Sunday, August 21, 2016

Things That Made 2016 a Life-Changing Summer, Part One

Things That Made 2016 a Life-Changing Summer, Part One

In some ways, I’m just beginning to process the fact that my summer began an intricate fracture and a harrowing surgery that coincided with forty-nine of my people being brutally murdered in a nightclub. But somehow, the magic of staying engaged and working for change kept me from seeing the world as a pile of bloody bones. It was a miracle summer that changed me in so many large and small ways. Hoping to honor the profound and ridiculous experiences that I’ve been blessed with, in no particular order.

1.      The way the world looked out for me when I was hurt. From the moment that I was hurt, passersby gathered to help. A pair of strangers called 911 and stayed with me. A passing friend-of-a-friend brought me ice and stayed to comfort me. My library friends came out and helped me to keep from passing out, helped me to get the driver’s information. The driver waited with me too. The EMTs and policemen were kind and helpful, keeping me calm in such a scary moment. Nearly every healthcare professional I encountered has been expert, thorough, and kind. 
      Most important, though, has been Amy. She has sacrificed so much time to help me get through recovery and to this place of near-health. Our original plan for the summer had been for me to cover the store as much as possible so that she could take a vacation and get some of her own medical stuff done, and I feel TERRIBLE that that didn’t happen—I hope that I get to make it up to her somehow, thought she certainly doesn’t expect me to. Every day I’m amazed that I pulled off the magic trick of being best friends with my ex-wife, and I’m so, so lucky.

2.      The Philly for Pulse Vigil. I’ve already written about it here, but that evening stayed with me. It made me so proud and grateful to be part of such a diverse and activist city, to keep that closeness with my fellow humans as we marched through the street and tried to remember the words to “Born This Way.”

3.      Marching for Black Lives.  After the murders of Philando Castile and Alton sterling, Amy and I decided to join one of the many marches happening around the city. The march we chose was in a cool Puerto Rican neighborhood I’d never visited before. There were metal palm trees decorating the street corners and golden murals like everywhere. As we marched, residents unfurled flags from their balcony like something you’d see on the news, like being in history. The gnashing events of the week found expression, everyone was rising up. I didn’t agree with everything the march leaders were saying, but why should I need to? It was grief and revolution and honesty. After the post-accident weeks I’d spent being afraid to cross the street, I was helping strangers shut down an intersection, awed to be a body for them. My own allyship has been fraught and deeply flawed, but it was a gift to be trying still, standing up for justice in such a clear and tangible way.

4.      Flowers and fireflies. While I was scared and stuck and concentrating on growing bones, while I couldn’t write or draw or drive, I made myself keep up on my walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes I was sad that I couldn’t go further, but the flowers on these few blocks were different every day. There was always something new to notice, and for the first half of the summer, there were always fireflies. Being separated from usual summer goals and preoccupations, I was able to look more closely at what was in front of me, to slow down and take more notice.

I originally meant to put all of the things in one post, but I got overwhelmed so I’ll have to space it out. So much to get to!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Happy Goals for an Activist Summer

This has been a different kind of summer. While my arm heals, I've been skittish about swimming, so the beach hasn't dominated my life the way it usually does. Luckily, it's a great time to find all kinds of meaning volunteering for the Democrats and marching/vigiling for all kinds of change. I wish there were a lot less vigiling, but I feel lucky to have a chance to stand up for people when I can.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Help Register Voters! And Other Democrat Fun

Good morning loves! I'm excited to join in the post-convention Dem fun. If you're not from Northwest Philly, you can go to, type in your zip code, and find an event near you. It's fun and easy and you'll meet lots of adorable people who want to make the world more awesome.

For local pals, I'll be posting my organizer's weekly updates here so you'll always know what we're working on. Her name's Kimberly and you can join her list at

"Hello Volunteers!

I hope that everyone enjoyed watching the Democratic National Convention last week, and that it gave you more hope than you felt after watching the GOP Convention, which left many of us feeling uneasy and aghast. Things are looking up for us in this election nationally, but we still need to work hard for every vote in Philadelphia to help to balance out the rest of this state. We would absolutely love to send a message that there is no place for Trump in this country, including Pennsylvania!

Here is a list of activities which we need help with this week. Please let me know if you are interested and available. If it is your first time volunteering, please feel free to signup for a shift via email, or give me a call with your questions: 541-301-3805. Thank you!

Phone Banking:

We are working hard to reach as many people as we can through phone calls this week, riding on the wave of excitement lasting from the DNC. If you are phone banking from home, please try to raise your numbers. We should be making a minimum of 50 calls at one time. When making 50 calls, you are likely only going to reach around 10-15 people, and out of those, only 1-2 people will actually come through as volunteers. You can save time by not leaving voicemails, but I will leave that up to you individually.

Stronger Together Phonebank:

Wednesday, August 3rd, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM

NW Philly Office, 7133 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19119

Make calls as a group in the office. Bring your laptop to streamline the data entry process, or call from the sheets we have prepared using your cell phones (We expect to receive burner phones any day now, but can't guarantee them tomorrow). Use the slogan "Stronger Together" in your script to emphasize how we need to come together as a country to face the issues head-on without fear-mongering and hate. You may also participate in this event from home - just let me know! 

Weekend of Action! 

We are going to have a big weekend of Voter Registration Events. There are two types of events this weekend - seated at a location, canvassing, or standing at a stationary, high traffic area. 

Saturday, August 6, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 6, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Sign up for a 3 hour shift on Saturday or Sunday. Shifts begin at 9:00 AM12:00 PM3:00 PM and 9:00 PM.


Door-to-Door canvassing with VR forms. Our data team is putting together a list of areas with the highest population/lowest registration ratio. Bring a friend or find a teammate in the office to set out with.


Find a spot of your choosing or take a walk on a high traffic street with your clipboard and talk to everyone who you pass by. This is a very fun way to engage with the community and talk to those who you might not otherwise approach. Register those who need to sign up to vote, and remind passersby about the important election coming up.

Seated Event:

Voter Registration at Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Saturday, August 6, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday, August 7, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Sign up for any 2 hour shift to help us register voters in the lobby of Parkway Central.

Office Shifts:

You may sign up for any one or multiple two hour shifts in the office during these hours. There is always something you can help with - bring your phone and laptop if you have one to help with phone calls and data entry during any down time.

Monday - Friday10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Saturday10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday1:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Be in touch and have a wonderful week. I would love to see you all!!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What a School Lockdown Feels Like

What a School Lockdown Feels Like

At the time of my ill-fitting classroom stint, I was so busy hating the School to Prison Pipeline that it never even occurred to me to hate guns, but looking back, they were always in the background of my anxiety, hanging over my head with the other million things that hang over teachers’ heads.
I had a class full of third graders the first time I experienced a lockdown. It was almost lunch so I had that next-level needing-to-pee that teachers know so well. We were just getting ready to line up when the announcement came. They said there had been gun activity in the area. They told us that we were supposed to lock our doors, but mine didn’t lock. I’d never been trained for the proper procedure, so I sat the kids all down and told them to be as quiet as they could so we could be safe if we needed to hear directions.
I pictured what I came to always picture in those situations: the bullet coming through the glass and hitting me, or hitting them. I never forgot that I while at that moment I was trapped, on a daily basis I was choosing to be there, and the kids were not so lucky. Poverty would keep many of them in an unsafe neighborhood, the law and a racist system would keep them in unsafe schools that violently opposed their individuality and development. They might someday know a life without the penny taste of adrenaline in their mouths, but the odds were stacked against them.
We sat crisscross-applesauce at the back of the room, as removed from the window glass as possible. They were preternaturally calm and docile, and I had an uncharacteristic command over myself that I can only attain at times of deepest crisis. We played Whisper-Down-the-Lane and The Quiet Game until the lockdown ended and it was time to line up for lunch.
I experienced maybe ten school lockdowns, for all kinds of reasons—a lost kid, a panicking parent, mostly they were unexplained and I never asked because I didn’t want to know. But the helpless bullet-is-coming-for us feeling did not fully go away. Those left me with an unshakeable knowledge of the vulnerability of all life, but especially the lives of African American children. The confluence of guns, poverty, and racism put the lives of my students at risk every day.

I understand, in a cursory Hamilton-infused way why we have the Second Amendment, but the cost of the way it is currently interpreted is much too high. Those kids, those classrooms, along with the children I currently serve at the library, are part of the driving force behind why I feel so urgent about this election, so moved by John Lewis and other who stand up for gun control and against injustice. Enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Upset by the RNC? Here's How You Can Help.

I haven't followed the RNC much, but I know enough to feel the mob mentality and white supremacy bearing down on us. It's easy to feel helpless in the face of bullying evil, but it's even easier to do something. If you aren't in Philly, go to and type in your zip code.

If you are in Philly, here's a nice note from our local organizer. You can reach her at

"Hello Faithful Volunteers!

I wanted to let you know about several upcoming events where we need help. I have three voter registration events taking place out in the community this weekend. After the weekend and during the convention, we want our office to be full of action. We are scheduling 3-hour shifts where volunteers can help out at the office here in Mt Airy, learn how to do voter registration, and then go out and get forms filled out to bring back in! There are also some open shifts for helping out as a greeter (checking credentials and guiding guests) at the convention if you are interested. Please see below for all details!

Voter Registration Events:

Saturday, July 23, 2016
9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
ACME, 7010 Germantown Ave (Inside)
Need 1-2 volunteers for 11am-1pm shift

11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine St
2 volunteers needed for both shifts, 11am - 1pm1pm - 3pm

Sunday, July 24, 2016
1:30 - 4:30 PM
Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine St
1-2 volunteers needed for all or part of event

Office Shifts:

7133 Germantown Ave

Monday, July 25 - Thursday, July 29

Four 3-hour shifts available each day at the following times:

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

*You are more than welcome, even encouraged, to sign up for multiple shifts!

DNC Access Events:

Wells Fargo Center
3601 S Broad St

Monday, July 25 - Thursday, July 29

Two 4-hour shifts available each day at the following times:

3:00 PM - 7:00 PM
7:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Please let me know how you would like to participate! Also, keep me informed if you would like to get set-up for phone banking at home, if we have not already been in touch. 

Thank you!!"


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Don’t Let Bernie’s Legacy Be Voter Apathy

Last night I went to the most gorgeously inclusive poetry event. All races, ethnicities, genders and orientations were welcome. The crowd skewed young, but all ages were present. The only thing you couldn’t be was engaged with the election process as anything other than a detractor. Though the event’s organizer encouraged me to carry around my voter registration clipboard and the venue was hosting a “Get Out the Vote!” themed art show, I soon sensed the crowd’s vibe and heard enough Bern catchphrases in poems to know I should put my clipboard away.

A straight-presenting, white, middle class, less-likely-to-be-harmed by-a-Trump presidency poet introduced a poem by saying, “So Hillary Clinton will be in town next month,” and I was one of a few lonely woohoos before she launched into a poem that gave me A. some good insight into Honduras and B. the assurance that I was the one kind of person not welcome in that magically diverse room.

I’ve never found the spoken word community particularly hospitable to feminism, but this wasn’t that. Just as I had during primary season, I felt hated for being part of the so-called establishment. Since the causes I’m in politics to fight for (reproductive rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights) are pretty damn revolutionary, I’m sick to fucking death of that assessment.

I’m sure that many of these young detractors will still vote, and even if they don’t, they’ll be helping us make more justice with their writing and their demonstrating and their being. But I’m angry that the Sanders campaign’s “rigged system” rhetoric and adoption of decades of Republican smear campaigns may have given young people a sense of learned helplessness that intentionally or unintentionally takes some of their power away. I’m livid at the idea that Sanders is not helping these young folks he so inspired earlier this year to continue feeling part of the election process.

We, the Democratic Party, need young people to push and protest and hold us to better standards. We need to hold all of our candidates accountable. And yes, the system IS rigged, but we need you to vote and call and canvass and help us make it better, fairer, more inclusive. Hillary’s platform is one that everyone can be proud of. No “lesser of two evils.” No “straight outta options.” 2016 is about love and kindness versus bigotry and hate. I’m guessing my woohooing will be less lonely in November.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ten Things I’m Grateful for After a Broken Month

A month ago this minute, a nice ordinary day turned into a nightmare when I got hit by a car in the crosswalk. It’s been a hard hard month, but if I didn’t have such a lucky life, it would have been a lot harder.

1.     I’m grateful that I have family and friends to take care of me when I need it, particularly my best friend/ex-wife without whom I’m be sniveling and starving under a pile of dirty dishes.
2.      I’m grateful that I work in a neighborhood where people stop to help if they see you get hurt. I’m particularly grateful to the two Muslim men who called 911 and stayed with me until friends came, but also the friend-of-a-friend who went to get me water and ice, for my work friends who stayed with me until the ambulance came, and for the driver who stopped after he hit me.
3.      I’m grateful that I live in a beautiful neighborhood full of flowers and lightning bugs, where there are yard sales and art sales and neighbors who surprise me with chocolate bars and lavender poundcake, where I can sit outside reading or writing every morning until it gets too hot.
4.      I’m grateful for Orange Is the New Black giving me a chance to scream-sob about all of the things.
5.      I’m grateful for my rewatch of The West Wing and I’m grateful that my outlook is more The West Wing than House of Cards so that I could take to heart the shows of support from Democratic leaders (particularly John Lewis) in the horrible wake of Orlando.
6.      OH MY GOD I am grateful for Obamacare, without which a physical nightmare would have been (more of) a financial one as well.
7.      I’m grateful for my very loving cats. Sally always sits next to me and Frannie always sleeps by my face, assuring me I’m loved and safe.
8.      I’m grateful for my #365RainbowDays and for the fact that I’m well-versed in positive psychology, because I’ll need a lot of intentional joy to circumvent the depression and fear vying for attention in my brain.
9.      I’m grateful to the LGBTQ+ community both here and online—thank you for caring so much, fighting so hard, and being so beautiful.

10.  I’m grateful that I didn’t miss a day of tutoring yet, and that my other two jobs are as friendly and flexible as can be. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to lift textbooks again, but I’ll be so excited when that day comes.