Signs, Sounds, & Thoughts From My Experience At The Women’s March in Washington D.C.

One Man’s Story: Why I Marched With Women on Trump’s First Day
By: Dan Beckmann/Orlando Sentinel
25 January 2017 

Last week, rather excitedly, I posted, what I thought was a fairly innocuous tweet; “Heading to D.C. for the March!”  I wrote.  So, I was surprised to read the first response.  Not because it arrived so quickly, I have nearly 10,000 followers.  Rather, because it came from a friend with an ambiguous quip. “Last I checked you were a man…is there something you’re not telling me?”  She wrote.  Surely my well-educated friend could not be so confused to think a Y chromosome would be a disqualification for taking part in a Women’s March?  Nonetheless, there it was.  That comment…hanging like a piñata, just waiting for me to crack it with a great big stick.

So, to my friend who wrote, what I’m sure she thought was a comment in jest, I guess there are some things I haven’t thought to tell you.  Allow me to fill you in on a few of them.

For 15-years, as a cameraman, writer, and producer with NBC News, I sat on the front line of many struggles.  This was the first time I would be at the epicenter of something of this magnitude as a participant.  I knew why I was marching because I had the checked boxes all filled out in my head; women’s rights, minority issues, climate change, education.  All the big ones.  But it wasn’t until I was nestled amongst a sea of pink hats and humanity that I realized why I was really there.  By the way, there were quite a few disqualified Y chromosome people marching with me.

Women, and those with minority voices, have always played crucial roles in my success.  They are too often underrepresented, undermined, and undervalued.  So, from what some might call my “privileged” seat in society, I felt it was even more important for me to walk out my allegiance to them.

I marched because Donald Trump promised to serve all people.  And so far, his immediate circle of influence lacks the diversity to make that possible.  Having him hear our voices from his new home on his first day in office was a great start. Not everyone who needed to be heard could be there, so I was marching for them…and for all the people who’ve made a difference in my life.

I marched for my mom, who as a single parent took odd jobs teaching tennis lessons, tending bar, and fixing lawnmowers.  Always making less than the guy next to her who did the exact same job.  My mom never failed to take a college course and never got a failing grade.  Receiving her doctorate 35 years after taking her first class.

I marched for, and alongside, my friends Kent and Caanan.  Showing up with my support to protect their right to stay married.

I marched for my daughter Lauren, and my friend Tiffany.  Each survivors of sexual assault who now must watch a man who’s bragged about assaulting women lead our country for the next four years.

I marched for those so confused that they now believe in “alternative facts.”

I marched for my friends who lost all hope, and got suckered by a manipulative liar who placed a large bet on their fears and won bigly.

I marched as a reminder to those “who won” that they cannot ignore those who didn’t.  And I marched as a reminder to our representatives in Washington that they are bound by an oath to represent all those in their districts.

I marched to promote a global community of diverse members. The outcry of values and priorities aren’t solely “American issues” with isolated consequences.  Millions of others, on all 7 continents, took part in over 670 solidarity events. Our leader may say, “America First”, but we cannot claim to be “America Only”.

And I marched for that friend of mine, the Twitter commenter.  Apparently, there were some things I didn’t tell you.  I’m glad I told you about them now so we can put down our phones and get to the business of building a brighter future for us all.  And that’s something worth tweeting and re-tweeting about.

img_1508

Central Florida Public Schools Tackle Human Trafficking

JDSA recently partnered with the Florida Department of Children and Families, coordinating a project designed to create awareness and educate Central Florida teens about the dangers of Human Trafficking.

Just DO Something…Anything! funded and assisted Appleton Creative in the design of the campaign: a series of 4 colorfully designed posters, each depicting the dangers of modern day slavery, and distributed to every middle and high school in Central Florida.

Created with the youth audience in mind, the posters feature strong graphics, bold text and eye-catching call-to-actions. The campaign will effectively help make human trafficking top-of-mind and remind students of their value and where to go for help.

Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) is the 11th largest school district in the United States, where the posters are now being distributed to over 100 schools, reaching nearly 200,000 students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole County.

Last week, Crimeline displayed the posters at a joint forum at Valencia College Criminal Justice Institute.

20151118_092925

While Lake and Brevard County schools were expressing interest in displaying the posters, news of our project reached the Governor’s office in Tallahassee, where the Florida Department of Education has asked to initiate an extension of our campaign: organizing distribution of the posters to all public schools statewide – reaching more than 2 million students in over 4,200 schools.

JDSA was honored to have worked alongside the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, their School Awareness Committee and Appleton Creative; an award-winning, full-service advertising agency with long-term ties to supporting community giving and bringing awareness to local causes. Throughout the years, Appleton has worked with many nonprofits such as Kids Beating Cancer, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, shining light on their issues through public service campaigns and advertising.

In a similar fashion, Appleton works closely with the Zebra Coalition, a network of organizations that provides services to LGBT+ ages 13 – 24, creating an annual anti-bullying poster series that gets placed in over 100 Orange County public schools. Appleton is also responsible for Zebra’s branding, website, advertising and video work.

 

11 Year Old Runaway Bride

To witness courage is to look into the big brown eyes of Nada Al-Ahdal, the 11 year old Yemeni girl whose recorded flight to freedom has become a viral sensation.

Nada’s will, to not only survive, but to live a life worth living is one everyone can identify with. I’m fortunate to have been born in a place where obstacles placed in the path of my pursuit of happiness were considerably smaller than Nada’s.

Being born isn’t a choice we make. But how we live is. It’s one thing to be dependent on the will of our parents as we develop through infancy. It’s another thing, entirely, to be subject to them until we die. We’re not an extension of our parents will…we are our own individual beings.

Nada refused to submit to an archaic cultural paradigm. She recognized it for what it was; a devaluation of her humanity. Regardless of religion, faith, or culture, a practice which impedes a person from their freedom to choose their own destiny is an unjust practice.

In many parts of the world child weddings are illegal, yet it continues. The cycle of poverty and ignorance is self-perpetuating in these practices. And they’re continually excused because of cultural and religious reasons. The real reasons, however, are painfully obvious. Money and power.

These weddings take place to secure financial agreements between families led by men who see women as commodities. Using religion and antiquated culture to deny these children, from what would seem to be reasonable, allows men to rationalize the concept of child brides…making other alternatives seem absurd.

Nada has demonstrated that her will has not been broken. I don’t know the statistics, but I think it safe to assume, most young girls (despite the acceptance of their culture) do not wish to be wed before they reach puberty. Unfortunately, as Nada said in her video, she’s seen – in her own family – the consequences of these forced/arranged marriages. Abuse followed by horrific suicides. She believed a better life existed for her…and she dreamed of achieving it. Despite attempts to strip away the innocence of her youth, Nada struggled for the ability to make her own choices. And that has made her dream become a reality. It’s helped me realize that I can do something, as well. And so can you…

Talk about this. Write about it. Pass this video along. But don’t stop there. Help make her plight known by calling or emailing your elected officials. Make noise. Add political pressure to a conversation that deserves more attention. Exchange information and engage in dialog! Just do something…anything! Doing so will lead to a world where the sanctioned brokering of human lives will finally come to an end.

Related articles

Nada Al-Ahdal: don’t kill the dreams of children (theglobaloyster.wordpress.com)
‘Go ahead and marry me off I’ll kill myself’ Escaped child bride, 11, explains why she fled (aworldchaos.wordpress.com)
Girl’s online plea highlights plight of Yemen’s child brides (bbc.co.uk)

Norwegian Woman: I was raped in Dubai, now I face prison sentence

Image

On the surface Dubai seems to encourage westerners.  The UAE is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East.  Especially when you consider its neighbor, Saudi Arabia. For those outside the Arab world the UAE appears western friendly.  In so far as you can consume alcohol at a local bar, public displays of affection are tolerated (more or less), and rules for women’s attire is far less restrictive than other Arab countries.  

But scratch that surface and you quickly discover a culture clash that is both confusing and combustible.

By Nicola Goulding and Phil O’Sullivan, CNN

Dubai — Norwegian interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv has spoken out after being handed a 16-month prison sentence in Dubai — after she went to police to report she had been raped by a colleague.

The 24-year-old was convicted and sentenced on charges of having unlawful sex, making a false statement and illegal consumption of alcohol.

Her story is dominating the headlines in Norway, and has raised serious questions over the way women who allege sexual assault are treated in the United Arab Emirates.

Dalelv, who had been working at an interior design firm in Qatar since September 2011, told CNN on Saturday how a work trip to Dubai in March with three colleagues turned into a nightmare.

This family handout photo taken in Abu Dhabi in May 2013 shows Norwegian businesswoman Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24.
This family handout photo taken in Abu Dhabi in May 2013 shows Norwegian businesswoman Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24.

She said she had been out at a bar with her colleagues and friends, and asked a male colleague to walk her to her room when they returned at 3 a.m. to the hotel. She’d asked him to escort her because the hotel was large and confusing, and she didn’t want to be wandering on her own, knowing she’d been drinking, she said.

When they reached a room, she realized it wasn’t hers — but the man then pulled her inside despite her vocal objections, according to Dalelv.

“He dragged me by my purse in, so I thought, ‘OK, I just need to calm the situation down. I will finish my bottle of water, I will sit here and then I will excuse myself and say I feel fine,'” she said.

That was pretty much the last thing she said she remembers before the alleged sexual assault. “I woke up with my clothes off, sleeping on my belly, and he was raping me. I tried to get off, I tried to get him off, but he pushed me back down.”

After someone knocked — the hotel wake-up call — she managed to get dressed and make it downstairs to the hotel reception, Dalelv said. “I called the police. That is what you do. We are trained on that from when we are very young,” she said.

Some 10 or 12 male police officers arrived, but no female police officers were present, she said. Statements were taken from both Dalelv and the alleged rapist.

She was then taken to Bur Dubai police station, she said.

After again giving her version of events to officers, Dalelv said, “They asked me, ‘Are you sure you called the police because you just didn’t like it?’ I said, ‘Well of course I didn’t like it.’ That is when I knew, I don’t think they are going to believe me at all.”

Dalelv says she was taken for an intimate medical exam and tested for alcohol consumption. Her belongings were taken and she was kept in jail for four days, she said, with no explanation as to why.

Dubai police and UAE government officials have not responded to repeated CNN requests for comment.

Dalelv said she managed to call her parents on the third day to tell them she had been raped and ask them to contact the Norwegian Embassy. A day later, a representative from the Norwegian consulate came to the police station and she was released — but her passport was not returned.

A piece of paper with Arabic text was handed to her, she said. An Arabic speaker told her it listed two charges against her: one for sex outside of marriage and the other for public consumption of alcohol. Both are violations of the law in the United Arab Emirates.

It was the first time she was made aware that she faced charges, Dalelv said.

She was allowed out on bail and has been staying since at the Norwegian Seaman’s Center in Dubai.

Subsequently, she said her manager advised her to tell the police it was voluntary sexual intercourse and likely the whole issue would just go away. She followed the advice and in one of the many hearings at the public prosecutor’s office, she made a statement saying it was voluntary.

Dalelv was then charged with making a false statement.

“That was my biggest regret because it wasn’t voluntary. I just thought it would all go away,” she told CNN.

But a representative of Al Mana Interiors, who Dalelv worked for, told CNN that she was not advised by her manager to say the sex was consensual but rather by a police officer, who told her that in Arabic and it was translated into English by her manager.

Dalelv said a month after the rape, while forced to stay in Dubai as the case wound through the legal system, she was fired.

The representative, who declined to be publicly identified, said Dalelv and the Sudanese man she accused — who is married with three children — have both been terminated by Al Mana Interiors for “drinking alcohol at a staff conference that resulted in trouble with the police.”

A statement released late Saturday by Al Mana Interiors spokesman Hani El Korek said the company was sympathetic to Dalelv “during this very difficult situation.” It also said that company representatives were by her side through the initial investigation, spending “days at both the police station and the prosecutor’s office to help win her release.”

“Only when Ms. Dalelv declined to have positive and constructive discussions about her employment status, and ceased communication with her employer, was the company forced to end our relationship with her,” the statement said.

“The decision had nothing to do with the rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms. Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to contact the company to discuss her employment status.”

The company is owned by Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana, who made headlines earlier this year after it was revealed that he has secretly married singer Janet Jackson in 2012.

Dalelv was convicted Tuesday on all three charges and was sentenced to one year in jail for having unlawful sex, three months in jail for making a false statement and one month for illegal consumption of alcohol.

CNN could not immediately confirm what happened to the alleged perpetrator, who was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.

Dalelv is scheduled to appear at the court on September 5 to begin the appeal proceedings. Dalelv, who is not allowed to leave the UAE pending the appeal, said her lawyers have instructed her to be prepared to go back into jail while they submit a request for bail while the appeal is ongoing.

As a rule, CNN does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Dalelv went public with her story.

Facebook page has been set up calling for Dalelv’s release, as well as a petition urging the Norwegian government to take actionon her behalf.

Her conviction may risk wider diplomatic repercussions.

Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide called his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, on Friday night to protest Dalelv’s sentencing, a statement from the Norwegian ministry said.

“I emphasized that we believe that the conviction is contrary to fundamental human rights, including conventions that the UAE have officially ratified,” Eide is quoted as saying.

“Norway will continue to do what we can to support her in what is a very difficult situation. Our cooperation with the UAE is strong and good, but I conveyed to my colleague that we are worried that this difficult case may disturb our good relations if we do not reach a good solution in the near future.”

Dalelv told CNN she received a call from Eide on Friday reiterating Norway’s support.

While Dubai has a reputation as a cosmopolitan city that boasts Western influences, where visitors can drink at bars and restaurants and unmarried couples can share hotel rooms, the country adheres to Islamic laws and traditions.

The United Arab Emirates has been heavily criticized by rights groups, which say it condones sexual violence against women. Human Rights Watch has called its record “shameful,” saying it must change the way it handles such cases.

In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai. She was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.

In January 2010, a British woman told authorities she was raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.

An Australian woman reported in 2008 that she was drugged and gang-raped. She was convicted of having sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

Gay Athlete in the NBA? Yea…It’s a BIG Deal!

Image

I’m not really into sports. By birth I’m a Cardinal’s fan. St. Louis bequeaths that to anyone born within a twenty-mile radius of Busch Stadium. Growing up, I played soccer and tennis, and was a better-than-average baseball player. So much so, I tried out for the Cardinals when I was 17. I’m a writer today, so that tells you just how well that whole “baseball thing” turned out for me.

The fact I don’t play fantasy sports, or lose my mind when my team doesn’t win, doesn’t mean I’m bitter about not having played in the major leagues. I’m more than alright with having never stared down a 90 mph fastball. Life moves fast enough for me these days. I do find occasional enjoyment in sports. Mostly, it’s by reading about the abysmal performances of over-paid athletes. Athletes, who promise a salivating fan-base their intentions are always driven by “love of the game” as opposed to monetary gain. Tiger falling apart on the back-nine will keep me glued to an otherwise stodgy game of golf. And I always feel a bit of satisfaction when I see how poorly Albert Pujols is performing in an Angel’s uniform. I’ve never met Mr. Pujols. I hear he’s a nice guy. But since he left St. Louis for the west coast, as a Cardinal’s fan, I think I’m supposed to dislike him. Maybe just a little bit.

Even with my lack of athletic knowledge, I recognize when a sports figure lands on the front page of the news cycle something important just happened. More often than not, the player in question just died in a tragic accident, or signed another contract that would double the GDP of most countries. But a few weeks ago a sports figure caused some “breaking news” and it had nothing to do with money or police involvement. The story was about a basketball player who decided to come out as a gay man.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” writes Jason Collins in an article for Sports Illustrated. And with those words, Collins shook up the world of sports and popular culture. That admission makes him the first male athlete in the history of American sports to come out while still being an active player. And while many wondered why this was even news…I wondered why it took so long. 

I think the answer can be found in some of the backlash Collins has received.

Chris Broussard, an ESPN analyst from Outside the Lines was outside the lines of sanity after telling an interviewer Collins can’t be a “real Christian” because of his sexual orientation. To Broussard’s credit, he recently wrote that the NBA is “ready” for the first out player. But in that same essay, he said he’d be, “a little uncomfortable” to shower with a gay teammate.

A guy from Nebraska, on an NPR call-in show, brought up the issue of gay athletes in the shower, too. Claiming he, “wouldn’t feel comfortable showering next to a gay man, either.”

Why is it when a straight person talks about a gay athlete the conversation always comes back to the shower? And why is it they always assume that person would look at them? A little optimistic, I’d say. Couldn’t they just be looking for the shampoo?

Leroy Butler, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, tweeted four little words, “Congrats to Jason Collins.” And that Tweet cost him an $8,500 speaking engagement at a Wisconsin church. The church, telling him he was in violation of the “moral clause” in their contract.

While some may vilify Jason Collins for his coming out. I welcome it. And as a straight man, I have no problem welcoming it with open arms. Minnesota Vikings punter, Chris Kluwe did. He’s been an outspoken proponent of gay rights for sometime now. Kobe Bryant supported Jason Collins. So did Bill Clinton and President Obama.

But cyberspace and the locker room are two very different places. Jason Collins knows this. He also knows that silence is a holdout against progress. Minorities have always had to fight for equality. Women’s suffrage and Civil Rights. But we have a black president now. And women can not only vote, they continue to shatter glass ceilings while stomping on the shards. And we are all better off because of it.

Don’t like any of this? That’s ok. There’s a bubble you can escape to to shield yourself from the uncomfortable prejudice that justifies your existence. It’s called your home. But I have to warn you, gay people are everywhere. It’s not just fashion designers and Hollywood actors.  It’s everyday people in every sector of our population.  Maybe…just maybe…there might be one living next door to you.  But don’t worry.  They have their own showers.  

I read…it MUST have been in a GOP publication of some kind…that homosexuals not only have suggestive mind control over heterosexuals in warm shower water, they also produce a highly sophisticated telekinetic hypnotic power that changes ones musical tastes. That’s how they get you, you know. They start with Cher – harmless and innocent. Then it’s on to the Village People and Barry Manilow. Once you’ve memorized the moves to YMCA and the lyrics to Oh, Mandy, there’s no turning back. You may as well just get that mani-pedi, curl up in a papasan with a good book, and learn to knit.

So was it justifiable for the media to have lavished such attention on Jason Collins for merely being gay? Yes. Absolutely. Why? Because this story goes beyond the basketball court. Being the first male athlete to come out as a gay man isn’t something that should be relegated to a Trivial Pursuit question. It’s a big, damn deal. Because somewhere, in some town, there’s some kid who’s not only gay, but has more athletic talent than I ever had. And he’s watching what’s happening with all of this. Wondering if the proponents are right…that is does, really get better. I may not know much about sports. But I do know Jason Collins is saying to that kid – and others like him – that it does. And that just saved some lives.

%d bloggers like this: