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Alicia Keys released a beautiful video to get 1 million signatures for prison reform.

"Is this who we are now? Is this who we want to be?"

Those were questions first asked by superstar artist Alicia Keys in a Capitol Hill briefing on Nov. 10, 2015, about the alarming state of mass incarceration in the United States. Knowing that the "land of the free" has more people in prison than any other nation in the world, she is now asking those same questions to her millions of fans — and asking them to do something about it.


All images via Alicia Keys/YouTube.

Her new campaign, #WeAreHere for #JusticeReformNow is a partnership between her organization, We Are Here, and Cut 50, an organization that aims to cut the U.S. prison population in half over the next 10 years. The campaign is asking 1 million people to sign a petition that calls on Congress and the White House to take action now.

Keys is latest in a string of celebrities who have recently begun to shine a light on America's mass incarceration crisis. And with good reason.

The issue of mass incarceration is one that touches on so many devastating challenges within our society.

This complex issue is tied to racism, poverty, and inequality (as those who are incarcerated are overwhelmingly black, brown, and poor and receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as their white counterparts), the economy (the prison system is big business for private companies but costs the nation between $30K-100K a year to incarcerate just one person), as well as the issue that is most important to Keys and her organization: the impact of mass incarceration on children and families.

As she says in the beautiful campaign launch video:

"Too many families — and our communities — are being destroyed by mass incarceration. ... Mothers stripped of their sons, husbands, and fathers. Entire neighborhoods torn apart by the War on Drugs. And families struggling to stay together. We need policy reforms that can keep people out of prison who don't need to be there, and ensure that our justice system helps to heal communities, families, and individuals."

(It is, of course, worth noting that not only men are incarcerated. The number of incarcerated women has also increased at an alarming rate over the past decade.)

But whether we're discussing men or women, mothers or fathers, young or old, fundamentally, the root of the problem is about how society views and treats people who have committed crimes, especially nonviolent ones.

Can we really afford the social costs of throwing away countless citizens for drug addiction, desperate responses to poverty, and youthful mistakes? Or are there better, more just, and effective ways to hold people accountable and keep our communities safe?

Criminal-justice-reform advocate Bryan Stevenson, in his famous TED talk and must-read bestselling book, "Just Mercy," certainly thinks so. He believes that the only way to heal our society and end the obviously ineffective cycle of crime and punishment is to stop abandoning broken people, which is an approach that ultimately breaks more people. Instead, we must develop a criminal justice system based on rehabilitation, mercy, and solutions to the root causes of crime. But what does that look like?

What do advocates suggest we do right now?

Well, for starters, Alicia Keys' #WeAreHere for #JusticeReformNow campaign is urging 1 million people to sign a petition demanding Congress and the White House pass meaningful criminal justice reforms before the close of the year. She joins the thousands of other Americans who are asking for laws that do three things:

1. Send fewer people into a broken system that often destroys lives and separates families.

2. Invest in education, rehabilitation, and treatment rather than incarceration and punishment.

3. Address economic, civil, and social barriers to re-entry that can make it difficult for fathers and mothers to participate fully in society once they return home.

There are several bills proposed in Congress, like the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and the SAFE Justice Act, that address some of these concerns. But public support is necessary to encourage swift action.

Check out her powerful video below and learn more about the campaign at Cut50.org.

Kevin Bacon's farm songs have become a social media favorite.

When Beyoncé dropped two songs from her upcoming album of country tunes, Renaissance: Act II, she may not have expected to make history, but that's exactly what happened. Her first single from the album, "Texas Hold 'Em," shot to the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music charts, making her the first Black female artist to hit that top spot. The catchy tune also topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last week in February 2024, a week after it debuted at No. 2.

Presumbaly, Queen Bey didn't expect her song to become an Irish stepdance hit, though that's also exactly what happened. And surely she didn't expect it to be sung by Kevin Bacon to a bunch of farm animals, yet that also has happened.

Perhaps we should all have expected that, though. There's a precedent here, after all.

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Courtesy of Woodell Productions

This speech had all the things, and the Maid of Honor wasn't even there

May we all have a best friend like Ally Lothman.

Lothman had just given birth to her first child (according to Today.com) and was unable to make it to the wedding of her lifelong best friend Michelle Levenson. But Lothman’s Maid of Honor duties were still gloriously fulfilled.

A now-viral video, posted to TikTok by wedding photography and videography company Woodell Productions, shows that even though Lothman couldn’t celebrate in person, her FaceTimed wedding toast managed to bring everyone at the reception—along with everyone who watched online—to tears.
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Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

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Pop Culture

People think everyone should experience these things 'at least once in their lifetime'

Things like seeing an eclipse and having a true best friend make life worth living.

Representative Images from Canva

Here are some things everyone should experience once in their lifetime

If there’s one thing human beings all have in common, it’s our shared impermanence. No matter our race, gender, social class, wealth status, health regimen, moral code, political leaning, or any other divisive element, we all get one life. One life to hopefully fill with as many memorable, soul nourishing, expansive experiences as possible.

But let’s face it, there are more experiences available that there are days and hours in which to do them. Therefore, we have to use discernment. So, which experiences are truly must-haves in our all-too-limited time on this planet?

The answers to this question are undoubtedly personal, but perhaps some things, just like the inevitable exit of mortal coil, are universal.

According to a recent discussion on Ask Reddit, here are things one must absolutely “experience at least once in their lifetime”:
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Family

Helicopter's thermal imaging helps save a young autistic girl lost in a Florida swamp

“I just love how the deputy greeted her. What a beautiful ending. You guys are the best!”

A deputy locates a missing girl in a Florida swamp.

A 5-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) wandered off into a swamp near Tampa, Florida, around 5:00 pm on Monday, February 26. The good news is that the girl was saved in about an hour thanks to the work of some brave sheriff’s officers and their incredible thermal technology.

The girl wandered from her home and was quickly reported missing by her family to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff quickly dispatched its aviation unit that used thermal imaging technology to scan the nearby swamplands to try to find the young girl before nightfall.

Thermal imaging technology captures images based on the heat emitted by objects, allowing us to see temperature differences even in the dark, making it super handy for night vision and heat detection. The thermal technology helped the officers quickly identify the girl from high above the trees.

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Family

10 things kids get in trouble for that adults get away with all the time

Why do we expect children to have more self-control than grown-ups?

Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Kids know when we're being hypocritical.

Raising kids is tough and no parent does it perfectly. Each child is different, each has their own personalities, strengths and challenges, and each of them requires something different from their parents in order to flourish.

But there's one thing that parents have long said, with their actions if not with their words, that justifiably drives kids bonkers: "Do as I say, not as I do."

To be fair, both moral and actual law dictate that there are things that adults can do that kids can't. Children can't drive or consume alcohol, for example, so it's not hypocritical for adults to do those things while telling kids they cannot. There are other things—movies, TV shows, books, etc.—that parents have to decide whether their kids are ready for or not based on their age and developmental stage, and that's also to be expected.

But there are some gaps between what adults do and what they expect kids to do that aren't so easy to reconcile.

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