The left needs to celebrate to survive


Anyone who has spent time organizing for political change knows it isn’t easy. You have to deal with setbacks, rejection, long hours, seemingly insurmountable challenges. But we finds ways to persevere and recognize that major social change is a long-term project. Some people get discouraged and don’t stick with it, and the great Rebecca Solnit identified how some people in the movement contribute to that problem in”letter to my dismal allies on the US left“: Continue reading “The left needs to celebrate to survive”

Why are you an activist? Reflections on one year of blogging.


Two meaningful moments from my time as an activist: with children from the Casilino 900 camp outside Rome in 2002, and with peace activists from Miles for Peace in Tehran in 2009.

I’m often asked how I became an activist. I appreciate the question, but I always feel like I should have some clever story. There should be a watershed moment to point to, like a smaller scale version of Rosa Parks’ impromptu decision to fight on a bus in Montgomery. But of course, that Rosa Parks is a myth. She was a long-time activist and part of an organized campaign to fight for civil rights.  Continue reading “Why are you an activist? Reflections on one year of blogging.”

The toll of fighting injustice

photo via
photo via

Activism can be exhausting. It means that you refuse to live in blissful ignorance. You are constantly facing up to the worst society has to offer, and often beating back the same problems over and over again. While, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, there are challenges and setbacks along the way.

Cord Jefferson eloquently lays out this problem in the context of  journalism and working the “racism beat”:  Continue reading “The toll of fighting injustice”

A win in the fight against private prisons

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If you’re paying attention to criminal justice policy in the US, you’ve been bombarded with daunting statistics. One in one hundred adult Americans is behind bars. The US has the largest prison population per capita in the world (12 times Japan’s, 17 times Iceland’s). While there are signs that politicians are coming to terms with some aspects of this problem, there is still a paralyzing fear of being portrayed as “soft on crime” that makes ambitious policy change challenging.

Layered on top of that is a disturbing new development: injecting a profit motive into the prison industry. Powerful corporations are lobbying to keep more people in prison longer, and even “liberal” politicians are throwing money at them.

These challenges make a new victory in taking on the private prison industry even more exciting. Continue reading “A win in the fight against private prisons”

Fighting back against harassment


I was at a party a while ago when a guy caught my eye and made a pouty face at me. That face that says, “Come on little girl, why aren’t you smiling and having fun?” Every woman has experienced it at some point. The random guy on the street who walks by you and feels it’s his business to tell you that you should be smiling. Often, the instinct is to just smile so you can avoid a conflict and be on your way. Like many women who are fed up with this dynamic, I just rolled my eyes at the guy at the party and walked away.

It’s an action that seems innocuous to some people–he just wants you to be happy and brighten your day. But it tells women that strangers have a right to expectations about our emotions and that we must perform for them as we go through our daily lives.

Continue reading “Fighting back against harassment”