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People tell me from time to time that this weekly letter can occasionally lean a little too far into the "doom and gloom" of the South. Stories that speak to the problems we face may make for more compelling reads than empty feel-good anecdotes (in my opinion), but sometimes we need a moment to celebrate our genuine wins, too.
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Priding ourselves on great achievements isn't the same as declaring the work done, either—just like indicting bad actors doesn't absolve us of bad news. But success stories free us from the supposition that things here must stay the way they are. We could all use a dose of that lately, I think.

I've been on the hunt lately for the wins that will become historic, and for the lessons they might teach us today. Here's some of what I came up with this week.
How Durham, North Carolina, became the first US city to ban police exchanges with Israel
Zaina Alsous & Sammy Hanf, Scalawag

"We have in our coalition people who are prison abolitionists, and Muslim social justice groups, and folks who are advocating for Black lives. Everyone feels like we have the same self-interest when these struggles are connected to each other."

On April 16, 2018, Durham, North Carolina became the first city in the country to ban local police exchanges with Israel when the city council unanimously passed a resolution opposing any international "military-style" training for police officers.

This story was originally published on May 10, 2018. We're republishing this success story now in support of the South's legacy of intersectional solidarity with Palestine, dating back to the Civil Rights Movement. Over the last 20 years, Israel has trained thousands of American police forces, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and military units, feeding an exchange of tactics used by United States forces against Black and Brown people both at home and abroad. We hope many more cities around the country follow Durham's lead. [Link]
1. Sunrise Activists Are Marching 400 Miles to Demand a Green New Deal Jobs Program
Frances Madeson, Truthout

“Before the pandemic, right now would’ve been all about prom. But now students don’t care about prom, we need a livable future.”

Sunrise Movement, a national youth-led climate movement formed in 2017, is demanding a $10 trillion investment over the next 10 years to mitigate against climate catastrophe. Five activists are taking on the issue of awareness old school style: with a roughly 400-mile march, from the Louisiana Superdome to Houston, Texas.

At a clip of 10 miles per day, the group is making stops to learn from locals in affected communities about topics ranging from the depletion of Louisiana’s crawfish population to workers' protections in petrochemical plants of Cancer Alley. Meet the organizers demanding a future in which their generation can survive and thrive.
2. The Secret Life of Deesha Philyaw
Nadia Owusu, Slate

Philyaw’s stories are very much about freedom—its costs, its shifting boundaries and definitions, the ways in which our conceptions of freedom are reduced and distorted in a world where power is often defined as the ability to control and subjugate others. 

Deesha Phillyaw's debut book, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies—nine stories about Black women caught between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions—nearly swept this year’s literary awards. HBO Max acquired it for a series that Philyaw will both executive produce and write. It's the kind of acclaim that most books—much less a short-story collection, much less a debut, much less a debut collection published by a university press—never receive.

So why did all of the major publishing houses reject it? I think you might be able to guess. “It matters that these women are Black,” Philyaw said of the subjects from her book, “but there are also connection points for people who are not Black. We don’t have to erase Blackness to recognize the universality of Black stories.”
3. ICE ordered to end contract with facility where detained women were sterilized
Tina Vasquez, Prism

A federal immigration agency has been ordered to end its contract with the Irwin County Detention Center, the Ocilla, Georgia, facility where detained women were sterilized without their full and informed consent. 

ICDC made international headlines in September when a complaint from the advocacy organization Project South alleged that ICE and LaSalle Corrections referred detained women to an outside OB-GYN who performed unnecessary gynecological procedures on them without their full and informed consent—including hysterectomies and other procedures that left them sterilized.

Nilson Barahona-Marriaga, a community activist who was detained for 13 months across various facilities at the height of the pandemic, says this news was made possible by those who spoke out against the abuse they experienced and who took to the streets to demand ICDC’s closure.

“What I am telling people is this: This is happening because of the people who spoke out. There is no other reason this is happening. I feel happy and I want us to celebrate this moment, but it is not the end. We have to close down Stewart and every other detention center.”
Sorry I’ve Been So Weird During This Alligator Attack
From the fine folks at McSweeney's Internet Tendency:  "I can’t let my alligator attack consume me. And sometimes, I get tired of talking about it. How many different ways can I say I’m bummed that my skin is getting shredded and the darkness is closin—

BLUBGLUGBLUBHLUBGLUBHLUGLUBLUGUH
Wow, there I go monopolizing the conversation again.

Oh, don’t worry! That was just a death roll. It’s how alligators kill their prey. Did you see the way it clamped down and spun me around like a pig on a spit? It’s trying to dismember and drown me at the same time. It’s mortifying when it happens in front of people like this. I got death rolled while on a Zoom with my boss this week; she had NO idea what to say. I think I ruined her whole morning."
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