Dear Daughters of the World: I Did March for You

The Action Alliance’s Real Story Intern, Dominique Colbert, was one of nearly a half a million people who headed to Washington D.C.  January 21, 2017 to join the Women’s March on Washington. She shares her reflections here of the March, and her response to the anti-feminist critique that followed. 

A few weeks ago, history was made. On January 21st, one day after the 2017 Presidential Inauguration, over 3 million people took part in what has been referred to as the largest demonstration in U.S. history. The Women’s March on Washington, held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. drew around 500,000 people, while more than 1,000 sister marches took place in all 50 states and in over 32 countries across the globe.

As someone who attended the march, I can attest to the abundance of positive energy spread throughout the day by all in attendance. The feelings of unity and empowerment in one cause was indescribable and unforgettable. Attending was one of the best decisions I have made, and the spark it ignited to continue to create positive change has been so rewarding.

Following the march, many news organizations released stories detailing the event’s unity, message, and impact. However, anti-feminist articles were also put into high circulation. Most were written by women who claimed to be against the march and feminism altogether. Two such articles were How the Women’s March Reinforced Every Negative Stereotype About Women EVER and Dear Daughter: Here’s Why I Didn’t March For You. Another article, published prior to the march, I Am a Female and I Am So Over Feminists was recirculated heavily. All three articles attempt to disgrace feminism all while showing through their words, their ignorance of the true goal of feminism.

Susan Goldberg, author of How the Women’s March Reinforced Every Negative Stereotype, makes an effort to vilify the march on the idea that it ignores issues which she sees as more valid. A poster-child for the Fallacy of Relative Privation, Goldberg writes “America’s women have more freedom and dignity than most women in the world.” She states that the march should have been for women in other countries who are “working against [their] wills as sex slaves…or [who face] a lifetime of harassment and abuse because [they live] in an Islamic society, or [who are] suffering in silence after having an abortion, or [who are] still suffering the trauma of being tossed away because she was born a girl.” She overlooks the fact that the march was worldwide in attendance as well as being centered around the treatment of women worldwide. While some marched across the globe in solidarity with America, some marched for issues more relevant to where they live. Depending on where one lives, the immediate effects of feminism may look different. However, feminist agendas around the world intersect to accomplish the same goal. Oppression is not a contest. One form does not minimize the seriousness of another.

marchers-in-australia

Image credit: GQ.com.au

I Am A Female and I Am So Over Feminists is another article which fails to recognize this. Author Gina Davis claims that “Women have never been more respected. Women have more rights in the United States than anywhere else in the world.” Ironic, considering for example, that the United States ranks 101st in the world for percentage of women who hold national office. Early in the article, she writes “God forbid a man has ideas these days,” implying that feminists fight to keep men from having and sharing opinions. On the contrary, feminism is a resistance to the erasure of women’s voices, not an effort to erase men’s.

abr-org

Image credit: abr.org

Mary Ramirez, author of the Dear Daughter article chimes in with the same assertion. Ramirez writes that the Women’s March was unnecessary because we live country where we “already enjoy all the freedoms and rights that men do.” She goes on to list off said rights; women can vote, run major companies, or even run for president. It is ironic that in her list of women’s freedoms in this country, Ramirez fails to bring up any of the rights women were actually marching for at the Women’s March. The rights she did list, were, in another ironic twist, fought for by feminists in the past so that we may have them now.

Instead of making valid arguments against any of the issues feminists fight to change, all three articles attempt to discredit the entire feminist movement. Dear Daughter describes the marchers as “very loud” women who “screamed” and wore “funny outfits.” She goes on to generalize their concerns as “terrible, horrible, no good very bad lies,” basing all of her arguments against feminist issues on her altered idea of what feminism actually is. As opposed to paying attention to the marchers’ messages of equal rights — equal pay, control of our own bodies, equal treatment of all races, equal opportunities, etc. — they paint their own ideas of what went on at the march and what it meant.

marchers-close-up

Image credit: wate.com

Ironically, Dear Daughter and I am a Female conclude with statements that line up with the exact point of feminism; all genders should be treated equally. Davis concludes, saying, “There is no ‘dominant’ gender… Time to embrace it.” Meanwhile, Ramirez states, “…[women are] biologically and physically and emotionally different from men, but that doesn’t mean we’re less.” So congratulations ladies, you too have feminist ideals. Once the time is taken to understand what feminism actually is and what it stands for, a lot more anti-feminist arguments will be dismantled.

marchers-pink-hats

Image credit: scmp.com


Dominique Colbert is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

 

Mass Incarceration: Lessons Learned from Ava DuVernay’s 13th

As part of our efforts to deepen understanding and conversations around our racial justice work, the Action Alliance held a staff screening in November of Ava Duvernay’s documentary, “13th”. DuVernay, who directed the award-winning movie, “Selma”, created “13th” to examine the ways in which state control over African-Americans in the U.S. has changed shape since the 13th amendment was passed to abolished slavery. Action Alliance intern, Ki’ara Montgomery, shares her reflections on the film.

I was at my internship at the Action Alliance when I received the invitation: Join us for the showing of the documentary 13th. I heard about the film for the first time the night prior to receiving the invitation and I immediately knew that 13th was a film I didn’t want to miss.

As I watched 13th I was surrounded by troubling truths that I assumed true, but never had the information to fully believe because it was based on a history that wasn’t taught to us in school. Despite the feelings that were building up inside me as I continued to watch, I held myself together… until a little over halfway through the film.

I couldn’t control myself any longer. What started as a few tears falling down my face turned into uncontrollable sobbing and me fleeing the room in anger. It left me angry and confused. How could we let ourselves go back so far? Why are we accepting a new-age form of slavery? Why are we repeating the history that our ancestors and many of us have been fighting so hard to reform? I didn’t understand and honestly, I still don’t.

This film shows how the adoption of the 13th Amendment transitioned African-Americans from being enslaved in a historical context, to a new-age slavery due to a loophole that abolished slavery for everyone except criminals. This new-age form of slavery includes Jim Crow, lynching, and criminalization. Director Ava DuVernay gathered a unique group of people from various backgrounds to talk about these issues, including a representative from ALEC, a group that was heavily criticized in the film for their contributions toward laws that only worked to increase incarceration rates. That aspect is one that makes this documentary notable, in my opinion. Much like DuVernay’s use of words.

In 13th, not only do we hear the words that are used to criminalize black people in America, but DuVernay constantly shows us those words. The word CRIMINAL appears on the screen each time it is verbalized in the documentary. For me, each time this word was said and showcased, it invoked a deeper level of emotion than the time before. We hear and see the use of words such as super-predator, wolf pack, and gang on the news, in newspapers, and even from political figures. These words instantly lead your mind to the word CRIMINAL and some associate them all to the word Black.

History has played its part in this word association and the word choice. The documentary takes you back to 1915 and the release of The Birth of a Nation. This movie glorified the Ku Klux Klan, portraying them as heroes for ridding the nation of the ”black beasts.” These “beasts” would rape your wives and kill you if they weren’t tamed. These “beasts” were Black men. This was the beginning of criminalizing language and depictions of Black men.

Do you understand the architecture around an idea that you hold in your head? The design of it, the very construction of it is most likely not truly yours, but something that was given to you. The idea you have in your head was not built by you per se, but built by preconceived notions that were passed down generation after generation. – Ava DuVernay

Leon Neyfakh made a great point in his article covering 13th. “Ava DuVernay’s new documentary about mass incarceration made me feel ashamed[1],” the article began. “I thought about how much I’d gotten used to in just under two years of covering the criminal justice system.”

Neyfakh not only recognized his gradual blindness to mass incarceration, but he also tackled a communal ignorance to the situation. “How it could be that so many people could have ever grown used to the moral catastrophes that were slavery and Jim Crow,” he states. “How did they not wake up every morning, nauseated and panicked about what was happening? The same way people like me wake up in 2016 and take it as a given that there are 2.3 million people living in cages, a third of them Black.”

13th-infographic

Image source: Ki’ara Montgomery

Not being aware of these harsh realities and not taking the time to educate ourselves on the injustices that people in our society face daily, only makes us part of the issue. If more people were aware of the actual truth, would take advantage of the opportunity to view and analyze this information, and realize that we are living in a cycle that will never end until we end it ourselves, this film could be beneficial to most of our society. But if we don’t take the time to educate ourselves or we refuse to believe the truth that is constantly staring us in the face while stabbing our communities in the back, we will continue to be stuck in this vicious cycle.

Have you seen the documentary 13th? What are your thoughts on mass incarceration? Let us know in the comments!


Ki’ara Montgomery is a Senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with plans to graduate in May 2017. She is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and minors in business and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. While in school, she has had opportunities with VCU AmeriCorps, Culture4MyKids, VCU School of Education, and the Richmond Raiders. She is currently interning with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance with a focus in development, policy, and communications.

Featured image source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/03/the-13th-ava-duvernay-s-damning-netflix-doc-finds-the-truth-about-mass-incarceration.html

[1] Neyfakh, Leon. “I’m a Criminal Justice Reporter, and Ava DuVernay’s New Doc About Mass Incarceration Shocked Me.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 6 Oct. 2016, www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2016/10/ava_duvernay_s_netflix_documentary_13th_reviewed.html.

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 This article is part of the Action Alliance’s blog series on Virginia’s Trauma-to-Prison-Pipeline.

The Trauma-to-Prison-Pipeline (aka “School-to-Prison-Pipeline”) fails young people who are experiencing high levels of toxic stress and/or trauma by responding in overly punitive ways to youth who exhibit normal reactions to trauma and toxic stress.

Youth of color and youth with disabilities are particularly targeted for disproportionately high levels of heavy-handed, punitive responses to vague and subjective infractions in school, such as “defiance of authority”, or “classroom disruption”. Viewed from a trauma-informed lens, these same behaviors may signal youth who are suffering and struggling with ongoing effects of trauma.

 The Action Alliance believes that everyone deserves racially equitable responses that are compassionate and trauma-informed, and which build individual and community assets.


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

Debtor’s Prisons for Kids: The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System

 

A new report by the Juvenile Law Center, entitled “Debtor’s Prisons for Kids: The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System” reveals that fines and fees levied in the juvenile justice system are forcing kids to be locked up longer when their families can’t pay—which could be unconstitutional.

In 1983, the Supreme Court made a ruling in the Bearden v Georgia case which held that a judge must first consider whether or not a defendant has the ability to pay court fines and restitution before revoking their probation. However, not only has this ruling seemed to become overlooked, but it has been taken to the extreme. Judges are now imprisoning minors for fines and restitution that they are not able to pay—essentially punishing them for their family’s poverty.

About one million youth must appear in juvenile court each year. These youth and their families are then faced with fees, fines, and restitution for the minor’s infraction. When juveniles and/or their families are not able to afford these fees, the consequences often include extended probation or even incarceration. Being faced with these options, families are often pushed even further into debt, while their child becomes entangled in the criminal legal system.

orange-kids1

Image source: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/nations-high-court-ends-mandatory-life-without-parole-sentences-for-youth/

Much like the Trauma-to-Prison Pipeline (aka School-to-Prison-Pipeline) these Juvenile Debtor’s Prisons lead to an increase in recidivism and a cycle of mass incarceration, ultimately eroding entire communities.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, fines are levied on children’s families in the following ways:

  • Care, Treatment, Placement, and Support
    • Courts can charge a fee for any treatment, counseling, or rehabilitation that may be needed for the child, without requiring finding of guilt.
    • These fees can also include child support, costs of the child’s custody, detention, or placement in a facility, and the costs of their shelter, food, and clothing.
  • Evaluation and Testing
    • If examinations or assessments are required (such as mental health evaluations, drug and alcohol tests, tests for STIs, and DNA and blood tests), the child’s family is required to pay the costs.
  • Fines and Restitution
    • The child’s family is responsible for paying any fines and restitution that the child may incur, including $100 per day for failure to participate or comply with conditions and limitations set for the rehabilitation of a child engaged in truancy.

Though research is still being done on Juvenile Debtor’s Prisons, some studies suggest that the fees and fines that these families incur have a very limited benefit to the states and counties that they are paid to.

The Juvenile Law Center has released an accompanying “Toolkit for Eliminating Costs, Fines, and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System”, which offers recommendations for developmentally appropriate policies on costs, fines, and fees for youth.

What are your thoughts on the Juvenile Debtor’s Prison? How can Virginians help to make a change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Ki’ara Montgomery is a Senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with plans to graduate in May 2017. She is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and minors in business and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. While in school, she has had opportunities with VCU AmeriCorps, Culture4MyKids, VCU School of Education, and the Richmond Raiders. She is currently interning with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance with a focus in development, policy, and communications.

Featured image source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/01/the-cost-of-keeping-juveniles-in-adult-prisons/423201/

_____________________________________________________________________

This article is part of the Action Alliance’s blog series on Virginia’s Trauma-to-Prison-Pipeline.

The Trauma-to-Prison-Pipeline (aka “School-to-Prison-Pipeline”) fails young people who are experiencing high levels of toxic stress and/or trauma by responding in overly punitive ways to youth who exhibit normal reactions to trauma and toxic stress.

Youth of color and youth with disabilities are particularly targeted for disproportionately high levels of heavy-handed, punitive responses to vague and subjective infractions in school, such as “defiance of authority”, or “classroom disruption”. Viewed from a trauma-informed lens, these same behaviors may signal youth who are suffering and struggling with ongoing effects of trauma.

 The Action Alliance believes that everyone deserves racially equitable responses that are compassionate and trauma-informed, and which build individual and community assets.


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

The Action Alliance Has a New Home!

The Action Alliance officially moved into new-alliance-office-exteriorour new space on a chilly Friday the 13th. Over 100 crates and several dozen boxes held years of memories, materials, and supplies as we moved from our previous home in Richmond’s West End to the freshly painted and carpeted digs located just a block west of VCU’s bustling campus.

With the anticipated on-boarding of several new staff members and ever-growing work projects, the move to this new larger space came right in time. We were able to bring (almost all) the staff together in offices just off of the main hallway, creating a more connected and synergistic work space. We also doubled the size of our training center, enabling us to accommodate larger meetings more comfortably. Our Hotline staff members also have more space to stretch their legs in their roomier digs, and soon they will be joined by new members of the legal resources team.

new-alliance-office-interior“It’s exciting to be more visible to the community,” says Emily Robinson, Senior Hotline Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator.  “We are closer to the heart of the city and people can see our presence. We are very close to VCU, so students who may be interested in volunteering with us can get to us very easily.”  We are also surrounded by some of Richmond’s coolest cafés and eateries, and we haven’t hesitated at all to check them out!

Though our walls are temporarily bare, we have plans to line the halls with the beautiful artwork we’ve collected over the years.

We are also looking to create a permanent installation of the Art of Surviving exhibit, a powerful display of art created by survivors of sexual  violence.

We hope you will stop by and see us in our new space. We’d love to see you and give you a tour!


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335.