A photographer captured a track star's powerful MMIW statement. We all need to know what it means.

A red hand over her mouth. The letters MMIW painted down her leg. What message was this high school track star sending?

When photographer Alex Flett attended the WIAA 1B State Track and Field Championships at Eastern Washington University, he didn't expect that to capture an iconic image of a high schooler with a powerful message.

Rosalie Fish, from Muckleshoot Tribal School in Auburn, WA, showed up on the track with a statement painted on her body—a red hand covering her mouth and the letters MMIW down her right leg.


Flett, a Spokane tribal member, recognized the meaning immediately. MMIW stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women—a movement to raise awareness about the epidemic of native women going missing or being killed. The red hand symbolizes the voices of these women being silenced.

Flett told Upworthy that he knew he had to capture the image as soon as he saw Fish at the meet. "When I first saw her walking down the track to compete for her first event, I was taken aback," he said. "Then all I could say was 'WOW!' I wasn't there to shoot images of her, but I knew I needed to. To capture this moment and the statement she was making, and the possible risk she was taking."

He used Photoshop to edit the coloring of the photo, creating a stark black-and-white image with the red paint highlighted.

When I went to photograph the 2019 WIAA State Track and Field event at EWU this week, I never knew I would be so...

Posted by Alex Flett Photography on Saturday, May 25, 2019

Why MMIW? Because native women in the U.S. face murder rates far higher than the national average.

People in native communities have been talking about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women for years. According to the National Congress of American Indians, native women in some communities face murder rates 10 times the national average, but a lack of official data has made it difficult to seek justice.

For example, according to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), 5712 indigenous women went missing in 2016, but only 116 were logged by the Department of Justice's missing persons database.  

The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence explained some of the findings of the UIHI report:

The report, authored by Annita Lucchesi (Southern Cheyenne), and UIHI director Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), highlights tremendous gaps in the information about these cases documented in law enforcement records and news reports. Of 72 law enforcement agencies surveyed, only 56% provided any data in response to public information requests. Of those, 25% provided incomplete information. Media coverage was sparse. One-quarter of the total cases received any media coverage.
The study found that “reasons for the lack of quality data include underreporting, racial misclassification, poor relationships between law enforcement and American Indian and Alaska Native communities, poor record-keeping protocols, institutional racism in the media, and a lack of substantive relationships between journalists and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”

There are multiple initiatives attempting to address the issue. The Red Ribbon Alert Project amplifies reports of missing or murdered indigenous women on social media. Savanna's Act is congressional legislation which would require updated data collection and protocols for investigating native missing person cases.

But individual awareness acts like Rosalie Fish's can help get awareness of the MMIW into the mainstream.

Fish's statement made a big impact at the meet, but an even greater influence after Flett's photo of her went viral.

Rosalie Fish won three state titles at the meet, in the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter races. But her MMIW statement was what got people's attention.

"The impact Rosalie Fish had on everyone was huge to say the least," Flett said. "Everyone was talking about it, asking questions, many saying they never knew this was an issue."

After Flett posted the image of Fish to his Alex Flett Photography Facebook page, it took off. In just a few days, it's been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, which he hopes means more people will become aware of the issue.

"The main reason I think more people aren't aware of this issue is because there isn't as much talk about it out in mainstream America and definitely not enough light brought to the topic," he said. "I wanted to do anything I could to help bring awareness."

Flett hopes that his image "opens doors to conversations that need to be had about Murdered Missing Indigenous Women out in 'mainstream America' and not just among people in Indian country."

Kudos to Rosalie Fish for her courageous act to raise awareness for MMIW, and to Alex Flett for representing it so beautifully.

For more information about MMIW, see mmiwusa.org and follow MMIWUSA and Red Ribbon Alert Project on Facebook.  

lop
More
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's