Rediscovering the Love of Reading (Youth Speak Out Series)

This Quarantine has been an unprecedented and unforgiving time for many of us. Most people are feeling at least a little isolated; anxiety and depression are on the rise. Everyone needs a way to deal with the feelings that this period in time has brought. Teens and young adults, like me, are presented with a unique challenge, as they deal with the already jarring transition from childhood to adulthood. Towards the beginning of the quarantine, I was feeling alone and overwhelmed by all sorts of negative emotions that I did not know what to do with. Now having to adapt to adulthood, along with the changes our world is facing, it is understandable that many of us are feeling increasingly stressed out.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels

While we cannot do much about the hand the world has dealt us, we are responsible for how we react. All of our negative emotions are augmented by the loneliness and stress that have been stacked on top of us. Many are unfortunately turning to unhealthy outlets to rid themselves of those pent up emotions. However, some of us are using this time to grow. People are overcoming their negative feelings in a myriad of ways: they are learning new languages, picking up new skills, devoting themselves to a project etc. There are no limits as to what you can do to help you manage the negative emotions that have accompanied this quarantine, different strategies work for different people. For me, the way to weather the storm of negative emotions that I faced was by rekindling my love of reading.

I was an avid reader growing up, and I always especially enjoyed stories set in fantasy worlds. I believe that reading so much as a young child helped me become a more curious and thoughtful person. However, as I got older, I began to be obligated to read things, especially at school. While I understood that it was necessary, this change in mindset completely derailed my enjoyment and turned me off to reading. Recently, looking for a way to pass the time, I started reading a couple of web novels. Almost immediately, I fell back in love with reading. As I swiped through page after page, reading about fantasy worlds filled with magic and splendor, I was provided with what so many of us need right now: an escape. Reading does not stop us from feeling, as many try to accomplish to get through these difficult times. Instead, books introduce us to, and let us feel a whole new slew of positive emotions. Good books allow us to live vicariously through their characters, they allow us to feel happy when they succeed and make us root for them when they struggle; they give us hope. 

Fantasy Book Recommendations for Teens:

  • Frith Chronicles: Written By Russian author, Shami Stovall, Frith Chronicles is a coming of age tale that is relatable to many teens. It is set in a world where Arcanists can gain powers by bonding with magical creatures. I would recommend it to fans of other series, like Harry Potter, that feature a magic school and many adventures .
  • Reborn: Apocalypse: Written by LM Kerr, Reborn Apocalypse takes place in an alternate dimension where humanity has been placed in order to compete to survive against other races. Eventually, humanity loses but the main character is able to return back in time back to when he was first pulled into the apocalyptic game with all of his knowledge about how to do better. I would recommend this book to people who might not even like to read because the game-like system which governs the alternate world makes  it very easy to get into and makes the reader feel like they are in a video game.
  • Cradle: The Cradle series, by Will Wight, has gained a very dedicated following online, and for good reason. It is a Western take on Eastern martial arts cultivation novels, in which strength dictates authority. It is incredibly well-written with great world building and compelling characters. It starts out a little bit slower than other fantasy books, but it picks up with each chapter you read. I would recommend it to those who have a little bit more time on their hands because the series is long and definitely gets you invested.

Jaydon is a senior in high school who lives in Pacifica with his family and his dog.

Five Traits That Interfere with Social Awareness

As voters get ready to approach the booths this November, concerns ranging from healthcare to education to government fiscal responsibility will be on voters’ minds. With a historic election on the horizon, it is critical to remain level-headed as everyone casts their ballot. Still, there are five traits that could potentially hold citizens back from getting a wonderful government and the most out of their relationships with others.

Moderation 

This is a strategy that some individuals use to “moderate” or control social interaction. It includes censorship, defining others’ experiences for them without their permission or not accepting their narratives, and telling those you interact with that they are not allowed to choose the method and the regularity with which they communicate their concerns. Moderation is great when deployed during a roundtable discussion or some other formal circumstance to which all parties agree, but can tread dangerous territory when it harms instead of help.

Solipsism 

Solipsism is defined is Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as:

a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.

The problem with solipsism is that it rarely, if ever, leaves room for new ideas and other perspectives. If one thinks their experience is the only one to be had, then it is hard to respond to social issues in a responsible manner. One of the most common results of solipsism is an inability to reach an agreement with others, resulting in a tug-of-war.

Definition

In this case, definition is the act of defining others’ identities, rights, concerns, needs, wants, and narratives on their behalf, particularly when they have not asked for assistance. It is important to hold authentic space for every voice — by due process and due diligence.

Fear

Most, if not all of these habits come from fear. Fear can manifest as the inability to introspect and see how alienating certain behaviors can be, making choices from an impoverished mindset, and questioning rights granted to deserving, otherwise unprotected groups. Fear foments hate organizations, dismantles critical thinking, and drives a wedge between factions that would otherwise interface with each other.

Intellectual laziness

In the 1970s, 60% of 12th graders read a book or a magazine every day — in 2016, the statistic was only 2%. Asking questions, reading, listening — these are all tools in your arsenal against being fearful and dogmatic. Even if you do not agree with the subject discussed, learning about other opinions and facts can help you refine your stance on certain topics. Examine your cognitive biases and steer clear of logical fallacies when listening to or making your arguments. 

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault

You’re on the other side, now what? Methods of healing sexual trauma can include art, music, spoken word, or any other creative outlet. You may already have creative training — but if you do not, don’t fret. Some resources may be free or low cost to get started.

Create your own space

If you can not find a venue that allows you to share your creative gifts in the world, you can create your own website or start a YouTube channel for free. Creating your own website gives you the freedom to speak frankly about the issues important to you without being censored by a third party, a la Facebook.

Talk therapy

If you can afford talk therapy and would like to try it, give it a go! Psychotherapy can be highly transformative when approached thoughtfully and consistently. One thing to keep in mind when searching for a therapist is seeking someone who is familiar with or empathetic to your unique story while challenging your thought patterns with compassion. 

Some questions to think about are:

  • Does this therapist have extensive experience with sexual assault survivors?
  • How spiritually inclined is this therapist? What are some ideological deal breakers for me?
  • Does he or she start appointments on time and engage, or are they simply “phoning it in?”
  • How comfortable am I with taking psychotropic medication, if recommended?
  • Do I feel centered and connected to the work, or do I feel misunderstood?

Books as refuge

Perhaps you are gifted with words or like to doodle. A composition book or a Moleskine may be the tool you need to unlock your deeply hidden emotions. Some creatives report that the movement in their wrists helps them not focus on the pain. 

Readers have plenty of books to choose from as they sort their feelings out. Here is a small list of books to get you started.

Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Survivors Speak Out, edited by Erin Moulton

The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole by Dr. Arielle Schwartz

How to be Safe in An Unsafe World by Dr. Harold Bloomfield and Dr. Robert Cooper

The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk

A great podcast to listen to while you clean or drive:

The Left Ear, with Dakota Johnson

This Happened, by a survivor

Honor yourself at all times

Go to therapy at whatever price point you can afford. Get your pain out. You deserve to heal from your sexual assault.

It’s On Us… (A BLM Essay)

There is so much to be said and there is so much being said. Lack of efforts are not a good enough excuse ignorance and silence. Black people deserve to live full lives. They deserve to have joy, love, shelter, food, and opportunities… and if you (a non black person) continues to believe that they have the same opportunities as the rest of us, you’re still not listening. You’re still asleep. Policies need to change! We need to ensure protection for black humans.

🙏🏽 Join your city council meetings if you haven’t already done so. 🙏🏽
Policies need to change. We need to protect black people. We need to protect black trans people. We need to protect black women. We need to protect black children.

This painting has gone to a beautiful interracial family who just announced the birth of their first baby. I hope the future is a safe space for her. It is our job to ensure the future of all black children, children of color and queer children. The painting represents the strength, resilience, innocence, and beauty of black girls and women in all kinds of relationships–be it siblings, parents, and friendships. It represents the bonds and communities they create and all the curious and magical ways they continue to uplift themselves.

We don’t deserve them, but they continue to forgive and love us.

Untitled by Christina Xu for Living Artist Project

Christina Xu, is an artist and muralist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been a Living Artist Project Contributing Artist since 2014. Find her work at www.christinaxu.art or follow her on IG @ChristinaXu_.

Sexual Predation in the Workplace

Recently, we have been talking about surviving sexual predation. Because prevention is quite crucial, it is critical for not only the target but the would-be assailant to monitor their behaviors.

In the post #MeToo era, reports show that more men have become afraid of working women, especially alone or in close quarters. However, certain men can take this opportunity to get creative with their ways of relating to women, instead of feeling indicted for being a man.

Creativity is how you combat rape culture.

What is rape culture?

Rape culture is “an environment where sexual assault is normalized and excused in media and popular culture.”  An example of this could be one individual telling another person that they wouldn’t engage with or do a favor for a person unless there was sex involved. Another is pressuring partygoers to drink to release inhibitions, or only promoting employees that you deem sexually attractive while demeaning everyone else. 

One of the more tragic aspects of rape culture is the silence and shaming that both men and women perpetrate against victims who dare to speak up. You may hear things like, “What took her so long?” or “She’s just trying to ruin his life,” or “He just couldn’t handle her, that’s all.” 

Mothers may look away from the children who are being assaulted by a family member. This behavior is a bid to save herself. Employees are often forced to quit because of a hostile environment. This lack of support increases the likelihood of revictimization of the target later on. 

So how do we get creative in our interactions with others? Women often find that there is a premium placed on their level of attractiveness, as perceived by hiring managers, friends, potential suitors, and even the guy who can help her in aisle 5. Her beauty or lack thereof can be a boon or a bane, and it seems there is nothing she can do about it.

Some tips for a healthy workplace

  • If you are a hiring manager, be sure to look at all candidates’ qualifications. 
  • Understand that no one is “asking for it.
  • Look them in the eye. 
  • Ask what their hobbies are and listen actively. 
  • When your new hire begins, do not request that he or she change their style of dress just because you are not attracted to or “agree” with it. If the new hire is doing their job and conforming to the dress code, there is no need for further discussion.
  • Do not make comments about sexual trysts, preferences, or expectations.
  • Honor others’ personal space — this includes personal effects and time spent at the office.
  • Promotions should be meritorious and can triangulate employees when sex is involved.

I’ve Lost the Plot (On the Challenges of Hearing)

I’ve lost the plot, five months into the pandemic. I’m hard of hearing and rely heavily on lip-reading to understand conversations. I’m tired of people telling me that they can’t or won’t accommodate my hearing loss. In this time of social-distancing and mask-wearing it is even more devastating when I cannot lip-read, which accounts for 70-90% of how I’m able to understand anyone speaking to me. 

The casual (+/-callous) dismissal of my inability to access content or communication is painful. The inconvenience of providing captioning in a live video meeting has spotlighted the carelessness of those who can’t be bothered. These people cannot understand the impact on my inability to participate. I’ve been resigned to this for most of my life, but lately, an accumulation of incidents have taken on the tenor of stinging, hornet-like microaggressions. It feels personal in a way that I always ignored or excused before; perhaps in reaction to the ratcheted stress of this mishandled pandemic and the layers of imposed limitations and stressors, singular hornet stings have suddenly coalesced into a swarming nest.

A couple of years ago, I saw the Guggenheim biennial, and the standout work of one artist, Christine Sun Kim, made an immediate, visceral impact. Kim displayed a series of stark, smudged charcoal drawings of acute, obtuse, and right angles titled, Degrees of My Deaf Rage… . The drawings are captioned with the aspects of rage encountered while Deaf. The Obtuse Rage of a video with no closed captions. The Right Rage encountered while working for a graduate degree. The Acute Rage when someone calls instead of texting or emailing. The Cute Rage of accessibility options that don’t coincide with your actual disability.

Le corps humain, structure et fonctions
Edition : Paris : J.-B. Baililère, 1879

It immediately clicked with me. Had I not requested that an agent respond to my email in writing? Was she deficient in reading comprehension? It must be, because she ignored my request, and repeatedly asked me to call her, ignoring my attempts to communicate by email. I was forced to go to LinkedIn and ask the CEO why his representative was unable to accommodate my need to complete a transaction through email instead of a phone call. He conveniently blamed it on the pandemic. Christine Sun Kim did her graduate work at Bard, where I had graduated decades earlier as an undergrad; this tenuous connection served to multiply my appreciation for her work, which precisely pinpointed the welter of emotions seething beneath every. Irritating. Transaction.

But it would be remiss not to discuss the kindnesses I have encountered. When asking for accommodation, I sometimes received it, without further ado, even when it created an extraordinary amount of work and effort, like the podcaster Laura Joyce Davis of Shelter in Place who transcribed hours of interviews she made with writers of a book that I edited. She was willing to help create a connection with unerring grace; she lived up to her commitment to communicate with others. 

A post office clerk was compassionate and kind to me when I told him I was hard of hearing and could not hear him through his mask. He waved a friendly greeting; he wrote me a note to convey information. It was the tiniest of gestures, but it made me feel understood in a way that I haven’t felt understood for a long time. It was the opposite of microaggression. It was microkindness, or microcompassion–the impact of which is not to be dismissed for its apparent smallness.

In many situations, it is not an intentional slight when someone can’t or won’t accommodate my request, and I try to extend the benefit of the doubt when appropriate. I have many privileges in my life: I’m white, educated, and economically stable; these privileges have caused me to reflect on whether I must call out situations related to my partial deafness. And I think I must, to make people aware, so they can extend kindness rather than disregard to those whom they consider other—whatever the situation may be that would require understanding and awareness—whether it is systemic racism and sexism, gender identity awareness, ableism, ageism … the Karmic Compass turns like the wheel of fate; although it may seem self-serving, awareness of others may help shift the balance in your favor. As you put kindness into the world, goodly intent both uplifts others and reflects back upon you.

~Karyn Kloumann, Founder of Nauset Press

Detail “Still Life with Bevier Pots” by Adrienne Cacitti for Living Artist Project

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 6: Homeschool Education

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbpreston

As we near what would be the start of the school year in the new reality of coronavirus and the possibility in some states of another quarantine, more and more school districts will be opting for a distance learning education model for the first few months at least. Though difficult, students older than 8 who have access to the technology, will encounter similar curriculum and assignments that they would have had in a in class setting. But what about students in early childhood education age groups? How can distance learning be effective for preschool or daycare aged students? What can parents do to ensure that their younger students still have the most effective learning environment possible in this unique situation?

The first thing to know is that children under 6 learn best through play. This is the natural way that all children learn. Through exploration of their environment and hands on experience, children in this age group are introduced to the fundamentals of the world around them. Crucial to the development at this stage in the child’s education is the opportunity to learn from play. 

This can be made more complicated than it need be, but really everything a child does during their day is an opportunity to learn from their experiences. Playing with toys like blocks in the form of shapes teaches young students the differences between the shapes, and what shapes can be stacked and which shapes do not fit together. They learn about momentum and instability when stacking blocks too high. On the playground they learn that climbing to the top of the jungle gym is easier using the steps rather than the slide. Interacting with other children teaches them how to take turns and share and to communicate. The magnetic alphabet teaches students to differentiate between upper and lowercase and to recognize letters.

As a parent, providing the tools for your child to learn during this time does not have to be expensive or complicated. Pebbles, sticks, leaves, books, toys, water, can all become valuable tools in the early education of a child. One example is to write a number on a piece of paper and have the child hold up the amount of objects that match the number. The most important thing is that the activity be fun, because the students will learn something that you intend them to learn, and something that you were not expecting them to learn. Kids have shown higher abilities to retain information when the learning is centered around a fun activity.

It is also important to have some easy to use workbooks for math and writing, but it should not be the basis for their learning, because they are so young it is important that they associate learning with fun or interesting rather than boredom or force. The workbooks should be utilized in association with play. Let them decide how they work in it, where they want to start in the book, and how they want to interact with it. 

Finally, it is suggested that students get outdoors as much as possible, and the distance learning scenario allows for more exploration than ever before. Take students to libraries, go to parks and playgrounds, if there is nature somewhere in walking distance allow students to explore it as often as possible. Everything that the young student experiences during this time in their life is a learning opportunity and easily enriched through play and exploration of new environments. 

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 5: Naming Emotions

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbprest0n

How can parents help their child understand and express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways? First by assigning a name to the emotion the child is feeling, and encouraging conversation about what they are feeling. With a vocabulary for emotions the child now has a tool for exploring and understanding their feelings. Second by giving children the chance to determine what they are feeling and what someone else may be feeling. Third by pointing out the variety of reactions to their feelings available to them, and this can be reinforced by the parent with their own experiences in dealing with their emotions in the form of stories that serve as examples for how to react to emotions and feelings. Fourth by utilizing friends and family as examples for the child to see different ways to react to emotions.

When naming emotions it is important to use a name that is easily understandable for the child. This can be done while watching kids television shows or movies, or reading children books. The child can point out what emotion the character is feeling and how they reacted to it. Also utilizing the actual events that are taking place in their lives as examples and teaching moments for the child to identify their own emotion. If they felt sad yesterday due to some event, talk to them about what they felt and why, and have them assign a name to it. These are the beginning steps of building their vocabulary around their feelings and connecting them to their experiences. 

Communicating with the child on the possible responses available to them when experiencing emotions is vital to developing their understanding and their relationship to their feelings. The more that the child can be responsible for their own strategies for dealing with emotions the better. They should come up with how they will handle their feelings. Then parents should discuss with the child the positive and negative responses to emotions. When the child uses inappropriate expression when dealing with an emotion the parent should present healthy alternative strategies to the child that can help them with future similar situations. It is important that the child experience the negative response as a way of emphasizing why the positive response is preferred.

When children choose to talk about their feelings it is important that they be met with positivity and encouragement. Clear instruction as to what the child did right and what the child did wrong will encourage them to communicate about their feelings and feel comfortable coming to the parent for future discussions and development of their understanding. It is important that the time and space for these conversations be daily and predictable. During dinner, or game time, when the child is open to engagement on these types of topics. Throughout the day things will happen that provide topics for conversations surrounding emotions and feelings and every opportunity should be utilized to practice discussing how they felt about their day and how they should respond.

It is important that when the child is emotionally charged, that these conversations do not take place. The child should be calm and at ease when discussing their feelings and strategies for dealing with and responding to their emotions. They should associate these communications with parents as positive experiences, rather than as negative experiences attached to discipline for misbehaving. After the tantrum or emotionally charged situation, and the child is calm and ready to receive information in a positive form, the strategies above can be utilized to help the child analyze the situation, their emotions around it, and how they responded. Part 6 next week will center around emotional governance.

Barriers to Black Voter Turnout in 2020

While discussion continues about law enforcement and its practices, other factors make this year a very critical one for Black voters. Here are some things to consider on the way to the polls come November:

Proper Allocation of Resources

Redlining, a term popularized in the 1960s by American sociologist John McKnight, has been long practiced in the United States. It has kept Black people away from the voter ballot and has dismissed their concerns. What makes redlining particularly painful to voters is the fact that it perpetuates generational wealth, medical, and food disparities, and those areas deemed “unsafe” 80 years ago are still low to middle-income today

Less money means more voter suppression and less political reach through lobbying and other means. While there are some well-heeled Black people in the United States, Black people as a class do not have wealth that is on par with other groups.

Imbalanced Use of the Census

Another example of this institutionalized segregation — illustrated in Christian Farias’ 2019 article Is There Racist Intent Behind The Census Citizenship Question? — wherein Farias explores how the ethnicity and citizenship information is gathered by the Census and used. 

Everyone is supposed to count, but that hasn’t always proved to be a positive experience. Because of this and other factors, there is public distrust of the Census Bureau, as the Census has been historically used to funnel resources away from areas that happened to have high populations of Black people. 

Health Concerns

Media discourse around COVID-19 threatens to discourage the use of voter participation as a way of biological redlining. With COVID disproportionally affecting Black people, voters have to remain engaged in political conversation, distancing or not. The rub here is that many constituents expect this to happen but will not respond accordingly. 

So what can we do to be prepared for months coming ahead? Some simple steps are:

  • Start or join a healthcare sharing group.
  • Find out more about the Census.
  • Research ways to become financially literate, or if you already are, share that knowledge with those in your community.

Why I Support Black Lives Matter (Youth Speak Out Series)

2020 has been a rough year for everyone, but change is happening. The passing of George Floyd, a black man brutally murdered by a police officer by the name of Derek Chauvin. This sparked the outburst for the protests of Black Lives Matter (BLM) with sayings of “Defund the Police” or “I can’t breathe.” Police brutality has been going on for years and has unfortunately been targeted toward the black community.  

Innocent black citizens across the world have been murdered by the people who are sworn to “protect and serve” their country. Protests have hit the streets, as of now, all 50 states have protested Black Lives Matter, and it is still happening today. For people saying “If someone breaks into your house, who are you going to call if you defund or abolish the police?” We aren’t saying defund or abolish the police to get rid of police as a whole, but to change the cement and the base of what the police force is built on. Back in the Civil War, the police force was a “slave patrol” and had every intention to find, capture, and return escaped slaves to their masters. Sometimes it went as far as killing slaves. Yes, we may call 911 for a missing person, domestic violence, etc., but we expect someone that only needs six months of training, a high school diploma and has a lethal weapon with NO de-escalation training to help us? There’s bound to be some sort of problem.  

There is also a saying, for the other side that Blue Lives Matter, but I, personally do not believe that saying. In Black Lives Matter, the black community is born with their skin color, and could/is afraid of them getting killed because of the color of their skin, instead with Blue Lives Matter, cops aren’t born with anything that could make them be afraid of anything. They are given a blue uniform, putting them in Blue Lives Matter. It’s unfair for people to turn around and say Blue Lives Matter if police can’t get killed due to the color of their skin. Yes, police could be afraid of their daily job, putting their lives in danger, but they signed up for it. They knew what they were going into. If you look down on the other races, why abuse your power and go out of your way to kill an innocent person due to the color of their skin? 

 A person I am about to talk about was killed by the color of his skin. Elijah Mcclain, say his name. Elijah was killed in August of last year but his case is just now opening back up. Elijah was 24 when he was killed by police. Elijah would stop by his local pet adoption center and would play the violin for the cats so they could fall asleep. One night, he was walking home. He was wearing a ski mask, and dancing/listening to music. A neighbor called the police, and had said they didn’t think that Elijah was doing anything suspicious, but to just check up on him. That didn’t end well, as Elijah was held down as paramedics injected an overdose of ketamine, a medication used to sedate someone. Elijah is one of the hundreds, of thousands, of black people killed by police. I feel horrible for Elijah and his family, Elijah probably had a better heart than me but was killed for the color of his skin.

So, in light of recent events, I hold my fist up high and will scream Black Lives Matter as loud as I can, so police brutality, and racism as a whole can end. There are plenty ways you can help support the movement. You can protest, sign petitions, and donate to cooperation’s that will help with the movement, and discuss the movement with friends and family. 2020 is a tough time, but we will get through this united.  

Black Lives Matter. 

About Rachel O.

Hello! I am Rachel. I am a young person who seeks to see change in the world through my writing. Although I aspire to be an actress on Broadway, I still love to write and love to inspire and create worlds of my imagination through my writing. I am very excited about this, as it is all very new and exciting for me, as it can help me grow and form into a strong independent person in the future.
Image from Taylor Madu