News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

A new ad in India cleverly attempts to show men how creepy and gross they are when they harass women on the street.

Last week it made national news when local students protested when their vice-principal was fired for getting married. Today, the vice principal speaks publically and we learn that the school actually asked him to divorce his husband in order to keep his job.

We celebrated as marriage equality came to Utah this week! The New York Times coverage reminded us of one of the fundamental rights that marriage brings: “Amy Wilson, who is seven months pregnant, spent much of the night outside the offices of the Salt Lake County clerk. Her daughter is due in February, and Ms. Wilson said that a marriage license would mean she and her partner…would both be recognized as the child’s parents, each of their names listed on her birth certificate. Without the license, they have been exploring out-of-state adoptions and other costly measures to ensure both women are legal guardians.”

I have been to India

WSCADV executive director Nan Stoops with Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi

As you might know, I have the privilege of participating in the first cohort of the Move to End Violence, a 10-year initiative that seeks to strengthen our (U.S.) collective work to end violence against women and girls. Recently, the cohort spent 11 days in India meeting with survivors, activists, scholars, and government officials to learn about Indian social justice efforts in Delhi, Jaipur, and Kolkata. Over the next few months, I will post some of my reflections from this inspiring, unforgettable experience.

We began our journey in Delhi with a visit to Gandhi Smriti, the place where Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhiji) spent his last 144 days and the site of his assassination in 1948. We immersed ourselves in Gandhian philosophy and walked his last footprints. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “To other countries, I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim.” Witnessing the legacy of Gandhiji―his influence on everything from governmental policy to social justice organizing to informal conversation to daily prayer―adds relevance to Dr. King’s statement. The memory and will of Gandhiji are pervasive.

I was particularly struck by one of Gandhiji’s last notes: “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

We conceptualized the “poorest and the weakest” as “the last man, last woman, last girl.” We met some last girls. They are not so different from the last girls that live in our communities here at home. HERE.

Sitting with a last girl, the only thought I had was: there but for the grace of God. . . How can I not work for her freedom? As it will be mine too.

S*!t people say

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say about Martin Luther King, Jr. day, racial justice and equality … and then I came across the video “S*!t White Girls Say … to Black Girls.” Not everyone is amused, but the fact is it went viral. Franchesca Ramsey had her experiences to make this video and said that even impacting one person made it worth it.

This video resonated with me because I have my own collection of things people say to me. For example, when I get asked if I’m from India, I usually answer “I’m from Zambia.” Then, I hear things like “Wow, you’re black?” (an attorney) OR “My best friend in college was from India.” (a well-traveled person) OR “Oh, so you’re a Zamboni-an.” (a person of color).

Women are often judged or undermined because of what they said, what they drank, or what they may be wearing. Similarly, survivors of domestic and sexual violence have heard “why don’t you just leave?”. It’s just s*!t people say … even some well-intentioned people. It’s me, it’s you, and yeah, it’s the people you hang out with.

So be informed, use your own strategy to educate yourself and others. And be willing to be educated, whether it’s acknowledging a thoughtless remark or asking good questions about what you don’t know.