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Defining the Too in #MeToo - May 20, 2019 

Over the past year, a growing conversation about sexual harassment has erupted. With numerous women and men in Hollywood stepping forth with allegations of sexual abuse and unwanted advances, its prompted many others to break their silence and share their stories as well. A rippling effect that, for some, epitomized their sentiments of #MeToo.

The mere two-word hashtag isn’t just a trending topic on Twitter but part of a decade long campaign founded by activist Tarana Burke. According to the campaign’s website, #metoo was created in an effort to “help survivors of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities” come together and use their shared experiences as a catalyst for change. However, as #metoo rises in notability, it leaves some to question can the viral social media campaign tell the story of the common civilian, the powerful and the poor with equal empathy?

For Yolonda Wilson, a Ph.D. Assistant Professor at Howard University who specializes in critical race theory, feminist philosophy and African American philosophy, the answer isn’t that simple. “#MeToo should by its definition, be inclusive of race, class, and sexualities. However, wealthy, cis, able-bodied white women have brought visibility to #MeToo, the double-edged sword is that the narrative now centers their perspectives and experiences,” said Wilson.

Like Wilson, other activists and feminists alike have criticized #metoo for not bringing enough dissident voices to the forefront of the mainstream narrative. “Right now, most of the spotlight with #MeToo has been in Hollywood. Obviously, movie stars are not a good representation of the variety of stories and experiences that people have faced and are facing,” said Naomi Zeigler, a sexual violence awareness activist.

#MeToo started gaining online traction roughly four months ago, when film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment. Since then, Weinstein has been accused by over 86 people in the entertainment and media industry of various forms of sexual assault and harassment. Weinstein has denied all allegations.

However, sexual violence isn’t just a Hollywood or Weinstein story, it’s a problem that numerous women face. According to a recent poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, “more than half of American women have experienced unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from men.”

“Each story is valid and deserves to be heard, however, this campaign largely feels exclusive to women who fit the mold of what a victim or survivor should be - and that is white, middle to upper class, and heterosexual,” said Zeigler.

Recently, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) invited a panel of authors, activists and educators to Capitol Hill on February 14th to discuss various viewpoints such as that of Zeigler. In a press release for the roundtable discussion “Moving #MeToo from Agitation to Legislation,” NAFEO addressed how the “current public debates about sexual assault and sexual harassment are focusing little attention on the unique economic and wellbeing impacts on all women and men, especially black women and men.”


Panelist discussed a variety of issues including the culture of sexual assault and harassment on HBCU campuses, but honed in on the central idea that everyone including communities of color need a seat at the table in regards to discussing sexual assault and harassment.

With the ongoing discussions surrounding #metoo, one thing is for certain, #metoo has shattered the often long stigmatized conversation surrounding sexual violence. Now whether or not the hashtag and the campaign itself can build on its momentum and evoke permanent change, only time can tell but for women like Zeigler and Wilson, the diversity of women and men telling these stories matter too.

“These women have stories to tell too but real awareness has to also include self-awareness regarding how their presence alters the dynamic of #MeToo,” said Wilson

Reaching for the American Dream - Mar 24, 2016

Reader’s note: For legal reasons, Ahbue has chosen to withhold his last name.

It’s an early Monday morning and the sun is still down. Unlike most who are still catching up on sleep, Ahbue is getting an early start to his nine-hour shift as a hotel doorman. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with this scenario, Ahbue is just an average hardworking man going to work. However, he’s got a secret – he’s an undocumented immigrant.   

It’s an early Monday morning and the sun is still down. Unlike most who are still catching up on sleep, Ahbue is getting an early start to his nine-hour shift as a hotel doorman. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with this scenario, Ahbue is just an average hardworking man going to work. However, he’s got a secret – he’s an undocumented immigrant.   

Ahbue is among millions of men, women, and children who come over to the United States undocumented. According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2014.

Ahbue’s journey is similar to that of other immigrants, he came to the U.S. for a new start and a better life. Born and raised to a low-income family in northern Ghana, West Africa; working at a young age was never a desire but a necessity.

“In Ghana it’s hard to acquire jobs and earn a living. Since we don’t have access to much job opportunities, it’s very hard to come by money,” said Ahbue.

Despite financial strains Ahbue faced, he never thought about leaving Ghana.

That is, however, until he obtained a visiting visa to the U.S. “I decided to take a chance. I saw an opportunity [to stay] and I took it,” said Ahbue. After his visa expired, Ahubue leaned on friends for support before securing a permanent job and a place of his own.

According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, foreign visitors who come to the U.S. on visas are an estimated 40% of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

However, data gathered by the Department of Homeland Security suggest that those who overstayed their visas are a small representation (1.07%) of the roughly 45 million newcomers who legally entered the United States in 2015.

“For people who choose to come to the United States outside of the prescribed lawful formal means, it’s really more about those people don’t qualify or don’t have information about the possible qualifications [to get a green card.],” said Mariela Olivares, an immigration law professor at Howard University School of Law.

Obtaining a green card can be difficult and costly for those attempting to gain permanent residence in the U.S. While many foreigners are legally entering the country, taking the unauthorized route can be a last resort. “It’s pretty much an absence of options. Knowing that many of the migrants that come in more recently, many of them not all of them, have sort of no financial options to survive in their country.

"They’re coming in from war torn areas or from really horrific gang violence, and so it’s really sort of a what else can I do,” said Olivares.

The influx of immigrants entering the country has left lawmakers and politicians to answer that formidable question – what can they do. While they are battling the political gridlock that is the U.S. immigration system, millions of people are left in the dark with the uncertainties of their legal status.

Despite his own undocumented status, Ahbue stands firm in his decision to stay in the country.

“Since I’ve come here, I think it’s better. I can make ends meet, and that’s okay for me,” said Ahbue. He’s optimistic of what’s to come and has hopes for an immigration reform that keeps undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and towards the pathway of citizenship.

“In this country, what I have learned is that those strangers and visitors are contributing a lot over here. If they close their borders, how will they be able to work towards the upliftment of the country,” said Ahbue.


Miguel Azucena, an immigrant from El Salvador and U.S. citizen, agrees with Ahbue’s sentiments to allow undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. to stay.

“There are always going to be undocumented people here. Unless there is a document that somehow suddenly says they are no longer illegal, it will always be an issue,” said Azucena.

Currently, President Obama ordered a series of executive actions to change immigration policies. His initiatives would allow certain undocumented immigrants temporary stay in the U.S. and protection from deportation. His proposals to crack down on immigration have not gone without debate. Opponents of the policy say that the Obama administration lacks authority without Congress’s consent. However, supporters believe that Obama’s plan is a good step in the right direction, but not a permanent solution.   

Ahbue feels that talk about immigration proposals is good, as it is adding to the discussion of immigration reform. Regardless of his personal battles with the U.S. immigration system, his belief for a better life keeps him tenacious. “There’s a lot of opportunity and means for you to prosper, it’s the American dream,” said Ahbue.

Darfur: The Forgotten Genocide Local Non-Profit Raising Awareness Against the Odds - Feb 22, 2016

For many, a new year often marks a fresh start. However, for places like war-torn Darfur, Sudan, that is not the case. Despite the lack of news coverage, local organizations are teaming up in an effort to help those affected, bring awareness, and hopefully an end to the fourteen-year bloodshed.

One organization in particular, the Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG), is doing just that. Based in the Washington D.C. area, the non-profit organization works specifically with female victims and survivors of the Darfur genocide in the U.S. and Sudan.

The small non-profit develops communication campaigns in order to create awareness about the ongoing genocide in Sudan. “With all the persisting challenges, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) and its supporters remain vigilant and refuse to stand idly by. We decided that we must empower the survivors and the ordinary citizens to speak up,” said Sudanese DWAG president Niemat Ahmadi.

The genocide began in early 2003 when conflict arose between rebel groups and the Sudan government. Rebel forces accused the government of persecuting non-Arab Sudan inhabitants. The government responded to allegations and attacks from the opposing side by implementing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s indigenous blacks. The United Human Rights Council reports that the genocide in Darfur has claimed an estimated 400,000 civilian lives.

“Every day, the government destroys hundreds of villages and the refugees have nowhere to go. The worst part of it all, is that the world seems to think that crisis in Darfur ended a while ago, and what they do not realize is that the crisis is getting worse every day,” said DWAG marketing and communications manger Andrea Rebolledo.

According to the 2005 Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, the region of Darfur is facing the longest-running violent conflict in the 21st century.  

The current situation in Darfur continues to entail a bleak existence for many civilians, as the death toll rises and thousands are forced to leave their homes due to excessive bombing and attacks.

 “2015 was a very difficult year for our people in Darfur. Over three million people still remain in camps and have been there for 13 years as violence escalates and humanitarian efforts are severely restricted,” said Ahmadi.

Cases of rape and sexual violence has also plagued the region. Among those inflicted, women and children remain the most impacted as rape is frequently used as a weapon of war. This trend continues to persists at a startling rate in displacement camps, where women represent a large number of those displaced.

In response, Niemat and her team have been working closely with organizations, such as the Darfur Bar Association, in Darfur to help rape survivors bring their cases to court. “It’s difficult for women to even try and come in to say I’m being raped, can you please help me. But now the lawyers are there, going to different camps. A woman couldn’t do that in the past, if anything did happen it would be the man’s responsibility in the family to figure it out,” said Ada Ba, an outreach intern at DWAG.

Darfur has been receiving foreign and humanitarian aid from various countries, including the U.S. Peace negotiations between the Sundanese government and several nations have occurred in past years, all without prevail.   

In recent years, the U.S. government has stepped back from Darfur resolution talks, as national attention has died downed, however, it continues to send aid. 


 “Many advocates have moved away from Darfur or condone the change of narrative that the government of Sudan and its allies want to hear, replacing the word “genocide” with “atrocities” in order to water down the urgency of the situation. This has let the international community treat Darfur with less urgency and allows the world to move away from focusing on Darfur,” said Ahmadi.

Despite such setbacks, including limited resources and funding, Ahmadi is determined to continue her work. “It’s crucial for the survival of millions whose lives are at risk in Darfur,” said Ahmadi.

Ahmadi ended on an encouraging note saying, “Together, we must continue to remind the world, across the globe, to use their voices, bring more attention to this terrible situation, and demand that our leaders act now before it’s too late.”

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