be brave

The Alphabet Rockers

By: Bella Kolfenbach, 4th grade

Last Thursday, the Alphabet Rockers came to my school to give an assembly. When someone comes to our school to do an assembly, I usually have a favorite part, but when the Alphabet Rockers came,  I did not have a favorite part because I thought everything about them was amazing. They want to show the world their shine. What I think is cool about them is they want people to be who they are and who they want to be. They traveled all the way from California just to tell people that they are amazing and that you are amazing. They talked about how you CAN BE DIFFERENT IN MANY WAYS BUT YOU NEED TO BE PROUD, EVEN IF YOU ARE DIFFERENT.

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During the assembly, they told us their stories. This showed us how they shine. Kaitlin’s story is that when she was little she loved music. So one time she went to a talent show and most of the people who were performing were boys. But she still went up there and showed what she could do. And then she met her friend, Tommy. Tommy told a  story of how when he was younger, he was judged by his skin color. He had to learn to stand up for himself. He also had good friends, like Kaitlin, that would stand up for him if someone said something mean.

One of my favorite songs they did was called “Shine”. I liked this song because it talked about how even though we are all different, we all shine and should show our shine. My favorite thing it says in the song is ‘(I’m) not just a star, i’m-a i’m-a galaxy’. I think this means that you are not just a little thing in the sky, you can shine and be as big as a galaxy and be as big as anyone else, no matter what you look like. This REMINDS ME OF A MOVIE called “Wonder”. There is this part where the sister says, ‘you can’t blend in when you are born to stand out’. We may all be different, but we are each meant to shine!

When the Alphabet Rockers came to my school, I learned many things. I LEARNED THAT YOU NEED TO STAND UP FOR OTHER PEOPLE AND BE KIND TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT. I learned is that it’s OK for PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT to STAND OUT. I learned that sometimes people see people who are different as something ugly or scary, just because they are different. I learned this happens more often to black people. What made me cry, and trust me it is really hard to make me cry, is that black people or people who are different are not getting treated as well as white people.  I kind of knew this before, but it made me want to try harder to change how people treat each other.

The Alphabet Rockers are teaching kids that we are each as big as a galaxy, not just a star. And also that you are not just a star, you are a galaxy. You are amazing and can shine in a fun and encouraging way. I want to be just like the Alphabet Rockers and teach kids that they are important and beautiful, and do it in a fun way. One of my favorite moves that they did was called the ‘meatball and spaghetti’. The ‘meatball and spaghetti’ is where you crunch up into a ball and then slowly lift up your arms and rattle them. It looks like this:

 

The Alphabet Rockers are cool, fun, funny, awesome, loving, brave, kind, and helpful. And that is all I have to say about the Alphabet Rockers. You should see them some time.

About the Author:

Bella Kolfenbach is a 4th grader at Isabella Bird Community School in Denver, CO. She is a big sister to two brothers, a slime expert, stitch-lover, and good friend. Her dream is to convince others that all people should be treated equally.

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Girl Rising

By: Lisa Abuogi

Late in the evening on a crisp November evening, I went into labor with my first child. We drove 30 minutes to the pristine University Hospital where I planned to deliver. When the baby’s heart rate kept dropping a team of doctors and nurses from multiple specialties crowded the room prepared to save her life and protect mine. My daughter, Lailah Atieno was born healthy on the 23rd of November, 2010.

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I was living in Kenya at the time of Lailah’s birth, working in remote rural regions hit hard by the HIV epidemic. On one visit to a faraway clinic, I remember bouncing along the muddy roads 7 months pregnant thinking, “What happens if I go into labor right now?”. I chose to return to the U.S. for delivery. As a pediatrician myself, I knew the complications that could happen during labor and delivery. I wanted to give Lailah the very best chance.  I was privileged to have that option.

When Lailah turned 2, my Kenyan husband and I decided to relocate to the U.S. We wanted Lailah to have the best educational opportunities possible without having to pay top dollar for private schools. Again, we were privileged to be able to give her that.

But Kenyan girls and women are never far from my mind. I return three times a year for work on HIV. I see first-hand the challenges girls face trying to get an education. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of girls start primary school but only 8% finish secondary school. Girls drop out for lack of money (only elementary school is “free” in Kenya), due to missing too much school during menstruation, after getting pregnant, and to help at home. They are 6 times more likely to become child brides without a secondary education.

I want all parents to have the options we have had for our daughter- health and education. We focus on girls because they are so often left behind and excluded which hurts us all. For every additional year a mother is educated, the chances of her infant dying drop by 5-10%. Each extra year of secondary school can help a girl increase their future earnings by 10-20%.  

Brave Coalition is joining Women in Security and Regis University to celebrate the International Day of the Girl by screening the incredible documentary Girl Rising. These stories will bring you to tears, inspire you, and push you to act. Get tickets to the screening on Friday, October 20th. Join us. When girls rise, we all rise.

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What is a Hate Crime?

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In the last few months, amid a crazy news cycle, some stories have lingered and continue to haunt me. A white supremacist in Oregon kills two men who intervene to stop his racist rants; a 17-year-old girl in Virginia is killed after leaving a mosque with friends; an Indian man is killed at local bar in Kansas; a noose is found hanging at the Smithsonian National Museum of African History and Culture; a pride flag is burned in California. Which of these is a hate crime? Does it matter?

A hate crime is motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, and usually involves violence. Originally, the FBI only investigated hate crimes if the victim was engaged in a “federally protected activity” such as voting or going to school. But in 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act authorized the FBI to investigate these crimes regardless of what the victim was doing when it happened. This landmark law also expanded hate crimes to include those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identity.

Bias incidents are considered expressions of hate where no crime is committed. They also have negative effects on individuals and communities and can threaten to escalate into full hate crimes.

How prevalent are hate crimes?

Disturbingly, hate crimes and bias incidents seem to be on the rise, such as the hate crime that became a rallying cry to form the Brave Coalition. The FBI reported 5,850 hate crimes involving 7,173 victims in the U.S. in 2015. But the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests at least half of all hate crimes are not reported. Among the hate crimes documented by the FBI, 57% were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias, 21% by religious bias, and 18% by sexual-orientation bias. Of those related to religious bias, 51% were anti-Jewish, 22% anti-Islamic, and 4.4% anti-Catholic. 

While the most egregious events get coverage in traditional media, social media has created a venue for spreading hate. Social media is fueling organized hate groups, as well as hate speech and trolling. A recent study from Safe Home, a security organization, reported that “likes” on hate group tweets and comments rose more than 900% between 2014 and 2016. While the actual number of twitter followers for these hate groups is relatively small, they can have a disproportionate effect on targeted groups and our society as a whole.

But why does it matter?

Isn’t a murder a murder regardless of what motivated it? Can’t people on social media just ignore hate speech? Increased penalties for hate crimes reflect that the crime wasn’t just targeted at an individual, but leaves an entire group feeling vulnerable. In addition, hate speech on the internet can reach a relatively large audience very quickly and can be a motivating factor for some to actually commit hate crimes. 

What about free speech?

Interestingly, the FBI points out “Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties”. The tension between free speech and preventing hate incidents is at the heart of American values. The Brave Coalition, in collaboration with the Mizel Museum and the Jewish Life Center-Chabad Denver North, invites you to consider these competing values at a unique screening of the incredible documentary Surviving Skokie, taking place on July 30, 2017 from 10am-12pm at the Stanley Marketplace Hangar.

The documentary tells the story of 7,000 Holocaust survivors in an Illinois community who, after years of silence, banded against a neo-Nazi group threatening to march on the town. This special event will include a post-screening question and answer session with the main subject of the film, an incredible man named Jack Adler. It will encourage reflection on hate in our society and contemplation of what individuals and communities can and should do in response. 

What can you do?

As the Surviving Skokie event approaches, here are some resources worth exploring:

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