History Lost in History

Olga Bancic is the badass Resistance freedom fighter you need to know about

Olga Bancic was a force to be reckoned with. Her bravery and determination to always stand up for what was right should be an inspiration to us all. But who was she? Bancic was born in 1912 to a working-class Romanian Jewish family, and her life wasn’t easy. She began working in a mattress factory at the age of 12 in order to support her family. The conditions spurred her to join a workers’ union and participate in a strike. Despite her young age, she was beaten and arrested by strikebreakers, sparking her strong belief in workers’ rights. 

Bancic would later become a strong force in unionist and left-wing activism in Romania. She faced arrest and imprisonment multiple times, but never stopped fighting. 

As fascism started to spread throughout Europe, Bancic’s political activism ramped up. She joined the Spanish Republican cause, made up of liberal democrats, socialists, communists, and anarchists, to fight the fascist takeover of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. During that time, Bancic transported weapons and assisted soldiers at the front. She, unfortunately, had to flee in 1938 when it became apparent that fascist victory was in sight. She later moved to Paris where she met and married Alexandru Jar and gave birth to their daughter, Dolores.

Bancic was always a fighter, but it was during World War II that she truly became a hero. Since Bancic and her family were Jewish, they were in grave danger when Nazi Germans occupied Paris. She and her husband left their daughter with a sympathetic French family and took up arms in the French Resistance. They joined the FTP-MOI (Francs-Tireurs et Partisans de la Main d’Oeuvre Immigrée), a group of immigrants and refugees who fought against Nazi occupiers. She took part in dozens of acts of sabotage against the Nazis occupiers, working as a manufacturer and transporter of explosives as well as a messenger.

Unfortunately, authorities put an end to their Resistance activities in 1944, near the end of the war. As immigrants and political dissidents, they lacked the same kind of protection that other French Resistance members had. The Gestapo specifically targeted them, releasing propaganda posters denouncing them as foreign terrorists and calling for the arrest of the “Manouchian group,” so named after the group’s leader, Missak Manouchian. The French police worked with the Gestapo to arrest the fighters. Bancic and twenty of her comrades were arrested and tortured.

The courts handed down a death sentence to the entire group without a proper trial. As the only woman of the condemned group, she was executed separately from the other members. It was illegal to execute women on French grounds, so her captors cruelly executed her in Germany. Her husband and daughter survived the war and were able to keep her memory alive. 

Olga Bancic was a strong and tireless advocate for human rights. She sacrificed herself for a country that disowned her and refused to protect her. France was not willing to defend her rights as an immigrant and a Jewish woman, yet she gave her life to defend the citizens of France. She faced betrayal and hostility from her government, but she fought for those who couldn’t fight.

Bancic fought to secure a better future for her daughter and so many others like her. It’s hard not to tear up reading her last letter to her daughter. In the letter, she tells her not to cry because “I believe that your life and your future will be much happier and brighter than your mother’s.” Up until her last moment, she thought of the future she hoped to secure for her daughter. 

We can all learn from Olga Bancic who was willing to sacrifice everything to create a better future. She braved terrible factory conditions, antisemitism, police beatings, imprisonment, torture, warfare, and even death. She wanted to create a fair and peaceful world. 

We should honor her strength and conviction and know that she did not die in vain. Bancic’s story shows us that it is not only presidents and politicians who create history but ordinary people as well. This woman, a mother, a mattress-factory worker, a convict, and a hero, was braver than some of the most famous men of her time. The world would be better off with more Olga Bancic’s. It is up to us to give power to her memory.

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Gender Inequality

Meet these 5 badass Nicaraguan women who are at the forefront of change

In the high conflict areas of Central America, women are leading protests, confronting authorities, and demanding freedom – all while changing perceptions along the way. In Nicaragua, young women are on the front lines fighting against the country’s authoritative president of Daniel Ortega.

On April 18, 2018 protests broke out in the country after cuts on social-security benefits and a nationwide discontent which had been simmering for years. 

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

Between the months of April and September, Nicaraguans took to the streets to demand change. However, protesters were violently attacked by police and paramilitary groups. As a result of the brutality 300 people have died and 100,000 Nicaraguans are living in exile. Meanwhile, the government continues to illegally arrest civilians and commit crimes against humanity.

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

They were everywhere, doing everything.

Two years later, women are still playing an active role in anti-government movements in Central America. To give recognition to the resilience of Nicaraguan women, The Tempest is highlighting the plight of five young Nicaraguan women.

1. Emilia Yang Rappaccioli

Emilia speaking at AMA event
Attribution: Madres de Abril [Image description: Emilia speaking on the microphone at one of museums events. ]
Emilia is an activist, artist, and researcher who focuses her work on the role of memory. When the protest broke out in 2018 Emilia was in Los Angeles working on her PHD at the University of Southern California (USC). She returned to Nicaragua weeks later. When she arrived she immediately joined and made her mark on the anti-government demonstrations.

On June 26, 2018 paramilitaries killed Emilia’s uncle. After this tragedy, Emilia joined the Association of Mothers of April (AMA). This is an association which was created with the mission of uniting, and representing, the mothers and relatives of the people murdered from state repression in Nicaragua.

Today, Emilia is the director of the Museum of Memory against Impunity. This museum was built in conjunction with the AMA in order to dignify the victims of the state and honor their memory.

Emilia along with Nicaragua Mother of April
Attribution: Madres of Abril [Image description: Emilia is third one on the left, joined by members of AMA.]
Emilia recalls that setting up the museum’s first exhibition was emotionally draining. She interviews around 200 victims about who they were, what happened to them, and how they remember the events.

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When the museum opened its first exhibition in Nicaragua, at the University of Central America (UCA), people were able to reach out to the victims in AMA. She says this has helped Nicaraguans come  to terms with much of the pain that was caused. Most importantly, she sees how the museum has really helped people to mourn as a collective. 

Regarding the country, Emilia says there needs to be work done which is centered on understanding women rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the rights of black folk.

2. Karen Guido

Karen dancing
Attribution: Karen Guido [Image description: Karen dancing for last day of exhibition for the Museum of Memory against Impunity.]
Karen joined the uprising from her native home of Monimbo, Nicaragua’s most rebellious town.

Traditionally, the people of Monimbo have used dance as a form of resistance and for Karen this is especially true.

In the time since the demonstrations, Karen is part of two youth led groups and gives yoga classes in the name of resistance. She describes how the on-going crisis is detrimental for one’s mental health. Yet through yoga youth will be able to cope.

She emphasizes the need for one to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

One needs to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

For Karen, as an avid lover of all arts, it saddens her to see how the practice of art is controlled and appropriated by the government. She dreams to live in a Nicaragua in which art is no longer politicized. She feels that individuals in Nicaragua should be allowed to express their art freely, spontaneously, and that art should be accessible for all.

Karen continues to dance for events commemorating Nicaragua’s popular uprising, as this is her way to keep the resistance alive. 

3. Nathalie Román

3. Nathalie Roman young with a megaphone
Attribution: Nathalie Roman [Image description: Picture of Nathalie Roman holding a megaphone in a manifestation.]
Nathalie is a political science student and prominent member of the Student Movement to Support Democracy (MEAD). When conflict broke out, she primarily focused on aiding the university students who were barricaded inside of the universities. At the time, she also helped construct one of the first youth movements that emerged from the protests.

Nathalie focuses her activism work on organizing student movements and advocating for the demands on university autonomy.

Her most recent project is Chacuatol Universitario, an initiative seeking to inform and involve more students in the discussion around recovering, and strengthening university autonomy. 

Nathalie understands that there needs to be change within Nicaragua’s traditional cultural political framework.

In a country in which there are mostly men making political decisions, and women’s voices are set aside, Nathalie believes that it is crucial for women to be appointed to political positions.

4. Rosi Ariana

4. Rosi Ariana
Attribution: Rosi Ariana [Image description: Picture of Rosi Ariana.]
Rosi is from Bullocks Wharf, a municipality in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean coast. She joined the protests while studying political science at Nicaragua Polytechnic University in the capital of Managua.

Due to a law that the government passed which criminalizes any form of protest, Rosi integrated herself into the April 19 Student Movement (ME19A) in order to continue organizing against the government.

Now she is the coordinator and administrator of the ongoing projects of ME19A.

Rosi is concerned with the little to no attention toward the violence Nicaraguan women face. Especially women who live in rural areas of the country, like her hometown. Rosi says that women in these kinds of areas suffer from patriarchal violence. For instance, there are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

There are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

Rosi values the different factors within the feminist movement, but feels there needs to be more organization towards the demands of Nicaragua’s rural women. She hopes that one day she is able to help these women by making sure they receive justice and that their cases are not left in impunity.

5. Liza Henriquez

Liza Henriquez Nicaraguan indigenous woman

Liza is from the Mosquitia region of Nicaragua, living in the municipality of Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi) in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast. She’s an indigenous Miskito woman, one of the many ethnic groups in Nicaragua.

Map of Nicaragua
Attribution: Lonely Planet [Image description: Map of Nicaragua.]
Nicaragua’s indigenous and communities of Afro descendant are among the populations which have suffered the most. Liza explains that her community, predominately those of Afro-descendant, has been involved in anti-government demonstrations way before the protests of April ’18.

Liza joined the protest of April ’18 while she was living in the country’s capital of Managua. After receiving threats from government sympathizers she went back home to Bilwi in order to continue protesting.

Once she arrived there, Liza summoned herself to help organize marches, hunger strikes, and participated in putting up “tranques” or barricades. She recalls seeing a 15 year girl shot in the head by a militant during one of the demonstrations.

Liza explains that there are more cases of young indigenous and Afro descendants who have been assassinated by armed groups – yet most of these cases are left in impunity.

Now Liza continues to organize through meetings with other young indigenous from different territories. It is during these meetings that she listens to the testimonies about how colonists or invaders are exploiting the land which belong to the indigenous communities living in these territories.

As for Liza she is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza says that Nicaragua is not free until the country meets those demands.

Two years since massive protests, Nicaragua continues to be an area of high conflict. Despite the risks, these 5 young Nicaraguan women continue to organize, changing the panorama of the country’s traditional political framework.


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LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

Race Inequality

For any person of color or minority, white supremacists have always been a reality

Nazism, a concept that I never imagined I would have to talk about in this day and age. Although looking back, it is obvious that white supremacy never left our history books, so I can’t say that I am too surprised.

Nazism is a far-right ideology that is also sometimes referred to as a form of fascism. There are a bunch of elements that make up this ideology. They range from scientific racism, nationalism, anti-Semitism and social Darwinism. Basically a combination of all of the disgusting, toxic mentalities that mankind can possess under one shiny title. It works on the idea of privilege, superiority, and entitlement usually held by white people.

 harry potter sadness childhood dumbledore movies quotes GIF

During Hitler’s time, Nazism attempted to unite people (well, some people) who belonged to the “superior race” in order to basically wipe out all other ethnicities from its land. They created an “us” vs “them” mindset that inflicted unmeasurable amounts of evil onto this world. Sound familiar?

Then there is the concept of the “Aryan race”, the superior race. I love it when bigots appropriate words that they don’t understand. The name of the Aryan race derives from the Sanskrit word “Arya,” which means pure. They literally used language from foreigners to discriminate against foreigners.

People who were not considered Aryan – the ethnic minorities, people with different beliefs and disabilities – were referred to as “Untermenschen,”  meaning “subhumans.” Hitler is an example that white nationalists have always felt entitled to land that was not always necessarily theirs to begin with. (You know Hitler was born in Austria, not Germany right?)

It’s easy to get carried away looking at the ideas and policies of the Nazi’s of the past that we ignore what they did. I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly the amount of lives lost and affected by the Nazi regime, but they killed up to 6 million Jews. 7 million Soviet civilians. 1.8 non-Jewish Polish civilians. 212,000 Serb civilians. 250,000 people with disabilities. 196,000 Roma civilians. 1,900 Jehovahs Witnesses. 70,000 other criminals.

Each and every one was a person, like you and me. Who deserved to live. Who died because of hate, fear, and injustice.

This doesn’t even count the people who fought and died to get rid of this ideology, or this disease. In Germany being a Nazi is illegal, and most of history agrees that what they did was horrific.

So to see swastikas and Nazi salutes on our screens in 2017, speaking as a person of color, is terrifying.

They may have had many faces and names during the long history of our world, but white supremacists didn’t go anywhere, they have always been here. Ask people of color, ask the Black Lives Matter movement, ask any marginalized group. Just pick up a history book if you don’t believe me. The only difference is that they are now being shoved in your faces and ignoring them is no longer an option.

I’m curious though, as to how what entitles a group of people to believe they are more worthy of land, life, and liberty than another group? Did ya’ll get a godsent-message telling you to commit mass-murder? Has this sense of privilege and entitlement been so deeply entrenched in them since birth that they live life through blinkers? Like seriously.

Forget the terms “alt-right”, “white nationalist”, “white supremacist.” Let’s call nazis what they are – an ignorant, egotistical, toxic group of human beings who incite hate and thrive on dividing us.

Don’t tell me that Nazis are not dangerous, that these white supremacists have a right to peacefully protest. Because to me, anger is the only rational reaction to these creatures. Anger and resistance.

Gender Inequality Interviews

Diane Wong on gentrification in Chinatown, profit over people, and being labeled “too radical for academia”

Diane Wong is an ethnographer, scholar, and activist who is currently working on a dissertation studying the gentrification of American Chinatowns. She sat down with The Tempest to talk about gentrification, being a woman of color in academia, and the connection between scholarship and activism.

The Tempest: Can you start off by giving a bit of a summary of how you would define gentrification to someone who might not understand it?

Diane Wong: The word gentrification it most often is synonymous with displacement. In the broader sense of things, it’s what happens when we place profit over people. The effects are manifested in different ways: rent increases, forced evictions, landlord harassment, closure of neighborhood shops, changes in demographics and erasure of culture.

Too frequently the media and politicians portray gentrification as an inevitable process, but there is nothing natural about the physical uprooting of families that have called a place home for generations. 

The dissertation you’ve been working on is about gentrification in Chinatowns. How would you briefly summarize what you’re studying?

Most [current studies] have focused on the causes of gentrification and on the role of middle-class gentrifiers, which ignores what happens to pre-existing residents and communities. We don’t know much about the residents who are displaced and even less about those who are fighting to stay in their homes. This is what motivates my current work. My dissertation looks at neighborhood resistance against gentrification in three different Chinatowns across the country.

I am especially interested in looking at how Chinese immigrants with limited resources and access to formal political institutions mobilize in the context of displacement. 

What first drew you to study ethnography of American Chinatowns? 

 [I was drawn to] the importance of inter-generational storytelling. In many ways, this project has been a personal one and has allowed me to learn more about my own connections to displacement. I think that most [immigrants and immigrant families] know what it is like to lose a home and then be uprooted over and over again.

This summer I am working with the W.O.W Project on a Chinatown Oral History Collection to make some of these stories on cultural resilience and collective memory more accessible to Chinatown residents in New York and beyond. Thinking about how research can be a vehicle for transformative change, we are working with a team of young Chinese American transcribers to ensure that resources and knowledge stay within the community.

I saw in an interview that you mentioned your proudest accomplishment was “making it this far as a woman of color in academia.” What are some of the biggest barriers you’ve encountered as a woman of color in academia? 

Besides from institutional barriers, one the biggest barriers is communicating my work to my immigrant family. Growing up, politics was never something that my family discussed over the dinner table. Learning about my mother’s migration history and of her growing up under the Cultural Revolution and then navigating life here as an immigrant woman, I understand why politics was never a priority for her. But this is precisely what moves me to be a scholar of politics, to better understand and contextualize my mother’s experiences as well as the experiences of other immigrants in this country.

There is a lot more work to be done when it comes to connecting our academic work to what is happening on the ground and to more intimate spaces like our homes. It is crucial to be mindful that our work is articulated and practiced in ways that are accessible and relevant to everyone. I have made an intentional effort to include my mother in the work that I do, like taking her on some of the interviews I conduct or to student workshops I speak at.

I’m also curious if you have any advice for other women of color who are interesting in pursuing careers in academia. 

I think the most helpful piece of advice I have is to trust your work. There are so many obstacles set in place to make women of color scholars question the value of our work. It is so crucial to remember to be patient with your own process of growth. Be kind to yourself and proactive about self-care. In an environment where your worth is connected to your levels of productivity, it is important to figure out what your non-negotiables are.

My last piece of advice is to build a community in and outside of academia that can affirm and help keep things in perspective. Being a woman of color in academia is exhausting but I learned to fall back on community harder and in ways I never dared to before. As someone who is labeled too radical for academia, it has been a struggle for me to believe in my work and the questions I have about the world. But the constant support I received from the community has made me trust my work in ways that academia has never taught me to.

You also worked as the Social Media Wizard for 18 Million Rising, an online social justice organization focusing on Asian American issues. I’m curious about the connection between your academic work and your activist work. What if any, do you think is the connection between academia and grassroots activism? 

I see my academic work as stemming from a place of revolutionary praxis and deep love for the community. We [at 18 Million Rising] did a lot of organizing work related to civic engagement, media representation, Islamophobia, migrant justice, Asian anti-blackness, police violence and accountability.

I see my academic work and organizing work as being interconnected. For me being able to bridge theory to praxis is how I would contextualize my work, because at the end of the day what is the point of knowledge if it doesn’t make a difference in the world?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Gender Love Inequality

Contrary to popular belief, India’s women refuse to stay silent in the face of sexual violence

The gender rights movement in India has been rising following the gangrape in New Delhi in 2012. Since then, we have battled sexual assault, the moral ban on the morning after pill in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and on January 21, we stood in solidarity with women across the world in multiple Indian cities to reclaim our public spaces with our version of the Women’s March: a campaign called I Will Go Out.

I Will Go Out, referred to by most as #IWillGoOut, is a campaign with a frightening past. During New Year celebrations in the city of Bengaluru, reports emerged about ‘mass molestation’ with male civilians groping a number of women in a frenzied mob. Police officials refused to file complaints due to lack of evidence. Bengaluru, a city once known for its public safety, was now being compared to New Delhi, which is often considered the ‘rape capital’ of the country. It was yet another dent in our armor, and it was a horrible one.

We knew we had to respond in a way that people would not forget.

Though I was raised outside India in the Arab city of Dubai, an environment where public safety was guaranteed at any point in time, I still felt the effects of India’s rape culture.

I had strict curfews imposed on me. I was told not to wear anything too revealing for fear of attracting attention. I was not allowed to go out socially in male-dominated groups.

When I moved to the city of Chennai three years ago, these actions became a necessity.

Our version of Donald Trump and his cabinet were elected to office nearly three years ago. Our politicians have proven to be overwhelmingly misogynist.

In this time period, we have had political figures make statements such as “women are to blame for molestation”, “every Hindu woman must produce at least four kids to preserve Hinduism”, “rape happens because women and men are allowed to interact freely”, and that “boys will be boys”. At least six cases of rape and 15 cases of molestation are reported per day in the country.

While misogyny, sexism and slut shaming are rampant in our culture, our politicians have managed to validate and justify its occurrence in the nation.

The more recent news dominating the country is the Supreme Court’s ban on a Tamil sport called jallikattu (played during a religious Tamil festival called Pongal) and its ensuing protests in Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai (where I live). Because the press was covering the protests of this decision, they neglected to investigate an incident in the Ariyular district of the state, where a lower-caste (known in India as Dalit) girl was brutally gang-raped and murdered. Preceding that, a transgender woman named Tara and a software engineer named Swathi were brutally murdered in separate instances last year.

Unfortunately, there were no public protests about these threats to women’s safety in the city when any of these incidents took place.  This reflects a complete and utter disregard for the public safety of women over the preservation of an archaic and severely sexist culture.

While the marches in other cities went smoothly, the march in Chennai was overshadowed by the jallikattu protests. In spite of that, a small group of about 15 people (including my partner and me) did a silent march in a public park in the heart of the city.

We were small, but we made an impact in our space.

The #IWillGoOut campaign stands for taking control of our bodies. It stands for our unrelenting perseverance.

But most importantly, it stands for this: being able to exist in a public space as citizens of our country.

Tech The World Now + Beyond

Should we trust Wikileaks?

During the election, Wikileaks contributed to Trump’s ammunition against Hillary Clinton by leaking those emails. Respected members of the US government have denounced the website. European authorities once arrested Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief, for sexual assault.

There is a lot to not like about Wikileaks. Especially if you supported Clinton in the election. Indeed, in the wake of the CIA leaks, some have even resorted to defending CIA espionage in order to denounce the website.

Yet Wikileaks is pushed into the limelight with every new data dump. Almost every outlet has covered the most recent leaks. Many media companies have teamed up with the website, as shown by the website’s extensive partners list. Wikileaks is the primary source for journalists writing about government overreach. And perhaps more importantly, it is an essential tool for anyone who wants to engage in activism or dissent. Here is why:

The recent CIA leaks provide a rare glimpse into reality.

Shortly after the leaks, there was a frightening attempt to downplay their contents by the media. The Washington Post wrote that the CIA is not conducting “mass surveillance,” rather, it is spying on individual devices (which are, in fact, mass produced & distributed).

In reality, what the leaks reveal is nothing short of terrifying. We have known about government surveillance for a while. But it is easy to forget, in our day to day lives, that the government has this enormous, undemocratic ability to access our private information. This leak has reminded us.

This is really bad. The CIA, tasked by Obama to reveal software vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed, has instead exploited these weaknesses for its own advantages. Your phone, laptop, or television can be accessed through security flaws, effectively bypassing message encryption apps. The government can access your microphones and cameras. And, if these software loopholes exist, any rogue hacker, even outside of the CIA, can exploit them.

Do not be worried about a partisan allegiance.

It’s true, election night was a disaster, and Wikileaks may or may not have contributed to Donald Trump’s win. But that does not mean the website has stayed loyal to any particular candidate. In addition to targeting the Clinton campaign, Wikileaks has expressed interest in publishing Trump’s tax returns.

During his campaign, Trump claimed to “love” Wikileaks for its supposed damage to the Clinton campaign. After the most recent CIA debacle, his opinions are changing.

Wikileaks is more anti-secrecy than anti-Democrat. And what was revealed in the Clinton, DNC, and Podesta emails is also extremely important. We learned of the DNC’s effort to undermine Bernie Sanders. We learned of attempts to legitimize Trump in order to bolster Clinton. The emails may have spawned a weird internet child porn conspiracy, but keeping both sides accountable is worth it.

Good journalism is whistleblowing.

In 1971, the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret history of the US’s role in Vietnam from the Department of Defense. The papers contained information unknown by the mainstream media as well as part of the government itself. The leak was exemplary journalism, demonstrating the true power-checking purpose of the press. It was also very illegal.

Lately, with a few exceptions, large media companies such as the New York Times have been less willing to take these risks. Wikileaks is picking up their legacy. There will always be a need to keep our government responsible, whether or not our favorite party is in power.

A treasure trove for activists.

Government mass surveillance and US military expansion are important issues, but they do not receive the attention they deserve in the mainstream news cycle. Thanks to Wikileaks, activists have a rallying point to begin to tap into ordinary people’s outrage over government wrongdoing.

Leaks are a key tool for the resistance; they reveal problems that could never have been covered otherwise, because the information did not exist. In the ongoing fight for justice, we can use this evidence to our advantage.

Science Now + Beyond

Here’s why we can’t stop standing with Standing Rock now

The United States’ racist legacy of exploiting Native Americans is only broadening.

After the Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted through sacred indigenous land to protect the white citizens of Bismarck from contaminated drinking water, #NODAPL protesters had to fight through pepper spray and rubber bullets to make the rest of the country care. Even after a summer and fall of protests, major news outlets persisted with mediocre coverage until Obama directed the Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily delay the pipeline.

The corporation in charge of DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners, declared that the Obama administration was merely “currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency,” forgetting the profound injustice that allowed the original inhabitants of this land to be a “narrow constituency”.

And then Trump became president.

Among the whirlwind of executive orders and protests, some of us may wonder why Trump had to be the one politician to follow through on his campaign promises. One action that may have gotten lost is his decision to cancel the Army Corps’ environmental impact review, ending their temporary delay. On February 8th, the Army Corps granted their final easement, allowing ETP to begin construction.

Theres a lot of despair to go around with this decision. Why didn’t Obama do more? Why don’t people see how obviously entangled Trump and his cabinet are with the interests of ETP: Trump used to own shares in the company, and Energy Secretary pick Rick Perry sits on ETP’s board of directors. Most recently, in an eery COINTELPRO flashback, sources discovered that the FBI is investigating Standing Rock protesters.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has resumed construction. What can be done?

There is still hope.

Donald Trump recently claimed that the pipeline wasn’t “controversial”. This is a false statement, going from the first Standing Rock protests up until now. There are still a variety of actions being taken against the pipeline that you too can get involved in.

Protesters have pressured cities across the nation, most notably Seattle, to follow the money and divest from companies such as Wells Fargo that finance the pipeline. Seattle’s decision came after Trump’s DAPL and Keystone executive order, showing that many local governments are willing to defy the administration on this issue.

As police attempt to forcibly remove protesters from the Standing Rock reservation, army veterans are returning to North Dakota to form a human shield. Veterans showed up at Standing Rock back in December, but now are especially needed under the new administration and Trump’s executive order.

After a full winter of protests, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is planning a march on Washington on March 10th. The tribe is calling on indigenous and non-indigenous alike to show opposition to the pipeline and ongoing support for the empowerment of native people.

There are so many ways that we can help these efforts as individuals. Donate to the legal funds of water protectors who have been arrested. Stay away from companies that are invested in DAPL. Attend a protest.

Standing Rock is a fight too crucial to abandon. There is no reason for us to be pessimistic and ignorant about something so easily avoidable. Remember: the Dakota Access Pipeline was preventable when it was set to run through Bismarck. We can’t allow them to build it through Standing Rock.

Politics The World

Our resistance is only the beginning, America

When Donald Trump was elected in the highest office of this country, I was fearful. I was hurting. I felt disrespected, and nervous about the direction in which the nation was moving.

But after giving myself time to wallow and to mourn, I knew we had to be ready to defend our country from federal administrative decisions that might threaten our rights.

The past couple days have felt devastating, with executive orders left and right that don’t represent the America I know.

At the same time, in the last couple days, I’ve never felt prouder to be an American.

Because we grieved. And then we organized.

I wish we didn’t have to protect and fight for rights we’ve already won.

Human rights we deserve, just by the nature of our existence. It’s heartbreaking that we have to mobilize in defense of basic civil liberties.

That said, the community organizing and building I’ve witnessed since the election has been incredible. It’s why I was so thrilled to be able to participate in the Women’s March in DC. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen people come together on such a grand spectrum.

Three friends and I drove through the night to stay with family members of mine in Northern Virginia. Functioning on two hours of sleep, we all made it to the metro early in the morning.

In Reston, forty-five minutes out of DC, the station was already bursting with people. Cars were backed up on the highway, beyond the horizon. People already had their witty and poignant signs held high and, somewhere along the line, the four of us realized we had missed the memo to obtain and wear pink pussyhats to the march.

We were exhausted, kind of cold, and overwhelmed by the busy crowd and the high energy. Some young women walked by playing an accordion and ukulele. People were shouting friends’ names to get their attention, assembling their groups together. We were waiting for the rest of our group to park and make it inside to us. So, yes, we were overwhelmed, and not totally awake enough to have the right energy yet.

And then some women were making their own way through the crowd, and offered free pussyhats to anyone who needed them. That moment changed the whole day for us.

All of a sudden, we were not observing the events before us – we were a part of everything. Maybe it was the generosity of these women. Maybe it was the sweet notes that came with each hat from those who could not be with us at the march, but had taken the time to knit these lovely hats. Maybe it was just having a tangible object which united us all – regardless, we were now fully part of the movement.

There was an energy that connected us, and everyone was chatting and sharing stories like we were all been old friends. There’s no way to truly describe what that many people in one place looks like. It was honestly like looking out into an ocean.

We did encounter some anti-march protesters.

They had heinous signs that were anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion. They chanted and shouted at all of us, warning us that hell is waiting.

To my knowledge, there were no violent altercations, though. March security members surrounded the protesters, giving them little to work with.

In any case, every person who spoke that day was inspiring and I don’t care how cliche that sounds.

I cried actual tears when Sophie Cruz spoke. I felt exceptionally empowered when Linda Sarsour said her piece. I felt so much gratitude in my heart when Kamala Harris and Tammy Duckworth spoke, encouraged by the fact that we do have some honorable and fierce representatives, female representatives of color, in our government.

What’s most important to take away is that the march cannot be a one-time occurrence. We have to be proactive. We have to be involved in our communities, in democracy.

We have to care about one another, to stand up for one another.

It was something that stuck with me later that week, when I attended a rally in my city, Durham, to speak out against the border wall and the Muslim ban. We heard from refugees and undocumented immigrants, who spoke out about their experiences. For me, the most touching part of the whole thing was when some of the refugees got visibly chilly and people offered them jackets and hats.

There was something about the gentle smiles of the people offering their jackets, or the surprised gratitude on the refugees’ faces, that made me feel profoundly connected to my community.

We need to continue to do this work.

At this point, silence is complacency. One woman who spoke on behalf of undocumented immigrants said something at the rally in Durham that has stuck with me still.

Translated, she said, “Indifference kills as much as aggression.” And that hit me.

Because to be silent today, to sit back and claim nonchalance, is to commit an act of aggression against those who are already suffering and oppressed.

A common theme from all the speeches were that nobody leaves their home, their families, everything they know, unless they have to, unless there are no more options for them. Immigrants and refugees come to this country and they do contribute to our economy.

And even if they didn’t — even if they weren’t working so hard and tirelessly to build homes for themselves and community with this nation – we should welcome them.  One refugee at the rally said, “I have nothing, all I can give you is love.”

And that should be enough.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

That’s what the plaque on the Statue of Liberty reads. When did we start rejecting this message?

Call your representatives. There are great resources like this, which provides the numbers you need, the issues you need to talk about, and even scripts of what you could say, if you’d prefer a template while you’re on the phone.

Stay aware or stay #woke, if you prefer. Get your friends and family involved. Don’t let your energy or motivation fizzle away. The worst way to live out the rest of this administration is to stay at home: inactive, indifferent and resigned.

We are strong. We are the majority. And this is only the beginning.

Politics The World

Why aren’t Western feminists saying anything about the burkini ban?

A picture really is worth a thousand words.

On 23 August 2016, I started off my day as usual by checking my virtual newspapers Twitter and Facebook, to update myself on current events. As I scrolled, images of armed policemen on a beach caught my attention. The images were of French police harassing a woman who was wearing what looked like to be a cover up with a hijab and demanding she undress herself.

Yes, you read that right. Armed police officers threatened a woman with assault if she did not undress herself. Meanwhile reports indicated that her young daughter cried as the incident took place while onlookers fueled the situation by telling the woman to “go home!”

Reactions on my social media feeds have hit the nail on the head.  Articles posted mainly by Muslim women have perfectly encapsulated France’s deep-seated racism. While Muslims and women of color described the history behind the policing a woman’s body, I discovered only deafening silence from western feminists.

More than 30 towns in France banned the burkini, a woman’s full body wetsuit, arguing that it goes against French values of secularism and liberty. Essentially, the French believe that the amount of skin one shows determines one’s level of freedom.

Last I checked, liberation is not and cannot be measured by articles of clothing. Liberation is having the freedom to choose. Oppression is the inability to choose, in other words to be unjustly controlled. What happened in France was state-sanctioned oppression.

While France’s highest administrative court shot down the ban, it is important for us to recognize the ways in which state violence works against Muslim women. France has a deep history of racism and misogyny aimed primarily at people of color. In July, the government extended its state of emergency for another six months expanding the already wide “police powers of search, seizure, and detention.” The state of emergency has caused “hardships such as job losses, trauma to children, and damage to homes.” The greatest victims to this state of emergency are French Muslims.

France’s policing of Muslim women’s bodies has deep historical roots. French colonialist in Algeria printed posters with, “Aren’t you pretty? Unveil yourself.” The colonial rulers violently forced Algerian women to throw away their hijabs in war camps in efforts to westernize them. Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born psychiatrist and influential voice of postcolonial theory stated, “this woman who sees without being seen frustrates the colonizer.”

French colonizers could not bear the sight of the veil as it remained a public display of women’s refusal to conform to the colonizers rules. It was a visible sign of resistance and the commitment to hold onto identity. For the French today, just like it was not too long ago, this symbol of nonconformity proves too dangerous and therefore must again be violently suppressed.

Want further proof that the burkini ban is racist? There has been no reported action taken against those who wear full body scuba suits, which are near identical to the burkini. In addition, authorities have not taken any steps to force catholic nuns to strip off their attire.

What is one of the most jarring things about this entire scenario is the near complete silence from Western feminists. Those who are first to exclaim the importance of being oneself, to having the liberty to choose how to present oneself; these are all the so-called feminists who have remained quiet.

What should be the rallying cry for feminists to band together as French patriarchy seeks to subdue Muslim women has barely caused a stir in the Western feminist circles.

Should I really be surprised though?

These are often the same women who mistakenly equate being naked with liberation. Again, liberation is not defined by what one wears or does not wear; it is defined by having the freedom to choose.

A great example to highlight the hypocrisy of western feminism is the U.S. war in Afghanistan.  I was 12 when the war began, and I vividly remember Laura Bush leading the imperialist feminists in calling for the liberation of the Afghan women. Despite Afghan women’s organization, such as Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), explicitly saying war is not the answer, the western imperialist feminists equipped the warhawks with the “liberation” message, giving the green light to thousands of pounds of liberation to rain down on a land that had already experienced decades of war.

Western feminism enabled, and continues to enable, imperialism. It’s not here for our liberation. It only seeks to dictate how women of color and/or Muslim women should behave. It is nothing more than an extension of patriarchy.

The usual celebrity feminist vocals like Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift have remained silent. The French women on the beach who watched as authorities threatened the Muslim woman with pepper spray remained silent. It can only be summed up by a quote I found on Facebook by Susan Abulhawa: “All the ways women empower men to humiliate other women. Shame on every single woman on that beach who did nothing.”

And shame on every individual who presents him or herself as a defender of human rights who has remained silent as armed men stood over an unarmed women and threatened her with assault.

These images will remain etched in my mind. France, the state that claims to be a bastion of liberty, not only polices women’s bodies, but justifies it. While the ban may have been overturned, sadly the racism and ingrained Islamophobia in the country has not.

It won’t change with one law and it won’t happen overnight. There’s no quick solution to centuries old racism rather it’s a path of continued resistance against the oppressor. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So while I may not live in France and I may not wear a hijab, I will constantly fight for a woman’s right to do so.