In light of President Trump deciding to pull of of the Paris Agreement because he 'represents the citizens of Pittsburg and not the citizens of Paris', the world has been abuzz, with many people, including the citizens of Pittsburg, condemning the ill-informed and science-averse president. To understand why Trump's decision is catastrophic to the world, we need to understand what the Paris Agreement is and the role each country has to play.
The Paris Agreement, also known as the Paris Climate Accord and the Paris Climate Agreement, is a pact by the U.N to bring countries together to fight against global warming and climate change. The countries that sign the agreement agree to limit the century's global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists agree that if we pass this 2 degrees Celsius threshold, the effects will be catastrophic and irreversible, i.e. oceans will rise, there will be excessive flooding and extensive droughts, people will die of heat waves and other conditions arising from high temperatures, food security will be highly compromised, and so on and so forth. The deal was signed in December 12, 2015, in Paris, France. Only 2 other U.N member countries in the world didn't sign it then, i.e. Nicaragua and Syria. It is important to note that Nicaragua didn't sign because to them, the deal was too soft on rich countries that emit the most greenhouse gases thus contributing the most towards global warming. Nicaragua also felt that a voluntary deal wouldn't accomplish much. Syria wasn't able to sign because it was, and still is, embroiled in war.
The Paris Agreement is important because, even though it is non-binding, it is the first agreement to bring the countries of the world together to fight against global warming and climate change. Under the agreement, every country has an individual plan to tackle its greenhouse emissions. Developed countries also pledge an amount of money to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt and mitigate practices to fight global warming and climate change. The reason why developed countries are the only ones taxed with pledging money to the Green Climate Fund is because even though developed countries contribute most of the greenhouse emissions, developing countries - countries that have very little to do with greenhouse emissions in comparison - will be the ones that are worst hit by the effects of global warming and climate change. As a matter of fact, the top 10 largest emitters, all of which are developed countries, account for 67.6% of the world total greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S agreeing to this deal was monumental because the U.S as a country is the biggest carbon polluter in all history. While climate change deniers and Trump supporters cite Nicaragua and Syria as also not being part of the agreement, they fail to note that Nicaragua is only responsible for 0.03% of global emissions and has tons of eco-friendly policies, and Syria was responsible for 0.19% of global emissions by the time the war begun.
Under Obama's administration, the country vowed to cut its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 levels by the year 2025. It also pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. The E.P.A - Environmental Protection Agency - also rolled out stricter regulations for companies and corporations. The administration also classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the U.S.
On the other hand, the Trump administration has pledged to 'bring back coal mining jobs' in collusion with top U.S coal boss Robert Murray. Murray is happy with Trump's decision and met with Trump to discuss how the administration will declassify carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the U.S. Murray stated, "We do not have a climate change or global warming problem, we have an energy cost problem." The bringing back of coal jobs was a Trump campaign promise. In fact, in February, Murray met with Trump when the president signed repeal of the Stream Protection rule, an Obama-era legislation that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris in streams. Murray said of the anti-dumping legislation, "It is an unlawful and destructive attempt to destroy our nation's underground coalmines and put our nation's coal miners out of work." Murray has also presented Trump with a plan that will overturn many of the protections brought under Obama by the E.P.A. On top of that, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier, as head of the E.P.A. Pruitt, in turn, stacked the E.P.A with other climate change deniers. The situation is so inflammatory that scientists had to publish an entire study, despite the fact that similar studies had already been done, to refute Pruitt on climate change.
Furthermore, Trump and his administration continue to argue that bringing back coal jobs is how they will solve the unemployment situation in the U.S even though research has proven, along with countries using clean energy, that renewable energy is where the jobs are at. And to make the entire situation even more ridiculous, even big corporations, including energy coporations such as Exonn Mobil and Shell, are in favour of the Paris agreement. These corporations took to various media outlets to urge Trump to not back out of the agreement and instead follow through with it and focus on bringing the dawn of clean energy to the U.S.
Many speculate that the reason that Trump has all these problematic policies in place is because he wants to erase Obama's legacy. But whatever the reason, the fact remains that the U.S backing out of the climate deal could seriously weaken global efforts to avoid drastic climate change. This is because while the rest of the world is moving forward, the biggest polluter in history plans to further increase its emissions, and this will put the entire world in the danger zone and increase the chances of global temperatures crossing that 2 degrees Celsius threshold. Axios' Jonathan Swan wrote, "It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn't prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal." The U.S is expected to face a series of diplomatic consequences facing Trump's decision. Kenyans who keep asking me why I'm concerned with Trump's policies should remember that in all this, it is developing countries that will suffer the most.
As of now, the U.S hasn't formally backed out of the deal. To do so, the Trump administration can either request a formal withdrawal, a process that takes 4 years, or it could withdraw from the U.N Framework Convention on Climate Change altogether. The only good news is that, despite Trump's non-environmental-friendly policies, numerous U.S. citizens, cities, states, and corporations are coming forward and vowing to uphold the Paris Agreement. In fact, as soon as Trump made his Pittsburg claim, the mayor of Pittsburg, Bill Peduto, came forward and stated that Pittsburg has a plan to power itself 100% with renewable energy and that the city is in no way in league with Trump. In fact, representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the U.N pledging to meet U.S's greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. On Tuesday, Hawaii became the first state to pass law committing to the Paris Agreement.
"Your purchase helps empower the poor women of Kenya," I read the line out loud over and over again. I was reading from an Instagram page that I had come across. In the interest of privacy, I will not name the page. I will, however, give a description of the page. The page was a business page, and it was being run by what appeared to be a foreign white male. The business was one of selling accessories, supposedly made by 'poor Kenyan women', and it was created for the purpose of saving said women from poverty. Now, I'm not going to deny that there is poverty in Kenya because that would be lying to myself, but I'm also not going to say that this kind of thing is particularly helpful in alleviating that poverty as that too would be a lie. Because I'm not one to assume anything, I got to talking with the owner of the page so as to learn more about this business of his.
The first thing I noticed when I went through the pictures on the page was the depiction of Africa i.e. the usual Africa is a poor, diseased continent. And those were only about 5% of the pictures, with a picture or two thrown in to show the women at work making the accessories. The rest of the pictures were of white people flaunting the accessories they had bought from the business. The motto of the page is simple, you buy an accessory, you get featured on the page. Something about this didn't seem right, and I did ask about it, but it turns out that the business is exactly as it is at surface level, white saviour complex and all. They actually do have good intentions, but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with those, and here's why.
First and foremost, the page portrays Kenyans, and Africans at large, as an 'exotic breed'. This mindset is an example of the objectification and commodification that mostly happens to non-Westerners, especially people of colour, and it erases the personhood of the person made out to be 'exotic'.
Secondly, the page was perpetuating the myth that Africa is a poor continent while in reality, Africa is the richest continent in terms of natural resources; but due to colonialism and neo-colonialism, those resources benefit everyone but Africans. And even though the heart of the person running the business was in a good place, it still has negative consequences on the portrayal of Africa and Africans. This is not to say that how we're perceived is more important than our welfare, but our welfare is directly linked to how we're perceived. The reason behind this is because investors will not invest in lands with poor people, which is mostly all that Africa is portrayed to be. Furthermore, due to this perception, our brands are looked upon with scorn. To make matters worse, this page is not the only one perpetuating this stereotype, there are many more, so you can imagine the collective effect. Aside from keeping away investors and not giving our products a fair shake in the global markets, this perception also justifies neo-colonialism because it makes it seem like we can't take care of ourselves and that we desperately need a saviour, and neo-colonialists are happy to be that saviour.
Thirdly, if the business is meant to help the poor women of Kenya, why not let these poor women run the business themselves? There are literally so many free classes and workshops that teach entrepreneurship and online marketing. Internet connection in Kenya is becoming more and more accessible. The idea of making the accessories came from the women, it is the women that make the accessories, why not let them take charge of marketing and the profits too? If they can't do that right now because of one reason or another, why not help them attain that independence? Why not make it a partnership or a symbiotic relationship as opposed to the one-sided deal that it is in place as of now?
Fourthly, the business model was not sustainable at all. The marketing was being done in such a way that the business cashed in from other people's guilt. What happens when all the guilt has been exhausted? Guilting your way into profits does not make a sustainable business model.
Fifthly, most of the customers only cared about the internet fame, which is the opposite effect that the business hoped to have. The business meant for people to care about making a difference in the world, but their 'buy to get featured strategy' didn't quite work out that way. It is a good marketing strategy, and it gets the sales up, but it doesn't make people care about making a positive change in the world.
I did explain all this as best as I could to the owner of the page, and I included some links that I thought would be helpful in expounding the matter at hand, and they did hear me out. As for if there has been a change, I cannot definitively say that there has been one.
Hi everyone! As we enjoy our end-of-year celebrations and religious celebrations such as Kwanzaa, Hannukah and Christmas, let's remember to support each other. Anyone needing any online counselling or other form of mental health suport can feel free to email us for help.
I recently came across the dead horse theory and I just couldn't resist sharing it. Say you're riding a horse. Sadly, the horse dies. Common sense dictates that you dismount it, does it not? Sadly, this is not what happens. Thus the dead horse theory. The tribal wisdom of the plain Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount it. However, throughout history, and still happening now, we see business, education and government take more advanced strategies such as:
1. Buying a stronger whip. This approach is wildly popular amongst Kenyan school administrators.
2.Changing riders. If a plan isn't working, why re-strategize when you can just axe the person in charge and get a replacement?
3.Threatening the horse with termination. If your business is failing, just threaten to fire your employees! That'll do the trick!
4.Appointing a committee to study the horse. How many fruitful committees have we had in Kenya?
5.Arranging to visit other countries to see how others ride dead horses. (Kenyan MCAs eh, Kenyan MCAs ah!)
6.Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included. This is also know as being 'innovative'.
7.Re-classifying the dead horse as 'living impaired'. Another innovative technique.
8.Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse. They're often cheaper and come with better (personal) deals.
9.Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.
10.Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance. University students know all too well what happens to research funds.
11.Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance. I mean, why not?
12.Declaring that the dead horse doesn't have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower over head, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
13.Re-writing the expected performance requirements for all horses.
14.Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position of hiring another horse.
All this, and we still ask why violence, misogyny, discrimination, corruption, stealing and lack of professionalism still exists!
I was looking through my Instagram feed one day last week when I came across an account by GRABBITS. It was love at first sight. There were all these posts there about collecting trash on the beach and reducing one's waste footprint. What I loved most about it was that it was fun and playful but also purposeful, goal-oriented and driven. It was then that I decided to contact them (GRABBITS) to learn more about what they do and if it would be okay if I did a feature article about them for TEG. They replied quickly, with Toby J. Brown, the founder of GRABBITS.org contacting me with helpful information.
In Toby's own words, "#GRABBITS is a social media game that offers monthly sustainable prizes for people cleaning up their communities and reducing their waste footprint (think #IceBucketChallenge but for confronting plastic pollution). Its main function is to encourage, enable and inspire people to take action without prompting, anytime anywhere. We also have an image toolkit on our website for anyone to take on the challenges in their communities and get local businesses/organizations to offer their own local giveaways. We hope people will take our logos/images to make their own creative footprint on the project, it's very much built by the community for the community! We've only been operating for less than a year but have seen engagement in over 80 different countries around the world on Instagram and are trying to boost engagement across Facebook and Twitter!"
GRABBITS is on Instagram as @justgrabbits and their page already boasts of over 8500 followers. Their slogan, 'grab it, snap it, bin it, tag it', encourages followers to do their part in keeping the environment clean by picking up litter around their communities. Littering is a big problem in most parts of the world and not only does it affect us humans, but also all other animals. For instance, plastic has been found in the stomachs of birds, whales, turtles, camels, deer, fish and even zooplankton; a problem with fatal results. GRABBITS realizes that even though picking up trash is not the upstream solution, it is necessary and arguably the most effective way to mitigate the fallout of unsustainable packaging design harming our biosphere.
So what exactly is their modus operandi? Well, first off, there's the daily challenges. These run from Monday to Monday and are open to everyone (all their programs are). There's Scenic Bits Sunday where you grab it, snap it and bin it. Then there's Mirrored Monster Monday for trash monsters made out of rubbish. Next comes Trash Free Tuesday where you share your community cleaning with the organization. Then comes Catch of the Day Wednesday where the aim is to share catches from and around the waterways. After that there's Thoughtful Thursday where you have throwbacks that make you stop and think. Next up comes Four for Friday where you grab four bits and tag four friends and lastly, Selfless Selfie Day Saturday, in which you take a selfie while doing pick-up. Looking at these challenges, they are very youthful, which is probably why they've had big hits and are getting even bigger. Aside from the daily challenges, there's also the any day challenges called Helping handful where you pickup a handful of trash while you're on your way, any time, any day and Find it, fill it where you find a discarded bag/glove/helmet, generally something that be used to carry other things, and you fill it with bits that you collect.
Unlike other giveaways that lean heavily on competition, GRABBITS leans more towards cooperation. Sharing their message across social media platforms and getting others in your community to join in a pickup or getting local businesses involved for your own giveaways are the kind of things that will catch their attention most. Their challenges are by the community and for the community, as clearly stated on the website.
To Toby, GRABBITS has been a vehicle for him to personally connect individuals with non-profit organizations in their area, with the most notable example being in Southern California where when people started finding bio filters washing up, he reached out and connected them to the CoastKeepers in their area. The CoastKeepers conducted an inspection and as a result issued a Staff Enforcement Letter and are holding the facility accountable at $10,000 a day for every day they don't fix the discharges into the Pacific Ocean, which makes one less source of plastic pollution into the ocean!
A subset of GRABBITS is a Facebook group called W.A.S.T.E. Bytes works to connect community leaders around the world with information, discussions, videos, images, and anything that relates to waste and sustainability. As Toby put it, "I'm hoping we can start sharing successful policy measures and anything that can facilitate change around the globe. I created this because picking up will only ever be consumers mitigating the fallout of unsustainable design, blame and accountability is wrongly offset onto them. The real long term solutions come upstream from incentive schemes on all packaging materials to ensure their capture and reprocessing as well as extended producer responsibility of products that are not sustainably designed. Can you imagine if a cigarette butt was worth 10 cents? Do you think we'd find them everywhere if that were the case?"
I could tell from my exchange with Toby that he is very passionate about his cause. What's even more impressive is how far GRABBITS has come, given that it has been a lone whale project of his. He plans to have the game instruction manual translated into as many languages as possible and is very thankful to all those who've shown support and commitment to the cause. I encourage all of us to head on by to www.grabbits.org to learn more about the organisation and to take part the many different challenges. GRABBITS is also open to those who would like to drop some zero waste knowledge or to share their art made from recycled trash. Just tag #GRABBITS on your posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world," Mahatma Gandhi famously said.
Change is constant. Some even say that it's the only constant in life. Change is not an event, change is a process. One would be forgiven to think that because change happens ever so often it is easily accepted. As history has shown, most people are very resistant of change. Take a look at the dark ages, the women's rights movement, the gay and queer pride movement, civil rights movements, slavery, racism, white privilege and so many other examples, I cannot possibly include them all here. So many lives have been lost resisting change, which leads one to wonder; if change is such an integral part of life, why do we resist it so?
I remember when the doctor told me that I was lactose intolerant. I knew what that meant. It meant that I had to stop taking all products related to dairy. No milk, no yoghurt, no cheese, no butter, no ghee, no whipped cream...nothing dairy at all. Did I stop? No. Even though I experienced bloating and stomach discomfort and skin breakouts, I didn't stop. I loved milk and I didn't want to give that up. I had milk in my morning cup of tea and I had maziwa mala (fermented milk) with my ugali (boiled cornmeal) at night, as most Kenyans do. Every Kenyan can tell you that mala does make ugali go down sweeter, as does meat (at least the ones without lactose intolerance can). My point is that change is hard. Most of us lack the patience to go along with long processes, and change is a long process. Physics knows this as the law of inertia: things in motion tend to stay in motion and things at rest tend to stay at rest. According to psychology, the root cause of why most people resist change because they of fear of the unknown. Generally speaking, everyone wants change but no one wants to change. Just like everyone wants to go to heaven(insert any other popular after-death destination that resonates with your faith or lack thereof) but no one wants to die.
Rick Godwin said that one reason people resist change is that they focus on what they have to give up rather than what they have to gain. I was focusing on what I had to give up (milk) instead of what I had to gain (no bloating, no stomach discomfort, no skin breakouts). I didn't want to go looking for milk substitutes because I didn't know if I'd find any that would warm my heart the way milk did and I really wasn't willing to find out. Here's the thing though: it was okay for me to not want to give up dairy. I was well within the Bill of human rights and freedoms. But you know what isn't right? Me forcing other people to drink milk because I love milk or me forcing other people to not drink milk because I can't drink milk. My right to raise my hand ends where the other person begins. And that is what most people fail to acknowledge.
It doesn't matter what colour you are or how much money you have or where you were born or even what your religious beliefs are, each and every person is entitled to their rights and freedoms. Every single person
deserves to eat, drink, learn, sleep, love, have access to health care...you get where I'm going with this. It doesn't matter what faith you subscribe to, bullying someone because they do not fit into your little box is wrong. Using your faith as a means of persecution is wrong. YOUR RIGHT TO RAISE YOUR HAND ENDS WHERE THE OTHER PERSON BEGINS, so don't go around bullying people and citing your freedom of expression. Please, do us all a favour and read your holy book extensively, especially the part where it says to love EVERYONE.
Bullying is not a manifestation of love. This also applies to atheists, even though they have no 'holy book'. This applies to everyone. Every single person out there treating someone differently just because they do not fit into the little boxes we have created in our heads. I am talking about that skinny person bullying a fat person just because they're not skinny. I am talking about that fat person bullying a skinny person just because 'plus size is the new in-thing'. I am talking about that person bullying someone with mental illness. I am talking about
that person bullying another person because they are of different religions. I am talking about that Christian bullying an atheist. I am talking about that atheist bullying a Christian. I am talking about that straight person bullying that LGBTQ person. I am talking about that LGBTQ person bullying that straight person. I am talking about that cis-person bullying that trans-person. I am talking about that trans-person bullying that cis-person. I am talking about that non-POC bullying a POC. I am talking about a POC bullying a non-POC. I am talking to that male person bullying that female person. I ma talking to that female person bullying that male person. Feel free to add any category that I have not mentioned. There's way to much animosity going on in the world simply because we are all stuck in our ways and we are intimidated by change. It's high time we learn to accommodate each other. It's high time for positive action.
So take some time out of your social construct. Have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone outside your social construct. Ask yourself how it really feels to be them. Have you ever thought of the challenges they go through? Learn something new from every person you meet. Be kind, play nice. Buy something from that small business owner in your neighbourhood. Go to a library and read a book. Read the Bill of Human Rights and Freedoms while you're at it. Discover you're life's purpose. Start seeing everyone as a human being with thoughts and feelings. Do something good for someone else. Help out wherever you can. Rest adequately. Break your routine every now and then. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Honestly speaking, I am tired. I am tired of hearing the nauseating statistics that 1 in every 5 women and 1 in every 33 men is/will be a victim of sexual assault. Seriously, why are we still talking about this? Why is this still an issue? Why does this keep happening? What part of NO MEANS NO is so hard to understand?
I am writing this because on 18th January, 2015, Brock Turner sexually assaulted a woman and after a year+, a judge by the name Aaron Persky gave the ruling that Brock should serve 6 months in county jail, instead of the standard 14 years in state prison.
As if that's not enough, despite the entire nation crying foul, the judge slid into a new term on Tuesday! Basically, he just shit on the case and moved on with his life. And what did the rapist's father say? He said that his son should not "get 20 years for only 20 minutes of action". The whole thing is just appalling. An unconscious woman was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster on campus grounds but the perpetrator gets to get away with not only 1, but 3 counts of sexual assault. Do I sound enraged? That's because I am!
Most victims fail to report cases of sexual assault because they're afraid that they'll be harassed and labelled as liars; afraid that they'll be blamed for the very crime that was committed against them; afraid that the justice system will just crap on the case. It's not just in the U.S that this happens, it's everywhere. Remember those two girls that were hiking in Ecuador and were raped then murdered? This Stanford case had overwhelming physical evidence and even witnesses but the judge still put the safety of the offender over the safety of every single woman he'll meet in his life. What's even worse, the offender doesn't even realize the gravity of the matter. To him, his only error was getting drunk. For real??????
I could go on and on about this issue, but no one could put it as well as the woman did in her victim impact statement, which I found here. Here it is:
If it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance weird like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama,” because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.
Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.
I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.
After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs, and then I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.
My sister picked me up, face wet from tears and contorted in anguish. Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here. My hair is washed and clean, they gave me the strangest shampoo, calm down, and look at me. Look at these funny new sweatpants and sweatshirt, I look like a P.E. teacher, let’s go home, let’s eat something. She did not know that beneath my sweats, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak. That I was also afraid, that I was also devastated. That day we drove home and for hours my sister held me.
My boyfriend did not know what happened, but called that day and said, “I was really worried about you last night, you scared me, did you make it home okay?” I was horrified. That’s when I learned I had called him that night in my blackout, left an incomprehensible voicemail, that we had also spoken on the phone, but I was slurring so heavily he was scared for me, that he repeatedly told me to go find my sister. Again, he asked me, “What happened last night? Did you make it home okay?” I said yes, and hung up to cry.
I was not ready to tell my boyfriend or parents that actually, I may have been raped behind a dumpster, but I don’t know by who or when or how. If I told them, I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.
I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most. For one week after the incident, I didn’t get any calls or updates about that night or what happened to me. The only symbol that proved that it hadn’t just been a bad dream, was the sweatshirt from the hospital in my drawer.
One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me.
This can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.
At the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extra-curriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.
The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up. I was not okay.
The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue.
The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub. Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us speaking, a back rub.
One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.
I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding. That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.
I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.
When I was told to be prepared in case we didn’t win, I said, I can’t prepare for that. He was guilty the minute I woke up. No one can talk me out of the hurt he caused me. Worst of all, I was warned, because he now knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script. He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it. I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless. My memory loss would be used against me. My testimony was weak, was incomplete, and I was made to believe that perhaps, I am not enough to win this. That’s so damaging. His attorney constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Brock, because she doesn’t remember. That helplessness was traumatizing.
Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers. Instead of his attorney saying, Did you notice any abrasions? He said, You didn’t notice any abrasions, right? This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth. The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering question like:
How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, we’ll let Brock fill it in.
I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who didn’t even take the time to ask me for my name, who had me naked a handful of minutes after seeing me. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.
And then it came time for him to testify. This is where I became revictimized. I want to remind you, the night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked. Then he learned I could not remember.
So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, almost sounded like a poorly written young adult novel with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything, so.
He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, Can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear.
Even in this story, there’s barely any dialogue; I only said a total of three words before he had me half naked on the ground. I have never been penetrated after three words. He didn’t claim to hear me speak one full sentence that night, so in the news when it says we “met”, I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. If she can’t do that, then no. Don’t touch her, just no. Not maybe, just no. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.
According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan. If her bare ass and legs are rubbing the pinecones and needles, while the weight of you pushes into her, get off her.
Next in the story, two people approached you. You ran because you said you felt scared. I argue that you were scared because you’d be caught, not because you were scared of two terrifying Swedish grad students. The idea that you thought you were being attacked out of the blue was ludicrous. That it had nothing to do with you being on top my unconscious body. You were caught red handed, with no explanation. When they tackled you why didn’t say, “Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.” I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen. Also, if you really did think they were dangerous, you just abandoned a half-naked girl to run and save yourself. No matter which way you frame it, it doesn’t make sense.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet, fine. His guilt did not depend on him knowing the exact second that I became unconscious, that is never what this was about. I was slurring, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I was literally unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
You said, you would have stopped and gotten help. You say that, but I want you to explain how you would’ve helped me, step by step, walk me through this. I want to know, if those evil Swedes had not found me, how the night would have played out. I am asking you; Would you have pulled my underwear back on over my boots? Untangled the necklace wrapped around my neck? Closed my legs, covered me? Tucked my bra back into my dress? Would you have helped me pick the needles from my hair? Asked if the abrasions on my neck and bottom hurt? Would you then go find a friend and say, Will you help me get her somewhere warm and soft? I don’t sleep when I think about the way it could have gone if the Swedes had never come. What would have happened to me? That’s what you’ll never have a good answer for, that’s what you can’t explain even after a year.
To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by guys for reasons unknown to you is sick, is demented, is selfish, is stupid. It shows that you were willing to go to any length, to discredit me, invalidate me, and explain why it was okay to hurt me. You tried unyieldingly to save yourself, your reputation, at my expense.
My family had to see pictures of my head strapped to a gurney full of pine needles, of my body in the dirt with my eyes closed, dress hiked up, limbs limp in the dark. And then even after that, my family had to listen to your attorney say, the pictures were after the fact, we can dismiss them. To say, yes her nurse confirmed there was redness and abrasions inside her, but that’s what happens when you finger someone, and he’s already admitted to that. To listen to him use my own sister against me. To listen him attempt to paint of a picture of me, the seductive party animal, as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me. To listen to him say I sounded drunk on the phone because I’m silly and that’s my goofy way of speaking. To point out that in the voicemail, I said I would reward my boyfriend and we all know what I was thinking. I assure you my rewards program is non-transferable, especially to any nameless man that approaches me.
The point is, this is everything my family and I endured during the trial. This is everything I had to sit through silently, taking it, while he shaped the evening. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity and validity of this suffering. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.
You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty-six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.
If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. Assault is not an accident. This is not a story of another drunk college hook-up with poor decision making. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused.
I will now take this opportunity to read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.
You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.
Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.
I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.
You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.
Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and own my sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.
Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold. I have no words.
You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
Speak out against campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to high school kids about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexaul Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide.
I have done enough explaining. You do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You do not get to not know why you ran. You have been convicted of violating me with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.
Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.
Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something.
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you, the pain became so bad that I had to tell my boss I was leaving, I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be.
I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.
I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.
Someday, you can pay me back for my ambulance ride and therapy. But you cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.
I want to say this. All the crying, the hurting you have imposed on me, I can take it. But when I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “My sister said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me. Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.
If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering.
You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.
Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. Right now your name is tainted, so I challenge you to make a new name for yourself, to do something so good for the world, it blows everyone away. You have a brain and a voice and a heart. Use them wisely. You possess immense love from your family. That alone can pull you out of anything. Mine has held me up through all of this. Yours will hold you and you will go on.
I believe, that one day, you will understand all of this better. I hope you will become a better more honest person who can properly use this story to prevent another story like this from ever happening again. I fully support your journey to healing, to rebuilding your life, because that is the only way you’ll begin to help others.
Now to address the sentencing. When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness. My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context. I fought hard during this trial and will not have the outcome minimized by a probation officer who attempted to evaluate my current state and my wishes in a fifteen minute conversation, the majority of which was spent answering questions I had about the legal system. The context is also important. Brock had yet to issue a statement, and I had not read his remarks.
My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured. Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public. He pushed me and my family through a year of inexplicable, unnecessary suffering, and should face the consequences of challenging his crime, of putting my pain into question, of making us wait so long for justice.
I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft time-out, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, and of the consequences of the pain I have been forced to endure. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s statement, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of promiscuity. By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.
The probation officer factored in that the defendant is youthful and has no prior convictions. In my opinion, he is old enough to know what he did was wrong. When you are eighteen in this country you can go to war. When you are nineteen, you are old enough to pay the consequences for attempting to rape someone. He is young, but he is old enough to know better.
As this is a first offense I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative. The fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.
The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be? If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? How fast he swims does not lessen the impact of what happened to me.
The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.
He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.
A year has gone by and he has had lots of time on his hands. Has he been seeing a psychologist? What has he done in this past year to show he’s been progressing? If he says he wants to implement programs, what has he done to show for it?
Throughout incarceration I hope he is provided with appropriate therapy and resources to rebuild his life. I request that he educates himself about the issue of campus sexual assault. I hope he accepts proper punishment and pushes himself to reenter society as a better person.
To conclude, I want to say thank you. To everyone from the intern who made me oatmeal when I woke up at the hospital that morning, to the deputy who waited beside me, to the nurses who calmed me, to the detective who listened to me and never judged me, to my advocates who stood unwaveringly beside me, to my therapist who taught me to find courage in vulnerability, to my boss for being kind and understanding, to my incredible parents who teach me how to turn pain into strength, to my friends who remind me how to be happy, to my boyfriend who is patient and loving, to my unconquerable sister who is the other half of my heart, to Alaleh, my idol, who fought tirelessly and never doubted me. Thank you to everyone involved in the trial for their time and attention. Thank you to girls across the nation that wrote cards to my DA to give to me, so many strangers who cared for me.
Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.
If you were to guess the city in the photo above, what would your guess be? A city in U.S? Or Canada? Or Europe? How many would guess that that is a photo of a city in Africa?
Maybe because this is the picture of Africa that many have in mind. This is the picture that international media houses insist on perpetuating about Africa. But that's not the reality. The reality is that places like this exist in all continents. Thanks to the dog-eat-dog economy, there are people living below the poverty line all over the world. It is thus not fair to paint Africa as the poor continent while the truth is that, in terms of raw materials and natural resources, Africa is actually by far the richest continent. So rich in fact, that white people fought over who should plunder which part of the continent in what is now known as the Struggle for and Partition of Africa. As if that isn't enough, they still insist of injecting themselves into our culture(Gods of Egypt, anyone?)
And who could forget how our leaders have been assassinated over the years so as to pave way for foreign interests? Read about how President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to murder Patrice Lumumba here. You can also find it here, amongst other sources. How about the murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? His doomsday may have begun earlier, but calling for a United States of Africa was the last straw(God forbid Africa unites and stands by herself??). How about the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S and how Beyonce pissed off white people with her Formation?
Couldn't have said it better Arthur Chu, couldn't have said it better. White people changing Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter is like a fully seated hall where everyone has a plate of food except the black guy; but when the black guy says he needs food, they all go, "We all need food!" then they go on eating while the black guy still remains without food.
White privilege is knowing that when a bomber turns out to be white, your whole race won't be labelled as terrorists. White privilege is knowing that when a shooter turns out to be white, your whole race won't be labelled as thugs. White privilege is knowing that you're less likely to suffer from police brutality. White privilege is knowing that when your soldiers attack and bomb other people's lands, killing millions and displacing millions others, your whole army won't be labelled as militia/rebels. White privilege is knowing that when you get in to an Ivy League school, people won't assume it's because of your race. White privilege is knowing that when Trump wins, you won't be deported (and while we're on that note, can we talk about how EVERYONE in U.S is an immigrant except the Native Americans?? Can we also talk about how Mexicans didn't cross the border, the border crossed them?) White privilege is getting pissed off because Science says that Superman should be black.
These are all things that are happening in the world today, leading me to write this article. This article is me acknowledging several things, including:
1. Every shade of black is beautiful. Team #lightskin and team #darkskin competing about who is beautiful is just nonsense. Black people are not beautiful in spite of their blackness, black people are beautiful because of their blackness. I do not need to bleach myself to be beautiful, I am already beautiful. Black people everywhere need to understand that. Self appreciation is key.
2. Africa is the cradle of life. European and American museums are full of items they took from us and we want those back. They belong in our museums. Their being not in our museums where they belong is great, great injustice.
3. Most of what we learn at school is limited to how we should be thankful to white people. Not much of other people is mentioned(except when it comes to slavery and terrorism). The world's first civilizations were all black. Black civilizations were not limited to Africa. In fact, the Minoans of ancient Greece, the Indus Kush civilization, ancient Mexico, the Shang dynasty of ancient China and ancient Mesopotamia were all black civilizations(see here). Even native Americans were copper-skinned. The first Europeans were black, a fact that is conveniently not mentioned in school books when learning about how Europeans invented stuff. Read about genetics and the gene that gave rise to white people here. The invention of language and religion and transport systems and medicine and other things you expect to find in a civilization were all invented by the first civilizations(black) and other civilizations throughout time. In fact, Pythagorus credits his Pythagorus theorem to the Egyptians(Bantus and Nilotes originated in Egypt). Speech, writing, medicine, architecture, maths, mining of minerals, iron smelting, religion, law, international trade, philosophy and art are all attributed to Africans(also here). If black people knew all these things, I bet they wouldn't be feeling as worthless as most feel now. Know thyself - Niggalations 1:1 (borrowed). And while we are on that note, can we also talk about how white people are bleaching evidence of ancient civilization, all in an effort to 'whiten' them? Also, Kim Kardashian DID NOT invent boxer braids, boxer braids are a black trade mark(you can borrow but we don't appreciate stealing) and those knots on Blac Chyna's head are not Bjorf knots, they are Bantu knots(take note, People Magazine; you could've at least asked Blac Chyna to tell you what they were).
4. It therefore goes without saying that these(above photos) were the Gods of Egypt(take note, Hollywood). Cleopatra=black. Atlanta based photographer James C. Lewis in his series African Kings gives a representation of the power and beauty in nostalgic transcending journey. Tired of biased representations from mainstream media, Lewis’ main motivation for this series was a truth telling mission of our history significant in this era of modern colonialism. The series is available for viewing here.
5. Black incarceration is a corporation linked to slavery.
6. African hair is naturally kinky. Discrimination based on hair texture is rampant in the workforce where bosses term natural hair as unkempt hair. Women shouldn't have to treat their hair with chemicals and/or heat so as to straighten it so as to not be 'unkempt'. Telling a woman to do that is as crazy as a man blaming his wife for giving birth to only girls. The policy here is no African hair, no opinion on what should happen to African hair.
I have scoured the internet and it seems like every time someone points out that Cleopatra was black or that a black man invented dry cleaning or that a black man invented video games or any of the facts presented here, white people the world over ask why it matters. I'll tell you why it matters: if I were a painter and I painted my masterpiece then someone steals it and masquerades it as theirs, I'd be enraged. I put my blood and sweat into that painting and then someone not only takes it, but also uses it to try to obliterate me from history and oppress my very existence!? That's why it matters. It matters to the native Americans that their land was taken away from them, it matters to people of Arabic origin that they are labelled as terrorists, it matters to Mexicans that they're the face of illegal immigrants while it is the border that crossed them and it definitely matters as hell that black culture is being misappropriated and its masters are being oppressed. And if you do not see that, then you are part of the problem.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard of Melanie Martinez. Melanie came to the limelight when she auditioned for The Voice sn3 and got a spot on Team Adam. Though she didn't win, her unique sound and brand went on to conquer the music world song by song. Her debut single, Dollhouse, released April 22, 2014 went on to become a huge success and she released her debut EP under the same name later on. She joined Atlantic Records and is currently recording her album CRY BABY.
CRY BABY Track listing
Standard edition No. Title Writer(s) Producer Length 1. "Cry Baby"
Kinetics & One Love 3:59 2. "Dollhouse"
Kinetics & One Love 3:52 3. "Sippy Cup"
Kinetics & One Love 3:15 4. "Carousel"
Kinetics & One Love 3:50 5. "Alphabet Boy"
Kinetics & One Love 4:13 6. "Soap"
3:28 7. "Training Wheels"
3:25 8. "Pity Party"
3:23 9. "Tag, You're It"
3:09 10. "Milk and Cookies"
3:26 11. "Pacify Her"
3:40 12. "Mrs. Potato Head"
Kinetics & One Love 3:37 13. "Mad Hatter"
Melanie's whimsical style coupled with her vocals brings an aire of fresh breathable air at a time which most singers rely on Autotune and nudity almost in entirety as opposed to what they actually claim to do - sing. From Dollhouse to Mad Hatter, Melanie Martinez is so uniquely creative that her songs are not just songs, they are life changing experiences. Take for instance Dollhouse, which is about how perfect isn't really as it seems. "Places, places, get in your places, throw on your dress and put on your doll faces, everyone thinks that we're perfect, please don't let them look through the curtains..." goes the song. For those who've seen Toy Story, remember Mr and Mrs Potato Head?
Melanie's song Mrs Potato Head appreciates the beauty craze that has poisoned the time of today.
"...Oh Mrs. Potato Head tell me, is it true that pain is beauty?
Does a new face come with a warranty?
Will a pretty face make it better?
Oh Mr. Potato Head tell me
How did you afford her surgery?
Do you swear you'll stay forever
Even if her face don't stay together
Stay forever, stay forever..." goes the song.
"...It's such a waste
When little girls grow into their mothers face
But little girls are learning how to cut and paste
And pucker up their lips until they suffocate..." it goes on.
There's also a couple of more songs not included in the list above such as Teddy Bear, Play Date, Dead to me, Rough Love...don't be fooled by the innocent titles to the songs, the lyrics, the vocals and the videos are simply out of this world. Melanie Martinez has the unique ability to portray our innermost demons while tagging on our childhood fantasies.
Melanie Martinez ushers in a new age of music artistry and as I start this new year, her music blasts through my earphones.
"Umoja ni nguvu utengano ni udhaifu" is a Kiswahili proverb which translates to unity is strength, disunity is weakness. What better way to display unity than to come together to protect yourself and those not like you? Of recent, Kenya has been under attack by the Al Shabaab. From the Westgate Mall siege to the Garissa attacks and the Mandera bus attacks, the MO has largely been the same: kill the Christians, free the Muslims. Thanks to this MO many Christians live in fear that one day they'll wake up only to die because they're not Muslim, because they do not subscribe to the Muslim school of thought. Many fear going to church because of late grenades and IEDs have become part and parcel of Sunday worship, with worshippers taking the risk of been blown to Kingdom come every time they attend a church service. Many have taken to pointing a finger at Muslims, living in fear of the Muslims within because Al Shabaab, like many terror cells and militia, operate under the name of Islam. Accusations have overwhelmed Muslims, turning this all into a great divide - remember Trump's declaration of shipping out Muslims and not allowing anyone who professes the name of Allah into the United States? I would like to delve into why there is the existence of terror cells and militia but that is a story for another day. Today, I just want to focus on the miracle that happened on Sunday the 20th of December when Al Shabaab attacked a bus with the intent of killing the Christians in it. As reported by BBC,”
A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses.
They told the militants "to kill them together or leave them alone", a local governor told Kenyan media.
At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border.
The Somali based al-Shabaab group says it carried out the attack.
The group often carries out attacks in Kenya's north-east.
The bus was travelling from the capital Nairobi to the town of Mandera.
When al-Shabaab killed 148 people in an attack on Garissa University College in April, the militants reportedly singled out Christians and shot them, while freeing many Muslims.
Last year, a bus was attacked near Mandera by al-Shabaab militants, who killed 28 non-Muslims travelling to Nairobi for the Christmas holidays.
'"The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other,"' Mandera governor Ali Roba told Kenya's private Daily Nation newspaper.
The militants decided to leave after the passengers' show of unity, he added."
What those Muslims did was heroic, brave and selfless. When the militants asked them to step out, they refused and hid some of the Christians under the seats while shielding others. They told those militants outright that terrorism is not Islam. They refused to help them propagate their agenda by standing for what they believe - that we're one. They refused to give in to fear and chose to stand up and defend the Christians in that bus. This is more than just about religion. It's not Muslims versus Christians. It's the fate of humanity. All those times that Christians have been mercilessly slayed by people under religious pretense and Muslims let go, what if the Muslims in the Westgate attack had stood their ground like these valiant Muslims? What if the Muslims in the Garissa attacks had done the same? Alexander the Great conquered his vast territories by using the divide and conquer method, which is exactly what these goons are doing. They kill Christians, Christians live in fear of Muslims, Christians banish Muslims, an uprising arises against Muslims and the world's two largest religions go head to head in one big war, all the while with those behind these massacres reaping the fruits of labor - oil, natural gas, agricultural goods...etc. They do not care about religion, they're in it for the spoils. And we who separate ourselves and refuse to stand up when politicians such as Trump and also citizens help propagate this propaganda by letting fear blind us, we who refuse to stand up for those of us designated to die simply because they profess a different religion, we who just sit and watch and do nothing about it...all of us, by these simple actions that we might think don't matter, we're aiding and abetting terrorism. THIS IS WAR AND EVERYONE'S IN IT. Look around, we're being divided and conquered every single day by religion, race, finances, social classes, ethnicity...the list is endless. And every single day we play along. When are we going to wake up? Yes, it's hard to be brave with a gun pointed to your face, but there are worse methods of killing than just guns and if we don't stand up now, pretty soon it'll be too late, we'll have doomed ourselves to a dark hopeless helpless fate. So when someone says that Muslims are not good people, politely remind them that goodness is not determined by religion. When someone says that they're going to kill Christians in the name of Allah, politely remind them that nowhere in the Quran does Allah give the order to kill others simply because they are of a different religion. Those terrorists who attacked that bus backed down when they realized that they couldn't win due to the unity displayed. They scampered and were off in the wind. Unity is strength. Let's all be united. Let's teach our kids that a house divided against itself does not stand. I end this piece with a story told to me by my grandparents about a wise old man who had six sons. This wise old man had a lot of wealth and he was going to leave it to his sons but he knew that wealth of any kind brings discord so he had to teach his sons not to be greedy. He told each of them to bring a stick and them asked each of them to break their sticks. The six sons found it very easy. He then asked them to each bring another stick and tie all the six sticks together and try to break them. Each of the sons had their turn to try and break the tied sticks but none was able to do so. Moral of the story: UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.