Trayvon Martin and the Myth of Post-Racial America

26 Mar

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged here. Not that there’s been a shortage of subjects to blog about, more a shortage of time to write about everything. Here it goes:
RIP Trayvon Martin
Today marks one month since Trayvon Martin was murdered and his killer is still free. In the month that’s passed the story has received a lot of attention, reaching a nationwide fever pitch last week. That may be because of the 911 tapes released by the police department, one of the gunman, George Zimmerman and the other of the neighbor whose backyard Trayvon was killed in. In the latter tape you can hear the last terror-filled moments of Trayvon Martin’s life. He screamed for help, armed only with a pack of skittles and an iced tea. Listening to that 911 call broke my heart, as I’m sure it did for the millions of people who’ve listened to it since its release and it made me want to do something.

Since I started getting vocal about this case, I’ve been accused of buying into media hype, being brainwashed by the liberal media, and all sorts of phrases that are essentially ways that people tell others that they don’t know what’s going on and to shut up. But I refuse to shut up. I may not be a lawyer, law enforcement officer, or have access to the intimate details of the case but this is what I know:

This is about justice. As Dr. King famously wrote as he sat in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Justice is a sacred tenant our country was founded on, it’s even in the pledge: “With liberty and justice for all.” Trayvon Martin has not received justice. He was ostensibly unjustly gunned down on the street, left in the morgue for 3 days unidentified by police while his family searched for him, and his killer still walks free today. George Zimmerman has been left to his own devices, free to destroy the evidence of what happened that night. We may never know exactly what happened that night, but the miscarriage of justice started as soon as George Zimmerman began pursuing Trayvon Martin.

But this is not just about Trayvon Martin, it’s about all the men and women of color who are killed, maimed, threaten and otherwise oppressed for being who they are. It’s not just about George Zimmerman, his race (PS there’s no chromosome in minority DNA that precludes them from being racist, just saying), ideology, or background.

This is about us. All of us.

This is about the racial prejudices each of us holds in our hearts, sometimes consciously, mostly subconsciously. After the election of President Obama, people speculated that we lived in a post-racial America. Quite the contrary, racism is not dead, it’s alive and well in the hearts of most Americans and it’s given power by the trick that we’ve played on ourselves in thinking that we’ve moved past it.

Each of us need to take responsibility for the prejudices that we have in order to move our country in the right direction. We must be vigilant of not only the actions of others but our own beliefs and actions.

The act of wearing a hooded sweatshirt is not a crime and it’s asinine to blame the hoodie (ahem, Geraldo). I went to a Million Hoodies rally for Trayvon in DC this weekend, as I rode the Metro into downtown I looked around trying to figure out who was headed to the rally. It was rainy and dreary and almost everyone was wearing a hoodie. It was then that I realized, I could have been Trayvon. When I walked up to freedom plaza I saw thousands in hoodies, just like me, standing in the rain and showing their support for the family of Trayvon Martin. It was an inspiring sight and it reminded me that we are all Trayvon. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be the wrong color for George Zimmerman.

We cannot afford to let this go out of the nation’s memory. We cannot afford to let Trayvon Martin’s murder go unpunished and untalked about. He is only one of thousands who are victims of hate. There are hate crimes that are committed in this country on a daily basis. Last week, a muslim mother of five was beaten to death in her own home with a note next to her broken body that said something to the effect of “Go back to your country.” We cannot continue to operate with the assumption that racism has been dealt with. The longer we go without admitting to ourselves that racism is still a problem in our country, the more difficult it will be to rectify. And we cannot lose sight of the fact that a 17 year old, who was just at the beginning of his life is no longer here with us. He’ll never go to college, get married, have babies, or do any of the things that he aspired to do.

It’s important as a nation that we pursue justice, not just for Trayvon but for all.

Inside Job: how Wall Street ruined America

28 Nov

If you’ve ever taken out a student loan, been foreclosed on, had credit card debit I’d highly recommend you shell out the 12 bucks to see “Inside Job.” The movie takes apart the financial crisis in five acts, each act scarier than the last. Inside Job proved to be more horrifying than Recount while being logical and well analyzed. The story reveals the depth and breadth of the recession and documents the events surrounding the boom and bust, using articles by and interviews from the people who witnessed it from positions of power.

I cannot recall another movie that made me leave the theatre feeling more incensed than Inside Job. The decisions made by a small group of affluent, money grubbing Wall Street people destroyed the lives of millions of people in this country and around the world. As a result, whole towns have been wiped out, livelihoods have been lost and futures have been gambled away, with a degree of disregard that you’d only expect from the most selfish lowlife.

I’ve spent a lot of my life being involved in politics, but this movie made me really doubt the effectiveness of our electoral system. It seems that the real power in society has gone to those who have the most money. Unfortunately, the money has been going to about one percent of the people in our country whose interests differ drastically from the other 99 percent. While the recession has increased our need for a public safety net, private interests and small government conservatives have demonized government programs designed to help the general public.

While the social ideology proliferated by the Tea Party movement has skewed our electorate more conservative, people who have no interest in the betterment of middle or lower class America have garnered the financial benefits. The deregulation of Wall Street, which was taking its toll as far back as the Reagan Administration, single handedly created an atmosphere of carelessness driven by greed. As America began to prosper, those with an eye for money prospered the most behind the scenes, virtually unchecked by federal regulators.

What happened next has been described as a worldwide ponzi scheme. Predatory lending and shady lending practices built a house of cards that crumbled very suddenly starting in 2008. The environment that fostered the recession was driven by an insatiable hunger for wealth and the associated lifestyle and those who benefitted from it the least, suffered from the most adverse affects. Across the country unemployment skyrocketed as did the debt of everyone from individuals to state governments. While the companies holding the debt got bailed out for being “too big to fail,” houses were being foreclosed on, families were forced to make sacrifices to pay the bills, and food banks experienced the highest demand in recent history. Still, demands for smaller government and lower taxes are being made, the proponents of which show very little interest in the needs of average Americans.

The destruction of the American Dream is the one thing I resent the most about this financial crisis. There are now millions of people for which that dream will be forever out of reach. For the first time in the past hundred years we are not wealthier or more educated than our parents. Our nation as a whole may never recover from the fallout of this crisis; our future has become uncertain.

We have to take charge of the our fate. The powers that be are determined to silence our voices in the interest of making money and Americans of every race, gender and background are paying the price.

Sharron Angle LOLZ

19 Jun

My spidey senses are tingling, the LOLZ are strong in this one. I have a feeling that this will be the first in a series of LOLZ from Sharron Angle on this blog.

Sharron Angle was plucked from obscurity 10 days ago when she defeated Sue Lowden in the Nevada Republican primary election for Senate. She will go head to head with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. The information about Angle came gushing through the flood gates moments after she clinched her nomination. Her views on things such as Social Security and Prohibition (wait, that’s an issue?) are as archaic as they are disconnected and frightening.

This week, Angle held a “Retirement Party” for Senator Reid at Stoney’s in Las Vegas. There she was interviewed by Nathan Baca from KLAS Channel 8 News who asked her to elaborate on her views on Social Security reform. She answered along her talking points talking about “saving” Social Security by taking a free market approach. When the logic of putting Social Security into the stock market in light of the recent volatility Angle fired back at Baca, “Now, you’re putting words into my mouth from Harry Reid. I want you to be very clear on this. I’m here to save Social Security… Harry Reid is here to bankrupt Social Security.”

When pressed further on other issues that she enumerated on her own website, Angle turned and walked away from Baca. A campaign representative later called Baca an “idiot.”

I feel like I need to help the Angle campaign out a little on this one. Nathan Baca is what we call a “reporter,” which is defined as “a person employed to gather and report news, as for a newspaper, wire service, or television station.” A reporter may also be known as a “journalist.” An “idiot” is defined as an utterly foolish or senseless person. Baca is just doing his job, he’s doing a good job of it too. If you want this campaign to go well for you, you may want to distance yourself from the second definition and be nicer to the first.

Til next time, I’ll be looking forward to more LOLZ.

Apologies to BP?

17 Jun

Today during BP CEO Tony Hayward’s testimony before Congress, a Republican representative from Texas took it upon himself to apologize to Mr. Hayward for the White House’s “$20 Million shakedown.” Congressman Joe Barton’s comments are quoted below. He later recanted his apology saying “I apologize if my statements from this morning were misconstrued.” Misconstrued? I think what you said is pretty clear, Congressman.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday, I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a $20 billion shakedown — with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that’s unprecedented in our nation’s history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation’s future.

I’m only speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize, I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.”

You know what I’m ashamed of? Politicians who put corporate well being ahead of the interests of the American citizens. The real “tragedy,” Congressman, is that you sit in a position of power and lend a sympathetic ear to a corporation that has single handedly destroyed a way of life for thousands of Gulf Coast residents. A corporation that was careless enough and foolish enough to let this oil spill happen. The tragedy is that the wildlife in the Gulf are drowning in a sticky toxic substance. The tragedy is that we are essentially powerless to stop this from continuing to happen.

BP needs to be held accountable for the havoc that they’ve wreaked on our land and sea. They need to pay monetarily for the people whose lives have been altered by this disaster, American people. Small businesses are currently paying the price for one corporation’s folly.

Whose side are you really on, Congressman?

Apparently Liberals Leave Notes on MY Truck Too

17 Jun

Tonight I went to the Mall to drop in on my Teavana ladies and drop off some mochi. I went back to my car to go get something when I found a note on my car. The note is a follows:

Here’s why this note is creepy:

To Whom it May Concern:
Thank you for reusing that non-recyclable paper bag to write a note on my car, I hope you know that I will further reuse that bag as a puppet. Way to get creative. Second, don’t use words that you cannot spell to make an argument. It makes you look like an idiot. People will never take you seriously if you use words like “hypicritical.” Third, my window art is in response to my feelings toward a corporation. Yes, my car runs on fossil fuels not “hopes and dreams” you caught me! I also live in a suburb without proper public transit. If I wanted to get from one side of Columbia to the other it would take me about an hour on the bus. It takes me 5 minutes to do the same drive. That’s not acceptable to me. When useful public transit is available to me I will use it 100% of the time. I don’t particularly love driving or paying for gas or upkeep on my truck, if I didn’t have to use it I wouldn’t. I walk places that are walkable, that’s all I can do. My consumption of fossil fuels isn’t your business but thanks for trying to make it so.

Instead of spending energy trying to preach to the choir, try making a real difference by trying to change OTHER people’s minds with logic and reason.

Good luck to you also,


Fruits and Veggies

8 Jun

Eating right is important, we all know it. Well, important and difficult. Having survived college, I understand the meaning of eating truly awful food, whether it was the 3 packs of Easy Mac I had for dinner at 11 PM or the In N Out fries I had for dessert. Nutrition is something that everyone needs to be more conscious of because while everyone eats multiple times every day, what we eat is not given the amount of thought it deserves.

Fear not good reader! It’s not as difficult as is may seem to eat well. Here are some things you need to know.

– The average adult should consume 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies a day. To visualize what this means, look at a muffin pan. Each section of a muffin pan is 1/2 cup, which happens to be a serving size. 4 of those little sections should represent how many fruits you ate and 5 should represent your veggies. Next time you eat think about how many sections you’re filling.

– You can sneak fruits and veggies into just about every dish by either blending vegetables into soups or getting more creative with what you eat. Use fruits or veggies to replace more unhealthy ingredients, add blueberries to cheerios instead of sugar. Use Sweet Potato in… anything!

– Replace your chips with carrots. Snack time is a great time to get some fruits or veggies into your day. Take carrot sticks to work or have an apple with your cup of coffee (or tea).

– Don’t forget to eat a variety of veggies too, the more diverse the colors of your food is the more vitamins and nutrients you get out of them.

– Buy fruits and veggies that are in season. Visit your local farmer’s market, you’ll be supporting local businesses as well as get food that is fresh and in season. Eating in season ensures that you are getting a diverse selection throughout the year.

– Overall the key to changing your diet is being conscious of what you put in your mouth. Keep a journal of what you eat throughout the day and BE HONEST. It’s okay to write down the Oreo’s you ate after dinner just so long as you’re eating them in moderation. Keeping a food diary will only benefit you if you’re honest.

For more information about nutrition visit or leave me a comment.

I’m in the process of designing a nutrition program for the St. Margaret’s Summer Camp. This camp offers a safe, nurturing environment for at-risk youth in the neighborhood around St. Margaret’s Church in Seat Pleasant, MD. Seat Pleasant is located in Prince George’s County, just a stones through away from the District of Columbia. The violent crime rate is 1,286 per 100,000 people and the median income falls below both the national average and the average for PG County. To have the opportunity to give these kids something positive is something I’m very excited and passionate about.

So what does nutrition have to do with summer camp? With obesity rates on the rise, I believe that we have to work harder to get our kids to eat well. In lower income areas, obesity rates are significantly higher due to the availability of unhealthy, cheap foods. My goal is to use education as a means of turning the tide of obesity. Giving kids positive experiences with fruits and vegetables is key. I’m working on getting kids excited about food by having them participate in making and growing their food for the summer. I’m very excited for this summer!

BP Oil Disaster: from ‘Drill Baby Drill’ to ‘Spill Baby Spill’

30 May

The leak that sprung from the rig disaster in the Gulf has been gushing oil for over a month now. A month’s worth of fossil fuel is now floating around the Gulf of Mexico threatening sea life, wild life and ways of life. The response to this oil spill has been remarkably slow and unenthusiastic. The executives at British Petroleum frankly don’t seem to give a shit. They’ve tried explaining away the fallout with “Louisiana isn’t the only place to get shrimp” or that the spill will only have a “moderate impact” on the gulf coast. The truth of the matter is that the fallout from this spill will be felt for generations, not just years. An entire ecosystem is under attack and may never recover.

It enrages us to watch the events unfold, unable to stop it or even help the people who are being impacted. There is a lot of anger and a lot of blame being thrown around however, the assertion that this oil spill is President Obama’s Katrina doesn’t mesh well with me. Yes, the settings are the same. Yes, the same population is being effected, but this oil spill is a whole different monster. When the levees broke in 2005 it was the US Army Corps of Engineers who built them and were supposed to maintain them so such a disaster could have been avoided. It was a federal government issue. This time around it’s private industry that is the culprit. Private companies like British Petroleum have coasted by on half-heartedly enforced regulation during the previous administration. Safety is one of the first things that are compromised in the name of profit. Basically: bottom line > human lives. When you place the value of money over the value of life you run into issues of morality. That is where we are with these fossil fuel companies: petrol, coal, etc. While it is President Obama’s job to oversee the efforts to stop the oil spill it is the company’s responsibility to fix it. I think it’s ironic (or at least shitty) that members of private industry want to keep “big government” out of the way they do business until they need their help, then it’s the government’s problem. Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

The bottom line is that if you can’t fix an oil leak 5000 feet under the ocean then you have no business drilling that far into the ocean. It would be like saying “I can run 20 miles! I can’t run back, but I can run 20 miles!” Half of progress is moderation, that is, half of all innovation should be tempered by caution. We wouldn’t have put a man on the moon if we couldn’t bring him back, right? It just makes sense. Innovation without caution is reckless, careless, and just downright immoral.

To see where the oil plume is now goto:

Glee vs. Homophobia

26 May

This week’s episode of Glee was maybe the best and most inspiring episode so far. No, it’s not because it was the Lady Gaga episode. It was the episode where Kurt (the token gay character)’s father took a stand against homophobia and in doing so showed the world the appropriate response to prejudice against the LGBT community. What happened: Kurt and Finn moved into the same room after their parents decided to move in together. After much cruel teasing from his teammates, Finn loses it with Kurt and starts attacking him for being “faggy.” Enter Kurt’s dad, Burt. Burt berates Finn for being so closed minded and biggoted as to call his son a fag. “I thought you were different. I thought you came into this world knowing things it took me years to figure out.” He tells Finn that he can’t live under his roof if he’s going to treat his son like that.

This is a touching portrayal of a father defending his gay son, something we don’t get to see too often. Parents are there to defend and protect their children for the most part, however gay youth fear that their parents will stop being there for them after they come out. Kid’s shouldn’t be afraid of being themselves. Having Kurt’s dad defend him so fiercely should be a model for parents of LGBT youth. It’s heart warming to see on a hit show like Glee. Bravo!

New Mexico in review

26 May

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Indigenous Health Leadership Institute in Albuquerque, NM. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience but I dove in head first excited to learn more about the field I want to join. I got far more out of it than I expected. As an American Indian I thought I had a pretty good handle on what this institute had in store for me, I was very very wrong. What I learned is that I have so much more to learn about what is going on in Indian Country.

The institute was an eye opening experience to say the least. We visited two reservations, one with self supported health services and the other with fledgling programs. It’s inspiring to see what tribal members are doing to help one another but at the same time the disparities that cause the gap between federal services and community services is mind boggling. The Indian Health Service receives about $3000 less per capita than Medicare does for its beneficiaries. This makes little to no sense as according to the IHS website “Indian people continue to experience health disparities. Indian life expectancy (72.3 years) is still about 4.6 years less than that for the U.S. general population (76.9 years). Death rates are significantly higher in many areas for Indians compared to the U.S. general population, including tuberculosis (500% higher), alcoholism (519% higher), diabetes (195% higher), unintentional injuries (149% higher), homicide (92% higher), and suicide (72% higher).”

This graph shows the funding for IHS per capita vs. similar programs

In To’hajiilee, a chapter of the Navajo Nation, we met with members of the community. We discussed a traditional approach to modern healing and the health problems that their communities faced. One of the elders that met with us described her greatest health concern to us in Navajo, as she was not fluent in English. What she told us is something that is almost unimaginable in the United States in the year 2010. She told us that the water in her house was so unclean that she periodically experiences respiratory infections. Imagine living in a place where the running water is contaminated and makes you sick. Imagine living with that your whole life, on government land, where there’s not anything you can do about it. It’s sickening to know that this can happen in our America.

We learned about decolonizing the way we approach things, problem solving based on assets rather than disparities and loving service. Decolonizing and cultural sensitivity are much more important than some may believe, especially when dealing with American Indian communities. You can’t treat one native community the same as another, even within the same tribe. One Pueblo’s problems and solutions are vastly different than another’s. American Indians may be a single category on the Census form but make no mistake that this is not one homogenous culture. There are over 5oo Nations in the United States who have different belief systems, traditions, and norms. In order to treat them, you have to understand them. Decolonize the way you approach them and you will be infinitely more successful.

Defining a community by its assets instead of by its problems is a completely different approach than what I learned in school but it makes so much sense! Basically if you highlight the good things a community can accomplish it can use the positives to address a negative or like they say “you can build on something that’s not there.” Community dynamics are so important when you’re dealing with indigenous health and health in general.

Loving service is something that Shannon and Anthony, the organizers of the IHLI are very passionate about. It’s the concept that devotion of time out of love can prove to be as successful if not more successful than devoting money to the cause. To read more about Loving service goto

Aside from the business part of the institute I met some truly awesome people, designed and screened some tshirts, got pulled over in an uninsured car (not our fault!), ate some green chiles (a lot of them), made some fry bread, played basketball barefoot boys vs. girls and won, played pool cowboys vs. indians and won (only because Sababa has mad skills), and made my plane home even though I woke up 55 minutes before it took off.

I left Albuquerque with a new resolve to get myself into a position to help these communities whether it be through getting my MPH or just going head long into the community. I feel like I’ve gotten that purpose I’ve been searching for since May 9, 2009 and I couldn’t be more excited.


The Persuit of Happiness

14 Feb

I’ve been having a series of revelations this past week or two, spurred on by snow, This American Life podcasts, and Katie Sokoler’s blog Color Me Katie ( I realized I haven’t been me in a long while, at least not the me I enjoy being. I love doing things for fun, even if they’re silly. I like taking risks. I like creating beautiful things.  I like making other people smile and above all I like making me smile. I haven’t been doing that, it’s time to turn that around.

Today I did something I would never ever imagined having the guts to do, but I did it. I made a valentine for a guy I barely know but thought was cute and gave it to him at work. It scared the crap out of me but I’m glad I did it.

This morning I made my coworkers  some beautiful valentine’s cards while eating a piece of giant cupcake and watching Saturday morning cartoons. It was the best morning I’ve had in a longgg time.

I have no idea where this life is taking me, but where ever I’m going I want to bring happiness with me.

Lots of love, Happy Valentine’s Day!