Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Marching To The Beat of Human Rights

I was reading the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the third week of January completely in awe of the African-American female mathematicians who were instrumental in the space program of the 1950s. Back then it was NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) before it was NASA. Mind blown. 

Call me anal but it's imperative that I read the book before the movie. I was clueless on the premise of the movie Hidden Figures until I saw the book listed under recommendations on my library account. This book chronicles the lives of the African-American female "human computers" who worked for our space program. I won't spoil it with any more details but please READ the book! 

My biggest takeaway was learning about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which was held on August 28, 1963. Either I was asleep in school or it was never taught in the four years of high school. Or, maybe it was significant to me now because I read about it three days before I marched in Los Angeles for the Women's March.  

In 1963, over 200, 000 people marched in Washington D.C. to protest the challenges African American people faced. It was the march where Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a collective cry for equality bestowed on all. 

My 2017 began with me joining over a reported 750,000 people in Los Angeles to march alongside women, men, babies, grandchildren, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, and grandparents. Everyone marched for a purpose. 

What was mine? 

So let me start with labels. I'm done with them. I used to proudly call myself a Christian until the last two years when the actions of other Christians shamed me. No, I'm far from perfect. I still believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. But to say I'm a ChristIan? 

I know people will call me a backslider for loving "gay people" for they are an "abomination." I've watched the vicious attacks by "well-meaning Christians" toward my beloved friends (who happen to be Christans also) because their son is gay. I know my fellow Christians will call me a heathen for believing that no one should tell me what to do with my body especially a man. Yes, only God can. I get it. I know I will receive judgment and condemnation for accepting the marginalized; for diluting the words in the Bible; for being "liberal."  

Back in 2007 when I started volunteering in the fight against human trafficking I was often asked if I was an activist and a feminist. I had no answer. I didn't think of myself as either but only felt an urgency to wake people up to the atrocities of social injustice. I railed against the complacency I faced from people or worse, their apathy. If this specific injustice wasn't happening to them then they couldn't be bothered

In the nine years I've been involved with fighting against human trafficking the pervasive attitude I've encountered and feared is complacency. My goal wasn't so much to change their minds as make them aware of the plight of young girls, boys, and women trafficked into sexual slavery.  

It only happened in third world countries, they said. Prostitution is the oldest occupation in history, they said. That stuff doesn't happen in America, they said. We are safe here, they said. Life is good here, they said. We are blessed here, they said. 

Complacency, I said. 
I took this photo at the Women's March on 1/21/2017
I didn't march because I am an activist, a feminist, an abolitionist, a liberal, a Democrat, or a pacifist. 

I marched because I am a human being. 
I marched not because I'm perfect or believe I am right but because I believe in human rights. 
I marched because I believe we are all one, as in one with the human race. 
I marched because I believe the marginalized, the homeless, immigrants, LGBTQ people are human beings who have the same rights as the affluent. 
I marched because females should make the same salary as their male counterparts. 
I marched because if we all chose love over fear we would learn to accept our differences
I marched because my compassion won't allow me to be silent over injustice. 
I marched because now is no longer the time to be complacent

It's been over one week since the Women's March in Los Angeles and this past weekend a travel ban was announced, preventing hundreds of people from entering our country. Citizens traveling from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, were detained in various airports of the United States separated from families. Refugees from Syria were also not welcome in our country. 

In only 11 days the country I love so much became unrecognizable. 

I, along with my parents, are immigrants. We became U.S. citizens on June 23, 1982. I was thirteen years old. Since then I never labeled myself an immigrant or thought twice about being a U.S. citizen until  yesterday when I watched chaos descend upon airports. We weren't threats to Americans then and we aren't threats now. I think this applies for most of the people included in this new travel ban.

My heart broke. It seems as if I've been on the verge of tears and easily cry since November 8, 2016. 

A handful of people have told me that marching and protesting were a waste of time. After learning about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I know my efforts aren't wasted. Without those courageous people marching and protesting in the 1950s and 1960s segregation would still exist today.   

Van Jones from CNN and The Messy Truth said on one of his episodes, "Democracy requires hard work every day before, during, and after an election." He said this after asking his audience and viewers where were all these people who marched on January 21st during the election, further stating that most of us underestimated who would become President. 

I admit I was one of those who underestimated the elections. I take full responsibility for my inaction and yes, I'm doing my best to rectify that. 

Too late? No, it is never too late. 

Together we can continue to pray, to love, to accept, to forgive, to resist, to protest, to march, to unite, to fight for human rights. And we can keep marching...
Here we are at the Women's March. My niece Micaela, my friend Gabby, and me.

To see the rest of my pictures from the Women's March head over to my photography blog: Women's March | Pershing Square | Los Angeles

I've included a few resources below where you can learn about the different organizations and groups who stand in solidarity for human rights. 

Womens March 
We The Protesters