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Another Mass Shooting In The US, And I Cannot Say Their Names

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I want to write their names but I can’t.

Another eleven people murdered by a white man, a white supremacist in a synagogue this past Saturday during shabbos worship.

Tree of Life was cut down but the roots still firmly in place, as a community puts eleven loved ones into the soil.

I will not say the murderer’s name and give him the satisfaction his violent doctrine sought to amplify in the screams of innocent victims and innocent people left to put the pieces of broken tomorrows back together.

I want to write their names, the victims as if it will write them back into existence.

Three years ago Youth Ki Awaaz lent me their platform to pen (Obama’s Move To Control Illegal Gun Sale Is Welcome, But Here’s What It Completely Misses) the mindless madness of vitriolic white male supremacy. Three years later, with hundreds of innocent people murdered, a white supremacist is in the White House and we aren’t powerless to stop it. We aren’t empowered to stop it either. We aren’t here from a lack of discourse, we are here again because of a lack of will. We are masters of algorithms, marketing, hash-tags, talking points, mediated drivel that combined masks the most elemental rudiment in changing a society, a culture, a politics that genuflects to the idea of growth but fears change. We are abject of will.

If I were to write the names of the people killed in the madness of gun violence, armaments, allegiances of assassinations, eliminations, exterminations and slaughter, how long would that list be?

Long enough to be titled United States’ his-story.

How many existences liquidified? The list would stretch from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Saada in Yemen.

So, I cannot fulfill the patchwork of routine. I cannot, cannot write their names.

I cannot dishonor their names after the last school shooting, after the last sixteen-year-old boy who was shot in the head, blocks away from where I live in front of a library in broad daylight, I cannot write their names.

I cannot ceremoniously perform a perfunctory duty of mindlessness and customary observance – because at some point, long past, it became accordance and accordance became duplicitous to convenience. Convenience is apposite to complacency and complacency answerable to history.

We worship – worship Colin Kaepernick but he didn’t take a kneel when it was convenient to do so. He didn’t take it in a selfie, in production of presenting an ideal, he did it on the playing field, where it counted. White people throughout the United States loved to take pictures on their front lawn emulating Kaepernick’s kneel where they are under no duress and aren’t made to sacrifice an ounce of privilege – in fact it reinforces, it doubles down on their social capital by virtue of marketing themselves as having a social consciousness. We don’t need public relations. Public relations is the window dressing and behind that window dressing are the cemeteries.

This white supremacist, opportunist, misogynistic, megalomaniac president is donning the stock market – an incubated misdirection because people don’t understand how markets work – as his main accomplishment. Tomorrow, on the playing field how many will refuse to go to work, to disrupt the status quo, to do things without routine–THAT- THAT, THAT IS WHAT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS – DISRUPTION. It doesn’t have to be violent, but it seeks to affect the constancy, amenity of comfort and convenience.

VOTING – WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD DO, IS NOT A DISRUPTION OF ANY FRAMEWORK.

We must boycott labor and exalt to end this madness. We must put the money we make where their mouths are.

Politicians work for us, not the other way around. Politicians are not commercial celebrities accountable to the aesthetic of perpetual mediated relevancy. We don’t need representation on twitter, we need it in the trenches, integrating process to action for tangible policies to redirect the course of society. As long as they are made out to be celebrities beyond reproach they are unapproachable, unaccountable and we maintain the abased reality show value of politics. If we have questions about how we keep children from going to school, how we sustain ourselves while not going to work for a few days on the threshold of a higher ideal, as custodians of future generations’ safety and human rights, with what we do while not going to work to amplify our message, then we need to start there. Full stop. We need to start somewhere beyond funeral services. The inquiry is the starting point for a blueprint that doesn’t qualify the question as to what we can achieve but what we want to achieve, how to achieve and how our politicians and celebrities can organize around us not us around them.

Our celebrities who live in largess while we live in constant danger, can provide resources to supplement what we sacrifice.

I don’t know why it is so hard to understand that if everyone acts in unison then we can jam every single mode of accountability they can target us with. We cannot organize, but we are good at organizing pretense. Perhaps that is the real problem, we don’t know how to cooperate and our so-called leaders are busy playing into the production, creating production, that these become essential questions, reflections and arduous endeavors.

We do not get anywhere being reactionary, apolitical or living with historical amnesia.

I say this because I love you. Because I do not want to see a news feed and news being fed of children being put into the ground, of a grandfather or grandmother, a woman or man, trans, black, indigenous, a sex worker, muslim, jew, sikh or hindu, put to the ground before their time. I don’t differentiate the value of life or death when it is US aid sanctioned weapons targeting Gaza, drone attacks or coordinated support for war crimes in Yemen, the protocols that incubate market induced famine in Somalia, Sandra Bland being pulled from her car, Tamir Rice executed in a park of eleven people executed in worship. It is all white supremacy. It is all insulated by varying polarities of white supremacy. We do not give a platform to Al-Queda, Al-Shabaab or Al Nusra to make their case among the meme-stream commercial punditry, yet our so-called liberals are willing to pull a chair out for leading violent anti-intellectual white supremacists and it is time to pull the chair out from under this conceit replicating intelligent discourse.

Only unity can heal hate, it is innate to the dynamic of moving in one direction. Doing the same thing over and over, saying the names over and over again doesn’t honor them or us.

I would rather go to Union Square, Foley Square, or wherever square and just mark X’s across the concrete so that when we gather again in prescription, the scene will be preset. Maybe when the concrete brims in essays of the dead murdered in preventable atrocities we will get it.

Maybe we will get that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of security and security only fortifies complacency.

There is mindless violent rhetoric everywhere but not everywhere does mindless violent rhetoric have access to automatic weapons, semiautomatic and small arms. I am saying this again, because I don’t want to see any of us lost to madness but the script has got to go.

Yes, this is a time for community, this is a time to show harmony, consensus and cohesion.

No one is disputing the fact that we need unity in mending that piece of us that all of society needs to endear for survival. I only ask what we are conceding consensus to?

In 1968, Robert Kennedy (I invoke a Kennedy with unease) espoused the “Mindless menace of violence – that goes on and on in this nation.” Three years after the assassination of Malcolm, three months after the assassination of Martin, a month later he was dead. Fifty years later, these eleven people are dead. In between these eleven are hundreds of thousands of extra-judicially murdered through mass atrocities.

Anyone who has ever been to a nation under the thumb of US militarism knows that when you mention the United States people immediately, immediately, immediately bring up the persistence of violence. No gender-based-violence refugee I have ever worked with has ever wanted to come to the United States aside from the default of the idea of economic sustainability. Meaning, our economic sustainability is conscripted to a bloodletting of potential and we are withering from the disappearance of Indigenous women, trans people, black women, Afro-Latin, a people living enforced poverty.

If we aren’t willing to do anything different, disrupt, live up to the example that children walking out of schools are setting, then we aren’t going anywhere. An economic policy will not solve this. Healthcare for all will not solve this specifically. Abortion was recognized as a right that isn’t formally enumerated in any so-called bill of rights, and forty years later it is still being fought tooth and nail. A hundred and fifty years after the original sins of slavery, these people are fighting a civil war. We must show the world that we are willing to do what anyone, anywhere in the world would do, would do for less, if this were happening anywhere else in the world.

Bring the stock market down. Bring the economy to a halt. Let them see us refusing. Tell these people running for office that we are willing to do what it takes and we expect the same of them and in that, in that bond of labor, in that maternity of trust, in the will and courage, is a fire that burns with dignity for all that we have lost and we have lost too much. The world has lost too much and we are about to lose the world.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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