Thursday, March 09, 2017

Pondering happiness and joy in times of struggle…

I recently attended the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership training. This year I’m honored to be a Rockwood Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice fellow (yay!), so odds are I’ll be sharing some of my experiences along the way.

Anyhoo, the Art of Leadership training was amazing and I got a lot out of it. As I listened to leaders from various progressive movements share their vision for the future, I was struck by how amazing the world will be when they accomplish their goals.  These leaders are building the kind of world I long to live in! 

That got me thinking about movement history, how all too often activists neglect to share our vision for the future, and that it’s important to infuse happiness and joy into our work along the way.

Shall we?

Longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. I watch it often, and my favorite segment covers the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I love listening to regular folk, many of them women, discuss how they organized the logistics of helping people navigate their daily lives for over a year without using public transportation.

I’ve always been amazed by footage from the many mass meetings that took place at churches throughout the campaign. People sang songs, encouraged each other…after a long day of work, folk would go to the mass meetings and get fired up, y’all.

Tis easy to focus on the daily act of boycotting public transportation…on the harsh backlash from employers, politicians, and the police…but the emotional fuel for that work came from joyful mass meetings.

Which brings me to the present…to our current national, state, and local nightmares…and why we need happiness and joy now more than ever.

I went to bed stressed about the move by politicians to essentially dismantle Medicaid through block grants, a move that will put a lot of people’s healthcare access at risk.

I woke up this morning to news that Trump has instructed his minions to slash billions from Housing and Urban Development funding…a move that threatens access to affordable housing for millions of seniors, poor families, and people with disabilities.   

Activists must now face down a powerful political force intent on using government as a weapon against the most vulnerable in our communities.

I’m worried about how these budget cuts will impact my older relatives…and I’m beyond anxious about how these cuts will impact my older brother’s quality of life and level of care. My brother has autism and, like millions of people with disabilities, relies on Medicaid and food assistance and housing assistance. 

The margin between making it all work and absolute chaos is very thin for my family.

Sigh.

This is going to suck. This fight is personal and important, and it is going to be hard. 

Now, more than ever, I intend to prioritize happiness and joy.

I’m taking more walks. St. Louis is beautiful right now, with flowers blooming and happy dogs getting their canine on in parks.

I’m making space to spend quality time with my brother and sister. We do dinner on Sundays…something yummy, soda pop, a KitKat bar or cookies or both, followed by a quick walk down the street where by brother lives.

Ah, there it is!

Happiness radiating from my brother’s face as he signs KitKat with us, as he hums some song that sounds very Stevie Wonderish, as he pauses mid-walk to exclaim his joy over the soda pop in his hand.

That's my fuel.
 
So, let’s dance before we march.

Shit, let's dance while we march!

Let’s sing and hug and make art and enjoy the good people who we get to take action with.

I wish you happiness and joy...

...and hugs and laughter and something yummy too.

Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump's Address to Congress Preparedness List of Needed Things...




Donald Trump is fixin to address a joint session of Congress tonight. 

This comes after he fed the political press with distractitude about how President Obama is behind leaks and recent protests at congressional town halls.

Blink.

It’s been clear from jump that myth of Trump The Fighter requires an active enemy at all times. He’s settled on the press for now…but the clock is ticking on his relationship with Congress, and that’s why this speech is important. Some may say that Trump has a lot riding on his relationship with Congress…on keeping members onboard and such…but I think Congress has more at stake here.

After a week of hearing from the masses at town hall, members are now weighing the pluses and minuses of being on Team Trump against the potential political payback.

Either way, the odds of Trump getting through this speech without letting his inner Yeti out are slim to none. 

Let’s jump on in!

ABB’s Preparedness List of Needed Things for Trump’s Speech to Congress…

Pre-speech happiness…
Now, more than ever, it is important to prioritize happiness and joy in life. Even as we resist, we’ve got to season each day with healthy doses of what we’re fighting for. I’m in this for justice…for the human right to live in communities free of oppression and violence…and for the happiness and joy that comes with that shit.

Tonight’s pre-speech happiness is all about sea otters.

What?

I adore otters! 

They have cut faces and cuddle with each other and there are tons of pictures and videos of them being happy and doing happy things online. I plan to indulge in 30 minutes of otter-based happiness prior to the speech.

***pause…consider…continue***

Okay, it’ll probably be an hour or so of otter-based happiness…because, OTTERS!

So…damn…cute.

Comfort food and school-night beverage consumption…
Okay, so I’m currently in love with a local St. Louis restaurant and food truck called Guerrilla Street Food.  They cook up yumtastic Filipino-inspired street food…and I plan to score some tonight.

These nice folks make magic with calamansi, hoisin, sriracha, fried garlic, scallions!

Yum.

So, I’ve gotta have a vodka cran or two to compliment that…but it’s also a school night, so I’m skipping bingo and opting instead for a 1-to-1 ratio of vodka-based drinks and water.

I wish my Girl Scout cookies were in.

A cookie-based bingo game would be fantabulous and wouldn’t mess me up on a school night!

***adds cookies to shopping list***

Post-speech comfort and joy…
We gonna be alright…

...as long as we take care, give comfort, and get our joy on.

I find Trump’s voice and speaking style as grating as he is boorish, so I like to detox from exposure with some dawg time.

Longtime readers may not know that Betsey the sorta-beagle and Theo the Baymaster passed on awhile back. They are truly missed.

My newish canine companion is not a sorta-beagle.

***gasp***

I know! I went into the APA looking for two sorta-hounds from the website and came out with a large sheepdog…maybe a Kuvasz or Great Pyr mix…so not a hound. 

Her name is Zelda Bear and she’s a very sweet, bark loving, fur shedding, sassy large dog.

Zelda loves to cuddle and get rubs…and I plan to wrap up the evening with some fluffy dog time followed by reading trash fiction until I pass out.

A final note…
If you’re living in the states but haven’t watched the state of the state address from your state’s governor, get to it. 

Trump is fascinating and he loves attention and blah, blah, blah. But politics is local, and whatever comes out of his mouth tonight must be weighed against what came out of your governor’s mouth too. 

State of the state speeches are often available online, or check out coverage in your local papers.

Do it…

…and then watch another otter video to sooth your nerves.

***wink***

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reviving the fine art of bitchitude…

I’ve been away from this blog for a minute, tackling all manner of offline challenges and getting a new direct action organization formed to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice off the ground.

You can check out Reproaction here…and here…and here!

Anyhoo, the last year has been one heck of a wild ride. Coming out of November, I honestly pondered putting this blog on ice...mostly because I was actually too full of rage to put my thoughts together in any coherent form.

Anger can be productive, but rage tends to make me either shut down or say, do, and/or obsess over stuff that isn’t helpful.

I put together a list of all the reasons why I should shut the blog down...and then I realized all the reasons why I should start blogging again.

I've been blogging here for 12 years (gasp) and I've come to realize that this space is what it has always been…a spot for me to rant, reflect, ponder, and share. And that’s a good thing to have at my disposal now that it looks like we’re in for two to four years of absolute bullshit in the midst of the largest outbreak of no-home-training I’ve ever witnessed.

So, yeah…a bitch is back.

***pause…sip morning coffee out of nifty new Spiderman mug…continue***

Let’s kick this revival off with a quick reflection.

Last November, America shat the bed.

I mean really shat the bed...shit all over the place, from state to national and some local elections…a real poo-based election result mess.

Yes, the Russians likely got their tinker/tailor/soldier/spy on.

Yes, voter suppression played a role.

And yes, many people decided to vent frustration with the system by voting against business as usual.

The end result is a bed full of boo…and no one can say they didn’t see that shit coming.

I’ll save my thoughts on how voters place far too much focus on national politics and need to look closer to home for answers to why stuff ain’t working the way it should for another day.

For well over a year, Donald Trump told voters and pundits and reporters and the Twitterverse who he is…over and over and over again.

What little Trump left unsaid was uncovered and revealed and discussed…over and over and over again.
 
Now, Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do…governing with boorish disregard for tradition, ethics, the common good or basic common sense.  

This is going to be painful.

The sad reality is that real people will suffer the real consequences of this election for years to come. The rich will get richer, Russia will remain Russia, Mexico won’t pay for a wall, and far too many people will learn that they got played.

Now is the time to build bold strategies that will allow for the electorate to learn from this and never do this again.

As I see it, the purpose is to guide the masses through the current debate over who shat the bed and what message they were trying to send...help coordinate the clean-up even though some additional shitting will likely take place throughout that process…and hopefully lead folk to a point where they realize that shitting your own bed isn’t a strong tactic to send a message to a bunch of politicians who have never and will never lay down in the same bed as your ass.

Sigh.


Toodles!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

That’s a win.

Congratulations go out to the activists, providers, and volunteers who worked so damn hard to defeat a horrible abortion restriction law in Texas way back in 2013, and who fought all the way to the victory at the US Supreme Court yesterday!

Way to work, people!

It is too soon to tell what impact the SCOTUS victory will have on Missouri, but I am hopeful that it provides a tool to dismantle similar anti-abortion laws here and across the country.

 Go. Fight. WIN!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why Political Platforms Must Center the Most Marginalized People

I just have to share SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Executive Director Monica Simpson’s speech before the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Committee on June 17.

Monica is such a gift to the movement.

And I stand with her and SisterSong in this demand.

Folk can also check out Rewire’s reprint of Monica’s remarks: Why Political Platforms Must Center the Most Marginalized People


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pondering what happened in the room where it happens...

The Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) recently held their state convention.

Some shit went down.

Not old school “shit”, like back in the days of Truman when folk would fist-fight and then kick a horse.

I’m talking new-school shit, when people who are new to party politics meet up with folk who could run a clinic on how to get your party politics on...and shit gets real ‘cause oil and water and all that jazz.

Blink.

I’ve seen Facebook posts congratulating supporters of Bernie Sanders for advancing his agenda at the Missouri state convention. I’ve browsed through pictures of smiling newly elected delegates and read blog posts breaking down how Sanders supporters organized to get what was definitely an impressive turnout that garnered significant outcomes.

Some articles make it seem as if Team Sanders owned the room.

I’ve seen posts from Clinton supporters too, some expressing anger and frustration, others resigned to what went down.

Across the board, folk seem excited to move forward to the DNC.

But the thing is...and you just knew there was a thing...

I’ve also been flooded with emails, texts, calls, and GChats (Lawd, give me strength!) expressing outrage that attendees failed to pass resolutions on abortion rights, LGBT non-discrimination, or voting rights.

That got my attention.

Missouri has one abortion clinic, a 72-hour mandatory waiting period for abortion, and a state legislature that has made it their goal to end abortion access. My state is a test kitchen for abortion restrictions...and no progressive worth their vote doesn’t know that.

In Missouri, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services.

And in November, Missouri voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would require photo identification in order to vote. A study by Missouri Secretary of State Kander found that 220,000 registered Missourians don’t have photo ID. Y’all can do the math on just how devastating this poll tax dressed up to look like a ballot measure would be.

If you want to know what Democratic lawmakers in Missouri end up spending too much time defending and not enough time advancing, these are on the top of the list and you can add in worker rights and freaky tax bullshit.

So, yay...glad to see resolutions on new stuff and workers rights and taxes.

But, seriously.

WTF?

When that many progressives gather in a space to elect delegates and pass resolutions that are being and will continue to be used to frame the state party’s priorities...and the gathering fails to pass resolutions supporting abortion rights, LGBT equality, and voting rights…

Well.

Whatever the fuck DID happen is not what could have or should have happened in the room where it happened.

A Quick Note on Representation.
The same logic that inspired Sanders supporters to organize around the state convention...the understanding that representation matters, no one can speak for you or advocate for your beliefs like one of you, and the concern that other folk may not prioritize your issues the way you need them to be prioritized…

Yeah, that’s the same logic that makes me cringe at the fact that no people of color were selected as 2016-2020 DNC Members-Elect.

And it wasn’t that people of color weren’t in the room where it happened.

Nope, everyone isn't already on the same page.
If I had a dollar for every time someone running for office in Missouri with a giant “D” by their name failed to give a full throated endorsement of abortion rights, I’d be able to finance photo ids for the 200,000 Missourians who may lose the vote in November.

And I’m not even going to dive into the confusion, messed up strategy, and compromises made on voting rights.

As for LGBT Equality, Dems have come a long way. But now is not the time to tone down support for non-discrimination bills or equality in general.

Now is the time to get specific as hell and loud about abortion, non-discrimination, and voting rights.

That isn’t what happened in the room where it happened.

Did Paper Fly and Shouts Ring Out in the Room Where It Happened?
At a fucking minimum, I expect a damn revolt when an abortion resolution doesn’t pass.

At a minimum, I expect paper to fly and shouts to ring out when a voting rights resolution isn’t proposed.

And damn it all to hell, if you can gather and organize to fight for representation on the slate, then you damn sure should be able to do the same for a non-discrimination resolution.

At a minimum, that should have happened in the room where it happened.

What Comes Next?
I’m left feeling that it is what it is.

The party will move forward.

The new blood made their priorities clear, and sent a strong message to the party about those priorities.

In the end, the big story out of the state gathering was representation.

Who organized and got what they wanted.

Who didn’t.

Do I think MODems are going to suddenly become horrible on LGBT rights?

No.

But a resolution would have sent a clear message to candidates, voters, and Missourians that MDP is all in on MONA and everyone else should be too.

Do I think MODems are going to stand up for abortion rights and demand the same of candidates who run under the party’s banner?

Um.

Some will, others won’t.

The party has a long way to go, and the lack of a resolution on abortion rights won’t help address a history littered with inconsistent and reluctant support for abortion rights.

Do I think MODems aren’t committed to protecting voting rights?

I’m pretty confident that Dems are committed to voting rights, particularly since the votes under attack are usually Dem votes.

But we’ve got a monster of a ballot measure coming up in November, and a resolution would have been a nice reminder to the press, voters, and Missourians that voting rights are under attack and Missouri Dems are the ones deep in the battle to protect them.

And no, I'm not just bitching to bitch.

These are Missouri specific issues that should be a priority for Dems because they sure as shit are a priority for the MO GOP.

In summary…
The world doesn’t revolve around the Missouri Democratic party, resolutions, or non-binding party platforms.

That said, it does matter what people do and what they fight for when they are in the room where it happens.

It is a privilege to be able to journey to Sedalia, spend the day there, and participate in the state convention. I personally don't think it should be so damn hard for folk like me to go...for all the reasons and then some.

But it is what it is.

And now we move onward.

Resolved...sort of.

Blink.

***cue Hamilton’s History Has Its Eyes On You***