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Girls in Poverty, Women in Prisons, and Solange in a Syllabus

February 14, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region. 

1. A Comprehensive Syllabus for Solange’s ‘A Seat at the Table’
The ELLE.com Scholars, in partnership with scholar Candice Benbow, have curated a syllabus based on Solange Knowles’ album “A Seat at the Table” For the syllabus, they solicited recommendations from women of color ages 16 to 30. On the syllabus, they write: “James Baldwin argued ‘to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’ As our nation transitioned from the Obama years to Trump’s America, Solange’s album, A Seat at the Table, gave voice to the struggle to maintain black humanity and sanity in the context of this constant rage. Solange found this voice by entering into conversations with everyone from her parents, to the rapper-polymath Master P, to the actress Amandla Stenberg. She allowed their stories to merge with her own, and gave us a chance to listen in on the co-creation that became her astonishing album. Like Solange, we asked young women to think deeply about resisting racism, understanding gender and sexuality, the role of important relationships in their lives, and how they nurture themselves. We even encouraged girls to think about taking a seat at the lunch table by remembering the books, music, and art that made them feel included as middle and elementary school children. Like all conversations, these sometimes went to unexpected places. Some of the submissions were books and articles we expected; but some submissions were original artwork, poetry, and stories. We are excited to share [the] syllabus with you[.]”

2. Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto Explains Why She Might Leave the Republican Party
Anna Julia Cooper Center founding director Melissa Harris-Perry for ELLE.com: “[Last] Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to read aloud a letter written by the late Coretta Scott King. Decades ago, Mrs. King had written the letter to oppose the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions to the federal court; Senator Warren tried to offer it as the basis of her opposition to Sessions as attorney general. Rather than allow Senator Warren to speak, the Republican majority invoked the rarely used Senate Rule 19, which bars senators from impinging the character of their chamber colleagues. Warren was halted from reading the letter, officially censured by the Senate, and barred from speaking for the remainder of the debate. On the other side of the country, this impulse to silence Warren is pushing from the Republican Party one of its rising stars. State Representative Beth Fukumoto, who served as the youngest House Minority Leader ever in Hawaii and was preparing to run for Congress as a Republican from one of the country’s most reliably Democratic states, is considering leaving the GOP. On January 21, Fukumoto took part in Hawaii’s Women’s March. There she spoke of the importance of being a political party that respects all people and respects racial minorities, women, and those who need a voice. […] Once you understand her motivations for seeking office, it is clear why Fukumoto chose to take the stage at Hawaii’s Women’s March, even though she must have known there would be negative repercussions for her decision. This is how she described it to me. ‘As the only Republican caucus leader to hold a position as a millennial minority woman, I felt that if I didn’t speak, then no one would.’”

3. There Are More Girls Living in Poverty Today Than in 2007
Kate Dwyer for Motto by Time: “There are more girls in the U.S. living in poverty and low-income households now than were ten years ago, according to a new report released exclusively to Motto by the Girl Scout Research Institute. The report, titled the State of Girls, examines key changes in the economic, educational, physiological and psychological well-being of American girls since the Great Recession. Today, 41% of girls live in low-income households, up from 38% in 2007. The percentage of girls living in households of poverty increased from 17% in 2007 to 20% in 2014. (A child is considered low income if her family income is less than twice the poverty threshold.) Girls of color are disproportionately affected: In 2014, black girls were the most likely to live in poverty (35%), closely followed by Latina and American Indian girls (31% each). Multiracial girls were 20% likely, Asian-American girls were 14% and white girls were least likely to live in poverty, with only 12%. These numbers are particularly concerning, because girls living in low-income households are more likely to face additional challenges across all areas of well-being.  ‘What we do is take the data on girls [only], pull it together, summarize it and talk about it, because otherwise this data is looked at for youth in general,’ [Kamla] Modi [Senior Researcher for Thought Leadership at the institute] said. ‘We know boys and girls are so different on a variety of indicators.’ By breaking down the statistics even further to isolate girls of specific races, ethnicities, and sexual identities and orientations, researchers are able to get a much clearer picture.”

4. An Interfaith Group of Clergy is ‘Blessing’ New and Existing Abortion Clinics
Miriam Zoila Pérez: “An all-women Brazilian drumming group. A married pair of Baptist co-pastors. An imam participating over Skype. A rabbi and a Hindu priest offering blessings. These were just some of the folks involved in a January ceremony to bless the opening of Washington, D.C.’s newest abortion clinic. Owned by Planned Parenthood Metro-Washington (PPMW), the Carol Whitehill Moses Center is located in a predominantly Black and low-income neighborhood in Northeast D.C. As evidenced by a slew of negative headlines from anti-abortion media, the concept of blessing a clinic that provides abortions is a controversial one.  Organized by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and PPMW, the multifaith group of clergy met this summer to design the ceremony honoring the new facility. Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider, devout Christian and reproductive rights activist, told Colorlines that the purpose of the ritual was to ‘recapture the moral voice and to push back on the religious opposition to abortion.’ Among local participants in the January 10 action were the Rev. Drs. Dennis and Christine Wiley, the married co-pastors of D.C.’s Covenant Baptist Church. The pair has been leading the predominantly Black, ‘radically inclusive’ congregation for more than three decades. ‘One of the things we’ve taught over the years is that Jesus never met people at a point of judgment. He met people at a point of need,’ says Christine, who worked as a nurse before abortion was legalized and encountered patients who needed hysterectomies or even died after attempting to self-abort. ‘Women, as a disenfranchised group of people, need to be able to have control over their own bodies.’”

5. Incarcerated Black Women Face Immeasurable Human & Civil Rights Violations
Monique W. Morris for Newsone: “In general, the United States incarcerates women at a higher rate than any comparable nation: though containing just 5 percent of the world’s population of women, the U.S. accounts for 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women. The incarceration rate for Black women is more than twice that of White women—a racial disparity that has remained even as the overall rate of incarceration has declined. Incarcerated women face a host of human and civil rights concerns, including labor exploitation, sexual victimization, overmedication, and assault on reproductive rights. […] Incarcerated women and girls are largely survivors of sexual assault and domestic/intimate partner violence. The story for women in prison is an outgrowth of the historical invisibility of Black women’s trauma. Punitive laws and practices that fuel incarceration erase their pain and increase risk of arrest and incarceration for women like Marissa Alexander and girls like Bresha Meadows. For women, the institution of slavery included not only forced physical labor. Black women routinely experienced sexual violence and exploitation, as well as other manipulations of their bodies and relationships, to sustain the institution of slavery. Women reacted to these unsafe conditions with the tools available to them—they ran, they fought, and they engaged in underground activities to facilitate their survival. And for these actions, they were punished. Their trauma was never recognized, and instead was exploited to sustain a system of servitude that thrived on their dehumanization. This is the historical trauma triggered by the incarceration for Black women and girls today.”