New Emmett Till memorial sign to be bulletproof because people won't stop being racist a-holes

Emmet Till was a fun-loving 14-year-old, always joking and pulling silly pranks. In 1955, while visiting with family in Mississippi, he allegedly flirted with a white woman in a grocery store. Four days later, the woman's husband and half brother broke into Till's uncle's house, kidnapped the boy at gunpoint, beat him severely, gouged out one of his eyes, and then shot him in the head. Using barbed wire, they tied a large metal fan to his neck and threw him into the Tallahatchie River.

When Till's body was found three days later, his face was unrecognizable and a monogrammed ring he wore had to be used to identify him.

The two men who kidnapped him were arrested, and three weeks later they stood trial. After less than an hour's deliberation, the all-white, all-male jury acquitted the men of all charges. After brutally murdering an innocent child, they walked free.


Till's mother insisted on her son's remains being placed in a glass-topped casket so the world would see what racism and white supremacy had done to her only child. The images from his funeral served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement that followed.

Such a clear-cut story of racial violence should easily bring all Americans to the same page, right? We should all agree that such a heinous act and gross miscarriage of justice should be treated with some level of reverence and respect. We should all agree that the scene of such a violent, tragic crime against a child should be considered a sacred place. That should just be a given, shouldn't it?

Apparently it's not a given for the people who can't stop defacing the memorial sign marking the spot where Emmett Till's body was found. It's not a given for the people who stole the original memorial marker in 2008 and threw it into the river. It's not a given for the people who shot 317 bullets through the second sign, nor for the people who shot up the third replacement sign barely a month after it went up.

It's not a given for the three Ole Miss frat boys who posed in front of the bullet-riddled sign holding shotguns and rifles just recently, either. Till's memorial marker has had to be replaced four times in a little over a decade because some people apparently can't stop being racist a-holes.

I mean, really. How sick do you have to be to desecrate a place where a tortured, murdered child's body was found? How brazen do you have to be to shoot holes in a memorial for a child that was killed by being shot in the head? How heartless do you have to be to think there's anything okay about posing with guns and smiling at the camera in front of a sign that describes how a child was brutally murdered?

The marker will once again be replaced, this time by a 600-pound, reinforced steel, bulletproof sign. The fact that a child's memorial marker needs to be made bulletproof should send a chill down everyone's spine.

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I hear people try to say that racism isn't really a thing anymore, as if the passage of the Civil Rights Act magically removed centuries of racism from every American heart. I hear people say racism would disappear if we stop talking about it, as if the word "racism" somehow conjures racial injustice to appear out of thin air. I hear people say stories like this one perpetuate the issue, as if describing something that happened somehow causes things like it to happen.

I hear people talk about "white supremacy" only in the context of Neo-Nazis, as if white supremacy hasn't been the default of our nation since its founding.

Racism is intertwined with America's foundation like a root system, and uprooting it is a messy and arduous process. The civil rights movement may have cut down the most visible weeds of white supremacy at the surface, but it didn't uproot the whole system. If we don't dig deeper down, if we don't get the dirt under our fingernails and constantly strive to pull those weeds from the root, they'll never really be gone. Racism will keep on cropping up in ugly ways.

RELATED: Mom's tweet thread about playground racism went viral because parents need to hear it

Things like shooting up Emmett Till's memorial marker is an ugly, visible weed of racism that keeps cropping up, but it's not the whole problem. Let's condemn such horrific actions, absolutely. But let's also recognize that racism exists in degrees that all of us need to constantly weed out if we ever hope to rid ourselves of it once and for all.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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