Why you mad?

I am an optimist. Really I am. But one week into the outside-of-moxie world and I feel I’m always frustrated by the world around me and sadly lacking 7 other people to discuss it with.

This weekend I was celebrating with a friend for her 21st birthday in New Orleans. It was my first time in this city — the city’s divisions were physically clear. In certain parts of town, residential buildings were dilapidated and unused. But the famous Canal St. was well lit and full of expensive shops and restaurants, Bourbon St. showed almost no sign of having ever been submerged under several feet of water.

I wonder if I’d visited NO a few years ago if I would have been as shaken by the calls in clubs for “sexy ladies” to come up on stage? A man in every establishment with some form of amplification announcing that men please “not touch the ladies on stage, but buy em a drink first!” Ah yes, I thought, another example of capitalism perpetuating rape culture. Selling drinks and women’s bodies along with em! The message was sent loud and clear.

All along the famed Bourbon street, men on balconies above shout and jeer at women below, asking them to perform in some way to earn a string of beads being thrown down at them. Some skip this part altogether, and elect to get a woman’s attention by simply throwing the necklaces at her.

One bar describes the possible “side effects” for the number of signature drinks one consumes. At 4 drinks it reads, “chicks may be inclined to show their tits. I spent most of the weekend contemplating the state of our society as I saw women’s bodies used as advertisements, incentives to purchase drinks, and rewards for paying cover charges.

None of this is unique to New Orleans, of course. I’ve found myself being similarly critical of some parties at Duke, and even in certain places in New York.

In all of these formerly “fun” settings, I am disgusted by things I once saw as normal, and terrified by words and acts I may once have been flattered by. This is a result of my own growth over three years of undergraduate classes and experiences. But for my new habit of making connections between things I’ve read and things I experience from day-to-day, and my tendency to spend time thinking about systems of power and effects of marginalization on people – I have Moxie to thank. As burdensome as it can be to take issue with several things I hear or experience almost every day, it is also a blessing. I can’t speak to the lives and intentions of all of the people around me, but I can speak to my own journey. And knowing how far I’ve come in terms of developing worldview that doesn’t simply accept things as they are makes me all the more grateful to have had such an amazing summer program.

I hope I don’t lose my new habits. I hope I’m getting closer every day to being a true radical – someone who can affect real change. And most of all, I hope I never stop being pissed off at the world. This angry black woman hopes she stays that way.



Sweetest Goodbye

I hate packing. Not that I’ve started literally at all yet, it’s just mentally exhausting even knowing it’s something I’m going to have to do soon.

mickey mouse packing

Parting is such sweet sorrow. I can already feel myself documenting little “lasts” here and there – trying desperately to check the last few things off of my checklist and constantly reminding myself  that “I’ll be back.” The logical and emotional reminders compete for my attention. What thank you gift to get my supervisor? Who haven’t I seen for the last time without a proper goodbye? How many loads of laundry left? How many more happy moments of laughter amongst the Moxies until suddenly I’m back to life at Duke and they’re just a fond memory.

I’m desperately trying to make myself as useful as possible this last week at work – but I can’t help feeling I haven’t done quite enough. How distant the feeling of knowing I could’ve put more effort into a school assignment is from knowing the difficulties of the people I’ve met and worked with at BFDP will continue, for many, long after I’m gone.

A recurring topic throughout the Moxie Project has been comparing ideas of structural change to the symptom-treating “solutions” that are currently in place. At BFDP, structural change is a constant focus. I get to listen and watch lawyers put out little fire after little fire, helping clients who without forewarning are transferred from one shelter to another, who put up with levels of disrespect and distrust from any authority figure they come into contact with, and are expected to be the perfect parent after being forced to live without their children for months or even years. I realize how lucky I’ve been to work at a place so full of collaboration, kindness, and overwhelming amounts of compassion for others.

Even in the midst of doing this exhausting work, I still see lawyers writing legislation that might give more parents a fair shake a second chance. I see social workers planning and attending special events after work and on the weekends that will support and encourage the parents we serve. It’s a place where a very technical training on housing becomes an impassioned rant about how regularly the poor are mistrusted and mistreated by the unfair bureaucracy that runs the city of New York.


Looking back on what I expected out of my summer work, I know I hoped my internship experience would be formative, give me a glimpse into a future I might hope obtain, and help me make connections with people I could relate to.

Formative? ✓

Cool future? ✓✓✓

Folks I can relate to? …

I don’t know about that one. Some days I feel like I work in an office full of superheroes, and I’m just the stand-aside sidekick they allow to do some of the filing. Other days I’m given projects that make me want to ask: “Do these people know I’m just an undergrad with limited real world job experience? Do they really trust me to do this right? ” But they have trusted me, and they continue to. And from my perspective, if even one of the people at my job has ever appreciated anything I’ve done, if I’ve been useful to them in any way, I can rest easy. And maybe, if I work hard enough and let my experiences here continue to motivate me, one day I’ll be able to do something as great as what they do (both individually and as a unit) every single day.

side kick~

It’s hard to walk into a place I’ve come to appreciate so much every morning with the knowledge that my hours are very quickly winding down. I’m already missing my life in New York before I’ve even left. But in a way, I’m grateful even for the end. When you’re confronted by the fact that what you see in front of you is a temporary view, you’re able to appreciate it that much more.

i don't want to go

As I pack my bags (and boxes, I have 2 much stuff), I’m making sure I pack away little impressions of this place – what it’s like to work among these people in this office and how grateful I’m going to be to have ever been a part of this.

Moxie MasterChef

Have you ever been just a little too inspired by a cooking show you watched, and attempted to create a dish by just throwing ingredients together? Even as a kid, I wished my mom would let me cook for once. I just knew that if I put this yummy thing with that yummy thing, something twice as yummy would be the result.

It never quite turns out like that thought, does it?

Throwing ingredients together, does not a gourmet meal make. At least with a recipe, I know what the end result is supposed to look like. I end up wasting good ingredients if I don’t even know what I’m trying to make.

As we rounded out our 5th week and rolled into this much-needed 3 day weekend,

I couldn’t help but start entertaining ecards 3 day weekendthe dreaded thought: What’s next?

Moxie has had, is having, and will continue to have palpable effects on me. I feel like a more well versed, more critical, and more inclusive feminist already. I even tested my skills in the field when a stranger who stole and ate my last piece of pizza crust from across the table got more than he bargained for (read: a diagnosis of typical white male entitlement™, a condensed history of institutionalized racism, and some of the more obvious symptoms of the white supremacy it perpetuates).

But these last couple weeks, I started thinking: Where is it taking me? In just a couple weeks I’ll be flying home, and then just a few weeks after that, I’ll fly up to Duke to start my last year of undergrad!

squidward eye twitch





So where does Moxie fit into my grand scheme? And also… What is my grand scheme? I’ve had ideas and loose concepts of fields to start my “career” in… But lately it’s become abundantly clear that right now I don’t have my exact measurements, preheat the oven to 350, real life recipe.

And the issue with not having a recipe or a clear goal is that it sometimes leaves me less motivated than I should be. Because, what am I even working towards?

I’m learning so much, both academically and socially, in this program. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how I’m going to make my final 3 weeks count. I’ve felt like I need to figure out exactly how I want to use this.

And then I remembered something else I learned before I ever stepped foot in NYC this summer. And the answer may or may not come from the most inspiring, knowledge-building, universally respected source of all:

DukeEngage Academy.

There was a discussion about whether or not DukeEngage is “about you.” Some speakers said it wasn’t, that it should be one big exercise in selflessness.

Another said: of course this about you. And this second voice just made more sense to me. To say that it isn’t about us is to suggest that we have something substantial and irreplaceable to offer the organizations we’re spending a brief 8 weeks with – and that just isn’t true.

Those moments when I feel most inspired or encouraged at work or elsewhere, are the moments when I feel I’ve learned something. Or at least, the moments where I can say “Well, I can put this on my resume skill list.” Even if I haven’t figured out exactly what jobs I’ll soon be applying to.

If nothing else, every new fact or skill I learn here is a way of investing in future Autumn. If an improved self is the goal I’m looking towards, then training my ability to work hard is something I can never get too practiced at. Because if there’s one thing I figured out since working here, it’s that full time work is exhausting.

i own you coffee

I know I’m not the first to come to the realization that I am perhaps my most important ongoing project.

Maybe poet William Ernest Henley says it better:

“I am the master(chef) of my fate, I am the captain of my soul (food).

Or… Something like that.


Take Your Time, Do it Right

Last Tuesday, my morning started like most of my mornings since I arrived here: with a *ping* into my inbox. I checked my email, and when I read who had sent it, I freaked out, just as any student intern, with no useful skills knowing they’re youngest person on staff would. The director? And founder of the family defense practice herself??? Had emailed me??? DIRECTLY?!  

She was inviting me to help prepare for and attend a press conference and hearing at city council. I couldn’t believe it! The only problem? The hearing was the next day. I was on the spot, under pressure, with no time to spare. Basically? I was in my zone. I was asked to find some social science research that would prove a point to the council members about why “length of stay in foster care” wasn’t necessarily a good measure for deciding whether the Administration for Children’s Services was doing a good job. I was also tasked with sending out an email to all of staff, asking for anecdotal examples of clients who had worked things out with older children, to show that it really is never too late for parents and children to work out their issues. All of this was done within a four-hour period, while I was out of the office, all across Brooklyn, meeting with one client after another, and as the signature reads, each email was “Sent from my iPhone.”

Everything was happening at once on this particular day. I was corresponding with clients, leaving messages for our administration, and taking notes on who I spoke to and what was said during my time “in the field.” I felt, on the surface, particularly overwhelmed but I felt something else too. A thrill. The same thrill I often feel while at Duke. When people are counting on you to get things done and know all the answers, and it seems like every thing that could happen is happening all at once. At least for me, those moments have become all too familiar. They are moments that accumulate into the regular once-a-semester emotional breakdowns and loss of all motivation (which may or may not have grown into thrice-a-semester over the years). But the sense of purpose I feel in those moments of time crunch are addicting. They’re the moments in which I feel most useful.

And then, the “should’ve been expected” unexpected occurred. The hearing was rescheduled. We’d have more than a week more to prepare, gather stories, solidify research. Nothing wrong with that. The next day I opened the document I’d been adding quotes from research papers to… And found myself stressed. What if this wasn’t topical enough? What if I wasn’t looking in the right places? The speed at which the word document grew slowed significantly from the one day I thought I’d had to prepare it. When the day of the actual city council meeting came, I had something to contribute, but I’d honestly let myself down. I know I could’ve done more, done better research. And though there had been plenty of other projects keeping me busy in the meantime, I realize there is yet another drawback to being a person who works best with a metaphorical fire burning under their butt. Sure, you’re a chronic procrastinator. Yes, you tend to sprint to the finish line and have to recuperate for a while afterwards. But also, when the “fire” you’re used to is burning slow, and there’s more smoke than open flames coming off of it, you won’t know what to do. I realize that the work I do at BFDP is often a lot of running from one place to another, meeting here, meeting there, sending off this email and replying to 3 others. But there are also things that require time, effort, forethought, and planning. And that is the performance area I intend to work my hardest at improving in the 4 ½ or 5 weeks (WHAT?!) I have remaining.

It’s just like all of the unsolicited but honestly good advice I keep getting from law students and practiced attorneys at my job when I say I’m still deciding whether or not I want to go to law school: “Take your time. Don’t go right into law school. Make sure every decision you make is worth it. Know what you want before you go for it.”

In the end, the testimonies, like the hearing, were postponed. I got to watch public advocates and council members sling mud and throw shade at ACS for the less-than-stellar statistics concerning foster youth the administration has been reporting. But I unfortunately did not get to stay and hear our director speak on the proposed legislation, and present some of the research I helped compile. When the director of BFDP started the organization almost ten years ago, she simply saw a need that wasn’t being met. Seeing now what amazing people the program has drawn and all of the important work the practice has done makes me realize that even if you don’t end up using your work the way you expected, it will pay to be prepared.

Autumn in New York™

21 moments that have made the first week of Autumn in New York™memorable:

  1. When after successfully finding my way to work two days in a row, my overconfidence brought me two whole train stops in the wrong direction.
  2. When I unashamedly changed from my business flats into Sperry’s on the train home (every day).
  3. When I saw my first rat in the city an managed to keep a straight face.
  4. When I concluded that no one really knows exhaustion until they’ve woken up at 5am, stood in line, gone on an intense scavenger hunt, and been rained out of an outdoor play.
  5. When the Moxies made people watching into a competitive sport.
  6. When I fell on the subway for a good 14 consecutive seconds, to the extreme dismay of the man in front of me who’s personal space I unintentionally intruded.
  7. When I confidently led the entire Moxie group 3-4 blocks in the wrong direction because I put the address in as New York and not Brooklyn.
  8. When I walked right past the door to our building on the way home – but totally passed it off as though I was looking for someone, then I gave up and turned back.
  9. When my budget was so ingrained in me, I chose to walk home completely soaked rather than part with $15 for an overpriced poncho at Shakespeare in the Park.
  10. When I successfully used the “Find my Friends” app to stalk a friend onto the train and scare/surprise her (sorry Amanda).
  11. When you know you’ve found your people when you start singing the “F-U-N” song from Spongebob and everyone else chimes in.
  12. When I accepted my fate and went 7 for 7 on turkey and cheese sandwiches every day since last Sunday.
  13. When I successfully managed to leave a message for someone at work, using a translator, in a language completely foreign to IMG_9226me… Only to realize I’d left the wrong callback number.
  14. When I got this great shot at “The Promenade,” an area I will most definitely be returning to for another sunset.
  15. When, seconds after this picture was taken, I splurged and wasted a whole 50 cents of my DukeEngage stipend on a telescope that just didn’t work.
  16. When I ordered my first Amazon package – only to realize the city and state were still set in Texas.
  17. When my no one judged me for having stopped at two different .99 pizza joints on the way home… I had to compare them, y’know?IMG_6699
  18. When I passed by the theater Hamilton happens at, and managed (mostly) not to cry.
  19. When, for the literal hundredth time, my frantic babbling and stupid questions at work were met with understanding smiles and genuine willingness to help.
  20. When I proudly grocery shopped in the city for the first time, then got outside and remembered I now had to carry several heavy bags all the way home.
  21. Managed to get myself so busy that I sort of forgot that tomorrow is my 21st birthday.  Wanna know what gifts I really want? A long nap, a park full of dogs I can pet, and to be able to eat as many honey oat bagels with strawberry cream cheese as I want without gaining a single pound.

Okay, Ladies, Now Let’s Get Information

beyonce bookCiao! I’m Autumn Carter, I’m a rising senior (???? somehow), 20-year-old from Houston. I study Public Policy and International Comparative Studies and I stole this post title/joke from the internet.

Beyoncé references are kind of something I do often. Queen Bey and I share a hometown, a last name, and more recently, the self-label of Feminist. Beyoncé came under scrutiny when her 2014 song, ***Flawless included a recording of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describing the word as follows:

Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

And yes, I did type that  from memory. Adichie’s statement surprised many, but some feminists were disappointed in what they felt was an oversimplification of the word. Beyoncé’s newest album included another quote from an activist, even further from the mainstream. In her newest video, Malcolm X’s voice is heard saying:

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.
The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America is the black woman.

Upon hearing this speech excerpt, I could have cried. Beyoncé went even further. She labeled herself an intersectional feminist. She acknowledged the fact that women of color are left out of conversations about race and conversations about feminism.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my social sciences education thus far, it’s that discoveries of the truth start small. Usually, a moral realization is initially made by someone who lacks the ability to make their idea widespread. But over time, ideas and truths spread. All throughout history, those who most need their voices heard and their stories told are often in the worst possible position to do just that. Until one day, a person or entity with a wide reach of influence gets ahold of the important truth, is convinced of its veracity, and spreads it.

But something else happens when an idea or issue makes it into the mainstream – it becomes incredibly diluted. Beyoncé didn’t write an album dedicated to the intricacies of the untold history of Black women’s plights. She didn’t publish an open letter to Lena Dunham on the ways mainstream “white” feminism excluded her. Her statements, set to music, were quick, succinct, and simple.

And although there is always more that could have been said – I know one thing for certain. Beyoncé’s Lemonade will be viewed many more times by many more eyes than YouTube star Franchesca Ramsey’s 3 minute video titled “WTF is Intersectional Feminism???” ever will. So say what you will about Bey’s statement, but it gave the term a level of coverage it never would have received otherwise.

Behind every little social justice-y statement of Beyoncé’s and behind every Oscar winner’s selfless speech on climate change or the wage gap are countless academic research papers and opinion articles documenting the complexities of that problem or untold truth in detail.

And in today’s digitized world – they’re connected. A controversial statement in a public setting leads to a link to an article your friend shares on Facebook. That article links to a TedTalk on the subject, and that to the bio of a professor who’s an expert on it, and before you know it, you and your smartphone actually learned something.

What has this got to do with me, you ask? Well I, unfortunately, am not Beyoncé. I cannot “change the game with that digital drop.” But I know there are more truths to discover, everywhere. I know that there are people being marginalized and mistreated in ways I have never been exposed to and can’t begin to imagine. And I believe that The Moxie Project, in conjunction with my internship at Brooklyn Family Defense Project, will open my eyes to issues like these. I am ecstatic to have a summer ahead of me that will uniquely give me the knowledge (or the ~information~) to talk about them confidently as well as the experiences understand them personally (or at least as personally as an outsider working for 8 weeks in this community can).

Or maybe I’m completely missingthe mark of what I’ll learn. As my bon voyage date looms closer, all I can do is try and keep an open mind and stand firmly by my intentions to learn and make myself useful as much as possible.

But who knows? Maybe Queen Bey herself will reference and draw attention to the issues surrounding the U.S. foster care system in her next album.