Posts tagged #social justice

a year ago, we were giants

A year ago today, Russ and I took part in The Rescue - the worldwide event Invisible Children created to bring awareness to children soldiers in n. Uganda. This is the post I wrote after the fact - once I had time to process everything that happened. To be honest, I'm still processing. Since then, we've fostered relationships with people across the world, been blessed by the generosity of our IC family, and been challenged by creating that sense of community where we live. A year ago, we were giants. May we never forget. ________________________________________________________________________

In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants & hold the world in arms grown strong with love & there may be many things we forget in the days to come, but this will not be one of them

- Brian Andreas

I came across this from a good friend of mine. The moment I read it something happened inside my heart. Something concrete & hopeful & dangerous. From that second – I promised myself whatever I did, I would do it remembering this story & those I have met along the way who hold the world in their arms of love. And I have forgotten a lot. I have failed to write my heart & my dreams down. Words & thoughts & hopes have gone with the wind, and I can only hope that unlike Hughes’ dream deferred, mine will return & not rot like a raisin in the sun.

However, there are moments where my dreams seem vibrant with color & so tactile I feel as though I can reach out & grab them. A couple weeks ago was one of those times.

I wish I could capture every magical moment of the rescue. I wish I could capture the beauty of pick up duck-duck goose games or midnight freeze tag or last minute taxi rides in the wee hours of the morning while walking the streets of Austin in search for George Lopez. I can only try & grasp with my weak vocabulary the severity of what joining together with thousands across the world did to my heart.

But I will try. Because I have to. Because I refuse to forget this moment.

I drove down to Austin on the 25th of April. I remember the weather. Sunny, almost brimming with anticipation — as if even the weather knew what was broiling in the minds of thousands of young people. We were many, but we had one hope. One goal. Abducting ourselves in solidarity with the child soldiers of n. Uganda & awaiting rescue from a mogul — be it politician or celebrity. We just needed a statement. Them standing in solidarity with us, who were standing in solidarity with the children. Because our rescue ultimately meant their eventual escape from a horrific life of terror. When I got to the Capitol, there were about twenty volunteers there, waiting & laughing & planning for the hundreds who would show. The abductees started the trek at 3 that afternoon in the blazing sun & showed up at the site after their mile and a half walk with flushed cheeks & wind whipped hair.

And they were smiling. All of them. A smile of hope.

Before long, the Capitol lawn was littered with sleeping bags, ice chests, guitars, footballs, pillows, scrap paper & new best friends. Within hours, boxes designated for letters to Senators were overflowing, proving wrong society’s perception of our “apathetic” generation. Apathetic we are not. Even in the face of rain and bitter disappointment

It started raining some time in the early morning hours. Walking from group to group, our voices growing hoarse and our hair growing damp, we shared inspirational stories to keep the momentum going for our impending rescue. We had a mogul. She had agreed to an offsite interview & we were going to see her making a statement for our movement at noon on Sunday. Excitement was building, people anxious for a shower & sleep worked out their jitters with dodgeball & red rover. Didn’t know the person next to you? No matter. They were your family simply because of the common bond. Instant friendship. Instant trust.

We got word around 11:45. Volunteers were called to a meeting at the VIP tent & walking towards the group I knew something was wrong. Long faces may not seem out of place after a night of no sleep – but this is a different crowd. No sleep? No problem. Double shot of espresso, good friends, good music, good laughs & good conversations pass the time & make you forget of exhaustion. Long faces don’t accompany the faces of my IC family very often. I walked up to the group timidly & began hearing bits of the conversation. It didn’t take me long to get the idea.

Our mogul wasn’t coming.

We weren’t rescued.

The promises we had given the camp the night before? The pleas to stay because it was gonna be worth it?


But wait.

We looked at each other. Suddenly, the realization sank deep in our bones & we let it simmer in our souls for awhile.

This is why we were here.

The games were fun. The instant friendships were meaningful & would be a catalyst for life-long relationships & a taste for true community.

But we were not there for us. We were not there to play dodgeball or red rover or sing songs late at night by the light of a flashlight and the tune of the guitar.

We were there to stand in solidarity with the children who had hoped & hoped & hoped for rescue for over 23 years. We were there to understand what it was like to be promised something (like rescue) and be disappointed in the backfiring of the best laid plans. Because these kids? They’ve been promised peace five times. It’s no exaggeration when I say a whole generation has never known peace. I will say this again. In n. Uganda, a whole generation has never known peace. And we were losing heart with our mogul falling through? In Austin? No. We would not lose heart. We would stay. We would press on & keep the faith & not leave until we got someone.

It took another 24 hours.

On Monday, August 27, 2009, 48 hours after many had first stepped on the Capital lawn, we were rescued. Many were soaked – it had been raining off & on all evening & between dodging sprinklers, fighting sleep & staying strong, many were refusing to let up. A fire had been lit. And just like with any fire, it had onlookers. I don’t think I will ever forget the black suits watching us from inside the cushy offices – warm & dry – while we stood ground outside the Capitol steps dripping wet & taking turns in the dry air of Subway, Starbucks, or walking barefoot in the Capitol building for a moment’s reprieve from the rain. We truly were a force to be reckoned with, and they knew. We had been heard; we had been seen; and in the process, these children were not invisible anymore to those in Austin who could make a tangible plea in Congress on our behalf.

We were rescued on Monday, but other cities weren’t so lucky. I went home Monday night to my bed, others were still battling freezing rain & blistering sun & bitter disappointment. Russ didn’t come home for another four days.

And while those four days held about three other blog posts, know this: I learned something about my generation that week. My generation? We are a persistent bunch. We will not give up. We will not give in. And whether it be forcing trends on twitter to listen to us or demanding mogulus watchers to pay attention to this channel called invisible children or connecting people cross country to others whose hearts beat in the same way or sticking it out old school for the big O’ to come to the rescue, we will wait. Because there’s something else I noticed about our generation.

We believe in the absolute truth of hope. And in this hope lies the truth that impossibility doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. Our arms have been built with the persistence of love, and we will hold those hurting until others join the fight. We will walk together, knowing community exists when dreams are fostered, and to those around us we will seem as giants. And looking around, we will know this is true.

Posted on April 24, 2010 and filed under africa.

let's not change the world

NOTE: sorry about the weird typeface - not sure what happened with the copy/paste feature in my browser. :) This was taken from a post James Pearson (Acholi Beads, Choice Mob, WikiChoice) recently wrote for Plywood People. I thought it was incredibly inspiring.

Let’s not change the world. Let’s not end poverty or wipe human trafficking from the globe. Let’s not put an end to global warming or empty the landfills. And let’s stop trying to eradicate malaria and treat every HIV and tuberculosis patient in the world. Instead of changing the world, let’s change our daily routines. Let’s all knock a minute off of our showers and turn a few lights out when we don’t need them. Let’s ride bikes to work when we can, or look into carpooling and public transport. And let’s choose jobs that we believe in, because they uphold our values. Instead of wiping out various diseases or ending human trafficking, let’s each pick an organization that we believe in and support them as best we can. And when the need comes, let’s all take the two minutes to make a phone call to our senators. And instead of treating all the patients in the world, let’s each meet one and make sure he gets the treatment he needs. And let’s forget trying to get rid of poverty. Instead let’s each build a connection with one poor person, or one poor community, and learn how we might give them a hand. And when people ask us what we’re doing, let’s be sure to tell them that we’re not changing the world, we’re just changing ourselves, and hopefully helping a couple others do the same. And when first they hear that from one of us, and then another, and another, they might begin to wonder if the whole world is changing around them.

I think what he has to say definitely holds weight. Instead of targeting multiple issues, target one - find one issue you know you can fully support and believe in - and dig deep. Take the time necessary to develop skills needed in that area. Research. Collaborate. Advocate. And above all - be authentic. Don't claim you're going to change how you live or try and get others to do something you aren't willing to do yourself. How will I change myself? Well, I mentioned in this post how I plan to use as little electricity as possible and turn the AC up a few notches. I'm also going to head knee deep into fighting human trafficking - SheDances is an incredible organization I know I can fully support and give my attention and talents to help them rescue girls at risk for trafficking. And I won't stop sharing. I won't stop talking about the 27 million slaves in the world and the 2 children every minute being sold into some type of slavery. I will finish my novel about how this industry even seeps into the shadows of America. And most of all, I will continue to advocate for my students. I will continue to push for service learning within the classroom and research what it would take to truly have educational reform in our country - so every student knows he or she can effectively create change within themselves and in turn, change those around them. Students NEED to know they can effectively create change within themselves. And we can do this by restructuring how we approach the secondary classroom. Life is exciting. Too much is happening for us to actively capture their attention through strict lectures and worksheets. Education hasn't changed - at all. We need to meet the world where it's at in order to properly encourage these kids towards success.

So here's my question to you: how are you going to change yourself?

cheaper than leather shoes

She glances at the man out of the corner of her eye and quickly wipes the stray tear inching down her cheek. Her body aches. With a resigned sigh, she crosses her legs and pulls her jacket closer to her skin. What’s underneath would hardly count for clothing, and she silently hopes she won’t be sent to the streets this evening. The man leaning against the wall taking in his surroundings catches her eye and smiles. Her heart sinks and she braces inwardly for him to come over. “How much for a massage from this one?” he asks, pointing at her with a foreign glint in his eye.

The shop owner glances behind him, following the man’s gaze. Looking the girl up and down, he shrugs. “Twenty. Good price. She’s new here…” catching the man’s eye he whispers just out of earshot, “pretty inexperienced.”

The man’s smile stretches in unnatural ways – barely meeting his eyes. She sees the exchange – his hands shaking as he hands the small wad of bills to the owner. Hiding her grimace, she straightens her back and steels herself against the pounding of her heart. Her friend sitting next to her grabs her hand and gives it a squeeze, tracing her palm with her pinky. Their secret message: hold on. rescue is coming. this nightmare will end. hold on.

Closing her eyes, she breathes deep his scent as he walks up to her. She studies his shoes for awhile. Leather. Expensive. A small scratch on the right foot – almost as if he ran into a twig while running. She refuses the realization he probably paid more for his shoes than he did for a short session with her. His hand wrap around her small arm and she winces at the strength. Her pulse becomes erratic and she lifts up a silent prayer, hoping someone is listening. Please let this be a dream. Please let the pain end.

Someone is listening, right?

The man with the scuffed leather shoes walks heavily into a side room and shoves her into the corner. She stumbles, struggling for footing before collapsing on the makeshift bed. His breathing grows ragged and the slow whoosh of a belt slaps against the straps as it comes undone. She focuses on his shoes, strewn carelessly across the room. The pain comes and she fights for breath under his weight, but she’s in another place. There’s mud on his shoes but something catches her eye. There. In the middle of mud – almost buried by grime – a small flower radiates with color.

Life in the middle of death. Beauty in the middle of devastation. Hope in the middle of despair.

A tiny tear slips unnoticed and she feels a sharp pain as the man slaps her – his ring digging into her cheek.

“Stop crying you whore. You want something to cry about? I’ll show you.”

Her heart threatens the protection of her ribcage – with a cry she begins to fight. Kicking. Screaming. Biting. As long as she’s breathing she will hold on to her humanity. Her innocence. She will not let go. The pain inches its way to every part of who she is but every space of life battles for survival. Her tiny fingers wrap themselves in his hair, pulling the strands from his scalp in small clusters. Her little feet beat rhythms against his legs, creating bruises he’ll have to explain away. For a split second, she thinks she may have won. His weight shifts and she watches as he gets up and turns away, rummaging through his pockets. Her eyes widen and her head starts shaking vehemently, pleading for mercy. He grabs her ankles and wrists, tying them with a rope. The fibers cut into her skin and all hope, all life, all beauty shrinks away. She is no match for his brute force, his laughter reveals this is just a game to him.

She loses strength and collapses against the sheets, pulling herself as far away from him as possible. She will smell his scent forever. She will wake from nightmares with his face inches from hers. She will never get away from his taste. She will never hide from his force.

She is his captive. She lays there. Lifeless. Forgotten. Invisible.

Finally, the man finishes, grunting with satisfaction. Broken again by a man she doesn’t know. she fights the rage, lacking the energy to act out on her impulses. She reacts the only way she knows how. She waits and hopes.

He puts on his leather shoes, the weight of his steps now matching his physical force. Walking over to where she still lay motionless, his eyebrows sink in confusion. She’s hidden her face against the pillow, her shoulders still quivering from the sobs she held back during the session. He places a timid hand on her arm and she turns to look him square in the eyes. It’s the first time she’s forced him to look at her – truly see her. She waits.

One second. He sees life and hopes and dreams. Two seconds. He sees despair and pain and hopelessness. Three seconds. He sees peace and acceptance and waiting. Four seconds. He sees beauty out of ashes and restoration out of destruction.

His destruction.

The man jumps back, his breath skipping a beat before turning and running out of the room. She follows him with her gaze, and only when his steps become distant does she allow herself the dignity of mourning.

Every 60 seconds, 2 children are trafficked into commercial sex exploitation. Over 100,000 US children are forced into pornography or prostitution each year. You can help. Check out She Dances or Love146 for more information on how you can make experiences like this history. Also: Check out Anne Jackson's blog as she exposes this darkness in Moldova and Russia. Her stories will haunt you.

standing on hope's shoulders

Much could be said of this generation. As a teacher, I hear a lot of judgments and assumptions about what teenagers are thinking and what makes them tick... but all they need is purpose.

Which is a huge part of me being the sponsor for Club ICU at my school. We've supported Invisible Children for four years. And while we are technically a "club" from the beginning we have believed that to be a misnomer. Justice has no elite membership. While our focus is n. Uganda, we understand social justice spans far wider than a tiny speck on the globe. Issues surface in our own backyard. Earthquakes bend the ground and waves crash against shaken poles. We never wanted to be the group who focused so much on one area we ignored all the rest.

So, when the earthquake hit Haiti, my students immediately began to question what we could do to help. We realized we had about 350 dollars in cash from fundraising the previous semester and it was just sitting in our cabinet - waiting for the next round of Schools for Schools. The students began to wonder - why wait? Why not give what we have now - all of it. So they did. And it wasn't very hard for them to decide to send it to Real Hope for Haiti and Heartline. I had been telling them stories from the Livesay blog and RHFH and they wanted to help. They had faces, names and situations. The perfect storm in giving.

Here's what they said:

After seeing the pain and suffering brought forth by the recent earthquake, giving to Real Hope for Haiti and Heartline was an easy decision. We as Americans are so privileged in every day life. Our ability to not only give but give generously to those in need is incredible.  It breaks my heart to see the Haitian people in this chaotic time, especially now that I'm a new aunt. The preciousness of a child is so much more personal to me, the well-being of a Haitian child is just as important as any other. Anything that is needed to help the people of Haiti should be done.

- Alex Leininger, 12th grader

A shockwave can be more than physical. It can be emotionally devastating, just like an earthquake destroys physical things. I remember hearing about the earthquake. My heart breaking I fell on to the couch, mouth agape as I watched the devastation and death. I wanted to help. Thankfully, our ICU Club came across Real Hope for Haiti. Not long after hearing about them I heard about Amos Ivey, Aaron Ivey's son. He is still in Haiti. What broke my heart even more, what really opened my eyes to the devastation the quake had on the kids was when Amos asked Aaron, "papa you comin'?" So many of the children in Haiti are orphans now. They have nothing and need everything. Real Hope for Haiti gives them the most important and valuable thing: Hope. Hope for a new life, hope for love. My heart goes out to all those who have experienced loss. I pray God's love and grace floods your life. Job lost all he had. He suffered great loss, just like those in Haiti, but in the end was blessed greatly. I am incredibly glad to be helping in some way. I am hoping and praying these kids have a brighter tomorrow. "I have told you these things that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

- Dane Kemp, 12th grader

**Note: Amos is actually on American soil. Dane wrote this just a few hours before Aaron and Jamie Ivey found out Amos was on his way to Florida. When I texted Dane to let him know, he replied: "Powerful emotions Aaron must be feeling. Only a daddy could feel that way. Papa found a way. Both did. Amos should be happy."

Much could be said of this generation. But I know what's true: this generation is not relying on standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. They understand change is not only desired, it's a necessity. They realize that in order to make a difference, they are going to have to blaze new trails and give generously. Risk will be involved. Adventure is a priority. Most believe this generation would rather sit in front of Mtv and daydream about starring in a reality show, but I know that most of these kids are discontent with the amount of excess they see in society and entertainment. Call it simple living, call it revolutionary it what you will.

I know it's just them standing on hope's shoulders, her justice flag waving in the breeze. They will not be content with living normal lives. Not these guys. You watch. It's addicting, this whole "changing the world" thing. Once you get hope in your veins, you can't get her out.

Posted on January 22, 2010 .