Friday, May 29, 2020

Joining the Fight Against Racism

From right here in St. Louis to what we're seeing in Minneapolis, it's clear that racism is a problem. I think that many of us feel outraged but aren't sure where to start to be good allies and to help make our communities more equitable for all. 

As with so many complex issues, there are many ways to provide support both during times of unrest and every day. 

Photo credit: Richard Reilly

Community Support

Reclaim the Block - Community-Lead Safety Solutions in Minneapolis.

OBS - Organization for Black Struggle, STL - A group of veteran activists, students, union organizers and community members in St. Louis were seeking to address the needs and issues of the Black working-class. There are a number of great community resources on their website as well.

(Real Local Control and Effective Civilian Review) A grassroots movement fighting to ensure that local control of St. Louis police are based on the principles of citizen input and transparency.

Action St. Louis - A grassroots racial justice organization that seeks to build political power for Black communities in the St. Louis region. Action St. Louis builds campaigns that leverage organizing, communications, advocacy and direct action to mitigate harm against our community while fighting for long term transformation. Campaigns include Close the Workhouse, #WokeVoterSTL, Political Action, #WeCount314.

Jamaa Birth Village - A non-profit Midwifery, Doula & Maternal Health organization located in Ferguson, Missouri, and serving the greater St. Louis metro area.

The Sweet And - Mutual Aid Fund in St. Louis - Support the Sweet & Queer Solidarity Fund.

For the Culture STL - Directory of Black-owned businesses in Saint Louis you should support and community events.

Northstar Health Collective (Minneapolis, MN) - Mutual aid directory and resources for activists including support for street medics.

Potbangerz  (STL) - Fight injustice by uplifting the community, meeting nutritional needs, helping our unhoused families navigate their way to permanent housing, and advocating for them when they need it the most.

Black Visions Collective (MN) - Since 2017, Black Visions Collective, has been putting into practice the lessons learned from organizations before us in order to shape a political home for Black people across Minnesota.

Jail and Activist Support

Minnesota Freedom Fund - Bail support for Minneapolis.

Cleanup GoFundMe - Grassroots GoFundMe to assist with cleanup in Minneapolis.

Saint Louis Jail and Legal Support - Volunteer attorneys, legal workers, and community members committed to protecting the rights of people arrested when protesting for social justice in St. Louis.

National Lawyers Guild, STL - Has been working, through the courts and in the streets, to defend the rights of public assembly and public protest. You may know them by the green Legal Observer caps around actions.

STL Street Medics - publishing great resources for safety and medical aid while at protests.

Bail Funds & Legal Help by City - full list of jail support for cities across the U.S.

Supplies and Masks (MN) - Paypal donation link for Racial Justice Network.

Arch City Defenders (STL) - Legal support in Saint Louis.

Bail Funds - Nationwide - You can donate through ActBlue and have your donation split among 40 separate community bail funds throughout the country.

Anti-Racist Resources

Anti-Racist Organizing Collective - STL, Providing a joint analysis with organizers of color in the Justice Institute and our Accountability Team which can result in a set of shared beliefs in guiding our anti-racist organizing work. Many great resources and recommended readings on their site.

Anti-Racism Resources
- Document compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020 – This is a great resource of recommended reading, blogs, movies, and organizations to follow. 

26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets - Video resource for other ways to get involved.

5 ways to support Black Americans if you can't protest in person - Great list of other ways to get involved if protesting isn't a good fit for you. 

Media/Voices to Amplify in STL

St. Louis American - the leading, most-trusted voice of the area’s African-American community in Saint Louis.

Real STL News - We are an online news media outlet that concentrates on Saint Louis City and its surrounding areas. Real STL News is a team of community advocates that passionately bring awareness to the community of what is happening around Saint Louis.

Expect US - This page is for us organizers to connect with others and build bridges and connect with people in STL.

Teaching Children About Racism and Equality

Eye See Me - Our mission is to be a resource to parents, teachers, and schools in providing the very best children’s books on the market that promote positive images and stories about African American culture and history.

Your Kids Aren't too Young to Talk about Race -  Great list of resources for parents about how to educate children about race.

We Stories We Stories is a catalyst for change - in conversations, awareness, and choices: In Kids, Parents and Families; Communities, schools, institutions, and ultimately, in St. Louis.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Critical Thinking in a Fake News World

While technology might make it easier for someone to create content and put it out there as legit, it also provides us with great tools to verify and fact-check before we share something.

In this blog, I'll post a few of my go-to places to verify the news, and knowing this might be old hat to some of you, I'll take it once step further and share ideas on how to sharpen your critical reading skills and watch out for bad science. 

1. A great reference for spotting fake news is this chart from
You can download it here

2. Reverse image search using TinEye (referenced above) or Google Image Search to see where else the image has appeared, and see if it's been altered in any way across different sources.

3. Compare news stories by using a Google search using quotes for an exact search match. Example: "trump" "hydroxychloroquine" will bring up news stories with those specific words. Then you can look at stories from a variety of news outlets and see how they compare. Which brings me to my next point...

4. Understand the Media Bias of a publication.  I love this chart from Ad Fontes Media which is available to download or if you really want to dig into it, you can use their interactive chart to customize the chart reporting:

5. Do a little cross-searching. Who posted the original content? Are they who they say they are? If they're in the public eye, do they have a verified badge on Twitter or Instagram? 

6. Look for classic propaganda techniques and sharpen your critical reading skills. Thanks to my big sis Michele McMahon Nobel, Ph.D. for the insight on teaching these important skills to people of all ages.

7. Learn to spot these RED FLAGS for unreliable news. Here is an informative graphic from Vanessa Otero the founder of Ad Fontes Media and that creator of that media chart listed above.

8. Watch out for video fakes. From the Washington Post, check out "The Fact Checker's Guide to Manipulated Video" for a deep dive into what to watch for with deceptive video.

9. Learn how to spot bad science with this guide from CompoundChem. Downloadable PDF is available here

10. Personally fact-check. My two favorite sites for this are Snopes and Politifact. Both are pretty quick to make updates and get news stories fact-checked very quickly. Both these also make a good follow on social media. Often I'll see a post from them disputing a story before I see it appear naturally in my newsfeed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Helping our Unhoused Community

In 2016, I saw a Facebook post about a local homeless outreach that was scheduled to take place just a couple blocks from my office in Downtown Saint Louis. Having worked in the area for a few years, I knew there was a significant homeless community that needed help, so I showed up.

It was overwhelming with just myself and one other volunteer that day, but we saw very clearly how big the need was to help our unhoused neighbors, so we went to work on building a network of volunteers and donors so we could help more people. (Special shoutout to the Ethical Society Mid Rivers and St. Louis for being great partners).

Over the last 4 years, working with Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless St. Louis (AAHHSTL) I've heard from thousands of clients. I've heard their personal stories, their needs, their struggles. These insights have shaped the way we've structured our giveaways, and what we provide. It's amazing what you'll learn when you listen to people. A good lesson in this endeavor and for so many others.

Want to help? Here are a few things I've learned:

• Most people just want to be seen and acknowledged. This is especially true in communities like the unhoused where they often feel invisible.

• If you're going to offer food, make it easy and portable. Look for pull-top cans or self-contained items (bananas and clementines are great). Don't assume someone can easily wash up if it's messy to eat or find a utensil if they need one. Also, look for soft foods that will be easy to eat even with dental challenges.

• If you're going to offer mouthwash, go with a non-alcoholic variety. You never know who may be in recovery.

• Not comfortable giving out money? Keeping a few city bus passes on hand is a great alternative.

• Non-food items are also appreciated. Notepad/pencil, paperback books, and AA batteries are all very popular items that are hard to find with many outreach groups.

• Bottled water is great, but a new reusable water bottle is more helpful.

• Keep seasonality in mind. What would you need out in the elements? Sunscreen or bug spray in the summer, then hand warmers, lip balm, or gloves in the winter.

• Be kind! Showing a little compassion may be more meaningful than any "thing" you could provide.

AAHHStl is a secular humanitarian group, and as such, we don't proselytize or require clients to hear a message before receiving supplies. It's very simple: we have the ability to organize and provide supplies you might need, and we do it because it's the right thing to do – no strings attached.

Today, AAHHSTL has grown to over 40 volunteers who help an average of 50-60 people a month at our supply giveaways. We now are recognized as one of 14 chapters nationwide of Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless - a committee under the Atheist Alliance of America (AAoA).

AAoA is an incubator for secular activists and community organizations. They also work to normalize atheism, unify atheist organizations and provide humanitarian aid. AAoA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization started in 1992, making it one of the oldest atheist organizations in the United States.

Want to help us give back to the unhoused community in Saint Louis? 

• Watch for our next scheduled giveaway under events at AAHHStl
• Learn more about this local chapter on AAoA
• Donate gently used items (send DM via Facebook) or visit our wishlist
• Follow & amplify our message on social media: Facebook & Twitter 

If AAHHSTL isn't a great fit for you, consider one of these other grassroots organizations in the St. Louis area: 
STL Winter Outreach and Tent Mission STL (Both are operating right now due to COVID-19)

Carolyn is a volunteer and one of the chapter organizers for AAHHStl. This does not imply endorsement of AAoA.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Reproductive Justice for All

[Updated in May 2022 to reflect changes to Pro-Choice Missouri organization]

There are so many fantastic organizations that support Reproductive Rights and further Reproductive Justice. Some are direct action, others focus on the courts, and some directly serve patients, but what they all have in common is they are always looking for people to join the fight and advocate for healthcare, privacy, and personal autonomy.

Here are 5 Organizations that I support (and you should, too)

1. Missouri Abortion Fund 
The mission of MoAF (formerly Gateway Women's Access Fund) is to provide public education and support for people needing reproductive health services, primarily by providing financial assistance to Missouri residents who cannot afford the full cost of abortion care. MoAF is a 100% volunteer organization, so you know your donations go straight to where they're needed most. 

I've been a volunteer with MoAF since 2016 and was the first recipient of their Volunteer of the Year award in 2018. I continue to help with their communications and social media presence.

MoAF is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). You can also support NNAF with an Individual Membership that also supports your local fund (and they send you an awesome membership gift every year).

Follow MoAF on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

2. Pro-Choice Missouri

Pro-Choice Missouri, formerly NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, is the leading statewide, a grassroots pro-choice advocacy organization with a 52-year history of fighting for reproductive freedom. We are dedicated to building and sustaining a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee reproductive health, rights, and justice for all.

Clinic Escort teams have served the clinics in the Saint Louis region for 35 years. A few years back, I wrote an article for Rewire News about my experience as a clinic escort

Watch for additional opportunities to volunteer with Pro-Choice Missouri during the upcoming election season. If you're a candidate, you can learn more about the endorsement process or as a voter, you can watch to see which candidates get an endorsement or the 100% Pro-Choice rating (depending on the office sought). 

Follow Pro-Choice Missouri on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

3. Reproductive Health Services (RHS) 

RHS is operated by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and the only abortion provider in the state of Missouri. As with all Planned Parenthood locations, they pride themselves on providing healthcare, no matter what.

Planned Parenthood also has a political arm in Planned Parenthood Advocates. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund works to advance access to sexual health care and defend reproductive rights. Watch for ways to get involved during this campaign season to work for Pro-Choice candidates as well as the annual condom crawl and presence at community events.

Follow RHS on Facebook and Instagram
Donate to RHS

4. Reproaction 

Follow Reproaction for forward-looking campaigns to advance Reproductive Justice. Reproaction has a presence not only nationally, but here in Missouri as well as DC, VA, and WI. 

A current campaign running in MO is to raise awareness of the unnecessarily high Maternal and Infant Mortality rate in this state, working to connect maternal and infant mortality rates with the broader issues that contribute to the crisis. 

There are also National campaigns to raise awareness including one about Self-Managed Abortion, and Exposing Fake Clinics (Crisis Pregnancy Centers). Campaigns all connect to direct action, so this organization is a great way to get involved hands-on. If you've ever seen her speak, you already know why you should follow Co-Founder Pamela Merritt on Twitter @SharkFu.

Follow Reproaction on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

5. Hope Clinic

Your local independent clinic is located just 10 minutes across the river from Saint Louis in Granite City, Illinois. 3 out of every 5 people who have an abortion do so at an independent clinic like Hope. You can give directly here to help them keep costs as low as possible for patients. 

If you haven't seen this Q&A with Executive Director Dr. Erin King about compassionate care during a pandemic, it's worth a read to understand the urgency and additional stress our medical professionals are coping with during COVID-19.

Follow Hope Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some additional organizations to follow/support:

Clinic Vest Project - Providing Pro-Choice Clinic Escort Vests and supporting the escort community
Feminist Majority Foundation - Providing training, blogs, and action resources
Midwest Access Fund - Helping those traveling in the midwest for abortion access
Emily's List - Changing the political landscape by electing Pro-Choice Women
Vote Pro-Choice - Supporting Pro-Choice candidates; Pro-Choice voter guide
•  If/When/HowTransforming law & policy landscape through advocacy, support, and organizing 
A Pro-Choice MO Starts TodayFunding every Pro-Choice Dem nominee for the state legislature 
UltravioletDriving feminist cultural and political change
Sister SongImproving institutional policies & systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities
Abortion Access FrontComedians, writers, & producers using humor to destigmatize abortion
Rewire NewsOnline publication covering reproductive and sexual health, rights and justice