Portrait depiction of Alicia Garza
On the 25th of January 2016, the longest continuous act of political protest in the United States came to an end, along with the life of Concepcion “Connie” Picciotto. Since 1981, Picciotto worked as an advocate for peace and the end of nuclear weaponry by demonstrating outside of the White House in Washington, D.C. If you’ve ever visited the White House, you may recall seeing a makeshift tent surrounded by small billboards sporting messages such as “Live by the bomb, die by the bomb”; this small site was the peace camp, protest site, and home of Picciotto for over three decades of her life.
After arriving in America in 1960, the Spanish immigrant worked as a receptionist in New York until her marriage ended, leaving her penniless and without a home. In 1981 she found herself protesting outside the White House fence alongside, fellow activist, William Thomas. After some legal difficulties, Picciotto and Thomas relocated to Pennsylvania Avenue directly across from the White House, and Picciotto remained there through rain, snow, sleet, and heat with the intention of inspiring others to do their part to promote peace. She passed away under the care of a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting homeless women in Washington, and a memorial service was organized by friends in her honour.
Picciotto used her personal pain to fuel her efforts to make the world a better place, and she succeeded; according to Washington D.C.’s delegate to the House of Representatives, some of Picciotto’s goals were accomplished in her lifetime, including a reduction in the spread of nuclear weapons. Piccolo’s commitment to her cause is a great inspiration for all of us who hold justice close to our hearts, and her dedication and accomplishments will never be forgotten.
Sources: NYTimes.com January 27th,
The Women Behind BLACK LIVES MATTER: Alicia Garza, Pattrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi
Inspired by the African American Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1900s and other social justice movements throughout the past century, Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that came to fruition in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen. The movement advocates against violence toward black people in the form of racial profiling, police brutality, and systematic racism in the United States justice system. Although the movement has no formal structure, three community organizers were instrumental in the birth of the movement.
Alicia Garza, a project director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, inspired the powerful proclamation through a Facebook post stating, “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” Following the devastating acquittal of George Zimmerman, this affirmation of the value of black lives was much needed. Garza’s statement transformed into #BlackLivesMatter after it was shared by artist and activist Patrice Cullers, who added the hashtag. Writer and community organizer, Opal Tometi, voiced her support, and the movement was born.
Now, the movement is known for street demonstrations following the deaths of multiple unarmed black men in 2014, as well as other non-violent demonstrations. Cullors has shared that her drive stems in part from the brutality her brother endured while incarcerated in Los Angeles, and is passionate about analyzing the impact of incarceration on black communities. Cullors works for the Ella Baker Centre for Human Rights, and told Cosmopolitan magazine in an October interview that the Black Lives Matter movement “saved [her] life”. Tometi is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and is heavily inspired by her younger brother as well as her parents, both immigrants from Nigeria. She is passionate about reflecting the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality and other characteristics in the BLM movement, which the women characterize as a “rehumanization project” and a mission of self-love.
From its humble social media beginning, the BLM hashtag has become an international movement with chapters across the United States, as well as in Canada and Ghana, and the movement is gaining media recognition; in 2014, #BlackLivesMatter was voted as one of 12 hashtags that changed the world, and the movement was a contender for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year award, placing 4th out of 8 candidates. Garza, Cullors, and Tometi are spearheading the journey toward a safer world that does not hesitate to celebrate the value of the lives and existence of black people.
Quote Source: Cosmopolitan October 2015 interview
Other Sources: BlackLivesMatter.com/About, BlackLivesMatter.com/HerStory, Stories.CaliforniaSunday.com, TheNewYorker.Com
In the United States, obtaining a full-time job after incarceration is exceedingly difficult, but in 2014, 2000 former inmates found full-time jobs with the help of Little Rock, Arkansas native Darlene Lewis. Lewis runs a non-profit organization committed to giving former inmates the opportunities they need to change their lives and avoid recidivism, something that affects two-thirds of ex-felons within three years of their release.
The Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders Incorporation assists men and women with resume writing, housing, interview preparation, job placement, and even GED test preparation—GED testing is a way for individuals who have not graduated to receive high school diplomas. These services are all provided free of cost; although they do cost money, taxpayer funds are saved in the long run by quelling recidivism. Lewis, now 60, founded her organization in 1987 after her son was unable to find a job after his release from prison. After being incarcerated, individuals are barred from jobs in childcare, healthcare, and education, narrowing the job market considerably.
The struggle for employment can lead former inmates back to the path that lead them to arrest in the first place in search of fast money. Lewis has been described by those that she assists as a superhero and a mother figure, never giving up hope in her cause or in the individuals she works with. Lewis is a beacon of love and her dedication to giving chances to those who need it most is truly a vocation of nobility and grace.
Sources: ArkTimes.Com, NPR.org, GoodNewsNetwork.Org
16-year-old Candace Hill is the fastest female high school student of all time. The sophomore is the first high school girl to run 100m in less than 11 seconds and is currently preparing for the 2016 Olympic qualification race. Her running time of 10.98 seconds would have won medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, but when her coach decided to prepare her for the 2016 games instead of 2020 as she had planned, she says she couldn’t help but feel anxious.
Hill’s primary focus is still her studies, and Chemistry is one of her favourite subjects; when she isn’t breaking records, she enjoys writing research papers and conducting labs. Hill also took the youth world title of fastest 100m sprint at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Colombia and is only the second sophomore to be awarded the Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award. Way to go Candace!
Sources: NYTimes.com, Asics.Com