Commentary Media

Giving Thanks: A Letter to Our Readers, Colleagues, Friends, and Staff

Jodi Jacobson

I try to remember the things for which I am thankful throughout the calendar year. At this time of year, however, many of us are obviously engaged in a collective effort in reflecting on who we are, what we have, and for what we are thankful. I am thankful for all of you.

Over the past few years, I have made a concerted effort to try at least once a week to take a moment and remember all the things for which I am thankful… two wonderful children, great health (so far), a career I love, wonderful friends, amazing colleagues, and the opportunity to be an active participant at some level in important public debates.

Though I think it is critical to remember the things for which I am thankful throughout the calendar year, at this time many of us are engaged in a collective effort to reflect on who we are, what we have, and for what we are thankful.

So I want to take advantage of this moment to say thank you to the many, many people who inspire me every single day. Many of these people cross several of the categories below so for that and other reasons, I will not name persons or organizations specifically.

Thank you to the staff of Rewire. I am incredibly lucky to work with a group of people who are extraordinarily smart, dedicated, and hard-working. They bring it each and every day and work long hours to produce what has become an award-winning publication, one that this year was named number six in the top 25 reproductive justice organizations in the United States. It would have been impossible for me to understand just how much work it takes to produce what we do every day until I was involved in doing it myself… and it is a huge task involving everything from responding on the spot to news, commissioning articles, reviewing and editing, and fact-checking the best content we can produce from among more than 30 paid writers, to choosing images that balance various needs, to ensuring that we provide space for various voices and viewpoints, to making sure our work is shared through social media. It’s hard to describe to others how much work this takes, but it is deeply appreciated and I thank them for their devotion to the health and rights of all persons.

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Thank you to Rewire‘s funders.  I will not name them all here as it would be impossible, but we are deeply, deeply grateful for the tremendous support we receive from private foundations both large and small, as well as from the literally hundreds of individuals who have contributed to our work in amounts from $5.00 to $1000.00 over the course of this year. Thank you for your belief in and support of our work. We seek to make you proud of your investments in us. A very, very special thanks to those who have helped guide us in fundraising and have provided authentic and trusted guidance and input. You know who you are and you know we could not be here without you.

Thank you to the Rewire board of directors: Our board is made up of tremendously dedicated long-time leaders in their field who not only believed in what we could be and where we could go, but who also use their talents and their resources to help us get there.

Thank you to the many contract writers and freelancers who have contributed fabulous work to Rewire this past year, who have borne with us through editing and fact-checking and redrafting and positioning, and who have contributed their very best to the goals of providing evidence-based news, analysis, commentary, and investigative research on a daily basis.

Thank you to the heroic, brave, and dedicated professionals who, despite being the target of constant harassment, legally, financially, and physically, nonetheless work every day to provide sexual and reproductive health care, including safe abortion care, to people in need. You all truly are heroes and you are appreciated much more than you can ever guess.

Thank you to colleagues across the progressive community, whether they be working directly in reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, or in our partner organizations seeking to ensure that people are paid fairly, can exercise their rights to vote, have access to food, housing, health care, and legal rights, and who work in other ways far too numerous to mention to try to make this country a model of its best self and who work selflessly and tirelessly in the interest of building an equitable world. Thank you all for your enduring inspiration, dedication, vision, and the many, countless things you have taught me. On my worst days, I look to you for the motivation to go the next step.

Thank you to the many people in the reproductive and social justice movements, women of color, Latinas, red-state activists, GLBT activists, progressive religious leaders, and others who often must fight harder than others to be heard and to exercise their rights and who do so while facing unrelenting discrimination. Thank you to the progressive leaders challenging women’s rights movements to evolve more quickly and to be more representative. Thank you for teaching me, thank you for debating me, thank you for challenging and inspiring me. Thank you for forgiving me when I am wrong.

Thank you also to those women political leaders—whether they are in the states or the U.S. Congress—who are stepping up and stepping out to push a truly progressive agenda.

And finally, thank you to our readers, you, the person who now has come to the end of this letter, for your support, dedication, and interest in these issues, and for the fights you wage each and every day to support women, at home, in your communities, in your state, and nationally. Without you, we would not be here.

I am deeply grateful for all of you.  And together I am deeply hopeful and optimistic that we will change the world.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

News Human Rights

After Suicide Attempt, Chelsea Manning Faces Indefinite Solitary Confinement

Michelle D. Anderson

“Now, while Chelsea is suffering the darkest depression she has experienced since her arrest, the government is taking actions to punish her for that pain. It is unconscionable and we hope that the investigation is immediately ended and that she is given the health care that she needs to recover,” said Chase Strangio, an ACLU staff attorney.

Transgender Army veteran and WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning is being threatened with indefinite solitary confinement in connection to her July 5 suicide attempt.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said U.S. Army officials notified Manning of an investigation into her suicide attempt. Three serious charges are being brought against her.

A transcribed charge sheet provided by the ACLU shows that Manning is under investigation for resisting force from the cell move team, possessing prohibited property, and engaging in “conduct which threatens.”

Manning, who was arrested in 2010 for releasing classified government documents to WikiLeaks, is serving a 35-year prison sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, an all-male maximum security prison.

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In 2014, Manning, with the help of the ACLU, the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, the ACLU of Kansas, and civilian defense counsel David E. Coombs, sued then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other Department of Defense and Department of the Army officials for failing to treat her gender dysphoria, a violation of her constitutional rights.

Army physicians had diagnosed Manning with the condition several years prior, according to the lawsuit.

As a remedy, the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare has recommended that inmates like Manning receive medical treatment that follows World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care, like providing hormone therapy. Several respected medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, support WPATH recommendations.

Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement that the investigation was “deeply troubling” and noted that government continues to deny Manning medical care related to her gender dysphoria condition and her recent suicide attempt.

“Now, while Chelsea is suffering the darkest depression she has experienced since her arrest, the government is taking actions to punish her for that pain. It is unconscionable and we hope that the investigation is immediately ended and that she is given the health care that she needs to recover,” Strangio said.

Along with indefinite solitary confinement, the ACLU said Manning could face reclassification into maximum-security prison, an additional nine years in medium custody for the remainder of her 35-year long sentence, if convicted of the “administrative offenses.”

The ACLU said the Army could also negate any chance for parole.

ACLU spokeswoman Allison Steinberg told Rewire the ramifications Manning faces derive from the Army’s Institutional Offense Policy.

Fight for the Future Campaign Director Evan Greer, whose group collected more than 100,000 signatures last year when the Army threatened Manning with solitary confinement for possessing LGBTQ literature and an expired tube of toothpaste, said in a statement that the U.S. government’s treatment of Chelsea was a “travesty.”

“Those in charge should know that the whole world is watching, and we won’t stand idly by while this administration continues to harass and abuse Chelsea Manning,” Greer said.

Just two days before Manning and her legal team learned of the investigation, she told followers on her verified Twitter account, “Feeling a little bit better every day. Thank you for your mail, your love, and your support. Things will get back to normal soon.”