|Photo of Sharanda Jones via CNN|
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.
*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.