How many Ahmaud Arberys is it going to take, America?

It's a story as old as America itself. A story we've heard so many times we've collectively got it memorized.

Chapter 1: Black man lives his life. White man thinks black man living his life looks suspicious. White man kills black man.

Chapter 2: White killer goes home and lives his life. Black man's family reels and cries for justice. Black man's community reels and cries for justice. Weeks or months pass, until the cries for justice grow long and loud enough that someone in power actually listens.

Chapter 3 is a cliffhanger, every time. Will the white killer be arrested? This time, yes. Will he be convicted? We'll find out in the next chapter—but don't count on it.


Anyone who is shocked by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery—an unarmed young black man shot by two armed white men while jogging through a suburban Georgia neighborhood—has not been paying attention. This is not new. This is not shocking. This is the ongoing history of racism and racial injustice in America.

And it's not just the shooting itself, which appears to be a pretty blatant modern-day lynching. It's the legal system that processes the killing. It's the law enforcement agencies—which the shooter used to work in—charged with investigating it. It's the justice system that will determine whether these men are guilty of murder or if they were justified in killing this young man.

It's also the law itself, such as the "stand your ground" and "citizen arrest" laws in Georgia that will be undoubtedly be used as a defense. Since research has shown that racial minorities are more often perceived as a criminal threat, such laws disproportionately impact people of color.

As civil rights leader Markel Hutchins said, "Fear is, oftentimes, based on one's own bias, so when you have public policy that literally lends itself to people being able to commit crimes or shootings under the color of law, because they're reasonably afraid, it makes a bad public policy and puts the constitutional rights of so many people around the country in jeopardy."

Because law enforcement has traditionally been dominated by white men, white male citizens taking the law into their own hands feels less problematic than it should to many people. The image of white male heroes taking out criminals is baked into our subconscious, and we have such a long history of murder with impunity, seeing black men being killed has become disturbingly normalized. Toss in the infiltration of white supremacists in American law enforcement—yes, really—and we have a richly laid-out background setting for this all-too-familiar story.

It's almost absurd how neatly Ahmaud Arbery's killing follows the expected plotline and leaves us with familiar questions. Why was the encounter filmed in the first place? (That fact alone should give us pause—his murder was filmed, and not by police.) Why did it take two-and-a-half months for these men to be arrested when the police had the crime on video from the get go? Why did it take an enormous national effort of activists pushing for justice for just the very first step toward justice to take place? Why did the case have to be taken over by state investigators? Why did it only take them 36 hours to make arrests when local investigators had sat on it for 70-plus days?

As one astute commenter wrote, "Remember, they weren't arrested because the authorities saw the tape; they were arrested because the rest of us saw it." Indeed.

There are other, more specific questions in this case that confound as well. Journalist Jelani Cobb broke down some of the contradictions in the story as told by the defendants' lawyer friend who released cell phone footage of the shooting.

Cobb wrote on Twitter:

There are many more questions than answers re #AhmaudArbery. The video, which looks like a lynching, was, strangely enough, released by a local attorney in an attempt to *defuse* the situation. (Police and prosecutors had the video from the outset.)

In the police report McMichael says he has surveillance video Arbery committing a burglary. Yet DA Barnhill makes no mention of any video in his letter defending the McMichaels, nor has anyone else publicly.

The account McMichael gave police in the report is widely at odds with what the video from the chase reveals. Travis McMichael didn't get out of the car during an exchange with Arbery, he was outside the car, armed with the shotgun, waiting for Arbery to pass by.

Beyond this, the alleged rationale for pursuing Arbery was suspicion of his involvement in a rash of neighborhood break-ins. But as local outlets have reported there were no home burglaries reported in the community in 2020.

There are all kinds of contradictions and outstanding questions regarding this situation that should guide how media and investigators approach the case of #AhmaudArbery's death.

We could debate all of the details of Arbery's killing, but doing so starts to distract from the big picture, which is this:

Black Americans don't feel safe in our country for a reason. Black Lives Matter exists for a reason. Black Americans have higher rates of poverty and more health problems and disproportionate crime rates for a reason. Black folks are even experiencing this freaking pandemic disproportionately for a reason.

Every reason for racial inequality and injustice traces back to racism—historical, institutional, racism — in addition to personal, individual racism. As prominent voices and activists—as well as my own black friends and family—keep saying, this isn't new. This has been the perpetual, ongoing, exhausting reality of daily life as a black American for centuries.

And we don't even have to go all the way back to slavery. In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress petitioned the United Nations to call the U.S. government to account for its crimes against black people in America. Seventy years later, despite having won equal civil rights on paper, black people are still experiencing injustice from institutions that are supposed to protect all Americans. We still have laws that can be—and are—used as a cover for racism. We still have to have national campaigns with organizations and senators and citizen petitions in order to get the wheels of justice turning for one black man murdered while jogging. It's ridiculous.

Our black friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances are tired. Not only is the fight for justice seemingly never ending, but Ahmaud Arbery's death just adds to the laundry list of things black Americans have to worry about doing.

This is why it's not enough to just be "not racist." Being "not racist" in a country whose history and institutions have always been permeated with racism doesn't do anything to change the status quo. It's like saying, "I'm not planting weeds" in a garden where weeds keep popping up. That's nice that you're not contributing to it, but you're not actually helping.

Racism has to be uprooted to be eliminated, and that can't be done passively. We have to be willing to continually dig in and get our hands dirty if we ever hope to rid our world of it. Occasional activism like today's #IRunForMaud run are well and good, but occasional activism can't be all that we do.

White Americans (like myself) need to acknowledge that it's not enough to be non-racist and start embracing anti-racism. Start by following black thought leaders. Do an honest, deep dive into the concepts of white fragility and privilege. Join anti-racism groups, such as Showing Up for Racial Justice. Contact your representatives and push them for legislation like California's new Racial Justice Act. Keep on educating yourself and address racism directly when you see it.

Change doesn't just happen; it's created. If we want the stories of racial justice in America to have better endings, we need to play a proactive role in creating a whole new setting and an entirely new plotline for them.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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