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Summer of chaos: Why is gun violence spiking in Chicago and NYC?

In cities like Chicago, reports of gun violence are nothing new. Unfortunately, it’s rather commonplace to hear the list of victims from strings of attacks in various parts of the city.

Now it seems this violence is escalating not just in Chicago, but also in New York and other cities across the United States. While the federal government is sending in agents to various cities such as Chicago supposedly to counter this gun violence, is it truly the best solution in the long-term?

An ever-growing issue

During this summer especially, reports of gun violence are spiking in multiple US cities. Chicago for instance recently reported 64 people shot over the past weekend. Five people were killed, and seven of the injured were teenagers or younger.

Last month was also one of the most violent months in the past 28 years of Chicago’s history with 105 murders. The largest incident that month was during a shooting at a funeral home where 15 people were shot.

These gun violence and murder rates are still escalating rapidly. According to the Chicago Tribune, approximately 570 people have been shot, and at least 464 have been killed in the past year. Compared to last year’s murder rate, that’s about 135 more deaths.

New York is also facing a similar spike in gun violence this summer. The NYPD told CBS New York on Sunday, August 16 there were at least 20 shooting incidents over the course of the past 24 hours. At least 23 people were injured and five killed in what was an extremely violent weekend for the city.

Similar to Chicago, New York is experiencing a significant increase in gun violence rates compared to last year. According to ABC 7, there have been approximately 833 shooting incidents with 1,017 victims. Meanwhile, in 2019, there were 466 incidents with 551 victims.

A few weeks ago, President Trump sent federal agents into Chicago supposedly in an effort to combat the growing gun violence there. Now according to a recent tweet, it seems he potentially may do something similar to New York.

But while sending in federal law enforcement may quell the violence for now, is it truly a viable, long-term solution that will improve the community in the future?

The root cause and impact of community

Gun violence in places such as Chicago, New York, and many other cities across the US has an impact on far more than just statistics. It severely damages the livelihoods of these cities’ communities and their people. It makes people fear for their lives and those they care about.

The presence of law enforcement may suppress the issues for a time, but a long-term and more peaceful solution may lie within the strength of the community itself.

Cases of gun violence generally tend to occur in more impoverished communities, often those predominantly populated by people of color. In the case of Chicago, those include places such as the south and west sides of the city.

Communities like these across the US are often lacking in key infrastructures such as education and affordable housing. Jobs there are also often not as profitable in comparison to more affluent communities.

Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist, activist, and author Nkechi Taifa described these issues well when she told USA Today,

“There’s this hopelessness: if you think you’re going to die tomorrow, why does it matter what you do today?,” said Taifa.

“Many people don’t acknowledge the root causes of the crime that’s going on in these communities. When there is lack, and there is so much lack in Black communities, it’s predictable you will have crime.”

Not only that, but the influx of gun sales and illegal firearms in cities is also a contributing factor to gun violence. This makes it easier for criminals to acquire guns for violent acts.

While fortunately there are some community organizations striving to address these issues, such as New York’s Guardian Angels, many of these initiatives may not have enough funding to continue in the long-term.

With the new movement to reform or defund the police however, perhaps the chances of community outreach may improve in the future, and gun violence can finally be on the decline. 

What it means for Kamala Harris to be a Vice Presidential candidate

With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden selecting Senator Kamala Harris (D-Cali.) as his running mate for Vice President, the 2020 election is making history for having the first Black and South Asian woman featured on the ballot.

But for all the special attention Kamala Harris is receiving on all political sides, there’s also a fair share of controversy. Let’s investigate why Harris’ selection to be Biden’s Vice President is so significant, and just why people are making such a big deal out of it.

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Wearing a mask can save lives. Do your part.

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She’s breaking long-standing trends

As the first Black and Asian woman to be on the election ticket, Kamala Harris disrupts a long precedent when it comes to people who tend to be considered for executive offices.

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Upon being named Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick, Kamala Harris became the first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket. She also became the first Indian-American, South Asian and Asian-American person to be chosen — historic firsts in their own right that many Asian-Americans celebrated.⁣ ⁣ In interviews, Indian-American political leaders and community advocates called Biden’s choice of Harris — the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father — a refutation of President Trump’s demonization of immigrants and a powerful statement on American possibility.⁣ ⁣ “Spending time in India, growing up where nobody in our neighborhood really understood us — or maybe they kind of noticed my mother’s accent, or didn’t take her as seriously — those are experiences that Kamala Harris understands,” said Neil Makhija, the executive director of the Indian American Impact Fund. “I think we’re feeling seen for the first time.”⁣ ⁣ Tap the link in our bio to read more reflections from Asian-American political leaders and community advocates. Photo by @travisdovephoto taken at a town hall meeting in North Charleston, South Carolina in 2019.

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Most presidential candidates and their Vice Presidential picks are not exactly the most diverse. The best exception that proves this is Barack Obama being the first Black president in the United States’ 200-year history.

Harris’ selection as Biden’s Vice President could potentially bring diversity to the White House if he wins in November. Beyond being a person of color, she’s also much younger than Biden. Harris is 55 years old, while Biden is 77.

Some say her being younger will help Biden’s camp bridge the gap between America’s youth and older folk. This is especially key not just when it comes to young voters but issues the youth face as well.

Harris also isn’t the first woman to run for Vice President. Sarah Palin ran for the office in 2008, as well as Geraldine Ferarro in 1984.

Not only that, Kamala Harris isn’t even the first woman of color to run for an executive office, and the list of former candidates stretches back even to before women had the right to vote.

What makes her pick historic, however, is the fact that she is the first woman who is both Black and Asian in a major party that will be presumably nominated for Vice President.

Her run isn’t without controversy

While Kamala Harris has made history, she has also drawn criticism from some individuals. One controversy that began soon after Biden announced her as his Vice Presidential pick was whether she was eligible to run for office due to her heritage.

Harris is of Caribbean and South Asian descent due to her Jamaican father Donald Harris and her Indian mother Shyamala Gopalan.

However, she was born in Oakland, California. Despite this, some have claimed Harris isn’t eligible to run, due to supposedly not being a US citizen, being the daughter of immigrant parents.

The controversy rose to prominence after Newsweek published an op-ed by Chapman University professor of law John Eastman where he questioned Harris’ eligibility to be Vice President. He even raised questions about whether she was eligible to be a US Senator.

It needs to be said that this discussion around birtherism does not come up with white candidates, and as seen when Donald Trump made similar claims about Barack Obama, is deeply entrenched in racism.

Dissecting Eastman’s claims

Much of Eastman’s argument is based on the wording of Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution which determine who is able to run for President and Vice President. Article II of the Constitution states:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

Meanwhile the 12th Amendment says:

“No person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States.”

His argument specifically grapples with the term “natural-born citizen.” Eastman claims Harris does not qualify as one due to her parents being immigrants when he says:

“Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.”

Eastman goes onto cite the 14th Amendment, which states:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

His counterpoint, however, is in regards to what “jurisdiction” means in that context. Eastman claims that,

“Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States.”

The children of immigrants, however, are under the complete jurisdiction of the United States. The only cases where people would not be under US jurisdiction would be if they had diplomatic immunity.

Another exception when the amendment was made was in regard to Native Americans. Since they lived primarily under their own tribal laws rather than US law, the federal government at the time did not consider them citizens.

In a counter-argument written by UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, Volokh writes:

“The 14th Amendment does have a narrow exception for people who were not ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the U.S. at birth, but the Court made clear that this was a narrow exception for ‘children of members of the Indian tribes,’ who were at the time not citizens, ‘children born of alien enemies in hostile occupation’ and ‘children of diplomatic representatives of a foreign State’.”

“Children born to noncitizens living here are certainly subject to the jurisdiction of American courts—no one thinks, for instance, that they are immune from criminal prosecutions or civil lawsuits. They are likewise ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States for citizenship purposes’.”

A resurfacing of a birther conspiracy

Soon after Eastman’s report in Newsweek, Reporters asked asked the President in a press conference about Kamala Harris’ eligibility for Vice President. Trump then mentioned Eastman’s article indirectly saying: 

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements, and by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly-qualified, very talented lawyer,” said Trump. “I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for Vice President.”

By not refuting the claim, Trump has helped to propagate another birther conspiracy theory. He first promoted a conspiracy like this during Barack Obama’s presidency, where he accused him of being born in Kenya as opposed to the United States. He also continually pressed him to reveal his birth certificate.

This new conspiracy is contributing to stoking racism and xenophobia against Kamala Harris, all because she’s a person of color running for Vice President.

The impact of having a more diverse election

With Kamala Harris being the first Black and Asian woman in a major party on the election ticket, she is setting a historic milestone in the American political landscape. Yet it also arguably points out a key flaw in America’s campaigning and election system.

Many successful presidential candidates appear to typically come from a very limited demographic. Specifically, they tend to not be people of color and often have established wealth or reputation to their name. Despite the campaign trail appearing to be all about persuasive words and creating connections with voters, it all comes down to money.

The world of campaign finance is massive and complex. At the end of the day though, candidates who cannot get funding from PACS, super PACS, and powerful donors are at a fundamental disadvantage. Without funding, they are ultimately unable to expand their campaign and reach out to voters who will support them.

This in turn can pose problems to those who don’t come from wealthier backgrounds or have any fame behind them. It restricts the pool of potentially successful candidates to only consist of those who have either the money, power, or both, to get their message across.

To create a more diverse election landscape in the future, the current system needs to be more open to give other candidates’ voices a chance. That means making the campaign trail about more than just money and numbers. 

With Kamala Harris being Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential pick, perhaps this may be a sign of a more diverse and inclusive political landscape in the future.

What QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene winning Georgia primary means

On Tuesday, August 11, Marjorie Taylor Greene recently emerged victorious in a runoff election in a House primary to represent Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, one of the most Republican-affiliated districts in the country. 

Known for her pro-Trump, pro-gun, and pro-border wall political stance, her campaign slogan says her beliefs best: “Save America. Stop Socialism.” 

Greene is also a supporter of a more unconventional belief. She openly believes in the QAnon conspiracy.

Now with her making her way to the House of Representatives, she could potentially create a unique new presence within the federal government, one that believes in unfounded conspiracy theories.

Let’s see just what the QAnon conspiracy and the significance of her election both mean.

A look into the QAnon conspiracy

The QAnon conspiracy began on 4chan when the anonymous user known as “Q” claimed to have top-secret information about government affairs.

Since then, the conspiracy has evolved into a belief that President Trump is being opposed by a supposed “deep state” consisting of elites in business, government, media, and all manner of fields who are pedophiles and worshipers of Satan.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence, that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy from amassing a widespread following on social media.

Besides Greene being an open believer in it, Eric Trump also posted a QAnon meme in a now-deleted Instagram post prior to the Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. President Trump has also retweeted messages from QAnon supporters, though he has never explicitly endorsed the conspiracy.

Many social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have recently begun to crack down on this conspiracy.  The social media giants have taken down many QAnon associated accounts.

Even the FBI noted how such conspiracies can incite violence. They have even claimed the QAnon conspiracy poses a potential domestic extremist threat.

The meaning of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s election

Greene’s win from a runoff election in Georgia’s House primary arguably shows signs of growing support for the QAnon conspiracy in some people. Not only that, but Greene has also come under fire from the media, Democrats, and even some Republican officials in Congress for statements she has made.

Not only has Greene expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy, but she has also said various racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic remarks on social media.

She has also criticized Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with an expletive…

And even created an advertisement featuring her with an automatic rifle as a threat to “ANTIFA terrorists.”

Despite the criticisms leveled at her, Greene remains strong in her political stance, and President Trump even commended her victory on Twitter.

Her victory in Georgia to some is a troubling sign of the influence the QAnon conspiracy is having on some members of the government.

How this will play out if she enters Congress all remains to be seen…

Latricia Morgan shows ‘normal’ is the new perfect through powerful photography

With her powerful photography and elegant jewelry, Latricia Morgan is showing that “normal” is the new perfect and encouraging people to stay weird through incredible pieces of art.

For five years now, Morgan has been taking photos and breathing new life into the art world with subjects who are just normal people. While she’s only been making jewelry for a little over 7 months now, she’s already crafted a variety of elegant and unique pieces. Not only that, but she creates all of this artwork while managing her time as a student.

Take a look at the art of Latricia Morgan and how she’s re-defining perfection her own way.


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Sis is learning to love herself 🦋 (Sis is me) Oh yea & August is the last month to book me for a while📸

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What drives her work

One of the inspirations behind Latricia Morgan’s work is not just the fun of it, but also being able to interpret the world and people in it through her camera lens. According to Morgan,

“I think what inspires me is maybe how fun it is, for me to be on the other side and to show people how I see them from my lens specifically.”

Another source of inspiration is giving attention to regular people and promoting a sense of diversity in style in beauty. While mainstream media and art may promote a certain image of what’s supposedly beautiful, there can be a disparity at times between what the media and art world portrays, and what actual people are like.

“A big reason I started was like, ‘what about us? What about the regular people? What about the girls with big noses, flat noses, or the girls with big lips and dark skin like myself’,” said Morgan.

“I thought it definitely was my job to shoot for more girls that look like me and also make space for any girl within the minority role, who don’t look like what the media fetishizes.”


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Tonight *AT 12AM* July 4th Is The Official Opening of @theartsygemshop . 25% of each purchase goes to a Weekly chosen charity of my choice that supports or serves ✊X ️‍. All pieces of jewelry that enter the skin is Hypoallergenic. All pieces are made with Love from me to you I’ve turned an anxiety suppressing activity into something Fun ! I welcome you to join me on this journey & to #SupportYoFriend (Swipe through for product photos & click @theartsygemshop to SHOP !) . . . . . . . . #blackgirlmagic #melanin #blackgirlsrock #naturalhair #melaninpoppin #explorepage #blackexcellence #love #beauty #protectivestyles #fashion #blackwomen #hair #explore #blacklove #blackownedbusiness #NYC #naturalhairstyles #blackisbeautiful #blacklivesmatter #braids #melaninmagic #black #blackgirls #beautiful #teamnatural #model #afro #blackqueen

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Photographing the revolution

Current events are also impacting Morgan and her work. In the wake of the racial justice protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, she created her “For George Floyd” photo series, which provides a close look into local protests.

Photo by Latricia Morgan

“I think that it’s the revolution. And the revolution, like they say on Twitter, is now being televised. Thanks to phones and thanks to the internet,” said Morgan. “The series is there for me to be able to photograph the revolution.”

Photo by Latricia Morgan

Not only that, but Morgan also has a personal connection with these protests.

“I am black. I am from the projects in the South Bronx, and for me to sit on my hands with the tools that I’ve been given in order to record and to photograph and to document, I would be doing a disservice to myself and the people that come after me…it’s a responsibility to not be silent.”

Photo by Latricia Morgan

Beyond just the protests, the COVID-19 pandemic is also taking its toll on her work. For one, Morgan has to deny photography gigs to protect herself and her household. However, it isn’t entirely without a silver lining. She also mentioned it has “granted me a weird recharge, in some ways not all.”

“I’m in the community that it’s hitting the most. People are like dying every day, candle vigils every day, and it’s because these neighborhoods that I live in, that I’m from, are overpopulated, poorly taken care of,” said Morgan.

“It’s just it’s a different type of life. So it’s hitting me hard, but I’m finding the light in it, because I do have some privileges.”

The crisis is providing her with some opportunities, however. She says,

“A lot of allies are trying to show their support, and in doing so, they’re offering helping hands, and they’re also uplifting black people…or just help a friend.”

The significance of her art

Latricia Morgan’s art encourages and even empowers people to embrace their imperfections as what makes them unique. With her jewelry especially, her message is to “be okay with being weird.”

“I want people to wear them and be okay with being weird,” said Morgan. “I want them to be head-turners, and I want them just to wear them and have fun.”


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As we close out July’s earrings. . We are giving free shipping for anything left over in stock which is only about 10 items

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Morgan’s photography meanwhile is a breath of fresh air in the art world. Unlike most professional photography, hers doesn’t contain any actors or models, just regular people.

“The people that I post on my Instagram are not models. They are real people,” said Morgan. “I just want people to see, you know, imperfections…made someone perfect to me. If I’m posting them, then it’s perfect to me.”

“I just hope people see the errors and be okay with it and see that nobody is perfect on my page. Please get with the time. We will be fine. Accept your differences. People will get on with it. They will get with the program.”

A call to come together

One defining aspect of Morgan’s art is how she creates it just for the sake of creating. In these tumultuous times, that philosophy is important now more than ever.

“In this time, where money is very uncertain, I think that networking should be at an all-time high,…People need to just take the time to take the L on some payments right now during a world crisis and create just to create. Just to intertwine and maybe earn each other’s following, and just uplift each other,” said Morgan.

“Whether you’re Black, White or Asian, we need to work, because we’re in a pandemic.”

Latricia Morgan’s photography can be found on her personal website and her Instagram @theartsyplug, while her jewelry is available @theartsygemshop and on her website.

The year 2020 has radicalized many people in the US. Here’s why.

The year 2020 is sorely lacking in its 20/20 vision. With disasters around the world, racial justice and police brutality protests, all topped off with a coronavirus pandemic, the year seems to just keep getting worse for some people.

In the US, the year is especially critical due to escalating protests, political tensions, and of course the upcoming election in November. Many people are now realizing the importance of being socially conscious, and for some, it’s even awakened a passionate social and political streak in them.

In one case, a recent Twitter thread from the user @historyofarmani has garnered over 10,000 retweets and an immense amount of replies. While some answers are prompt and concise, others tell emotional stories of heartbreak.

All of this to answer one question:

Many of these tweets allude to racial injustice and police brutality in the US…

Others point out the flaws in health insurance and the healthcare system…

Some comment on workplace environments and the economy…

And a few showcase their political opinions…

No matter what you’re political stance is – left or right, radical or otherwise, the multitude of replies points out many social and political issues in this country. While the US has its massive benefits, it is not a perfect nation. Nowhere in the world is.

While some people may believe it is an act of hatred to criticize one’s home country, it is arguably the complete opposite. There is a key difference between spewing pure hatred and providing constructive criticism on your own country.

Taking the time to critique the shortcomings of a nation isn’t necessarily a sign of hate. On the contrary, it’s arguably a sign that you truly love your country, because you know it can do better.

2020 may not have the 20/20 vision people were hoping for, but tearing each other apart over social and political opinions isn’t going to help. If anything, people now more than ever need to come together, learn to listen, and above all, compromise.

Ellen DeGeneres is the latest to be cancelled for her toxic work environment

Is Ellen DeGeneres toxic?

DeGeneres may be widely known for her generosity on her namesake television show, love of animals, and interesting dancing ability.

But the television host has also recently come under fire after recent allegations claim her television show is home to a toxic work environment. These come just before DeGeneres released a memo detailing her apology.

2020 has reportedly been a difficult year for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After a communications issue with DeGeneres’ staff earlier this year, the new criticism is only adding to the pressure. Reports from a variety of sources, including former employees and celebrities, are expressing their thoughts on social media as the controversy grows.

Let’s take a look at the generous amount of controversy surrounding Ellen DeGeneres.

The core of the controversy

Recent reports from Buzzfeed News are some of the main contributing factors to the controversy surrounding DeGeneres and her namesake show.

One report from July 16 cited claims from ten former employees and one current employee on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Meanwhile, another from July 31 raised complaints from dozens of former employees.

The combined reports contained claims related to racism, intimidation, and even sexual harassment and misconduct between executive staff members and other employees.

In one report, several former employees accused one of The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s executive producers, Kevin Leman, of sexual harassment and misconduct incidents directed at male staff.

According to the article by Buzzfeed News, “many of his targets, employees added, were lower-level and younger employees who felt they lacked any power to speak up.”

This shows a common issue stemming from toxic workplaces. Many victims may feel they lack the influence or ability to speak up to their supervisors or bosses, especially if they are a lower-level employee.

In another report, one former employee from the show told Buzzfeed News, “That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show.”

“I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.”

This shows the center of the controversy. Namely, the disparity between the show’s positive and benevolent message, and what really goes on behind the scenes.

Social media backlash and the call to cancel Ellen

The reports levied by former employees about The Ellen DeGeneres Show aren’t the only aspect of the controversy. Celebrities have also come forward with their own stories on social media criticizing DeGeneres herself.

There’s even a hashtag, #ReplaceEllen, with many users contributing their two cents as to who they’d want to replace the comedian and television show host with.

The response from show executives and even Ellen herself

Soon after the reports from Buzzfeed News were published, Ellen DeGeneres issued an apology memo which stated in part:

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.”

DeGeneres’ wife Portia De Rossi has also shown support for her on social media.

Executive producers for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner also issued a statement in response to the claims where they stated:

“We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us…We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

Many companies have also issued similar statements in the aftermath of controversies relating to prejudice, lack of diversity, and other issues. Unfortunately, not all of them have necessarily followed-up on those statements.

Ellen DeGeneres and WarnerMedia, the parent company behind the show, appear to be taking action in regards to these claims by opening an internal investigation into the show’s workplace conduct. According to a statement from WarnerMedia:

“Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres take the recent allegations around the show’s workplace culture very seriously.”

“We hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show’s day-to-day culture.”

What the results of this investigation will yield, and the fate of The Ellen DeGeneres Show all remain to be seen…

Liberation Library lets incarcerated youth explore other worlds in books

Youths in prison may be the last thing on many people’s minds, but at Liberation Library, they’re at the forefront of its mission.

Liberation Library is a Chicago-based volunteer-led prison abolitionist organization dedicated to providing books to incarcerated youth. To them, access to literature is a right, not a privilege.

We spoke to the volunteers at Liberation Library, and collectively, they gave us responses about their efforts. Let’s take a look at the story and mission of Liberation Library.


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Thank you as always for the wonderful donations! We had quite a lot of packages to unpack today! #liberationlib #booksliberate

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A mission led by volunteers

Even though Liberation Library is sponsored by the Chicago Freedom School, the organization is entirely led by incredible volunteers.

Being volunteers, they also have day jobs of their own. This means all the effort they devote to Liberation Library consists entirely of their own personal time.

“Everyone on this team is here doing this work because of a shared dedication to our readers and to abolition.”

These volunteers headed by the group’s Steering Committee undertake a variety of tasks to help get books to incarcerated youth.

These include “facility outreach and communication, organizing bi-monthly packing days, restocking inventory, shipping books, developing and maintaining various fundraising projects, and supporting campaigns that align with our mission and vision.”

Courtesy of Liberation Library

Liberation Library’s reach and its goal of prison abolition is extensive. The group provides books to every state-run youth prison in Illinois as well as six juvenile detention centers. They also change the books based on feedback from the youth.

After sending out a book catalogue to incarcerated youth, the organization uses the children’s feedback and recommendations to help introduce them to new stories and authors for them to immerse themselves in.

“We believe strongly in the autonomy and self-determination of our readers; we do our best to send the books they ask for, and we do not censor any texts that they request.”

Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberation Library is still going on as strong as ever.

Courtesy of Liberation Library

They’re conquering the COVID-19 crisis…

While many organizations have had to curb their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberation Library is doing the exact opposite.

“We have doubled the number of books we are sending to each facility, so that our readers have access to other worlds of their choosing during this isolating time.”

COVID-19 is especially affecting prison populations. Being in such confined conditions with massive crowds of course makes it difficult to get any distance or protection from the virus.

“Social distancing is basically impossible in a jail or prison,” said a spokesperson from Liberation Library.

“Additionally, incarcerated people cannot avoid contact with guards and staff at the facilities, which increases their risk of exposure. Guards and newly admitted detainees are the main vehicles for COVID-19 to enter a facility.”

This makes Liberation Library’s efforts all the more essential. In addition to more books, they are also sending supplies such as hand sanitizer, masks, and bottled water to help keep incarcerated youth safe and sanitary.

The group is also sending art supplies and board games to provide the kids with more entertainment and engagement.

Courtesy of Liberation Library

The group has also made changes to where it sources its books. Where it once sourced from Amazon, now has shifted towards supporting local bookstores.

This is in part due to controversy surrounding Amazon after many of its warehouse employees claimed they lacked proper PPE and safe warehouse conditions in the midst of the pandemic.

“We aim to stand in solidarity with Amazon warehouse workers in Chicago who have gone on a series of safety strikes for more sanitary working conditions during the pandemic while redirecting our funds to support vital community spaces.”

These Chicago-based partners include City Lit Books, Open Books, Pilsen Community Books, Semicolon Books, and Women and Children First Bookstore.

Overcoming obstacles…

Just like in many other industries still, the COVID-19 crisis has presented no shortage of challenges to Liberation Library.

For one, Illinois prisons are restricting activity for both incarcerated individuals and visitors alike in an attempt to quarantine the virus.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, youth jails and prisons in Illinois have restricted their in-person visitations and reduced the programming for the young people locked inside.”

While such measures may protect people from the outside coming into the prison, it still adversely affects the people imprisoned. This lack of stimulation can affect incarcerated individual’s morale and their psychological well-being, especially so for those in solitary confinement.

A spokesperson from the organization said: “the use of solitary confinement is tantamount to torture with the potential for long-term psychological damage.”

Liberation Library’s efforts to provide incarcerated youth engagement through literature are crucial to providing a sense of engagement and normalcy to them. Things which many people need in this pandemic.


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Why we do what we do. 📦💌📚 As you know, we have continued to send books to incarcerated young people throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This week we were so moved to receive this letter of gratitude from one of our readers: “I wanted to thank you because sometimes it’s hard to pass time when you have to do time. I also am very thankful for the books you guys have given me. I am so happy that people are out there that can help kid like me pass the time & help us jump into a new world where the room your in disappears and you see a new place/world right before your eyes. So…thank you.” Liberation Library sends books of young people’s choosing inside IL youth prisons and detention centers (jails and prisons) for them to keep. We are also working towards not existing as an organization because we believe in #BooksNotBars and that the state needs to #FreeThemAll #booksliberate #liberationlib

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The organization is also weathering its own administrative struggles due to the crisis. For the safety of the rest of their volunteers, they have had to cancel their packing day events, where people come together to pack books to send off to prisons. 

Many of their volunteers also assist with tasks such as filling orders, writing personalized notes to our readers, and shipping out books.

Due to the pandemic, however, they are down to solely their core leadership: the Steering Committee, which only consists of nine members. Since they are also volunteers, that means they still have day jobs and lives of their own outside of Liberation Library.

Despite these challenges, the members of the organization are still bravely persisting in their mission to provide literature to incarcerated youth as well as their prison abolition work.

Courtesy of Liberation Library

Sparking new conversation about incarceration

In the wake of racial justice protests across the country, and even the rest of the world, Liberation Library is doing its part to create change and contribute to the dialogue around the criminal justice system.

“The current civil rights movement has helped move us forward with this mission in two significant ways. The first is that more and more people are learning about our work,” said a Liberation Library spokesperson.

“The second change is an overall increase in public interest in prison abolition.”

Liberation Library’s efforts to enlighten the minds of young people in prison ultimately highlight the importance of people being able to  have access to  information, no matter who they are.

Courtesy of Liberation Library

“One of our core beliefs is that access to books is a right, not a privilege,” said a Liberation Library spokesperson.

“As prison abolitionists, we want a world where no one is in prison, but until we get there, sending books is a way to show up for the young people currently locked inside.”

One great way to put the organization’s mission into concise and powerful words is to paraphrase their founder, Mariame Kaba: “A book is like a bomb that can break down walls and transport you to other worlds.”

With these protests sparking up new debates about police reform, defunding, or even abolishing the police, Liberation Library is continuing its advocacy for change in the justice system and the abolition of prisons.

“Our core work hasn’t changed in response to the current uprisings – we remain committed to getting books to incarcerated young people and to working toward a world without police or prisons.”

Opening new worlds of imagination

Even in the middle of widespread protests and the COVID-19 crisis, Liberation Library is doing more than just staying strong in its missions.

The organization is getting stronger.

By continuing to provide literature as well as other crucial supplies to prisons and juvenile detention centers, it is opening incarcerated youths’ minds to worlds beyond their cells.

But even so, the group envisions something even greater:

“As an abolitionist group, we envision a future in which we no longer exist, because prisons and jails have been eradicated.”

Liberation Library can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as its official website.

Dave Killen’s photographic eye is an entryway into the Portland protests

Portland’s protests have persisted for over two months now, and photographer Dave Killen has been documenting all that he can.

Since 2011 Killen has worked as a photographer and videographer, and now he’s bringing his years of expertise to show the world what’s happening in the city through his camera lens.

Protest in style with Kilt & Jacks.

Photo by Dave Killen

Dave Killen’s work opens up a whole new world

Killen’s collection of photography, which can be found on his Instagram and Twitter, has a multitude of powerful and impactful photos of Portland’s protests.

Among them is this especially powerful image from the second night of protests on May 29:

Man on elk statue reach out to other man climbing
Photo by Dave Killen

From showcasing the actions of local and federal law enforcement to the resilience of the human spirit in protesters, Killen’s protest photography covers a wide range of themes.

Some may have heard of his name due to a recent photo dubbed the “Naked Athena.” It’s received plenty of attention from social media and news outlets.

While that photo is powerful, it only represents a single moment of the city’s long-lasting protests. Opposed to the movement as a whole.

“It has the potential of someone to see that and kind of only take away that moment from all of this,” said Killen.

“Not just that night that it happened, but the whole last two months. I think that would not be an accurate representation.”

What’s immensely impressive is Killen’s ability to take these magical shots, all in the intense and fast-paced environment of the protests.

Photo by Dave Killen

“Everything’s moving so quickly. I don’t have time to overthink it, and that helps me,” Killen said.

“It seems like I’m good at reacting, and I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve developed experience…it’s the area of protest photography, in particular, seems to be something that fits me well.”

Keep calm and capture on

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George Floyd protest in Portland on June 7th into June 8th

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Dealing with protests, in general, can be immensely stressful, especially considering how law enforcement both local and federal have injured some protesters. Furthermore, the US is still in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.

“All that is mostly in the back of my mind. I am mostly concerned about the possibility of passing it [coronavirus] on to someone else,” Killen said.

He continued, “In terms of the danger of it [the protests], I do get nervous. I find that I get nervous when I’m heading out and sometimes when I’m leaving. Music is very helpful to me.”

Despite the potential danger of the protests, Killen said:

“I like to just think of it in terms of statistics. The chances of anything actually seriously bad happening to me, are probably less than, the risk of driving my car down there.”

Killen also mentioned how looking at protests through a camera lens can be different than seeing them with one’s own eyes. 

“Looking through a lens is a real detachment, which can be a real problem sometimes…You can be fooled by where you actually are in relation to someone.”

Photo by Dave Killen

Yet even in these protests, that have the potential to be very intense, it is still essential to stay calm and carefully govern oneself.

“I’m lucky in that I have always reacted to intense situations by kind of getting calm,” said Killen.

“I definitely don’t worry a whole lot about the dangers while I’m actively shooting. I think another part of that is with all the gas, I can hang in there for a while.”

“But at some point, it just overcomes you, and you have to retreat and find somewhere to catch your breath. And so that sort of has like a self-governing aspect to it.”

Portland photographer dave killen
Photo by Dave Killen

The influx of federal influence

Since the introduction of federal agents into Portland, Dave Killen says, “it’s been a really dramatic change.”

Prior to their presence, he mentions how, “we would go down there, and there were nights where it would flare up at night, but overall it was starting to get a lot more mellow.

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Finally catching up on photo editing. These are from June 1st / early morning of the 2nd

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Killen continued, “there were a couple of nights where I went out there, and it was just a couple dozen people just kind of standing around or dancing in front of the Justice Center. Just very minimal activity, really.”

“And then the federal thing started and it’s just exploded.”

Photo by Dave Killen

While the actions of the Portland police and federal law enforcement may have been similar, one main aspect that sets them apart is the unpredictability of federal agents.

“The tear-gassing and stuff that’s not new. The Portland Police are doing that to a degree and have in the past…with the Portland Police, it was always fairly predictable. They make a lot of announcements,” said Killen.

According to the photographer, the actions of federal law enforcement appear to be a stark contrast to that of local police.

“What I’ve seen with the federal agents is a much less predictable, and much more indiscriminate response.”

He recounted an instance where he found himself across the street from some federal agents. They had just exited the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, around “two blocks south of the federal building,” Killen described. 

“They basically just started firing into the crowd with I think mostly those pepper balls,” said Killen.

Photo by Dave Killen

“It didn’t matter. It’s pretty clear I’m press as are a number of people there. There were a couple of people in the street, but there was no one actually engaging with them. And that’s something I’ve never seen the Portland Police do.”

While the federal government initially sent agents into Portland to guard federal property as well as to try to quell some of the violence, there have been accounts of them doing more than just guarding property or arresting actual rioters and criminals.

Many have accused federal agents of breaching people’s constitutional rights, and not all local leaders requested their presence either.

“There’s a lot of other differences to the kind of optics of it, people in camouflage. Apparently they don’t have to stay on federal property. They certainly aren’t, but the way they move it’s just different,” said Killen.

“I’ve never been in any sort of military situation, but it certainly, if you look at the pictures, it certainly feels and looks that way.”

Photo by Dave Killen

A picture paints a thousand words

Dave Killen’s protest photography provides key insights into Portland’s protests.

His photos not only show the influence and actions of law enforcement in the city, but also portray hopeful and powerful images of resilience in peaceful protesters.

Photo by Dave Killen

Yet Killen’s photography is more than just powerful photos. They are a gateway to a more extensive local coverage of the protests.

With this issue becoming a national story, more news outlets are beginning to move in and cover this story. What they don’t always seem to cover, however, is the whole context of these protests.

“National media are coming into Portland and just like ‘oh my God, the city is under siege,’ and this is all happening in a three-block area in downtown Portland where almost nobody lives,” said Killen.

“It would be incredibly easy as like a day-to-day Portlander to really have no idea that this was all going on…That’s one reason it’s important because people should know what’s going on.”

Photo by Dave Killen

News, and pictures especially, can tell a grand story. What’s important however is that people are taking into account the whole narrative.

With many things in today’s society being so politically polarized, it’s essential, now more than ever, to seek out the entirety of a story. Even if that means bringing to the surface, a “side” people may not agree with.

“Pictures tell a lot, but it needs to be a totality… You get there early enough to see the part of the protest that isn’t violence. It’s important to cover that too.

Even if the protests in Portland aren’t necessarily a sort of siege, like parts of the media make it out to be, that still doesn’t make them any less serious.

If anything, they are arguably a sign of what could come to other cities.

“It’s probably instructive to watch what is going on here, and maybe that will be something that helps other cities make decisions…and maybe it’s instructive on the federal side too. I’m sure they’re watching what’s happening here, and then that’s informing their decisions. So it seems like we’re kind of a litmus test here.”

Federal agents surge Chicago: Why the city is pushing back

Federal agents surged through Chicago this past weekend, even after Mayor Lori Lightfoot was adamant about not letting feds into the city.

It started with Portland. Now President Trump has announced his plan to send federal agents to a variety of cities across the country, many of which happen to be run by Democratic elected officials.

The next place on his list: the Windy City itself, Chicago. While Trump claims these agents will be there to deal with violence in the city, which Chicago has had a long history of dealing with, the lack of clarity in his plans is concerning to many. 

Elected officials have criticized Trump for this move, especially considering the events still occurring in Portland. These include unidentified federal agents forcing protesters into unmarked vehicles, injuring protesters and the press with impact munitions, and dispersing them with tear gas.

There are federal agents either in, or on their way to Chicago, Portland, and other cities around the country. After Lightfoot claimed she would not allow federal agents into her city, she capitulated to Trump and let 200 in.

We are staring at an infringement on people’s constitutional rights, an increasingly-authoritarian leader and his lackeys, and a defining time in this country’s history.


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BE CAREFUL, CHICAGO • The @chicagotribune has learned that @dhsgov (headed by @dhswolf, an architect of @realdonaldtrump’s #familyseparation policy) is planning to send 150 #federalagents to #Chicago this week, following a request for federal assistance from Chicago #police’s largest union. More from the Trib: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities. The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing had not been made public. One city official said the city was aware of the plan but not any specifics. One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of #ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters. Without offering specifics, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News over the weekend that Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf would roll out a plan this week about tamping down on crime in various U.S. cities. On Saturday, the president of the Chicago police’s largest union had sent Trump a letter asking for help from the federal government in putting a lid on crime in the city. “I am certain you are aware of the chaos currently affecting our city on a regular basis now,” John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, wrote in a letter that was posted on the FOP’s Facebook page. “I am writing to formally ask you for help from the federal government. Mayor #Lightfoot has proved to be a complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here. #blacklivesmatter #portland #abolishice #lorilightfoot #chicagoprotest

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Chicago officials and others criticize the plan

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as well as Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are among some of the critics of Trump’s plan to deploy federal agents to the city. These agents include Department of Homeland Security officers as well as ICE troops.

Duckworth says the presence of federal agents will endanger people’s constitutional rights. Incidents in Portland such as agents forcing people into unmarked vehicles, as well as attacking press and innocent protesters, appear to support her claims.

Lightfoot meanwhile is also committed to not having a repeat of the events of Portland, and is calling for the community to come forward and contribute to peace instead, rather than federal forces.

Some city officials however have criticized Lightfoot in the past for not being able to deal with the city’s violence. One recent example comes from Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara Jr. 

In an open letter on Facebook formally requesting aid from the federal government, Cantanzara called Lightfoot, “A complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here.”

Cantanzara also stated, “I am certain you are aware of the chaos affecting our city on a regular basis now. “I would be willing to sit down anytime and discuss ideas about how we can bring civility back to the streets of Chicago.”

President Trump claimed federal agents are needed to quell violence in various cities. In a recent statement in the Oval Office, Trump claimed, “We’re not going to let this happen to our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”

Furthermore, he also expressed his intentions to send federal agents to a variety of other cities such as Kansas City, Missouri; New York; and various others. Many of these cities are run by Democratic officials, which Trump also noted in his statement.

Mayor Lightfoot is not the only one who has struggled to reduce Chicago’s crime rate. According to crime statistics from the Chicago Police department, there’s been at least a 47 percent increase in shootings between the past year up until July 20. There has also been a 51 percent increase in murder rates since 2019.

This unfortunately is hardly anything new. In fact, shootings, homicides, and gang-related violence have long been issues in Chicago.

A history of violence

Even before the recent racial justice protests, violence and homicides in Chicago unfortunately are extremely commonplace. These acts typically happen in the city’s south and west sides, but they are capable of happening anywhere.

Just recently on July 21, 15 people mourning outside a funeral home were injured in a drive-by shooting in Auburn Gresham. Over the Fourth of July weekend, 16 people were killed and at least 69 were injured in shootings across the city. Two of the deceased victims were children.

Solving these problems is extremely difficult, but bringing in federal troops will just escalate things further if the events in Portland are any indication.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Senator Tammy Duckworth have brought up other solutions for reducing the violence in Chicago. These include reaching out to the local community, passing gun control policies, and going after gun trafficking.

In an interview with CNN, Duckworth said:

“If you want to do something about gun violence, call Mitch McConnell. Let’s have a vote on the floor today on universal background checks and on straw purchases of guns. Let’s go after gun trafficking.”

A key factor to note is that many of the neighborhoods where crime is commonplace in Chicago primarily consist of people of color. One particular contributing factor to the violence is the lack of infrastructure in these communities.

Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research Daniel Webster told NBC News:

“People who get involved in violence, many of them are financially insecure, housing insecure, food insecure — their whole life is insecure.”

Many communities in Chicago lack stable infrastructure in things like education, housing, and mental health.

These factors in turn contribute to crimes such as shootings, since residents lack the proper support structures to effectively help their community. The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to improve this either.

Black Community Collaborative co-founder Natasha Dunn told ABC 7:

“We believe in order to stop the violence in our community, everything has to come together… It’s not silos. It’s not education here, it’s not economics over there, it’s not crime there. Everybody needs to be held accountable.”

What comes next?

Even if the federal agents in Chicago aren’t intended to deal with the vandalism of federal landmarks like in Portland, their presence in the city is still a cause of concern.

Local leaders and federal officials continue to criticize the government’s decision to send agents into cities, and the federal government is still defending its current stance. But if Lori Lightfoot allows federal agents into the city, to terrorize and only exacerbate the conflict, what kind of precedent does that set for other U.S. cities?

Not only is there an increasing presence of federal agents, but there’s also a widening rift between government officials at all levels. If this continues, who knows what violence will occur not just in Chicago, but in the entire country.

How Portland protest photographers are risking their lives for the shot

Photographers documenting the Portland protests are among the bravest people in this country right now.

The protests in Portland, Oregon have been raging for over 50 days now. With the recent intervention of federal agents, things only seem to be escalating further.

From its beginning until now, through the thick of it all, brave members of the press have been risking their lives and safety to document these events.

Here are just a few of the many Portland protest photographers, videographers, and journalists you should be watching in this developing situation.

Dave Killen

A photographer and videographer for the Oregonian newspaper, Dave Killen captures the resilience of the human spirit in Portland’s protests.

The photograph he took of the figure named “Naked Athena” shown below was also featured in an article in the LA Times.

Nathan Howard

A freelance photojournalist based in Portland, Nathan Howard’s work captures the immense scale of the protests.

Yet he also finds a way to show the individual lives affected in poignant pictures. His work has been featured by Getty Images and in the Washington Post.

Soundtrack to the end

An anonymous photographer and videographer documenting the protests, Soundtrack to the End showcases not just the impact of so many people protesting, but also the indelible mark and impact they leave behind.

Donovan Farley

Donovan Farley is a writer for a variety of magazines such as Vice, Playboy, Spin, Willamette Week, Rolling Stone, and more.

Farley’s video and photo coverage of the Portland protests provides an immersive look into just how escalated and intense these protests can get.

Mathieu Lewis-Rolland

A freelance photographer whose work has been featured in ElevenPDX Magazine, Mathieu Lewis-Rolland specializes in event and wedding photography.

Now he takes his expertise to Portland’s protests. His work there conveys the serious impact the protests have not just on the city, but on the country as a whole.

Sergio Olmos

Sergio Olmos is a freelance journalist who’s had work featured in The New York Times, Reveal, The Portland Tribune, and more.

Olmos’ work provides insight not just into what the federal agents are doing in these protests, but also shows the reactions of Portland’s citizens. From more serious photographs to inspiring videos of protesters’ resilience, Olmos has a wide variety of coverage in his work.

Karina Brown

Karina Brown is a reporter for Courthouse News based in Portland. She was primarily focused on matters related to the legal system, science, and the environment.

Now she brings her expertise and investigative skills to shed light on those involved in the protests. This also includes groups generally covered less, such as members of the Native American community.

Brown has also recently published a personal essay on protests and personal trauma.

Portland protest photographers are really out here

These photographers, videographers, and all other members of the press involved in protests across the country have a powerful impact. Through their coverage, they shed light on this evolving situation and provide firsthand accounts of what’s happening.

The work of the press can show powerful moments ranging from serious and grave to heartfelt and empowering. In these chaotic protests, moments like these can be especially poignant.

Yet their work is not without risk, especially during this divisive time and in these protests.

Multiple cases exist where members of the press have been injured by police or federal agents. The above-mentioned journalists, photographers, and videographers are no exception.

Freedom of the press is a constitutionally-protected right under the First Amendment, yet police and federal agents still target them simply for reporting on what’s happening.

Members of the press all have a powerful impact on our society. With civil unrest happening in Portland and across the country, that impact is more powerful now than ever.