Category Archives: Current Events

The “Princess Machine”

The ad for GoldieBlox went live early this week (11/17/13) and in just a few days has gone viral with over 7 million views. It came across my radar thanks to Facebook and my wife, Stephanie, who’s a teacher. Let’s just say, this is the type of girl toy ad I’ve been waiting for and just in time for the holiday season! I look forward to supporting the company. For more info, visit: http://www.goldieblox.com

Credit: GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg, & Beastie Boys

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J4J Challenge Month #1: Raising Awareness and Funds for Global Seva (Kerrie Kauer’s Challenge)

This is a guest post by Kerrie Kauer.

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This month I am grateful to be collaborating with Jillian Roth, visionary for Jillybeads 4 Justice, a unique company that educates, advocates, and creates beautiful art for social justice causes. Jillian and I met in graduate school at the University of Tennessee in 2004, and shared a passion for creating social change, particularly around the empowerment of girls and women in sport. Eight years later, we are connecting again around our shared passion for social justice advocacy, and I couldn’t be more delighted!

During the month of October, I am part of Jillian’s “Challenge Month,” which will highlight Off The Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva as an organization Jillybeads 4 Justice is showing extra LOVE to from Monday, October 1 – Wednesday, October 31 by doing the following:

– Donating $5 from each piece sold;
– Offering free shipping on all custom orders; and
– Giving Voice to the Cause through a guest post on the J4J blog.

In addition, Off The Mat, Into the World’s Global Seva will be one of the three international “Featured Organizations” that customers can select to have their $10 donation go to with the purchase of each piece. As Jillian sees it, “It’s the kind of win-win we at Jillybeads 4 Justice strive towards—a piece of jewelry is sold and great work is supported!”

My work with Off The Mat, Into the World (OTM) has unfolded over the last two years and began with a 5-day leadership intensive. I had experienced a great deal of personal transformation through my own yoga practice, and I was particularly drawn to OTM’s politics and advocacy around social justice issues. While many non-profits often serve to reproduce paternalistic and imperialist agendas, particularly in developing nations, I saw the philosophy of OTM replicating a strong transnational feminist and social justice framework that worked with communities, and instead of for communities. My background in social justice education and feminist research prepared me for the intellectual work I do, but OTM has prepared me for the activist work in an entirely different way. I learned to feel sources of injustice in a more embodied way and work through some of my own tensions that wasn’t serving my activism (or research) very well. I have been taught to think critically about organizations, albeit sport or other non-profits, that enter into communities thinking soccer or basketball is a panacea for the injustices or poverty these communities face. OTM is not that organization, and they recognize that yoga, as a physical practice, is just a piece of the puzzle. They value the reciprocal relationship between personal transformation and social action; the core of this imbedded in Patanjali’s first two limbs of the 8-limbed path of yoga where the yamas (personal restraints) and niyamas (social observances) do not act in isolation of one another.

I feel confident in the work that OTM is doing, so much so that I recently became part of the Global Seva Challenge to raise awareness and funds around the issue of sex trafficking. As part of the Global Seva Challenge, I am charged with raising $20,000 that will go to sustainable efforts for six organizations in India. Many of these organizations are working with survivors of the sex trafficking industry through education, healing movement, micro-financing, and policy change. While the Global Seva Challenge will directly impact survivors in India, the awareness created around this issue can cross international borders, and speaks to a broader volume of cultural, economic, and gender injustices that are occurring worldwide. 100% of the money I raise will go directly to 6 different grassroots organizations (See here: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/indiapartners.html) that are currently working with survivors of sex trafficking. OTM has partnered with amazing organizations that are already at the forefront of this issue and are working to make a difference.

According the Trafficking in Persons report, over 2 million children are subjected to the global commercial sex trade; “Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death.” This is a global social justice issue, but for me I also see this a feminist issue. Approximately 80% of those trafficked are girls and women. While some women in the west have experienced equality on some fronts, I am reminded of Audre Lorde’s reflection that, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Off The Mat, Into The World embodies this quote; recognizing that we are all connected and the unity among us can be our greatest strength. I must recognize that I am those women and girls who are enslaved, and that my own liberation as a woman is bound up with the liberation of other women and girls around the globe, even if their circumstances look entirely different than my own.

I am honored to collaborate with Jillian on this project, and know that a deep level of love and commitment to social justice is manifested through her art. Each piece holds her intention and energy around making difference, so buying her jewelry is a win-win for you too!

Check out Jillybeads 4 Justice’s Fall Collection here!!!

Inspirational Beauty Everywhere | What’s Next for Jillybeads 4 Justice…

Photo Taken by Nikole DeZao

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been almost 3 months since the launch of Jillybeads 4 Justice! Now don’t get me wrong, there were many tasks that went into making such an event a reality. However, in many ways, it was simply the starting line.

Just like the athletes who did and will compete in London, when the whistle blows or the gun fires is truly when the real work begins—everything else was simply preparation. As many of you know, Jillybeads 4 Justice is not what pays the bills (at least not yet). As a result, the work happens in the evenings, during lunch breaks, and on weekends and holidays. For some, that may seem like too much to balance. For me, its easy to put in the extra time after an already long day when it’s created from my heart and passion—the desire to have something to call my own that allows for the intersections of my interests to Advocate, Educate, and Accessorize.

Advocate: to speak or write in support or defense of a person or cause.

Those that know me, know that I’m vocal about the causes I care about. They vary from women’s issues (e.g. Title IX, freedom of choice, empowerment, etc.) to LGBTQ rights and marriage equality to racial and economic justice to education to our Mother Earth. Despite the breadth, there’s a unifying factor—social justice. I’ve been privileged to have the resources to critically analyze my experiences as a Black queer woman living in a perceived “post-racial,” heteronormative, patriarchal U.S. society. I pull a lot from my personal experience, as it’s the best “data” I have at my fingertips.

Yes, Jillybeads 4 Justice is a business. A business that advocates knowing that activism is political and courageously takes a stand for justice. I believe our purpose is to use our voice and networks to advocate for the great work that’s being done in the Bay Area, throughout the country, and beyond the U.S. borders. In order to do so, I believe it takes teamwork with like-minded individuals. Thus, Jillybeads 4 Justice (J4J) will be collaborating with causes and organizations to further support their work while getting the word out about J4J.

You might be thinking, “What will this look like?” The first action will be what we call, Challenge Week. Challenge Week will be a Featured Organization that Jillybeads 4 Justice is showing extra LOVE to during a specified week(s) by doing the following:

  • Donating $5 from each piece sold;
  • Offering free shipping on all custom orders; and
  • Giving Voice to the Cause through a guest post on the J4J blog.

It’s the kind of win-win we  at Jillybeads 4 Justice—a piece of jewelry is sold and great work is supported!

Stay tuned for the first Challenge Week, which will kickoff the launch of our Fall Collection…

Educate: to inform a person or group.

In many ways, education comes before advocacy. I could argue, you have to become knowledgeable—personally and intellectually—about what you care about before taking action. Much of my knowledge has been acquired traditionally through higher education, yet I believe knowledge is everywhere and should come from more than the dominant source. This work is personal. I will always share what I know from my mind and heart while a community of smart, brilliant, thoughtful, and passionate people that’s constantly expanding inspires my work. I also believe its just as much my mission to share the “mic” and give voice to those who are engaged in the work that Jillybeads for Justice supports.

Since launching J4J, I would say I have continued being a perpetual learner. Much can be learned from a book, yet I would say my favorite medium is through travel whatever the means—car, plane, train, or boat. Since April, I’ve had the great fortune to visit numerous cities, 9 states, and Canada through varying means. I enjoy exploring what each city, state, and country has to offer in terms of culture, food, shopping, and recreation while capturing the great moments through photos (See my album of 2012 Summer Inspiration). On many of these adventures, I’ve acquired the beads that will inspire the 2012 Fall & Holiday Collections.

This “live” education reminds me that we all have a role to play. One of these roles is teacher. I have the upmost respect for teachers and educators at every level. This is why I love my “day” job because I, as a member of a team of people, have the privilege of supporting teachers all over the country to conduct teacher-led professional development (lesson study) with high-quality resources. Then we research the impact these resources have on both teacher and student learning. As Deborah Kenny states in her book Born to Rise, “Education is not about developing products. It’s about developing people.” Even though Jillybeads 4 Justice sells a product, the product is simply a means of enacting praxis—a cyclical process of reflection and action. Thus, advocacy informs reflection and often more knowledge. It’s my hope that through this journey I can educate those who support Jillybeads 4 Justice.

Accessorize: to equip the public with high-quality unique handmade jewelry that inspires.

I have many ideas for the 2012 Fall & Holiday Collections floating around in my head. I’ve been inspired by the beauty in every city I’ve passed through or intentionally visited, as well as the many people I’ve met, the knowledge gained, and visions for which I aspire. I’m stoked to see how the beauty that’s been infused into my soul translates into beautiful pieces to wear.

Stay tuned for the results, which will launch in early October with the introduction of the 2012 Fall Collection!!!

~One love~

CALL 2 ACTION: For many the Olympics is over, not so! The 2012 Summer Paralympics Games kick-off this week in London (Wed, August 29—Sun, September 9). For more information, check out: http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/ and tune into the channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/USParalympics1. Show your support for ALL athletes!

ERA Celebrates 40 Years of Title IX: “Why Shouldn’t We Ask for This?!”

If you don’t like something change it;

if you can’t change it,

change the way you think about it.

~ Mary Engelbreit

Digging the quote, yet wondering what ERA stands for?

ERA is Equal Rights Advocates, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls, since 1974. On Friday, June 8, I attended ERA’s 38th Annual Luncheon in downtown San Francisco. The focus was celebrating Title IX’s 40th Anniversary of “Making Girls into Strong Women,” and the quote above is how Executive Director, Noreen Farrell, opened her remarks to a crowd of over 600 supporters including attorneys, business leaders, and women’s rights advocates.

When asked to blog for this event, my instinct was it would be a powerful and   inspiring opportunity to network, reflect, and leave reinvigorated. This was quickly confirmed when it was stated, “girls and women expect equality and if they don’t receive it, they go to ERA—a partner to help you fight.” “How fantastic,” I thought, “I had found another phenomenal national organization, based in Bay Area, doing the kind of work that I love to support.” I wasn’t alone as Julie Foudy, the luncheon’s keynote speaker, began by enthusiastically stating, “38 years and I’ve never been to one of these. You all are like my peeps!” Needless to say, the room was filled with like-minded advocates and Title IX trailblazers, including Amy Love.

Don’t know who Amy Love is? Well, you should…

At nine, Amy was told she couldn’t play soccer because she was a girl. In response, she had a very simple question for her parents, “What does the fact that I’m a girl have anything to do with my ability to play soccer?” This question became a defining moment in Amy’s life that led her parents to contact ERA. By doing so, Amy was ERA’s first Title IX case. Together their class action suit ensured “girls across the state of California and across the country had the right to play on competitive sports teams.” I was able to chat with Amy and ask her, “How does it feel to celebrate 40 years of Title IX?” Her response:

“It feels fabulous! One of the most important things for us to always recognize though is that no right is ever guaranteed, and so it’s important to keep in mind the social perspective yet also propel ourselves forward.”

Curious, I followed up by asking, “What do you mean by ‘propel[ling] ourselves forward’?”

“Every four years, we as a country get excited around the success of the women athletes in this county, yet it’s hard-pressed for them to find a way to establish career opportunities in professional sports. Clearly, the WNBA is the best example along with the WTA and the LPGA, yet in the grand scheme of things, there’s still tremendous opportunity for women to look to the future for continued opportunities to choose sports as a career.”

What great insight to receive from just one trailblazer in the room to only later realize Amy Love, ERA advocate and former client, is the same Amy Love who started Real Sports magazine—The Authority in Women’s Sports™. The same magazine I remember coming across when it’s inaugural issue was printed in the fall of 1998 when the University of Tennessee’s Michelle Snow graced the cover dunking. I true full circle moment for me.

ERA’s luncheon was a special celebration of their education equity work and Title IX while having Julie Foudy there as a shining example of the impact Title IX has had on one accomplished female athlete on and off the field. For those of you who missed Julie Foudy’s almost two decade career as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, here’s a quick rundown: 4-time All-American; 3-time Olympic medalist; 2-time World Cup champion; a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame; served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation; member of the 2002 Title IX Commission on Opportunity in Athletes. In addition, she has tirelessly worked on issues of child obesity and the use of child labor in the making of soccer balls, as well as empowering girls through sport via the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy and the Julie Foudy Leadership Foundation.

Not only did I get to hear her speak in person, I was able to interview her as well, which I will share in an upcoming post. It was a true honor to meet Julie, first, as an accomplished female athlete and Olympian, and then, as a like-minded advocate who believes in equality and the power of sport to development leadership and other important life skills. Julie was most notably, kind, gracious, passionate, and humble while possessing a contagious energy and zest for life. This was highlighted in her opening remarks, she stated, “First and foremost, thank you to ERA for all you are doing. When I read about the work you do, I truly feel this sense of relief that we are safer and better because of all you are doing, so big round of applause.” Even so, Julie made it clear that “we all have a part to play in this fight to advocate on behalf of Title IX.”

Then Julie revealed, “Title IX has been the most remarkable gift in my life,” and sport was the vehicle that helped her to become the woman she is today. It allowed her to attend the “fine institution” of Stanford University, as well as play for the U.S. for 18 years. In fact, when asked, “What was your greatest moment?” upon her retirement in 2004, Julie shared that

The expectation was a sports moment like winning the World Cup or the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. Of course, winning was important to us [Mia Hamm, Kristine Lily, and the other members of the U.S. women’s soccer team], we were competitive, feisty athletes. Yet, what resonates the most is that I got to learn from 18…20…30 amazing women over the course of two decades about life. Just how to be a good human being and advocate for the things that are important. I couldn’t have gotten that education anywhere else.

One of those lessons was to dream big, break boundaries, and believe in yourself and your teammates. And that’s exactly what Julie Foudy and her teammates did. When she and Kristine Lilly joined the team as idealistic 16 year olds as Julie reminisced, there was no women’s soccer in the Olympics or women’s World Cup. For them, the simple question was why not? Of course, there wasn’t a simple answer, except skepticism that intended to keep these post-Title female athletes enclosed by the glass ceiling. Julie disclosed the responses they received, such as “That’s crazy. It’s not going to happen. There’s not enough women that play the sport, sillies. Stop thinking so big; stop dreaming like that.” Yet, they asked, “Why shouldn’t we ask for this?”

“It’s a good thing this courageous group of women and the people who supported them didn’t listen;” otherwise, they would have never realized their potential and an amazing one at that. Julie then humorously shared her Top 3 sports moments/lessons:

  • Winning the first Women’s World Cup in 1991: An event Julie had to convince her own dad to attend and who later shared, “I’m glad I didn’t miss this.” Despite the win, however, Julie quickly faced the reality of being a student-athlete by having to take college finals upon her return.
  • Winning Gold at the 1996 Olympics: In front of a home crowd of 78,000 people in Atlanta, GA.
  • Winning the 1999 World Cup (“This was a real life-changer.”): Despite being told to play it safe and play in small 5,000 seat arenas that could be guaranteed to sellout, the team with the support of the U.S. Soccer Federation believed in themselves, the draw of being a world event, and people’s desire to watch and support women’s soccer could fill much larger stadiums. In the end, they proved the skeptics wrong as they played the opening game to a sellout crowd of 80,000 people at Giants Stadium, the second largest audience outside of the Pope, and with 40 million watching the final match on ABC.

As Julie shared these three experiences, she asked us to consider,

How many times in life do people tell you that you can’t do something or that you’re crazy?

She went on to share,

“I’m constantly passing along the message to girls and boys that you’re not crazy you’re courageous. Just find people around you that support that belief, that support that dream. ERA supports dreams and that’s what Title IX does in so many ways. …I leave you with this challenge: Make sure young girls understand their history. It’s not just ERA’s responsibility to educate the public about what Title IX is. It breaks my heart that young girls don’t know about it and if they do, it has a negative connotation. They think it’s why men’s minor sports are being cut.”

Often, Title IX is the scapegoat rather than institutions budgeting and spending their money better. What’s more, Julie shared, “my next big battle, I was telling Jillian today, I want to advocate for getting it into the curriculum.” I couldn’t agree more and I too am committed to figuring out how to make this happen. That said, I close with a question asked by Noreen that is still resonating with me and I suggest you consider,

What are the moments that have empowered you to be what you are today?

This event solidified a handful of my defining moments, which confirmed this luncheon was exactly where I was supposed to be on the last day of my 20s. Thus, leaving me empowered.

Stay tuned for my next post where I share my interview with soccer great, Julie Foudy…

We (Women) Deserve Equal Pay!!

Why are we still fighting for equal pay in 2012?

The Paycheck Fairness Act would help end wage discrimination and is coming up for a vote next week. But it might not pass because most people don’t know how big the problem is. Can you share this graphic to help get the facts about women and pay discrimination out? Thanks 🙂

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