Advocacy Activity at the State Capitol

My Plan

My plan was to visit with my State House Representative, Jason Dunnington (D) of District 88, in Oklahoma City on Feb 7, 2017 during the 2017 National Association for Social Worker’s (NASW) Heartland Oklahoma Legislature Day.

What I Hoped to Achieve

I wanted to speak to Representative Dunnington about school choice policy in Oklahoma City and its impact on local schools and marginalized communities.  Since Dunnington lives in my community, and like me, is also a sociologist, I felt he would have an interesting perspective on education policy, and what we might do help the children in Oklahoma City Public Schools.  Furthermore, Dunnington has two children of his own who currently attend the same elementary school my children also attended a few years ago.  This elementary schools is located within Census Tract 1009, which I have been assessing for the General Practice Community Intervention assignment.

The issue with this community, as well as every community in Oklahoma City, is that OKCPS district continues to suffer from the impacts of institutional racism created by segregation, which was only reinforced by white flight after the Supreme Court order in 1972, which mandated that OKCPS district implement cross-district busing policies to desegregate their schools. The OKCPS district lost over half its students (36,000) between 1971 and 1985. In order to attract middle class families back to the district, OKCPS implemented school choice policies.  Research seems to suggest that school choice policies reinforce, rather than alleviate, institutional racism, because the process that choice schools use tend to select middle-class white and Asian children who have demonstrated academic achievement.  The downside beyond the systemic marginalization of minorities, is that school choice policies weaken the city as a whole, because middle class fa miles don’t tend to live and invest themselves in these communities. It again fails to solve the white flight problem.

Implementation

There was already a brutally long line of social workers and students waiting outside Representative Dunnington’s office when I arrived.  Let me preface this– I am not generally a person who waits in lines.  Long lines are to be avoided at all costs, because nothing good comes from a long line. Long lines are bad juju. The people waiting in the line are not at their best due to their wait, and the people who are seeing those waiting are often beleaguered by the demands placed upon them.   I usually elect to come back at a more convenient time.  However, on this occasion, I made a rare exception and waited to be speak to Dunnington.

After 45 minutes of patiently waiting (I truly gave it my all) it was finally my turn to step into my State House Representative’s office, where I was very surprised to learn that he was not in the office after all.  His legislative assistant told me that he had gone down to vote an hour before I arrived.  Although we believed we were waiting to see Dunnington, we had actually been standing in a long line to speak with his very nice assistant, who helpfully gave us his business card, and shared some places he might be tracked down in the future.

Lessons Learned

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really got a lot out of my visit at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  With respect to visiting your own State Representative, however, I learned that it is good to know a great deal of background about the person behind the office prior to your visit.  What are the issues they are passionate about?  What is their educational background?  What are their values?  I have recently learned through Twitter that Dunnington is very passionate about local education, and although that does not necessarily mean he is against school choice policy, it does appear that he at least cares about the sad state of education for our children, which is promising. I will have to learn more about views regarding vouchers and school choice — issues that are being heavily promoted by many in government.   Researching your legislator is essential to having a productive dialogue.  Since completing the assessment and intervention of Census Tract 1009, I am now much more prepared to have that conversation with Dunnington than I was in February.

The assistant to the State Legislator is a gatekeeper.  I was nice to Meagan Hansen, Dunnington’s legislative assistant, which was very easy to do because she was a lovely person, but if I had been cross with her who knows where the conversation would have led?   Hansen gave me very helpful information and encouraged me to write my legislator an email, or have a beer/coffee with him at Capitol Crawl.

 

 

Advocacy Activity

As a budding social worker, when I entered the program, I had no idea what advocacy entailed. To a new social worker, advocacy is a word that carries a load of responsibility and can feel daunting at times. Experiencing the NASW day at the Oklahoma Capitol allowed me to gain perspective and understanding for what advocacy is and what it looks like. The NASW day at the capitol was a chance for social workers to come together, gain an understanding, and meet with representatives and hopefully build rapport.

To start the day Frannie Pryor, who is the NASW-Board President, spoke about social work values and social justice. As social workers, it is our responsibility to advocate for vulnerable populations. This may be on a smaller, one on one scale, or it could be on a larger scale, advocating for policy. The NASW takes the core values very seriously. Frannie Pryor talked about the importance of working under those core values in whatever capacity the social worker is in. Another guest that was there to speak was Kara Joy McKee. One thing that McKee said that resonated with me was that marches are great for bringing people together for a cause, but are not great for inciting policy change. She said that it is important for people to get out and write letters, make phone calls, and talk with representatives. Of course organizing marches can be helpful in bringing awareness, but as social workers, we must be more active. During the day there was also an opportunity to hear from representatives through a legislative panel. Although it was brief, it gave me a chance to hear from them and understand that we might differ in views, but finding common ground is crucial if both sides want to be heard. The representatives discussed the importance of having a presence and being involved. We then had a breakout session to meet our representatives. I was unable to meet directly with my representatives, but the experience was helpful in making the process seem doable. It is scary thinking about discussing policy with my representatives, but walking around the capitol and finding their offices makes it more approachable in the future.

As stated before, I am an aspiring social worker who had little knowledge about what advocacy looked like from a social workers perspective. Attending the NASW day at the capitol provided me with an understanding of what advocacy is. The main thing that I took away from the day was that social workers have to stay engaged and active. It is not enough to sit in an office and seeing clients. Social workers have to be involved in policy changes that will affect them and their clients. I also gained the understanding that representatives are people and want to be treated as such. I feel like with politics we sometimes forget that we are all human! Speaking with the panel, and hearing what drew them to their position, was refreshing and humanizing.  Whether I am working with individuals or groups, advocating in an office or at the capitol, it is important to operate under the social work values. Advocacy can seem overwhelming at times, but attending the NASW day at the capitol was a helpful guide for how to successfully advocate for vulnerable populations.

Academic Tips

Changing universities really forces you to examine the way you study and prepare for classes. Here are some things I’ve learned that may be of use to other exchange students:

  • Go to class. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to rationalize missing classes for other, much more fun things that come up, like spontaneous beach trips, and going to the biggest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere. Going to classes prevents having to self-learn the material and cram the week before the exam. Seriously. Go to class. You’ll thank me at the end of the semester.
  • Actively revise notes. A lot of the time I spend “studying” is just me staring at my notes, trying to remember what the previous page said. I’ve found that actively engaging with the material (explaining it out loud, making mind maps, connecting it to material learned in previous or other classes, summarizing and contextualizing it, ect.) helps engrain it in my memory better. It’s an efficient way to study, and much more entertaining than dragging a highlighter through the textbook. Do this frequently, but do give yourself time to rest and allow the knowledge to solidify, so you’re not just cramming.
  • Take practice tests, and do practice problems. What can I say? Practice makes perfect: especially in math and science subjects.
  • Find a good place to study. The importance of setting cannot be overstated. I’ve found that it varies person to person. I like working in my room when I do practice problems, but I really prefer coffeeshops when I’m working on essays. I think that the bustle and noise in the background is more conducive to creative work, personally, while the quiet really allows me to concentrate on my work.
  • Engage with your professors. Incredibly difficult classes can become much easier with the help of a kind teacher. I like to meet with professors to discuss essays, prepare for tests, and just talk about the class generally. Professors have such interesting backgrounds, and are usually very eager to help out students in their class. Knowing the professor makes going to class more engaging, and assignments seem less daunting.

Advocacy Activity

Advocacy Plan

My plan involved a proposed city re-zoning plan in Norman, OK by the Norman City Council.  The plan is formally called the Center City Form-Based Code and informally as the Center City Vision.  It is a proposition by the City Council to regulate what types of buildings may be built in central Norman, an area known for its historic identity and aesthetic appeal.  My house lies within the primary area affected by this policy and it has become a hot-button issue with land-owners and residents in the area.  Many people have yard signs for or against the proposal and continuously canvas the neighborhood at a rate which some residents might describe as highly irritating and verging on harassment.  I planned to attend and speak my opinion at a special Planning Commission Meeting at the Norman City Council Chambers on April 6th, 2017 at 6:30 P.M.

Reasoning

I chose this activity because my landlord is constantly urging me to sign his protest opposing this proposition and provides little-to-no evidence or support for his stance.  I noticed that he had persuaded many of the other tenants to sign based on his coercion tactics.  I feel that pressing tenants for a politically-motivated signature without much explanation is exploitative and a conflict of interest due to his role as a landlord.  Attending this meeting would allow me to raise this issue, voice my own stance, and obtain information on the proposition so that I may make an informed decision and help my neighbors do the same.

Activity and Results

I attended the event at the set time and place, bringing along two friends who were also concerned with this issue and may be affected by it.  There was a panel of community leaders seated in the semi-circular row of chairs reserved for members of the Norman City Council.  They were discussing the plan with a professionally-dressed woman who was standing at the speaking podium below and was very well-versed on the issue, describing the plan in detail.  They spoke about it for forty-five minutes and then allowed for audience responses based on written submissions made before the meeting.  A few land-owners approached the podium to speak about their property rights and how their personal finances might be negatively affected.  Other homeowners brought up points concerning traffic, parking, and pedestrian access.  Another person with a physical disability got up to ask for clarification on the policy’s adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it apparently had not yet accounted for some of the Act’s provisions ensuring access to housing by people with disabilities.  Other issues brought up were: availability of low-rent housing for families and individuals with low incomes, preserving the aesthetic and historic values of the area, and student accommodations.  I did not speak as I did not arrive early to register for time to speak but I did stay and take notes on the main points discussed.  My notes highlighted the aspects of the policy which my landlord had referred to in his canvassing efforts in order to educate myself and my neighbors if once again confronted and asked to give a position.

Lessons Learned

I learned through this activity that people seeking protest signatures often have more underlying reasons than those openly offered in their canvassing efforts.  The true motives of my landlord, most likely to secure his right to build whatever he wants without restriction, became much more apparent after hearing the arguments for and against the proposal.  I learned that attending these meetings and voicing an opinion actually can make a tangible difference.  Many of the points brought up during open discussion were deliberated over and occasionally included in the revised proposal.  I also was surprised at how far-reaching this policy is and the widely-varying interests that came out during discussion.  I had not considered the effects a seemingly simple zoning change would have on so many people’s lives; hearing their testimonies offered several helpful insights on the proposal and broadened my perspective of the issue.

Because I said I would…

Because I said I would is a non-profit organization that has reevaluated the way we should look at promises. Their idea is simple, yet also very hard. They created promise cards that is a blank business like card with just the words “… because I said I would.” The goal is to create a more accountable society. What you do is write your promise down on a card and give it to somebody that will hold you accountable (or the person you are making your promise too) and then once you have fulfilled the promise you get your card back.

This is such a simple concept, but has so much meaning. A promise is a heavy commitment and so for people to write the words down and be held accountable for their promise, it brings weight to the things you promise. You have to fulfill this, because you said you would. Our words are not meaningless and this social movement makes sure that you remember that. 6.64million cards had been distributed as of March 2017. That is a lot of promises.

What is also great about “Because I said I would” is that they give back to the community. Many of the promises people make have to do with volunteer work, but the organization also spends time and money helping other charitable organizations.

Here is the Because I said I would website.

Here is an example of a because I said I would card, and the promise. This is also their instagram page.

A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood. Posted by Gina. #becauseisaidiwould becauseisaidiwould.com/honor

A post shared by because I said I would. (@becauseisaidiwould) on

You can also watch the founder of Because I said I would give a ted talk here:

Policy Map

After college, many students tend to either move back home or move to those cities that are increasing with big businesses. The map shows where people aged from 21-24 mostly tend to live. I decided to use San Antonio, Texas because I will hopefully be able to move back home and work at one of my dream schools there. The small region of San Antonio is clear that this city attracts those who are right out of college. Areas that surround SA tend to have less amount of people in this age range. The map shows that the bigger cities are where student’s want to start their working life’s. Having many successful businesses in cities like San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston pull those who see that location is the key to being successful. Also, people in this age range tend to live in cities that have a good nightlife for their age and San Antonio is known for having a great nightlife downtown and on the Riverwalk. Every city attracts different people and businesses of all ages, however, within this century it has been found that people in this age range locate themselves in the bigger cities that have a bigger range of jobs.

Texas:

San Antonio, Texas:

Pelo Malo y los roles de género en Venezuela

En los años recientes, los temas del género y sexualidad son muy frecuente.  Ahora más de las décadas pasadas, esos temas son importantes en los demuestres de identidad.  No es un nuevo fenómeno, pero se nota más de en el pasado por los medios de comunicación.  En países como los Estados Unidos, la comunidad LGBT tiene los derechos de libertad de expresión y generalmente pueden vivir sin el gobierno ataque sus derechos.  De ninguna manera es perfecto y necesitas mucho trabajo.  Comparado a países como Rusia o Venezuela, los Estados Unidos tiene más derechos, y es más seguro.  También, esos países luchan con la raza.  Debido de la raza y la comunidad LGBT, estratificación social puede surge y afectó las identidades de las personas en una comunidad.  Pelo Malo, una película de Mariana Rondón hecho en 2013, es una película que examina la identidad de un niño en Venezuela.  Es apropiado que Mariana Rondón dirige una película sobre la vida de un niño en Venezuela porque ella también es de Venezuela.  Sus otras obras incluyen una película llamada Postales de Leningrado, una historia de niños durante la época de grupos guerrilleros en Venezuela durante los años sesenta (IMDb).  Esa película es una autobiografía porque su niñez fue muy similar porque sus padres son guerrilleros durante los años sesenta en Venezuela (Rosas).  Es obvio que ella tiene un conexión con historias en su país de origen. Junior es el protagonista de la película y quiere alisarse su pelo para parecer como una celebridad.  Su mama Marta malinterpreta la razón de Junior y ella cree que su hijo es homosexual. La raza también es un factor en su decisión de alisar su pelo porque el pelo rizado es un base de discriminación y racismo en Venezuela.  Los compañeros de clase de Junior se burlan a Junior sobre su pelo porque las personas negras y de una clase baja tienen pelo rizado.   Pero, más importante es los roles de género e identidad LGBT en la vida de Junior.

La comunidad y identidad LGBT no es muy aceptado en Venezuela.  Cuando Junior quiere cambiar su pelo, su mama Marta es confundido y aterrorizado porque piensa que su hijo es homosexual.  Pero, el problema viene de la vista sobre los roles de género.  En Venezuela, hace pelo liso es típicamente una actividad de las mujeres.  En la mente de Marta, Junior no baila como los otros niños y por eso, él es homosexual.  Este es un ejemplo de un rol de género prescrito: “Los hombres bailan de cierta manera”.  También, muchas personas en todo el mundo piensan que el género y la sexualidad son entrelazando.  Pero, hay que recordar que el género es una construcción social y los roles de género y expresión de género no siempre son los mismos a través de culturas.  Podemos decir que el género es una construcción social porque el género no es el mismo en todas de las culturas en el mundo.  La mama, Marta, piensa que la sexualidad y el género son mismos, y eso pueden ser común en culturas que no tengan los mismos derechos por la mayoría y minoría.

Por el fondo, la homosexualidad en Venezuela era en una situación oscuro.  En el libro The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights, el autor habla sobre los argumentos en Venezuela sobre la igualdad de matrimonio.  El gobierno dice que los homosexuales no tienen protecciones y pares e individuales no tienen todos los derechos de una personal “normal” (Merentes 220).  Este precedente hizo una cultura que ve los homosexuales como extraños y “otros”.  Entonces, este sentimiento es evidente en como Marta trata a Junior.  Para ella, ser homosexual no es normal, y ella piensa que es su deber para convertir su hijo a un heterosexual.  Su abuso es muy evidente cuando obliga a su hijo a ver a ella tener relaciones sexuales.  La percepción de Marta, desafortunadamente, es un producto de los leyes y cultura de su país.  Una persona que mira más allá de la posibilidad de que Junior sea homosexual es su abuela.  Ella se alisa el pelo de Junior y permite que Junior sea su verdadero yo.

La identidad de Junior es el suyo.  Es único y desafía el statu quo en Venezuela.   Si no hay los roles de género y prejuicio contra los homosexuales, la vida de Junior sería muy diferente.  Tal vez si su mama acepte su hijo y su identidad, el niñez de Junior habría sido más fácil.

 

 

Bibliografía

“Mariana Rondón.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0740048/?ref_=tt_ov_dr.

Merentes, José Ramón. “Gay Rights in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez, 1999–2009.” J. Corrales, & M. Pecheny, The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights (2010): 220-3. https://books-google-com.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/books?hl=en&lr=&id=BTXjgBFtNbwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA220&dq=gay+rights+in+venezuela&ots=DYoHm3oeSs&sig=fq4p1pFILYBxRyyjFNukHmqWPo0#v=onepage&q=gay%20rights%20in%20venezuela&f=false

Rosas, José. “Perfiles.” RFI – Mariana Rondón, Un Imaginario Polifacético, www1.rfi.fr/actues/articles/102/article_8249.asp.

Advocacy Activity – Please, Let’s Not Allow The Handmaid’s Tale to Become a Reality

Women’s reproductive rights have been a hot button issue throughout history. The attack on the right for women to possess full autonomy in making decisions regarding their own bodies is very present in our society today. Though we have seen victories, it’s troubling how many setbacks women still continue to face on this topic. Women are under serious threat of being denied access to safe reproductive services. Furthermore, abortion services are outrageously expensive and public funds in many states cannot be designated to provide safe and affordable abortions. These circumstances are why I chose to join the fight in protecting the rights of women by letting my legislators know that I do not support policies that dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies and that ultimately create a dangerous health and medical environment for women. Furthermore, I wanted to tangibly support Planned Parenthood because a lack of funding could be detrimental to the accessibility of their services.

I chose to visit Planned Parenthood’s website to do some research on the different ways to advocate for their services. They offer 3 very easy advocacy methods that include: calling your legislator, tweeting at your legislator, or tagging your legislator on Facebook. In all three methods, Planned Parenthood even provides a prewritten script to use when communicating your support of Planned Parenthood to your legislator. Currently, Planned Parenthood is concerned with the GOP’s attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would leave numerous individuals without health insurance or coverage to receive necessary reproductive health services that are not even related to abortion. In addition to letting my legislators know how I feel about restricting a female’s autonomy, I donated money to Planned Parenthood. Most people who hate Planned Parenthood hate it because it provides abortion services. However, the majority of what Planned Parenthood provides are essential services for women’s’ reproductive health such as birth control, STD screenings, cancer screenings, and even pregnancy care.

The results of this attempt in advocating for the reproductive rights if women are: 1. Oklahoma’s legislators now know I refuse to let this society turn into a nightmarish episode of the Handmaid’s Tale and 2. Planned Parenthood now has some extra funds to provide necessary services to women that absolutely deserve them. I learned from this experience that it is so easy, and so gratifying, to offer support and advocacy to a cause you really care about. Often times people wonder how they can help when they really want to do some positive in the name of a cause they really believe in – donating money may not feel as gratifying as being on the frontlines of something, but ultimately it can really allow for individuals to receive services that are necessary and beneficial to them. A second thing I learned is that it’s actually very easy to call your representatives. I was a bit nervous at first and then I remember they have aides, so they don’t even answer their own phones. So, I will probably start calling every day to voice my cares and concerns because it takes less than five, even three minutes, and your representatives are reminded of what their constituents actually believe in and want.

Class Overview

After being in this class, I have learned something.

 

Media is important.

It isn’t always truthful.

It has shaped our world as we know it.

It can form the opinions of those who invest in it.

 

All of these observations may seem obvious. But to me, the importance of media didn’t really click until this class. People’s idea of each other; their views on politics, social issues and the world in general has been hindered due to the idea of the media.

Media is so strong in this world. I could really tell a difference of pace with it during this last election season: Trump and Hilary both used the media to highlight the platforms and gain the support of Americans. I feel as though in past elections, the media wasn’t as prevalent in the election process.

Just with that one example, the media is taking over the world as we know it. We must all be careful when it comes to the media and not gain a skewed view of anything we are in support of. I t is important to keep an open mind.

Thirteen Reasons Why

When I was in the eighth grade, I read the Book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I was intrigued by this novel, interested in the content of it all. The lesson you learn from the book is a big one; suicide is never an option. The book went about the subject of suicide in an interesting way – a girl, Hannah Baker, blames 13 classmates for the cause of her death.

How could something like that be so upfront and forward? I think I was intrigued with the book from the start because it dealt with the issue from an interesting perspective.

When I dealt with this situation in my own friend group just 2 years later, I was reminded of the consequences that is suicide.

Fast forward to this spring, when Netflix released their version of the infamous book. Some things are different. I don’t know if it was just because it was a book which allowed me to use my own imagination, but this TV series was graphic and way too much for me. Watching it as a 20 year old, there were parts that I couldn’t even deem appropriate to watch myself. It was graphic, heavy and definitely glamorized suicide.

Coming from somewhere where I’ve dealt with suicide first-hand, I did not appreciate the way this Netflix series came across. I felt as though the book handled the topic in a much better way while still acknowledging the repercussions of suicide.

I feel as though the producers of this series went about the topic of suicide in a bad way. They should’ve realized that this series could definitely deem it okay to those who are struggling to go ahead and commit this heinous act.

To me, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.