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A Young Climate Activist Reflects on Lessons Learned

G20 Climate

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

This is my tenth year as a climate activist—I just turned 22. Raised on a farm in Maine, there is one word that best describes my journey: evolution. My 12-year-old knees trembled when I first spoke in public. I was the epitome of introversion. I avoided rallies because they scared me. Now, I’ll gladly lead a rally. I’ll chant, if I believe in a cause. I’ll speak in front of anyone at any time. I’ll participate in direct action, if I think it’s necessary. Purpose gave me a voice.

Back at the beginning, I didn’t know that this kind of evolution was possible. I didn’t have role models who had traveled these roads. In the hopes of providing some guidance to other young climate activists, a decade seems like a good time to take stock of the lessons that I’ve learned.

My career as an activist began when I joined a campaign to protect a place I dearly love, Maine’s North Woods, from aggressive corporate development. I did research, testified at public hearings, wrote letters to newspapers and public officials and worked with local environmental organizations—all to protect my home.

When I entered high school, I was surprised that there was no environmental club, so I started the Climate Action Club (CAC). We began with small projects—letter-writing campaigns, recycling batteries, energy audits on classrooms. Eventually we launched the largest reusable bag campaign in the state, became the first school to install solar panels as a result of a student initiative and without government subsidies, won national and international awards and galvanized a movement in our school and community. We were even featured on the Sundance Channel. I learned that one person and one group of passionate committed individuals can build a powerful movement. This is when I started First Here, Then Everywhere, a website that aims to connect youth activists and spread the message of youth empowerment.

During the summer of 2012, I discovered the frightening power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s when I co-founded Divest Harvard (DH), a student-run campaign calling on Harvard to divest from fossil fuel companies. We join hundreds of divestment campaigns worldwide in a movement that aims to open political space for climate legislation by stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry.

Divest Harvard, just like the CAC, began with a small group of people in a room trying to figure out how to launch a campaign. Within three months, we had over 3,000 students in support of divestment, and we were featured in news outlets around the world. Now, as we enter our third year of campaigning, Divest Harvard is continuing to build momentum with almost 70,000 people who have publicly declared their support. It is yet another example of First Here, Then Everywhere.

I have distilled eight lessons from my first decade as an activist. The first four relate to effective strategies in the climate movement. The last four reflect my personal growth as an activist.

1) Adopt an “all of the above” climate strategy. The climate movement is unique for many reasons—one of which is that the potential audience is greater than that of any previous social movement. Therefore, the strategies and tactics used to engage people must be as diverse as people themselves. I strive to provide inclusive, varied and individualized avenues for engagement in campaigns.

2) Because climate change is urgent, it means that we need to be thoughtful—not reactive. I’ve been in a lot of situations where there is a dire sense of urgency to act because climate change is so pressing—even if the action is risky, ill-timed or counterproductive. Yes, climate change is urgent, and yes, we need to act quickly. But this urgency requires us to act strategically and thoughtfully because there isn’t time to fix major mistakes and cause mass alienation. We have one opportunity to build a climate movement, and the window for action is drawing to a close. So let’s make sure that we are thoughtful about our campaigns and do things right the first time.

3) Create choice points. Essential to good storytelling is the “choice point.” This is the moment when someone makes a decision that defines their narrative. For example, one of the powerful facets of the fossil fuel divestment moment is that it forces a choice: As an investor, will I support climate destruction, or will I move my money into climate solutions? The choice defines the person or institution. Creating choice points for yourself and others allows commitment to take shape. When it comes to voting or taking climate action—a clear choice can turn the tide.

4) Confront power to expose power. I learned this lesson through two experiences. First: the fossil fuel divestment movement. The movement puts the spotlight on the fossil fuel industry and the injustices that it perpetrates—from impacting frontline communities to political capture to climate denial. Divestment aims to expose the ways in which the fossil fuel industry uses its great power against the interests of society. This issue has become a focal point of international attention through conversations and confrontations over divestment.

Similarly, Divest Harvard exposed Harvard University’s values when we organized our first act of civil disobedience. Our campaign had called for an open public meeting on divestment with the administration for nearly a year. Our meetings with administration officials were off-the-record, leaving us no way to fully expose the shortcomings of their arguments. But Harvard refused to engage in public dialogue, despite the fact that free exchange is a core value of a Harvard education. Last spring, we resorted to direct action to create momentum towards an open meeting. We blockaded the doors to the administration building, while asking for a public debate. The result? The school arrested a student for the first time since the Vietnam War protests. Later that day, Margaret Atwood spoke on campus. When asked about the DH arrest that morning she said: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.”

5) Don’t use activism as a crutch. One of my professors gave me this piece of advice. I’ve often felt guilted into doing activist work. I’ve worried that taking time off or saying “no” to something would make me a “bad activist.” But activists need to be fully developed as people. I’ve been intentional about enabling all parts of my identity to flourish because I am more than just an activist. An effective activist is also an effective human being.

6) Don’t be afraid to evolve. Allowing myself to evolve has been central to my effectiveness as an activist. There have been times when I felt myself becoming ideologically attached to a certain theory of change. This made me reluctant to explore alternative avenues and perspectives. Now I try to remember that evolution is a necessary and natural part of life, including activism. It’s a process to embrace. I’ve felt frustrated and angry at the ideological rigidity of some activists’ and their refusal to entertain new ideas and strategies. Open and ever-evolving dialogue is necessary to grow a movement.

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7) Look to your peers. I have many adult role models, but there is something uniquely energizing in the social solidarity among peers. We are the first generation that will feel the effects of climate change. We are fighting for our futures. We understand each other when we say that we may not want to bring children into a climate-wrecked world. This connection will sustain our movement for years to come. We commiserate, deliberate, and celebrate.

8) Connect with your deepest sources of motivation. The beautiful thing about the climate movement (and most social movements) is that the motivation for action originates in love and empathy. Even if—on the surface—the climate movement seems to be about hating the fossil fuel industry and raging over political gridlock, the motivation is love for home, family, places, people, landscapes, creatures, ideas and the possibility of a better future. I’ve come to realize that connecting with this core inspiration for action is crucial to building a sustainable movement. We can’t nourish ourselves on hate. Let love and empathy give you purpose so that you can find your true voice.


Read Next: Whose summer break?—students fix the “Utah man,” lower the Confederate flag and ask Hillary for their money back.

The Garden Where Rough Edges Grow

CommonBound Conference

Climbing PoeTree performing at Common Bound Conference at Northeastern University (New Economy Coalition)

This post originally appeared in {young}ist and is reposted here with permission.

Every young generation, as it comes of age, is told it’s special, that everyone else’s hopes and dreams live through it, and, simultaneously, that it is already not living up to these expectations. With this in mind, I—a 23-year-old who’d never spent a weekend at a conference before—placed a starchy blue shirt and a shift dress in my backpack and took a bus to Boston.

Last month, I attended CommonBound, a gathering of more than 650 people, most of them activists, academics, and students, organized by the New Economy Coalition. In the classrooms, gyms and corridors of Northeastern University, we came together to discuss what the “new economy” is and share whatever projects we had been working on to further its realization. I spoke with and learned a great deal from leaders at Demos, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Center for American Progress, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

According to an article by Gar Alperovitz, one of the keynote speakers at the conference and a leader in new economics, the movement is founded on the belief, “that the entire economic system must be radically reconstructed if critical social and environmental goals are to be met.” Everyone at the conference seemed to agree that this means establishing an economy that prioritizes communal values over individual ones. The emphasis was placed on climate, labor, and racial justice. We came up with more than 650 versions of a world we all had to win.

I came to the conference assuming I was there to take in and look up at the myriad ideas that constitute the new economy constellation. What I came to realize, while there, was that I have a voice in this movement too, and it was largely the youth culture and intergenerational emphasis of the conference that made me comfortable with this the New Economy Coalition awarded 301 scholarships for attending CommonBound this year, many of them went to young people and students. Last year, the New Economy Coalition’s annual conference, reRoute, focused specifically on “building youth and student power for a new economy,” and was the culmination of its year-long youth and student network program. During the opening remarks on Friday night, I was surprised to see that scattered among the distinguished professors, and community leaders, the activists who got their start in the ’60s and now wore khakis down to their kneecaps, were people who looked younger than me.

That evening I had trepidations attending the founding of CommonBound’s youth caucus. In college the “econ kids” lived behind a veil of zeros and curves I could never puncture. My alma mater, the University of Chicago, produced some of the most conservative economic theories of our day; now the CEO of Credit Suisse sits on their board of trustees, while his employees set up recruiting tables in the student cafes. At the worst parties, small talk amongst 20-year-olds would move from a spirited endorsement of Locke to a confused endorsement of Wall Street. In the words of Cher from Clueless, “I don’t wanna be a traitor to my generation and all, but…”

The caucus turned out to be nothing like what I had expected.

We talked for a while about the intern economy, how we as students and recent graduates live in a society that pits our young ambitions against one another, Hunger Games–style. The struggles that come with not being paid sufficiently for one’s labor are, more often than not, accompanied by the pangs of student debt, the massive principle balance that monthly interest payments never dissolve. Many among us complained that given the financial burdens placed on young people so early in life, our generation doesn’t deserve its bad rap, the irony and the eye-rolling. One woman pointed out that, yes, the situation is dire, but that the democratization of higher education, even in the last decade, means young people across socio-economic groups now have an immensely powerful problem to solve together through collective action.

That night my friend, who was hosting me for the weekend and was, at the time, getting wasted at his fifth high school reunion, checked in to make sure I had made it safely to his house. He texted his concern, and I texted back that I was still at the conference. His reply: “Wow, that’s a lot of Communism!”

I didn’t know at the time that a series of key words would come to punctuate my weekend as naturally and inauspiciously as commas. These would include: Marxism, capitalism, paradigm, Piketty, heterodox, commune, coffee and Marxist. “Communism” was rarely spoken of. Maybe the shedding of the suffix is how we keep the community, lose the institution, and crystalize this shiny new feeling in language.

“Yeah, and youth caucus-building,” I typed.

Seconds later he called. “Youth cactus? What is a… how is a youth cactus?” And so I spent the next few minutes convincing him what I had spent the better part of the night convincing myself of: the youth isn’t so prickly after all.

* * *

“Someone is going to tell our story, the question is who.”

The next day, I found myself in a workshop on the importance of messaging and storytelling within the new economy movement. The facilitator Christine Cordero, of the Center for Story Based Strategy, showed us photographs from the media’s polluted storyline during the first few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Black people swimming through the streets carrying whatever small possessions they could find were labeled “looters.” Images of white people doing the same were labeled “survivors.” The media too was up to its neck in its own racist bullshit.

This workshop was essentially a call to resist the conservative logic that says stories are irrelevant, that people are moved by facts alone. This had also been one of main lessons I took away from the youth caucus the night before. We were resisting the logic that ourstories don’t matter, and we were saying they mattered, first of all, because we tell them to one other, which means they are already, invariably, connected.

At lunch, conference-goers broke into plenary groups of their choosing—“Free up Your Money to Do Good” and “Divest from Fossil Fuel Companies to Invest in Green Solutions.” I found a group of seven, who didn’t want to discuss one topic in particular.

It’s possible that each of us was born in a different decade. Among us was an older man wearing a rainbow kippah. He taught me that FASBs are Federal Accounting Finance Boards and launched into a history of the deregulation of America’s financial institutions, beginning in the ’70s. I explained to him how I landed at this conference largely because of a fluke, which happened almost exclusively through interactions on Twitter.

The high point of the weekend for me may well have been the words of artist-activist adrienne maree brown, who spoke on the final panel with Gopal Dayaneni and Alperovitz. Brown spoke of the necessity of building radical narratives, what she called “science fiction” of the new economy. “The problem with most utopias for me,” she said, “[is] mono value, a new greener, more local monoculture where everyone gardens and plays the lute and no one travels.… and I don’t want to go to there!”

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Before Thomas Moore messed with the etymology of “utopia,” forever transforming it into a good place, “utopia” meant no place at all. It is tempting to bind these definitions with a single romantic thread—what we want doesn’t really exist, perfection is annihilation. But I like brown’s active message so much better. The perfect place is out there, it’s just no place we want to be. And, make no mistake, utopias abound, offering the illusion of easy messaging. “Google the words ‘new economy,’” Cordero had said, “and you’ll see a lot of white people in gardens.”

I felt that afternoon, in that room of 650 worlds and no utopias, that there were real branches between them, holding us together, stretching back through many decades. And though my mind is still a deeply cynical system, I now have a greater desire to fight for a better world alongside the stratospheric dreamers of my generation. Here in the garden where the rough edges grow.

Read Next: Northwestern reshapes its sexual assault policy.

What ‘Nation’ Interns Are Reading the Week of 07/18/14

Supreme Court

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Israel's media strategy: What lies beneath,” by Marwan Bishara. Al Jazeera America, July 16, 2014.

While watching a Democracy Now! debate between Palestinian human rights lawyer Noura Erakat and the US's Israeli ambassador, Joshua Hantnam, I was surprised by Hantnam's sugar-coated and conciliatory tone. It still concealed the same inflammatory concepts typical of Israel's warmongers, but Hantan was politely inserting himself in the framework of a liberal peace activist, blaming Hamas for the unfortunate loss of civilians in Gaza. Should someone have grown up in a political vacuum, he could even have been convincing. Reading Marwan Bishara's article in Al Jazeera, I was astounded to discover that his carefully-crafted comments were almost word for word renditions of an Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary. As Bishara reveals, this guide provides pro-Israel pundits with the rhetorical tools to convince Americans of the legitimacy of Israel's massacres: appealing to the peace process and to Hamas rockets, blaming the victims in an empathetic and understanding tone. Like Brand Israel, this is another disturbing marketing effort by Israel to represent itself as a democracy seeking peace but forced into 'war' by blood-thirsty terrorists. This is another PR strategy to insidiously highjack the debate to hide Israel's crimes.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail,” by Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, July 14, 2014.

The line between what differentiates mental institutions from prisons becomes more blurred with the increasing amount of mentally ill inmates (a recent report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that there are 10 times more mentally ill Americans in prisons and jails than in state psychiatric hospitals). If mentally ill inmates are common figures in prisons, why are they most susceptible to prison violence by correction officers? A four-month investigation by The New York Times finds that 77 percent of brutally injured inmates at Rikers Island Correctional Facility are those who had received a mental illness diagnosis. Although the investigation focused on one prison, it goes to show that the abuse of power over mentally ill inmates by prison employees is an issue needing to be taken more seriously.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

The truth about the immigration “crisis”: Our drug policies and U.S.-backed tyrants created Central America’s culture of violence,” Patrick L. Smith. Salon, July 15, 2014

Smith begins his piece with three short anecdotes addressing the experiences of different Latin American migrant groups in the US, and then follows with three major questions:

1. Why do we suddenly have floods of unaccompanied children washing across the southern borders of the U.S.?
2. Why have we had floods of Latin Americans pouring northward for a couple of generations running?
3. Why are we so preoccupied with the first question that the second never gets asked?

Smith’s article then recounts a brief history of the ways in which US economic and foreign policy in Latin America are very much at the root of this immigration crisis. “This is not a Latin American crisis; it is an American crisis in the fullest meaning of the term,” he writes.

From state-sponsored violence in the 70s and 80s, to poverty due in large part to neoliberal economic models, it would be absurd to suggest that the US has not had a major role in the many reasons for Latin American migration. The immigration crisis is a multilayered issue that is not rooted in Bush policies or Obama policies, but one that has a deep history in US foreign policy. And as to the $3.7 billion increase in border enforcement, Smith suggests, “[t]he southwest border with Mexico must already be one of the world’s most militarized, up there with the Israel-West Bank wall.”

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

In Defense of Jada: The Danger of Being a Black Girl in a Rape Culture,” by Michelle Denise Jackson. For Harriet, July 12, 2014.

Jada is a sixteen year old high school student from Houston whose rape was documented and later went viral via social media networks after her attacker(s) released images and a video of her unclothed and unconscious on a party floor. Now, Jada has been publicly discussing her testimony and retaliated against the Twitter campaign #jadapose, which blatantly made a mockery of her sexual assault. Author Michelle Denise Jackson details Jada's story and provides readers with a list of instructions charging us all responsible for combatting sexual assault against women (especially women of color) and obliterating rape culture in America.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

"Dispatches from the Labor Market," Aaron Braun. Full-Stop, July 15, 2014.

This summer, Guernicahas done an excellent job examining the role of class in American life, and this piece by Aaron Braun over at Full-Stopis no different, exploring the ever-evolving and increasingly uncertain world of post-graduate life. Having found myself after graduation in the shaky job market in the shadows of the Great Recession, I understand what Braun's saying—the pull of a disproportionate emotional attachment to work that some employers try to provide, the overlay of insecurity and fear that drive some people into work, the overriding desire to avoid "bad work," work without status or fulfillment but merely serve to pay the bills.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

A Muslim citizen’s US passport gets him everywhere but home,” by Basim Usmani. The Boston Globe, July 9, 2014.

In his op-ed for The Boston Globe, Basim Usmani describes how inconvenient it is to be a Pakistani-American with a girlfriend in Canada. Although he has no criminal record, he would frequently find himself in handcuffs simply for trying to board planes to visit his loved ones. After the September 11 attacks, writes Usmani, Pakistani-Americans lost their "model minority" status and have been treated like criminals simply for existing. Ironically, some right wing websites have quoted the article and lauded authorities for profiling Muslims, making ignorant comments. "Funny how Muslims like to lump themselves together with Asian-Americans, while everyone else thinks of Asian Americans as Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc., NEVER Muslims," writes one blogger in response to a passage where Usmani discusses his 30 percent Asian-American high school in Lexington, Massachusetts. 

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Eat Like a Human: How Gender Stereotypes Affect Our Relationships With Food,” by Allison Epstein. Adios Barbie, July 14, 2014.

Too often, Amber Ikeman writes in this Adios Barbie piece, we make judgments about people's eating habits in relation to their gender. Telling a woman she eats like a man, or calling certain foods "man foods" or "man-sized," is not only policing people's eating choices (which can be triggering for those who are struggling with eating disorders), but also ends up monitoring and influencing the way people perform their gender according to the foods they put in their mouths—which is totally ridiculous. Stereotyping food, Ikeman argues, starts with the ever-present gender specific marketing that we're constantly being exposed to, but it only perpetuates when we are constantly telling one another that she or he is not acting (read: eating) according to their private parts. Like, do our private parts tell us what we want to eat? Cause I thought it was those things called neurotransmitters that exist in our brains. Not only does this kind of food policing affect how we feel about ourselves, but it also is a way of controlling gender expression by way of the binary female-male sex thing—which neglects to acknowledge that there are those who identify as trans, both female and male, or neither. But if we can "become more aware of these [food] stereotypes in our daily lives," Ikeman writes, "we can allow ourselves to move towards a more open and accepting society, where even if our choices seem to break the rules of social acceptance, we will not be judge for eating like humans." She's totally spot on. Now I'm gonna go eat one of those "manly" Powerful Yogurts and be a total human about it. 

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora,immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

Appeals Panel Upholds Race in Admissions for University,” by Tamar Lewin. The New York Times, July 16, 2014.

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld University of Texas at Austin's affirmative action policy, in which race is included as one of the many factors of admission. Texas’s "Top Ten Percent Plan" guarantees a seat at a Texas flagship to the top graduates of every high school in the state, including the UT Austin. Abigail Fisher, "a white student who was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was denied admission to the university for the fall of 2008," sued the institution, expressing that race based policies had excluded her from a fair evaluation in the applicant pool. As a white student, to assume that she was denied admittance into any institution because of her race shows how deep the roots of privilege and ownership run in this country. The history of socioeconomic marginalization and exploitation of people of color in this nation did many things—but what it did not do, was make it more difficult for white students to attain higher education. Unless Fisher was unaware that her race is not a golden ticket to becoming a Longhorn, any college application would exemplify that there are multiple qualifications, essays and records necessary to determining admittance. So instead of challenging the University of Texas at Austin's legacy students, those who had greater access to SAT/ACT prep, or those hand picked by the institutions athletic department, Ms. Fisher chose race. And what this revels is a lie that many American students—of all races—have been told. What needs to be upheld in American classrooms is that race based affirmative action is a necessary part of higher education, not a crutch for low achievers. 

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Why Opposing the Israel Lobby Is No Longer Political Suicide,” by Phyllis Bennis. The Nation, July 15, 2014.

The assault on Gaza continues. The latest reports show that the death toll has now passed 200; nearly 80 percent are civilians, almost half are women and children. Harrowing accounts of the death and destruction have beendocumentedas this marks the third time Israeli airstrikes have pounded the Gaza strip in the past six years. Media coverage and public discourse of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the United States has been predictable. White House and U.S diplomats continue to voice support for “Israel’s right to defend itself.” But what’s worthy of noting, is despite this fealty for the state of Israel and its reprehensible actions, public dialogueis shifting. Phyllis Bennis argues that it is no longer political suicide to oppose the Israel lobby and says the shift started with coverage of Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009. “It transformed how we understand what an occupation looks like,” Bennis writes. She continues, “what a siege does to a town, what white phosphorous bombs look like when they hit a school.” Although Bennis notes this change isn't “strong enough yet to end the carnage in Gaza,” she’s still hopeful. “The shift in public discourse is a crucial first step.”


Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 07/11/14?

Whose Summer Break? Students Fix the ‘Utah Man,’ Lower the Confederate Flag and Ask Hillary for Their Money Back

Hillary Clinton

Accompanied by young supporters, Secretary Clinton says farewell. (Photo: Pat Dollard)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out June 15 and July 1. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. As Migrant Children Wait, LA Kicks Out ICE

With an influx of children showing up at the border seeking refuge from violence, cities like Murrieta, California, and League City, Texas, have put up the barricades. In Los Angeles, which has the largest undocumented immigrant population in the country, youth and community organizers have assembled in support of the children—and, with little recourse on the federal level, taken migrant justice into our own hands. On July 7, building on the TRUST Act, the ICE Out of LA coalition pushed the LAPD to stop turning over inmates to ICE without a judicial warrant. Still, ICE remains in our county jails and collaborates with the LA Sheriff’s Department, the root force of deportations. Moving forward, we will put the pressure on LA County police departments and county jails to cut ties with ICE.

—Luis Serrano

2. As Gaza Blows, Thousands Mass for Palestinian Justice

On Saturday, July 5, a network of Students for Justice in Palestine members in Chicago, alongside a coalition of human rights activists, organized an emergency demonstration of more than 1,000 protesters—among thousands more across the country. In response to the murder of three Israeli youth, Israel has engaged in collective punishment, heavily bombing the Gaza strip and raiding West Bank. More than nineteen people have been killed in the attacks on Gaza; 17-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdair was abducted, tortured and killed by settlers overnight. On July 9, protesters flooded downtown Chicago for yet another emergency demonstration.

—Nashiha Alam

3. The “Utah Man” Gets Fixed

Since the early 1900s, the University of Utah has sung the “Utah Man” fight song at its sporting events. The lyrics of the song, along with the title, have been felt by many to be exclusionary and sexist. On April 22, following discussions with student leaders and broad campus outreach, the Utah student government passed a resolution asking the university to change the words to reflect the school and student body’s values of inclusion and diversity. In response, the administration assembled a committee to look into the issue and receive public comments. On July 2, after alumni and community members angrily demanded retention of the song, the university settled on a compromise, endorsing two different versions: the traditional version and a more inclusive version. Many view this as a step forward, but still feel that the decision reflects the administration’s inability to identify and effectively address issues of diversity and inclusion on campus.

—Sam Ortiz

4. The Confederate Flag Falls

The Committee is a group of primarily black law students at Washington and Lee University. In the fall, we drafted a list of grievances with the university over the experiences of black students. One of our goals was to get Confederate flags removed from Lee Chapel on campus, where they have flown for nearly eighty years. Members of the Committee believed the removal of the flags would improve the experiences of black students who sit in the chapel for campus events. We pledged to engage in acts of civil disobedience if our demands were not met. Fortunately, university officials responded by seriously considering our concerns. On July 8, the president announced that the Confederate flags located on the campus would be removed. The efforts of the Committee have reignited a dialogue about diversity and inclusion on campus and encouraged the administration to continue working to make it a more welcoming place for all students, particularly black students.

—Brandon Hicks

5. In Arizona, the Courts Overrule Jan Brewer

August 15, 2012, was the first day that DREAMers, a class of undocumented youth who arrived as children, were able to submit their application to receive a work authorization permit under DACA. That same day, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer used her executive power to halt driver’s licenses for DACA beneficiaries. In response, members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition marched to the capitol to request a meeting with the governor, who refused. That November, ADAC, alongside NILC, MALDEF and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit against the governor on constitutional grounds. On July 7, after two years of meetings, actions and canvasses, the Ninth Circuit issued a preliminary injunction against the ban. Moving forward, we will host a series of actions to ensure we win the lawsuit.

—Reyna Montoya

6. In North Carolina, Students Put Voting Rights on Trial

In 2012, the Koch brothers and right-wing millionaire Art Pope achieved an extremist takeover of North Carolina, resulting in devastating legislation from healthcare to education to voting rights. Fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, youth are organizing to reverse the onslaught. July 7 marked the first day of hearings for a preliminary injunction on the most draconian voter suppression law in the country, which eliminates same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, guts campaign finance laws and requires a photo ID but prohibits the usage of student IDs. In response to this law, we’ve mobilized at Moral Monday’s with the state NAACP, and more than 350 people with NC Vote Defenders and Democracy NC have monitored polls in thirty-four counties. This month, while youth pack the court room and county board of elections, the Youth Organizing Institute Freedom School is training high school students on community organizing to build on the legacy of youth struggle in North Carolina.

—Bryan Perlmutter

7. The Harris v. Quinn Generation

On July 8, one week after the Harris v. Quinn ruling, home care workers in Minnesota filed for what will be the largest union election in Minnesota history, covering more than 26,000 workers, with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. I have been a home care worker now for almost four years and care for my mother who started receiving these services after having a few minor strokes. When I first found this campaign, I heard stories of others’ struggles, from younger people like me to others who are older than my grandparents, and realized that I was not alone. In our winning battle to gain the right to vote for our union last year, there were nights I even slept on the floor at the state capitol. A win in our election later this summer would bring us one step closer to our goal of making our work Invisible No More.

—Darleen Henry

8. The FCC’s Communication Gap

On June 30, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler arrived at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a discussion with local youth. The event, hosted by Media Literacy Project and Digital Justice Coalition of New Mexico, was organized to promote youth knowledge and representation in discussions surrounding media policy and the FCC—which has no youth involvement at any level. In New Mexico, which ranks last in internet connectivity, lack of access keeps youth from connecting with loved ones and friends, fulfilling homework requirements, gaining health information and finding jobs and educational opportunities. Young people ranging in age from 12 to 20 took the mic to ask about net neutrality, the security of the Lifeline program and broadband in rural areas. Following the event, the chairman agreed to work toward preserving the Lifeline program and improving broadband connections in tribal and rural New Mexico—and, alongside New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria, committed to consulting youth voices on issues of media justice.

—Pria Jackson

9. Can Dyett High School Be Saved?

In 2012, Chicago Public Schools announced that Walter H. Dyett High School, where I graduated this spring, would be phased out and closed in 2015. If Dyett closes, we won’t have any neighborhood high schools in the Bronzeville area. This spring, we delivered 1,000 signatures and 500 postcards of support for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology plan; met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office; assembled in front of Alderman Will Burns’s ward office for three days and nights; and took over a city council meeting chanting, “Burns, do your job!” Since early June, students and community members have been pressuring Burns to hold a public hearing about Dyett’s future; with no response by our stated deadline of July 9, we will hold one of our own.

—Parrish Brown

10. What Will Hillary Do With $225,000?

This October, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be cashing in $225,000 to speak to the non-profit arm of the University of Nevada–Las Vegas. In opposition to outrageous expenditures like these, and near-constant tuition hikes, UNLV students have organized to request that she donate her speaking fee to the 23,000 students of UNLV. While Clinton’s fee is coming from private donors and funds from her appearance are set to go to the university, the money from the fee could help us directly. Just a few weeks earlier, thousands of UNLV students voiced our opposition to a 17 percent tuition hike, with hundreds signing a Statement of Solidarity and dozens standing up at the Board of Regents meeting about being priced out of a quality higher education. As we await Secretary Clinton’s response, UNLV students will continue pressuring administrators and legislators on their spending and tuition decisions—and show that we will not be silent.

—Daniel Waqar and Elias Benjelloun

What ‘Nation’ Interns Are Reading the Week of 07/11/14

STEM Woman

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Netanyahu government knew teens were dead as it whipped up racist frenzy,” by Max Blumenthal. Electronic Intifada, July 8, 2014.

After the three Israeli teenagers disappeared, the Shin Bet and Netanyahu soon learned that they were dead and who was responsible. Yet, they lied to the teenagers' parents and withheld that information from the public, imposing a gag order on the national press to legitimize a crackdown on Palestinians and a new, deadly attack on Gaza. This scandalous withholding of information meant to legitimize further ransacking of Palestinian societies (with lynch mobs, propaganda and frightening calls to shed blood) should even render indignant people who are habitually less critical of the Israeli government.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"Women, Blacks Most Likely to Leave STEM Careers, New Research by AIR Finds.” American Institutes for Research, July 9, 2014.

As Verizon Wireless's recent commercial points out, young girls aren't encouraged enough to pursue careers in the STEM fields. But for the young girls who grow up and end up in STEM careers, is there discouragement from staying in those fields? A new study by the American Institutes for Research finds that women and Black grads in STEM careers are more likely to leave and pursue careers outside of those fields. Although the exact reasons leading to this trend have yet to be studied, gender and race seem to be major factors as to why women and Blacks struggle to have a stronger presence in STEM.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

‘There’s just too much money in it’: the war on drugs’ profitable attacks on communities of color,” by sosadmin. Privacy SOS , July 7, 2014.

After a weekend of violence on Chicago’s South Side this 4th of July—82 shot, and 14 killed—Roland S. Martin at The Daily Beast published an article called “Send the National Guard to ‘Chiraq.’” “Chicago needs a troop surge like what we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Martin writes, calling on state police and the National Guard to join the city’s local law enforcement in fighting violence and the “war on drugs.” Martin notes that, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, most of the individuals killed from gun violence in the city are “black and Hispanic men under 35.” What Martin doesn’t mention, however, is how “drug war-driven SWAT raids are disproportionately carried out against black and Latino people… [an] ongoing assault against black and brown communities.” (Privacy SOS) The solution to violence and drugs in the city of Chicago is not a militarization of its police forces or the National Guard, who would not benefit the communities affected the most. It’s also not mass incarceration or surveillance. Privacy SOS asks an important question: rather than treating drugs as a criminal justice problem, if the discourse emphasized public health, would there still be the same kind of violence in cities like Chicago?

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"The Term 'Classic Rapist' Shows That People Still Really Don't Understand What Rape Is," by Mychal Denzel Smith. Feministing, July 9, 2014

At the very heart of this piece by Mychal Denzel Smith—whom I have to raise my fist toward in complete solidarity and thanks—is that we are not taught "what rape is." Beneath that, men (and women) do not know that violence does not have one face, but dresses in a myriad of costumes. This is critical for men and women to learn and it's something our culture (especially on college campuses) ignores. When rape is not called rape and when violence is not called violence, we inevitably promote that which we claim is illegal and morally wrong. The words we use cancel or heighten our realities of these situations. If acts as "small" as catcalling or grabbing a woman on the street are refused to be seen as violent, then neither will the continuation of them (which is defined as assault, battery, molestation, rape). Women have been saving our brothers for as long as America could claim itself a stolen, dirty land. Time has come, gone, and come again for our men to rescue each other. Finally along with us.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

How I lost my middle-class life,” by Jayme Reid. Salon, April 12, 2010

Jayme Reid warns her readers that hers won't be a story that meets an easy resolution, in which she learns the value of doing more with less (in the often overused dictum of the times) or how her encounter with hard times taught her about what “really” matters. It’s a story that’s four years old but continues to have plenty of resonance in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Reid’s story is one of a series of cascading circumstances—health problems, layoffs, moving—that led her to rapidly fall out of the middle class comfort she had known before and land with a thud. It’s a grim story about just how tenuous of a grasp that millions of Americans have on their secure status. We can’t say she didn’t warn us.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Breaking Up With China?” by Rafia Zakaria. Dawn, July 4, 2014.

Pakistan is in an awkward position, since China, one of its closest allies, issued a ban on Ramadan fasting in the province of Xinjiang this week. "As a Muslim country, Pakistan has been eager to stand up to the injustices committed against Muslims anywhere in the world," writes Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for the Pakistani daily Dawn. "In most cases, these denunciations, whether they are of veil bans in France or pogroms in Gujarat, oft have not posed much of a challenge to the country’s strategic and economic interests." China is different, because it supplies Pakistan with significant aid each year. Although Zakaria thinks Pakistan should protest this breach of religious freedom in China, she expects that it will turn a blind eye.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Finally, a Politician Admits to Having an Abortion Simply Because She Wasn’t Ready for a Baby,” by Amanda Marcotte. Slate, July 7, 2014.

Lucy Flores, a Latina Democratic member of the Nevada State Assembly, is one hell of a woman. Not only did the girl bounce back from a poor and broken family (including the deaths of her two brothers by gang-related violence), dropping out of high school (only to go on to study on scholarship at University of Southern California) and prison time related to gang activity, but now she's making her way to possibly becoming governor. And things look good for the Latina politician—especially after her recent MSNBC interview where she openly spoke about having an abortion at the age of 16. “I don’t regret it,” she said in the interview. “I don’t regret it because I am here making a difference, at least in my mind, for many other young ladies and letting them know that there are options and they can do things to not be in the situation I was in, but to prevent.” Polling data shows that 59 percent of people like Flores more after hearing her story, where as only 17 percent like her less. Finally, America has a real Latina role model that wants to make a difference by telling the truth—and in doing so breaking down the stigma of Latinas, working class backgrounds, troubled youth and pro-choice women.

What's even better is Flores has accomplished all this (with so much more to come) with a regrettable rose ankle tattoo.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora,immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

There Are Only 16 Cities in America Where Women Earn More Money Than Men,” by Macie Bianco. Mic, July 9, 2014.

In 2014, many Americans find the fight for gender equality to be unnecessary. All the glass ceiling breaking super-moms out there don't need Washington advocating on their behalf—just controlling their reproductive rights. But as Marcie Bianco’s Mic article outlines, the economic disparity between males and females in the country is appalling. More than ever women are leading the home in more ways than one—by bringing home the bacon and cooking it too, while still earning only seventy-seven cents to every man's dollar. So, as Bianco asserts…really, is equality too much to ask?

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Why Kids Are Crossing The Desert Alone to Get to America,” by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee. ThinkProgress, July 2, 2014.

As we continue to hear about the thousands of children who are being apprehended at the border, it's vital we understand what is driving them to make the treacherous journey alone. It seems that politics could be put aside and empathy would come easily for this young and vulnerable group, but hostility continues to be directed toward them for trying to escape their desperate conditions back home. Yu-Hsi Lee allows us to better understand the reasons why children are taking such great risks by writing about the violence, poverty, corruption and drug trafficking in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

After a 2009 coup in Honduras, Colombian drug trafficking gangs diverted their illegal weapons and drug trade routes through Honduras, writes Yu-Hsi Lee. It has become a drug transit route for South American countries that produce the drugs consumed in the United States. It is known as the murder capital of the world. El Salvador faces higher homicide rates today than during their civil war. In 2008, more than 6,000 people were killed in Guatemala, mostly due to the drug war. Children are exposed to this violence each day and face constant recruitment efforts by gangs. We truly are facing what president Obama labeled an "urgent humanitarian situation." Hopefully we'll continue to see stories like this that show our connection to the creation of some of the most appalling conditions that anyone would want to flee.


Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 07/04/14?

Northwestern Reshapes Its Sexual Assault Policy

End Rape

(Chase Carter / Flickr)

This post originally appeared in The Daily Northwestern and is reposted here with permission.

Northwestern officials say they are prepared to comply with a new rule proposed by the White House under the Violence Against Women Act that would require colleges to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

The proposed rule falls under amendments to the Violence Against Women Act that went into effect in March. University officials said they have been working to comply with the amendments.

“Northwestern has been making good faith efforts to comply with the VAWA amendments since they were enacted,” said Joan Slavin, director of Northerwestern University’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office and Title IX coordinator, in an e-mail to The Daily. “We are currently working on making revisions to our complaint resolution procedures to make sure they comply with best practices under VAWA and Title IX.”

Slavin also said the university is investigating adding new prevention-related training for students, staff and faculty regarding sexual assault, stalking, and dating and domestic violence.

Tara Sullivan, assistant dean of students and Director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, said in an e-mail to The Daily that the University has been expecting a requirement for schools to report these statistics for “quite some time.”

“I share the hope that reporting this information will provide students with a better understanding of what is happening on campus and allow them to make choices that are best for them regarding their individual safety and security.”

Sullivan said before the proposed rule, the university had a “gold standard policy” regarding how it handles sexual misconduct, stalking and dating and domestic violence. She said the current policy is being reviewed, but that she anticipates any changes to be minor.

“We are in the process of developing a new student conduct process,” Sullivan said. “The new process has already been written with much of this in mind, but we will certainly review it to ensure that everything is incorporated before it is launched in the fall.”

In addition, Slavin said updates to the university’s policy will be included in its upcoming annual security report, which will be available in the fall.

The proposed rule would require universities to not only compile these statistics but also make other policy changes as well.

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Changes under the proposed rule include expanding the definition of hate crimes under the Clery Act to include gender identity and national origin as categories of bias; adopting a more inclusive definition of rape; requiring universities to guarantee their proceedings regarding these incidents are “prompt, fair, and impartial;” strengthening policies to protect victim confidentiality; and “specifying requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Slavin said she feels there has been heightened awareness about sexual violence and assault on all campuses, including Northwestern. She said campus groups, such as the Title IX Coordinating Committee and the Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence have been key in bringing together other interested groups to discuss these issues and possible solutions.

“I have really appreciated the activism we have seen here on our campus,” Sullivan said. “I am encouraged by the community’s interest in ensuring that Northwestern is not only in compliance, but also doing what is best for our community.”


Read Next: Jude Paul Dizon on DREAMers in grad school

What are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 07/04/14?

Hobby Lobby

(Nicholas Eckhart/CC 2.0)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

"Cecily McMillan's Statement of Release." JusticeforCecily.com, July 2, 2014.

Following a biased mistrial (one among too many recent miscarriages of justice), Cecily McMillan was released on Wednesday after fifty-nine days in jail. Her statement of release reminds us of the pressing injustices that plague current Rikers inmates—stories that are so little mentioned because they come from the most disenfranchised segments of society. This statement bridges the gap that separates prisoners' daily concerns from theoretical discussions of mass incarceration by revealing those demands, which local movements will hopefully pick up. As of now, the lack of visibility of those who disappear into jails or prisons permits the worse excesses. Cecily's mention of the solidarity and the sisterhood at Rikers is inspiring, revealing issues that we should lend our ears and voices to.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"Social and Economic Benefits of Reliable Contraception," by Jacoba Urist. The Atlantic, July 2, 2014.

In light of the Supreme Court's controversial decision to side with Hobby Lobby, the fight for women's rights still has a ways to go. Jacoba Urist of The Atlantic argues that the benefits of providing reliable access to contraception empowers women regardless of socioeconomic status and even extends to the well being of society. Urist's argument touches on how the debate surrounding contraception relates to income inequality, health issues and the opportunities made available to younger generations.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

Migrant Women Documenting Their Experiences Crossing the Border,” by Verónica Bayetti Flores. Feministing, June 12, 2014. 

In this piece, Verónica discusses part of what’s missing from the discourse of crossing the border, and that’s the stories of women. Bayetti Flores points to the work of freelance photographer Encarni Pindado, known as MigraZoom, which provides disposable cameras to migrants so that they can document their own journeys. One of the themes from the women migrants’ photos, which Bayetti Flores focuses on, is sexual violence and strategies to avoid violence, but also “harm reduction practices such as taking contraceptives before crossing the border to avoid pregnancy should they get raped along the way.” What I found most important about this project is that it is a reminder that these individuals are people, often brutally dehumanized, who, as one immigrant woman explains, “deserve respect…deserve a chance to work, and to live well and to study.”

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"Three Reasons the Hobby Lobby Decision Is Worse for Women of Color," by Miriam Zoila Pérez. Colorlines, July 1, 2014.

How does Monday's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision affect women of color? This article succinctly illuminates three major ulcers that will be irritated in women's health policy with this monumental restriction: the cost of contraception, the risk of unplanned pregnancy, and America's history of sterilization and reproductive control over black and brown women.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

"Moaning Moguls," by James Surowiecki. The New Yorker, July 7, 2014.

In the infancy of Obama's presidency, I remember the president letting bankers know, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." That statement might have been premature—sure, there was outrage in the wake of bailouts and the outrage over executives' compensation, but it was well before Occupy, before rising numbers of Americans of all kinds identified as lower class, before the words "income inequality" were on everyone's lips and even people like Rick Santorum were suddenly talking about social mobility. In “Moaning Moguls,” James Surowiecki notes the plight of the beleaguered rich—those CEOs who feel besieged by the prospect of (marginally) higher taxes and the (relative) scorn of the public. They cope with a disdainful public by making obscene comparisons of their tax burdens to life in Nazi Germany, with one even arguing that the wealthier you are, the more votes you should be entitled to have. Before a sharp rightward turn in corporate America over the past three decades or so, corporations regularly saw their interests and those of their employees and customers as the same. Globalization and the boom in financial services has changed all that, Surowiecki writes, because their customers are no longer only Americans or the wealthy. This reminds me of an essay in Politico that's been gaining traction this week by Nick Hanauser, a Seattle entrepreneur worth billions who warns his comrades in affluence that if workers’ pay isn’t raised the way Seattle’s was—their minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour—they will, eventually, risk open rebellion. He tackled trickle down economics, seeing its reasoning rooted in ideas little different than antiquated notions like divine right. Hanauser lifts the veil a bit on the perspectives of plenty of people in business—"We love our customers rich and our employees poor"—and how it has been consistently proven that raising the minimum wage has not harmed business, nor has the prohibition of child labor or the actual establishment of the minimum wage. He proves how these fights for progress often repeat themselves, always face resistance but are always necessary.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

The Supreme Court Should See What I See As an Abortion Clinic Escort,” by Lauren Rankin. RH Reality Check, June 30, 2014.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that a 35-foot buffer zone to protect patients from protestors outside abortion clinics is unconstitutional; that it impedes free speech. But according to Lauren Rankin, who volunteers at an abortion clinic in Englewood, New Jersey, the Supreme Court is in effect protecting the right of anti-choice protestors to not only speak to abortion patients, but also to physically block them from entering clinics and film them against their will. Rankin describes the difference a buffer zone at the clinic where she works made for patients, whom she saw "reduced to tears and shaking, just for trying to access the health care to which they are constitutionally entitled," before the zone was installed.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Hobby Lobby Ruling Proves Men of Law Can't Abide 'Immoral' Women Having Sex,” by Jessica Valenti. The Guardian via AlterNet, July 1, 2014.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby on Monday, which gives corporations the right to deny coverage of certain kinds of contraception to their employees based on religious freedom. Now, Hobby Lobby may indeed have religious objections to contraception, but let's be frank, as Jessica Valenti was in her Guardian piece on Tuesday: Hobby Lobby sued because the company believes pre-martial or non-procreative sex is a big no-no for women. Essentially, we can view the initial case and the Supreme Court's eventual (and predominantly male-decided) ruling as yet another attempt to make sure women cannot have sex as freely as men. What's sad is that this is not the first time women's reproductive autonomy will be affected by governmental policy and institutions (forget about the history; this week alone five states passed policies that make it significantly harder to get an abortion). And surprise, surprise (like a lot of things) women of color will likely be facing the brunt of this (predominantly white male-decided) ruling. It's just another case to add to the long list of forced contraception, sterilization, abortion and unsafe birthing practices our government has normalized for women of color. (Sigh.)

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora,immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

Protesters in Murrieta block detainees' buses in tense standoff,” byMatt Hansen and Mark Boster. The Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2014.

Hatred and violence directed toward undocumented immigrants in the United States is at an all-time high. Proof can be found in Murrieta, California, where residents blocked busloads of refugee children and undocumented immigrants from entering their city. In downtown Murrieta, 200-300 protestors relayed their dedication to keeping California "American" by forcing the buses to turn back prior to entering the border patrol station in the community. Murrieta Mayor Alan Long allegedly prompted the protest, stating that “Murrieta expects our government to enforce our laws, including the deportation of illegal immigrants caught crossing our borders, not disperse them into our local communities”. The buses were met with chants of "USA" and signs that read "return to sender." Many connect the influx of migrants, specifically children, to the increasing violence and poverty found in some Central American communities. I firmly believe that the fabric of the United States is woven by the desperate and oftentimes undocumented risks of immigrant communities. But the United States does not have an "immigrant problem"—it's in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. With border patrol agents detaining more that 52,000 unaccompanied minors in the southwest, many communities have been slow to act with compassion. It is perplexing that a nation that celebrates the struggling immigrant narrative—although an oftentimes-Eurocentric retelling of the exploitation Native and enslaved communities—would deny this same access to opportunity to those crossing another type of border. But Americanness has become more about nine-digits on a card than liberty and justice for all. And as it always does, history will remember our intolerance.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

A City of Convicts: The statistical sleight of hand that makes the U.S. crime rate seem lower than it really is,” by Josh Voorhees. Slate, June 30, 2014.

When recording crime in the US, writer Josh Voorhees takes one group into account that is often overlooked: the prison population. Without including this population of 2.2 million people, today’s violent crime rate is nearly half of what it was in the early 90s. In 2012, 1.2 million crimes were reported to the FBI, and a little more than 5.8 million were self-reported by inmates according to the Bureau of Justice statistics. Voorhees argues: “The brutality occurring behind bars deserves a fuller accounting—particularly given that we know there are innocent men and women serving sentences they don’t deserve.” He notes that the numbers suggest that violence itself hasn't disappeared, but has nearly been relegated to a place the public barely sees.


Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 06/27/2014?

Summer Interns’ Recommended Reading


(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Hélène Barthélemy, New York, New York

Willing Slaves of Capital, by Frédéric Lordon

It was initially a bit tedious to plow through the heavily theoretical language of Lordon’s Willing Slaves of Capital, but I did it because I had no choice: I was working at the publishing house that had published it. Yet, now six months later, I find myself constantly going back to the book’s ideas, notably the question of why we work. Not only do we work to gain sustenance, we eventually become so enlisted and dedicated to our employer that we find pleasure in work. Company culture, faces, marketing, team-building all contribute to enlist us to the cause of our work (now our cause!), concealing the negative reason why we do it (to be able to live) with more pleasurable ends. It convinces us that it is, for instance, our vocation.

A lot has been written about the problem of conceiving of someone’s work as pleasurable (which often serves as a justification for decreasing wages or problematic gender roles). Lordon just says that the way your desires are formed has to be taken into account when imagining an alternative society. And, as long as you remain aware of the obligation, perhaps happy enslavement doesn’t sound too bad. There are not that many other viable options… till we abolish wage-labor, of course! For the lucky few, it is also intellectually fulfilling: to prove the point, this is about a book that I read… at work!

Summer Concepcion, Los Angeles, California

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

Given that being an intern has provided me the opportunity to work and live in New York City for the first time, it was only appropriate that a dear friend of mine from Chicago gave me Patti Smith’s National Book Award–winning memoir as a gift. Smith, the fortieth anniversary of whose debut album Horses will be celebrated next year, effortlessly weaves stories of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe together with life in NYC during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The couple’s dedication to art was their own version of the “American dream”—a dream many New Yorkers can relate to and come to the city for. Despite the struggles the couple faced between their relationship and keeping their artistic ambitions alive, Smith’s innately poetic voice makes Just Kids an homage to the many worlds that come together when one lives in NYC. It is no wonder why Smith has remained an icon decades later—her art continues to resonate to this day.

Erin Corbett, Chicago, Illinois

On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays, by Iris Marion Young

I picked up this book after reading Young’s “The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State” for a spring course, wanting to read more on feminist philosophy. I started my reading with the essay “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality,” in which Young takes us beyond the biological differences between men and women, discussing the female body’s comportment and movement in relation to the surrounding space. This collection of essays uses a feminist framework to locate the subjectivity of the feminine body in its social surroundings.

Victoria Ford, Greenville, South Carolina

Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination, by Salamishah Tillet

This book, both academic and personal, critical and generous, traces the ways in which contemporary artists from Bill T. Jones to Kara Walker to Carrie Mae Weems resurrect and reimagine American slavery. Each artist, while revisiting historical and literary characters, as well as the ghost homes of slave forts, argues not for legal recognition in a post–civil rights society but for a fully realized and empathetic civic membership. By unpacking these pieces of photography, dance and visual art, Professor Tillet teaches readers to reconcile with our deeply broken vision of American democracy—one that exists in the belly and bedlam of our current Americana refusal to remember the original sin upon which this nation was born.

Douglas Grant, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, by Rick Perlstein

I admit a certain bias in mentioning Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, due out in August, because I am doing research for his third work on the history of American conservatism. It’s the best read on the seventies’ zeitgeist (it follows his other engrossing tome, Nixonland, which is the best read on the sixties and its intertwining chaoses). It’s not exactly the kind of book that lets you sprawl out on a beach towel with your toes digging in the sand, but it’s the kind of book that doesn’t let you go.

Hannah Harris Green, Madison, Wisconsin

Every Day is for the Thief, by Teju Cole

Every Day is for the Thief is Teju Cole’s fictional adaption of a blog he wrote while visiting Lagos, Nigeria, where he grew up, for the first time in thirteen years. Cole told Interview that this blog is “still the most intense writing I’ve ever done. For 30 days it was like I almost didn’t exist as a person.”

Alana de Hinojosa, Davis, California

At the Bottom of the River, by Jamaica Kincaid

At the Bottom of the River is a collection of ten short stories told through the point of view of a girl-woman as she plunges into the memories of her childhood in the Caribbean. Short and sweet, spooky and enchanting, these stories speak to the mysteries of her Caribbean home—the monkeys in the trees, the river too large to cross, the father she loves, the mother she will always trust, the way blackness comes to her in the night, on her skin and in her blood and the way a growing girl-woman must learn to see and navigate her postcolonial Caribbean world. Quick to read, though complex and deep, At the Bottom of the River is the perfect read for your lunch break or as you commute to work on the subway.

Crystal Kayiza, Jenks, Oklahoma

Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag

For over half of my twenty-one years of life, this nation has been at war. Living in a society so entrenched in its militarism and obsession with violence, it is easy to forget that war is physical and not just images between headlines. “How in your opinion do we prevent war?” are the jarring lines on the first page of Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others. Drawing these words from Virgina Woolf’s Three Guineas, Sontag critiques our “diet of horrors.” Her insight delves deep into compassion and critiques our consumption of atrocities. While visual culture depicts what humankind is capable of, it simultaneously exposes our distance from suffering—because, as Sontag eloquently outlines, no matter how far away, war will be waged and suffering will soon follow.

Agnes Radomski, Los Angeles, California

The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, by Amy Goodman and Dennis Moynihan

This collection of short articles touches on everything from war and capital punishment to climate change and dirty energy—all topics reported in depth on the daily news hour Democracy Now! It provides a critical commentary on the most important social justice issues shaping our society and is a must-read for any independent news junkie!


Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 06/27/14?

DREAMers in Grad School

DREAM activists

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

This piece originally appeared in Generation Progress and is reposted here with permission.

Amidst calls for Obama to end deportations and for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, college access remains a prominent issue among immigrant rights activists. In the last six months, New Jersey, Washington, Florida and Virginia have granted in-state tuition to undocumented students.

The focus of these wins have focused on DREAMers seeking an undergraduate education. In addition to access into colleges and universities, student affairs professionals are proactively providing retention resources to support DREAMers through to graduation. Programs at Arizona State University and UC, Berkeley, for instance, address the needs of current undocumented students through direct service and broader campus education.

The higher education pipeline for undocumented students continues to be plagued with leaks. Approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year, and face severely limited opportunities to pursue a college degree.

Currently, there are estimated to be about 13,000 undocumented students attending college. Hence, the movement for in-state tuition, financial aid and increased retention services is key for the success of those who are able to attend a college or university.

However, missing from the mainstream analysis on educational equity for DREAMers are the stories of those attending graduate school.

Recent stories of success include Sergio Garcia and Jirayut Lattivongskorn.

Garcia attends law school, but was initially denied admission to the California bar. After a six-year legal struggle, the California Supreme Court ruling in 2014 finally made it possible for Garcia to fully access the benefits of his degree.

Lattivongskorn will be the first undocumented student to attend the University of California, San Francisco for medical school. Graduate school offers opportunities for career advancement and greater financial earning over the lifetime. For many DREAMers who pursue higher education, empowering their communities is a key motivator.

For Sofia Campos, a UCLA alumna and currently a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her motivation to pursue a master’s in urban planning stems from her community.

As an undergraduate, Campos, unable to drive, rode a bus two hours each way to and from class. This gave her the “opportunity to really and directly see the differences between my own neighborhood, which is a mostly Latino neighborhood, a low-income neighborhood, and neighborhoods that UCLA is surrounded by, like Bel Air and Melrose, which are really nice places. To just seeing the differences in resources and the community that lives there and the physical environment that surrounds them was really drastic. It just made me question, ‘Why is that?’ and ‘Why do these inequalities exist?’”

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Fortunately for Campos, she had access to mentors and other undocumented students who had successfully navigated the graduate school application process. However, given the challenges that exist at the undergraduate level, graduate school may appear to be completely out of reach.

“Education is always a viable option,” Kaegy Pabulos said, former financial aid advisor at UC, Berkeley. “The main challenge lies in the fact that there are federal and state policies that limit student aid eligibility for undocumented students.”

“Some of the challenges for an undocumented student applying to graduate school, include the criteria that requires some students to have professional experience before and after the program,” Pabulos said. “However, there has also been a movement to challenge these requirements. For example, UC Irvine and UC, San Diego medical schools recently welcomed undocumented / DACA students to apply.”

Structural and resources issues lie at both the point of access, and within the university once undocumented students enter.


Read Next: From Pride to Freedom Summer to ‘Aycock’ Hall, students mass for racial justice.

From Pride to Freedom Summer to ‘Aycock’ Hall, Students Mass for Racial Justice


Zoraida Reyes, 28, at a protest in Santa Ana this spring (photo: Hairo Cortes)

Last spring, TheNation.com launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out June 3 and June 15. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Zoraida’s Death Calls Queer and Trans Immigrants to Mourning and Action

On June 23, mourners gathered in Santa Ana, California, to honor the life of Zoraida Reyes, a 28-year-old undocumented transgender Latina born in Mexico and found dead on July 12 in Orange County. Zoraida’s passing joins with three other “suspicious deaths” against transgender women of color in June alone, in Northeast Baltimore, Cincinnati and Fort Myers, Florida. This is a saddening moment for our community, especially as LGBTQ communities come together for Pride—the outcome of a revolution started by transgender women of color. Zoraida’s legacy of openness, authenticity and passion for immigrant and transgender rights will live on as DeColores Queer Orange County, a Latin@ LGBTQ grassroots organization she helped establish, will set up a fund dedicated in her honor. On July 11, DeColores is hosting an annual dragshow fundraiser, with proceeds going to Zoraida’s fund, and an annual conference intended to address inter-community needs specific to the Latin@ LGBTQ community. Our theme this year emphasizes trans queer family acceptance within our communities, where “la familia” extends to respect all aspects of authenticity and being.

—Roberto Carlos

2. Pride’s Rejection of Palestinian Justice Sparks Queer Student Outcry

On June 28, the Queer People of Color Collective of San Diego State University called out SDSU’s Pride Center, the campus LGBTQ center, for the contents of a leaked e-mail message from the coordinator of the center. In the note, regarding sending invitations to student organizations for SDSU’s Rainbow Flag Raising Ceremony, was an instruction to include Aztecs for Israel, but to “hold off” from inviting Students for Justice in Palestine because of the “kind of organization they are”—despite that both groups have publicly expressed support for the queer community. QPOCC views this as an Islamaphobic act by a white-dominated campus leadership. We call on SDSU to send an invitation to SJP along with a formal apology.

—Thomas Negron Jr.

3. Fifty Years Later, Freedom Summer Rises

From June 25 to 29, students from across the country gathered in Mississippi to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Mississippi Summer Project and reignite the spirit of freedom struggle. At Tougaloo College, a center of Mississippi civil rights activism, young people—including members of the Ohio Student Association, Dream Defenders, Project South, the Student Justice Alliance and many more—participated in the Freedom Summer Youth Congress and the Freedom 50th conference. The week was filled with strategy sessions, conversations and intergenerational moments. The events culminated with a student-led action to support the rights of Nissan workers in the state of Mississippi with four hundreds students and community members.

—Joshua Dedmond

4. Two Years After the Strike, US Students Converge on Quebec

From June 19 to 22, more than 200 students from Canada, the US and Mexico, and as far as France and Hong Kong, converged at the Montréal Student Movement Convention. As young people in the US face an ever-worsening debt and tuition crisis, students looked to Québec, where the student strike in 2012 mobilized more than 300,000 students and blocked the Liberal Party’s plans to hike tuition. The convention, more than a year in the making, was organized by local student associations in Québec, as well as budding student unions in the United States, including Portland, Ohio, Michigan, California, Florida, Chicago, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. The weekend blended nuts-and-bolts organizing with workshops and small breakouts and culminated in a general assembly fusing American and Québec-style direct democracy. Students departed ready to continue expanding international solidarity and vowing to spend the coming year organizing an even bigger conference with an even more diverse attendance next year.

—The Organizing Committee of the MSMC

5. In Milwaukee, ICE Gets Shut Down

In the early morning hours of Thursday June 19, nearly 100 students and community members from Wisconsin gathered outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Milwaukee to protest ongoing immigration raids that have criminalized and torn apart local families. Ten activists with Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle, including myself and members of one family affected by the raids, chained ourselves together using PVC pipes, to block vehicle exits at both ends of the building. The goal was to stop immigration vans from leaving to detain people that day; we did just that. The action was organized as a local response to ICE and in solidarity with the national #not1more campaign calling on President Obama for executive action to stop deportations.

—Ceasar Crayton

6. In Atlanta, Campus Radio Turns Up

Georgia State University’s student-run radio station, WRAS, has a reputation as one of the country’s leading college radio outlets. In 2009, the station broke into the Atlanta Arbitron top-ten morning drive time rankings among 18- to 34-year-olds. For years, Georgia Public Broadcasting has been trying to get GSU to hand over WRAS to fill a perceived programming void in Atlanta, most recently in 2008, but university administrations have recognized how integral WRAS is to the Atlanta community and rebuffed the efforts. On May 6, however, President Mark Becker decided to hand over all daytime broadcast hours to GPB, a deal made entirely in secret, without any student input. The Atlanta listening community, as well as the student DJs and station alumni, has risen up in protest. On Sunday, June 29, hundreds of people joined in nearby Hurt Park and marched to the station. Although GPB took over the daytime signal on the station this same day, station supporters are committed to pushing administrators to return WRAS entirely to student control.

—Yoon Nam

7. The Student-Led Stop to High-Stakes Testing

On June 20, both houses of the Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a three-year moratorium on the use of high-stakes testing as a graduation requirement in Rhode Island. This major step caps the Providence Student Union’s almost two-year campaign to end high-stakes testing in favor of more student-centered learning and performance-based assessments. Students and allies are now urging Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee to sign the bill and ensure that no students through the class of 2017 will be barred from graduating simply because of their score on the state assessment. This legislation is just the beginning; we will keep fighting for the empowering education—hands-on learning, discussion-based teaching and more—that all students deserve.

—Providence Student Union

8. The Dorm Formerly Known as Aycock Hall

For years, students at Duke University have protested the Aycock dorm, named in honor of former North Carolina Governor Charles B. Aycock, a racist Southern Democrat who led a white supremacist campaign in the 1890s that inspired mob violence against black people and established Jim Crow in North Carolina. Last spring, a coalition of student organizers including the Black Student Alliance, Duke NAACP and Students for a Democratic Society launched a campaign to change the name of the building. Through months of outreach, we gathered widespread student and faculty support. In January, the Duke Student Government unanimously passed a resolution on the building’s renaming. In May, following meetings with University President Richard Brodhead, who initially raised concerns about the possibility of a future onslaught of building renamings, members of the Duke Board of Trustees and the President’s Committee on Black Affairs, the board voted to rename the building East Residence Hall and affix a plaque acknowledging the history of the naming.

—Prashanth Kamalakanthan, Adrienne Harreveld and Jacob Tobia

9. When Will the Feds Stop Siding With Loan Sharks?

On Wednesday, June 25, students and debtors from the Colorado Student Power Alliance and Colorado Jobs with Justice attempted to enter the Rocky Mountain regional Department of Education. Six organizers were prepared to confront the branch’s executive director about the multiple federal violations charged to Navient, a former unit of Sallie Mae, and demand that the Department of Education immediately cut all ties with the corporation. Navient’s violations include inadequately disclosing payment allocation methods to borrowers, spreading out borrowers’ payments across multiple loans in a manner that maximizes late fees and inadequately disclosing how borrowers could avoid late fees. Those present were stopped by security in the lobby and forced outside to the sidewalk. There, we donned blindfolds and held signs reading, “Dept. of Education Stand with Students & Borrowers,” “Stop Turning a Blind Eye” and “We Want a Debt Free Future.” This summer, as part of the Debt Free Future campaign, students and borrowers across the country plan to continue to pressure the Department of Education through escalating direct actions until it cuts the contract with Navient.

—Kaitlyn Griffith

10. Is There a Factory Fire at Your Campsite?

On June 20, 100 students from United Students Against Sweatshops stormed the REI store in College Park, Maryland, demanding the retailer stop selling North Face apparel due to the record of factory violations in Bangladesh by VF Corporation, North Face’s owner. REI refused to meet with us over VF’s refusal to sign the Accord, a legally binding contract formed by Bangladeshi unions requiring brands to fix unsafe factories. After another VF factory caught fire last week injuring more than fifty workers, students responded this weekend with national actions at 10 REI stories, REI headquarters and the house of VF CEO, Eric Wiseman.

—Chanelle Yang

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