3 women set out to deliver a package. On foot. 250 miles away. Here's why.

Remember those stories you heard as a kid about people walking a really long time for something they believed in?

In classic tales...


and Bible stories...

And history books?

It always seemed like such a romantic idea. But in real life, today, 2015, how far would you actually walk for a dream? For a vision of a better life and world?

How about 250 miles?

That's what these three phenomenal women just did.

Take a good look at this picture.

On April 13, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory left Staten Island to start a nine-day, 250-mile walk from NYC to Washington, D.C.

Why?

They were fed up with years of police brutality and injustice toward people of color all across America, especially after the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in December 2014, right in their backyard of New York City.

They had reached their limit.

The three had been activists for most of their lives but knew it was time for something out of the ordinary. They wanted to do something disruptive and epic and a little crazy.

So they decided to walk.

And they weren't alone. Nearly 100 marchers took the trek with them.

Passionate walkers of all ages and ethnicities walked side by side for 250 miles, tweeting their reasons for marching under the hashtag #whywemarch.




And while they had their personal reasons for going, together they had one clear goal:

Bringing a “Justice Package" of legislation proposals to Congress.

The package includes three proposed pieces of federal legislation:

  • The End Racial Profiling Act that would do exactly what its name suggests: prohibit law enforcement from profiling based on race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
  • The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would amend the current law that allows the Department of Defense to transfer its excess equipment (like the military-grade vehicles and weapons that were used to police peaceful civilians in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri) to federal and state law enforcement.
  • The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act would create a federal-state partnership to support prevention programs that give young people alternatives to incarceration.

They stopped in Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and were joined by supporters in every city. They were welcomed at churches, mosques, schools, and community centers with dinners, rallies, prayer circles, and vigils.

There was music, food, poetry, press, deep conversation, and lots and lots of tears. Especially when they were joined by the parents of victims, elders of the community, and children.

By day, they walked in the hot sun and pouring rain. By night, they slept on air mattresses and rested their bruised and swollen feet.

They popped off knee braces and ankle wraps and hoped that their legs would make it just a few more days. One walker, Malik Hubbard, even injured his Achilles tendon on the trip.

But every morning, he and everyone else got up and kept walking. City by city, the same thing.

Until they got to Baltimore.


On the seventh day of the march, the group arrived in Baltimore just as horrific news was breaking: Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was rushed to the hospital with a severed spinal cord after being chased and tackled by officers, had died.

The local community was outraged and emotional, and intense protests ensued, right in the presence of the marchers. Then, according to marcher Alida Garcia, this happened:

"We happened to be marching through the very neighborhood of the police precinct so we marched there and met up with Freddie's family and friends. Tensions were high, young men wanted answers, simple answers to questions like 'what happened?' that have gone unanswered for over a week as he was put in a coma. People saw an officer who was on the [scene] and walked over to ask questions. Things were getting a bit impassioned and little, 5-foot-something Tamika courageously pushed her way in between the police and the protestors reminding them that we're fighting a system, not individual people and that being organized can get us the answers."

It was a painful, real-time reminder of exactly why they were marching.

So they kept going.

Now, back to that picture.

This photo was taken as Linda, Carmen, Tamika, and the rest of the marchers finally crossed the line into Washington, D.C.

That's the look of victory.


They made it to Washington just in time for a series of planned events. The final march from Howard University to Capitol Hill, a concert and a rally that included celebrities like Jussie Smollett from Fox's hit TV show "Empire," the fabulous "Grey's Anatomy" actor and activist Jesse Williams, and legendary actor Danny Glover.

Then, they went on to hand-deliver the Justice Package that they walked so far to share with members of Congress. And so ended the epic #March2Justice.

But it's really just the beginning.

Sure, the marchers will all go back home and continue their work. The news cameras will disappear and the hashtag will die a quiet, peaceful death like all other fleeting, trending topics.

But imagine just how many people were inspired by seeing a new generation of marchers take a stand for what they believe. Or how many little girls will grow up to be powerful leaders because they saw three humble young women turn the vision and a dream of a march — that no one thought they could pull off — into reality, all in the name of justice?

Maybe one day, theirs will be the long-walk story that is told alongside the fairy tales and Bible stories and history lessons.

To support their work, don't just share this post. (Although you should totally do that too. They walked 250 miles. We can at least spread the word about what they did, right?) You can also donate to the NY Justice League for their ongoing activities. And make sure to check out their Instagram account for more breathtaking photos of the nine-day march.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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