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Channeling Lady Liberty The Week After Fourth of July

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Fourth of July, 2017 came and went but Lady Liberty’s vigil continues reminding us of the brave work required in every generation to truly live as a free people.

As we turn the page on the 4th of July this year, report after report like the Freedom in the World 2017 and the 2017 Social Progress Index confirm a feeling in the air today: freedom is not currently advancing but rather is in decline. According to these reports, 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. “In past years we generally saw declines in freedom among autocracies and dictatorships,” describes Arch Puddington, one of Freedom In the World 2017’s co-authors, “but in 2016 it was established democracies that dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks.” The US was among a list of “Free” countries – including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Tunisia – where freedom was found to be in decline as “populist and nationalist forces made significant gains”.

As has been the case in every authoritarian cultural context, a subtext in these reports – and a refrain I have heard over and over again from women’s human rights leaders around the world – is that women and girls have been disproportionately bearing the brunt of freedom’s decline.

We are all in the same boat in freedom’s decline—black, brown, white, male, female and everything in between—and in the work of getting freedom moving forward again. Join us in this two-part post-4th of July reflection and ask yourself how you can be a little more brave, how you can put a little more skin in the game, to get the freedom needle moving forward again for all human beings, in particular the female half of “We the People” who were in fact the longest running group excluded from the ranks of the freeborn here and around the world.

Post #1: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave: Taking Down All “Monuments” to Our Enslaving Past (Not Just Around Race, Gender too)

Post #2: “Women Are The Devil’s Gateway”: Connecting the Historic & Global Dots Between Archaic-sounding “Handmaid’s Tale” Gender Practices Rising Up Around the World and More “Mainstream” Gender “Monuments” that Persist in Our Churches

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave: Taking Down All “Monuments” to Our Enslaving Past (Not Just Around Race, Gender too)

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“Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”… some how this Fourth of July these words from our national anthem rang within me with a clearer ring… We want to be the “land of the free” but do we really want to be the “home of the brave”?

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” ~ Bree Newsome

In the midst of the 4th of July festivities, this image from two years ago of the badass flagpole climber in South Carolina kept jumping into my mind… A picture speaks a thousand words. Does she not embody the brave spirit of dissent that gave birth to our country?

Fourth of July came and went this year, the usual patriotic displays of fireworks, sparklers, national anthems and lots of red, white, and blue. Did you too feel a surge of love and protective yearning for our country this year? Not just the usual patriotism but something deeper than that, a longing to reclaim (really for real) all of those lofty sounding ideals we sing and hear recited around the 4th of July to declare our independence as the “land of the free, home of the brave”.

Freedom feels so tenuous in our country today, so vulnerable to regression… As described previously, by many global indicators, freedom is currently in decline in our world. We want our freedom but are we willing to truly be brave to put some skin in the game to climb a flagpole or two to remove the relics and “monuments” of the past which excluded so many from the high ideals of the “self-evident truth” of freedom our founding fathers penned 241 years ago?

The 4th of July is a time to be festive and celebrate our “land of the free” but the week after is when the real work of the “home of the brave” comes in.

Pause for a moment the week after the 4th to hold Lady Liberty in your heart along with one of her modern-day badass, freedom-loving daughters—the South Carolina flagpole scaler—whose brave ascent/dissent embodies the hard work of preserving and expanding freedom’s call by removing all vestiges of the exclusions and stratifications of freedom and honor that have again and again divided our nation and the human family.

Her name is Bree Newsome, 30 years old, from Charlotte, NC. Early in the morning on June 27th, 2015, she woke up early and donned a helmet and climbing gear to scale a 30-foot steel flagpole. Her objective was to take down one of the stubborn “traditional” relics of our anti-freedom, slave-holding past — the confederate flag flying in front of the South Carolina State House. This was not some impulsive act. She planned it out. She was fed up with the stark contradictions between our high ideals as Americans and the stunning inequalities still sanctioned by traditional symbols and relics of the past. She was impatient with the blind spots which keep so many from connecting the dots between the ideals of freedom we celebrate and the slave legacy of our past, which still lives on in myriad vestiges in our hearts and minds as Americans.

In word and deed, she said to the world “enough is enough,” this traditional symbol of a patriotism so laden with the blood of slavery—yet flying high in a state capital—belongs in a museum not in a public place which symbolizes our highest and best values as a democracy.

Indeed there were many cracks in our Liberty Bell when the framers of our constitution penned the eloquent words we recite today around the 4th of July as hallmarks of the free, democratic society we seek to be today. And these cracks persist today and live on deep in the roots of our collective traditions and social norms. As much as we want to believe that freedom will just advance on its own, around the world freedom in fact is receding threatening to unwind hard-earned progress towards this crazy idea we celebrate on the Fourth of July—Liberty & Justice for All—that all human beings are born to live as freeborn people not as slaves, not as subservient, endentured servants, not as a “submissive role” or someone’s property to “own” or subjugate.

The reality is that while we sing our national anthems and celebrate independence day, we still have many “flags” and “mouments” that live on in our collective cultural fabric which create cracks and walls in the self-evident nature of the “liberty and justice for all” we celebrate on the 4th of July.

The day after the 4th of July is when we get to work scaling flagpoles to take down relics of injustice and unfreedom masquerading as holy and patriotic “tradition” which in fact spring from our oppressive, slave-holding, freedom-denying past.

Where do echoes of slavery—and all of the exclusions and stratifications that denied so many the inalienable rights and high ideals spelled out in of our constitution and declarations of independence—live on in vestiges and relics today?

Who still feels the shackles of the unfreedoms of the past that persist into the present still santioned by many of our traditional mores and defacto social norms? Some of these relics may not look like the “slavery” of the 18th and 19th centuries but live on like stubborn monuments in the traditional fabric of our cultural and religious lives together.

After she was arrested and charged with defacing a monument, Newsome released a statement which we need to hear again today this 4th of July: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day,” she said. “It’s time for a new chapter Read More

“Women Are The Devil’s Gateway”: Connecting the Historic & Global Dots Between Archaic-sounding “Handmaid’s Tale” Gender Practices Rising Up Around the World and More “Mainstream” Gender “Monuments” that Persist in Our Churches

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Stay tuned!

Avoiding the Black Hole: What Happens When Funders Focus Less on Themselves and More on Grantees

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A guest post by Tori Dietel Hopps* and Andy Bryant**

Tory: After 25 years of fundraising and playing leadership roles in a variety of nonprofit organizations, I was given an opportunity to work on the funding side of the sector in 2007.

“Wow, what a dream come true!” many of my colleagues said. But I found myself having nightmares about becoming the kind of funder I had tried to avoid for years, and that concern has influenced how the team at Dietel Partners approaches our work.

Funders have been categorized in many different ways over the years. When I discovered the simple Funder Archetype matrix (see graphic below), developed by our grantee partner Rebecca Onie of Health Leads, I knew it was the Black Hole Funder that had been haunting my dreams. Read More

A Blueprint for Women’s Funds: On Using Finance as a Tool for Social Change Released by Criterion Institute in Partnership with the Ms Foundation and Global Fund for Women and the Wallace Global Fund

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We are excited to share A Blueprint for Women’s Funds with you, which we have spent the better part of a year producing with co-authors and partners at the Ms Foundation and Global Fund for Women and with support from the Wallace Global Fund.  We designed this resource as a tool for a variety of audiences to use finance as tools to create the social change they seek. Like its name, the Blueprint sets out a plan to help the reader design the future and imagine what is possible. Read More

Boston Girls’ Empowerment Network Now Enrolling for Girls Summer Leadership Initiative

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Owning My Voice, Speaking My Truth:
An Introduction Workshop Series on Girls’ Empowerment &
Advocacy through the lens of Media Literacy –
This six-session workshop is based on an interactive and experiential approach to learning about advocacy. In t his series, young women will learn tools that can help them advocate for themselves and their community in a healthy, encouraging & beneficial way Read More

“As above, so below.”
Ancient mystical saying