Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Women’s Empowerment Day (It’s About Us All)

ProgramThis morning I attended a breakfast presentation for Women’s Empowerment Day at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. During the presentation, a panel of notable women spoke on the state of women’s issues locally, nationally and globally. While I didn’t agree with everything they said, it was clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.

Two things became forefront issues as the discussion continued: violence against women and the debate over how much control women have over their own bodies. It’s true that most people can agree that violence against women is a bad thing. We tend to form an overall consensus there. Yet, it’s still a huge problem. The latter, I realize, is a hot-button topic for politicians and us Christians alike. It’s not my desire to head down that rabbit hole right now, though. Instead, I think we can tie it back to the first, and agree that women should be protected from being forced into something they don’t want to do.

CenterI also learned two very startling facts. The first is that Georgia has the fifth highest rate in the US of women being killed by a domestic partner. The second is that the average age for a human trafficking victim in Georgia is 12 years old. These statistics should shock you, and I hope move to you action.

Issues like these can seem overwhelming. And you may not personally know anyone affected by them, therefore, you are unsure how you can help. But I assure you, you can create change.

 

 

In fact, here are six actions you can take immediately:

  1. Start at Home. Your biggest sphere of influence is likely within your home. Have open and honest conversations about these important issues within your own four walls. Also take stock of jokes and off-handed remarks that may could cause a problem or portray you as different from your actual beliefs in the eyes of those around you.
  2. Watch What You Watch. Sure, media is easy to blame. But the argument can also be made that we’re taking the time to watch and listen to what they have to say. The media is focused on ratings. They don’t keep putting out content we don’t, as far as the masses are concerned, care about. From TV shows to movies to music to video games and much more, media’s reach is far and wide. Take a hard look at your participation and what message it sends. Be a solution, even when no one else is watching.
  3. Realize It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue. Of course, it’s largely taken on by women, but more men should definitely be invested. Women’s issues affect the community and society as a whole. So if it makes you feel better to focus on capitalism, do that. When women are educated, working and thriving, it stimulates the economy.
  4. Talk About Sex. Um, so, yeah, it can get uncomfortable. But I hope you also realize that if you aren’t talking to your kids about sex, someone else will. And it’ll likely be from a source you wouldn’t want—refer back to #2, for example. Gender stereotypes and sexuality portrayed in the media are often far from the truth, but if that’s the only way your kids are getting their info, they won’t know that. You got designated a parent or guardian, so be that first.
  5. Help Your Boys Become Real Men. Too many men are set on their boys not becoming “soft.” They want their boys tough. They put them in sports and roughhouse with them and laugh when their little boys push or kiss little girls. On the surface, none of these things are bad. But how are they viewed? How are they reinforced? What is the intent behind them? Real men know how to treat women, and this is a taught and learned behavior. It begins when they’re little.
  6. Empower Your Girls. Abusers and traffickers are experts at finding a vulnerability and exploiting it. Instill in your girls confidence and a sense of self worth. It will make them a very unlikely target.

 

Clearly, these issues and suggestions are just starters. They are just the beginning of a dialogue I hope you will continue.

As my friend Stephanie and I walked around the Center afterwards, we landed in the Civil Rights area. It brings me to tears just standing in that room. We started talking about what we’d heard that morning, and what we were seeing in front of us, and how it was all still so unbelievable.

I told her that human rights and trafficking were our mantel to take up. They are our Civil Rights movement. I told her that if I’d lived during the 50’s and 60’s, I hope I would’ve had the guts to be a part of demonstrations and freedom rides. And I also told her that I hoped one day the displays would show how we eradicated such injustices.

Both times I’ve been to the Center I’ve stared at the older people who walk through the displays. I wonder what they’re thinking. Do they look at those walls with pride because they did something, even in their own small way, to bring about change? Do they feel shame because they did nothing and accepted racial inequality as part of the culture? Or are they just glad someone else did the work? I don’t know.

But one thing I do know is that if those displays are ever erected that tout trafficking and human rights injustices as part of our history and not our present, I want to be able to walk my friends and family through with my head held high, knowing that I helped make them a reality.

I will be the change I want to see in this world.

Won’t you join me?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

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First Visit: Center for Civil and Human Rights

photo 2Yesterday my friend Emily and I visited the new Center for Civil and Human Rights here in Atlanta. It just opened last month, so we were pretty excited to see it for the first time.

The second floor is about the Civil Rights movement here in the US. They have managed to include some good interactive portions so it’s not solely standing and reading. The most memorable part, to me, was the lunch counter demonstration. You sit at a lunch counter with a screen in front of you full of images from the era of inside sit-in protests and the reactions to them. But then you also put head phones on, close your eyes and place your hands on the counter. As you do, sound begins to feel your ears. It puts you in the place of the demonstrators. You hear people mocking you, yelling at you and even whispering in your ear. It’s eery how real the whispering feels, like it’s on your own neck and right next to you. My eyes, and so many others I saw, were filled with tears as I stood up, with a little better understanding of what that reality was like. Of course, there is also an emphasis on Atlanta and Georgia. The local info was really interesting, as I wasn’t that aware of how things played out here in Atlanta. While there was tension, as there was everywhere in the South, it remained well, more civil. It was, in fact, a stark contrast to the horrible things you heard from so many other areas in the region like Alabama and Mississippi. It really set the tone for Atlanta to become a more modern and progressive city. Martin Luther King, Jr. and numerous other activists and organizations were located here, but I never thought about the demonstrations, bus rides and the like happening in other cities and states because they weren’t needed as much in Atlanta. We even heard a older black woman sharing her personal experiences of growing up in the South and the things she faced with a few others. If it hadn’t looked odd, I think we would’ve both just followed her around the whole place!

Almost the entire third floor was reserved for Human Rights. It had some really cool interactive elements, including mirrored holograms when you walk in. You scroll through different types (Christian, Muslim, Blogger, Activist, Gay, Woman, Child, etc.), press one, and then hear personal stories of people who have photo 1had their rights violated all over the world. These are not the people who have books written about them, but are just as important. Their stories matter. There is also an Offenders and Defenders wall where you can see the heroes and villains of human rights. It was heartbreaking to see the number of lives represented in the Offenders section—millions and millions of people over the last century. But just as inspiring on the other side of the wall to see how many people’s lives were made better by the Defenders. After that, there was also a section on supply chain, showing you how your everyday purchases can help and hurt others. I’m really glad they included this part as it shows everyone’s involvement at an individual level and what to do about it. It doesn’t matter if you care about these issues or not, you still play a role in them. At the back of the main room, there is also a political freedom map which shows you countries where people are free, partly free or not free. There are also smaller exhibits on the role of technology and media, and touch screens where you can learn more about specific issues that are important to you. I also really liked that they told you ways to get involved in issues with the amount of time you have available.

The first floor, which we only really discovered as we were bout to leave because you actually enter the building on the second floor, was a MLK photography exhibit. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to see it. But we’re both looking forward to returning soon! I think this floor will have rotating exhibits.

My favorite part of the visit, I think, was watching a father escort his two elementary-aged sons through the center. He stopped and told them, in their language, what things meant and how important it is for them to know. It was the sweetest, most encouraging thing. After all, what good am I to this movement if I never share it with anyone else? Maybe the most impact I’ll have on these issues is telling someone about it with a greater capacity than myself to do something that creates change.

I love that this center is open and here where I live. If you are in the Atlanta area, be sure to stop by and bring others with you. If not, plan on making a trip. (For those of you with families, it’s literally beside the Aquarium and World of Coke.) It was encouraging to see the place crawling with people, young and old, with many colors and backgrounds. The website says an average visit is 75 minutes, but if you are truly interested in these subjects, plan on much longer. We were there three hours, and could’ve easily spent another!

Unlike many museums I visit, I think I would’ve been happy to sit at the door all day and just ask everyone who entered why they were there. There would have surely been some fascinating stories!

I also felt a strange sense of connection to everyone around me. It was a place of like-minded people. We were there because we believe in the mission. We were drawn there because people matter. I don’t think we gathered there because of any particular names on the walls, but because those walls were needed. We mourned, we celebrated and we were changed.