Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lean on Me

If I see a dog at Moral Monday, there's a good chance I'm going to pet it. When I went to Charlotte for Moral Monday, I met the greatest Moral Monday dog of all time. His name was Henry, and all 132 pounds of him was supporting women's rights. He was wearing a sign that said "feminist in training" and was succeeding at that judging by how he brought smiles to men and women alike that day.

Henry is a rescue dog, just like my dog. Henry's mom says she doesn't know quite who rescued whom. I totally understand what she means. Today, I went to a rally in Greensboro to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It was all about rescuing each other. 

Very few people have a dream and all by themselves make it come true. The bigger your dream, the more help you might find yourself needing. I'm trying to make my dream of a better North Carolina come true, and I've had a lot of help. Young people were a part of Martin Luther King's dream and I think they should be part of North Carolina's dream too.

Young people were a part of Taking the Dream Home to Greensboro today. There were a lot of college students there. They are going to fight to rescue their polling places on campus from being closed. I know at least one 17 year old there pre-registered to vote today before the Sept. 1st deadline. The young people of North Carolina are going to keep carrying the dream forward.

It's wrong to ignore or dismiss the voices of young people when you're in government. If you want to shape the attitudes of young people, you have to speak to them, not against them. You've got to show that you truly are serving the people, all the people, by the way you treat the people.

Henry the Great Dane knew how to treat people. Even though he was of large size, his friendly demeanor quickly put you at ease around him. He was happy just to stand there next to people and lean on them once in awhile. I don't think he cared what someone's political opinions were before he decided whether or not to be nice to them. He didn't care about your race, age, or any of that. 

I believe that things are going to get better in North Carolina. I think we'll be closer to the dream in the future. When I think about the legacy passed on to my generation by the people who started with Martin Luther King's dream, I feel rescued. I feel like NC's young people aren't starting from scratch. We'll build our dream on a strong foundation because the nation's youth was included in it. Just like Henry, we'll lean on each other once in awhile.

Old North State

North Carolina has a state song. It's called Old North State. Here it is: 

Carolina! Carolina! Heaven's blessings attend her!
While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her;
Tho' the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her,
Still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her.
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
Tho' she envies not others, their merited glory,
Say whose name stands the foremost, in Liberty's story,
Tho' too true to herself e'er to crouch to oppression,
Who can yield to just rule a more loyal submission?
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
Plain and artless her sons, but whose doors open faster
At the knock of a stranger, or the tale of disaster.
How like the rudeness of the dear native mountains,
With rich ore in their bosoms and life in their fountains.
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
And her daughters, the Queen or the forest resembling
So graceful, so constant, yet the gentlest breath trembling.
And true lightwood at heart, let the match be applied them,
How they kindle and flame! Oh! none know but who've tried them.
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
Then let all those who love us, love the land that we live in,
As happy a region as on this side of heaven,
Where plenty and peace, love and joy smile before us,
Raise aloud, raise together the heart thrilling chorus.
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!
Isn't it nice the way it talks about North Carolina's sons and daughters? I think that's nice too. I like how it talks about North Carolina's daughters being graceful, constant, and on fire. William Gaston thought empowering North Carolina's daughters was a good idea in 1835 when he wrote our state song. 
He also talked about North Carolina's sons whose doors open fast when strangers knock.

What's happening to the Old North State? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Notice Me Horton

So, picture me 12 years old and all this stuff is happening. This is so amazing. What's not amazing is the fact I've been insulted and dissed by my Governor. My Governor doesn't believe NC's young people can think for themselves, apparently. He doesn't seem to believe I could possibly be a functional human being.

McCrory didn't have a problem with any groups that supported him during his election or support him now. Yesterday, McCrory was at a CEO forum at a country club. People have been criticizing him for hanging out with his supporters and groups who support him. I think he has a right to do that. I don't consider it shocking or outside the norm of what people involved in politics usually do.

Yesterday, I was in Raleigh doing my own version of "Notice Me Horton" by talking to the press. Let me tell you, nothing can prepare you for the experience of all those cameras at once. I would much rather be here on my computer talking to people where I have a delete button and can take 20 minutes to write one sentence if I want than to have a conversation in front of other people. When you give an interview on-camera, you aren't supposed to look at the camera. There I was yesterday answering questions saying in my head, "Just be yourself," while at the same time trying to look into the two inch space between the cameras. After they film you talking, they need footage to fill in the parts where they will be talking about you. That's when you get to do stuff like take bites of cake and let them film your hands closing the cake container.

The members of the press were all very nice to me. I'm glad I had that experience of all those cameras while I'm 12 years old. Think about what I'll be like when I'm 25. I was just as interested in the members of the press and watching the way they do their jobs as they were in me. I like journalists and I think they play an important role in society. They have the power to amplify people's voices and bring awareness to issues. Even people who have radio shows the Governor appears on who make assumptions about me have a purpose. Yes, I listened to it and at first my reaction was emotional, but logic usually comes in time and now I think it's funny. It was well played to the audience it was intended for, a good attempt at mocking, and not any more mean-spirited than I would have been in setting out to do something similar. I just wish the host would have said the words "Easy Bake Oven."

There were a few other people who showed up yesterday too. They were just regular citizens who believe in what I'm doing. My email is overflowing with messages of support from regular citizens.That's an incredible feeling, to know what you're doing really means something to someone.

I set out to make this whole silly cake thing mean something and I'm doing that. I'm offended at the notion this is all just a media stunt. I'm working hard to try to use the energy generated to do some good. I have a whole life outside of all this too, and I consider my time valuable. What's being used here (by me) is my time and abilities to bring attention to an issue that might otherwise have gotten lost in a sea of much bigger issues considering everything going on in NC right now.

Now it's clear McCrory knows I exist and that I want to have a conversation with him. I can check that one off my list. His response is to dismiss me as a prop, call all this a political stunt, and is disappointed the press covered my story. I guess since he thinks I'm being used as a prop, it's okay for him to do that too in his own way. My invitation is still open to meet with him if he'd like to get to know the real me and give me a chance to get to know the real him. I still think after he hears my brief, polite comments about the two issues, we can find something in common to talk about. He's in front of all those cameras all the time. We could talk about that. Maybe he could give me some pointers.

My mission now is to stand up for North Carolina's youth and McCrory's response motivates me even more in doing that. I bet you a chocolate cake that I won't need a petition to meet with some of my other legislators in NC. I bet that they would be willing to give me and my young friends 15 minutes to talk to them about pre-registering 16 and 17 year olds to vote. I also have no problem reaching out to groups who support some of the same things I support and supporting the things we agree on together. I urge other young people of North Carolina to do exactly the same thing, regardless of if those groups are liberal or conservative.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Burdensome Youth

The Governor's office made the following statement about H589, more commonly known as the voter ID law:
"This law will also remove the bureaucratic burden of having to re-certify the address and other identifying information for under-age voters by doing away with pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds. North Carolina was one of only eight states with the practice of “registering” teenagers too young to vote."

Do you hear that youth of NC? We're a bureaucratic burden now.

Things not a bureaucratic burden include:
Spending up to 3.6 million dollars according to one of the original Republican chief sponsors of the voter ID legislation (others say this will cost much much more)

Replacing 6 million dollars worth of voting machines in one county alone

What this nice lady is going to have to go through to get all her ID straightened out:

Let's all hop in the TARDIS and go back in time. We don't have to go back very far, only to to 2010. Back then, the legislation that allowed 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote in NC passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was cited by FairVote as an "excellent example of how to engage young voters."

North Carolina never had a practice of registering any teenagers too young to vote. What NC did was allow 16-17 year olds to pre-register, meaning they would fill out their registration forms and those forms would be held until it was time for the verification process. When was the time for that verification process? The time for verifying the applications of teens who had pre-registered was not when they pre-registered but when they reached legal voting age. When the pre-registered teens turned 18, the information would then be verified just like the information of any other voter of any age that was newly registering.

At the time this legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the State Board of Elections said it would be able to develop software to handle pre-registrations without going over their budget. They also said that this legislation allowing teens to pre-register would make the voter rolls more accurate. According to the DMV, 16 and 17 year olds don't change addresses as often as 18 and 19 year olds.

Bureaucratic burden? Allowing teens to pre-register and adding them to the voter rolls when they turn 18 is no more burdensome than registering anyone else. Besides, wasn't the whole point of requiring ID to make sure people's information matched up when they went to vote?

The only bureaucratic burden I see here is that certain elected representatives in North Carolina want to continue to blow off NC's youth with answers that don't make sense in regard to eliminating the ability of 16-17 year olds to pre-register to vote.

As some of you know, I want to meet with my Governor to discuss this issue. What some of you might not know is that if he chooses not to meet with me, I'm not giving up. I'm fed up, fired up, and getting ready to organize.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fool Me Once

I got cast in a musical earlier this year. It was Legend of Zelda and when I found out about it, the nerd girl artist in me was so excited. The people putting it on made all kinds of promises about how great it would be. We were going to do this to raise money for kids with cancer. That made me feel extra good. After I was cast, I went out and asked my friends and family for money to support the production and was able to raise a good amount.

We started rehearsals. I started to get the feeling something wasn't quite right. I was supposed to have music rehearsals but no one was teaching me any music. There was no one there qualified to teach me any music. As time went on, my worst fears were confirmed. I was to go on stage in less than a month and I had no music. Lucky for me, I had resources to be able to find someone outside the organization to write a song for me. Maybe since they didn't have to worry about arranging my solo, they would have more time to work on the group numbers I was in. Unfortunately, they never worked on those numbers either. I ended up having to speak words to music.

We had lemonade stands that were supposed to raise money for the kids with cancer. But in my opinion those were more about the guy in charge making stupid videos and trying to act like a teenager. One lady had a yard sale to help raise money. She worked for weeks on it. The people in charge didn't lift a finger to help her. I never got the feeling these people were passionate about kids with cancer, but were only passionate about themselves.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. Tech week came. Outside the church where we were putting on the production, there were materials being assembled and painted to make some sort of pillars for the stage. But the pillars weren't ever used on the stage. They ended up being used as very expensive lobby decorations. The money that built all that stuff could have gone to kids with cancer. Meanwhile, one teenage girl with help from her mom had to end up doing 90% of the costumes because otherwise no one would have had costumes at all.

The whole time all this stuff was happening, the people in charge went on and on about how great they were. Everything that went wrong was somebody else's fault. They would give the excuse after excuse after excuse. They had lots of people willing to help them who were experienced with music, directing, production, marketing, fundraising, and set design, but the people in charge knew it all.

Something good did happen during this show though. Some of the really talented and smart actors in the show knew the show was going to suck if they didn't do something. Instead of saying the lines like they were in the script, some of the actors revolted. We improvised. The audience laughed and laughed and at the end we all got a standing ovation. Some money did end up going to the kids with cancer. Not as much as there could have been but at least there was something. The people in charge walked away with all the credit even though others did all the work.

I was reminded of this whole experience today and when I started thinking about it, what happened with this show was a lot like what's happening in North Carolina right now. People were elected based on the great promises they made. Now that those people have the power they wanted, they don't care about much else. They don't use the resources they have to help the people but force the people to help themselves instead. They do the things they want to do, even when those things make no sense. They do the things they want to do with the people's money even though what they're doing isn't helping the people at all. When people warn them they aren't doing things the right way, they don't listen. It's all about them. They consider themselves a great success no matter how much money they waste. When things go wrong it's always somebody else's fault.

I think though that things have the potential in NC to turn out good for the people just like this show did for the audience. That's because a lot of people here in NC aren't going to say their lines like the people in charge want them to. They're going to speak out and let others know how those in charge have behaved and how it's effected them. They are going to rally support around the people who prove they are capable, responsible, and have the best interest of the people at heart.

You might fool us once, but we won't be fooled again after we're shown such awful behavior.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rainbow Games

Gay people. They're so cute aren't they? Awww...let's let them get married. Even though more Americans are starting to support LBGT rights, that support doesn't do much good if it's superficial. It's time for the idea that "everybody has a right to their opinion" when we discuss equality for the LBGT community to die.

No one has the right to beat gay people physically or emotionally, criminalize their relationships, or prevent them from being part of society. That's not an opinion, it's a human rights violation. Holding hands with the person you love isn't propaganda.

Standing for equality, as in really truly equality not just a few rights here and there, means putting it on the line. When it's about more than choosing where to buy a sandwich and is about choosing to be ostracized or excluded as a straight person the same way the LBGT community is being ostracized and excluded, a lot of people chicken out.

With the Olympics coming, it won't be just athletics on display. The reactions of governments, leaders, committees, corporations, spectators, and others will be on display too. Letting go of the fear of what people will think or how they will treat us at a time when such a level of homophobia is showcased to the world is important.

Every time an ally decides to put away the rainbow flag when they feel it's going to offend someone, every time one of us lets someone get away with saying, "It's fine if they want to be gay but I don't want to see them kiss or hold hands," every time we don't immediately let it be known in a group that any homophobic hate speech won't be tolerated, we're saying that LBGT rights are a matter of opinion. We're saying LBGT rights aren't human rights.

The way allies react to what's going on in Russia and to the Olympics is going to set the stage for what happens here in our own country. If the people who fear equality see that people outside the LBGT community aren't putting up much of a fuss, they're going to see it as a sign they won't have much opposition to committing future human rights violations and attempting to legislate hate.

For a long time, homophobes have tried to discourage potential allies. They've tried to say that if we support equality we are going against family values and religious liberty. They've called us Socialists, Communists, Anti-American. They try to make people scared to come out in support of the LGBT community the same way Rudolph's dad made him ashamed of his fabulous nose. If you choose the rainbow games, you'll be excluded from the reindeer games.

Now is not the time for allies to chicken out. It's time to start pointing out the hypocrisy of the homophobes who fight hard to keep LBGT rights a matter of opinion.

"Excuse me, Mr.Homophobe, now that the US government recognizes all marriages as equal and the Russian government makes "homosexual propaganda" illegal, whose policies do you support, those of the United States or Mother Russia?"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Somewhere In Between

Yesterday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made a You Tube video after signing legislation, which included what he called Voter ID.
(Comments are disabled for this video)

According to McCrory, voter ID makes sense because you, "need photo ID to board an airplane, cash a check, or even apply for most government benefits." Then he talked about how there was recent bi-partisan action to require photo ID to buy Sudafed.

You can board an airplane, cash a check, apply for government benefits, and even get Sudafed without a photo ID. There are procedures in place for people without photo ID at the airport. According to the NC DHHS, there are many documents, including a school identification card, that can be used to prove identity when applying for benefits. You can get someone to help you cash a check and an elderly person who needs Sudafed can get it from a caregiver if they don't have photo ID. Nobody else can vote for you.

The Governor didn't talk in the video about any instances of voter fraud and how this legislation is going to help that in his opinion.

In a statement to the Durham Herald-Sun, McCrory said, "The need for photo-ID has been questioned by those who say voter fraud is not a problem in North Carolina. However, without the higher level of identification a photograph provides, is it possible to know? Even if the instances of misidentified people casting votes are low, that shouldn’t prevent us from putting this non-burdensome safeguard in place. Just because you haven’t been robbed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your doors at night or when you’re away from home."

Now back to the video. It gets interesting as McCrory wants to "be direct." He begins to talk about how many of those from the "extreme left" who have been critical of this legislation are using "scare tactics." Check this out:
"They're more interested in divisive politics than ensure that no one's vote is disenfranchised by fraudulent ballot."

North Carolina citizens have brought up many real concerns about this legislation, including me.

Also in the Herald-Sun, McCrory made the following statement:
"Pre-registration of people too young to vote is another practice that will end."

This is in a paragraph that talks about registration integrity. I don't appreciate the integrity of my concerns being pawned off as "divisive politics"when the legislation that made it possible for teens to pre-register to vote was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. I don't consider it to be "scare tactics" when I bring up that pre-registration is possible in states like Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington DC at 16 and that Alaska, California, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming allow pre-registration at 17.

I know people I'd consider as extreme left and people I'd consider as extreme right. Most people I know are somewhere in between.

Once again, I feel let down by the responses of my leadership. First I get cake, now this. Someday this in-between will be old enough to vote and I'm not voting for anything on the menu from the left or the right that tastes like this.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dear Maddie

I thought I'd share some of the questions I get most often and answer them in case anyone else has the same question. Some of these aren't the actual questions just a paraphrasing of the general idea.

"Why did you start that petition?"

After the cookie and cake incident, I had about a day of joining in the jokes with people. I read McCrory's response on the cookies and the spokesperson's response to the cake and I wasn't satisfied with either one. I felt that some people weren't taking me seriously about how the response from that spokesperson about the cake made me feel. I decided to get serious. One of my friends was already suggesting I meet with the Governor and even sent that message to him. I thought, why not? I'd at least be trying to make some good come out of the whole baked goods affair.

"Where do you go to school?"

I don't and I never have. Right now, I'm working on getting some of my high school credits finished so I can plan for college. I don't know if I want to do early college like some of my friends have. We have dual enrollment here where you can take college credits while still in high school (if they don't cut that even more too by the time I get there) and I think I will do that first. I learn a lot on my own. Homeschooling doesn't have to be a thing where you sit down at a table and your mom gives you lessons. It really doesn't look like that for many of my friends. A lot of the teachers I do have for classes I choose to take are current or former public school teachers or college professors. Most of my friends still in school go to public school. Just because you don't go to public school doesn't mean you can't support it.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

My standard answer to that question is, "It hasn't been invented yet." I really don't think of my life in terms of planning for one big things. I kind of decide what I want to be doing with my life right now and how I get there. I love the arts. I love acting, working backstage, dancing, painting, taking photographs, fashion, and I just like to create in general. I want to direct a show. That's a big goal for me right now. I think about a future life where I can keep doing the things I love and have enough skills that are useful to have money to keep doing those things. Honestly, I don't see myself going into politics. The thought of going to school to do that isn't appealing. I'd love to be a makeup artist for the First Lady and get to hang around the outskirts of all the politics though.

"Does anybody help you write your blog?"

Writing it no. I do have a friends, people I've met through classes and such, I might ask to read something to see if it makes sense. The thoughts are no problem. It's organizing things that's harder for me. If I let somebody read what I wrote I usually end up taking things away or moving things around. I rarely add. The things I read are the biggest help and I do get some of my ideas for things I discuss with my friends on social media. I said before I think of writing a lot like I think of fashion. Instead of putting outfits and accessories together, it's words and ideas.

"Isn't there plenty of time to worry about this when you grow up?"

Actually when I grow up there will probably be less time because I hope to be much busier then. The whole "you sound like an adult" thing has been beyond annoying to me for years. One of my goals in life is to become an adult so if I happen to be demonstrating well that I'm learning how to be that, isn't that a good thing? I enjoy hanging out with friends, shopping, playing video games, just laying around and being a lazy teenager, and lots of other things other kids enjoy. I don't limit myself to anything. I don't compartmentalize myself.

"What is your family like?"

If you knew me and knew my parents, you'd be laughing as hard as we are at any suggestion they put me up to any of this. My parents are my biggest supporters in anything I want to do, however. When I was younger, if I had an interest they would help me find people with that interest and adults that could mentor me. I've been doing those things myself for awhile now. If I ask for a class they pay for it. If I want or need to go somewhere they almost always drive me. Sometimes I pay for gas or buy  lunch. I have a lot of freedom but I'm expected to not abuse it and I think that's fair. Think of helicopter parents and then think of the opposite and that would be my parents. My grandparents are a big part of my life too. My Mamu tells the best stories out of anyone I know. My Pop Pop, a Republican who watches Fox News, is good at practical jokes and math.

"What do you hope will be the outcome of all this?"

I hope the outcome will be a conversation with my Governor. I believe I've been reasonable in my request. If that doesn't happen I hope other young people, especially girls, see they can have a voice and they can get involved in issues that are important to them. I hope the next time adults meet someone my age they might treat them with a higher expectation of being a functional human being. Most of all, I hope other people get behind the idea that democracy is about regular people and that trying to make a change for the better is much better than endlessly arguing with people in a futile attempt to change their minds.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hansel and Gretel: A Twisted Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hansel and a little girl named Gretel. Hansel was 12, thin and underweight, but still very strong. Gretel was 7, innocent and always trying to please others. While the children were sweet and kind, their parents were monsters. They hit the children, cursed at them, and treated them as slaves. Their father would make them do his woodcutter's work for him without giving them anything more than the food and water needed to keep them alive. The mother and father had nefarious plans for Gretel when she came of age. One night, Hansel heard his parents discussing their plans and knew he had to save his sister. The next time their father took them out into the woods, he kept the small crust of bread that was their dinner in his pocket. Usually, when the father led them into the woods they would leave a trail of pebbles to find their way home. This time though, the boy left crumbs of the bread along the trails knowing the birds would eat it up.

Father: You children had better have this work done by dark and be home in time for bed! You have plenty more work in the morning!

The father slapped Hansel across the face and he fell on the ground. The father then turned and was gone. Hansel knew that he had to keep Gretel as calm as possible. He knew she would never follow him if she knew they were leaving what she perceived as the safety of home. They chopped all the wood as usual and Hansel pretended to be as shocked as his sister when finding that the trail of crumbs he had left was gone.

Gretel: Hansel which way do we go now?

Hansel: Don't worry Gretel.

Gretel: But Hansel I'm cold and tired and hungry!

Hansel: Come on Gretel, we'll just have to search for some means of food and water.

They went in search of food, water, and shelter. Suddenly they saw a strange house that seemed to be made out of vegetables. They ran up to it and started munching on the carrots that framed the windows and the spinach that made up the lawn around the house. Suddenly an old woman opened the door and peered out at them.

Old Woman: Oh....hello children. Come in, come in. You look ever so hungry.

Gretel: Oh, thank you ma'am!

Hansel:(figuring this place could not be any worse than from whence they came) Thank you.

The children went inside and devoured all the nutritious food the old woman offered them. The old woman was so nice to them and taught them so many things. She taught Hansel how to hunt and Gretel how to garden, cook, and clean, so she could make a favorable match and be a good housewife when the time came. Gretel knew then that the life she had lived before was a life of despair.

A month had passed. After an exhaustive search, the father finally discovered the whereabouts of his offspring. He burst in under the guise of rescuing the children but of course his idea of rescuing was to return them to their life of servitude. Gretel was heating up the oven to cook dinner for Hansel and the old woman. When the father came to the door, Gretel opened it.

Father: Hurry and return home children. I'll stall the old woman.

Hansel however, knew it was a trick and threw his father into the heated oven. They left him to cook for several hours while they worked together to prepare a lovely meal. As they feasted on his flesh, Hansel and Gretel reveled in their happiness. They were finally part of a family. They lived with the old woman, HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Good Die Young

Behold: Generation Nation

This is a program in Charlotte, NC that has been educating students about citizenship. 'Murica.

Here is the part of the website where it talks about 16-17 year olds pre-registering to vote:

In case you didn't know, the legislation that allowed 16-17 year olds to pre-register came about in 2010. It's not very old. But for some unknown reason, this very young freedom had to die.

The new way to encourage citizenship in NC is to allow people to carry guns in bars and at playgrounds and parks and in their cars when they visit schools and college campuses.
Die, legislation that caused 100,000 young people to pre-register to vote in the short time it existed, die!

Meanwhile, in Colorado:


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Higher Learning

Charleston Southern University is a Christian College located in Charleston, SC. One of their students, Stephen Lovegrove, was majoring there in religion with a minor in communications. He had a 3.8 GPA and evidently showed good leadership, as he was a dorm resident advisor.

Stephen just happens to be gay. Stephen also happens to use the internet. Stephen was recently removed from his resident advisor position at Charleston Southern University. The University told Stephen that parents could Google his name, call the school, and say they aren't comfortable having their student in a dorm with a gay individual.

I Googled Stephen's name. Stephen and I don't share the same religious beliefs but we have a lot of things in common. I loved checking out his style board on Pinterest. Through reading his Twitter it's very evident Stephen's religious beliefs are a very important part of his life. What parents will see when they Google Stephen's name is someone who's intelligent, fun, supportive, and faithful.

Charleston Southern University had an opportunity to educate any parent who might have called and have been worried about there being gay Christian person in the dorms. They could have used this as an opportunity to explain that Stephen was an exemplary student. They had an opportunity to dispel the ignorant notion that a student would somehow be in any kind of danger because a person who just happens to be gay lives in the same dorm. Not to mention, since sexual assault on women is a problem on campuses, they had an opportunity to say sexual harassment in any form is an issue the University takes seriously and that conduct from anyone would not be tolerated.

Instead, Charleston Southern University has chosen to make homophobia part of its marketing package to prospective students. They have chosen to send a message that Christians who just happen to be gay need not apply. They have chosen to send a message that faith isn't the most important thing to them, fear is. They have chosen to send a message that knowledge isn't the most important thing, ignorance is.

The University didn't expel Stephen and they say they planned to offer him another job with equal pay. This is not inclusion. This is not equality. Stephen won't be attending Charleston Southern in the fall. He feels it's not a healthy environment for him. Wherever he goes, I'm sure when people Google his name they'll see a person who is genuine and genuinely awesome.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Children of the Movement

I went to Mountain Moral Monday for very different reasons than I went to the demonstrations in Raleigh. I didn't go to cheer or even hear the speakers really. At a time when I was getting a lot of attention, I wanted to go and just be one of the people in the crowd.

People recognized me there and I'm used to everywhere I go people wanting to talk to me about something. I don't like attention, but that's happened before any of this and will happen regardless. The fact it's going to happen for other reasons for a little while isn't much different than normal. I'm an introvert so I know how to escape people and still be with them when I need to.

I ended up watching part of Moral Monday from under a spectacular tree. There was a sign that said no climbing but I climbed it anyway. It was an act of civil disobedience. Then I walked up the walkway behind the stage for awhile.

From where I was, I could watch the crowd. There were so many people. I thought about my petition and how each one of the signatures represented a person and maybe even a person there.  Rev. Barber started talking about how we are all one people. We were all different but all the same because we care.

I sat down for a bit, there behind the concrete wall, and just thought about things. My friends have believed in me from the start. My mom's friends jumped on it and helped so much. I talked to some very nice people on the phone yesterday who encouraged me and are helping me. I totally know now I did the right thing.

After the rally, we went to eat and I met a man who had been arrested at one of the previous Moral Mondays. I talked to a nice family whose county is really hurting right now. A nice lady came up to the table and told me she'd signed the petition and encouraged me. People were talking about how even though things are so bad there is so much hope we can't help but feel good.

A lot of people want to tell me how because I'm young, I give them hope for the future. I am totally humbled at such a suggestion. I think though that the real hope for the next generation is all of us. It's what all of us are doing right now.

North Carolina citizens believe in each other. The rest of the world who is watching sees it. Forward together is not just a slogan. This is not just a moment, it's a movement. If you don't believe that, look at how many people in NC and all over the world are helping me knock on a door.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Power of Prayer

Equality Alabama has started a petition asking the president of the Alabama Service Commission, ironically named Twinkle, to apologize for inviting a minister most sinister to a public energy meeting who then proceeded at said meeting to pray away the gay. The prayer lasted all the way from 2:20 of this video all the way to the end at 5:55.

I don't pray and I don't think there's any need to pray for electricity. But if I did pray I don't think any god I would pray to would require me to say words like this:

"...We've said it's okay to have same-sex marriage. We have sinned and we ask once again that you forgive us for our sins," Jordan opined. "If there is anybody here that is in agreement with this, may us in the powerful, most mighty name, the name that's above all names, and that's Jesus ... and everybody said, 'Amen."

Don't you love how he saved the praying away the gay for the end? "...And god bless grandma and please forgive me for the moment of temptation where I thought just maybe it's okay to have a shred of human dignity. And thank you god for letting all these people be here when I talk to them. I mean you, adjective, adjective, adjective, Jesus, amen."

In a statement to Huffington Post, Twinkle Cavanaugh responded to the prayer by saying:

"My Christian faith guides me in everything that I do, and I'm proud that the Alabama Public Service Commission opens each meeting seeking His divine guidance and thanking God for the blessings He has given us," she writes. "I make no apologies as a Christian elected into public service by the people of Alabama. Without a doubt, our nation needs more prayer, not less."

If a 3:35 prayer isn't enough prayer for saying whatever needs to be said to god before talking about power rates, the Alabama Public Service Commission definitely needs less prayer. Marriage equality is not responsible for increasing energy rates. That prayer guided and blessed hate and discrimination.

The petition is not asking Twinkle Cavanaugh to apologize for being a person who likes to pray. The idea of praying at public meetings in general is not being pulled into this. The issue stated by Equality Alabama is:

"Equating a person's sexual orientation to sin in a public meeting is tantamount to bullying and it has harmful consequences."

Bullying is wrong and Twinkle Cavanaugh should absolutely apologize as an elected official and president of the Alabama Service Commission. Please help show her how many people think she should apologize by signing the petition and standing with Equality Alabama.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Party Games

There's a game I like to play called Werewolf. It's really fun, especially if you have a lot of people. Everyone playing is a member of a village. One or more members of the village are werewolves and are trying to avoid detection and kill villagers. There are all kinds of roles you can draw in the game. There are seers who, when they wake up at "night" when everyone else has their heads down, can point to someone for the moderator to identify as a werewolf or not. There's a witch who can kill or save one person per game. There's a hunter who can kill someone if he dies, and many other roles too. During the "day" the villagers all discuss and nominate someone for death and then the whole village votes on it.

Party politics is sort of like playing Werewolf. There are various roles. At various times, one party is the hunter and the other is the hunted. I don't think party politics are all bad. I think it's ok to play with your friends. In Werewolf, no matter what side you're on, everybody at the table has a good time despite many taunts and mockings that occur. This is how smart people play.

There comes a time though when games should be put aside. When it comes down to the process of actually making laws and voting for the people who make them, it's important to pay attention to everyone at the table. Rules in games are made to keep the game under control and to make sure no one player can monopolize the game, no pun intended. Rules help to make the game fair.

In order to make laws and elect the people to make laws the game has to be fair. This means that ordinary citizens should be able to have the same access to people in government that big organizations do, especially on issues that are really important to those citizens.

I have to be really honest for a minute and say I would love nothing more than to ask Pat McCrory, "Dude, what the heck are you thinking?" But I'm already doing that by demonstrating, writing about my opinions, and participating in the usual goings on of social media politics. And all that really isn't as much about him as it is about me, my friends, and others who might want to join in that game.

My real relationship with the Governor is one of a citizen to a person who is head of the government of my state. Because of that I want to meet with him just as that. I love my family and friends and I've made new friends with people in various groups around the state. I'm very thankful for all the encouragement I get. But I don't want to represent anyone else's interests.

I want to believe the Governor wants to consider the feelings of people involved in the whole baked goods affair. I want to believe that if he considers what I feel, next time he might think about things a little differently when he sees people on the sidewalk. I also want to believe he has now read the part of the voter bill that talks about 16-17 year olds pre-registering to vote. I think maybe if we listen to each other, I can come away with a better understanding of his feelings on youth participation in democracy. This is important to me because I'm almost there.

I think we need to pause the game for a minute and get real. I'm sure the cookie monster jokes will continue and I'm sure people will continue to accuse me of being indoctrinated. I really don't care how other people see me just like I'm sure Governor McCrory isn't losing any sleep over being compared in gameplay to Marie Antoinette. We both know who we really are inside. That's how I want to talk to him and if he would rather talk to someone more important than me, that's cool too.

If you support any or all of what I've said here, which was very hard to formulate and I hope makes sense, please consider signing my petition:

It takes a village to raise a democracy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Friend For Life

I talk to both my mom and my dad about sex but these days, I get most of my information from websites like Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood, and others. It's not that I'm embarrassed to have frank discussions about sex with my parents. We have discussions about all kinds of things, sex being just one of them. It's just that I'm an introvert and would rather read than talk to anyone about anything. 

I talk to my friends about sex sometimes. Most of my friends are older and some of them are sexually active. Truth is, there are a lot of reasons people have sex. Truth is, even though I have opinions about the reasons I would choose to have sex or choose not to, it's really none of my business what other women decide.

Chances are, despite contraception being available, I'll eventually have a friend who gets pregnant unintentionally. I know some teen moms and women who became moms when they were teens but I've never gone through the experience of a friend finding out she was pregnant. When that does happen, I'm not going to immediately advise her to go get an abortion.

The thing is, just like having sex, there's not much I could really do to influence another woman as to what to do if pregnant even if I wanted to. So if I did have a friend in that situation, I think it would be important to let her know that I'll be there with her whether that means going to a doctor for an abortion or for prenatal care for the duration of her pregnancy if she needed me.

Despite the fact I'm pro-choice, I'd really like to see abortion rates as low as they could be. The ways to accomplish this are by making contraception as accessible as possible and providing things like enforced paid maternity leave from work, food assistance, housing assistance, child care assistance, and other things families need to survive. Ways to not accomplish this are giving women incorrect information, making it hard to get birth control, and shaming women for making "poor life choices."

It's really disgusting that people who don't think they would have an abortion themselves want to call me a baby killer because I believe in a woman's right to choose. I've seen all the fetus pictures. I know people who have had premature infants fighting for their lives in NICU and I have known  parents who have experienced the sorrow of losing a child. If my mom had chosen to have an abortion when she was pregnant with me, I wouldn't be here and therefore I wouldn't care. A woman's right to choose isn't about any of that. All that's about is propaganda, not reason.

If you have needed or chosen to have an abortion, I support you. That has to be the hardest decision ever and sometimes it's not a decision, it's a medical necessity. If you haven't or wouldn't choose to have an abortion, I support you too. Raising a child, even if you are financially secure, is a really hard thing. Giving up a child for adoption must be terribly hard. My idea of supporting women is supporting women, no matter what choices they make.