Orange Should Not Be The New Black

Orange Should Not Be The New Black

The Dignity campaign for incarcerated women needs your support.

If you haven't yet seen Ava DuVernay's award-winning, Oscar-nominated expository documentary, "13th" (2016), it's on Netflix, and you should watch it as soon as possible.

Through the powerful medium of cinema, DuVernay examines how history has influenced and shaped the cancerous institutional racism and mass incarceration that has plagued the United States, home of the supposedly 'free,' for centuries.

The film's synthesis of graphic and monumental footage, lyrical rap, shocking statistics, and thought-provoking interviews delivers a touching and impactful blow to its audience, encouraging viewers to approach reality with a new conscious and informed perspective in the hope for some kind of national change.

The movie focuses primarily on the incarceration of African American males, noting that 1 in 3 black men have a lifetime likelihood of imprisonment, and that although this demographic makes up 6.5% of the US population, black men account for 40.2% of the prison population (The Bureau of Justice).

However, the population of women in prison is also increasing, in fact, between 1980 and 2014, the population grew by 700%, which is a higher rate than men (#cut50). A 2017 Prison Policy study found that out of the 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States, over 60% have not even been convicted, meaning most of them simply lack the funds to get themselves out of jail.

A separate report found that 80% of imprisoned women are either pregnant or current mothers, and are therefor almost always separated from their family and their children. Additionally, around 86% reported themselves as victims of sexual violence, and 76% were found to be victims of domestic abuse.

Proper women's health care is a fundamental human right and necessity to overall quality of life, but the prison system is stealing this away from those females who find themselves behind bars. Too often women in jail undergo mass traumatization that renders them unable to re-assimilate to life outside bars, or does so much harm to them that they develop crippling mental disorders which could cost them their lives.

In the past few months, a new movement emphasizing the need for incarcerated women's' rights has evolved called 'Dignity'.

The campaign, supported by a partnership between , #cut50, the We Are Here Movement and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, with the support of the Grammy Award-winning artist, Alicia Keys, aims to rally support and draw attention to the newly introduced 'Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act', backed by Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

Although the act addresses serious issues that often go unnoticed when it comes to criminal justice reform and offers solutions for a significant amount of the abuse and mistreatment women in prison face, there hasn't yet been a congressional hearing scheduled for it. The Dignity movement has started an online petition to apply pressure on Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to get the problem and the act heard.

One of the most popular TV shows in the past five years, especially for us millennials, is Jenji Kohan's 'Orange is the New Black', which can be found conveniently on Netflix. 'OITNB' is a comedy/drama which follows protagonist, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), as she faces time in an all-women's institution for a transportation of drugs she was involved with in her past.

Piper, accustomed to her, privileged, upper class 'life-in-a-bubble", takes a while to assimilate to the diverse, tense, and cut-throat nature of the prison, but the more aware and cognizant she becomes, so does the audience.

While the show does an exceptional job of emphasizing the humanity of each prisoner, accentuating how each woman has their own story and deserves respect and fair treatment, what's really impressive is how it contrasts these character developments with how immorally the treatment of the guards and how inhumane their living conditions are.

Yes, it has lots of humor, but the show still deals with serious issues anywhere ranging from sexual orientation, racism, religion, to rape, drug abuse, and obviously mistreatment and lack of fundamental human rights within the criminal justice system.

The show brought attention to many social justice issues and has coincided critically with many current movements in the US with the material in its episodes, however, arguably even more impactful, is the continued support for these causes by the actresses of OITNB in real life.

Prominent cast members Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, and many others all consistently promote campaigns for social justice (whether that be through LGBTQ, racial, or gender equality) on their social media and through appearances at demonstrations and events.

However, in keeping with their show's theme, I believe it's time that some of these incredible women should again use their celebrity for the greater good by standing behind this Dignity campaign and the fight for the rights of incarcerated women like the ones they fictitiously represent.

Because at the end of the day, orange should not be the new black. And if a woman does find herself behind bars, she deserves quality health care and treatment while she's suffering.

This cause definitely needs more awareness. Stemming from the broader concept of institutional racism, which makes it harder to chip away at, the more people who join together to work towards change the better chance we have of something actually being done on a legislative level. Hundreds of thousands of women's lives are at stake and it's important that we don't forget about them or let them struggle in silence.

Cover Image Credit: picshype.com

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Dear Celebrities, Please Stop Thinking About Running For P.O.T.U.S.

Dear Voters, Please Don't Vote for Celebrities

Celebrities, I know your place in politics has been a hotly debated topic, especially since the last presidential election. For the most part, it has been Oscar speeches about climate change, donations to various charities and bringing light to serious issues like gender inequality and sexual assault. This is all well and good; I would even encourage it. However, I think you guys may have crossed a line when it became commonplace to talk about running for office…or actually doing it.

I suppose the beginning of this trend was when Richard Nixon became president, originally an actor and now a famously bad president. To say his time in the Oval Office ended badly is an understatement. This was followed by our favorite killer robot, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran and won the governorship of California in 2003. I’ll admit it went better than Nixon’s political career, I am still a little put off that his Wikipedia page has no mention of political involvement until he ran for governor. Now, of course, we have Donald Trump, businessman, TV show host and President. So far, his term has been objectively bad, consisting of failing at repealing everything that came from the Obama Administration and golfing.

Despite what I believe will become known as the worst presidency in history, celebrities are still talking about running for office. In the past, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson talked about running (though now has shut down all rumors of running) and, more recently Oprah has shown interest.

But Celebrities, I beg of you, DO NOT RUN FOR OFFICE!

Celebs, it’s not I don’t love you. You guys are so talented in what you do, whether it’s music, acting or comedy. But here's the thing: what you are doing now is what you are good at and you should keep doing it, not run for public office. For the most part, celebrities lack the experience and know how to do well in those positions.

Take Trump for example. When he ran in 2016 (probably more as a publicity stunt than an actual desire to make change) he talked about running the country as if he would be running a business, even though countries and businesses are nothing alike. At all. And once he got into office he even admitted it was a lot harder than he had expected. Then, after a bunch of failed attempts at repealing ObamaCare and everything else left over from the former administration, he pretty much resigned himself to golfing. This is all because he had no idea what he was getting into. He didn’t run with any sort of experience and mostly just name recognition and racism.

Now, imagine a 2020 election in which Oprah runs for president. Donald Trump will definitely get caught saying the “N word” and Oprah will be running on name recognition and relief that she’s not Trump. She will assume being president is way easier than it is, fail at getting anything passed, and resign herself to what she’s better at: books and media attention. Yes, there will be less racism and golfing, but the country will not progress.

Now, my dear celebrities, there are still ways to make a difference in the world without being president. You can bring attention to issues that matter to you or donate to charities for causes close to you heart. You could even get involved in grassroot campaigning and work to get other people involved in politics.

Same goes for you voters. You can get involved with issues and campaigns that your favorite celebrities care about and go out and VOTE. Go research and pick and a candidate that you like for their policies and experience, not just their latest movie.

Cover Image Credit: Jerry Kiesewetter

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Millennials, President Trump Isn't Your Enemy Just Because You Disagree With Him

You are the difference that our country needs. Now go out there and be it!

Donald Trump has got to be one of most disliked presidents of our generation. Yes YOU, millennials, AKA generation Y, the largest, most educated, most technology savvy, civic-oriented, conscious, global, entrepreneurial, pragmatic idealists, authentic, frugal, liberal, compassionate, progressive, confident, diverse, practical and results-oriented, team-oriented, non-religious, multi-tasking, nomadic, impatient, and adventurous generation in western civilization today.

But when it comes to Donald Trump only a couple of things matter to us.

His horrible personality and the fact that he is trying to dissect the Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare, if you will. I have got to say I am not seeing many of those characteristics being actively applied to make sense of what is really going on during President Trumps’ term. Our judgment seems to be clouded by our distaste for our president.

Being a part of generation Y, I cannot believe that we have pulled a veil over our OWN eyes. Because, instead of viewing Donald Trump as our president, we view him as our enemy. We dislike his personality, we dislike most of the things that he allows to come out of his mouth and we dislike what he has done in the past.

One thing that I feel we should not dislike about the man is his current efforts. I am noticing a slight change in him since he has taken office to be honest. It seems that his cocky self is diminishing. He is realizing the true limitations placed on presidents. But that is solely my opinion.

We need to pay attention to the policies that the president in being active in trying to change or dispose of and begin to be the change. If you notice that Donald Trump is trying to attack a policy that could impact your life greatly, go and place a vote or write to congress. Do SOMETHING besides complain and riot about it.

Taking an executive approach, a responsible approach and work in ways that are guaranteed to be impactful. We are still young, and we still have so much knowledge to gain. Do not let your opinion of the president be the reason that your political views are limited. Do not let it be the reason that policies get passed that you dislike.

You are the difference that our country needs. Now go out there and be it!

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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