Embracing Autonomy: A Journey of Reflection and Advocacy

Hey there,

Come walk this through with me as I tell you about the impact of my cohort and I’s recent visit to the CHOICES Women’s Center in Queens, New York. It was a transformative experience in the sense that I got to confront my own cultural upbringing, grapple with the topic of abortion, and reaffirm my commitment to women’s autonomy and reproductive rights.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia and living in Ethiopia, as I tell you every week, I was no stranger to the taboos and legal restrictions surrounding abortion. The subject was shrouded in silence, and access to safe reproductive healthcare was severely limited, if not illegal, due to cultural and religious norms. As I entered CHOICES, I carried with me the weight of these societal norms, which had been deeply ingrained in my understanding of women’s bodies and choices for a long time.

Meeting Merle Hoffman, the founder of the CHOICES Women’s Center, was awe-inspiring. Listening to her life experiences and her unwavering commitment to providing a comprehensive and safe space for women seeking reproductive healthcare left a lasting impression on me. It was empowering to be in the presence of someone who had dedicated her life to advocating for women’s rights, especially in the face of the polarization surrounding abortion in the United States.

Before our visit, I had the opportunity to discuss the articles “Your Body, My Choice” by Dayna Tortorici and “The 13th Amendment Case for a Right to Abortion” by Liz Anderson with my cohort. These readings provided a fresh perspective on the historical and legal context surrounding abortion rights, challenging what is supposed to be the “traditional” narrative.

As I delved into the essay by Liz Anderson, I was struck by the connections drawn between the 13th Amendment and abortion rights. The historical understanding of slavery, as elaborated by Tucker, made me understand the broader implications of the 13th Amendment, which bans not only chattel slavery but also “the badges and incidents of slavery.” This includes any treatment that would mark someone as slave-like, which put into context how the civil disabilities faced by women in the 19th century due happened to the law of coverture.

Through this lens, I began to see the parallels between the struggles faced by enslaved Black women and the civil slavery endured by married women. Recognizing that abortion bans were rooted in the assumption that women lacked equal rights to their bodies and their choices, I understood that the fight for abortion rights is intricately linked to the fight against systemic injustice.

The CHOICES Women’s Center visit, coupled with these readings, reinforced my belief in the significance of individual autonomy and the right to make choices about one’s body without judgment or interference. It was clear to me that upholding reproductive rights is not just about protecting legal access to abortion but also about dismantling the deeply ingrained norms and biases that limit women’s freedom and agency. While I didn’t have a sudden life-changing epiphany, being in the presence of such fierce advocates reaffirmed my commitment to championing women’s rights. It’s not about becoming a completely different person overnight, but rather taking small steps to challenge the status quo and empower women in my own community.

CHOICES showed me that being a part of a movement doesn’t require grand gestures. It’s about showing up, being empathetic, and amplifying the voices of those who need it most. Even working the front desk of such a center sends a message. It shows a commitment to taking action and playing a part in fostering a world where women can make their own choices without judgment or fear. Any journey towards change won’t be instantaneous or without obstacles. It requires constant self-reflection and an ongoing commitment to advocate for women’s rights, especially for those who are marginalized and face the greatest challenges in accessing healthcare.

For me, this experience has ignited a fire within, urging me to actively challenge cultural norms and support organizations like CHOICES Women’s Center in college. As I wrap up this reflection, I hope it encourages you to reflect on your own beliefs, actions, and the ways in which you can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable world. Let us continue this journey together, advocating for the rights and autonomy of all individuals, regardless of their gender or cultural background.

“Femininity”, empowerment, and societal expectations

Hello again! Today, I want to invite you guys in joining me on a profound journey of introspection as we delve into the intricate interplay between gender norms, cultural expectations, and personal growth. Inspired by two thought-provoking articles assigned to my cohort and I, we have Anitta Harris’ “The ‘Can-Do’ Girl Versus the ‘At-Risk’ Girl” and Iris Marion Young’s “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality”. I guess today’s blog will serve as my deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in challenging and navigating gender norms?

Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia and later growing up in Ethiopia, I was acutely aware of the ways in which societal expectations influenced my movements, interactions, and overall sense of self. I observed how subtle cues and norms shaped my behavior, from the way I walked, sat, and occupied physical spaces. Reflecting on my time in these cultural contexts, I recognized that societal expectations molded my movements by prescribing a specific set of behaviors deemed appropriate for a woman in each one. These expectations, although weren’t physically restricting me from doing otherwise, limited my freedom of expression and constrained the full potential of my embodied experiences. As Young references in her piece, society almost reduces women’s condition simply to unintelligibility by “explaining” as an appeal to some natural and ahistorical feminine essence. Young was not making universal claims about how all men and women experience and act in the world, but what is typical of women in a tightly defined historical and cultural situation.

Confronting these norms and navigating the complex interplay between cultural expectations and my own sense of self required deep introspection and critical questioning. I embarked on a personal journey of self-discovery, challenging societal notions, and seeking to reconcile my authentic identity with the expectations imposed upon me. It was not a linear process, but rather an ongoing exploration of who I am and who I aspire to be. This journey involved questioning the messages I had internalized, taking tiny steps to unravel layers of conditioning, and taking notes to redefine my own values and beliefs in the face of societal pressure in the future.

The articles acted as catalysts, igniting a desire within me to cultivate a sense of empowerment rooted in authenticity. They provided language and concepts that clarified my thoughts and emotions, deepening my commitment to challenge societal expectations however they may present themselves to me. By getting to read Harris and Young’s pieces, I gained insight into the ways in which gender norms perpetuate inequality and limit individual potential. While it is easy to point out instances of clear-cut inequality, I was made to think about the different and less obvious restrictions on the lives of young women and girls being just as insidious. For example, with the whole idea of “delay motherhood until you have reached full success as a woman” but then STILL being told that you haven’t reached full success until you have bore children for your husband. It reinforced my belief in the limitless capacity of each individual to shape their own life journey, regardless of societal constraints. This realization led me to make sure I am always fostering a space where everyone’s experiences and perspectives will be valued.

While I acknowledge that challenging societal expectations and fostering a more inclusive and equitable world is an ongoing process and not something that can necessarily be done the next day, these articles have propelled me to take tangible actions. I am already taking part in community-based projects (my internship this summer) that promotes gender equality, highlight the growth of young girls, and individually support organizations dedicated to empowering marginalized voices. Through education, advocacy, and personal growth, I strive to create a ripple effect of positive change in my immediate surroundings and beyond.

Thank you for accompanying me on this deeply personal exploration (ew, I know). I encourage you to embark on your own journeys of reflection, questioning, and growth as we collectively work towards a world that celebrates and respects the inherent worth and agency of every individual.

Being Hyperaware in my Moral Community – Weekly Reflection

Today is a very special day. Somewhat because this week has been very ordinary in the sense of what I have come to understand as NYC living. Also, because today I will be attending my first Pride Parade — something that if you told me I would be doing this time last year, I would laugh at you. I also would assume, if you told me on June 25th, 2022, that I would be going to a pride parade a year later, that you were trying to be a little more than just funny.  I would assume you were taking a shot at me, my masculinity, and my sexuality, somehow, and I would feel as if I had to respond. This may be a crazy way of thinking, but it is very common within our society of fragile and toxic masculinity. Not that I am that uptight and hurt by the words people use, but just that this is so rare for me in actuality. And if I am being honest, I cannot say that selling myself on going was easy. I had for so long adopted the societal norms surrounding me, calling such celebrations “taboo,” “demonic,” or even “disgusting.” When some of Alexa’s friends asked, “why I am going” or “why I want to go,” I initially froze. Well, why did you want to go? This question was so much easier to answer alone, privately, without having to worry about my answer being good or respectful. My answer then was perfectly suitable because it was my answer. So, avoiding potential deep conversations, I kept my answer to her friends’ short, saying that I would like to experience the parade, because I have never experienced one or anything like a Pride celebration before. But there was more to that answer.

And to be honest, none of it is even that wild. The summarized, quick answer is also somewhat legitimate. However, the rest of my reason coincides with our seminar discussion on moral communities, specifically focused on how I can become more hyperaware and hyperactive within such communities. The LGBTQ+ community is a community that I have always excluded myself from. I am a cis-gendered heterosexual man. Any relatives that I have who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, live or lived very closeted lives in the terms of sexuality. Lastly, I was not even always on board of the support behind this community. But I also was not always educated, and I was once was simply young, stuck in the echo chamber of my hometown, and deemed this “sinful desire” of these people to be too much for me to sympathize with. As if my own sins, or the sins of the people in my family, friend group, or community, who were so against this movement, were not equal and possibly even more troublesome, than people identifying as LBGTQ+.

I want to touch back on the relative aspect, because that is honestly when my perspective on all of this really, really changed. By the time I got to Duke, I had adjusted to being conscious of how I treated people and what I said to people. I also had accepted the new thoughts that exploring and personalizing one’s sexuality and gender was not a crime. I thank Duke for this, but Duke was not even as large of an influence as I give them the credit for. Instead, I have to credit my late uncle, Uncle Fabian. My Uncle Fabo, as we called him, knew how to light up a room in a way that I have come to copy in my own life, by making jokes about others. Not mean jokes that a bully would tell. But truthful jokes, facial reactions, and significant sound effects to the outlandish things he heard/saw. He also knew how to take jokes and make them about himself. I loved this about him and wish that I could walk into a room that he would be in right now, just to hear what he would have to say about my hair, or my clothes. He passed away the fall of 2021, during my sophomore year. That time was dark for me. That time was also when my family became comfortable expressing to me that he was gay. Why wait this long? I understand not wanting to expose that to me at a young age. In trying to go with God’s words, much of the Southern Black population has come to place being anything other than straight as being under the jail, except for rare cases, such as my Uncle. For many members of my community, their greatest fear was a child being exposed to such lifestyles early and proclaiming themselves at a young age as “different,” as much of my community referred to non-straight or non-cisgendered people as. Nevertheless, by the time that I was a junior or senior in high school, me and my older cousin Darius had put two and two together. So why did we not let Uncle Fabian live his truth in the community we had then? Or was he doing so, just in a community that excluded me and Darius? And why? When I look back, I do not believe that my family or community handled it wrongly. Besides the religious argument, it was also important to remember that we are Black. My community knew that as Black children, we already had our back on the wall. We did not need additional reasons to be discriminated against. I’ve come to understand the situation as a necessary evil in some sort, in which exposure to the realm of sexuality and gender had to be removed to protect one from increasing the difficulty of their live, even if it was living in their truth. It is also important to consider that women were the pillar within my community, and they were determined to prove to themselves and to their men that they could raise a boy into a Man. Simply put, a Man was straight. I believe that for sometime, and even still now, this way of thinking has caused single mothers to avoid exposing their children to the spectrum of sexuality.

After Uncle Fabo’s death and all of the mourning, I thought about this circumstance for some time, and I wished I could ask him about it. Either way, his bravery and understanding that he would have to alter his own reality around his 18-year-old and 20-year-old nephews is something that I wish did not have to happen. Of course, I was too young to really voice my input on such the decision, and I obviously was too young during his life to have a seat at the table that heard about his sexuality.

So, as a way of honoring him, and as a way of becoming more hyperaware and hyperactive in my moral communities, I will be attending parts of the parade today. The same way I intentionally try to avoid bumping into people, I should intentionally try supporting people and being a cheerleader for others, even those that are different from me that I do not know. Life is too damn precious to not be understanding and there for one another. Continuing, life is too damn lonesome at times, for me to not try to be the best communal neighbor that I can be. Yeah, that can be tiring at times— worrying about how good and moral you are being toward others. However, this is worth it; we are all here together, and that deserves to be appreciated.








If a tree falls in the forest?

Wildfire in the Pacific Northwest | The BLM and the U.S. For… | Flickr

It used to be anger

Red hot

But as the air becomes toxic

The PM2.5 in triple digits

The sun obscured

The passion is waning

The disgust is gone

Replaced with sadness

That feeling that nothing will amount to anything

I can’t be mad at the inevitable

Even anger seems pointless in the face of it all

The world will burn

And I’ll burn with it

Bill Gates can sit laughing

All the people the Gates Foundation “lifted out of poverty” 



“I can’t with it anymore, literally what am I supposed to do?”, my sisters voice is screeching from my phone. She had left me a 3-minute-long audio message on Thursday, so I sat there isolated at my desk in the windowless Choices’ office contemplating her anger. I want to respond back with the burning rage that she cast through the speaker. While she exposed her sense of hopelessness, the booming passion she radiated told me that she still believed she could mend the world. I wanted that vitriol and fervor to wash over me, but I felt none. 

How could I tell her that when I saw the news about the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, I cried at my desk. Not even an impassioned cry, just silent tears rolling down my cheek. I couldn’t tell her that I went for a 5-mile run without a mask even though the sky was hazy with smoke. To mask up meant that you believed a future day would be clearer. It meant you believed there could be a future where the sky will be blue and it’s worth preserving your lungs for that future. I guess I’ve realized I’m slowly killing myself, but then again, all of us are slowly dying on a slowly dying planet, so what difference does it make? 

I used to have the ability to care so deeply it hurt, and I like that I see that in her now. The day I graduated high school, I submitted a 10-page document to my county’s board of education explaining how they had failed to raise a community of anti-racist teens. One lady immediately called me to espouse just how much she was moved by my piece of mind. Nothing came of that. 

For weeks, I helped set up early for protests at my county courthouse. There were poetry readings, vigils, and speeches from community members of all ages. Sometimes anti protesters would join the mix. Their calls for white power still haunt me. All of this was to get a confederate monument removed from in front of our town courthouse. Nothing came of that; the statue still sits proudly at our county seat. 

I held the phone up and began to record my response. I tried to raise my voice to match even a tenth of her rage, but the result was unconvincing. Lifeless. I told her that I didn’t know. That not a single action I had taken felt it had amounted to anything, that hours spent knocking on doors to register voters felt futile. I tried to end optimistically, but she’s too smart to see through thinly veiled illusions.

That evening, our MOXIE group went to the Museum of the City of New York, specifically to their “raise your voice” exhibition. The brightly colored room was a spectacle of aspirations. From every direction the sound of protesters’ megaphones and chants emanated. I believe I was supposed to register this dizzying display of the people’s power as a beacon of hope. Instead, I felt swept up in the futility of it all. The same emotional abyss that I felt reading the Supreme Court’s decision came back to me. The photographs and speeches lost their jovial tone. Instead, I felt that I was simply seeing the same cruel struggles play out in different time periods with different characters, but the carnage and suffering was the same. 

The fight for workers’ rights hasn’t ended. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory is now a Shein factory in China.

Orange juice strikes in response to Anita Bryant’s “save the children” have simply taken to new platforms like twitter in response to never ending transphobic and homophobic transgressions. 

I parked myself in front of a wall of screens. The movie playing was just a splicing together of clips from various protest movements over the last century. The sounds morphed into static in my brain. A dull thumping. When all the horrors of the world are at your fingertips, what does it mean? A call to action? Nothingness? A blank stare? Shaking your head disapprovingly then walking to your corporate job to go screw over nameless mothers, fathers, and children?

If a tree falls in the forest, who hears it?

If a protester calls for change, but the whole world screams for change, who hears it?

I don’t know.

I’m really tired.

I think I’ll go to sleep now.

A Reflection on Identity, Activism, and the Struggle for Acceptance

Even with five weeks left to go, it still feels like time is going by so fast. Although my work week wasn’t particularly different from my previous ones, there was a program-specific event that struck me this week. Reflecting on my experience watching the play “THIS LAND WAS MADE”, I felt a sense of resonance to my own journey as a black student navigating a predominantly white institution. This captivating production, set in 1967 Oakland, transported my cohort and I to a time of social activism and a city on the brink of radical change. The play’s exploration of history, imagination, and the collision of different ideologies painted a vivid picture that was able to echo into our present moment in various ways.

The one character I hated, Troy, a black student attending UC Berkeley, stood out to me in a profound way. His struggle with opposing the ideals of the Black Panther Party and seeking validation from white society resonated deeply with my own experiences as a black Duke student. Troy’s relentless pursuit of acceptance and his belief that “leveling up” in society meant conforming to the expectations of white individuals felt very surreal to me, which was probably why I didn’t like him very much.

Through Troy’s character, the play sheds light on the internalized racism and self-hatred that I’ve seen plague individuals in marginalized/POC communities. As he navigates the complexities of his identity, Troy unwittingly harbors a deep-seated resentment toward his black skin. He yearns for acceptance and recognition, unaware that his aspirations for success are hindered by a society that perpetuates systemic racism and denies equal opportunities to individuals like him. He had instilled in himself that if he worked ‘hard enough’, there weren’t going to be any barriers to his success as a judge in the future.

I found solace in the fact that Troy’s struggles struck a chord not only with me but also with many others in my life. He represented so many people I knew in my life, both in and out of school. His journey mirrored the experiences of friends, classmates, family, and acquaintances who, like me, have grappled with the challenges of finding acceptance and belonging within predominantly white spaces. The pressure to assimilate and conform to societal standards, often at the expense of one’s true self and/or adhered to Euro-centric standards, is a burden far too familiar to many individuals in marginalized communities.

Troy’s character served as a poignant reminder of the importance of self-acceptance and embracing one’s identity, despite societal expectations and systemic barriers. It prompted me to question the validity of societal standards that perpetuate the notion that success and validation come only through the lens of whiteness, especially when I had lived in environments to see that it doesn’t have to at all.

This play’s exploration of history, activism, and personal struggles shined a spotlight on the need for continued progress and social change. It reminded me that the fight for equality and justice is continuous and that the legacies of past movements still reverberate through my present in America. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this exceptional production and the profound impact it has had on my understanding of identity, self-love, activism, and the ongoing struggle for acceptance.

Happy Pride!!

Happy pride month, let’s go women… or wait… not women… nonbinary people, queer people, everyone I guess. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about queerness and where it falls in the women’s rights movement. The past few weeks at Choices, I’ve been working on creating reproductive and sexual health materials for transmasculine individuals because even though the clinic is called Choices Women’s Medical Center, their services are still vital for people who don’t identify as women. Last week in our readings, we talked about the Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist movement (TERF) and how they feel that accepting trans individuals undermines womanhood and is an act of patriarchal oppression. This thought process is very present in reproductive rights movements (not to the extent of TERFs) because there is a very specific kind of violence enacted against people who are assigned female at birth. I think it’s important to acknowledge this, and I am still trying to figure out how to improve inclusivity without minimizing this harm. I think that what I’ve been realizing recently is just how much all of these different forms of oppression really intersect, and the roots of the violence live in the same place.

Before I came to New York, I was already reflecting about this summer, and I wrote in my notes app “Feminists who overlook or support violence against trans and queer people are not feminist, they are happily uplifting and committing violence on behalf of the patriarchy”. I wrote that while listening to a podcast and walking my dog along the greenway, and I think that I even feel more affirmed in that response now. By undercutting the rights of other groups we were just fighting each other rather than addressing the overarching perpetrators of harm. I think that this also makes intersectionality near impossible because it forces people to think about their oppression in very narrow facets of their identity. 

I feel very excited by this project I’ve undertaken at the clinic because it really gets to the core of a lot of things I’m passionate about. I certainly don’t have the answers for how inclusive the language used around reproductive rights should be. I just want the resources to be out there and those resources can evolve as the conversation evolves. I understand that the vast majority of the people that the clinic serves are cisgender women, but the whole goal is that every individual person is given another shot to make their life what they want. So, if even one trans person is able to access those services, then that is a win on behalf of the clinic and a middle finger to the patriarchy. So happy pride! Only the patriarchy wins when feminism turns on queer and trans people. 

Diving into Discomfort with #NoFilter

The aroma filled my nose instantly. It was heavy and unpleasant, yet I was intrigued. Not intrigued like a good dinner and happy hour deal, but intrigued like a dangerous curiosity, knowing something is wrong, but wanting to look into it anyway. I made my way home from work, having finished the second day of orientation at Sanctuary for Families.

After sitting through four insightful presentations, one on NY laws related to custody and visitation and one on helping clients receive public benefits, I was honestly tired. I passed by the local Krispy Kreme and remembered I had 4 donuts left in my own box in my room. That almost made me smile, if it was not for this odd smell that was hogging all of my mind’s focus.

Once I got home, I realized that this smell was the smoke of wildfires that were taking place in Canada. At first, I did not pay this any mind, and I swiped past the Instagram post that informed me. I remained inside my place relaxing the rest of the evening.

That next day when I woke up, I could tell that the smoke had got way worse. Not only could you smell it, but you could see it. The city looked the same, except now it had an orange, hazy filter on it. By now, my timeline was filled with news on what was happening. I grabbed my mask, cringing at the thought of having to put a mask back on, and headed to work. Despite the smoke smelling and looking so bad, the city barely slowed down. People were still out moving around, but everyone had subtle looks of shock and confusion on their faces.

As day three of the legal department’s orientation began at SFF, I thought to myself, why did this have to happen now? That thought did not last long, as I tried to get rid of this selfishness. After all, I had plenty of facemasks, a place to stay inside, and much more. This smoke would not affect me as much as it probably would others.

Nevertheless, the day went on. I attended a Sanctuary for Families Gala and Paddle Raising Auction on Pier Sixty, in which I volunteered. Over $300,000 was raised for Sanctuary for Families’ services and clients. I was able to attend the after party, filled with SFF staff, volunteers/interns, and the invited guests. From Seth Meyers to Al B. Sure, there were hundreds of seemingly successful people. I told myself I would network, but once the legendary DJ Flash got on the turntables, it seemed like all everyone, including myself, could do was dance. This instinctive feeling of letting go and dancing brought more joy than networking could have to me, so I am glad that this is how the after-party played out.

Leaving the event brought me back to the reality of the smokey outdoors, and I made my way home masked up.  As of now, the sky seems much clearer, and it seems as if the air quality is getting better. Although not as desirable as a sunset between skyscrapers, another spectacle has made my second week here in NYC memorable, for sure.

Discomfort did not only exist in the air I was breathing though, but also in the material I was learning. Readings that we had this week, such as Detransition Baby and Cat Person sent my mind and previous perceptions of gender, sexuality, boundaries, narcissism, and objectification into a whirlwind— all twisted up and never the same. I cannot describe the uneasiness I felt when reading parts of these works, in which it seems like every character is wrong in their own non-comparative way. The discussion for such readings was tough and personal, but that is what is needed for real change and self-growth to take place. Unlike the discomfort of the smoke, a discomfort that forced you to avoid it in shelter, the discomfort from the readings was more welcoming. Similarly to how I was looking at them, the words of the readings seemed to also be looking at me, daring me to expand beyond my previous knowledge and to dive into their world of new fixations, filled with kinks and pleasures, of which I would have a lot to learn about.

Knowing that I am not the best when it comes to properly gendering, I was hesitant to the discomfort of these readings. (Gendering is something I struggle with, despite my good-intentions). Even more so, I had never spoke about gendering and transitioning before with  people who identified as LGBTQ+, so it seemed like every word I let out was another step out on a block of a minesweeper game, just awaiting for the moment in which I would say something “cancellable”.

Cat Person was much of the same type of discussion, as I felt my self stuck between calling the main character egotistical and narcissistic, despite feeling as if she had been taken advantage of. But by who? The man whom she initiated so much with? By herself? By both? I could not decide, and trying to voice this confusion was an even harder decision. The discomfort of the readings and the discussion combined worked together much like the smoke and the mask did for me. The readings, much like the smoke, were tough, but I initially assumed them to be manageable. But once it was time for the discussion, much like it once it was time to put the face masks back on, I immediately felt the weight of the unknown on my shoulders, pressing me down.


Creating Change Big and Small

I adopted a new identity this past week of working at Choices- Condom Czar or perhaps the Corona Condom Captain. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a public health fair in Corona Queens on behalf of Choices Women’s Medical Center. I woke up bright and early and made the commute to the Corona District Health Center. From 9am to 2:30, the outreach coordinator at Choices and I sat at a small folding table laden with brochures, diagrams, and birth control demo props and talked with passing community members about what services at Choices may be of interest to them.

The most noticeable thing about our table, and what likely drew the most people in, was the piles of condoms in all colors of the rainbow prominently placed on our table. I initially found it uncomfortable to speak with older individuals about their sexual health, but the more I had those conversations, the more comfortable I became explaining to elderly women that they were still at risk of STIs and then I would gesture at them to grab a handful of the free condoms. This experience working directly with the public has made me think a lot about my aspirations for the future and the work I’m doing this summer. 

In high school, I was really involved in local politics, and when I came to Duke, I had planned to study political science and public policy. I felt deeply committed to making change on the global stage. If you had asked me then what my career ambitions were, I would have said senator then president. I had this really firm belief that making change on a small, personal level was so insignificant in the grand scheme of all the injustice in the world. As I navigated my college career, I began to realize how much I value interpersonal relationships and how meaningful small actions to right injustice can be. It was this shift in my perception of change that guided me to completely switch my academic and career ambitions at the end of my sophomore year to begin on the pre-med track. While I still think that significant change has to happen on an institutional level, I think that the devaluing of personal relationships and community building locally undermines any attempt at these larger changes. A lot of progressive organizations and campaigns become so fixated on these large-scale problems and their bright and shiny solutions that they completely forget about the very real harm being done to marginalized communities every day as a result of oppressive symptoms. I think that this prioritization also reflects the fact that the largely privileged individuals writing laws and running these organizations won’t directly feel the impact of these issues and may only identify with their cause on an ideological level.

While both the founder and various staff members at Choices have spoken to me about their work advocating for women’s rights and abortion access, the center is primarily focused on the individual patients who walk through the doors each day. Choices moved to Jamaica Queens because it was one of the NYC neighborhoods most in need of abortion services and reproductive healthcare. Each patient served by Choices is given another opportunity to live their life on the path that they choose. Tabling at the health fair primarily serves to help provide education and contraceptive resources to individuals who happen to pass by. If even one person is motivated to take steps to protect their health then that feels like a win. I have loved the opportunities I’ve gotten these past 2 weeks to help with patients, and it makes me excited about what the rest of the summer will bring and my future career as a doctor. I have thoroughly enjoyed the readings and discussions in MOXIE, but I think that many of these conversations fall into the more ideological realm. I think that our conversations around objectification and harm provide an excellent framework for service, but, ultimately, I think that the small conversations I had with patients in the surgical recovery room at Choices have been the most impactful aspect of my MOXIE journey thus far.


As my average steps a day pick up, the pace of life has seemed to correlate as well. This first week has felt like a month’s worth of experiences bunched up into 7 days… Centering on women in politics as the main theme for the first week has prompted me to digest how my dual role as a woman and minority plays into the political environment I am imposed in. 

During my first NY museum adventure of the summer I visited the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. During my visit I was drawn into the “Deconstructing Power” exhibit by W.E.B. Du Bois, an American sociologist, during the 1900’s World’s Fair. Through his colorfully disturbing diagrams, Du Bois forces the viewer to question if design is an accurate indicator of a country’s progress or a perpetuation of bias. As I was walking through the exhibit I was reminded of how America’s obsession with showcasing progress to other countries was tied into the disproportionate migration of minority groups who built the frameworks of America. Which forces me to question if a country could truly be “progressing” if progress comes at the cost of perpetuating oppression. 

This inquiry into how society’s perspective of progress in some ways pushes systemic racism continued on through the week as I watched Razing Liberty Square as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Razing Liberty Square detailed the displacement of Miami’s Liberty Square residents as the effects of climate change causes sea levels to rise, skyrocketing the value of Liberty Square’s height above sea level. Home to one of America’s first major public housing developments, Liberty Square is undergoing climate gentrification. The Liberty Square initiative that sought to address “crime and poverty” has more so addressed a way to make rent unachievable by residents. And as more “development” is placed onto Liberty Square, residents are fleeting quicker than architecture is being put down due to the destruction of community space and affordability. 

The film and exhibit together call into frame a larger question for myself about how oppressed populations can start to overcome the challenges placed onto them. Pearl Dowe, a political science professor at Emory, details how Black women were able to build autonomy in their societal roles by developing an encouraging culture. This struck me because in most conversations of encouraging equity, I have not heard of building up minority communities as a means to boost social capital. Dowe explains how Black women were excluded from political participation, and as a result have developed strong communities engaged in socioeconomic and political conditions. This beneficial resistance can be summed up into radical imagination: a way to transform visions of social progression into social action. 

The idea of radical imagination fits nicely into my introduction in working with Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) because this is one of their core values. Radical imagination can show up in a multitude of beneficial resistance forms like networking, political mobilization, and office seeking. So far at LEGC the two projects I have been working on focus on cultivating empowerment through ambition/ supporting mental health in girls through community building and familiarizing young girls on the ways to become politically active in their local governments. As I experience radical imagination through local museums, films, and my collaborations with LEGC I am starting to see the strength in socialization of communities. Our communities, especially communities for women and minority groups, enable us to not only take steps forward in terms of building a strong sense of self but also take steps together in terms of civic engagement.


For my work with Right to Be this summer, I am creating a self-accountability training. What is self-accountability training, you may ask? It is an instruction and exercise on how to deal with your innate biases and hold yourself accountable when you act on them. Because of this, I have been doing a lot of readings on accountability. Now, accountability as a whole is very complex and spanning. And while I have not read a ton on self-accountability, reading about how to hold others accountable has got me thinking a lot about my own life. 

To prepare for my task at hand, I was given a book entitled Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. The book is broken into 3 parts: one about working on yourself, one about creating safety in conversation, and a final one about putting this all into action. By breaking it into these three parts, it is easy to grasp the topics and see the flow of ideas and building of momentum and confidence. The chapters in each section seem manageable, allowing the reader not to be overwhelmed with all the tasks and skills that need to be established. The separation also facilitates a learning arc where the reader is able to recognize the issues in their own lives and begin to work towards what they truly wish. I have documented my own journey in this blog.

I have always been one who struggles in the face of conflict, both in just being in it and being the one who initiates something that may lead to conflict. Because of the latter, I often do not try to hold others accountable as I fear their reactions. This was something I was loosely aware of; however, in reading Crucial Accountability, I came to realize how many of my actions resulted from this lack of holding people accountable. They talk about “exploding” or lashing out when it builds to a point where your silence has created so much resentment that you cannot hold it any longer. And as much as I do not want to admit it, I have had those moments of explosion and still hold a lot of resentment towards people and groups that I did not hold accountable. 

This creates an interesting situation as it turns a lot of these feelings back onto myself. I begin to blame myself for lashing out and removing the blame from those whose actions caused the feelings. I am not sure where the balance of these feelings falls, or even how to find that balance. It is also difficult as I think I consider some of my “lashing out” to be instances where I did hold someone accountable, but because that is so out of character for me, it feels like lashing out. And there are a lot of what-ifs. What if I had held them accountable for their actions the first time? Would it have led to a better relationship? Would it have stopped them before it got to the point that I had to report them? I do not have any answers to these questions. 

Something stressed in Crucial Accountability is the idea that you need to ensure that the other person feels safe.

This, to me, was the biggest takeaway from the book as it defuses what leads to conflict before it starts. This tool, for some reason, makes me feel more empowered to hold others more accountable. However, I am not sure if that is enough to start holding people accountable for things that I have long let slide. For new things, yes, but for the old ones, the ones that have been built, I fear that it will look like the claims are coming out of nowhere. 

But, it needs to be done, or at least that is what I keep telling myself. I cannot let others’ actions that bother me and affect me continue to grow as it makes my life miserable as I live in resentment. It gives them too much power that I want back. I do not want to live in resentment and anger due to other people’s actions. And even if they do not change, maybe it is a sign to remove them from my life instead of fighting this silent battle all the time. That is a scary thing too, but it is less scary than feeling as if I am a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment on them. 

This is my year to reclaim things I have lost to these people. To reclaim the activities that they stole joy from, to reclaim the joy, to reclaim my life. This is my promise to myself.