media for the mind

Medicaid Cuts Hit Close to Home: A Community Provider’s Prospective

If you were too busy keeping track of James Comey and the Russia investigation, you may have missed a news story that I find to be much more important.  The new proposed healthcare bill that the Senate has put forth seeks $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid.  There are many problems within the bill, but this is my utmost concern.  Why? Because I work with families who receive Medicaid funds.

I provide a service called Intensive In-Home.  It is a community-based mental health service designed for children and families who at risk for out of home placement.  I have previously worked with children involved with the Department of Juvenile Justice and am currently serving children who have a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder.  In other words, these people are some of the most vulnerable in our population.

In just over a year of time in community mental health, I have worked with dozens of families that benefit directly from Medicaid.  These are families who face hardships many of us will never comprehend— homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, illiteracy, debilitating medical conditions, sexual abuse, involvement in the the criminal justice system, community violence, lack of food, and even lack of running water.

These are people that you may not see or have a chance to talk to in your every day life.  I can tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of them are tired of being stuck in the cycle of poverty and are working to try to escape it.  Many of these families are working people who still can’t make ends meet. Some don’t work either due to disability or the fact that working would actually cause their situation to be worse off as they would lose key resources for their survival.

I love the people I work with.  I admire their resilience in the face of adversity that I have been fortunate not to encounter in my life.  My clients are children.  They have no say over the choices of our government or of their parents.  They often have extreme trauma from experiences they’ve had at a young age, for which our systems have labeled them as “bad kids,” sometimes going so far as to kick them out of school or put them in jail.

Thirty million children are recipients of Medicaid in this country.  Under the proposed health care bill, half of funding would be gone from the program by 2027.  Programs like the one I am a part of ensure that children receive important services early  on to address their problems and helps decrease the likelihood that the adversity they face will compound to even greater problems in adulthood.  These problems are the problems that will affect you as members of the community.

I have a personal investment in this as well.  Mental health services are often one of the first of programs to take cuts when things like this happen.  My job could be at stake.  Fortunately, I have other skills and resources to fall back on.  The families I work with do not.  The system already has been inadequate in serving their needs.

I still can’t wrap my head around the need to imprison our youth.  It isn’t productive and usually only makes their problems even worse.  The kids that have disabilities are already being pushed into mental health services for care due to lack of adequate disability services.  The waiting list for the waiver for comprehensive individual disability services (The Innovations Waiver) has a wait list of 7-10 years. I personally worked with a child who had been waiting more than half of his life to receive the services he needs.

In my work, I don’t fix people.  I help people learn tools to make changes to their own lives.  I am often frustrated by the constraints and roadblocks that seem to be found at every step of the way.  But despite that, I see real, tangible progress in almost every single case I have encountered. That credit is due to the hard work that these children and families put in.  We provide guidance, but they make their own choices.

One of the biggest issues I encounter with the families I work with at the beginning of treatment can be their inability to see the outside world around them.  I feel like we are suffering from this problem as a greater society.  We all benefit from the stability and health of those around us.  If these families who face even more dire circumstances than most of us can make a change, can’t we choose to make a change too?

I would love to see more, not less access to these types of services.  I fear the outcomes for those we choose to leave behind.  I don’t think that this bill represents who really who we are and what we value as a nation. I have the chance to work with many local organizations that are working to help these families as well.  But it isn’t enough.  We all have to decide to be part of this change. We have to decide to support one another so that we can all be lifted up.  I know that we would all be better off.

I decided to make my voice heard by calling my North Carolina Senators to tell them about what my job does for me, the families I work with, and my community.  I told them about the consequences of losing something so valuable.  I hope that I have opened your eyes a bit to what your fellow Americans are going through.  I hope you have been able to see what this will do to our children, and to our future.

I encourage you to reach out to your Senator’s office using the list below.  You can call them and leave a message. Let them know that what happens to your community affects you and that it affects your vote.



Sen. Richard Shelby (R)

Sen. Luther Strange (R)


Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)


Sen. John McCain (R)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R)


Sen. Thomas Cotton (R)

Sen. John Boozman (R)


Sen. Kamala Harris (D)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)


Sen. Cory Gardner (R)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)


Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D)

Sen. Christopher Murphy (D)


Sen. Christopher Coons (D)

Sen. Thomas Carper (D)


Taxation without Representation


Sen. Marco Rubio (R)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D)


Sen. John Isakson (R)

Sen. David Perdue (R)


Sen. Brian Schatz (D)

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D)


Sen. James Risch (R)

Sen. Michael Crapo (R)


Sen. Richard Durbin (D)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D)


Sen. Todd Young (R)

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)


Sen. Joni Ernst (R)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R)


Sen. Pat Roberts (R)

Sen. Jerry Moran (R)


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Sen. Randal Paul (R)


Sen. John Kennedy (R)

Sen. William Cassidy (R)


Sen. Susan Collins (R)

Sen. Angus King (I)


Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D)

Sen. Christopher Van Hollen (D)


Sen. Edward Markey (D)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D)


Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)

Sen. Gary Peters (D)


Sen. Alan Franken (D)

  • Beth Wikler
    Health Policy Adviser

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)


Sen. Thad Cochran (R)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R)


Sen. Roy Blunt (R)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)


Sen. Steven Daines (R)

Sen. Jon Tester (D)


Sen. Debra Fischer (R)

Sen. Ben Sasse (R)


Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

Sen. Dean Heller (R)


Sen. Margaret Hassan (D)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D)


Sen. Cory Booker (D)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D)


Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)

Sen. Thomas Udall (D)


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D)


Sen. Richard Burr (R)

Sen. Thomas Tillis (R)


Sen. John Hoeven (R)

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D)


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D)

Sen. Robert Portman (R)


Sen. James Inhofe (R)

Sen. James Lankford (R)


Sen. Jeffrey Merkley (D)

Sen. Ronald Wyden (D)


Sen. Robert Casey (D)

Sen. Patrick Toomey


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

Sen. John Reed (D)


Sen. Timothy Scott (R)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R)


Sen. John Thune (R)

Sen. Michael Rounds (R)


Sen. Robert Corker (R)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)


Sen. John Cornyn (R)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R)


Sen. Michael Lee (R)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R)


Sen. Patrick Leahy (D)

Sen. Bernard Sanders (I)


Sen. Mark Warner (D)

Sen. Timothy Kaine (D)


Sen. Maria Cantwell (D)

Sen. Patricia Murray (D)

  • Nick McLane
    Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
    Ranking Member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)


Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R)

Sen. Joseph Manchin (D)


Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)

Sen. Ronald Johnson (R)


Sen. Michael Enzi (R)

Sen. John Barrasso (R)


The Power of Loving

Today we celebrate Loving Day! Fifty years ago on June 12, 1967, Mildred and Richard Loving were victorious in their Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which invalidated every anti-miscegenation law on the books.  “Miscegenation” is a made up word meaning “race-mixing”–from the Latin “miscere” meaning “to mix” and “genus” meaning “kind”.  The implication of the term implies that different races are actually different species, which in and of itself is pretty disgusting.  The term was coined in 1863 to deter interracial relationships as the abolition of slavery was upon us.

As with many Supreme Court cases during the Civil Rights Movement, the change in Washington didn’t necessarily mean a change for the people.  Until 2000, Alabama still had their anti-miscegenation laws on the books, although they were unenforceable.  It wasn’t until 1971 that the first interracial couple married in the state of North Carolina, where I married my husband in August of 2015.

Navigating the world as an interracial couple a half-century after these laws have been struck down still isn’t as simple as it should be.  When I look into his eyes, I see the human that I love so deeply. It is the world around us that reminds us that our “races” aren’t the same.

This year for my birthday we went downtown to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  Afterwards, we went back to our car to chat and wait out our fullness to subside to make some room for dessert.  We were parked in a public lot in “progressive” downtown Asheville.  After sitting there for less than 15 minutes, a security guard approached our car and asked if everything was alright. We both said yes.

He then proceeded to tell us that we had to leave immediately because we were trespassing.

“Trespassing?” my husband asked. “But we paid to park here.”

The security guard then informed us that if we didn’t leave the premises, he would call the police and have us arrested for trespassing.  Our reaction to this was not our best.  We had a few choice words for the guard.  I began to cry with fury.  We decided to leave the lot.  On our way out, as we paid the money for the time we were in the lot, I asked the attendant if he had ever seen anyone kicked out for trespassing by sitting in their own car.  He told me he had never heard of such a thing.

I already knew before I asked.  It just feels better to get some sort of validation. This is happening.  This isn’t normal.  I never had this experience either alone or with the white men I have dated in the past.

This was one of our more serious incidents, but we experience being treated differently on a weekly basis.  From the stares to we get walking into a store to the poor service we receive in restaurants, to the time we nearly gave heart attacks to a room full of elderly white people when we stood up for intermission at the symphony.  Even when I’ve tried to explain these experiences to people I love that are close to me, I still feel like some of them don’t believe me.

I’m handling it the only way I know how: by loving my way out of it.  More and more, we see other couples who look like us on the street.  We know that they had to make laws against interracial marriage because they can’t stop love.  I’m so grateful for the the relationship I have.  It has been a learning experience.  Even though I also am affected by these things, it pales in comparison to what it must feel like for my husband to walk around in his skin every day for his whole life.

As much as we talk of systemic racism today, I get to see individual racism alive and well. It isn’t spoken in words as often as it used to be.  I see it in action.  When my husband tells me about someone treating me differently, I believe him.  I tell him I’m sorry that people are this way.  I tell him that we will always have each other.  I know those people must not have the kind of love that I do.  Our love has no limits.

I have to remember that LOVE IS WINNING.  I have to know that the next generation will be even more accepting, as images of relationships like mine are now more and more prevalent in our culture.  More and more of my friends are in interracial relationships.  Babies are being born every day that don’t fit into any of our current superficial categories of race.

I love Loving Day.  I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices made by Mildred and Richard Loving.  They paved the way to the beautiful lifelong relationship that I’m building today!





Cover Photo Credit to the incredible Matt Wunder

Of Boys and Men

Jonathan Wechsler and I were sort of cheating on our assignment for PC English.  PC stood for “Project Challenge,” not personal computers.  We weren’t “challenged,” but I guess we needed to be.  On Fridays, we sat on pillows and discussed the books we’d chosen to read with our assigned partner.

Jonathan Wechsler and I were reading Of Mice and Men. I was on a big kick of reading mice books that year. I had already read I Am The Cheese and Flowers for Algernon.  I definitely learned one thing: mice books aren’t very uplifting.

Mrs. Manns, our teacher who had been with us since third grade, was the closest person I really knew to a hippie at that point in my life.  She wore flowing, floor-length skirts.  Her hair was salt and peppered, twisting back and forth in stringy waves nearly to her waist. More than anything, I think she was challenging eight anal-retentive over-achieving 12-year-olds to calm the hell down so we might survive in the real world one day, despite our above-average IQs.  She served us cookies and lemonade while we engaged in discussions about our weekly read.

Jonathan and I had fallen behind on our assignment.  We had probably gotten distracted by our intense debates on the politics of Israel.  We decided to rent the movie so we would be ready to present in class.  This was a very risky move for straight-laced kids like us.

Jonathan wasn’t your average 12-year-old male.  All the boys were awkward at this age, but Jonathan was unique.  He was shorter than me, like all the boys.  His face was even paler than mine, with tiny freckles dotting his innocent cheeks.  His hair was thick, black and curly.  He wore round framed glasses, matching his round frame.  He ate tuna sandwiches for lunch.

After spending five years together in the same classes, he could really drive me crazy sometimes. His innocence waned between annoying and endearing as hell.  Like how when he called my house he would always address my mom as “Mr. Barron-Ott.” Adorable both because she was no mister and also didn’t share the same last name as me.

Jonathan found this extremely difficult to comprehend.  When Mrs. Smith, our health teacher, was explaining different family structures, Jonathan Wechsler could not wrap his head around the fact that not everyone had a mom and dad that were married, lived together, and shared children that were exclusively the product of the two of them.  I spent nearly an entire class period frustratingly trying to explain the difference between whole, half and step siblings.

“Divorce” was a harder word for Jonathan to understand than the Hebrew he studied on weekends in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah.  He wouldn’t turn 13 until September of our 8th grade year, which was later than most. He and I attended the coming-of-age celebrations for most of our Jewish classmates together.

Jonathan Wechsler was just weird enough to be the only boy who would dance with me all night long, often sweating through his young man suits.  The only people who could keep up with us were the Rabbi and his wife.

Bar Mitzvahs were a blast– lavish parties on the kids’ parents’ dime, where my classmates walked away with five figures worth of checks at the end of the night. But Jonathan wasn’t in it for the money.  I always thought he said he wanted to be a Rabbi when he grew up because he was in it for the love of disco music.  When the time for his Bar Mitzvah came around, he gave out CDs with classic disco hits as his party favors. The novelty of this was lost on most of my peers, but I listened to it many a time.

About once a year, I take to the Internet to try to find Jonathan Wechsler.  I used to feel the same way about him that Trump feels about China; I loved him, I hated him.  Why couldn’t he understand my world? Had his parents wrapped him too tightly in a cocoon? I thought I was so much wiser and worn by the world.  He lived in ignorant bliss while I explored callous cynicism as my depression kicked in.

As we sat staring at the screen on the floor in his den eating his mother’s freshly popped popcorn, our worlds simultaneously shattered.  George had Lenny turn around. Damnit, Lenny never saw it coming– the bullet straight through his skull.  We didn’t see it coming either.  I cried in Jonathan’s arms and he sobbed with me, long after the film had ended until “Mr. Barron-Ott” came to pick me up.

Jonathan cried because he learned to love Lenny and didn’t know how George could do such a thing.  I wept because I would have done the exact same thing. Wherever Jonathan Wechsler is, I hope he would feel the same today.




Note from the author: All names have been changed.  But if you know who Jonathan Wechsler really is and where to find him, please let me know!

The Revolution

Does The Revolution really sound like a whisper?

Or does she cry out, begging for a beginning?


Does she work silently at a desk six floors from the surface level?

Do you think The Revolution locks her doors at night?


Does The Revolution comply with posted parking signs?

Does she put on her high beams, illuminating the dark, slimy streets?


Does The Revolution smoke the reefer and swing in that “the summer’s blowing in” kind of breeze?

Does The Revolution ever walk the shoreline, listening for the ocean?

Do the waves ever give her sage advice?


Does The Revolution have a concealed carry permit?

Or is she armed with her own integrity?

Would it protect her?


Does The Revolution go to the gym and try to get jacked?

Does she ever wear dark sunglasses to hide the rings around her eyes?

Does The Revolution need glasses?

Can she even see right?


Does The Revolution paint her lips bright red?

Does she suck it in to squeeze into a size 4 pants when she’s probably actually a 6?

Is it just to accentuate her ass?

For whom?


Does The Revolution vote?

Does she think it even matters?

Does she stick with a party?

Or does she party too much?


Does The Revolution run screaming naked in the streets,

exposing her labia to the wary world?

Or does she put on a mask and ravage as a raccoon through the dumpsters?


Does The Revolution sing to herself?

Does she stand centerstage, absorbing all the light to her core?

Or does she dance on the sidelines, swirling her hips and twirling her hair?


Does The Revolution beat to her own drum or is she too busy beating everyone else’s?

Does The Revolution ever hold her babies, rock them, and tell them that everything will all work out?


Does The Revolution watch or look away when they put the needle in her arm?

Does she swallow the pills they give her with water or warm milk, to pretend that they soothe her?

Or does she hide the pills under her tongue and spit them out when no one’s looking?


Does The Revolution ever spend an hour in the mirror trying to stare into her own soul?

Does it work?


Is The Revolution just a figment of her impure imagination?

If The Revolution was standing right in front of you,

would you recognize her?


Would she even recognize herself?

the breath

Sometimes she would sit and stare

at his chest as it rose and fell

as he slept

it soothed her and made him feel more real

but it couldn’t be

real, I mean

not in a world like this

like the ones all of you told me about

that I read the statistics on

and that the movies showed me

as unapologetic fantasy

as all of this swirls around in my unruly mind

I come back to your breath

to your strong, warm chest

I close my eyes to listen closer

I will wrap this moment up in box

and tie it up with the kind of bows

I’ve never been fancy enough to tie

but I have the power to do it since this is mind

I will keep it safe

I will store every sensation

your skin against mine

the cortisol spewing through my veins

the rhythm of our hearts

when they play together

the sounds of the outside world going mute

as I focus only on you

this is a love

my love

my love

my love

that I can never lose

Why Bernie’s Loss Doesn’t Matter

In case you haven’t heard, Bernie Sanders didn’t get the nomination of the Democratic Party.  He lost, as fairly as one can lose in the existing Democratic primary system.  I can’t feign surprise or sadness. He lost– just as we always, deep down, knew he would. If he had won, all his talk of a rigged system would be moot. Do not be discouraged; we the people still have the power (if we choose to rise up and use it).

Bernie has always said that he cannot and would not make change alone. He far exceeded everyone’s expectations in this election and is still holding the DNC accountable to the message that resonated so loudly for millions of Americans who are tired of being a pawn in a game that’s being won by major corporations who have bought and paid for our government and its officials. I am afraid some of his die hard supporters are missing the forest for the trees.

This isn’t about a political party.  Bernie ran as a Democrat in order to be given a chance to be seen, working within the two party system that we all know isn’t working for us. Bernie is still an independent and so am I. Nothing has changed. The fight must go on. This has never been about a presidential election for me, and it still isn’t. The fight for liberty and justice for all is not over until WE say it is.

All we know now is what we really should have known the whole time: you can’t fix a broken system within the confines of said broken system. It was a valiant effort on Bernie’s part. I hope he continues to be a leader within this movement.

Quite frankly, this gives us an even greater opportunity to reach beyond party lines. It isn’t just so-called liberals who are tired of lobbyists influencing our laws for special interests. It isn’t just “liberals” who care about poverty and finding a way for all Americans to have the opportunity that the American Dream promises. It isn’t just “liberals” who want children to have access to high quality education.

Once we remove these labels and false barriers created by a two party system whose wheels are both greased by the same companies’ pockets, the movement will grow bigger and stronger. How do you keep the people from rising up? You divide them, of course! You make them fight amongst themselves instead of fighting together.

There are more of us. There are more good people who want the best for our society. If there are two ways to go about solving a problem, let’s listen to both. It seems a lot easier to hash that out than to have two groups whose primary interest is keeping themselves rich and in power. Right now, we have leaders who are not accountable to their constituents.

Take an opportunity to find how much you have in common with your neighbor, no matter  their political affiliation. Ask yourself how many media distractions have kept you apart. Are you fed up? Do you know that you’re not getting a fair shake the way the system is run? Do not accept it. Stop voting for the lesser of two evils. You know you’ve done it time and time again. Has anything changed? Republican George W. Bush ran up the deficit with massive spending over his eight years. Then, Democrat president Barrack Obama gets elected, wins the Nobel Peace Prize, and proceeds to expand our nuclear weapons program. Do you really think these guys are taking sides?

Please set aside the 2016 presidential election to think about where you would want to see our country in 4 years. Better yet, ask yourself where you what kind of United States you want to see for the next generations? Do you think any one individual candidate can get us there?

Only WE can do it.

Have you looked at an electoral map lately? Our country is gerrymandered unrecognizably when compared to a geographical map. “The system is rigged” is not merely a catchphrase that sounds good. It is true to the core. The two presumptive candidates for this election have the highest unfavorability (is that a word or did this election make it one?) ratings than at any other time in history.

You may look at that and say ,”We’re further apart than ever.” I look at it and see a historic opportunity! The people are no longer appeased by accepting things the way they are. If this much of the country is actively opposed to the two remaining candidates after whittling it down from over twenty to begin with, something in this process is off kilter. Isn’t voting supposed to give us what we want? Not that which we hate or are perhaps just willing to begrudgingly accept?

I am not a Bernie or Bust person. I am a Democracy or Bust citizen of a country that I still believe can make things right. You may call me an idiotic optimist, but pessimism isn’t worth living for.  So here’s to making America great (for the first time)!

#ShameOnHer: How Hillary’s Campaign is Hurting Women

After watching last night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn and waking up to a feed full of stories about “Bernie Bros” and claims of sexism on Bernie Sanders, I am left with a pit in my stomach.

I grew up with a mother who raised me as a feminist. I believe in equality for women. I know what it is like to be put down in a male-dominated industry.  I know what it is like to not be taken seriously. I’ve experienced sexual harassment both in the workplace and on the streets. Women’s rights are so incredibly personally important to me, so that is why I must speak out.

I have watched media outlets and the Clinton campaign use her gender, MY GENDER, as a political tool throughout this race and quite frankly I have had enough. If Hillary has been a victim of her gender in any sense, it is in regards to her marriage to Bill. His political ambitions came first and now it may be too late for Hillary to have a place in the White House because many Americans believe that the Clinton brand of politics, using corporate favors and pandering to groups they actually don’t support with policy, is the old way of doing things.

I fervently want a female president. I did not support Secretary Clinton in 2008. She was unable to use her gender in that election because she was running against Obama, but she was more than happy to question his qualifications and I did not hear an uproar from his campaign or the media that she was being racist. Yet, in this election, Bernie was responding claims from Hillary’s campaign that he was not qualified, and so he questioned Clinton’s qualifications.  Now we’re calling him a sexist.  Clinton repeatedly interrupts Sanders and goes over on time in the debates, but he is “mansplaining.”  Come on! Most of us can see straight through these ridiculous accusations, but I am not seeing many people speak up about it.  

Hillary Clinton’s record when it comes to women is downright disgusting, yet she has never been questioned about it on the national stage.  She has stayed married to a sexual predator and has helped to silence his victims. She defended a child rapist and blamed the victim, a 12-year-old girl. She knowingly used tampered evidence in a trial. The Clinton Foundation happily takes money from countries with atrocious human rights records for women.  I do not believe Hillary has fought for women. I believe she has simply used women (and minorities- but that is another article) to get votes.

This strategy to get women voters isn’t working for young women like me, so she discounts us. We aren’t even considered real voters in a sea of these supposed “Bernie Bros.” She has fought for herself and her power. My male friends who are Bernie supporters believe in women’s rights. Some even identify as feminists. They have gotten a completely fictitious “Bernie Bro” label and us female Bernie supporters have been subject to ridicule by Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem, who I once considered feminist icons. Having different opinions than one another and having those opinions be heard fairly is a foundational element of feminism.  

Since I believe in equality for all genders, Hillary does not get a free pass on these things because she is a woman. She does not get to deflect serious policy so that she can try to smear the squeaky clean Senator Sanders with unfounded, unreasonable claims of sexism.

Hillary undermines the real sexism that I and millions of other American women experience on a daily basis.

We all know that Donald Trump is horrible to women. If Hillary does become the nominee and wants to discuss this in the general election, it will be more than fair game.  It will be fair game for Bernie as well.  Bernie is a supporter of women and needs to be uplifted. Male allies are critical for the success of the feminist agenda.  Bernie actually has a more liberal policy on abortion than Hillary.  He is a bigger proponent of paid family leave, which has a huge impact on women. Bernie supports economic policies that benefit women, who are the biggest victims of poverty in this country next to the children that those women are raising.

Enough is enough. Do not fight a fight on behalf of the parts between my legs. Yes, a female President is a step in the right direction, IF that President represents the needs of the people. I do not believe that Hillary is that candidate and her vagina is not going to change my mind. Hillary is not a victim. Shame on her for victimizing herself at the expense of the real victims of sexism.

The I-26 Disconnect: An Open Letter to the DOT

Dear Mr. Joyner,

As a resident and homeowner in the Burton Street Community for 9 years, I am writing you to address the serious and very dangerous issue of the I-26 connector project.  There is nothing about this proposed project that is a connector. This road is a divider of the community, most strongly impacting the people who are already struggling the most in Asheville.  Asheville prides itself on diversity and community, but these values have not shown through at all in the planning of this roadway.  

To start, I am completely unconvinced that this massive $800 million project is even necessary.  Asheville is not a large city and it simply does not have the capacity to be one. Issues with traffic are minor compared to large cities. I think many of the problems on the Jeff Bowen bridge are a result of very confusing signage.  Additionally, Asheville lacks a reliable, efficient public transportation system for its residents. The buses here are late, infrequent, and do not reach many of the places residents need to go.  This has resulted in more people having the need to own cars.  We manage our household with one vehicle, but it is a struggle and requires careful planning and long bus rides for my husband.

The primary problem with the Department of Transportation’s plan (including ALL of the alternatives presented thus far) is the people it hurts.  First of all, the information the DOT provided has been done so poorly and unclearly.  I have spent hours and hours of my own time scouring the internet for information on this project.  Unlike many other residents, I have the time, education and computer/internet access and savvy to devote to this endeavor.  If you don’t educate people about what you’re actually proposing, it is quite unfair to expect to receive the true comments of the residents.  

I think you should take the time to walk around my neighborhood. I would be happy to accompany you and we could speak to the residents ourselves.  We could tell them the number of houses the DOT plans to take.  We could tell them the real numbers about how many MORE of those houses are going to be coming from minorities and low-income people proportionate to the population.  Then we could listen.

In your 2015 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, you openly admit that this project is in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in regards to its environmental justice provisions which prohibit federal funds from being spent on projects that have a disparate impact on communities of color.  The report suggests further discussions with my community and then promptly disregards the issue.  This IS the issue.  And this is the issue that I will personally make known to as many other Asheville residents as possible as this project moves forward.  

This is about yet another careless decision that directly harms poor and nonwhite people.  The Burton Street Community has already  been hurt several times before by highway construction. The message you are sending to the people who live here is that they don’t matter.  They aren’t important.  Their social and economic well-being is once again being systematically ignored in the false name of progress. This project isn’t progress.  This project is a regression to discriminatory practices with far-reaching cultural, social, and economic consequences.  

It seems that no matter how much the community pushes back on this project, you keep forging ahead.  The only supporters I’ve seen of this project are the people who are either ill-informed, ignorant or those who put profits and “convenience” above people.  There is an awful lot of profit to be made off of this project for the “right” people.  I won’t stand by the wayside to watch my community be bulldozed and disparaged once again.  

I hope that you do get a chance to personally read this, Mr. Joyner. I hope that your Environmental Impact Statement is a clear enough sign that this project is an Environmental Injustice.  I hope you make the choice to postpone the project and put some of those dollars into road improvements, public transportation and clearly marked roads. Perhaps you could even use some of the funds to directly invest in the Burton Street Community and improve its economic growth!  Go back to the drawing board. There has to be a solution that is less invasive, if you choose to look for it.

Please consider this while you’re spending the holidays with your family in your home: Imagine if someone took that home away from you.  Imagine if someone took your neighbors away from you and divided your community. Imagine if your town, your state, and your federal government told you your value was less than the everyone else’s with their actions.  You will likely never know what this situation feels like.  You are fortunate for that.  But please have some empathy for those who are not so lucky.  Recognize the very stained history of this town and this country that we live in as we try to move forward to bring people together. Do your duty as a public official to act in the interest of the community.  This is about more than a road.  This is about racial justice, economic fairness, and human decency.
Thank you.


Grace Barron-Martinez

This letter was written to Drew Joyner of the the North Carolina Department of Transportation to express my thoughts on the proposed I-26 Connector Project for Asheville.  I encourage you to share your with him by clicking the link below.  You can write your own letter, use mine, or use the one provided by Mountain True. Thanks for your help!

Sign the Petition by December 16th!


The 100% FREE No-Gimmick Secret To Weight Loss. For Real.

I would like to apologize for the clickbait, but if it got you here, you’re exactly the person I want to be talking to. Plus, I do reveal the true secret. I promise!

Scrolling through my newsfeed, I notice that a large percentage of my sponsored ads are for weight loss products and services. I don’t know why Facebook thinks that I think I’m fat. I can only assume that they think EVERY woman thinks she’s fat. Fuck that!

Stop thinking you’re fat. Right now. And stop worrying you’re fat. And calling yourself fat to other people (Amy Schumer, this includes you!). First of all, “fat” is a mentality, not a body type. Fat is a personality. A man once told me that he never notices a woman’s “flaws” until SHE points them out to him.

Confidence is sexy. YOU are sexy. Even if you’re not there yet on the inside, fake it til you make it, sisters. Every time you take a bite of this line of bullshit that is fed to women every day, you’re giving your energy and time and often money to a system that relies on making women feel constantly terrible about themselves for profit.  You deserve better than that.

Unfortunately, you will surely look in the mirror at least now and again and see something you’re not 100% happy with when it comes to your body. When that happens to me, I:

  • Say a silent or sometimes out loud “Fuck You” to all the systems in place that have taught me feel this way to begin with
  • Tell myself one thing I like about myself, out loud, for each negative thought I have in my head

If you’re interested in having a happier, healthier body, the first thing you need to do is to stop stressing about your weight. I know this is easier said than done, but the above tips will help.
I will tell you what won’t work: crazy diets involving an egg cooked in an avocado, eating only grapefruit for weeks, sipping some lemon acai cocktail, taking the secret skinny pill all the stars are raving about, binding yourself in those stupid fucking wraps and any and all bullshit Facebook is flashing in your face every five minutes.
What I have found does work:
Eat food that you cook yourself without a bunch of fake ass ingredients. This can even include cookies. Just don’t go too nuts about. Okay, go a little nuts about it. Forgive yourself. Those cookies were delicious! Move forward.
Go to the gym or go outside! I used to hate exercise but then I found out I was just trying the wrong kind of exercise for me. I would rather tweeze my legs one hair at time than go for a jog. For some, that is their savior but it just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m a pilates and (I hate to admit this) dance fitness person. I love music.  Dancing poorly to it helps me forget I’m exercising. Pilates is wonderfully relaxing to me and builds strength, which I think a lot of women forget to do, focusing almost entirely on cardio. Your muscles burn fat for you while you’re just sitting on your ass.  Exercise is also giving your body free drugs! You’re about to be super high on yourself. Now get out there!
Also remember that when old people tell you patience is a virtue, they’re right. You will not lose 10 lbs in 10 days. If that happens,  consult a physician immediately because you may have a deadly tapeworm. DO NOT BUY TAPEWORMS ON THE INTERNET. THEY WILL KILL YOU.  Focus on feeling better and being proud of yourself.
Please, ladies, give yourself the respect you deserve, even if Facebook does no such thing.
Believe in yourself. Thank your body for all it does for you every single day. Make it stronger. Make your mind stronger against the constant barrage of body hate.

Fight this system. If you agree, share this with the hashtag #FuckFatAds. Tell Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s marketing team that using ad algorithms that assume every woman wants to be thinner perpetuates the problem!

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