Saturday, November 29, 2014

Keep It Moving

Seems like forever since I’ve posted something on here. Really, it’s just because I don’t have any interesting stories to share. Well, that, and the fact that I’ve pretty much been in a slump. I’ve completed several projects and it sort of feels like hibernation time. I’m trying to figure out what I can do next, or if there is even anything left for me to do. With that being said, I’ve just been in my house chilling: watching the repeat episodes of Scandal that I have on my hard drive, re-reading books, exercising, thinking, thinking, and thinking some more!

I used to visit a bunch of women every day. Lately, I haven’t had the motivation to visit anyone except for my host mom and aunt. However, today I told myself to get out of this slump! I figured that since I am going on vacation in a couple of weeks, I could walk around my community and visit people, despite how I may be feeling. So, I did just that!
I had my girls meeting in my house for about 2 hours. Then, I went to my host mom’s house to eat lunch and watch Matilda. I ended up braiding her hair (she loved it by the way!). After that, I went to my other neighbor’s house to play cards and dominos, and to well- eat again. At that point I felt like I was going to explode, but I kept it moving. I grabbed my host sister and cousin and we walked down the hill to go to the baseball game. On the way, a bunch of women yelled at me for not stopping by their houses. One of my favorites, Dolores, told me, “Oh oh, but Misha, you’re acting brand new. You never come to my house anymore, you only walk pass and scream my name when you’re on your way to the school. You don’t like poor people anymore…” As usual, I laughed it off and sat down with her for a little while as she told me jokes and gave me coffee. When I finally went back home, three of my cousins came to my house to use the internet and do homework. My host mom came over and talked to me about how I have not been to church in a while and she told me that she wanted me to go tonight. Man, I wanted to refuse soooo badly! Uggghhhh, I told her I would go, but I was just saving face and had no intention of leaving my house at 7:30 lol. As soon as I closed my door, my host sister came to my house to get her hair done. Once I finished I tried to kick her out, but she literally would not leave until I put on clothes and went to church with her. So I did… and my church night turned out how it usually does: there was a guest preacher who called me up and started screaming and prophesying over me, and blah, blah, blah…

Long story short- today was a GOOD day!... Wait! Don’t stop reading; there is a lesson to be learned here.

Today I realized that no matter how I may feel or what may be going through my mind, there is always someone to change my outlook and uplift me. Sometimes we take refuge within ourselves. We form this little bubble and we do not want anyone to enter. We hide in our hammocks, close our doors, pop open a bottle of cold red wine and convince ourselves that it is okay to have some “Me time” for yet another day. Buuuttttt, it is in those times of discomfort, those moments when you think you can’t take anything more- that there is something left. There is always something left! It’s just like a marathon: you start the race off steady, pick up the pace a little bit, and eventually you start feeling tired. You think to yourself that you want to stop or withdraw from the race, but then you remember how much time you’ve spent preparing for it and how much you have sacrificed. I did not come to the Dominican Republic to sit in my house, lonely. You did not come from where you were to where you are now just to sit there in complacency! Trust me, I know that a lack of motivation gets the best of us sometimes, but we can always change the “After.” The beauty in every moment is that whatever is coming next or after this current one has not yet occurred. It has no precondition. We are the ones that decide the sequence and outcome. So, you can stay there in that place of discontent and solitude, or you can get up, do something about it- and well, keep it moving!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, September 15, 2014

4 Little Girls

Today marks the 51st anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. I remember this day last year: I saw very few Facebook posts and even fewer Instagram dedications. Many people only know about the black history we are taught in school. However, not all history makes the "books." I think it is important that we learn to search for that which is hidden or unrevealed to us and that we develop a complete view of the past as we use our findings to formulate a scope of who we are and who we ought to be.

Addie Mae Collins. Cynthia Wesley. Carole Robertson. Denise McNair. I call them by name. Names that ring louder than the Liberty Bell and resound with fortitude. Names that don't just deserve a headline on September 15th, but are recognized in every step I tread. These 4 little girls (3 of them were 14 and 1, 11) were killed in a church bombing on September 15, 1963. Although their lives ended in tragedy, they were catapults for change in legislation and progress in the Civil Rights Movement. 

I have never lost a child, but I have lost friends and I know that death is a pain that cuts deep. Time never heals all wounds; we just find a way to make things easier and more bearable. On today, I ask that you all take a moment of silence and remembrance for these girls and sit in solidarity with the mothers, fathers, cousins, friends, families, and communities that lost 4 precious lives in their pursuit of freedom and equality. 

To you 4 courageous, dreamy, and admirable girls: on this day we want you all to know that you are valued and that your lives were not taken in vain.  From the pits of my heart I say, "Sorry that the words of Rev. Dr. King resonated through your ears, but were not witnessed during your life."  I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.- I hear that although you 4 did not know what the true essence of equality felt like, the world did not always look black and white through your inquisitive eyes because you knew the power of love and forgiveness. Alabama has made some strides and those very words you sat and listened to on August 28th, they have manifested in even the smallest of ways. 

Addie, Cynthia, Carole, Denise, we give a sacrificial offering, which is the dedication of our life's work and the backdrop of our purpose, to you today. We will no longer speak of equality and justice, we will seek it- if not for our namesake, for yours. We honor you with the utterances of our mouths and  the legacies we leave as we make our mark. On this day we are reminded of the urgency of now! Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Below I have included one of my spoken word pieces related to this historic event (just click on the picture below and it should play). Please take the moment to listen and also share with your friends. I have also included a few links for those who are interested in reading more.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ready, Set, No!

(This post is inspired by a Facebook post I made that many people have inboxed me about. Hopefully it helps you wherever you may be in pursuit of your journey and self-fulfillment.)

It’s been a while since my last post (which is pretty normal), but that’s because I haven’t had anything interesting to share. August 21st marks one year since the start of my service, so I guess I’ll pat myself on the back for that. However, I don’t really know how I feel about it. By now, I’m pretty sure you realize that I’ve had some wonderful moments, as well as many “I hate this!” moments.
            While ET-ing (Early Termination) is not on my mind, I feel as though Peace Corps has served its purpose in my life. It just seems like the good days won’t be any better and the bad days cannot get any worse. Really, I’m just ready to move to the next dimension and the next level of elevation. The world is such a fascinating place to me that if I find myself living a monotonous lifestyle, I get very bored. I’m ready to ACTUALLY do something revolutionary, ready to travel Africa, ready to lose myself and find it yet again, I’m just ready!- Ready for the next chapter of my life. Have you ever felt this way? I’m so anxious to be done with the Peace Corps. It’s not a bad thing, I just want new excitement and another 15 months just seems entirely too long.
            I am such a rational person (not to mention, I have like 14 hours of daily down time), that I always think things through. I realize that readiness and preparation are not synonymous. Despite the fact that my present circumstance lacks variety, amazement, and adventure, I want to believe that there is still something left. I consider myself more of a realist than an optimist. This means that I do not blindly hope for things that have a minute probability of manifestation. I rather look at the moment, bare and authentic for what it is, while trying to assess the potential of what it can be. It’s hard to explain, but hopefully you’re following me. Joining the Peace Corps is such a huge commitment and sadly requires a ton of patience. I just cannot accept the idea that I may have joined this organization to form a few “sustainable” groups whose behavioral change may never in fact be visually actualized. There’s a part of me that believes there is something bigger- something greater that must come from this. That “thing” has yet to be discovered. So, as ready as I am to move on, I know I’m not prepared. Whatever that fundamental “thing” is that awaits revealing itself, I understand that it is pivotal to my next venture. In my opinion, everything has a purpose and forms some kind of interconnectivity.
            Sometimes my blog posts serve as reminders to myself. I wrote this not only for self-encouragement, but to encourage you as well (if and/or when it’s applicable)! No matter what chapter, season, moment, case… you may be experiencing, know that it is all for your good! You may feel this burning fire telling you that you’re ready to close that door and move on, but wait! Readiness is not a pre-requisite for preparedness. Evaluate your situation and decide if there is even a slight chance that you have not received everything that you need to sustain and equip you in your next level of authority and your subsequent dimension of purpose and greatness. Oftentimes we’re accustomed to driving over the speed limit that we don’t know when it’s time to slow down and switch gears to park. After all, each moment holds something sacred and special towards our destiny, why not enjoy it! So, let us both be encouraged that although we may be ready to move on and do something different in this world, let’s embrace the present and have hope for the future that our prepping ground still holds new adventures, challenges, lessons, and experiences for us. <3 <3 <3

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Smallest Difference Counts

A big congratulations to my Chicas Brillantes (Bright Girls) group that graduated this past Sunday, July 13th. We had an awesome time! In honor of Nelson Mandela's Day of Service, I thought it was only right to share my experience as a volunteer working with this group of girls.
I started this program because I felt obligated to do it based on some of the experiences that I had in the Dominican Republic. There is so much development that needs to be done in this country when it comes to character building and identity. I saw it as my personal duty to show these girls a new light and help them discover a new truth that would bring forth positivity, empowerment, and confidence. It's like Mary Wollstonecraft said, it is not my wish that these girls have power over boys, but that they have power over themselves. I knew that if I was not the one reaffirming who God created them to be and showing them that they are beautiful, powerful, important, and intelligent forces to be reckoned with, then they may never have known it.

I consider this one of my greatest and most significant accomplishments as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. There were so many times that I wanted to give up and drop this group. In fact, I put them on suspension once for 2.5 weeks and less than a month before the graduation, I completely dropped the group. Both of these times, something in my spirit told me that it was not the right decision. I felt that giving up on the group inadvertently meant giving up on them. I regard these girls as if they were my little sister (and you all know how much I love her!!): I feed them, do their hair, laugh at their corny jokes, give them advice, have “boy talk,” I play kiddie games with them, we have Disney movie nights on my computer, you know- all big sister stuff. So, I could not just be another person out there in the world who closed yet another door in their face, snatched away their happiness, and made them feel undeserving. I was just tired of having one thousand pow wows, frustrated from always having to reprimand or discipline someone, and sometimes it did not feel as if I was making a difference.

Then, one night during some reflection time, I realized that all of my frustrations, disappointments, discouragement, and lack of motivation were surrounded by “I.” I was the root of it all! I was the one inhibiting myself. All along, I made this about me and not them; that was the problem! I think some of you can relate to this as well. Sometimes we forget the very reason and purpose we began whatever we are pursuing. We lose sight of the intention and the great plan as we become consumed with ourselves and our feelings. Long story short, I had to learn to step outside of myself and realize that if I was going to truly empower and impact the lives of these girls, it could not be about me; I could not allow my personal agenda and my unconscious behavior to affect the potential of what I was doing. 
I used to define success by so many standards, but when doing something where the results are not exactly tangible, it becomes a bit more difficult. "Success" for me has been when a young girl says that she loves the program and that it has helped her become more confident or when at 12 year old girl says, "I never want to put chemicals in my hair." Just to hear them say that they have learned something, that they have gained something- that is what success is! Starting Bright Girls, I thought this would be easy! I could just say a few words, do a few activities, and BAM- they would be empowered! But, nope! There are some things that a manual just cannot teach you. It was not enough to tell them they were beautiful, worthy, brave, and smart. It just was not sufficient; we have to show them! Oftentimes words can fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts because everyone has their own experiences and their own reality based on those experiences. Therefore, if you have grown up with negativity being fed into your life and you have been walking in to all of these situations where you just did not feel worthy or up to par, and your character and who you believed yourself to be is constantly minimized, that becomes a part of who you are. It becomes something that you have internalized; it becomes your truth. Consequently, no one tells you that your truth is actually wrong and that it is invalid; thus you continue to use that as a means to gauge who you are and your value. I tried to use different modes to validate these girls. I also sought to not allow only my words, but my actions to do it as well. I had to show them because I believe that it is important for us to demonstrate and constantly reaffirm who young girls are, who they can become, and the potential that they have to be who they want to be despite where they come from, despite what they have been told in the past, and despite their current circumstance.  When we do this and add the liberation factor, which is very important, then I think it becomes something that they can internalize and truly accept as them being who they are and walking in truth to becoming bright empowered girls!
In the past 4-5 months working with this Bright Girls group, I have learned a lot about myself. I thought I was in this to empower them, but I find myself even more empowered as well. I have learned that anything I believe to be important is worth fighting for, even if it contradicts the current circumstance. I have experienced that some girls may never know what it feels like to be empowered, but once they get a taste of it, that’s enough fuel to get the fire going. I am not saying that we all have to be Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, or whoever, but young girls, or young people in general, are worth your investment. They may have low self-esteem, but maybe no one ever taught them their worth; they may appear small-minded, but maybe no one ever showed them the world; they may be lost, broken, discouraged, hurt, and confused, but maybe, just maybe, they are waiting for you to save them, to tell them that even if the pieces to the puzzle are scattered- there is still a puzzle, to encourage them, show them love and healing, and to guide them. Service is such an easy thing to do, yet so many of us turn the other cheek. If you have never served before, today is the day to get out there and do something. We all have been blessed with gifts, talents, and experiences that may benefit someone. So, stop holding back what has been entrusted to you with the intention of serving the world. Madiba said, "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead." Whatever profession you are in, you can always serve. Your service may not take you to a rural community in the Dominican Republic, it may be in your living room empowering your niece or speaking life to someone on the streets. Whatever it is, whatever you do- you can always, and I mean ALWAYS make even the smallest difference count.

-Mandela, thank you for your progress, love, contribution, and impact in the lives of not only my South African brothers and sisters, but the beating hearts of this world. May your name forever resound in the depths of the universe. Today my service is dedicated to you!- Forever Mandela <3

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Identity Clash

I know this post is reeeaalllyyy long, but there was so much I had to say (didn't get to say all that I wanted to), but please, please, please read the whole thing!...

Some days I sit around and think about strictly dedicating my blog to race, identity, and colorism posts. Then, I realize that #1, most of you would no longer read my blog and #2, I would probably limit my experience and create a misleading idea about the Dominican Republic. However, when I step back into reality, I am forced to acknowledge that this most certainly has been my experience and these topics have constructed my reality to be full of defensiveness, frustration, crying, and hopelessness. I don’t know if I’m more discouraged by the Americans in this country or Dominicans.

You would think I’m lying if I told you that I sat on a bus with 5 other Peace Corps Volunteers, 4 of whom I’ve had personal interactions with, and they did not recognize me. My hair was the same and I even had one of those crazy-looking oversized backpacks that only Peace Volunteers wear. For 2.5  hours, I sat with my teeth clenched trying my hardest not to say something as I heard them repeat numerous times, “The other volunteer is not here. We would know if there was another American on this bus.” I guess it was wrong for me to assume that these college- graduated, well-traveled volunteers would know that not all Americans are white nor do we all look like “them.” Or maybe I can tell you about the time when our new Peace Corps Country Director called another black girl “Quamisha” (Although she is 2 feet taller and 3 shades darker than I am). Oh wait, I can’t forget when I had an appointment with my Peace Corps Medical Officer and the entire time she had another black girl’s file instead of mine. Don’t stop reading yet, I’m just now getting started! I want to tell you about the time when I was in the office for a few meetings and different Peace Corps staff members genuinely called me the name of 4 other black volunteers within 30 minutes. Okay, okay! I’ll move on! But first I must tell you that some volunteers have even introduced me to their friends with the name of course… of another back volunteer! I forgot to mention that there are only 5 black, female volunteers in country out of over 100. You would think it’d be easy to get our names correct! Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe all black people do look alike. *Sigh* It’s just really hard when I’m surrounded by people that don’t identify with my challenges.

I am serving in a country of people who look just like me: whose hair would kink if it weren’t processed; whose skin would get darker if they weren’t afraid of the sun; whose roots would lead them back to Africa if they didn’t deny them. Yet, here I am frustrated with Dominicans who I called “My people.” Here I am, angry. Mad. Irritated. Confused.  Just over a week ago, an African American friend of mine got arrested because he was “Haitian dark.” He was too black to be Dominican and spoke Spanish too well to be American. The fact that he had his American passport card with him and is only in the DR because he is an intern with Major League Baseball did not mean a thing! He was forced to walk in silence with handcuffs tightly closed around his wrists, while his skin color did the talking. Barely a week after this incident, me and 3 other African Americans were denied entrance into a nightclub. Being the radicals that we are, we stood there until they “explained” why, and we even got live footage of it in order to show that it was simply a case of discrimination. Some people do not understand why we were so mad. After all, it’s only a nightclub. Right? Wrong! It’s an insult to our identity! It’s like spitting in our faces and telling us to get out of line. It’s a blatant demonstration that we are lesser than others and unworthy of equality and basic rights.

We were actually having a good time, smh
I have shared this story with a couple of volunteers and they pretty much dismissed it. They refuse to believe that something like this could happen, even if they saw it before their own eyes. I recall December 30, 2013 when I was also denied entrance into a nightclub. I was with a group of white volunteers and the security office asked ME (and ONLY ME) for my “cedula (Dominican ID).” I explained that I was not Dominican, which meant that I did not own one. A few of these volunteers told me that I was being dramatic and that he did not card me because I was black. Me being who I am, I argued my point until everyone shut up. I find myself doing that A LOT!- shutting people up. I don’t care if everyone gets tired of it because I understand that staying silent is the same as compliance. Until there is an “Amanda” who everyone mistakenly calls “Laura” when she walks into an office or until one of my unmelanized, blonde haired co-volunteers has a door slammed in her face by a black man, they will never see my reality and how it clashes with their beliefs.
Being the token black girl is fun for a few hours, until you pay for it later 
I am not writing this post as some livid black girl who just wants to complain. Am I angry? Hell yes! I’m angry as hell! For the first time in my life, I cried about first hand racial injustice and discrimination. They weren’t just tears of sadness; they were drops of frustration, drops of pain, and drizzles of apology. Apologies to my ancestors that although they fought with all their might, our people still aren’t walking in their freedom. Apologies that crouch down to their knees screaming “SSOOOORRRRYYYY!” because although there is a façade that covers up the blemishes of inequalities and the context of the circumstance has changed, we still live in bondage and not much has changed. It is 2014 and racism and discrimination still exist. For some reason American history makes the past seem so far away, which creates a disconnect between the past and the present. It was 59 years ago when Claudette Colvin was arrested in Alabama for resisting unconstitutional bus segregation. Just 51 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. and other demonstrators took part in the March on Washington, demanding freedom! People, that was yesterday! This just happened! Today is the tomorrow they prayed, cried, marched, and died for, but are we even free? We are as free as the constrictions of our mentality and the barricades surrounding our hearts allow us to be. Hence, some of us are not free at all! “We” neither understand nor tolerate what we aren’t or we condemn what we are. Freedom is not given; we must intentionally and confidently take it!

I realize that Dominicans may hate and disrespect me because they hate the me within them. I represent a mirror that replicates their reflection and my presence is a loud reminder of who they are and where they come from. They see power and are afraid to embody it, strength and are afraid to walk in it, blackness and are afraid to embrace it; and history, but they are afraid to claim it. Historically, I understand the root of this negativity and I know I cannot change it. However, I will not walk away with my head down as if nothing happened. I will stand boldly in front of every door closed in my face, waiting; I will walk fiercely into every restaurant when people stop eating to look at my hair, smiling; I will continue lecturing people on the African Diaspora and identity, hoping. Hoping that one day this world will prove itself to be less hopeless than I’ve experienced it to be. I try to be understanding, empathetic, and culturally sensitive. I really do! Yet, I will never sit there silently. Speechless. I must say something. If not, who will?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

It's a Love-Hate Thing

People always ask me, “What country do you serve in?” My response: “The Dominican Republic.” Many then proceed to nod their heads with a big kool-aid smile saying, “Wooooowwww, you’re lucky!” Of course I think to myself (and sometimes even out loud), “You have nooooo idea!” Peace Corps is one of those things where some volunteers feel as though their struggle validates their service. Not only that, outsiders assume that if you’re not in the jungles of East Africa or the deserts of West Africa, you’re most likely living in luxury. Contrary to popular belief, the struggle is real! However, Peace Corps is about so much more than the limited conditions within the confinements of four wooden walls or the few miles of dirt roads that I have grown to call “Home.” It is about giving, learning, growing, teaching, and receiving. It’s about getting bitten by mosquitoes and knowing not to scratch it because open wounds need time to heal. Okay okay, you clearly missed that metaphor, so I’ll give it to you in layman’s terms: It’s about confronting hardship and sometimes wanting to give up, but then realizing that you can’t because someone else’s hardship is contingent on whether or not you overcome yours!

I have developed a love-hate relationship with Peace Corps Dominican Republic, but up until a week ago, I did not understand why. I say it time and time again, reflection and understanding are two key factors to growth and service. Therefore, getting to the root of this internal conflict was my “May Mission.”

I hate PCDR because it seems like every world problem found its way to my small community. We feel the plague of poverty, the dangers of domestic violence, the pains of pregnancy among adolescents, the agony of AIDS, the horrors of hunger, the misery of malnutrition, the dismay of death, and even the repulsions of rape. It is so hard because I signed up for Peace Corps with this expectation of changing the world, but then I realize that one single person does not possess the power to cultivate such a thing. I may never see “Quality” Universal Education and even in their tireless efforts, the Red Cross may never successfully provide world relief and the United Nations may never eradicate violations of Human Rights. It seems as though change happens with people and systems: you get to the core of who we are and what we want, then (de)construct systems based on whether or not they agree, exploit, or contradict our values. So, my hate for Peace Corps Dominican Republic is not based on a person, place, or thing. It stems from the idea that no matter how hard I try, there are things in this world that I may impact and influence, but never change.

Since I’ve already bored you with this long, seemingly pointless discussion, I’ll BRIEFLY explain why I love PCDR: I am practically fluent in another language; I’m one step closer to discovering my life’s purpose; I have felt the true meaning of community; I’ve learned that having nothing is not the same as lacking; I’ve matured to be content and joyful in every state, I have grown to turn my selfish tendencies into selflessness; I help young girls believe in themselves and their beauty, and most of all- I have a flawless tan! I could keep going, but I won’t do that to you.
Basically, it’s a love hate thing!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Education Saves

It’s been a while since my last blog, but a bunch has happened since then. I’ll just make this easy and give it all to you at once: I finally moved into my own house, which does not have a bathroom; I have well-functioning health projects; I had a mild eye infection for 2.5 weeks; I flirted with a bus driver to get a cheaper fare because I was absolutely broke (this one actually worked 3 times since my last post!); I bathed with the same bucket I use the bathroom in; I was ignored by numerous high school directors and staff members because they thought I was Dominican; yup, I’m still being insulted because of my hair; and I even skinny-dipped for the first time. When I put it like that, my life seems very adventurous, huh? I guess it is in some ways. However, once I realize that I’ve already watched every episode of Scandal that is on my hard drive and that I read the Bible more than people in jail, I snap back into reality and laying in my bed under my mosquito with nothing but my thoughts- has become my new pastime. Thanks to living alone without a ton of distractions, I literally think about everything!  

Three nights ago, I reflected on my girl’s empowerment group (Chicas Brillantes) and my women’s health group, “Hogares Saludables (Healthy Homes),” and I analyzed what went well and what can be improved. In my opinion, reflection is something that we should do in all areas of our life so that we are constantly giving our best efforts and producing the maximum results. I realized that sometimes I’m excited and proud of the work I’m doing and other times I hate it because it seems like a complete waste of time. In short, I train a group of about 30 women to make healthy and informed decisions to improve the physical, mental, and sexual wellbeing of their families and communities with the hope of developing them into Health Promoters. It sounds cool, but in actuality there are days when I dread preparing the sessions. There have even been times when I tell myself, “This is retarded!... I’m teaching women how to use less sugar and oil when they don’t even care!... This project is pointless!” But yesterday when I stretched out on my rock hard bed and began thinking, something changed…

I realized that by taking away the power of this project, I diminished the influence of education. When I think about the pregnancy rate in this country and compare it to the fact that only 2 of the participants have heard of “Abstinence,” I see that people make decisions based on their knowledge or lack thereof. Education has the authority to change the livelihood of someone and it is the bridge between what we know and what we are taught to believe. Sometimes we take it for granted because for us Americans, it is a normal part of everyday life. Education has the ability to liberate, empower, inspire, and transform! Of course I would say that women are naturally greater and have the capacity to do more than any man in this world, but then you’d get mad and call me a Feminist. However, I will say this- when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family! We have the Malala Yousafzai's of Pakistan who are willing to die, the Shabana Basij-Rasikh's of Afghanistan who are praying, and the Djénébou Diallo's of Mali who are fighting for the right and privilege to education. Yet, here I was, reducing its value to the simplest form of nothing and forgetting that education may not be the only answer, but it sure is a solution!

I thought it was important to share this because sometimes it is easy to forget that not everyone in the world is afforded the same opportunities as us and although something may seem “retarded,” there is always room for learning. People want to do and be better, but first it is vital that we know better! Education is the light to combat what keeps us hidden in the dark. EDUCATION SAVES!