this article was written by one of Loretta’s professors (who was her honors thesis mentor and helping with her work on missing & murdered indigenous women), while she was missing (ie before they found her remains); the letter is very moving and it’s heartbreaking to know that the movement to end violence against indigenous women has lost such a promising, passionate, intelligent, and beautiful bright light of a person. prayers to her family and communities (including her own indigenous Inuk community, Nunatsiavut) at this time of mourning.
The last time I met with Loretta Saunders, two weeks ago, I had never felt more inspired and proud of a student. She had sent me her thesis proposal the week before, and at nearly 11,000 words (28 pages), it was 3 times what the department expected of honours student proposals. Beyond its remarkable length, Loretta carefully presented her research in what I recognized as the most beautifully written and cared-for assignment I had ever read in seven years of university teaching, evaluating literally thousands of assignments. I was so buoyed by her rigorous writing and research that I sent her a message telling her so. Here’s an excerpt from my email, dated February 1st:
“Your thesis proposal is absolutely amazing. It’s a thing of beauty. Your writing is mostly perfect; you’re developing your own narrative voice due to your remarkable attention to detail. But more importantly than the great spelling, grammar and referencing, you have a voice, you write in a style that is all your own, and it flows wonderfully.
If you ever have any doubts that you can succeed in academia, save this email and read it over. You have the writing, researching and analytical skills of somebody who is on their way to receive a PhD. You can accomplish whatever you like academically [my note –these two sentences were all in CAPS].
Our world needs more people like you Loretta; please keep reading and writing about whatever you’re most passionate about. I will do everything I can to support your efforts to become the intellectual and community leader you are meant to be.”
…Loretta’s research broaches a topic that is largely taboo in Canadian society: the heartbreaking phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women. In particular, Loretta aims to understand the disappearance and/or death of three indigenous women in Nova Scotia. Over the past three months, as her decision to tackle this difficult issue crystalized, she had received guidance from several Mi’kmaq women, all important spiritual and community leaders impacted by and concerned with the disproportionate violence that indigenous women and girls continue to experience in Nova Scotia and in Canada.
In an act of courage that still moves me deeply, Loretta refused to turn away from the traumatic nature of this violence; she chose instead to invest all of her energy in a healing journey that would benefit indigenous youth in her home territory and in indigenous communities and territories wherever they encountered her. It was both a deeply personal journey, and one filled with intellectual curiosity. Above all, during our last meeting, Loretta articulated her firm commitment to share her work and experiences with an open, genuine, and loving heart.
Once we ended the more prescriptive segment of our meeting, I finally looked Loretta in the eye and expressed out loud what I had previously written in an email. I stammered in a way a bit foreign to me, since I’m not in the habit of expressing such awe and gratitude to my students. Despite my awkwardness, a tear welled up in her eyes, as it did in mine. We both looked down, away from each other. A thought kept circulating in my mind: “How does Loretta do it?”
…She can express her passion and belief in justice for indigenous women in ways that are utterly arresting, given her own will to live and thrive in a world that, it seems, does way too much to deny her the very possibilities that so much of us take for granted. Until the day arrives for our next meeting, my door remains open, and my commitment to Loretta, her family, and the struggles of indigenous women throughout Turtle Island has intensified.
The Roost, a co-operative living space in Rogers Park, Chicago, is looking to fill openings for early 2014 (February 1 and March 1). The Roost has a long history of housing folks who are queer, trans, and radically-minded. Cost of living is very affordable, the house is a 5 minute walk to the red line, and less than a block from the lake. More info here, as well as application instructions.
“To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves, that the line stretches all the way back, perhaps to God; or to Gods. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die. The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before.”—Alice Walker (via ethiopienne)
“They’re the salt of the earth, those girls. They don’t sit each night and compare notes on groups, criticizing lyrics, asking if it’s valid. They just play the record… yeah, and maybe they dance. I love them. I love them dearly.”—
“Look, without our stories, without the true nature and reality of who we are as People of Color, nothing about fanboy or fangirl culture would make sense. What I mean by that is: if it wasn’t for race, X-Men doesn’t sense. If it wasn’t for the history of breeding…
“As we were driving home one evening, we noticed a young girl hitchhiking. It was late at night, cold, and raining outside. She was young, First Nations, and not dressed for the weather. As we stopped to pick her up, we noticed a white truck stop on the other side of the road, and two guys got out and walked towards her. We cut them off, and told her to hop in. We drove her deeper and deeper into the woods, onto dirt roads with no street lighting. She told us her story — 17 years old, First Nations, tough upbringing…This was just weeks after the gruesome murder of Tyesha Jones, and we dropped her off within kilometres of where the body had been found. We wrote to the local paper, and it made the front page. A few weeks later, that same local newspaper reported the attempted abduction of a 17-year-old girl, on the same road, by men in a white truck…I’ve come to believe that injustices exist because we, as a society, allow them to exist. Until the people [demand] better from our leaders, nothing will change, and Aboriginal girls will continue to go missing in record numbers, numbers that already concern the U.N.”—Why Hitchhiking is the Walk of Death for Aboriginal Women (via nitanahkohe)
“Can people of color be racist?” I reply, “The answer depends on your definition of racism.” If one defines racism as racial prejudice, the answer is yes. People of color can and do have racial prejudices. However, if one defines racism as a system of advantage based on race, the answer is no. People of color are not racist because they do not systematically benefit from racism. And equally important, there is no systematic cultural and institutional support or sanction for the racial bigotry of people of color. In my view, reserving the term racist only for behaviors committed by whites in the context of a white-dominated society is a way of acknowledging the ever-present power differential afforded whites by the culture and institutions that make up the system of advantage and continue to reinforce notions of white superiority. (Using the same logic, I reserve the word sexist for men. Though women can and do have gender-based prejudices, only men systematically benefit from sexism.)”—Paula S. Rothenberg- Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, eighth edition (via blaaargh)
“Indigenous art is beautiful, of course, and storytelling is significant in any culture — but there are much deeper reasons that art and story resonate in Indigenous cultures, which make them of the utmost importance to kimiwan. Traditionally, art and life were not separate; creative expression was a part of everyday life. The philosophy at kimiwan is that everyone is an artist and everyone has a story to tell.”—
Especially in urban areas, the waiting list for affordable housing can be a year or more. During that time, poor families either have to make do with substandard or dangerous housing, depend on the hospitality of relatives, or go homeless. (Source: New York Times)
2. Try to make $133 worth of food last a whole month. That’s how much the average food stamp recipient gets each month. Imagine trying to eat well on $4.38 per day. It’s not easy, which is why many impoverished families resort to #3… (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)
3. Subsist on poor quality food. Not because they want to, but because they can’t afford high-quality, nutritious food. They’re trapped in a food system that subsidizes processed foods, making them artificially cheaper than natural food sources. So the poor are forced to eat bad food — if they’re lucky, that is… (Sources: Washington Post; Journal of Nutrition, March 2008)
4. Skip a meal. One in six Americans are food insecure. Which means (among other things) that they’re sometimes forced to go without eating. (Sources: World Vision, US Department of Agriculture)
5. Work longer and harder than most of us. While it’s popular to think people are poor because they’re lazy (which seems to be the whole point of Ramsey’s post), the poor actually work longer and harder than the rest of us. More than 80 percent of impoverished children have at least one parent who works; 60 percent have at least one parent who works full-time. Overall, the poor work longer hours than the so-called “job creators.” (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)
6. Go to bed 3 hours before their first job starts. Number 15 on Ramsey and Corley’s list was, “44% of [the] wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of [the] poor.” It may be true that most poor people don’t wake up three hours before work starts. But that could be because they’re more likely to work multiple jobs, in which case job #1 means they’re probably just getting to bed three hours before job #2 starts. (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)
7. Try to avoid getting beat up by someone they love. According to some estimates, half of all homeless women in America ran away to escape domestic violence. (Source: National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009)
9. Pay more than their fair share of taxes. Some conservative pundits and politicians like to think the poor don’t pay their fair share, that they are merely “takers.” While it’s true the poor don’t pay as much in federal income tax — usually because they don’t earn enough to qualify — they do pay sales tax, payroll tax, etc. In fact, the bottom 20% of earners pay TWICE as much in taxes (as a share of their income) as do the top 1%. (Source: Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, January 2013)
10. Fall further behind. Even when poverty is the result of poor decision-making, often it’s someone else’s choices that make the difference. If you experience poverty as a child, you are 3-4 times less likely to graduate high school. If you spend your entire childhood in poverty, you are 5 times less likely to graduate. Which means your future has been all but decided for you. (Sources: World Vision, Children’s Defense Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation)
11. Raise kids who will be poor. A child’s future earnings are closely correlated to their parents’ earnings. In other words, economic mobility — the idea that you can claw your way out of poverty if you just try hard enough is, more often than not, a myth. (Sources: OECD, Economic Policy Institute)
12. Vote less. And who can blame them? I would be less inclined to vote if I didn’t have easy access to the polls and if I were subjected to draconian voter ID laws that are sold to the public as necessary to suppress nonexistent voter fraud. (Source: The Center for Voting and Democracy)
13. When they do vote… vote pretty much the same as the rest of us. Following their defeat in 2012, conservatives took solace by reasoning that they’d lost to a bunch of “takers,” including the poor, who voted for Democrats because they want free handouts from big government. The reality is a bit more complex. Only a third of low-income voters identify as Democrats, about the same for all Americans, including wealthy voters. (Sources: NPR, Pew Research Center)
15. Live shorter lives. There is a 10-14 year gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. In recent years, poor people’s life expectancy has actually declined — in America, the wealthiest nation on the planet. (Source: Health Affairs, 2012)
16. Use drugs and alcohol pretty much the same as (or less than) everyone else. Despite the common picture of inner city crack houses, drug use is pretty evenly spread across income groups. And rich people actually abuse alcohol more than the poor. (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)
17. Receive less in subsidized benefits than corporations. The US government spends around $60 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for low-income families, compared to more than $90 billion on corporate subsidies. Oil companies alone get around $70 billion. And that’s not counting the nearly $60 billion a year in tax breaks corporations enjoy by sheltering profits offshore. Or the $700 billion bailout banks got in 2008. (Source: Think By Numbers)
18. Get themselves off welfare as soon as possible. Despite the odds, the vast majority of beneficiaries leave the welfare rolls within five years. Even in the absence of official welfare-to-work programming, most welfare recipients enroll in some form of vocational training. Why? Because they’re desperate to get off welfare. (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)
19. Have about the same number of children as everyone else. No, poor people do not have loads of children just so they can stay on welfare. (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)
20. Accomplish one single goal: stay alive. Poverty in America may not be as dire as poverty in other parts of the world, but many working poor families are nonetheless preoccupied with day-to-day survival. For them, life is not something to be enjoyed so much as endured.