Can I Get a Witness? #BlackLivesMatter

MLK Black Lives MatterThose who know me, know I prefer amplifying other people’s actions and voices over my own. I just don’t like self-disclosure very much. But I just read this post from Luvvie Ajayi, and when I got to Be a witness, I remembered about Saturday morning. And I remembered the adrenalin and then the relief I felt. So, in the interest of encouraging more people to take an ACTIVE part in making our world better for ALL of us, I’m sharing this 15 minutes from last weekend.

Last Saturday morning, as I pulled into a Cedar Grove grocery store parking lot to buy vegetables and rice cakes, I saw the blue and red flashing lights of police cars at the parking lot entrance. The Black man in the front driver’s seat was calm. The police officers were calm. But I still chose a parking spot in the back, closer to the pulled over car.

For a second, I almost passed it by. My inner voice asked, “Who did I think I was? What kind of self-inflated hubris was driving my choice to Be A Witness to this more-than-likely-routine-but-maybe-not interaction?”

I hadn’t yet heard about Terence Crutcher’s murder in Tulsa. It was before the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Still, I felt a need to watch what turned out to be an arrest.

Sitting in my car, facing the interaction, I held my phone with the camera set to video and watched. And waited. I watched as the driver put his backpack into the trunk. I watched as he was handcuffed. All parties seemed amiable, if not friendly. Still, I watched as he was searched, pockets emptied, and helped into the back seat of one of the police SUVs. And I watched as one of the officers got into the Black man’s car and parked it carefully in the parking lot a few spaces away. The officer then locked the car, checked all four doors, and nodded to the man sitting, cuffed, in the backseat. Only after the Police SUV had pulled away, passenger and all, and driven off did I get out of the car and grab a shopping cart to continue on my suburban way.

Was watching the arrest a waste of time? Was my rushing through shopping to make it back in time to pick up my kid from art class worth it? No, and definitely yes. It wasn’t a waste of time because it kept me conscious. And, in this case, I was witness to an appropriate, respectful interaction between police and a Black man. It wasn’t a waste of time because we don’t always know that someone has our back, but it’s important that we all have someone else’s. It is worth it because acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is the first step to truly being able to claim that All Lives Matter. And I want that. I really, really want that.

It’s also important because I have an obligation in this society. Just like you do. And not being directly impacted by a particular injustice doesn’t excuse me from working to encourage and demand justice. Just like it doesn’t excuse you.

Here’s another chance to read Luvvie Ajayi’s post: Another Day, Another Hashtag. White People, You Gotta Get to Work NOW

And oh, yeah. If you’re still confused about the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, read President Obama’s take, or maybe this gentle guide. Or if you like visuals, how about this nice cartoon?

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Glad I Saw It: Fairy Trail

Fragile Fairy House

Fragile. Let It Be.

The South Mountain Conservancy Fairy Trail is a lovely, fairly easy, loop of forested delight. Clever Fairy houses and swings and nap nooks are hidden (and not so hidden) along the way. Some are easy to find and others take a little bit of luck. We took our leashed dog, and we saw a couple of strollers. The strollers didn’t make it all the way around. More adventurous groups will go off the beaten path and find hidden delights — along with poison ivy and gorgeous, huge spider webs. Don’t disturb either!

We’re definitely going back, but next time we’ll bring bug spray.

For more information on the Fairy Trail and its origins, check out this Upworthy video! Find out more about the South Mountain Conservancy’s wonderful work here. See the location of the Locust Grove picnic area (where the Fairy Trail begins) here. If the lot at the entrance is full, parking is available across the street at the Millburn Public Library.

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No such thing as “too feminist”

The video posted below was cut from the DNC’s Thursday night program. Whether it was because it was seen as “too soft or too feminist” or because of time doesn’t really matter, does it? Women have long been making the choice between emotion and expediency, and finally having a woman nominated for POTUS by a major political party isn’t going to change that. So this video directed by a woman, narrated by a woman, about a mother, highlighting barriers broken by women, and meant to introduce the first woman to break the first pane of the highest political glass ceiling in the world was cut from the celebration. Oh well.

Still, it’s a video worth seeing. It’s eleven minutes of celebrating Dorothy Rodham and sharing due credit for Hillary Clinton’s political achievement with scores of women who have come before. Watch.

And in case you think we’re beyond needing to emphasize what “qualified” means and giving credit for hard work and career accomplishments, check out this cartoon from The Boston Globe dated July 27th, 2016, titled “Measuring Women’s Progress.” Oh well.

Wasserman Progress

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Glad I Saw It: Eastern View

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This is our dog seeing the ocean for the first time.

Lately, finding moments to replenish the wells of empathy and strength and self-care have been few and far between. If you can’t get away, figure out how to see a familiar sight as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Breathe deeply, so you can get out there and get back to work.

PS: Our pup was adopted from the For the Love of Dogs Rescue.

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Glad I Saw It: The Coming Tide

Just putting this out there as a reminder that not only does the sun rise again, but the tide continues to surround us with its rhythm.

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Glad I Saw It: Rectangles

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You know it’s moving season when you see art and art supplies out on the sidewalk. Keep your eyes peeled for cool stuff around town.

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Celebrating Hillary Clinton’s Nomination with Joyful Feminist Tears

CkZh0teWkAA6hm6This morning I had my first cry about Hillary Clinton being the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States. I’m not usually a crier when it comes to history. I’m a hand-clasper, a nodder, and woohooer, and an enthusiastic clapper. I don’t often cry tears of joy, so this took me by surprise.

It happened while reading this op-ed from Gail Collins: What Hillary Imagines. At first, I was annoyed by the lackluster opener.

Hillary Clinton. First woman presidential nominee.

Deflated, right? Then I gritted my teeth at the seeming implication that HRC shouldn’t bring up “the first-woman thing” because it’s supposedly old news for young girls. (POI: my 7-year old daughter often questions why only men are on the diner placemat honoring US Presidents and if girls can be mayors and senators because all the mayors and senators she’s had have been men – albeit racially diverse men, so it’s not such old news for young girls.) 

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Dorothy Rodham and her daughter.

And I suppose I was still thinking about my daughter questioning whether girls could be mayors when Collins revealed what I already knew from Hillary Clinton’s speech last night: If Hillary Clinton could choose to go back in time to tell anyone she’d been nominated for POTUS, it wouldn’t be an historical figure — it would be her mother. And even now, typing these words, I tear up.

Hillary Clinton would want to let her mother know that yes, all those sacrifices of self and demeaning moments when she bit her lip and smiled when she really wanted to spit, when she straightened her shoulders and ignored lewd comments, when she got back up and kept going and taught her daughter how to shrug off insults and condescension, when she cried in frustration only after the door was safely closed behind her, when she defied discrimination by returning to work the next morning and refusing to quit, and when she made compromises to survive and endured physical, emotional, and spiritual pain while thinking of her daughter’s future — all that was worth it. All that helped build a steely platform that could hold the weight of history as her daughter claimed the nomination for the most powerful political position on Earth.

By choosing to share the historic accomplishment with her mother, HRC is choosing everyone who has gone through those moments. All those moments and so many more. And that, I think, is part of why it caught me by surprise and afforded me a moment of feminist weeping. I don’t want my daughter to experience the self-doubt and ego-busting moments I’ve had at work, in school, in social situations, on the street. I know she will. I know she will.

But now, with the ceiling close to shattering, it will be easier for her to straighten those shoulders more broadly and the smile in response to an insulting work situation can be much more knowing. A female president won’t solve sexism any more than a Black president solved racism. In fact, we can probably expect more of the scrambling backlash we’ve seen over the last eight years.

But for now, I’m celebrating the history — I mean — herstory of this election. Because it’s a really big deal. And it deserves unbridled jubilation. #ImWithHer

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Wear Orange on June 2nd. Then Act Every Day.

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Hadiya Pendleton

Orange gets attention. It is the color hunters wear on vests and knit caps so they’ll be seen. Or, as one of Hadiya Pendleton’s friends explained, “Hunters wear bright colors so that they are not targets.” Yep. We are at a point where young people in Chicago need to behave defensively while they walk to school, come back from grabbing a slice of pizza, seek shelter from the rain so that they won’t be shot to death.

Oh, but that’s Chicago. Oh, but that’s Camden. Oh, but that’s Detroit. Oh, but that’s Baltimore. Oh, but that’s Oakland. Oh, but that’s not my home.

But if you switch it up, it sounds more like: Not Chicago! That is 7-year old Samyra. Not Paterson! That is 14-year old Nazerah. Not Hilliard! That is 10-year old Colin. Not Laplace! That is 5-year old Haley. But still, we find a way to say: that’s not my child.

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San Bernadino Memorial

So, because the public responds more passionately to certain types of gun violence, parents, family, friends, and communities around the country cry out in pain in an attempt to beat the constant need for ever more shocking and titillating news.

We are Virginia Tech! We are Newtown! We are Isla Vista! We are Kalamazoo! We are Charleston! We are Aurora! We are Piketon! We are Appling! We are Spring! We are Moultrie! We are San Bernadino! We are Montclair! We are Oak Creek! We are Binghamton! We are Littleton! And on and on and on.

On June 2nd scores of gun violence prevention groups will partner to raise awareness by asking you to #WearOrange. It is a day to remember and celebrate the lives of those lost. And it is a day to renew and refresh commitments to work actively to prevent more lives lost. The question is how to be as effective as possible in the most convenient way possible.

Easy Actions that anyone can do:

Educate yourself. Find vetted sources with citations. Watch how grief and inspiration becomes action. Learn about what agencies like the CDC would like to focus on. Or the American Academy of Pediatrics feels is most important.  Read about how domestic violence aggravates gun violence around the USA. Expose yourself to viewpoints that question and dispute myths about guns in homes and their use. Even MTV is on board with solid facts about gun violence in the United States. Read this HuffPo piece by Josh Horwitz, of CSGV; he details the importance of a Gun Violence Restraining Order.

CallRepresentative_484x252Contact your lawmakers. States have a lot of power to regulate illegal firearms and encourage safe use and storage of firearms. Statistics show that state laws can have a huge impact on safe handling, preventing suicides, and overall gun violence within their borders. However, the greatest impact can and will be federal laws. The flow of firearms from states with lax gun laws to states with tougher gun laws is lucrative business and difficult to control. You can find your Congressional Reps here. You can find your US Senators here. Need to figure out who your State Legislators are? Try here! Some things to mention are below.

Stay Aware. There are so many more areas of concern: Repealing PLCAA. Ensuring that guns are removed from domestic violence situations. While handguns make up about a third of guns in the USA, they are involved in around 80% of firearm murders. Handgun regulation is a must to curb all forms of gun violence, including suicides. Instituting a Gun Violence Restraining Order, like what has recently passed in California, will give families an option when they fear for a loved one’s safety. Or their own.

Speak Up! Ask about guns in the home and if children have access to them. The BeSmart program is a solid start, and it includes important concerns about teen suicide.  The ASK campaign is also user-friendly and direct. Share your experience calling or writing to legislators to encourage others to be vocal as well. Vote for candidates who commit to working for strong gun reform.

maxresdefaultI know this is a lot. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. It’s enough to make a reasonable person throw up her hands and walk away with a disheartened shrug. Please don’t.

Think of those who feel compelled to immerse themselves in this movement because of and despite their personal loss and pain and terror that it will happen again. Families and friends respond in myriad ways; they choose the best and most healing and reasonable course for themselves.

Wear Orange on June 2nd. Begin, reignite, continue your journey on this issue. But make sure to act however you are able to do so every day.

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Get a (non-pandering, authentic, gender-neutral) Hobby, Hillary!

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Full Disclosure: #ImWithHer. Even more: I find Hillary Rodham Clinton likable, caring, compassionate, and funny. I’d quite enjoy having a sit down chat and a meal with her. And none of that is why I think she is the best candidate for POTUS.

Apparently, what someone needs to be an acceptable candidate for POTUS is a hobby, a pastime, a surprising talent to show off on a late night show. I know this is necessary because several Very Important People have brought it up. David Brooks bemoans HRC’s unlikable status as a result of not sharing anything personal “…except for a few grandma references.” He then strangely points out that we all, especially career-driven grandmas, need sanctuaries — that those running for POTUS need to slice open and expose in order to satisfy our curiosity about what happens behind closed doors. Seems a tad contradictory, but maybe I don’t understand Brooks’ definition of “sanctuary.”

Then Jonah Goldberg chimes in at the National Review with a response to David Brooks by smacking down the career-driven cause of HRC’s unlikability and claiming it’s because she’s “inauthentic and a very bad and brazen liar.” Never mind that out of all the major candidates for POTUS this election season (yes, all — as in Republican and Democratic), Secretary Clinton has the best record in truth-telling. And can we just skip the inauthentic part? First, this whole “she needs a hobby” and “why can’t she share more” thing is old. I mean, under snarky accusations of pandering, HRC’s campaign had to drag out old articles about stocking the White House kitchen to prove she carried hot sauce in her bag when Beyoncé was still in Girl’s Tyme. So, who’s inauthentic? The accused or the accusers?

Anyway, a few people have already poked fun at The Haters. Charles Pierce at Esquire has a fun take on it. Jia Tolentino at Jezebel’s The Slot points out what should be obvious about HRC’s likability problem with at least a portion of the population. NYMag’s Jessica Roy is relieved someone has finally figured it out. And I’m sure there are more.

But I thought it would be helpful to do some sharing about HRC myself, just for those of you who can’t get past certain discomforts with Hillary Clinton’s personal life. I owe a debt of thanks to the Wise Women in an utterly fabulous pro-HRC group I am lucky enough to belong to.

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  1. Look! Hillary is a cat person AND a dog person! Does that help?  (Eh. Why can’t she choose just one? Flip flopper! And why such Establishment breeds? Typical.)

 

 

 

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2. She enjoys reading to children! There’s an unimpeachable hobby, right? (The kids look bored. Why’d she choose The Hungry Caterpillar? They’ve probably heard it scores of times.)

 

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3. Gameboy! Everyone loves Gameboy!  And she was probably playing Tetris. (Ugh. Her thumb technique is all wrong, and I heard she was addicted to her Gameboy. Weak constitution.)

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4. Okay, how about Dominoes? Hillary Clinton claims to be able to play Chinese and Puerto Rican Dominoes. And she really seems to enjoy it! (Pandering – Again! They totally let her win and probably cheated for the photo-op. Fake laugh! Fake celebration!)

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5. Beer? She can like beer authentically, right? (Oh hai SWILLARY! And is that a Guinness? She must be pandering. To someone.)

 

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6. I give up. I gotta fall back on Grandmother. With Hillary’s granddaughter about to become a big sister, you have to admit that HRC loves being a Grandmother. (Sure thing. I LOVE her as a Grandmother! And she should relax at home and enjoy being JUST a Grandmother.)

 

And in case my collage of pictures and snark doesn’t do it for you, check out this post at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for some more insight.

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Plaintiffs: Get an Attorney for Domestic Violence Cases

urlOne thing I learned from observing domestic violence cases in family court is: Get Counsel. On average, for every ten cases I personally observed, one Domestic Violence Restraining Order was issued. One. Very, very few plaintiffs have an attorney present. Some defendants do. When an attorney is present in these cases, the outcome you want happens. Almost always.

That’s not the narrative many would have you believe. I’ve heard from gun advocates and men’s rights advocates and others that restraining orders are given out like candy. It’s true that TROs (Temporary Restraining Orders) have a slightly lower threshold, but they are temporary. There is actually a great burden of evidence that judges weigh, and with verbal or texted or emailed threats, it often comes down to which person to believe. And an attorney helps to organize and present and weigh a person’s words.

Recently, audio of a courtroom case became available, and while it is between neighbors and not domestic violence, the similarities in the courtroom are striking. Take a moment to listen to the audio of the back-and-forth in this courtroom. The judge asks how the plaintiffs know the texts are from the defendant. The attorney for the defendant is able to bring up doubt by suggesting that someone else could have taken the phone and texted the on-going threats. Despite a previous arrest, on-going threats in public places and over texts, coming onto their property with a loaded and cocked shotgun, the judge decided not to issue a restraining order. Three members of the family were shot to death by the plaintiff 33 hours after the judge dismissed the case saying, “I expect everybody to keep their cool leaving this courtroom.”

When in the midst of crisis, or when people KNOW they are telling the truth, they often think that will be enough. It’s not. Emotion, nervousness, being in the presence of an abuser, feeling intimidated by the process, and being treated as though your fear for your life is all in your head (also a typical technique of abusers, so of particular concern in a courtroom), can all come together to make a plaintiff appear unsure, confused, or dishonest — EVEN WHEN S/HE IS NOT.

There are resources for those who cannot afford an attorney or who feel unable to navigate the system properly. Contact the Family Justice Center in Essex County, the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Rachel Coalition Legal Services for legal contacts, or S.O.F.I.A. for referrals. For general research and information, take a look at the NJ State Police page with Domestic Violence Information and contacts by county. In addition, you have the right and ability to walk into ANY police station — whether it’s in your town or another — and make a complaint, ask for resources, or get information and help. Most NJ Police Precincts have trained officers and volunteers (Domestic Violence Response Team) who can help get you information you need.

As this terrifying and all too real situation between neighbors highlights the need for plaintiffs to bring an attorney, especially in domestic violence cases and abusive situations between family/friends. So please, Always get an attorney for court in domestic violence cases! Thanks.

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