She goes on to say that “every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver”.

What does domestic violence have to do with me?

Trigger warning: This article contains stories about domestic violence.

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