Nobody gave these kids a chance until one young former inmate followed his dream.

David Lee Windecher didn’t exactly have the kind of start in life that sets a person up for success.

He grew up poor after moving to the United States from Argentina in the 1970s, and, he says, “poverty led to my first arrest out of desperation.”

“It opened the door to the darkest years of my life.”

At 13, David witnessed his first murder, and the trauma of that moment led to more trouble — joining a gang for protection. He also dropped out of high school, and experienced abuse from police officers and the criminal justice system.

At one point, David had been arrested 13 times, and spent 8 months in jail — and this was all while he was still a juvenile.

David looks at a photo of himself in his youth. All images via Upworthy.

After his last arrest in 1997, David knew he needed to change.

And it was a vision of himself as a criminal defense attorney that helped drive him to do just that.

“I would always dream about standing in front of a judge with a client standing next to me, and I would win,” he says. This dream came to him while he was incarcerated — and he took that as a sign for where he was destined to be.

“This isn’t home for you,” he told himself as he sat in a jail cell.

So, he set out to find a life that felt like home — a life of supporting incarcerated youth.

He earned his GED, graduated from college, then set his sights on law school. Out of the 50 law schools he applied to, only one gave him a chance — but that one chance was all he needed.

Today, David’s a criminal defense attorney and executive director of RED Inc., a nonprofit organization he founded in 2015.

RED stands for Rehabilitation Enables Dreams, and the organization aims to engineer rehabilitation programs so that youth don’t have to fall into the cycle of going in and out of prison for the rest of their lives.

RED founder David Windecher walks through a courthouse.

There are a lot of  factors that set formerly incarcerated youth up for failure, again and again. “I spent enough time behind bars to realize that the judicial system was wronging people because of their status,” David explains. “Whether they were poor, whether they had a substance abuse issue, a mental health disorder, an academic deficiency.”

“They were limited in resource, they were in a volatile environment — how did you expect them to flourish? It’s impossible.”

To take on these obstacles, RED pursues their mission in three parts: increasing literacy, reducing poverty, and stopping youth recidivism (which means relapse into criminal behavior).

When a first-time, nonviolent, youthful offender gets incarcerated, David says, RED’s goal is “to help them get on the straight and narrow before it’s too late.”

“Without them, I wouldn’t have a second chance,” says Brian, one of the young people in the program.

RED mentee Andree describes his rehabilitation experience.

But David takes that a step further. “Most people don’t understand, it’s not their second chance. It’s their first chance — they never even had a first chance.”

The U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rates in the world — and three quarters of released prisoners go back to jail within 5 years. In Georgia, where RED operates, the incarceration rate is 32% higher than the national average.

That’s why to improve this grim picture, RED runs workshops on topics like creative writing, money management, and civil rights. They also have events to bring communities together, like flag football games, and they host guest speakers to inspire the youth.

“Some of the speakers, it was like they were talking about what I was going through,” says Brian. “If they can do it … I can do it.”

Many young people are skeptical when they first join RED – but over time, their doubts transform into hope.

“By the end of the year, they’re all saying, wait, it’s over?” David says.

As long as he’s making a difference in these young people’s lives, David knows he’s making a difference in the larger world. High rates of incarceration and recidivism negatively influence our employment rates, economy, and community safety.

Graduates of RED’s programs pose for a photo with David on graduation day.

That means that with every young person he gives hope to, David gives the rest of us some hope, too.

He began with only a limited chance for success in life. Now, with his help, youth with the same limited opportunities can make positive contributions to our world.

“We all have a purpose,” he says. “If we don’t carry out our purpose, no one else can.”

“No one is beyond redemption or hope.”

Watch David’s story, and RED Inc. in action:

The CW: Black Lightning RED

He spent his youth in and out of jail for gang related crimes. Now he wants to stop that cycle for other at-risk kids.

For more stories about community heroes, tune in to the series premiere of “Black Lightning” on Jan. 16 at 9/8c only on The CW.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, January 11, 2018

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/nobody-gave-these-kids-a-chance-until-one-young-former-inmate-followed-his-dream

In response to Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ remark, let’s look at some stats.

Donald Trump doesn’t see the value in immigrants from “shithole” countries — but he couldn’t be more wrong.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the president who opened his campaign with a rant about Mexicans being rapists, railed against the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier, claimed that an Indiana-born judge should recuse himself from a Trump case because he’s “a Mexican,” blamed “both sides” for a woman killed by a white supremacist, called for the execution of five men of color for a crime they didn’t commit, and spent years speculating about whether or not the country’s first black president was actually born in America would say something so overtly racist … but that’s exactly what he did on Thursday, Jan. 11.

“Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?” Trump reportedly asked during a bipartisan meeting with senators on immigration. By “shithole countries,” he apparently meant Haiti, El Salvador, and the entire continent of Africa. According to the report, he thinks the U.S. should seek out immigrants from countries like Norway (i.e. white countries).  

While he’s tried to distance himself from the comments, it’s been confirmed by others in the room.

Trump met with members of Congress on Monday to discuss immigration. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The truth is that it really cannot be overstated how important immigrants are to the U.S., including — and perhaps especially — those from the countries Trump slurred.

A November 2017 report by New American Economy, a non-partisan organization for comprehensive immigration reform, sheds light on some of the contributions made by people in these countries. Focusing on immigrants from Sub-Saharan African nations, the group found the following:

  • In 2015, African immigrants earned $55.1 billion, contributing $10.1 billion in federal taxes and $4.7 billion in state and local taxes.
  • 73.4% of these immigrants are between the ages of 25 and 64. This is an age range many consider to be prime working years, in which people are most likely to have a net-positive effect on the economy. (In comparison, less than half of the U.S.-born population falls into this age bracket.)
  • There’s a big demand for health care workers, and it’s constantly growing. The report found that in 2015, there were more open positions in the health care industry than there were unemployed workers with relevant experience. Nearly 30% of African immigrants take up work in this field, providing some much-needed stability.
  • As of 2015, there were more than 90,000 African-born entrepreneurs in the U.S., creating jobs for hundreds of thousands of individuals.
  • 40% of African-born immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree, making them better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole.

New U.S. citizens attend a naturalization ceremony. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

We have to ask ourselves who we are as a country — and who we want to be.

Looking to the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of what so many of us were raised to believe about America, Trump’s own message is contradicted.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”

Lady Liberty holds aloft her torch — a beacon of hope to immigrants everywhere. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

No, it doesn’t say anything about “shithole” countries, but it does advocate for the “tired,” the “poor,” the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” and of course, “the homeless, tempest-tost.”

When Trump says that other countries “aren’t sending their best” or suggests that Haitians “all have AIDS,” he’s betraying who we strive to be as a country.

At this moment in time, there is, sadly, nothing more antithetical to so-called “American values” than our own president.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/in-response-to-trump-s-shithole-countries-remark-let-s-look-at-some-stats

A hilarious Shonda sighting, Serena on Vogue, and Oprah crushed it. This week is lit.

This is the ninth edition of “This week in black women,” a weekly column dedicated to signal-boosting the black women who make the world spin.

This week, I’m shouting out Vogue’s youngest cover model, a much-needed resource to help black women get credit, a warm reception for our future president, a photo series to celebrate, and more.

Remember these women! Pay these women! Encourage these women!

Let’s do this.

“Yes, young queen!”: Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. and her mom, Serena Williams

The adorable first child of Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian, Sr. graced the cover of Vogue magazine with her mother. Just 3 months old during the shoot, she’s the youngest cover star in the history of the magazine.

The cover story, however, leaned a bit heavier on new mom Williams and her transition from greatest athlete of all time to greatest athlete of all time/mom. Williams shared the harrowing moments following Olympia’s birth when she developed blood clots and had to be her own fierce medical advocate to get the lifesaving care she needed.

When a star of Serena Williams’ caliber has to fight for her own life, it’s no wonder black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or delivery complications than white women. This is a well-documented, dangerous issue that demands our full attention.

“We’ve got your back”: Cite Black Women

I talk a lot in this space about the need to fairly compensate black women for their time and talent. One way to make sure this happens is to give black women the credit they deserve by accurately citing them as sources in syllabi or research.

The Twitter account @citeblackwomen encourages academics to share the literature and research they’re teaching and referencing. Not only does this give black women their shine, it may inspire others to incorporate the content into their syllabi as well. Win-win.

And even if your school days are long-gone, follow the account anyway to bolster your reading list. There’s some great stuff on there.

“Speak on it, madame president!”: Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey became the first black women to receive the Cecil B. deMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for her contributions to the entertainment industry. Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes provided a much-needed jolt of inspiration and hope in the media and political landscape starved for both.

Social media jumped on the Winfrey wagon with a chorus of tweets suggesting Oprah run for president in 2020, followed by even more tweets suggesting she’s not qualified. (The internet will find a way to ruin everything you love.)

Whether she throws her own hat into the ring or actively supports another candidate, it’s great to see people get excited and optimistic about the state of the country again — something that seemed impossible for so long.

What can’t black women do?

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images.

“Go off, sis!” Erin Jackson

Erin Jackson of Ocala, Florida made the U.S. Winter Olympic team in long track speed skating after on ice full-time for just four months. FOUR MONTHS!

“I’ve been an inline speed skater for 15 years,” Jackson told Team USA. “I came out to Salt Lake City for the first time … in the end of February into March. Then I went back to inline for the summer and came back to Salt Lake in September, so it’s been about four months combined.”

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

Final Thought: Shonda Rhimes

And don’t forget the barbecue sauce!

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-hilarious-shonda-sighting-serena-on-vogue-and-oprah-crushed-it-this-week-is-lit

He didn’t know anything about disability. But what he learned would make a lasting impact.

When he enrolled in an eighth-grade elective, Seth had no idea it would totally change his life.

In fact, he hadn’t expected to take an unusual elective at all — that is, until his dad, a science teacher at his middle school, brought up the idea of Seth taking a class called Unified Leadership, which focused on intellectual disabilities.

Seth is, in many ways, just like most teens you would meet. He plays baseball, video games, and likes to work on dirt bikes. All this is pretty standard fare for a teenager growing up in Swartz Creek, a small city in southeast Michigan.

So a class about disabilities was a bit out of Seth’s wheelhouse. But he said, sure, he’d take it.

The decision not only turned him into a social activist, it also had a ripple effect across his whole school.

All photos courtesy of Kayla Bright.

Unified Leadership was — and still is — a relatively new class that’s part of the Unified Champion Schools program, which is funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. In it, general education and special education students study together, helping promote a broader view of disabilities and social inclusion.

“They learn about different disabilities: what that means for the people who have them, what that might look like, the different challenges they may have,” says Kayla Bright, the special education teacher who leads the class.

Students were surprised to find, for instance, that celebrities — like NFL running back Jamaal Charles — face intellectual disabilities and still succeed at the highest levels, Bright says.

Of course, studying the issues in a classroom isn’t the be-all and end-all for unified learning.

Students also take part in public awareness campaigns, such as the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which challenges inflammatory language used against people with disabilities.

They put up posters in school and even brought to school a well-known public speaker, Anthony Ianni, a former basketball player for Michigan State University who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as a young boy.

Sports also fits into unified learning in another more active way. The program, through its Unified Sports initiative, also incorporates Special Olympics sports and related activities so that the students can play a number of sports together, including basketball, flag football, weightlifting, and track and field. Its explicit aim is to promote social justice in the more than 5,000 K-12 schools currently participating in the program.

This program helped Seth realize that kids with disabilities often face discrimination on the playing field.

Before taking the class, Seth hadn’t really considered this form of widespread discrimination. The troubling truth is that disabled students face a barrage of social obstacles at school. While bullying is rampant in the U.S., students with disabilities are at an increased risk.

After befriending the special education students in his class, it didn’t take long for Seth to better understand their struggles. He realized that disabled people are often treated as outsiders and disrespected, even though they shouldn’t be. He saw an opportunity to make a difference, to fight discrimination and to change others’ minds.

“Training together and playing together,” the Special Olympics website notes, “is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

Studies back this up. They reveal that Unified Sports teammates often spend time together outside competitions, and as they get to know each other, the barriers break down between those with and without disabilities.

And this has certainly been the case for Seth, who has made good friends while coaching bowling and while competing in sports like shot put, weightlifting, and long jump.

But Seth knew that fighting discrimination meant more than just playing sports.

That’s why he has undertaken the hard work of helping curb his abled friends’ prejudices and helping them gain a greater sense of empathy for people with disabilities.

In part, this means fighting verbal harassment. Seth has seen his friends called the R-word by bullies. He knows that not only is this disrespectful, it feeds into the pervasive narrative that disabled students are outsiders, that they deserve ridicule — a narrative that can cause terrible harm and division.  

And that’s why he’s become so passionate about the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign and urges others to disavow inflammatory language.

Though the Unified Leadership class just launched last year, it has already affected the rest of the school, thanks to the efforts of kids like Seth.

Kayla Bright, the class’s teacher, says that along with Seth, other general education students have begun hanging out with their special education peers. They’ve started seeing special ed students as potential friends, rather than outsiders to ridicule. Students who used to be shunned were now being included and treated with compassion.

It was a broad change that offers lessons for adults, too, Bright says — from the importance of empathy and acceptance to the language that we use to talk about disability.

Bright marvels at people like Seth, who are willing to stand up and confront discrimination rather than stand by and watch it happen. This fearlessness explains why Seth was recently awarded the Be Fearless Be Kind award from Special Olympics and Hasbro, the global play and entertainment behind hits brands like My Little Pony and Play-Doh.

Be Fearless Be Kind is the company’s largest philanthropic initiative, designed to empower youth like Seth to have the empathy, compassion, and courage to stand up for others and be inclusive throughout their lives.

And though history books are filled with the stories of larger-than-life leaders, more often than not, the stuff of social change often boils down to these small acts of courage.

Befriending someone who’s different from you, repudiating hateful language, showing compassion for someone whose differences you’ve always feared — these are the things that result in real change.

That change is starting to happen on school playing fields. It’s about time we all follow suit and get on the same team.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/he-didn-t-know-anything-about-disability-but-what-he-learned-would-make-a-lasting-impact

A bit of bisexual mythbusting inspired by Halsey.

People seem to have a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be bisexual. Thankfully, pop star Halsey is here to clear things up.

On Twitter, the “Bad at Love” singer joked, “So if I’m dating a guy, I’m straight, and if I date a woman, I’m a lesbian. The only way to be a #True bisexual is to date two people at once.”

Believe it or not, this is not how bisexuality works. Bisexual people in monogamous relationships don’t “become” gay or straight based on who their partner is at any given time. A bisexual woman might date a lesbian woman, or she might date another bisexual woman, or she might date a straight man. No matter who her parter is, she’s still bisexual.

Fellow bi icon (“bi-con?”), actor Evan Rachel Wood, jumped in with another joke rolling her eyes at some of the totally frustrating misconceptions people have about bisexuals.

Since there seems to be a bit of confusion about the B in LGBTQ, let’s break down seven other majorly common myths people have on the topic.

1. “There’s no such thing as bisexuality.”

This is silly. In fact, a 2011 study by the Williams Institute found there are actually more bisexual people than there are gay and lesbian individuals combined. If you believe gay and lesbian people exist (which, yeah, of course they do), there’s really no reason to doubt the existence of the bi folks of the world.

2. “Bisexuals have it easy compared with gay men and lesbian women.”

It’s easy to understand where this line of thinking comes from. In theory, bisexual people can just “blend in” as straight if and when it’s convenient for them. The truth is a lot more complicated than that. A 2011 Centers for Disease Control report of high school students found that bisexual individuals are more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence (23% of bi people surveyed) than their gay and lesbian counterparts (20% of those surveyed). Much like other members of the LGBTQ community, bi individuals experience high levels of discrimination in  health care, employment, and housing.

Halsey performs at Coachella in 2016. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella.

3. “Bisexuals are just gay or lesbian but don’t want to admit it.”

This line is pretty easily debunked by looking at a 2013 Pew Research Center report that found that out of self-identified bisexual individuals in committed relationships, 84% were paired with someone of the opposite sex and just 9% were in a same-sex relationship. Some might conclude from this data that bisexuals are actually straight and not bi at all, but that’s also flawed. What’s likely is that bi individuals tend to be in opposite-sex relationships simply because the dating pool is larger.

4. “Bisexuals are more likely to cheat in monogamous relationships.”

The bi-person-as-greedy-sex-fiend myth goes way back, but there’s never been any firm data to support that nor is there much in the way of supporting this idea that bisexuals are anti-monogamy as a whole.

5. “Being bisexual excludes non-binary trans people.”

This isn’t necessarily true. While some people prefer the term “pansexual” as a way of describing attraction to people of all genders, plenty of bisexual people are perfectly accepting of trans people. The idea behind this is that since the word “bisexual” has “bi” in it, that it’s an attraction to two options: men and women. There’s another way of looking at it, however. Here’s how the American Institute of Bisexuality defines the term (emphasis added):

“Bisexuality describes anyone whose attractions are not limited to one sex. The term comes to us from the world of science and describes a person with both homosexual (lit. same sex) and heterosexual (lit. different sex) attractions.”

People carry a bisexual flag during the 2013 LA Pride Parade. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

6. “You’re not bisexual unless you’re equally attracted to men and women.”

While it’s true that some bi people are equally attracted to men and women (and, taking a cue from point #5, non-binary people), it’s not true for all. It’s not always a 50-50 split; some might lean 90-10 toward men or 75-25 toward women, and for some people, it might be a constantly changing and shifting ratio. If you’re attracted to people of the same and different genders as you, the bisexual label is yours to claim (if you want it).

7. “You’re not bisexual unless you’ve dated men and women.”

The truth is that you don’t need to have dated or been physically intimate with anyone. Most straight people know they’re straight before they’re ever in a straight relationship; certainly, there are gay people who know they’re gay before they’ve ever been intimate with someone else; so why would it be any different for bi folks? Your identity is yours alone, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise can take a hike.

Evan Rachel Wood at the 2016 premiere of “Westworld.” Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Hopefully, the ever-increasing visibility of bi people in the public spotlight will lead to a drop in some of these misconceptions and harmful stereotypes. It’s been great seeing shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Brooklyn 99” include some myth-busting and accurate depictions of bi characters, but there’s certainly a long way to go before “So, like, are you really just gay?” questions become a thing of the past.

One day, the myths will all be busted. Until then, Evan Rachel Wood, Halsey, and the rest of us bi folks will have to commiserate over a few snarky tweets.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-bit-of-bisexual-mythbusting-inspired-by-halsey

15 real ways to thank black women for carrying the country on their backs.

After an intense, widely watched campaign, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s open seat in the U.S. Senate.

It’s the first time a Democrat has held the spot in more than 20 years, and the victory cost Republicans a desperately needed seat just as the fight to pass major items on the GOP’s agenda has become particularly heated.

Doug Jones’ win was huge for Alabama — and the nation too — but as the exit poll data has emerged, it’s very clear who pushed him over the line: black people, particularly black women. Nearly 97% of black women in Alabama voted for Jones. 97%!

After Jones’ victory, social media erupted with messages thanking black women for once again carrying the Democratic party to victory.

While black women are rarely anyone’s majority, we are united, consistent, and right on time. So come election night, we tend to be thanked profusely (then promptly forgotten about) or maligned, depending on how things turn out.

But Tuesday. Tuesday appeared to be our night:

But, hey, Steve’s got a point.

While gratitude is always welcome, and appreciated, if you really want to show your appreciation for black women, do something tangible. Put another way: Show us the money.

Thank-yous and handclap emojis won’t keep the lights on or help more people of color win elections. But you know what will? Cold hard cash.

Here are 15 ways to spend your money, power, time, and resources to thank black women for carrying the political load.

1. Support black women running for office.

Yard signs. Phone banks. Field work. And, most importantly, monetary donations. No black women running for office near you? No excuses. Consider contributing to Stacey Abrams, a black Democrat running for governor of Georgia.

2. Get serious about closing the wage gap.

You’ve likely heard the statistic that women earn 78 cents for dollar a man makes doing the same job. That’s white women. Black women earn about 64 cents for every dollar. Connect with and contribute to groups like the 78 Cents Project and the National Women’s Law Center, who work tirelessly to bring about change in this arena.

3. Push for fair districting and open, easy voter registration in your community.

Not only did black women in Alabama come through at the polls, they did it in spite of roadblocks put in place to disenfranchise them. Political gerrymandering, voter ID requirements, and early registration deadlines diminish the back vote. Get involved locally and on the national level with groups fighting for full voting rights for everyone. Jason Kander’s Let America Vote is a great place to start.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

4. Help fund and build a political pipeline filled with black women.

There are three black people currently serving in the U.S. Senate, including Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. We can and must do better, not just at the highest offices, but on city councils, school boards, and municipal positions. Groups like Higher Heights and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women work to promote the presence of black women in all levels of government.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

5. Stop asking black women to work for free.

All work, even emotional and psychological labor, has dignity and deserves compensation. If you’re online or in a meeting and are about to ask a black person you don’t know to teach you something, share their opinion on an issue “as a black person,” or ask them to explain why some other black person in the news did or didn’t do something: STOP. Or at least, offer to pay them for their time. (And if you really need it, consider reaching out to the white volunteers at White Nonsense Roundup to perform that emotional labor instead.)

6. Support a living wage and the Fight for $15.

You know what else shouldn’t come free? Physical labor. Even working full-time, someone earning the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour) does not earn enough money to support themselves, let alone a small family. A living wage, $15/hour, would go a long way to pulling women of color working entry-level, retail, or food service positions out of poverty, and it could improve the health and education prospects for their children.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

7. Volunteer or fund “get out the vote” efforts and field campaigns in 2018.

One of Doug Jones’ keys to success was activating a large grassroots effort to reach out to communities of color — making calls, knocking on doors, putting billboards in neighborhoods often ignored. Some will (rightfully) argue he still could have done more and that the effort to get people of color involved in politics shouldn’t happen only every few years. To those people, I say: Please open your wallet or your calendar and help out. These efforts are effective, but they take time and do not come cheap.

8. Start a monthly donation to your local NAACP.

Guess who’s been doing work on the ground to mobilize black communities for a century? The NAACP. Find and fund your local unit or contribute at the national level. They’ve been doing the heavy lifting not just on political matters, but on education, civil rights, environmental justice, health care, and more.

NAACP national president and CEO Cornell Brooks joins the Rev. Joseph Darby and other local leaders for a news conference about the Charleston shooting. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

9. Listen to black women when we talk about the issues that keep us up at night — or the issues that will bring us to the voting booth.

Statistically, if you’re white in this country, you don’t have a lot of black friends to listen to. No excuses. Pick up a magazine like Essence, Black Enterprise, or Ebony. Read sites like The Root, The Grio, or Very Smart Brothas. Follow black women on Twitter. (I even made you a list.) Listen, read, take notes. The black women going to the polls are not voting to save white people or the country at large; they’re voting for what’s best for them and their families. Maybe it’s time someone asked what that looks like.

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images.

10. Spend money at black-owned businesses.

Support black makers and entrepreneurs, authors and designers, particularly in black neighborhoods. Keeping these areas thriving and limiting gentrification will help boost black wealth; create a sense of history, place, and tradition; and keep black families together. Visit the National Black Chamber of Commerce to find black-owned businesses in your community.

11. Recruit, hire, retain, and promote black women at every level and in every industry.

Whether you’re a hiring manager or an entry-level employee, you can do your part to help black women succeed at the level they deserve. You can send job announcements to black career search accounts and hashtags run by black people like @ReignyDayJobs, @WritersofColor, or @BlackFreelance1. If you’re higher up in your role, ask leadership about their strategy to diversify at the senior level or what’s being done to make your workplace more inclusive.

12. Stop at nothing but full enfranchisement for former felons.

A law that’s more than a century old has allowed county registrars to deny the vote to thousands of former felons in Alabama, many of them black. In August, thousands of these people regained the right to vote, and many voted for the first time. Other states have not restored the vote to former felons, forever disenfranchising them well after they paid their debt to society. Find out the rules in your state and mobilize to help everyone get the right to vote.

13. Don’t sit idly by when black women are disparaged, ridiculed, or made to feel less than by powerful people and corporations.

Gabby Douglas was trying to win a gold medal and people were concerned about her hair. Leslie Jones had trolls bully her off the internet. Jemele Hill was attacked by the president of the United States. And don’t get me started on Dove. When things like this happen — to celebrities or regular black women in the media — speak up. Tell offenders (with your voice and wallet) that hating on black women is not OK.

Jemele Hill photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York.

14. Give a damn about the alarming mortality rate for black mothers.

Pregnancy and childbirth are claiming the lives of black women at a truly staggering rate. In Texas, black moms accounted for just over 11% of the births but more than 28% of pregnancy-related deaths. This is a national crisis no one is talking about. So talk about it, and ask what your doctors, nurses, and hospitals are doing to protect these vulnerable women and children.

15. Like a thing? Find a black woman doing it and put money in her pocket.

Do you like movies? Stream “Mudbound,” directed by Dee Rees. Are you a foodie? Buy a cookbook written by a black woman. (May I suggest this one?). Interested in space exploration? Read this awesome book by Mae Jemison. Whatever you enjoy, black women are already there and killing it. Find them and pay them for it.

Mary J. Blige and Dee Rees discuss their film “Mudbound.” Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

This country was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of black women.

And yet, we still haven’t received the respect, power, and resources we deserve. Thank-yous will never be enough. Money will never be enough. But if a grateful nation ever hopes to make it right, they’re a damn good place to start.

Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/15-real-ways-to-thank-black-women-for-carrying-the-country-on-their-backs

Here’s what one chronically ill woman wants you to know about the holidays.

It’s that time of year again.

There’s a lot I love about this season — the colorful light displays in my neighborhood; holiday music (well, most of it); and my own little traditions, like celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas.

It’s also a hard time of year for me, and so I thought I’d write a holiday letter, but not the usual “here’s-what-I-did-this-year” kind. Instead, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about being chronically ill during the holidays.

This way, you’ll understand better what this season is like for me and, hopefully, all of us will have a better time.

I know this time of year is, at times, stressful for everyone.

Expectations can get out of hand, leading to disappointment, crankiness, and sometimes a bad case of the holiday blues. The odds are high that at some point, you’ll feel exhausted from having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.

I also know that some of you have memories that give rise to sadness during the holidays. I certainly do — memories that have nothing to do with the current state of my health.

This a mixed-bag time of year for many of us. I want you to know that I know I don’t have a monopoly on stress and frustration and sadness simply because I’m chronically ill. That said, I have some thoughts on my experience that I’d like to share.

1. I wish my health didn’t have to be an issue during the holidays.

It feels as if it should be a private matter, especially at a time of celebration. It can be uncomfortable — even embarrassing — to talk about my health.

Unfortunately, I don’t always have the luxury of staying silent. I have to share some of my needs and limitations with you or the holidays will be a disaster for me: I’ll burn out fast and not be able to keep company with anyone for the duration.

2. Although I’m doing my best to enjoy our time together, I may be in physical pain or feeling quite sick.

Such is the nature of invisible pain and illness: What you see does not necessarily reflect how I’m feeling. Please don’t misinterpret why I might not be as animated or active as my appearance would indicate I should be. It lifts my spirits to try to look nice, so I’ll be doing my best to dress in the spirit of the holidays.

And if I suddenly disappear for a while, I hope you’ll understand that it’s out of necessity, not choice. I’m just resting.

3. This is a particularly hard time of year for me because it brings into focus just how limited my life has become.

Every year, I have to accept anew my inability to travel or even attend holiday parties that are nearby.

I also can’t shop the way I’d like to. I used to love wandering through small, locally-owned shops, waiting for just the right treasure to catch my eye. Part of the fun was unexpectedly running into friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen for a long time.

Now, all my shopping is done online. I know that lots of people shop online these days, but now, it’s my only option.

4. Though I can’t do everything you’ll be doing, I don’t want you to cancel plans just because I can’t participate.

You’ll be going to holiday parties, maybe out to dinner and a movie or driving around at night to see the holiday lights, and I’m glad! I want you to have a great time this holiday season. I’ll feel much better about the effect this chronic illness has had on our relationship if you don’t cancel plans just because I can’t come along.

So, please, do things that are fun! If you go out to dinner, you can always bring me take-out.

5. It feels incredibly good when you acknowledge that it’s hard for me to be chronically ill.

I don’t need much of an acknowledgement of how difficult the holiday season can be for me — just a pat on the shoulder or a short comment, such as “I’m sorry; I know this must be tough for you.” It makes me feel understood, which is something everyone wants in life.

If I’m aware of some difficulties you’re facing — health or otherwise — I promise I’ll try to remember to reach out to you in the same way.

I love all of you and hope your holidays are fun and filled with joy!

This story originally appeared in Psychology Today and has been reprinted here with permission.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-holiday-letter-to-loved-ones-from-the-chronically-ill

Bea Arthur gave big to homeless LGBTQ youth in her will. This is what came of it.

Back in 2009, Carl Siciliano wasn’t sure if his nonprofit was going to survive the throes of the Great Recession.

The Ali Forney Center, a group committed to helping homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City, was on the brink of eviction. Between paying rent, payroll, and the critical services it provided to its youth, Siciliano, director of the center, had doubts Ali Forney could run much longer.

Carl Siciliano. Photo by Michael Calcagno/Upworthy.

Then he got a phone call from the estate of Bea Arthur.

Arthur (“Maude,” “The Golden Girls”) had recently passed away. And Ali Forney was in her will.

It wasn’t necessarily shocking news — the late actor had been a supporter of the organization, giving donations to the group and using her one-woman show, “Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends,” to raise funds for the nonprofit’s work.

But Ali Forney, Siciliano learned, was at the top of her will’s list of charities.

Bea Arthur (right) attends the Emmys in 1987. Photo by Alan Light/Flickr.

Arthur left $300,000 to the Ali Forney Center.

In times as tough as they’d been, the donation was the buoy keeping Ali Forney afloat. “I honestly don’t know how we would have made it through the recession without that extraordinary gift,” Siciliano later blogged about the experience. “Bea Arthur truly meant it when she said she would do anything to help our kids.”

Carl Siciliano (left) and Skye Adrian (right), who has benefited from Ali Forney’s services. Photo by Michael Calcagno/Upworthy.

Eight years after her death, the folks at Ali Forney can still remember how crucial Arthur’s generosity had been when times were tough. So they made sure her legacy of helping homeless LGBTQ youth will live on for decades to come.

In December, Ali Forney opened its doors to its latest facility for homeless LGBTQ youth: the Bea Arthur Residence.

Photo by Erin Law, courtesy of Ali Forney Center.

Nestled in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the 18-bed residence will save and change lives, acting as a safe and nurturing environment for youth in transitional housing.

Photo by Erin Law, courtesy of Ali Forney Center.

It doesn’t look like your average “shelter,” either … because it’s not.

Young people who stay at the Bea Arthur Residence enter a 24-month program aimed at giving them the tools they need to succeed on their own. They deserve every bit of help they can get, too — most homeless LGBTQ youth were either kicked out by unaccepting parents or ran away from hostile home environments.

Photo by Erin Law, courtesy of Ali Forney Center.

Homophobia and transphobia at home leaves far too many queer youth high and dry, and it shows in the numbers. While some estimates suggest about 7% of all youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. A disproportionate number of them are transgender and people of color, too.

With warm beds, comfy sofas, and a kitchen to prepare meals, the residence provides an ideal space for young people to transition into stable, independent housing.

Photo by Erin Law, courtesy of Ali Forney Center.

They benefit from a range of programs provided through Ali Forney too, like job readiness and education, health screenings, and free legal services.

These programs are vital, and Arthur understood it.

“These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay or transgender,” Arthur once said.

“This organization really is saving lives.”

Photo by Erin Law, courtesy of Ali Forney Center.

“I would do anything in my power to protect children who are discarded by their parents for being LGBT.”

It’s a promise Arthur is still keeping long after she said her goodbyes.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/bea-arthur-gave-big-to-homeless-lgbtq-youth-in-her-will-this-is-what-came-of-it-2

11 lives were lost in 11 days. For the LGBTQ community in Utah, enough was enough.

It was the summer of 2017 when a small community in Utah watched in horror as 11 people took their own lives in 11 days.

All photos provided by Starbucks.

One after the other, the state had been struck with a wave of LGBTQ suicides, shaking the queer and transgender community to its core.

“These are the kids who feel like God doesn’t love them, their parents won’t understand, their community won’t understand who they are,” local Utah resident Stephanie Larsen explains.

This sense of isolation has only fueled youth suicides in the state.

“Suicide is now the leading cause of death for young people in Utah, and the suicide rate has tripled since 2007.

Seeing that LGBTQ youth in her own city desperately needed a safe place to go, Larsen founded Encircle, a resource center in Provo, Utah.

“The reason for Encircle is to keep kids alive,” Larsen says.

Having watched so many LGBTQ youth take their own lives, Larsen knew something had to give. “[I wanted] to give these kids a safe space to be, so they can grow up and have time to think about ‘Who am I? Who do I wanna be?'”

Encircle offers support groups, counseling, speaker series, and most importantly, a sense of affirmation and togetherness to LGBTQ folks in Provo and beyond.

“We can help them have a safe place to be [and] move the community to better understand these kids and their families,” Larsen says.

And she believes that this understanding is possible after having lived it herself. It wasn’t that long ago that she herself harbored prejudice of her own. “But life changed, and experiences changed me,” she explains.

And as an “all-American Mormon,” if change was possible for her, she believes that change can happen in Provo, a city known for being one of the most conservative in the country.

“[We] meet them where they are and help us all progress and become better,” Larsen says.

Having only been open six months, the center has already changed lives.

Donna Showalter, whose son Michael is a regular at Encircle, says the center has made a real difference in their lives.

“When I was running for student body president, an account was made about me being gay,” he says. “[They said,] ‘Whatever you do, don’t vote for Michael Gaywalter. We don’t want our school being run by a f*ggot.'”

This experience terrified Donna, who feared for his life as the harassment escalated.

“There was a time when we were really worried about Michael’s safety,” his mother says. “There was always the thought in my mind that he might not come back.”

“I would text him, ‘Where are you?’ And he would say, ‘I’m at Encircle,’ and I would instantly stop worrying,” she says.

“That pit in my stomach would go away instantly. I knew that he was safe.”

“I really feel like Encircle literally saved his life,” she says.

And this, of course, is what Encircle is all about — creating a space where youth are safe to be their whole selves.

When Larsen created the center, she envisioned a place where LGBTQ youth could show up as they are without having to leave their community and their families.

“We will never tell any of the youth who they should be,” Larsen explains. “Our approach is, you need to be who you need to be … and they need to look inside of themselves and say, ‘This is where I will find happiness. And this is where I will be whole and complete.'”

For the 11 LGBTQ people who lost their lives last summer, that’s a wholeness they were never able to find. But in a small house in Provo, Utah — a safe haven in a city that so often feels like a small town — each and every day, there’s a reason for hope.

For the youth of Encircle and the families and friends who love them, nothing is ever easy. But together, they can at least know it’s not a journey they’ll be taking alone.

Learn more about the incredible work happening at Encircle:

Upstanders: Love for All in Utah

At one point, she thought homosexuality was evil. Then life happened, and she made it her mission to make LGBTQ youth feel safe and loved.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, November 20, 2017

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/11-lives-were-lost-in-11-days-for-the-lgbtq-community-in-utah-enough-was-enough

Playing a sex worker on TV gave Maggie Gyllenhaal a new perspective on the industry.

Fresh off her role as a sex worker in Showtime’s 70s-era drama “The Deuce,” Maggie Gyllenhaal thinks it’s time we decriminalize sex work.

In an interview with Elle, Gyllenhaal shared her thoughts on the industry portrayed on the small screen, saying, “My instinct is to say decriminalize it and make sure everybody’s safe, healthy and taken care of.”

Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images.

It was a passing remark in Gyllnhaal’s interview, but for many activists, the fight to decriminalize sex work is central to their own well-being and human rights.

In 2015, human rights organization Amnesty International came out in favor of decriminalizing sex work, noting that the continued criminalization of the industry fosters a culture of a sort of permanent societal underclass filled with workers who are regularly assaulted and discriminated against in housing and healthcare.

The following year, Amnesty International published a full policy recommendation, stressing that they support decriminalization of sex work that doesn’t involve coercion, exploitation, or abuse — this is key, given that opponents of decriminalization often conflate willful, consensual sex work with human trafficking.

“We want laws to be refocused on making sex [workers’] lives safer and improving the relationship they have with the police while addressing the very real issue of exploitation,” wrote Tawanda Mutasah, senior director for Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “We want governments to make sure no one is coerced to sell sex, or is unable to leave sex work if they choose to.”

In 2012, the World Health Organization came out in favor of decriminalization, arguing that existing anti-sex work laws prevent workers from accessing necessary healthcare, and in effect, contribute to increased risk of HIV/AIDS within that population. This conclusion was later backed up by a 2014 study published at The Lancet, which suggests that decriminalization could “have the largest effect on the course of the HIV epidemic.”

Blogs like the sex worker-run Tits & Sass and groups like the New York-based Red Umbrella Project and Canada’s Safe Harbour Outreach Project shine a light on the struggles and injustices faced within the industry — many of those injustices coming as a direct result of criminalization.

There are a lot of really good reasons to decriminalize sex work, and it’s good to see that Gyllenhaal is on the right side of this issue.

She may not be a sex worker (she just plays one on TV), but at least that’s helped give her the perspective and empathy necessary to lend her voice to support those who are and have been.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/playing-a-sex-worker-on-tv-gave-maggie-gyllenhaal-a-new-perspective-on-the-industry