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.  

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."