Birthday Fundraiser 2015: Kristen’s Medical and Funeral Expenses

Hello friends,

Over the past seven years, I’ve used my birthday month of June for fundraising for situations and people near to my heart. I’m doing so again this year.

Four years ago, when I spent a year living in the United States, I worked at Waffle House. One of my coworkers was a vivacious, teenage spitfire named Kristen. I loved working with her – enjoyed her intelligent sense of humor, contagious laugh, beautiful smile, and her perspective on life. She was so lovable! I sold her my car before I moved to Thailand, and, although I was out of touch with her, I often thought of her and wondered how her life was going.

I was not in contact with her since leaving the United States, until last weekend, when I bumped into her family at the hospital.

19 year old Kristen died tragically on Monday night, and her family is grieving. Sadly, Kristen was uninsured, and the family needs help meeting medical and funeral expenses.

In honor of Kristen’s life – or maybe for no other reason than I’m asking you to do this as a birthday gift – would you donate toward Kristen’s medical and funeral expenses?

You can give directly to her family here. I won’t know that you’ve given – but thank you! Please don’t mention me – just give $5 or $10 or $20 (or $29 since I’m 29 years old!)… and pray for this grieving family.

As I type this blog post, doctors are doing a transplant of Kristen’s liver and kidneys. Her death won’t be in vain. Three people’s lives will be saved. I know this is how Kristen would have wanted it.

KristenHere’s her obituary:

Kristen LaShae Windham

Born: July 10, 1995
Died: June 01, 2015

Ms. Kristen LeShae Windham, of Warrenton, passed away suddenly on Monday, June 1, 2015 at the age of 19 years. Kristen was the daughter of Laurel Windham. She was born on July 10, 1995 in Crestview Florida.

Kristen was a graduate of Warrenton High School in 2014 and had taken a few college classes. She enjoyed singing and was in the choir during high school. She was also involved in the drama department at the high school. Kristen loved all of her nieces and nephews and was a very special aunt to each of them. She loved animals of all kinds but she especially loved her dog Ludo. Kristen also enjoyed reading books like The Twilght Series and Harry Potter. 

Kristen was preceded in death by her Nana Norma Jean Burford and her husband Cyrus and her PawPaw Larry Jones. She is survived by her mother, Laurel, one brother Brian Jones, two sisters Melanie Hartung and husband Paul Jr., and Jennifer Harlan and fiancé Kenny, two uncles John Harville and wife Peggy, Richard Mewbourne and wife Debby, two aunts Carrie Bote and husband Bruce, Ellen Haynie and husband Gary, seven nieces and nephews Jeff, Paiden, Franklin, Sean, Bentley, Alawna and Spencer, and many other relatives and friends.

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18 Things White People Should Know/Do Before Discussing Racism

Reposting these 18 points by Tiffanie Drayton, originally published by TheFrisky.com

Discussions about racism should be all-inclusive and open to people of all skin colors. However, to put it simply, sometimes White people lack the experience or education that can provide a rudimentary foundation from which a productive conversation can be built. This is not necessarily the fault of the individual, but pervasive myths and misinformation have dominated mainstream racial discourse and often times, the important issues are never highlighted. For that reason, The Frisky has decided to publish this handy list that has some basic rules and information to better prepare anyone for a worthwhile discussion about racism.

1. It is uncomfortable to talk about racism. It is more uncomfortable to live it.

2. “Colorblindness” is a cop-out. The statements “but I don’t see color” or “I never care about color” do not help to build a case against systemic racism. Try being the only White person in an environment. You will notice color then.

3. Oprah’s success does not mean the end of racism. The singular success of a Black man or woman (i.e. Oprah, or Tiger Woods, or President Obama) is never a valid argument against the existence of racism. By this logic, the success of Frederick Douglass or Amanda America Dickson during the 19th century would be grounds for disproving slavery.

4. Reverse racism is BS, but prejudice is not. Until people of color colonize, dominate and enslave the populations of the planet in the name of “superiority,” create standards of beauty based on their own colored definition, enact a system where only people of color benefit on a large-scale, and finally pretend like said system no longer exists, there is no such thing as reverse racism. Prejudice is in all of us, but prejudice employed as a governing structure is something different.

5. America has not “gotten over” its race-related problems. In American History class you learned about slavery and Jim Crow, but sadly you were taught that figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks eradicated an entire 200-year history of oppression, discrimination and segregation. Your history teachers and books tried close the race chapter on a high note, however the ongoing history of America’s systemic racism cannot be simply wrapped up and decorated with a “now we all are equal” bow.

6. Google is your best friend. Search: Black/White wealth gap, redlining, “White flight,” subprime mortgages and black families,  discriminatory sentencing practices, occupational overcrowding, workplace discrimination, employment discrimination, mandatory minimum sentences and in-school segregation to start. Here are some highlights:

7. Then read some more. Google: Black Wall Street, Sundown towns, eugenics and forced sterilization, and Black voting prohibition.

8. Buy and read a book from a Black author. Some recommendations: W.E.B Dubois, James Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston would be a great start.

9. Realize that segregation is still rampant. Step outside and take a look around your neighborhood. Lacking people of color much? That is called segregation. It is not by chance, though sometimes by choice. (Refer to “redlining” Google search.)

  • About your neighborhood again: Displacing people of color much? That is called gentrification.
  • Think about the schools you went to and the classes you had. Not too many minorities in either? (Refer to school segregation/in-school segregation.)

10. Programs or initiatives that target systemic racism are not “charity.” We do not refer to the 200 years of free labor provided by enslaved Blacks as charity. Or the Black property stolen by Whites during the decades of state-supported terrorism? Or, say, the unfair banking practices that have completely decimated the Black middle class through foreclosures (refer to subprime mortgages and Black families google search)?

11. Black on Black crime does not exist. There are countless White people committing crimes against White people, but “White-on-White crime” is strangely absent from the rhetoric reporting everything from elementary school shootings to world wars. Why should crimes committed by and against people of color be labelled any differently?

12. White people will not become the minority in America in the next 20 years. “Whites” were originally Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). The definition of “White,” as a racial classification, has evolved to include “Whiter-skinned” minority groups who were historically discriminated against, barred from “Whiteness” and thus had little access to opportunity. Some examples: Italians and the Irish (who were frequently referred to as n***ers in the 1800’s), Jewish people and more recently Hispanic (George Zimmerman) and Armenian minority groups. Such evolutions, however, always exclude Blacks.

13. Hip-hop culture is no more dysfunctional than Wall Street culture. At its worst, commercial “Black culture” is a raw reflection of broader society. The caricatured imagery of drugs, money, and women are headlined most prominently by Wall Street, politicians, and media moguls but this reality never comes to reflect on White people. America spends more on weaponry than the most of the rest of the world combined but somehow it is the “violence” of hip-hop that is an exclusive pathology.

14. Black people are angry about racism, and they have every right to be. Anger is a legitimate and justified response to years of injustice and invisibility.

15. There are poor White people, but racism and discrimination still exists. The plight of the poor White midwest always makes a convenient appearance to deflect any perceived accusation of privilege or to derail conversations of racism. Racist American policy was never about securing the success of all White people, but rather about legalizing the disenfranchisement of Blacks and other people of color.

16. Silence does nothing. Blank stares and silence do not further this difficult but necessary conversation.

17. White guilt is worthless, but White action isn’t. One of the most immediate responses to racial discourse is that the effort is all about making White people feel guilty. Discourse about racism is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt, it is meant to drive people to action against injustice. During the times of slavery and the era of the Civil Rights Movement, both Black and White people played and continue to play instrumental roles in Black advancement.

18. Black people are not obligated to answer the “Well, what do we do about it?” question. Though many of us do and are not heard. The call for reparations in the form of “Baby Bonds”  is a great idea. So is desegregating our classrooms  and closing theschool-to-prison pipeline. These courageous voices are speaking very loudly — it is time to start listening.

Tiffanie Drayton is a freelance writer focusing in race and gender issues and a proud New School University Alumna. Follow her on twitter @draytontiffanie.

“Dear White America”

Reposting Julia Blount’s open letter to her friends on Facebook.

Dear White America,

It is somewhat strange to address this to you, given that I strongly identify with many aspects of your culture and am half-white myself. Yet, today is another day you have forced me to decide what race I am — and, as always when you force me — I fall decidedly into “Person of Color.”

Every comment or post I have read today voicing some version of disdain for the people of Baltimore — “I can’t understand” or “They’re destroying their own community” or “Destruction of Property!” or “Thugs” — tells me that many of you are not listening. I am not asking you to condone or agree with violence. I just need you to listen. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, but instead of forming an opinion or drawing a conclusion, please let me tell you what I hear:

I hear hopelessness
I hear oppression
I hear pain
I hear internalized oppression
I hear despair
I hear anger
I hear poverty

If you are not listening, not exposing yourself to unfamiliar perspectives, not watching videos, not engaging in conversation, then you are perpetuating white privilege and white supremacy. It is exactly your ability to not hear, to ignore the situation, that is a mark of your privilege. People of color cannot turn away. Race affects our lives every day. We must consider it all the time, not just when it is convenient.

As a person of color, even if you are privileged your whole life, as I have been, you cannot escape from the shade of your skin. Being a woman defines me; coming from a relatively affluent background defines me; my sexual orientation, my education, my family and my job define me. Other than being a woman, every single one of those distinctions gives me privilege in our society. Yet, even with all that privilege, people still treat me differently.

For most of my childhood, I refused to allow race to be my most defining feature. I actually chose for most of my childhood to refuse race as my most defining feature. But I found that a very hard position to maintain, given the way the world interacts with me and the people I love. Because I have to worry about my brother and my cousins getting stopped by the police. Because people react to my wonderful, kind, intelligent father differently, depending on whether he’s wearing a suit or sweat pants. Race has defined the way I see the world like no other characteristic has.

This can be hard to understand, if you never experienced it firsthand. So again, for just one more moment, reserve your judgments and listen. This is what you might come to realize, if you spent your days in my skin.

In childhood: People regularly ask “What are you” instead of “Who are you?” This will not end, either. In high school, one kid even asks if you are “Mulatto,” which, according to some scholars, originally meant “little mule.”

A few years later: Go on a road trip with your mom. Refuse to get out of the car at a gas station in the boondocks, because you are sure the person with the Confederate flag bumper sticker is going to realize your white mother married a black man and hurt her (and you too, being the byproduct of said union). He’s carrying a rifle on a gun rack. Now even more terrifying.

As a teenager: Be the only person of color in the majority of your Advanced Placement classes, even though there are a decent number of brown and black people at your school. For years following 9/11, get “randomly” selected for the additional screening at the airport.

In college: People assume you got into Princeton because of affirmative action. They refuse to believe it could be because you are smart.

In adulthood: Your younger brother has been stopped in his own neighborhood — the neighborhood he has lived in all his life – and asked what he could possibly be doing there.

At your workplace: For two years in a row the NYPD shows up randomly at the school you work at, which has a 100 percent minority student body. The first time the police don’t even tell the school beforehand. The cops just show up early in the morning, set up a metal detector and X-ray scanner, and fill the cafeteria with dozens of policemen. As your young students file in in the morning, the NYPD scans them like they’re going through airport security right after 9/11. They confiscate cellphones, and pat some of students down, particularly the older-looking boys. As you watch this, you feel anger welling up in your chest and almost start to cry. You think, “Why are you treating my kids like criminals?!” Children are in tears. The screenings are not due to any specific threat, but rather as part of a “random screening program” — but one that never seems to make its way to the Upper East Side. White America’s children are told they can go to college, be anything. These students are treated like suspects. And that is exactly what society will tell your children one day, unless something changes.

Today, tomorrow, every day: White people around you refuse to talk about what is happening in this country. The silence is painful to experience.

These are my experiences. They have deeply affected who I am. And I am SO PRIVILEGED. Mine has been a decidedly easy life for a person of color in America. I try to conceptualize what it is like for my students who got wanded by the NYPD, my students who have been stopped and frisked, my students whose parents work multiple jobs, my students on free and reduced-price lunch, my students whom white adults move away from because they look “scary.”

I try, when I can, to listen to them, because only by validating their feelings can we begin to find a way to overcome the challenges they face. That doesn’t mean I let them off easy when they do something wrong. But I try to understand the why.

Suspect Dies Baltimore

I don’t need you to validate anyone’s actions, but I need you to validate what black America is feeling. If you cannot understand how experiences like mine or my students’ would lead to hopelessness, pain, anger, and internalized oppression, you are still not listening. So listen. Listen with your heart.

If you got this far, thank you. By reading this, you have shown you are trying. Continue the conversation, ask questions, learn as much as you can, and choose to engage. Only by listening and engaging can we move forward.

Black is Beautiful and Black Lives Matter,

Julia

Julia Blount was born and raised in Washington, D.C. An alumna of Princeton University, she is currently a middle school teacher.

Is the criminal justice system unbiased? Look at some numbers.

Professor Daniel D’Amico from Loyola University New Orleans believes the root of racial inequality in the criminal justice system may actually lie in the system itself – not only in individual actors.

If the system is broken, we cannot reasonably expect justice on an individual or community level until the system is repaired.