14 and Alone: The Girls Risking Everything to Get to America

Singing happily into the wind, 14-year-old Karla Vazquez looks like a carefree teenager embarking on a day trip. It is an exciting moment after all – it’s the first time the youngster has ever left home and the first time she has traveled alone.

But the reality is chilling – she may not know it, but Karla is embarking on a path that for many young women ends in rape, abuse and forced prostitution. She is no longer free – she is now “human cargo” under the control of a people smuggler who is guiding her group on a truck from Guatemala to Mexico, with the US border their ultimate destination.

But she does not appear to be perturbed as she braves the perilous mountain paths in the naive hope of securing a better future for her family.

Read more at SkyNews. 

“He Just Pulled a Gun On Us”: Racist White Man Confronted by Muslim Girls

The scene at a Minnesota McDonald’s could’ve turned out a lot worse than it did on Tuesday. In a video tweeted by someone called StanceGrounded, it shows a group of younger people confronting an older white man, who appears to be backing his way out of the store.

Then, panic can be heard from the young crowd when they say the man has a gun.

“He has a gun, he has a gun,” the people shouted.

One store worker appears and wags his finger at the remaining crowd in the store saying, “Everybody out. Everybody out.”

Read more at Newsweek. 

Hateful Notes found in Muslim Girl’s bin at Elementary School According to Superintendent

uthorities in Framingham are investigating a potential hate crime at an elementary school.

Superintendent Robert Tremblay says they found letters containing hateful messages and threats against a 10-year-old Muslim girl at the Hemenway Elementary School.

The letters were put inside the student’s bin at the school, according to Tremblay.

One note read: “You’re a terrorist,” while another said: “I will kill you.”

“You can only imagine a 10-year-old seeing that someone wants to take her life,” said the girl’s uncle, Jamaal Siddiqui. “It’s very scary. For her, she’s not going to get the full understanding of how serious a matter this is. For an adult like my brother and sister-in-law to see that, they can only fear for their kid and all the other kids in that school. It’s sickening to the stomach to even see something like that.”

Read more at WHDH.

I Stayed Silent Because Black Girls and Women Aren’t Listened To

“The Senate confirms Judge Brett Kavanaugh.”

My Uber driver read his CNN text alert aloud and made this unsolicited announcement as we sat in bumper to bumper traffic.

My entire body tensed up. I wanted to escape—escape this Uber, escape this country, escape this body, but instead, I sat in silence. The same silence I’ve been sitting in for the past five years.

Before 2018, I had no idea who Brett Kavanaugh was. Before Dr. Ford brought allegations of sexual assault against him, I wasn’t particularly interested in his confirmation. I figured any one of Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court would be about the same—white, male, and willing to pass legislation that harms Black women like myself.

Read more at WearYourVoice Magazine.

A Florida Officer Punched a 14-Year-Old Girl. That Type of Violence is Not Uncommon.

A Florida police department is defending its officers after a viral video showed an officer punching a 14-year-old black girl as she was pinned to the ground, calling attention to the ways police can violently interact with young black women.

The incident occurred last Thursday as officers with the Coral Springs Police Department responded to reports of a large group of teens creating a disturbance at the Coral Square Mall. The teens were removed and banned from the mall by police after mall security received complaints, but a smaller group of the same kids returned soon after. The officers had already arrested one of the teens and were arresting the unnamed girl when the video was recorded.

In a video posted to Instagram, the girl is shown lying on the ground as two officers, one female and one male, both kneel on top of her. As the female officer attempts to pull the girl’s arm out from under her body, the male officer strikes the girl in her side as he holds her shorts.

”Why you hitting her?” an off-camera voice yells. “She can’t do that, her hands underneath her, the f*** you hitting her for?”

Read more at Vox.

#SayHerName: Florida Police Viciously Beat 14-Year-Old Black Girl for ‘Resisting Arrest’

Though the modern narrative on police brutality tends to focus on murdered black men, black women and girls are also the victims of over-policing in black communities.

Through hashtags like #SayHerName, organizations like the African American Policy Forum have been shouting from the rooftops for years that black women—cis and trans—are also vulnerable to police violence, including sexual assault.

Thankfully, data on the rampant rapes of women by law enforcement is finally bubbling up in the news cycle (and really, who do you think is being raped most here? Black women’s bodies have been stolen since the slave ships.) It’s high time to finally see that black women and girls also bear the brunt of state abuse.

Read more at The Root.

Listen to Black girls. They Know What They Need Best.

I knew the purpose of the 3rd Annual Equity Summit, hosted by Gwen’s Girls and the Black Girls Equity Alliance, was a worthy one. It was most certainly an event I wanted to observe as a Masters of Social Work student at the University of Pittsburgh. What I didn’t foresee was how much hearing from the Black girls themselves would affect me and teach me.

I have been eager to focus my social work practice and research on the inequities that Black girls face. Thus, attending the summit was the perfect way for me to learn from community members, researchers, organizations, practitioners and service providers who were actively doing the work that I hope to be doing in the future.

Fifty young Black women were present, all from different high schools in the area. They were given the space and time to share their experiences in group sessions and workshops, where they had a chance to develop a Black Girls’ Equity Agenda on the different issues they face in their schools, homes and communities.

Read more at Public Source.

Black Girls are Left out of National Debate on Sexual Violence

With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States, I am left fighting a sense of helplessness and despair. Many Americans hoped that Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, alleging the judge had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, would impact the confirmation process.

Instead, survivors around the nation were sent the message: “We don’t believe you. And even if we did, your experience doesn’t matter.”

I didn’t watch the hearings live. I spent the day at the Gwen’s Girls Equity Summit, focusing on ways to eradicate the inequities Black girls experience in educational, health care, juvenile justice and child welfare settings. While Dr. Ford was forced to share the gruesome details of her past traumatic experience, I was paying witness to brave Black girls speaking out about their experiences of sexual violence today.

Read more at Public Source

The Five-Year-Old Who Was Detained at the Border and Persuaded to Sign Away Her Rights

Helen—a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl—is an asylum seeker from Honduras. This summer, when a social worker asked her to identify her strengths, Helen shared her pride in “her ability to learn fast and express her feelings and concerns.” She also recounted her favorite activities (“playing with her dolls”), her usual bedtime (“8 p.m.”), and her professional aspirations (“to be a veterinarian”).

In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group. While crossing the Rio Grande in the journey’s final stretch, Helen slipped from their raft and risked drowning. Her grandmother grabbed her hand and cried, “Hang on, Helen!” When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”

Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” Helen cried as he escorted her from the room and out of sight. Noehmi remembers the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.

Read more at The New Yorker. 

Canadian indigenous women are being ignored

his week I am in Montreal, Canada, to meet with feminists that work to end male violence towards women and girls. I love this country for its brave and vibrant women’s liberation movement, and the indigenous feminist activists from which I have learned so much about the intersections between colonisation, poverty and misogyny.

In 2005, I wrote about a terrible case of Robert Pickton, a serial killer who picked up mainly prostituted indigenous women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the most impoverished areas in North America. It took police almost 20 years from the time the missing women’s loved ones began to report the disappearances to track down Pickton, and another three years for them to gather evidence for the trial. Eighteen years after the first woman disappeared, in 2001, police finally launched the Missing Women Task Force. But still, age-old racism and sexism collided to bring about the kind of inertia over mass murders of women that led some police to mark the files of murder victims with NHI (No Human Involved).

Across Canada, an inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women was established, following years of campaigning by feminists and allies. In the two years that the inquiry has been taking place, feminist voices have been quashed. Cherry Smiley, the indigenous activist and artist I first met when researching my book on the sex trade, puts it this way:

“The national inquiry is not the inquiry that so many indigenous women fought for for so long. The inquiry we have today is unfortunately a reflection of modern depoliticised ‘politics’ that promote ideas of inclusivity and grief at the expense of focused political goals and action. That the inquiry’s foundation puts indigenous peoples and families before women in our own inquiry speaks volumes to the reach of the anti-feminist, woman-hating culture we live in today.”

Read more at The Independent.