Yucca’s Open Letter [OK4RJ Blog 2nd Birthday Repost]

[Editor’s note: Today is the first day of October – our birthday month! Two years ago, the OK4RJ Blog began posting regular contributions from a diverse array of young Oklahoman feminists, organizers, writers, and activists, and we couldn’t be prouder or more excited about how far we’ve come and where we’re going. To celebrate, we’ll be posting new content as well as revisiting some of our most popular posts from the past year, like this guest post from dear friend of OK4RJ Yucca. Enjoy!]

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Young Organizers by Yucca

Apr. 9, 2013

I am tired of contributing to this alcohol/barcentric culture that we have created for ourselves. This letter springs specifically from my experiences with activists in Denton, Texas, but it is for all young organizers, community builders, and anyone trying to advocate for social justice in red states.

For the past three and a half years, most activist events that I have attended or organized were centered around alcohol. The equation seems to go like: needing money + kegger + catchy title = queerfeministsocialistanarchistdanceparty fun time! I understand the ease around this; throwing a kegger can instantly lead to fundraising money that we desperately need to continue working in areas that are difficult to organize in. Throwing events at bars is tempting, because we’re able to draw a built-in crowd. There have been problems with the chosen event spaces and with random party goers fucking up the houses that we have built as homes for ourselves.

And where are the sober spaces? We often talk about “building safer spaces”, and yet our fundraisers are not safe for people that have a current or past history with addiction. They are not safe for people that have experienced abuse because of alcohol/drug dependent partners or family members. And they are definitely not safe for everyone if there is a possibility of police interference. Consent violations also occur more often in non-sober spaces. Don’t we want to ensure the safety of event participants after the event has ended? Including alcohol limits who can attend, what conversations can occur, and who wants to organize. These events usually end with no advancement of our movements, and do not build long lasting, genuine connections.

I am interested in building and sustaining more sober spaces, bridging intergenerational gaps (especially in the queer community), and being accessible to ALL peoples, not just college kids. I am tired of people throwing around the word “community”, when what we really mean is our close group of (amazing and supportive) friends and acquaintances. Most of the work that we do does not incorporate people outside of our age range and folks outside the radius of the university. There are exceptions, but for the rest of us, it’s better to recognize that our activism has not been community centered. We need to reevaluate our organizing strategies and start to reach out to other groups to make sure that their voices are included in these highly important conversations.

Our current default organizing lacks creativity and is not very well thought out. As people living in resource-scarce red states, I wholeheartedly believe we are creative enough to develop different strategies. We should have meetings and events that are at an accessible time, provide childcare, and are not always campus-based. There are ways to incorporate art auctions, workshops, live music, poetry readings, and film showings without depending on the distribution of alcohol. Planning events may take longer, but we need to organize in more honest ways. We need to be more mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, our boundaries, and other people’s boundaries.

Basically, I really want to hang out with elder queers, pregnant people, angsty middle schoolers, drooling babies, people of fucking color, non-english speaking populations, people of different cultural backgrounds, high school nerds, parents of all ages, and people with varying abilities. We can only include a broader spectrum of people into our conversations by creating and sustaining sober, safer spaces and hold ourselves accountable to our organizing, personal past, and future actions.

I am not preaching a sober lifestyle, nor do I live one, but I think it is important to recognize the limitations of alcohol-focused events. I acknowledge that I have not been the best at creating safer, sober spaces and would like to continue these conversations and invite you to be a part of them.

Yucca is a chican@ from south tejas trying to mitigate life in north tejas and become a full spectrum doula. When they are not thinking about child birth, they are riding their bike and dreaming of reproductive justice in their lone star state.

Weekly News Round Up: Sub-Par Humans Edition

Phew. Some weeks make you want to leave civilization behind and hang out with cows; this was definitely one of those weeks.

100% of today’s roundup gifs brought to you by gifsofcows dot tumblr dot com

First of all, the Supreme Court ordered that Dusten Brown was to return his daughter, Baby Veronica to her adoptive parents. The arrangements for Dusten to stay in touch with his child have not been made public, and furthermore, Brown is facing extradition to South Carolina for not handing over Veronica immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision to award custody to the Capobiancos. This case has been a significant one for many reasons, as  has been discussed on this blog and elsewhere, and it is rather disheartening that the Cherokee Nation’s word on the case has ultimately been dismissed.  While reading up on this week’s decision, I came across an article highlighting an important perspective on the case’s outcome- that of adult adoptees.

On a separate, but still sad, note, we have RH Reality Check’s rather disturbing piece on the economic nature of for-profit prisons. Yep, they’re still thriving (despite many citizens’ misgivings about the morality of incarceration tied to corporate interest), and it turns out taxpayers are footing the bill to keep it that way. This is especially frightening and depressing for those of us in Oklahoma:

“The majority—65 percent—of contracts that ITPI obtained either obligate the state to maintain prison occupancy rates above 80 percent and up to 100 percent, or put the cost of empty beds on taxpayers. The states with the highest quotas are Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia, and Oklahoma.”

This is hardly an incentive to focus resources on  reducing crime, and it’s certainly not encouraging the system to  find ways to reform and keep non-violent offenders, especially drug offenders, OUT of jail. Remember, the United States already has the highest rate of incarceration, and Oklahoma’s is especially high. The for-profit prison system is now ensuring that does not change. Yaaaaaaaaaaay.


And what would a frustration-themed Round-Up be without some gross Neo-Nazis? Recently, creepster white supremacist Craig Cobb started buying properties in a largely abandoned area  of Leith, North Dakota in hopes of creating a lil’ white homeland (barf). Thankfully, Lakotas and Dakotas rallied this past weekend to take a stand against white supremacist doofuses trying to move in and remind them that Leith is close to Treaty Territory, and racist bullshit is not welcome. If you need a boost of hope for humanity, check out some of the pictures of the rally here .

a cow that heard about all the bad things going on and was like “nah, later Earth”

Finally, let’s cross our fingers and hope that justice finally prevails for Marisa Alexander. An appeals court has ordered a new trial for Ms. Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years after firing a gun at a wall to scare off her abusive ex-husband. Ms. Alexander never pointed the gun at her abuser, and even he admitted that he understood her intent. She had no prior record of violence her self, but had been ex-husband’s violence had been well-documented. Many were outraged by the verdict in her case after George Zimmerman was tried and found not guilty in the same state. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have some good news to report on her in the coming months.

Finally, enjoy this video of a man figure-skating over loud yellmusic! Happy Friday!


But seriously, Erin is going to go hang out with cows again this weekend.


Complexity, Complacency and the Pill

In her latest NYmag piece, wincingly titled “No Pill ? No Prob. Meet the Pullout Generation”, Ann Friedman profiled a new kind of liberated woman: one who doesn’t use birth control! Or rather, uses the pull out method, which is also known as not birth control. But wait! These aren’t people who can’t afford or otherwise access necessary health services. They’re organic kale and cleaning product-buying, sexual pleasure driven, condom and IUD disparaging women who just can’t get down with putting “synthetic hormones” in their bodies. These are also women that actually wouldn’t mind just having a kid anyway. HUUUH.

Let’s think about this. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to avoid many of the modern birth control methods available. One of them is wanting to be pregnant (these people kinda do)! For folks who DO want to use birth control, we have multiple methods, because we have a multiplicity of bodies and treatment needs. Writing off the ones that use “synthetic hormones” as inherently bad is a joke.

People use hormonal birth control for a spectrum of reasons in addition to limiting the chances of pregnancy. Folks with a range of reproductive complications and conditions such as pCOS use birth control as a treatment, as it’s often cheaper and sometimes more effective than other medications. HBC can also be used for folks as an alternative to, again, prohibitively expensive mental health medications. And people without $500-700 laying around to buy a copper IUD that may or may not exacerbate their period symptoms need birth control, too.

In addition to these ableist and classist implications, an argument that moralizes and decries the use of synthetic hormones is inherently trans*phobic, no matter how many people argue that it’s just “personal preference”. This thought process creates a false and poisonous hierarchy of freaking HORMONE PRODUCTION. It invalidates the necessary services many trans* people seek, and by proxy many trans* identities at their core.

We should question the way that hormonal birth control dominates the care provided for people seeking to control their reproductive outcomes. We should remind ourselves every single day that some women of color in Puerto Rico who were forced to be the first test subjects of HBC died after that trial. Their deaths were never investigated or recognized. We should remind ourselves that their responses to the abusive, nonconsensual medication trial were the same side effects that people taking the pill today experience. We should demand why the medical profession couldn’t even respect these women enough to alter the medication that they died and otherwise suffered from while testing. We should ask why the patch hasn’t been adapted to be useful to women over 130lbs. We should—and do—have a lot of crucial and unanswered questions about HBC, even today.

I understand and encourage a serious questioning of the medical industrial complex, as any person interested in reproductive justice projects should. But the answer to issues with the way birth control medication works cannot be ableist, classist, neurotypical and deeply trans*phobic nonsense. It is not a useful, kind, or commendable effort to drag down the people dependent on the medical system in attempting to criticize it. The pull out method is not a revolution; it’s a complicit and passive reaction to normative medical practices that marginalized folks have been critical of—and suffered due to—since the beginning.

Elly loves kale and resents its representation in this article

Weekly News Roundup: Full Moon Howlin’ Edition

Seems like we’ve all been having a Full Moon kind of week. Let us talk about it together, both the

and the


This week at OK4RJ, Katie chatted with us about polls and their basic irrelevance to validate reproductive justice work. Since our last round up, we also had some fantastic pieces about Plan B in Oklahoma and reproductive justice and The Future. Sandra and OK4RJ friend Jessica Luther also were featured in the first of a three part piece about red state and rural organizing! If you missed any of ’em, I’ll wait.

got some waitin’ stuff to do anyway

In Oklahoma this week, food stamp funding has been cut, bringing some some no-income families’ funding down to $1.40 per meal, per person, per day–losing about 21 meals per month. The Baby Veronica case is progressing in spite of Gov Fallin’s attempts to extradite Dusten Brown. If you need a brief on the case overall and its relevance to multiple reproductive justice subjects, RH Reality Check‘s got you covered.

here is a summary gif tho

Some Oklahoma churches have wasted no time in trying to fill the void of awful poisonous crap that Exodus International’s disbandment left. Apparently SOME PEOPLE haven’t been reading up on queer folks in the south (ok, the south~ish), and how you know, they exist and have existed and cannot be prayed out of existence.

At the same time that the labor department allowed gay couples to have access to each others’ health care and pension benefits nationally, FU-Fallin advised the OK national guard to stop processing requests for gay military couples. It’s like someone didn’t get to play hide and seek enough as a kid and is now doing that, except with gay people’s healthcare. Mary Fallin,

literally even the pope thinks it’s too much

And one really cool thing happening Oklahoma-wise is this about multi-racial people during the Dust Bowl. If you’ve got a bit of $$ to spare, it should go to that.

In non-local news, this Shakesville piece contextualizes our food stamp problems on a national level, because, non-spoiler alert, what happens here is usually a microcosm of what’s happening everywhere!

The Canadian iTunes App Store (BEAR WITH ME) recently started censoring a slur used to refer to Native and First Nations peoples.

The NYtimes just published a great piece over moralistic hand-wringing about no-good senseless drug users who actually do often make practical and responsible decisions. Who’da thunk.

In fantastic and long-overdue news, the department of labor is extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, who are primarily women of color!

We’re gonna end the week on that note for now. Here are some dance moves and outfit inspirations for your weekend. Is that the same arcade Saul tried to sell to Walt and Skyler? Is this what Jessie did when he was hiding out there? WILL WE EVER BE WHOLE AGAIN??? TAKE THE PAIN AWAY SOLANGE

Elly does not have a Jesse Pinkman Problem

Why Polls Don’t Matter

I have several Google Alerts that I check regularly as part of my job.  One of those is for “abortion.”  This means that I get to see lots of headlines from anti-choice sites.  (Antis may be terrorists, but they have very good SEO optimization).  A while ago, they were all excited about a new poll that came out that they interpreted to mean that young people were increasingly “pro-life.”  About six months before that, pro-choice writers were all excited about a major poll that found the opposite.  The specific polls aren’t all that important.  Polls are like the Bible; if you know what you’re doing and you try hard enough, you can find a results or a verse to justify anything you want to say.

While understanding public opinion is very important in many ways, such as knowing how to craft a message to persuade donors to give money or people to vote for your candidate, I think paying too much attention to small samplings of public opinion is very damaging for organizers and advocates.  When we give too much credence to people’s responses to questions about other people’s rights, we are acting as if these are topics where the public’s opinions should matter.  If we believe that people have rights because they are people, then it doesn’t matter if others in a society don’t think they should have those rights.  Rights aren’t something you should be given because they are popular or have taken away when public opinion shifts; they are something you are entitled to because you are a person.  I know this isn’t the way the world works most of the time.  In red states, we learn at a very young age that most people around us don’t believe people deserve rights if they are not white, if they are not Christian, if they are not straight, if they are poor, or if they want to control their reproduction.

As reproductive justice advocates, we say that people deserve not only basic human rights but also lives filed with dignity and self-determination, regardless of their sexuality, their race, their ethnicity, their legal status, their beliefs, their gender identity, and their class.  This means that we can’t start quantifying the legitimacy of people’s rights with numbers and percentages.   For that matter, people’s rights (particularly people whose rights are routinely restricted due to kyriarchical oppression) don’t end where publicly elected legislators say they do.  Just because we live in a society where our neighbors and our legislators tell us it’s okay to restrict our reproductive rights, our voting rights, our rights to keep our families intact, our rights to love the people we choose, and our very rights to access medical care, food, shelter, and freedom of movement, doesn’t mean that we won’t keep fighting for them.

Katie saw a life-size horse carved out of butter last week.  Right now, she’s trying to catch up on shows (Grey’s, duh) in time for the new season.  You can follow her on twitter and tumblr

Plan B in Oklahoma and the never-ending cycle of bad legislation

In June, Governor Fallin called for a special legislative session to overhaul a “tort reform” law that the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. On Tuesday the legislature convened for the first day. Putting aside the good questions of whether we even need lawsuit reform, let alone an emergency session in which to address it, I want to talk about HB 1017, which Rep. Derby introduced Tuesday and which restricts access to Plan B. Plan B is a brand of emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex or a birth control failure. The pill becomes less effective with time, so easier access is crucial to preventing unplanned pregnancy. The scope of the special session is limited to “tort reform” unless the legislature votes to expand it, so I”m not sure how this bill was introduced when all the other bills introduced appear to be related to tort litigation. Regardless, if the legislature does not attempt to pass this bill during the special session, they”ll surely try to pass it during the next regular session.

That’s because an Oklahoma state court judge will likely declare a similar law unconstitutional on procedural grounds. HB 1017 contains the same language as HB 2226, a law passed last legislative session. HB 2226 is a response to the FDA’s recent decision to approve Plan B for unrestricted over-the-counter sale. The law reinstates the FDA rules that applied before the FDA decision. HB 2226 would require people under 17 to get a prescription before accessing Plan B. People 17 and older would have to go through a pharmacist before accessing the medication without a prescription (presumably with ID to prove they are 17 or older).

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) is challenging HB 2226’s legality in court. A judge will likely strike down the law as a violation of the single subject rule in Oklahoma’s constitution. At the last minute, lawmakers added the Plan B provision to a bill relating to health insurance forms. While both provisions of the law relate to “health,” that’s probably too broad of a connection to satisfy the single subject rule. The judge indicated that the CRR was likely to succeed on their single subject rule claim when she issued a temporary injunction against the law’s enforcement.

By now, Oklahoma lawmakers should be familiar with the single subject rule since they have violated it multiple times in the past. The most prominent example for people following reproductive rights news happened in 2009 when a state court judge struck down an abortion law, citing the single subject rule. The celebration by opponents of the law was cut short when, during the next legislative session, the legislature conformed with the single subject rule by passing the different provisions of the law individually. HB 1017 appears to anticipate a ruling of HB 2226 as violating the single subject rule, since HB 1017 only deals with one subject and uses the exact Plan B language found in HB 2226.

Thinking about the ease with which the legislature could pass HB 1017 and other anti-reproductive rights legislation is demoralizing to say the least. I was reminded of something Jessica Luther said about organizing in Texas: “We are putting tiny bandaids on gaping wounds and that’s only if we can even locate bandaids to begin with.” This applies to progressive activists working in other conservative areas too. I have major respect for the legislators, lobbyists, and lawyers who fight for reproductive rights at the capitol and in the courts (I believe the word “saint” is frequently thrown around here at OK4RJ), but defensive measures that maintain the status quo, again while much needed, are not enough.

I won’t pretend to have the answers, but I’m encouraged by the conversations CoreAlign is facilitating. We need to think long term, offensively and creatively. I’d like to see more evaluation of what’s working and what’s not about the tactics of the mainstream reproductive rights movement. I’d like to see more investment into activists working in Middle America. I don’t mean organizers from the coasts should come in and tell others what to do. There are folks already working in these states who are capable of building a grassroots movement for reproductive justice. Organizers need resources and skills sharing. Many of these conversations and actions are already taking place in reproductive justice circles. The concept of reproductive justice was not developed solely in response to the failures of the reproductive rights movement, but it does focus on populations and issues that the reproductive rights movement has historically ignored.

These conversations sustain me as an activist when faced with the latest defeat in the legislature. True change in Oklahoma is possible, but will take time. Oklahomans are worth the effort. Even if you are the most cynical of activists, and truly believe we are a lost cause, remember that bad legislation often starts here but makes its way to other regions of the country.

Mallory is on Twitter.

Book Review: “Baedan: A Journal Of Queer Nihilism”

poster in dublin photographed by william murphy

Living in a slow internet zone has been really good for me y’all, as I’m reading at the pace I used to before graduate school dulled my senses. This past week I finished reading Baedan: A Journal of Queer Nihilism – it blew me away. It might not be on most folks’ reading lists, but it had so many important, relevant insights into my own activity within reproductive justice circles, and it might for you too. If you’re familiar with academic queer writing, you’ve definitely heard of Lee Edelman and his book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Baedan lifts significant sections from No Future to talk about desire, strategy, and anarchism. It’s not an easy read, so I’ll summarize “reproductive futurity” and why it’s a concept folks in RJ should really think about.

Edelman uses psychoanalysis to describe The Child in film and literature – The Child refers not to actual children themselves, but the figure that compels us to create conservative, protected environments where we value the innocence and vulnerability of the future at all costs – we defer living now to “think of the children” which can justify any number of things, including outrageous restrictions on abortion to nationalism to ethnic cleansing and more. In Edelman’s book, he describes how queer folks suffer most acutely because of society’s reproductive futurity. Those who are viewed in relationships that are not procreative are perceived as threats to The Child, regardless of how individual queer people feel about parenting or birth or anything related to caring for actual children. It works on a more conceptual level, but the harm is real and pretty easy to spot. Listen to any group of speeches during election season, and you’ll hear politicians from all over the spectrum, but especially the Right, talk about “protecting children” and “saving families” – sprinkle in a little pseudoscience about queer parents being unfit or damaging the development of children because they aren’t in a heterosexual nuclear household and you can witness this in action.

Reproductive futurity isn’t limited to the campaign trail; as a lens that functions as a part of society in general, we are often swept up in the idea of protecting The Child and more generally, The Future, by soldiering on in a bitter, contemporary environment that’s unfit for everyone with the promise of a better future on the horizon that we will never reach. I want to articulate here how we can think about reproductive futurity in the context of reproductive justice movement and thought, and what lessons we can learn from queer anarchists living and writing on the political margins that might prompt us to act in new ways.

A logical site to break apart the contradictions in the contemporary terrain of reproductive injustice are the reports coming from California prisons, as well as others across the country, of women undergoing sterilization while incarcerated. According to Justice Now, hundreds of people, many of them women of color, have reported coercion during birth while under correctional control. Several people report that just before or during drug administration for pain relief during labor or in preparation for a C-section, doctors would present consent forms for sterilization procedures that were not initiated by the inmates themselves nor discussed prior to hospitalization.

poster by hannes beer

Reproductive futurity is anti-queer, but it is also fundamentally racist in our white supremacist society. We act toward a future that protects and values the white Child, and sees children of color as future threats or a drain on resources. The current lives of women of color experience double blows – both taking away whole pieces of their lives during their (unjust) incarceration, and then again in coercive reproductive control that sterilizes them without consent. We have a name for these sorts of actions perpetuated by the state: genocide.

It’s my hope that I’ve given a preliminary look at what it might mean to apply concepts from queer theory, queer nihilism, and anarchist writing on the margins to reproductive justice communities and thinking. With the announcement of Chelsea Manning’s sentencing and wondering about her healthcare during her incarceration, we’ll see even more opportunities to talk about the intersections of incarceration, queerness, and the dangers of futurity in our thinking. I think we have everything to gain from this experimentation, even if it might call attention to how a few organizations working in this terrain also deploy rhetoric that supports reproductive futurity, perhaps with unintended consequences.



Jen is going to read everything.

Weekly News Round Up: Let’s tweet it out

Is it me or did SO MUCH happen this week? As always Twitter was the place to be throughout all of it.

At OK4RJ this week, Mel reflected on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and shared some of her family history and personal experiences with us.

The VMAs happened Sunday. Poor Gaga’s sea shell outfit did not stand a chance against Miley’s performance in a contest for media attention. Folks were hand-wringing over the overtly sexual nature of Miley’s performance. Others rightly critiqued the hand-wringing as slut-shaming. But there was more happening here, and if feminist publications didn’t discuss or even mention the racial implications of Miley’s performance (looking at you, Jezebel), well, as Flavia Dzodan first said, your feminism must be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

In the past, Miley has said of her new persona: “I want something that feels black.” Welp.

this Santana reaction gif is the appropriate reaction gif to 90% of things, including Glee hey-o

this Santana reaction gif is the appropriate reaction gif for 90% of things, including Glee hey-o

Cate at BattyMamzelle discussed Miley’s association of blackness exclusively with ratchet culture as problematic. Additionally Cate said Miley’s performance reinforced racist stereotypes of black women as jezebels. Here’s further explanation:

what Miley has done here is indicate that 1. She wants to be sexual and 2. She needs to associate herself with black bodies to do it. By doing this, she in inexplicably intertwining the idea of sexuality as part and parcel of black womanhood; that is, that black women cannot exist without sexuality and vice versa, and that the only acceptable way to be sexual, is to “be black”. That idea plays into deeply racist ideas about black womanhood, the idea being that black women are wanton and lascivious, and cannot control their expressions of sexuality.

The entire blog is worth reading, so you should do that.

Fuse asked bounce queen Big Freedia what she thought of Miley’s performance. Among other things, she explained:

But it’s offensive to black culture and black women who’ve been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don’t even have the moves down yet. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.

Instead of asking Bid Freedia for her expert opinion, ABC hilariously employed a fitness “expert” to contribute to “Twerking: a Scientific Explanation.” This resulted in well-deserved mocking on Twitter via the #ABCinvestigates hashtag.

In news that did not involve string bikinis and giant foam fingers, Texas is gearing up for October 29th, when HB 2 takes effect. HB 2 is anti-abortion legislation which is predicted to reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state from 42 to 5. The Department of State Health Services met this week to discuss the interpretation and implementation of HB 2. Many opponents of the bill attended. As Jessica Luther put it, “at this point, the law is the law”:

After many reproductive rights, health, and justice advocates testified, DSHS did not second the motion on the rules of HB 2, which Luther says is unprecedented:





The action of DSHS may not seem significant in the wake of harm that will come from HB 2’s implementation. But we’ve got to remember, anti-abortion advocates have been working in states like Texas for decades. Any movement toward reproductive justice is significant in these states, and more dramatic change will not happen over night.

Finally, Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove) thinks Oklahoma needs better sex education. Our infant mortality rate has declined over the last few years but is still above the national average. Women, Action & the Media’s campaign to get Clear Channel to air radio advertisements for Wichita’s South Wind Women’s Center was successful. And fast food workers went on strike in 60 cities across the U.S. yesterday, calling for a higher minimum wage and the right to unionize.

The video this week comes from rapper Le1f who also made the news for something said on Twitter. Ending the round up on theme! Yes!

Mallory almost feels like a real person again, four weeks after sitting for the July bar.

We Shall Overcome

(trigger warning: mention of a racial slur)

I don’t often like to focus on the social construct of race. It gets me hot under the collar most times and, let’s face it, in Oklahoma I’m surrounded!


White People!

All joking aside last Saturday, the 24th of August, was the 5oth anniversary of the iconic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The political rally, which culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King’s nearly perfect “I Have A Dream” speech involved more than 200,000 Americans as a sign of solidarity for the civil rights of black people. I read a New York Times opinion editorial about the March on Washington that really got me thinking about the social construct of race in current American Culture. I was born 22 years after the march took place and let me tell you, with authority issues like mine, I am so grateful to be alive right now.



When I ask the older black people in my life to tell stories from before and during the Civil Rights movement, the stories always have a surreal feeling to them. Particularly, how easily and normally black men died. For example, out of four brothers, my Mom only has one brother left alive. I never knew two of my uncles because one was killed in black on black violence in Miami (and later his killer was pardoned by an all white jury) and the other of a drug addiction he developed along with emotional issues while serving in the Korean War. I knew the third when he was dying of Hepatitis C. My siblings and I’s lives are much more stable than the generation of my parents. When it comes to issues of “race,” the most common situations I deal with usually fall within one of the following categories:

  • Dealing with ignoramuses saying some variant of the word “nigger”
  • People not understanding that I am a human. (I have encountered people that don’t know blacks are capable of suntans or that nipples come in different colors.)
  • The occasional reminder of prevalent stereotypes.  And finally, this one doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot…
  • The lesser value of black life. 

Because none of these situations are life threatening to me personally, I’ve just started telling myself that in-group out-group tensions are a side effect of having a shortcut-loving, homo sapien brain. But really though, maybe to honor the memory of those who died for our current freedoms (and excesses…), take one moment to really consider how many drastic changes have occurred to make up American history to the present day.

I find it mind-blowing how fucked up the ebb & flow of life can be. Think back to a time when you, reader, (metaphorically speaking, of course) were hurting from life’s latest blow. There you were, down from a trap that was baited to your tastes, soaked to the bone in your own tears and perspiration. Just when you thought you couldn’t go on anymore, when you were sick of the ride and you just wanted to go home, life offered a saving grace. A hand up from the sad, soiled spot you sulked in, in the form of a beautiful sunrise, a cute infant anything, or a story/movie/book/song that drives you to tears in the best way possible. Perhaps you remember something or someone that you love madly enough to stay in the game with the knowledge that life may start playing rough again at any moment. I like to remember moments of life at its most absurd because, guess what? The good stuff usually follows. This acceptance of small victories through gratitude is one of the strategies blacks and other oppressed peoples use time and time again to keep holding on. Fifty years after the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom things are better, but there is still room for improvement. How will I feel in the next fifty years? Will we be able to look back and see a clear choice to include the struggling minority groups of today? The vision has to include more than just ethnic groups; undocumented people and GLBTQ friends need progress too.  I can only speculate that more positive changes are on the way.


Melissa lives with her Mom and Brother in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She just started an entry-level public sector job and is currently writing a dystopian future comedy called “My Best Friend’s Suicide”

Weekly News Roundup: Stink Eye Edition

Wow, this has been quite a week. Here at OK4RJ, Sandra wrote a lovely, gif-filled ode to Sandra Oh’s groundbreaking character who will now, sadly, be leaving Grey’s Anatomy. Mallory encouraged us to help get Lena Waithe’s new show Twenties to go viral. Pearl lay down the truth about about people who were offended by the brilliant hashtag, #solidarityisforwhitewomen. (For further reading on how to sit and really listen like a grown up and proper ally, go here.) And finally, Alicia wrote a harrowing piece about the struggle to keep a family of eight together after Oklahoma parent Luis Plaza was stopped for a ‘routine’ check and officers realized he was undocumented.

In Oklahoma news: Tensions continue to run high over the possible transfer of Baby Veronica to North Carolina, and protestors gathered outside the Cherokee County Courthouse during the hearing,  in support of Dusten Brown and The Indian Child Welfare Act. The  ICWA remains under scrutiny, especially by those outside of Oklahoma, and as if the Capibianco’s spokesperson had not created an offensive enough campaign to ‘Save Veronica’, other groups have joined the call without bothering to mask colonial leanings.

“a pump stomping on settler colonialism forever” -that 1984 quote u know the one

On a brighter note, a judge has placed a temporary injunction against Oklahoma’s law regulating the morning after pill, which would have required adults over the age of 17 to present identification to a pharmacist and minors under the age of 17 to have a prescription. It seems a bit silly that we’re even having to fight this, since we’re apparently the only state with such a law on the books right now.

an accurate depiction of what will happen to our teens n tweens now that they can abort all their embryos with those pills y’all !!

Finally, Thursday morning, not long after the sentence after the sentence of 35 years had been handed down, Private Manning released an official statement announcing her new name, Chelsea. For some time, the LGBTQ community had known of Chelsea’s previous use of the name Breanna and expressing a desire to live openly as a woman. However, Ms. Manning had not made any public statement, and so while many referred to her as “Manning” rather than “Bradley Manning,” it was not certain how Chelsea would want to identify in public.


While it was a huge step for Ms. Manning to make a public statement, many new concerns and questions lay ahead. At the moment, Ms. Manning is set to be housed in a prison with males, and there is no provision for hormone therapy in military prison.While many media outlets did a wonky job getting pronouns wrong or flat out ignoring them, the Stink Eye Award goes to The Daily Beast for publishing a disgusting piece of homophobic, transphobic rubbish on Ms. Manning’s pending imprisonment. The article has since been revised, but you can the original here , and decide from there if The Daily Beast is worth ever reading again.

Erin had a difficult time writing this because her chihuahuas kept insisting that she pet them instead.