Wednesday, January 1, 2020

In the News: Remezcla

Last month, Nicole Garcia made history as the first known transgender Latina to serve as pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Ordained on November 23, the minister gave her first sermon at Westview Lutheran Church in Boulder, Colorado on December 1 to a congregation of more than 100.
“As a transgender Latina, I bring a breath of fresh air into all the places I walk into,” the 60-year-old told NBC News.
The Latina’s road to the altar was decades in the making. While she was raised Roman Catholic, she abandoned the church in her 20s. At the time, she was divorced from a woman she had been married to for eight years, dependent on alcohol and angry with God for not being able to “fix” her.
Nearly two decades later, Garcia began accepting herself and embarked on her transition journey. “I’ve always been Nicole. I’ve always been a woman,” she says.
Her 10-year transition was accompanied by a “come-to-Jesus” moment. She found an inclusive space within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Christian denomination founded in 1988 with more than 4 million followers.
In 2008, Garcia was appointed transgender representative to the national board of directors of ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation, and four years later she applied and was surprised to be accepted into the Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minn.
Garcia’s pastorship comes 13 years after Megan Rohrer became the first-ever trans person to be ordained by the Lutheran church.
“Nobody can question my faith, my devotion to Christ, my devotion to the church,” Garcia told the news site. “That’s why I’m the pastor here. Being trans is secondary.”

Thursday, August 29, 2019

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Police chief apologizes to LGBTQ community

by David-Elijah Nahmod

At an August 26 meeting at Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott apologizes directly to Joanne Chadwick, left, for abusive treatment by the police department against the LGBTQ community. Chadwick attended the New Year's Eve party in 1965 at California Hall that was raided by the police and led to widespread criticism of the police department. Photo: Rick Gerharter
At an August 26 meeting at Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott apologizes directly to Joanne Chadwick, left, for abusive treatment by the police department against the LGBTQ community. Chadwick attended the New Year's Eve party in 1965 at California Hall that was raided by the police and led to widespread criticism of the police department. Photo: Rick Gerharter  
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott apologized to the LGBTQ community at a reflection and reconciliation session Monday.
The meeting was held in the sanctuary of Glide Memorial Church to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the Compton's Cafeteria riot. The Compton's riot, which preceded the Stonewall riots by three years, was "the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in U.S. history," according to transgender historian Susan Stryker, who co-directed the Emmy Award-winning 2005 documentary "Screaming Queens" about the incident.
Scott apologized on behalf of the department.
"I and the men and women of this police department are truly sorry," the chief said to the crowd of about 100 people. "We're sorry for what happened and we're sorry for our role in it and we're sorry for the harm that it caused. Some here tonight may ask, why now? Why are we doing this now? And for those of you that might wonder why, I say it's because we are listening. We hear you. And because it's time."
But not everyone in the room was buying it.
"If you want to truly apologize for something, you have to stop what you're doing," said one activist, as he referenced the police sweeps of homeless people.
The meeting was the first in a series between the police and community members. Scott said that he hopes these meetings will build bridges between the SFPD and the LGBTQ community.
While some thanked the chief for reaching out, others expressed trepidation, pointing to the protesters at June's San Francisco Pride parade who held up the march for 50 minutes with a list of demands that included keeping the police and corporations out of Pride. One of the protesters was allegedly slammed into the pavement and dragged across the street, according to organizers.
"I showed up at the first Pride board meeting after the parade because I was devastated by the way the police violently removed peaceful protesters at our own parade," said Cheryl Rosenthal, a 58-year-old lesbian. "For me it was a call to action that our community needs to mobilize to make sure we're safe in our own city and prepare for how we are currently being targeted."
Longtime gay activist Tre Allen suggested that there be two Pride marches, one in which the police take part and another without the police for those who do not feel safe in the police's presence.
Attendees described other examples of mistreatment by police.
"I've been homeless on both coasts and submitted to domestic violence at the hand of my ex-husband," said one woman. "I got slammed to the ground by the cops at Ocean Beach. People were filming it and egging the police on. The bullying must stop."
Scott listened attentively to all the speakers, assuring everyone that the safety of all parties involved was his top priority.
"You all police us," said the chief. "Our department is set up where we have the civilian oversight board. And we have the Department of Police Accountability, which is separate from the police department. Any complaint that comes from a resident or a member of this community goes to the Department of Police Accountability. It's not investigated by the San Francisco Police Department. As the police chief I can impose discipline up to a 10-day suspension. Anything above that goes to the police commission, which is the civilian oversight board."
Breanna, a transgender woman who said that she's bipolar and declined to give her last name, expressed concern for how the police handle calls in which someone was in a mental health crisis.
"We spend a lot of time to get better at that and we've been doing that for a number of years," Scott said. "Our department has invested a lot in training to deal with those types of issues, and we've made a lot of progress. In the past year we've had over 50,000 of those types of calls and there is less than half a percent of those calls which resulted in any kind of force being used. It's not perfect, but I want to emphasize how much work we put into that issue. We still have some more work to do. We have more officers that need to be trained, but everyone who comes into this department today gets that training."
One African American woman who did not give her name pointed out that blacks are treated differently by the police. She also called on the police to take inventory of the police sweeps against homeless people.
The public comment section of the meeting lasted about 75 minutes, with many people thanking the police chief for his apology and for organizing the meeting.
The evening included a history lesson in which the Reverend Dr. Megan Rohrer, a trans person who is a volunteer chaplain with SFPD, spoke of the harassment and criminalization faced by LGBTQ people in the past. Rohrer also showed two videos in which people who lived through those times recalled and shared their experiences.
Scott told the Bay Area Reporter that he was pleased with the way the meeting turned out.
"I feel good about it," he said. "The fact that we were allowed by members of the LGBT community to listen, to hear them, and to be heard. This moment is overdue," he said. "This is a starting point to get to those difficult conversations. We need to continue to hear, to reconcile our past and to address the present."
Members of Scott's command staff were also at the meeting.
"It's a start to a larger conversation," said Commander Teresa Ewins, a lesbian who used to oversee the station in the Tenderloin. "I felt that there was a lot of positive things being said. It's important for the command staff and other members to hear the community and understand the pain they have. Their experiences and viewpoint are very important to us."
Those who attended generally gave the police department credit for addressing the community.
"It's good to see the dialogue on how the police are interested in holding themselves accountable," said William Walker, a 40-year-old gay man. "I think that putting everyone's safety first is key but police have to keep in mind that they are always in a more powerful position."
"I feel less afraid of the police," said Attakai Yazzie, a 22-year-old gay man. "I think the night was productive. I saw a young peer of mine voice his opinion and I saw police of color listen to him and I'm glad to see this interaction. I'm extremely grateful to live in a period where it's OK to be queer."

Monday, August 26, 2019

In the News: SF Examiner

SF police chief apologizes for ‘past actions’ against transgender community

‘We will atone for our past,’ Scott says

Closure may have finally come for those scarred by police abuse during one of the first riots by the transgender and gay communities in U.S. history.
More than five decades after officers clashed with members of the transgender community during the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin, Police Chief Bill Scott apologized Monday for the department’s history.
“We the members of the San Francisco Police Department are here to reflect and apologize for our past actions against the LGBTQ community,” Scott said during a meeting with LGBTQ community members at Glide Memorial.
“We want to listen to you and want to truly hear you,” the chief added. “We will atone for our past.”
There was exuberant applause from the room after Scott’s apology.
Scott agreed to meet with the LGBTQ community after tensions flared over arrests at a Pride Parade protest in June. Police and the community had already been meeting to discuss reconciliation.
At the evening event, which was facilitated by Glide Memorial and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the department heard stories of decades of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer people.
The conversation centered around the 1966 riot that erupted in the Gene Compton’s cafeteria, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, after police targeted and arrested a transgender woman.
People sat in the church pews under stained glass windows, listening to stories told in the open where confession is usually heard in private.
Though some were grateful for the apology for the past, others pushed Scott to acknowledge what they called the wrongs of today.
Anubis Daugherty, 25, said he is a member of the LGTBQ community who was homeless for six years.
Daugherty told Scott that LGBTQ people are disproportionately caught up in sweeps of homeless communities in The City.
“I was born here, I was raised here,” Daugherty said. “If you want to truly apologize for something you have to stop what you’re doing.”
Jo Chadwick, who for decades has advocated for the LGTBQ community as a straight ally from the Lutheran church, was among the more than 100 people in attendance.
“I especially want to apologize to you,” Scott told Chadwick.
“For 50 years you’ve been fighting and fighting for what’s right,” the chief added.
Chadwick told the crowd that many who died in the AIDS crisis had faced police discrimination and should be honored following the apology.
“I’ll go home tonight and I have names, I’ll remember those names in my prayers,” Chadwick said.
In comment cards read by event organizers, one community member asked if SFPD would voluntarily agree not to march in the Pride Parade because some LGBTQ people may be triggered by the presence of officers.
But Cmdr. Teresa Ewins, an out lesbian member of the department, said it is important to celebrate wins for LGBTQ representation within SFPD.
It is important “for kids to see us,” she said. “Many of us joined to make a difference. It’s a special day for me as well as everyone in the department who is LGBT.”
Aria Sa’id, executive director of the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, said she wasn’t moved by the apology.
“I think there needs to be more than just an apology.,” Sa’id told the San Francisco Examiner.
Fifty years after the riot, Sa’id said the ways in which police discriminate against transgender people, and other people in the LGBTQ spectrum, have changed.
With high portions of San Francisco’s homeless community and impoverished Tenderloin neighbors being gay, queer or transgender, Sa’id said homeless sweeps homeless are in fact an action against the LGBTQ community.
“We’re often criminalized for being poor in the Tenderloin,” Sa’id said. “The mayor has increased patrols. There has to be more than an apology.”
San Francisco LGBTQ groups have previously called on SFPD to apologize for its historic discriminatory actions.
The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a local progressive group that traces its roots back to the fiery gay rights trailblazer, called on SFPD to apologize for the Compton’s Cafeteria riots and for the department’s handling of the Pride protest in July.
Those protesters blocked the parade to call for police to be barred from it. One person who identified as transgender was injured during the arrests and hospitalized. An officer was also injured in the scuffle, according to SFPD.
“The irony of SFPD committing acts of brutality against peaceful protesters of the Resistance Contingent at the San Francisco Pride Parade on the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall is not lost on us,” the Milk Club wrote at the time. “It warrants outrage and swift recourse.”
The 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riot predated the infamous Stonewall Riots in New York City. At present, both are credited with kick starting calls for LGBTQ civil rights.
The SFPD was also notorious for beating gay men, and sometimes women, who frequented gay bars in the Castro.
Officers would require they show identification far more frequently than people drinking in straight bars.
The White Night riots, also, pitted the local gay community against a violent SFPD following the light sentencing of Dan White, the San Francisco supervisor and former SFPD officer who assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
At the meeting Monday, a transgender woman who goes by the name “The Supergirl of San Francisco” told Scott in a teary testimonial that she was wrongly beaten by a hospital security guard.
When she came to SFPD for help, she said she was not listened to.
“My body was dragged and pulled up a hill,” she said. “You didn’t believe the victim. You didn’t believe me. You’re supposed to help people here, not engage in transphobia.”

Saturday, August 24, 2019

In the News: SF Examiner

SFPD to hold LGTBQ ‘reconciliation and recognition’ night at Glide Memorial

Police hope to acknowledge hateful history, build trust
Change isn’t easy — but the San Francisco Police Department is ready to give it a try.
Monday night, roughly 53 years after San Francisco police transphobia and violence spurred the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, SF police command staff will sit in front of members if the LGBTQ community at Glide Memorial with a single goal.
To listen.
Billed as a “reflection and reconciliation” session, San Francisco police hope it will be a first step in rebuilding trust with marginalized communities.
“We have to start somewhere,” said Alex U. Inn, a drag king and musical performer who has been at the forefront of the resistance in San Francisco’s Pride Parade, and a frequent police critic.
U. Inn even hotly critiqued police just this year, for their arrest of LGBTQ activists which many described as overly violent. Flipping the script, U. Inn starred in a short video promoting the reconciliation event in a hope to jump-start a conversation.
“We are not going to resolve the disdain that people have for the SFPD and especially in light of what happened at this year’s Pride” right away, U. Inn said. “So it’s a start.”
Even the video U. Inn stars in acknowledges this disdain, with members of the LGBTQ community pointing out San Francisco police history of raiding gay bars and harassing transgender people for wearing dresses, which used to be against San Francisco law.
Two of the event’s organizers, Commander Teresa Ewins, who is the highest-ranking member of the LGTBQ community in SFPD, and Pastor Megan Rohrer, a trailblazing transgender Lutheran pastor and SFPD chaplain, acknowledged this history.
Friday, they told me they don’t want the community to hold back.
“It’s bringing a community together that needs to be heard. There’s a lot of mistrust of law enforcement and there are definite reasons why. Monday is a start of hopefully a new relationship,” Ewins said. “I don’t shy away from the conversation.”
That’s true even in her own department.
To ready for Monday’s real talk, I asked Ewins to speak frankly about her own experiences in SFPD. While the department isn’t busting windows of gay bars indiscriminately, as they did decades ago, there’s still some fumbling in the dark.
Rising through the ranks as an out lesbian, she fields questions from her comrades in blue often. “Some officers’ children just came out. Or they’re asking, ‘why is a person gay?’ How did those feelings shape my life, where it is today?”
The racist and homophobic text messages exchanged by San Francisco police that were revealed in 2015 also uncovered an ugliness that she had to contend with.
“That was difficult,” she told me. The department has since instituted technology to review officers texts and has “many ways” it can detect that type of behavior. “It was a rather big surprise for me, when I found out about it, to be honest with you. The thing that came to mind was, how does this happen?”
Ewins has also learned a lot from Pastor Rohrer, who has studied the history of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, among other similar incidents in San Francisco’s LGBTQ history.
Conversation is important, Rohrer said, because it can steer history.
“People don’t know that some of the laws that effected the Compton Cafeteria riot changed very quickly after because people didn’t take those as stopping points,” Rohrer said. “They continued the conversation.”
That doesn’t mean the police won’t stumble in trying to initiate that conversation.
Aria Sa’id, executive director of the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, isn’t too happy with the police rollout of the reconciliation event. There were some crossed wires, with the police claiming they reached out to members of the district, and Sa’id saying they never reached out to her personally — a particularly egregious oversight considering they’re tying their event to the Compton’s Cafeteria riot anniversary.
Whatever happened, it isn’t a good first step, she said. And besides the stumble, she feels “listening” is moot at this point; SFPD needs to act.
“I have some words,” she started.
Firstly, police should reduce their presence at the SF Pride parade, and apologize for their handling of protests this year. “We weren’t just resisting, we were resisting the police” themselves, she said.
She also thinks talk about SFPD’s homophobic past being in, well, the past, is premature.
Many of San Francisco’s homeless youth are kids fleeing far-flung homes where they were rejected for their LGTBQ identities, Sa’id said, and many impoverished homeless people in the Tenderloin are transgender or gay.
“Trans people are affected by the criminalization of poverty,” Sa’id said. “Police tell people in tents to pack up and go. Sit and lie is still a law.”
So sure, the police aren’t beating wealthy gay people in bars anymore, she said — instead, they’re catching up homeless LGTBQ people in sidewalk tent sweeps.
James Lin, senior director of mission and spirituality at Glide, agreed with some of Sa’id’s points.
“The police were doing sweeps in the sixties and they’re doing sweeps now, in San Francisco,” Lin said. “I’m from a generation that can still remember going to establishments that had windows all boarded up because they operated in an environment where things like holding hands in a same-sex couple were punishable.”
It’s not that far back. It’s not history. It’s living memory.
But after Compton’s Cafeteria riots, Glide Memorial played a leading role in moving the community forward. Glide’s leaders helped form Vanguard, a queer youth organization whose youth members were rioters in Compton’s.
So that anger? Lin understands it. And embraces it.
Hard feelings are welcome on Monday night. In fact, that’s pretty much the point of it.
“Bring it all. Bring the anger. But bring the love. Bring the love you have for your people, and the people you know need you at this moment,” Lin said. “It would not be a good event if it were an easy night. It can only be a good event if there was enough difficulty for us to work through something.”
Lin had a point.
“If it’s easy, then, why do it?”
The reconciliation event will be held Monday, August 26, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at GLIDE’s Sanctuary room (2nd floor) at 330 Ellis Street (please use the Taylor Street entrance).

Monday, April 16, 2018

How to Reclaim Your Faith

Religious Pain 
When I worked at a care center for kids age 3-12 I met a young boy who tried to kill himself 12 times.  He was five years old and wouldn't tell anyone why.  On Sunday, while watching Veggie Tales with the kids, he climbed on my lap and told me what was wrong.  "I know I'm bad," he said.  "And I want to die before I'm so bad that I can't go to heaven."  
My heart broke and that day I decided to go to seminary to ensure that at least one pulpit in America would stop creating religious wounds.
Each week I hear more stories of individuals who have been lied to and told that they God's love is limited.  To anyone who has heard words like these, I am sorry.  I assure you, God is so much bigger than our faithful tunnel vision.  
I wrote a book called Mr. Grumpy Christian to support kids who have experiences like this, but today I want to share a few ways adults with the wounds of religious abuse can work on healing them.  

Faithful Baby Steps to Heal Religious Pain  (from faith alone to faith in community)
  1. Create a sacred space - It could be a drawer, a shelf, a corner or any other space that works for you.  Put things in the space that connect you to God, including: bits of nature (shells, rocks, flowers); photos, cards, inspirational phrases; a bible; or anything else that is important to you.
  2. Read Faithful Self Care Books - there are lots of books by others who have been inured by faith.  Books by authors like Anne Lamott, Jeanette Winterson and Nadia Bolz-Webber may help you feel less alone.  The authors I have listed above are also humorous writers.  I picked them, to remind you to
  3. Laugh -   Finding faithful people with a sense of humor can help you experience a positive emotion with faith.  Some of my favorite faithful ways to laugh is to watch the Vicar of Dibley or the comedy of Eddy Izzard.
  4. Reignite your Senses - Miss the smells of church? Light the same incense from your childhood.  Taste some of the foods that delight your tongue and remind you God is good.  Listen to podcasts or recorded sermons.  Get a massage to remind your body it is good and that others can care for you.
  5. Sing - Whether you choose a hymn or another song that connects you to God, vibrating your voice in honor of the sacred is a part of faithful practice around the globe.
  6. Look for God in Nature - Some find God near water, on top of mountains or in the beauty of the woods.
  7. Love - One of the best ways to learn about the kind of love God has for you is to give and receive love.
  8. Join an Online Worship Service - Find one on your own, or you can always join my services at Grace Lutheran each Sunday at 10:30 am PST.  I stream them on Facebook Live.

Refuse to Get Stuck
The ideas above are available for you to choose your own adventure.  If something works for you, do it.  If something doesn't work for you, don't do it.  Saying "no" and learning to express when people are pushing you away from faith will also be a part of your healing process.  
When it is too hard to connect with communities, work on your individual connection to God.  When it is too hard to sing, read about faith.  When contemporary people bug you or are mean, learn more about faithful people of the past (saints, bible characters, reformers, etc).  When church buildings trigger you, connect with a pastor through social media. 
The most important thing you can do is to refuse to get stuck.  Keep moving and working on connecting with God.  
When you are able, remember that it was the Kid-dom of God that hurt you, not God (hopefully).  

Your Pain is Real
Only you will be able to check in with your body to see when you are able to worship with others again.  Be gentle with yourself.  The pain caused by religion and faithful people is a very real thing, even if no one around you understands it.  As someone who has experienced religious adversity, I know how hard it is to even consider opening yourself up to faith again.  I am proud of you for your willingness to try.  
Blessings on your journey.  I'm rooting for you.   
Pastor Megan

Thursday, March 15, 2018

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Pot pioneer Peron remembered at celebration


Tony Serra, longtime attorney for Dennis Peron, was one of several speakers at Peron's memorial and celebration of life March 11 in the Castro. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Hundreds gathered in the Castro Sunday, March 11, to remember medical cannabis pioneer Dennis Peron.
Peron, 71, died of lung cancer January 27. He dedicated his life to the legalization of medical cannabis after he saw the positive effects marijuana had on the lives of people with AIDS during the 1990s.
Peron's memorial and celebration of life took place in a tent that was erected on Noe Street next to Flore cafe. In addition to hundreds of supporters and friends, Peron's husband, John Entwistle, and Jeff Peron, his brother, were in attendance. Several people said they had traveled from as far away as Florida and New York in order to be there.
"Dennis would have loved this," Entwistle told the Bay Area Reporter.
Entwistle pointed out that Flore, formerly known as Cafe Flore, was where Peron co-wrote the ballot measure that became Proposition 215 and led to the legalization of medical cannabis in California in 1996. He ate lunch at the cafe a few days before he died.
"He loved Cafe Flore," Jeff Peron said. "This is where it began and ended."
Florida resident Danny Loveland recalled rolling joints for Peron for $50 a day. "Thirty-five years later he offered me a room in his house," Loveland said. "His legacy is the positive effect he had on so many people. All the things he did for us changed society. The proudest moment of my life was walking around with Dennis."
District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a gay man who uses medical cannabis to treat his HIV, also attended the celebration.
"The thing I most remember about Dennis is that he saved lives, countless lives," Sheehy told the B.A.R.
Peron led a varied life. In 1991 he fought for the passage of San Francisco's Proposition P, which called upon the state to allow for the use of medical cannabis – the measure received 79 percent of the vote. That same year he co-founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyer's Club, the first medical marijuana dispensary. The club was raided by the police.
In 1996 Peron co-authored Prop 215. The proposition passed, allowing Peron's dispensary to reopen. In 1996 Peron ran for president as a member of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party. In 1998 he ran for governor in the California primary as a Republican, against his nemesis, then-state Attorney General Dan Lungren.
The celebration began with Fantuzzi, a friend of Peron's who is known by a single name. "When I'm gone I hope to see a crowd like this celebrate my life," Fantuzzi, who flew in from New York, told the audience. "I can see Dennis smiling from wherever he is."
Fantuzzi then led the crowd in a Buddhist-styled chant. "Take a moment to connect with our brother and give him thanks," he said.
Sheehy talked about the importance of medicinal cannabis on the HIV/AIDS community.
"I am the first openly positive medical marijuana patient in office," he said. "I remember when apartment buildings were emptied out because everyone died. Dennis gave cannabis to his sick lover, that's where the medical cannabis movement began. His cannabis club kept hundreds of people with AIDS alive."
Jeff Peron recalled the childhood home he shared with his brother on Long Island in New York.
"We would argue about whether we should watch 'The Three Stooges' or the news," he said. "Later, he brought a lot of reefer home during visits. His legacy is compassion and compassion is not selective. He was a kind and compassionate man. He helped the homeless, he was generous."
Jeff Peron told the crowd that he did not want the event to be a memorial.
"So have a good time," he said.
Singers of the Street, a group comprised of homeless people, formerly homeless people, and homeless advocates, performed several songs, including "Over The Rainbow" and "Stand By Me."
In addition to Sheehy, several gay leaders spoke, including former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), and mayoral candidate Mark Leno, as did many of Peron's friends. All of the speakers remembered Peron's compassion for people living with AIDS and for the homeless, and his medical cannabis advocacy.
The Reverend Megan Rohrer, a trans person who is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, volunteered to help run the celebration.
"As a queer person I am grateful for Dennis' work during the dawn of the AIDS epidemic," Rohrer said. "His care for those experiencing the side effects of experimental medications and preventing wasting was heroic."
Others remarked that he ushered in a new way of thinking about cannabis.
"His legacy is that he changed the conversation on how people view medical marijuana," added District 5 Supervisor and mayoral candidate London Breed.
As the celebration drew to a close, people were invited to help themselves to the potted marijuana plants that were set down in front of the podium.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In the News: Broadly

31 Women Making History by Creating a Better Future

For every day in March, we're highlighting one woman who saw a problem in the world and decided to do something about it.

As we ease into Women's History Month, we want to recognize some of the women making history right now. Every day in March, we'll be adding one new profile to the list—highlighting a total of 31 women who each saw a problem and decided to do something about it.
In this global dumpster fire of an era, women and other marginalized groups are constantly framed and treated as victims. But it's increasingly important to be aware of our collective power. The women we’ll feature include South African anti-poaching activists taking species preservation into their own hands, skateboarding “brujas” creating inclusivity on the half-pipe, and doctors advancing reproductive technology for trans people. Working in a wide range of fields, they have all taken it upon themselves to build a more just and livable future.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration commemorating the social, economic, and political achievements of women. While we currently celebrate International Women’s Day in March, the first ever Women’s Day event was actually organized by American labor activist and suffragist Theresa Malkiel in New York City on February 28, 1909 for the Socialist Party of America. Malkiel worked in the New York City’s garment factories before becoming involved with the Socialist Party of America. While in theory the Socialist Party supported the equal rights of men and women, in practice, women were often overlooked in the party’s goals and ranks. In 1909, Malkiel organized the first-ever annual Women’s Day held in New York City. Inspired by Malkiel’s Women’s Day event, the next year, a group of female European socialists gathered in Denmark to create “International Women’s Day.” In 1912, over a million people gathered across the European continent to celebrate the newly created International Women's Day.
The mission of the Black Mambas is to combat poaching with education, not guns. Mambas will spend 21 days straight patrolling the park for four hours in the morning and four hours at night, listening for the sound of gunshots and looking for suspicious activity. Recently, the group started offering tours to guests in order to teach them about the land and the animals that live on it.
In July 2016, two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, were shot and killed by the police within days of each other. Molecular biologist Ashley Baccus-Clark wanted to do something about it but felt like she didn’t have an avenue to express her feelings or help the situation in any tangible way at the time. So she decided team up with Hyphen-Labs, a collective with a focus on storytelling through art, tech, and science that centers women of color as the pioneers of emerging technology. Hyphen-Labs’ latest installation, called NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism, is a VR experience that aims to tackle racism by allowing viewers to live through the avatar of a black woman in a futuristic hair salon.
In January 2017, President Donald Trump announced his initial “Muslim Ban,” a travel ban barring the populations of seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. In response, protests erupted at airports and public spaces across the nation. One protest in downtown New York City’s Foley Square was planned by then-high school senior, Hebh Jamal, who tasked herself with organizing the hundreds of high school students who had pledged on social media to walk out of class in protest of the Trump administration and its ban. During the school walkout, Hebh rallied the young masses, urging youth to commit to a lifetime of activism and to stand up for the rights of others. Since then, Jamal has established herself a formidable and thoughtful leader in the resistance against Trump. Now a college freshman, Jamal has continued her work on establishing interfaith networks of action and protest against 45.
In Somalia, a country where over two thirds of youth are unemployed, the al-Qaeda backed terror group al Shabaab targets children in its efforts to train and enlist soldiers. Children as young as nine are lured to al Shabaab through false promises of education and aid and are instead trained to use weapons, transport explosives, carry ammunition, and even enter combat. In Somalia, between 2010 and 2016, over 6,000 children were recruited to become child soldiers. For Somali-Canadian activist Ilwad Elman, those numbers are intolerable and she has dedicated her life's work to ending the inhumane practice. Currently, Elman serves as the Director of Programs and Development of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, a NGO located in Somalia’s capital which provides rehabilitation for former child soldiers in addition to education and aid to vulnerable youth. Through her work, Elman is on a mission to ensure that Somalia’s children grow up as kids, not soldiers.
Growing up, no one in Elyse Fox’s family talked about her depression. Now, the Brooklyn-based filmmaker is on a mission to break down the still present social stigma surrounding mental health and illness. In 2017, Fox founded Sad Girls Club, an in-person and online community for girls dealing with mental health issues. “I don’t want to sensationalize depression or mental health, I just want to make it normal to talk about,” Fox told Broadly. Though it is called Sad Girls Club, people of all genders are welcome to join the community. Last month, the club hosted a heartbreak-focused Valentine’s Day event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where members shared sweet treats and advice on how to deal with a breakup. Afterward, a licensed therapist taught the members of the Sad Girls Club how to cope with anxiety.
When Fraidy Reiss was 19 years old, her family arranged her marriage to a man within their Orthodox Jewish community that she had only known for three months. After she was wed, Reiss learned that her new husband was a domestic abuser who repeatedly threatened to end her life. Because she had neither a college education, a job, nor was supported by her family in her decision to leave her husband, it took 15 years for Reiss to obtain a divorce. In 2011, after leaving her husband and obtaining full custody of her two daughters, Reiss founded the nonprofit Unchained at Last to support other women who wish to leave arranged and forced marriages through legal assistance and representation.

Reverend Megan Rohrer is America’s first openly transgender minister to be ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church. While on her pulpit, Rohrer preaches about the power of harmony and acceptance. In 2017, she became the San Francisco Police Department’s first-ever LGBTQ Chaplain, allowing her to spread her deeply held belief that religion should unite, not divide, us even further.