Ask me anything   ______________________________ Equality isn't inherent in our societies... it must be achieved through a way of living... a modus vivendi. It's about genuine human connection and the potential found in an individual's story being heard on their own terms. We all exist within a complex social structure..."The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in." — Harold Goddard
dynamicafrica:

Martha Chumo, a 19-year-old self-taught programmer, was supposed to be in New York right now, honing her coding skills and mastering cutting-edge technologies in the company of fellow software enthusiasts.
Instead, she’s thousands of miles away, in her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya.
A few months ago, Chumo was accepted into the summer intake of Hacker School, a U.S.-based “retreat for hackers,” where budding programmers come together for three months to write code, learn new languages and share industry insights.
Whereas the programming boot camp was free to attend, Chumo still needed to find a way to cover her trip costs and buy a new laptop. Excited and determined, the young developer turned to online crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo for funds. She set a target of $4,200 and managed to raise nearly $5,800. All she needed then was a visa to travel to the United States.
Alas, this was not to be.  As an unmarried adult who was not enrolled at university, Chumo was not eligible for a U.S. tourist visa because she couldn’t show sufficient “social ties” to Kenya to prove that she was planning to return home after attending Hacker School.*
But the U.S. consulate’s refusal only served to slightly alter the plans of this passionate coder.
"I thought if I can’t go to the hacker school, let me try to bring the school to me," says Chumo. "(Let me see) what can I do to start a school here."
Within minutes of her second visa request denial, on June 4, Chumo was calling her friends to announce that, “I’m starting a hacker school in Kenya!’
A few days later, she launched another Indiegogo campaign asking people to help her set up her own school for developers in Nairobi.
"I was so frustrated because I had applied to go to Hacker School; I got into it, I raised funds to go there, I had all these plans to read and learn for three months and then I’m not allowed to go — that’s how the idea for the school was born."
(cont. reading)
*For those who don’t know how hard the visa struggle for those of us with African passports is, this is just one of the ways that we are systematically denied opportunities. Meanwhile, tourists from many Western nations are free to visit many African countries without a visa and stay for up to 90 consecutive days in some of them.
But MAJOR props to Martha Chumo for taking up the initiative to create her own opportunities.

dynamicafrica:

Martha Chumo, a 19-year-old self-taught programmer, was supposed to be in New York right now, honing her coding skills and mastering cutting-edge technologies in the company of fellow software enthusiasts.

Instead, she’s thousands of miles away, in her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya.

A few months ago, Chumo was accepted into the summer intake of Hacker School, a U.S.-based “retreat for hackers,” where budding programmers come together for three months to write code, learn new languages and share industry insights.

Whereas the programming boot camp was free to attend, Chumo still needed to find a way to cover her trip costs and buy a new laptop. Excited and determined, the young developer turned to online crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo for funds. She set a target of $4,200 and managed to raise nearly $5,800. All she needed then was a visa to travel to the United States.

Alas, this was not to be. As an unmarried adult who was not enrolled at university, Chumo was not eligible for a U.S. tourist visa because she couldn’t show sufficient “social ties” to Kenya to prove that she was planning to return home after attending Hacker School.*

But the U.S. consulate’s refusal only served to slightly alter the plans of this passionate coder.

"I thought if I can’t go to the hacker school, let me try to bring the school to me," says Chumo. "(Let me see) what can I do to start a school here."

Within minutes of her second visa request denial, on June 4, Chumo was calling her friends to announce that, “I’m starting a hacker school in Kenya!’

A few days later, she launched another Indiegogo campaign asking people to help her set up her own school for developers in Nairobi.

"I was so frustrated because I had applied to go to Hacker School; I got into it, I raised funds to go there, I had all these plans to read and learn for three months and then I’m not allowed to go — that’s how the idea for the school was born."

(cont. reading)

*For those who don’t know how hard the visa struggle for those of us with African passports is, this is just one of the ways that we are systematically denied opportunities. Meanwhile, tourists from many Western nations are free to visit many African countries without a visa and stay for up to 90 consecutive days in some of them.

But MAJOR props to Martha Chumo for taking up the initiative to create her own opportunities.

(via africaisdonesuffering)

— 1 year ago with 7912 notes
npr:

A neat Gif that explains the progression of same sex marriage law, 1970 - this morning.

npr:

A neat Gif that explains the progression of same sex marriage law, 1970 - this morning.

— 1 year ago with 16574 notes
Whose Choice? Our Choice.

image

Whose choice? Our choice.

These are the words that keep resounding. Standing outside the doors of the Senate chamber at 12:01 last night, I learned the true definition of “din” - the sound seemed to ring and echo within my ears. And, as it turned out, in the ears of all the Senate members… to the point of blocking a vote.

And one senator called Senator Wendy Davis or protestors like myself “terrorists.” Lt. Gov. Dewhurst claimed the vote was blocked by an “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics,” as if that automatically insinuates something negative and terrible. I won’t deny Dewhurst the unruly part (c’mon, it was pure excitement!) but of course, I don’t agree that the comparison suddenly translates to something that is wrong.


Instead, it is democracy in action. Which, certainly, at no point means consensus. With all movements and protests, particularly those that grow up fast, there will be aberrations or flaws. Someone will lean towards or enact violence; they may choose the wrong sorts of words for a statement or chant; they may do any list of things that are increasingly disturbing. Sometimes there will also be - like one man I met in the rotunda last night - individuals that seem to have almost no specific alignment within the debate at all, but rather insist on being simply uncooperative with every person whatsoever.

But where my true revelation lies from the moving experiences of last night is in the fact that despite these aberrations… there is a clear and overwhelming majority of people that are aiming for similar goals, working for justice, and hoping to work out any of the possible kinks along the way.

Going Viral

See, I’m one of those people that loathed the way the Internet lit up in response to Invisible Children’s Kony 2012. After spending my previous summer studying abroad and living with the most loving homestay families in Gulu, Uganda & Kigali, Rwanda, I couldn’t even fully express my rage at the types of oversimplifications being made on the part of the Invisible Children, the media, and the people reacting… that is to say, not just the supporters, but the opposition as well.

And with all “viral” flashes across the web since, I’ve found myself on the fence. In some cases I’m glad a certain topic is getting the attention, but wish it could be tweaked. In others, I’m saddened by the events that inspire the flash, but also disturbed by the way that grief can be manipulated and led to support certain misguided and destructive narratives. Because, at the base of all the arguments around technology and social movements today, what really disturbs me is the way in which it can foster the kind of simplicity of thought that Stephen Carter recently tugged at in this article.


“Simplicity is the enemy of serious thought, and serious though is what this world desperately needs. And if we Americans find ourselves unable or unwilling to take the time to think deeply, then some wise, more serious, more reflective culture will supersede ours. And our defeat will be entirely deserved.”

 
And this whole sentiment is what Edward Said reiterates in Orientalism, or is found in the arguments presented by any of his predecessors, contemporaries, and followers. (My brainjuice, by the way). 

But more recently, with a number of irony-laden Facebook posts either directly stating or circling around the belief that “slacktivism” is worthless, I started to question the place of tech in movements more and more. I started to think – what if people really do feel that this is the only option – the only way to feel truly heard in our increasingly partisan political system? With this question in mind, I got to a point where I was more annoyed with the ironic blanket criticisms than I was with any repetitious posts themselves.

And throughout the day yesterday – but particularly in the last hour at the capitol – I and hundreds of other relied on social media to find out what was happening on the other sides of the senate doors… because the news couldn’t get it to us fast enough. In the morning, news tickers and friends got me up to speed on the SB05 issue through my smart phone. I used it to search for information and contact Kirk Watson, my Texas Senate Representative (who, by the way, totally did his part on the floor last night). Social media revealed different links to drop lines and stories to Senator Davis, and I contributed these items online. Once home from work, I watched the live feed as the second point of order was debated… and when I finally made it to the capitol around 10:30 p.m., tweets were read aloud and relayed across the crowd and around the rotunda. People gathered together to listen to the tablets or i-phones, if they could even connect to the live feed amidst the amassed data waves colliding above the capitol. So many little screens lit up to record the historic moments.

And I loved it. With the risks and disadvantages of the aforementioned simplicity in mind, the benefits of disseminating knowledge quickly were clear… such a viral movement enabled by technology was essential to bringing me and hundreds of others through the capitol doors.  

And just like Kony, some people woke up to Facebook timelines that read more like a morning news clip on repeat. The whole night could be summed up in (or reduced to) a few photos, headlines, or anecdotes. But…  instead of determining whether military action was taken in a part of the world that the majority of Americans undoubtedly know very little about (if they could even point it out on a map before)… I consider this context different. Because it was specific, local, and our decisions were affecting our lives in a way that could be boiled down, rather than those of South Sudanese or Northern Ugandans caught in a very violent and complex international conflict (this is not to say, of course, that I promote the belief that our lives are not interconnected… I am very much a proponent of recognizing how our choices - especially in America - effect our society and humanity as a whole).

In other words, we had more foresight on this one. More media attention didn’t pull Kony out of hiding – it just dug him further in (though there are some int’l law debates to be had there as well). But in this case… the word is out. Over 100,000 people tuned in for the live feed near midnight. The Eyes of Texas are still upon the Senate… and so many other eyes around the world. And that media attention doesn’t allow them to get away with thin veneers.

“It was a f***ing sham”

Which leads me to the other portion of my revelation. And if you’ll forgive me for the language, but… SO MUCH SHIT WAS PULLED. And you’ll know it if you were watching, or have read up on some summaries. Most tangibly horrific (though certainly topped by numerous other moments): the Senate actually tried to change the timestamp of the vote on their website. But, sorrryyyyyy – technology bites ya!

A number of articles express the confusion in the last 2-4 hours of the whole scene, but it seems so perfectly summed up in what was happening just outside the doors last night. As one woman read from her laptop or cell phone, she passed the message on to 4-5 individuals closest to her. My friend Kevin turned into a human megaphone for the entire room. But as the updates regarding motions and appeals and points of orders got more and more confusing, people just started to laugh. We were all there for such a serious issue, and the politics running it all just became a joke… something well-discussed by Amy Gentry on her Tumblr yesterday.

Like Amy said – “it was a f***ing sham.” But this time, everyone was watching. Not only has my knowledge of Texas politics increased significantly in the past 24 hours – pulling on the somewhat distant lessons of the multiple courses I was required to take in both Texas history and government – but my desire to grapple with, rather than write off for comfort’s sake, the “sham-ful” moments, has been strengthened.

Most people call that kind of feeling passion. Used off-hand, it can be a pretty lightweight word. But yesterday, I had a new way to describe it… As this heavy, nebulous ball that forms in my chest, rises through my throat, and becomes tears dripping onto my broken words. This tingling sensation above my ears like a burning rage. This freeing feeling that emulates joy, but quickens your thoughts.

And when your surrounded by hundreds of people feeling this, screaming at the top of the lungs and stomping their feet, it becomes inspiration. The worms that take those quick thoughts and make your actions follow just as fast. This sense of boiling over, bursting open, and swinging like a pendulum.

And I’d felt these things before. But not quite in such historic ways as so many of us witnessed last night. The thin veneers couldn’t stop it.

Feminism is for everybody

But most of all last night, I was inspired to see feminism at work. Not the stereotyped and oversimplified understanding of it, but the one that bell hooks so concisely described as for everybody.

When the chant “Whose Choice? Our Choice!” began last night, it was shouted as a crowd. But somehow, within just two minutes, it naturally broke into male/female question/response – with the males calling “Whose Choice?” and the females responding “Our Choice!” Both genders were well represented, and both voices were LOUD.

And everything that I hold as my core feminist beliefs were being shared. And we were DOING something about it.

Feminism is FOR everybody.

But… that’s not to say we shouldn’t recognize that it doesn’t always INCLUDE everybody. With DOMA being struck down today, it only contributes further to this discussion. Even in my statements two paragraphs above I find discomfort in possibly making it seem like humans are polar opposites, without any recognition of individuals that may be transsexual or identify in any way they choose. Even in the ensuing responses from last night, you see recognition of the overwhelming “whiteness” of the crowd, while the populations most affected by the bill may be otherwise. And these are just a cherry picking of the numerous, underlying problems that still exist.

We took one big step to avoid denial of access to women’s healthcare across my beautiful state, but there are many more to go if we are actually to address the roots of the problems.

So we’re all fired up, and I love it. I just hope – most especially for myself – that this fire keeps burning. That the passion and inspiration underlying all of these actions will sustain us for those next steps. That we keep questioning, always recognizing that it is OUR CHOICE.

— 1 year ago
#wendydavis filibuster txlege texas women viral feminism inspiration 
npr:

In 1996, after 12 years living in the foster care system, Melissa Rodriguez recorded a diary about getting pregnant and becoming a mother. Now, her son Issaiah is a teenager, and she shares her teenage diary with him and reveals things about her past that she’s never mentioned.
— Teenage Diaries Revisited: Mother And Son Listen To The Past
Also, check out earlier parts of the series: Teenage Diaries Revisited

npr:

In 1996, after 12 years living in the foster care system, Melissa Rodriguez recorded a diary about getting pregnant and becoming a mother. Now, her son Issaiah is a teenager, and she shares her teenage diary with him and reveals things about her past that she’s never mentioned.

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Mother And Son Listen To The Past

Also, check out earlier parts of the series: Teenage Diaries Revisited

— 1 year ago with 461 notes
three radio stories of enemies turning into friends →

#1 The Rabbi & The KKK - on a change of heart

#2 Two Enemies, One Heart - an Iraqi & Iranian in the First Persian Gulf War

#3 Mary Johnson & Oshea Isreal - on true forgiveness & their unlikely relationship

via third coast international audio festival website

— 1 year ago
#stories enemies friends connection differences 
"‎Differences will always exist, but division doesn’t always have to be the result."
Beth Moore (via kristensaid)
— 1 year ago with 15 notes
Shine Your Corner of the World: Love →

parleypine:

I want to tell you about my favorite meditation. Maybe you will try it.

I imagine people that I know really well and I picture them smiling. Then I imagine more people, distant acquaintances and strangers smiling.

I go back and forth between one face and the next, and I begin to feel happy for…

(Source: jacobbuckrop)

— 1 year ago with 4 notes

npr:

good:

WATCH: Strangers Philosophise in a Ball Pit
Pete(r) Karinen wrote in Living, Creativity and Soul Pancake

The fine folks over at Soul Pancake find yet another unique way of spreading joy, connecting people, and tackling life’s big questions.

Who doesn’t love a good ball pit convo? -L

I would really like to see more of this.

— 1 year ago with 579 notes
africaisdonesuffering:

Ignorance is not Bliss. Educate yourself.
When things aren’t working, it’s easy to try to shift the blame to something or someone else. In the case of matters pertaining to Africa, many of us still blame colonisation for our present situations. How much longer will we continue to do so? I am in no way undermining the impact that colonisation had on different African countries, neither am I implying that we should forget that it happened. I am simply saying that we should not continue to use that as an excuse to stay in the same position. If we continue to reduce ourself to victims, we will continue being treated as such. Yes conolisation happened, yes some effects are still being felt today but it is time for us to start working towards solutions and leave the excuses behind.
continue reading

africaisdonesuffering:

Ignorance is not Bliss. Educate yourself.

When things aren’t working, it’s easy to try to shift the blame to something or someone else. In the case of matters pertaining to Africa, many of us still blame colonisation for our present situations. How much longer will we continue to do so? I am in no way undermining the impact that colonisation had on different African countries, neither am I implying that we should forget that it happened. I am simply saying that we should not continue to use that as an excuse to stay in the same position. If we continue to reduce ourself to victims, we will continue being treated as such. Yes conolisation happened, yes some effects are still being felt today but it is time for us to start working towards solutions and leave the excuses behind.

continue reading

— 1 year ago with 39 notes

africlecticmagazine:

How Oliberté, the Anti-TOMS, Makes Shoes and Jobs in Africa

‘Why or how could anyone want to make shoes in a place full of so much poverty and corruption?’

That’s the question many people asked Canadian Tal Dehtiar when he founded Oliberté Footwear, the first company to make premium shoes in Africa using African materials and explicitly linking shoes sold by Western retailers to job creation on the continent. Dehtiar started the Toronto-based company in 2009, and sales increased from a mere 200 pairs initially to 10,000 in 2011. He projects sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 this year.

“At Oliberté, we believe Africa can compete on a global scale,” he says, “but it needs a chance. It doesn’t need handouts or a hand up. It needs people to start shaking hands and companies to start making deals to work in these countries.”

Oliberté shoes are stitched and assembled in Ethiopia with leather sourced from local free-range cows, sheep, and goats—the default in a country with many herders whose livelihoods depend upon ranging wherever grass may be. The livestock haven’t been injected with hormones to speed their growth, a common practice in other parts of the world. The result is a light, limber, yet sturdy upper.

The shoes feature crepe rubber soles made from natural rubber processed in Liberia and lined with soft, breathable goat leather. This spring, the company will expand its line to offer leather bags and accessories, some of which will be sourced in Kenya and made in Zambia. It produces woven labels and other branding materials in the African island nation Mauritius.

Oliberté—the name melds “liberty” with the “O” from the anthem of Dehtiar’s home country—employs workers at factories selected because they pay relatively high wages, provide employee benefits like subsidized lunches, and employ women as about half of their workforces. The company plans to open its own factory in Addis Ababa in March while maintaining production at its existing third-party plants. It distributes across North America and Europe and sells online.

The best-known footwear brand with a humanitarian bent is TOMS Shoes, the Santa Monica, California-based company that gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells. From Nicaragua to New Orleans to Niger, TOMS has distributed shoes to more than a million children through “shoe drops,” when staff and contest winners travel the globe to hand out shoes. In addition to helping prevent soil-borne diseases, the donations help recipients attend schools that in many places forbid bare feet.

“With TOMS,” Dehtiar says, “the best thing is the awareness they’ve created.” But he’s skeptical of the company’s one-for-one model because he believes the donations can pressure local shoemakers and vendors, in addition to reinforcing stereotypes about the developing world.

“TOMS Shoes is a good marketing tool, but it’s not good aid,” agrees Saundra Schimmelpfennig, an international aid expert who blogs at Good Intentions Are Not Enough, where she aims to educate nonprofit donors about effective charity. She’s criticized TOMS for competing with local producers by handing out free goods and for being “quintessential Whites in Shining Armor.” “The idea of creating jobs that pay a fair wage and provide necessary benefits,” she says, “can have far more impact than aid.”

According to its latest giving report, TOMS also uses factories in Ethiopia, in addition to ones in China and Argentina. “I’m not saying ours is a better way,” Dehtiar says, “but people just continue to give away stuff to Africa, and there’s no incentive for dependencies to end.”

Dehtiar had experience in aid work abroad before starting Oliberté. After graduating from business school, he started MBAs Without Borders, a charity that consulted with small businesses in the developing world and helped them find venture capital. “It was basically Peace Corps for people who had done Peace Corps and now had a business degree,” he says. The nonprofit worked in 25 countries, from Haiti to Pakistan to nations in West Africa. One impetus Dehtiar cites for founding Oliberté is that African friends kept telling him they were tired of charity—what the continent needed was jobs. “On a given day,” says Dehtiar, “One to two hundred people are working on our shoes. Because we don’t hire foreigners, we have local buy-in.”

“For me, it is great,” says Feraw Kebede, general manager of Oliberté Ethiopia, in a company video. “As an Ethiopian I’m very proud that we are exporting shoes to America.”

Instead of striving to produce the cheapest shoes possible, the company focuses on quality. “When it comes to footwear,” Dehtiar says, “we don’t want people to think of Africa as the next China. We want them to think of it as the next Italy—think quality.”

The strategy has begun to pay off with American retailers. “The first thing that prompted me was the style of the shoe,” says Justin Davis, manager of Mint Footwear in San Diego. “They’re attractive. The shoes demand attention.” He noticed the materials and craftsmanship were better than “regular production stuff.” Once he heard about how and where the shoes are produced, Davis says the line became even more attractive to him. “People crave products that have a little more purpose than just consumption,” he says.

The Oliberté brand is still niche, but to Dehtiar, part of the venture’s value is in cutting a path that larger manufacturers can follow. “Our goal is to be the reason that 1 million people are employed in manufacturing in Africa,” he says. “We want to show that these models work and we want to encourage others, like the Nikes and Levi’s of the world, to do the same.”

Dehtiar says one of the top five footwear and apparel brands in the world recently inquired about acquiring the company, impressed that it built a high quality made-in-Africa brand rather than simply set up a cheap manufacturing center on the continent. But the company is not for sale, Dehtiar says, because he has yet to finish developing it.  

“When we first started, I didn’t want to do the Africa angle,” he says, a seemingly strange statement about a company that markets the continent in its tagline. “Our first ad was very stereotypical Africa. It was a picture of an African face—a Maasi warrior. I hated it.” He stopped using the ad the following year. “We’ve gone from portraying a very stereotypical image of Africa to now selling pride instead of pity. But it’s a challenge, because some stores want the stereotypical Africa branding.”

“The balance,” says Dehtiar, “is how do I do the Africa angle without doing the part I hate: ‘Buy because you feel bad about Africa.’”

(via africaisdonesuffering)

— 1 year ago with 6303 notes