#StayingWoke IRL

When contemplating what I was going to write, I stumbled onto this article. In short form it’s about how we can carefully craft our live-changing political online identities, but IRL we are more likely than not to walk away from uncomfortable situations of oppression, sexism, racism, or other inequities with the simple statement of “it’s not my business.”

I had to first call myself out for this. Since Ferguson, I have been blowing up the FB feed like “#blm” and “don’t stay quiet.” But the talking has got me so tired. On a side note, part of my inactivity was because I was pregnant, traveling, moving, having a baby and partially because I didn’t know where to start in my new home. But now I am settled, and ready to work.

I have slowed down my posting on FB (though a lot of that has just transferred to posting on Twitter) and decided to work on real life action. The first step, which was reinforced by a podcast I was listening to today (The Ferguson Response Network), was to take an internal inventory of my behavior, actions, and inactions. Am I perpetuating or ignoring racism or other injustices in my daily life? Beyond that, am I working towards helping humanity in any way.

I have, here in Maine, begun a little bit of work. I have begun to reach out. I have begun to put my money where my internet mouth is. I have lucked into an amazing new job — I am currently the Program Manager at the Portland Farmers’ Market — which entails working on our Low Income Access Program. This program allows SNAP (also know as Food Stamps) purchases at the Market by use of a token program, and through a grant from the USDA (obtained with help from Wholesome Wave) we are able to double all SNAP purchases. So, basically, if you want to spend $20 from your SNAP card, we take $20 off your card but then hand you $40 worth of tokens. It’s amazing. Within this job, I have grown the Outreach portion. I have taken it on to myself to connect not with individual recipients of SNAP, but with programs that touch many of these recipients. Whether is the WIC office or a free legal service or a community clinic, these places are able to pass along the important information to clients at a much faster rate than I would have been able to.

In this work, I have been able to begin to understand where the need lies in Portland, Maine. And once you begin to understand this and see the real people involved, how could you stay inactive? I am currently, actively figuring out where I could lend a hand. The racism in Maine is far different from the racism of Missouri — and doing that work looks different here, but the stakes are just as high and the work is just as important.

In summary, it’s good to say stuff on the internet — but also critical to make those statements real.

For further inspiration, I suggest you listen to this episode of Criminal.

I look forward to reporting again on this ongoing journey.


robert cohen

photo by Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post Dispatch


Making A Murder and other criminal justice escapades

When I was a kiddo, I watched The Thin Blue Line — a ground breaking documentary (by Errol Morris with music by Philip Glass) which dissects a then standing conviction of a man for the killing of a Dallas police officer in 1967. It played a huge role in getting that bogus conviction eventually overturned. Maybe this started me down the path to distrusting the criminal justice system, or maybe it was growing up in St. Louis where most of the criminal justice system is just way to extort low income people and people of color.

The recent release, via Netflix, of Making A Murderer as well as last year’s release of the podcast Serial, from the producers of This American Life, have people up in arms with disgust over shoddy investigative practices, underhanded prosecutions, and abhorrent practices in the criminal justice system. I am happy to see this. Beyond happy, ecstatic — but what has caught me off guard is their surprise.

Is this misuse of power really that surprising? In this mostly closed and self-governed system that is overburdened by terrible policy like the War on Drugs, is it really surprising that people get railroaded?

Anyway – I suggest checking out all three (The Thin Blue Line, Serial Season One, and Making a Murderer) and for a little truthy comedy, John Oliver is here to let you in on a few mind-boggling practices of this country’s criminal justice system.

And if you want to dig a little deeper, these are people working hard on reform:

A great list from Piper Kerman

Equal Justice Initiative

Michael A Wood, Jr

Campaign Zero



a still from The Thin Blue Line

a still from The Thin Blue Line



Podcasts I’m into lately:

Reply All

A show about technology, framed in good stories. By Gimlet Media (players from This American Life and RadioLab and other such good shows) so it is quality entertainment mixed with a bit of education. Thought provoking but not ground breaking.


Call Your Girlfriend

“A podcast for long distance besties everywhere” — pretty much made by and for my generation of ladies. At first I was obsessed and inspired even. These ladies have great jobs, full lives of traveling and interest, lots of cool shit to say about gender, race, misogyny, pop culture, and my personal fave: Shine Theory. But after consuming about 20 episodes I started to feel a little bit outside. I don’t think it’s their fault, but I don’t jet off to somewhere interesting once or twice a month — I can’t afford a mattress that’s the most expensive thing a silicon valley tech employee owns — I was once inspired, but now I feel distant. I feel like I will never have the “things” they have, the things they keep telling me about. At first I felt like they where my cool, successful girlfriends down for a chat about ANYTHING — then I began to feel like they were having these conversations without me. Like they had closed off the circle and were sitting at the cool kids table and I was glancing over from the poor kids table.

I haven’t stop listening, but I have stopped buying into their charmed lives.



Just general stories about crime. Interesting, short pieces about things that have happened around criminal activities — and not just interviews with ex-cons. Based out of North Carolina, so their stories central around the lower Atlantic seaboard.


Another Round

Brought to you by BuzzFeed, a chat and interview podcast by two young ladies of color. They have great guests, don’t shy away from tough race conversations, and are pretty funny, too.


Friends Like Us

Basically long conversations with a room full of comics. They are long, winding conversations about tons of different (and mostly relevant) topics. It’s a nice way to pass the time when I am alone at work. And, duh, it’s funny.



A more serious podcast about the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and all other kinds of ways people identify. I’m into it.



Great storytelling about creepy shit. I try not to listen when I am alone at work.


The Serial Rabbit Hole

After an obsession with Serial and all things Serial I found Undisclosed and Truth & Justice (used to be The Serial Dynasty), both take deep dives into Adnan’s case. Investigating minutiae, following leads the investigators didn’t, dissecting the trials. Mostly they dug up more questions and shone a big ole spotlight on the truly terribleness of the original police investigation and following prosecution by the state.

Both podcasts are now on to different wrongful conviction cases.




a left turn.

I’m going to take a left turn and just start writing about whatever is on my mind. Trying to stick to a subject or being artistic is really just holding me back. Here for all in 2016.

Today’s current obsession is Harry Styles’ (of One Direction) tattoos. Ugh, they are terrible. And the funniest part about how terrible they are: they are coverups for even more terrible tattoos. Here is a sheet of his tattos from a website that sells temporary tattoos based off of celebrity tattoos.



As my boyfriend said, “you can’t buy taste.” 

Note to those without tattoos, or those who want to get tattoos — please research your artist. Make sure they have done quality work. Look at their portfolio. And don’t get a tattoo upon meeting them for the first time. Ask for a consultation, ask for a sketch. Last, but certainly not least, you get what you pay for.