Read Books and Fight Evil: Banned Books Week During The Trump Administration

“Them that begin by burning books, end by burning men.”

-Heinrich Heine

Started 35 years ago to combat growing censorship, Banned Books Week is an annual event to raise awareness of book bans, book challenges, and intellectual freedom issues. The event is sponsored by the American Library Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, American Booksellers Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, National Council of Teachers of English, The National Coalition Against Censorship, and many more.

According to the official BBW website, this year’s Banned Books Week, held from September 24th to September 30th, will focus on the First Amendment and “Our Right to Read”. The ALA is also using the slogan “Words Have Power”. There is some confusion over the terms involved, so, for brevity’s sake, a challenged book is a book someone, such as a parent or community member, has petitioned for removal from a library/school/curriculum/etc and a banned book is a book that has been successfully removed from a library/school/curriculum/etc or banned completely by a government. Sometimes books may remain in a school or library but be removed from the curriculum or only be accessible to certain ages or those with parental permission. Read More

Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Alexandra Weiser and Revolutionary Intentions

How would you describe your work & what do you hope to accomplish?

I would describe my work as a doula and birth professional as a radical form of essential activism, with the intention of revolutionizing birth culture and encouraging childbearing people to demand the proper agency and respect through pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. I believe that mothers and nurturers of infants are the backbone and foundation to a healthy society.  The racial disparity in our country is a tragedy resulting from unnatural causes.

A report from the ICTC notes:

“Despite widespread calls to reduce the infant mortality, preterm birth, and low birthweight rates in the United States, racial disparities in birth outcomes persist, with African-American infants remaining the most vulnerable. In 2013, the rate of preterm birth for African-American infants was nearly double that for white infants. Known medical, genetic, and/or sociodemographic factors alone do not account for these disparities, leading researchers to examine race and the experience of racial discrimination as independent risk factors for affecting maternal, infant, and child health.”

With my work I hope to accomplish multiple things, I want to address the birth gap among POC and work to close that gap of infant and birthing mortality by spreading awareness and actively supporting families of color in the childbearing process. I hope to empower birthing families to choose what path they want to take. Supporting a pregnant individual through an abortion or adoption process as an emotional advocate is really important to me, because I believe when womb-bearing and non-womb-bearing people have choices they are healthier, which leaves our society healthier in the long run. Read More

Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Jen Bloomer and Radici Studios

What is your background in feminism &/ social justice? Can you talk about the evolution of your art?

I had a model of a strong capable woman in my life from an early age. My father had a severe head injury when I was six and my mother juggled supporting him as well as raising three kids. Watching the way people reacted to my father’s disability growing up, instilled in me a strong desire to protect and advocate for those with less privilege and gave me a strong curiosity about difference and the ways in which we connect across difference. We didn’t travel much growing up, but in my 20’s I wanted to see the world and experience other cultures. Over the next decade, I moved to Guatemala, Italy, Kenya, Thailand, India, Eritrea, and I brought my paints with me. I set up my easel on the streets, painted the people I saw and talked to them about their lives. I got jobs working in schools and in refugee camps and shelters for kids living on the streets. I painted alongside them and watched their paintings come alive — fascinated especially by their self portraits.

I returned to the U.S. and continued working with immigrant populations and with kids with special needs, using art as a means to connect. I worked for several non-profits and found myself moving up into administrative roles, which was not feeding my soul. I made the decision to go back to school and study expressive arts therapy to deepen my understanding of the power of art for transformation. I spent time researching my roots, where I come from, my people’s history — or as much of it as I could uncover — in order to better ground myself in who I am. I began creating murals that explored family ancestry. I also worked with schools and non profits facilitating workshops for teens, guiding them to  explore their own life stories and create murals collectively. The recent election shifted my focus from mural making to political protest imagery as I have felt the need to create work more quickly that highlights the human rights violations and lack of human respect in the public sphere.

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Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: In Solidarity, We Resist

How would you describe your project & what do you hope to accomplish? Why is this work important?

In Solidarity, We Resist’s mission is to empower Queer and Trans survivors of sexual violence through community building, education,and art. We create workshops, organize community events, and use art to foster healing for Queer and Trans survivors of sexual assault. It started out as one person engaging a campus about sexual assault and has grown into a team of badass feminists engaging a community to support queer and trans survivors. Our ultimate goal is to engage, empower, and support survivors. When survivors leave our workshops feeling like they’ve been heard, maybe they’ve healed a little, and know that they are not alone, we’ve been successful. 

I hope to demolish the singularity of the narrative of cis straight white woman as the only victim of sexual assault. Sexual violence has affected all genders, abilities, ethnicities. When we don’t give space to a variety of narratives we isolate survivors who are from the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Queer and trans people face much higher rates of sexual violence in our communities but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a public story about sexual assault in the queer community that hasn’t villainized the queer person. Our stories don’t support a narrative of “respectable trauma.” The problem is that healing from trauma it isn’t a linear, clean cut, happy-ending. Healing is messy, and isolation only makes that more dangerous. At least half of trans people have faced sexual assault, 44% of lesbians, 61% of bisexual women, 26% of gay men, 37% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence. Statistics for genders other than men and women aren’t yet available; even in collecting data people outside the gender binary are erased. People who have experienced sexual violence have higher rates of PTSD, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and suicide. Isolation from our communities and further marginalization can only increase those rates. The majority of my chosen family has struggled with healing from the trauma, shame, and isolation that comes from sexual assault. Read More

Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Allie Doss and Speak Up

How would you describe your outreach work & what do you hope to accomplish?

My work involves suicide prevention, education and awareness reducing the stigma around mental illness hoping to transform it into a positive mental wellness outlook.  We focus on a “youbeyou” campaign that was developed to promote positive and encouraging images, feelings and outlook.

Why is this work important?

Teen suicide has increased at an alarming rate. My family was directly impacted by suicide and we hope to help other teens reach out and not feel ashamed by society’s ideas of what is acceptable and what is not.

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