Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
By Erickka Sy Savané via Essence.com

When it became official that the Electoral College had voted for Donald Trump my stomach dropped. And it's been dropping every day since. Unfortunately, no amount of protest has changed that. But during times like this, it’s the voices of the great leaders who have come before us that speak the loudest. In this case, Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermon, ‘The Drum Major Instinct’ speaks like a light in a dark tunnel.

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Dr. King's 'Drum Major Instinct' sermon

It took place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, 1968. Dr. King began telling a story from the book of St. Mark about James and John and how they asked Jesus if they could sit next to him on the throne. They wanted to be where Jesus was. The other disciples got mad. What had they done to deserve this? Jesus, on the other hand, had a different response.

Dr. King went on to talk about the character trait that would prompt James and John to ask that question of Jesus in the first place. He calls it ‘The Drum Major Instinct,’ and says it’s that innate desire that we all have to lead the parade or be first. Philosophers say it’s the most dominant human impulse. When the instinct goes unharnessed we will put others down so we can be on top.

Dr. King tells a story of being locked up in a Birmingham jail, talking to police officers about race, when the subject of money came up. When the officers revealed how much they were earning Dr. King laughed:
"You ought to be marching with us. You're just as poor as Negroes. You have been put in the position of supporting your oppressors, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people too. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big, when you are so poor you can hardly send your children to school.”
Little has changed. Poor whites think it’s the black and brown population taking away jobs and security when it’s really the one percent. Dr. King also warns of what could happen if China, the U.S. and Russia had a standoff. We’d all go within seconds. Even less has changed. Dr. King goes back to Jesus, James and John.

Jesus tells James and John that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to sit next to him on the throne, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be first. “But you must earn it,” Jesus says. “True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness." He told them to be first in love, moral excellence, generosity and service. Dr. King finishes with...
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he\'s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.
And I’m encouraged because we’ve been here before, and together we won.

Do you draw inspiration from any of Dr. Martin Luther King's teachings?
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  ErickkaSySavane.com

Photo of Sharanda Jones via CNN
 By Nikki Igbo

If you’ve ever signed an online petition then you probably receive at least two invitations a week to sign another one to stop, combat, protest, prevent, derail, support, fund, defund, rescue, remove, rebuild, renew and/or cancel one thing or another. You’ve also most likely forwarded an online petition. You may have even created an online petition. Why? Because we’re living in the age of internet activism, you’re woke, and woke people in the age of internet activism have to do SOMETHING. In the midst of all of this digital signing, you’ve probably wondered if these online petitions actually make a difference. The answer is yes. In fact, here are five examples of countless online petitions that have made a significant impact and will inspire you to keep signing, forwarding and creating.

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Sharanda Jones 
*The single mom sentenced to life in prison for a first-time, non-violent offense. In 1999, Sharanda Jones became one of thousands of individuals who was sentenced to mandatory life in prison with no possibility of parole for a non-violent, first-time, drug-related offense under mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Jones’ daughter, Clenesha Garland, was just eight years old when her mother went to prison. Fifteen long years had already passed when Garland started an online petition to request clemency for her mother from President Barack Obama. Just under 280,000 people threw their support behind Jones and Garland and their request did not fall on deaf ears. Two years later, Jones was indeed granted clemency on December 17, 2015.

*The “boys-only” elementary school STEM night. A Floridian elementary school in Orlando said they planned a mother-son, boys-only STEM night because they wanted to create a boys’ activity to complement the successful father-daughter dance they’d held the previous year. As a woman who works in tech, Helena Zubkow was furious at the thought of any event having to do with science, technology, engineering or math excluding females—especially when those fields have historically excluded women in general. Her online petition drew just 775 signatures, but that was more than enough to get Audubon Park Elementary to change their tune and open the event to all students.

*The national massage chain that would not address its sexual assault problem. When Danielle Dick of Richmond, VA was the victim of sexual assault at Massage Envy, the horror she experienced was further amplified by Massage Envy’s tepid response and failure to properly address and prevent sexual assault from occurring on their premises. After enduring an equally frightening and demoralizing trial which did result in Dick’s attacker’s conviction, Dick learned that she was not alone in her Massage Envy experience. She launched an online petition in October to make sure the company put proper measures in place to prevent and correctly handle sexual assault at their locations. Garnering 62,000 signatures, the petition triggered the announcement this month that the massage chain would comprehensively and transparently work with Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) to fix the problem once and for all.

*The issue with media using the terms “child prostitute” and “child prostitution.” Words matter. Especially when it comes to child abuse and child rape. That’s exactly why the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls) petitioned the Associated Press to cease using the phrases “child prostitute” and “child prostitution.” Because “prostitute” and “prostitution” suggest consent, Rights4Girls rightfully took umbrage with these terms being used to describe what was happening to children forced into sex slavery. More than 150,000 petition signers agreed. The Associated Press got the message loud and clear and announced they would cease using those terms.

*Girls around the world lack resources to complete secondary education. There are more than 60 million girls and young women who are either not given the opportunity to be educated or are forced to drop out of school early. Thus Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai started an online petition urging the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to expand their funding effort for free, quality education for girls from 9 years to 12 years so that girls would be given an opportunity to complete both primary and secondary education. More than 1 million signatures later and the GPE expanded their funding accordingly.

As stated earlier, it is a good thing to keep signing, forwarding and creating these online petitions. They bring so much awareness to underreported or otherwise unreported issues happening within our communities. One such petition is for Cyntoia Brown, a teen sex trafficking victim who at the age of 16 admitted to killing Johnny Mitchell Allen---a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. She killed this would-be rapist out of fear for her own safety and was convicted to a life sentence in 2004 because of it. Brown is now 29 years old. According to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, mandatory life sentencing without parole for juveniles is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But because Brown would be eligible for parole at the age of 69, her life sentence stands. Her petition can be accessed and signed here.

Do you sign online petitions?
Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.
Liza Jessie Peterson by Yoshinori Hashimoto
By Sharon Pendana 

Liza Jessie Peterson is an "artivist," her art and her activism conjoined. With a deep sense of justice, it is her Libran calling to balance its scales. "I’m an artist, but my advocacy is channeled through my art," she says. "Everything I write about, everything I perform is through that lens." Her decades-long entrenchment in the carceral system spans from making the trek upstate from her Brooklyn home to visit her jailed former lover to teaching incarcerated youths at New York City's notorious Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

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These experiences inform her profound one-woman show, The Peculiar Patriot,exploring the human impact of mass incarceration, not just on inmates, but their intimates who brave the cramped, hours-long bus rides to prison visits in revolutionary acts of loyalty and commitment, "navigating love between barbed wire." She toured the show to over 30 prisons across the country to standing ovations and black power salutes before premiering it to the general public in a sold-out run at Harlem’s National Black Theatre.


In All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island, Liza mines her old journals and indelible memories to deftly chronicle her experience of being the classroom teacher, all day from 7:50 am - 2:30 pm to adolescent boys locked in a system more punitive than rehabilitative. With humor and pathos, she gives voice to these young men swept into the penal maelstrom and exposes the glaring disparity in corrections approaches between kids of color and white.

She started working at Rikers Island in 1998 to conduct a poetry workshop and was surprised to discover "the overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of Black and Latino adolescents" incarcerated there. She says, 
"It was astounding! I wasn't aware of the prison industrial complex— it was not in the zeitgeist— this was 1998. Mass incarceration was not even a phrase that people used back then. I was going in without any context. I had no idea about the cash bail system; I had no idea about the privatization of prisons. A corrections officer pointed to the boys and referred to them as the ‘new cotton’– that I was working on the plantation and the boys were the crops."
She would learn that Black and Latino children are targeted for arrest and criminalized for typical adolescent behavior. 
"Adolescents are always going to buck up against the system; they are still going to challenge authority. They are going through a stage of psychological differentiation separation, where they are exerting their independence, moving away from family toward friends and testing boundaries. It's a natural phase of adolescent development."
While working with incarcerated adolescent girls, she learned that most had histories of sexual abuse. "A lot of their acting-out comes from the unhealed wounds and unaddressed trauma in their lives," she says. As rampant revelations of sexual assault surface in this country, Liza hopes that "this heightened national dialogue will give young girls the courage to come forward and speak out about what has happened to them and know that it isn't their fault; their cries are valid, and they have support." She says that although women who have spoken out about it have been "dismissed, ignored, denied, chastised, threatened and attacked, now we’re seeing the tide turning, and men are being called to task and being held accountable for their reprehensible behavior."

She remains hopeful that the social justice pendulum will swing toward what is right and just—that the normalization of sexual misconduct will reverse, and prison reforms put an end to race-based arrests and draconian sentencing. She shares how others can effect change: "first people need to get educated on what white supremacy is — what it looks like and how it works. And vote, not just in the big elections, but the smaller local elections, too." She adds that many community-based organizations rely on donations to keep their doors open. "There are organizations already on the ground doing the work. If you have money, find out who they are and support them. Of philanthropist Agnes Gund's recent endowment she adds, "Be like Agnes; write a check."


An "interrupter of recidivism," Liza stays in contact with several of the kids and works to help them once they are released. "I’m always going to have that connection to the youth–helping them to stay alive and free and out of the grip of the criminal justice system. But I’m an artist first. I’m creating; I’m writing plays, I’m writing books, I’m writing content for television that will encapsulate my advocacy."

Photo: Garlia C. Jones-Ly


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Sharon Pendana is the creator of THE TROVE, author of Secret Washington DC and on a relentless quest to discover treasures, human and otherwise. Find her on Instagram, Medium, Twitter or binging on Netflix and Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps.

The Awakenings Project by Marissa Southards
By Sharee Silerio

When Marissa Southards picked up a camera three years ago, she was simply trying something new. One day, her husband Brian, a pencil artist, brought a professional-level camera home so he could work in a different medium.

Active in St. Louis protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, she took the camera into the streets to capture what was going on.

“You see an image, and it angers you, or it makes you mad. Or it inspires you. We are now equipped with the ability to tell our own story, because we have cameras now. One of the best quotes that I have ever heard was ‘The revolution will not be televised.’ And it won't be. We're telling our own story and we're doing it through pictures.”

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After reviewing her protest photos, Southards’ husband noticed that she captured some unforgettable moments. Though her work was beautiful, she rejected the part of her that was an artist.

“I felt like, I'm a mom. I'm a career professional. I'm a wife. I'm an activist. These are the most important things,” she said. “Yes, I have this creativity, but I'm not going to do anything about it.”

After flipping through Instagram, she came upon a photo of her friend Ashley, covered but topless, fully without shame.

“Her attitude was, ‘If you don't like it, look away, but I love who I am.’ There was something about this woman owning everything about who she is that sparked something in me. I call it Revelation X because it was that true moment that I realized I am really stuck in my own way."

With her husband’s help, she took a photo of the word “empowered” on her bare back, put it in black and white, and then posted it on social media. She received a lot of positive feedback, and her friend Julie proposed using her space, the botanical beauty store Blissoma, for a shoot. After planning and promoting, they expected 10, maybe 12 women to show up.

Marissa Southards 
“There was a line. I ended up getting 52 women, girls and Trans women who were ready to reclaim themselves. Every woman chose a word that best reflected them, and it was not the label that society gave them,” says Southhards.

Thus, on October 29, 2016, The Awakenings Project was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The series was so powerful that Southards did it again. This past summer, she shot Awakenings II in Mattoon, IL, St. Louis, and Chicago, which included 101 participants. Awakenings III, which kicked off in Chicago this past weekend, has a wait list and will span multiple cities such as Louisville, Kentucky; Mobile, AL; St. Louis; Mattoon; and more.

Testimony

Oracle
Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
Using the body as a form of empowerment, protest, healing and reclamation has become a passion for Southards. This January, she planned an action during the St. Louis Women’s March when its leaders decided to silence women of color by disregarding their point of view, feelings and experiences.

“For generations, white women's bodies have been put on a pedestal. They have been used to shame women of color. Specifically, if you don't fit this idea, if you don't look like me, we're going to shame you. We decided to take back the messaging of our own bodies,” Southhards explains.

During the march, seven women walked down Market Street with little to no clothing on, and messages written on them such as: 53% of white women voted for Trump; Black Women Matter; Black Trans Women Matter; Resist; and No Justice, No Peace. By the end of the march, the group had grown to about 42 women.

Women's March 2017
Kelly Morrison, one of the models for Awakenings II, also participated in Southards’ Women’s March action says,

“There is something really beautiful and empowering about stripping away the context of everyone's opinion of you and focusing on how you see yourself, and putting that word on your body for all to see."
When using the female body as a form of protest, Southards feels that it's important to focus on issues that impact all women.

“Body as canvas is not a form of protest utilized very often. There's a very human element to it, and it’s very risky," says Marissa. "You have to be very cautious about it. But because it is so visual, the impact is bold. There is no way to ignore it."

To keep up with activist and photographer Marissa Southards, follow her on Facebook  & Instagram

Do you think bodies used as canvas is a viable form of protest?
 Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts forSincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Tamika D. Mallory speaking at the Women's March on Washington
There is nothing sexier than impacting positive change. And when we say sexy, we're talking about fearlessly walking in your purpose in such a way that everyone can't help but take notice of and appreciate how truly badass you are. We're talking #humanitygoals, #growuptobelikeyou, #pleaseupdatehistorybooks sexy. And for this reason, it's important to pay homage to women currently living and working among us who are taking social activism to the next level, inspiring the rest of us to ask ourselves,  'What am I doing to bring about change?' While there are countless powerful sistah's out there leading in communities across the country, we decided to highlight seven women giving us #activismgoals!

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Tamika D. Mallory

Chances are, you've seen Tamika D. Mallory, the outspoken champion for social justice who helped organize the Women's March on Washington, attended by over 300,000 here, and sparked duplicate marches across the globe. The 36 yr old New York native has been applauded as an advocate for civil rights issues, equal rights for women, health care, gun violence, and police misconduct. Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama called her “a leader of tomorrow” and she was selected to serve on the transition committee of New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. 


 
Johnetta Elzie Image via Getty/Jason LaVeris
Moved to action by the death of Michael Brown, Johnetta Elzie made a splash among Ferguson protesters by aiding with volunteer coordination and live tweeting surrounding events effectively becoming a leading citizen journalist on the protests. Later, she went on to co-create the website and database MappingPoliceViolence.org which tracks all people killed by police. Elzie currently leads We The Protesters, an organization which supports nationwide protest groups in combatting police violence and systemic racism through policy change.




Dr. Moya Bailey
If you’ve ever used the word “misogynoir,” you can thank Dr. Moya Bailey for its existence. Her devotion to examining the way Black women are represented in pop culture led her to coin the term as well as pursue Women’s Studies and activism. An assistant professor at Northeastern University, Dr. Bailey co-created Quirky Black Girls (a network that celebrates Black girls who exist outside of social norms) and the Crunk Feminist Collective (a supportive space for queer and straight hip hop gen feminists of color). She also is the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.





Monica Raye Simpson

Before Monica Raye Simpson relocated to Georgia to work with and eventually lead the Atlanta-based SisterSong, the queer Black North Carolina native rallied against racism, human rights abuses, prison industry and violence against Black women and LGBTQ people. The facilitator/speaker/organizer/singer is also a certified doula. Now the executive director of SisterSong, Simpson created the organization’s Artists United for Reproductive Justice project which supports artistic collaborations on replicable artwork to further SisterSong’s cause of women’s reproductive health rights.




Patrice Cullors
In the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic death, Los Angeleno organizer, artist and freedom fighter Patrisse Cullors' co-founded hashtag #BlackLivesMatter jumpstarted the civil rights fight of our time. Her activism, however didn't begin or end with the multi-issue global, Black queer femme-led intersectional movement. Before that, Cullors led a crusade against inmate abuse as the executive director of End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails and has since confounded prison activist organization Dignity and Power Now. She also serves as board member of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights





Ciara Taylor 
Having built a reputation for taking on the causes of living wages for Florida A&M campus workers and combatting K-20 budgets cuts, Ciara Taylor was in prime activist form to take to the streets following Trayvon Martin's shooting. Her response to the tragic killing was co-founding Dream Defenders which works on human rights issues, ending police brutality and shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline. She currently serves the organization as the director of political consciousness and develops and executes statewide political, educational and leadership development programming.




Tanya Fields
Having experienced the challenges of gaining access to healthy and affordable food in the Bronx, Tanya became active with South Bronx-Mothers on the Move, the Majora Carter Group and Sustainable South Bronx.  The community activist and public speaker founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009 to further combat wealth inequality, the cycle of poverty and institutionalized sexism. The BLK ProjeK creates economic growth opportunities for women and youth of color through education, urban gardening, public space beautification, and community programming. She also created and stars in a web-based cooking and lifestyle show Mama Tanya’s Kitchen where she teaches how to prepare affordable gourmet meals.


Who are your favorite activists right now?

Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.