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More than 6 decades after his violent death, the story of Emmett Till lives on.

Black lives matter, and it's about time society got on board with that.

More than 6 decades after his violent death, the story of Emmett Till lives on.

(Trigger warning: contains descriptions and images of violence against blacks.)

On Aug. 28, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was visiting Mississippi relatives when the unthinkable happened.


Emmett Till. Photo from Till/Kickstarter.

He was in town from Chicago, visiting relatives in the small town of Money, Mississippi. Days earlier, Till, who was black, allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old white woman. On the evening of Aug. 28, Carolyn's husband, Roy Bryant, along with his half-brother John William Milam, kidnapped the 14-year-old from his great-uncle's home. The two men tortured and shot the boy before dumping his body in the nearby Tallahatchie River. Till's body was held down by the weight of a 70-pound fan that Milam and Bryant tied to the boy's neck with barbed wire.

Three days later, Till's lifeless body surfaced miles downstream.

Till's original gravesite in Alsip, Illinois. His body was exhumed in 2005 as part of an FBI investigation. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Till was buried in Alsip, Illinois, by his mother, who famously insisted her son have an open-casket funeral.

Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, held a viewing on Sept. 6. Her son's face had been brutally disfigured during the attack, but she maintained that there would be an open casket. She wanted the world to see the type of violence that was unleashed on her son for doing little more than existing. Just 14 years old, Emmett Till was an innocent child.

Even by today's standards, photos of Till in the casket are considered particularly gruesome. It was a vision of pure, unadulterated hate. That's why it was so important for the public to see what had become of young Emmett. Historian David Halberstam called these photos "the first great media event of the civil rights movement."

Image via MyTillMoment Kickstarter.

Weeks later, an all-white jury acquitted Till's killers after about an hour of deliberation.

During the trial, Bryant and Milam's defense team argued that the body Till's mother showed and buried was mutilated beyond recognition, therefore there was no way of knowing whether it was Till. In other words, the killers' brutality served as the perfect defense.

His killers later admitted their role in his death, but evaded jail time.

Bryant and Milam admitted to Till's murder in an interview with Look magazine the following year. Though the interview flew in the face of their own defense, they were free and clear, since double jeopardy prevented prosecutors from trying them again.

Till was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Till's death helped spark the modern civil rights movement.

For context on where Till falls into the timeline of the fight for civil rights, here's a helpful paragraph from History:

"Coming only one year after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education mandated the end of racial segregation in public schools, Till's death provided an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. One hundred days after Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, sparking the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott. Nine years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing many forms of racial discrimination and segregation, one year later it passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing discriminatory voting practices."

Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp wants to bring Emmett's life to the big screen.

Beauchamp directed the 2005 documentary "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till." But now he's creating a feature-length docu-drama about Till's life and the role his horrific death played in the civil rights movement.

Keith Beauchamp. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Beauchamp launched a social campaign called #MyTillMoment asking people to reflect on his life.

The video diaries he received in response are poignant examples of personal growth and determination that can come as the result of a tragedy, and how a single event can shape the course of history.

The civil rights movement isn't past tense.

It's easy to look at Till's murder and think, "I can't believe that happened." It's more disheartening when you look at Till's murder and think, "I can't believe this is still happening." What Till experienced was in many ways similar to what Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others continue to experience in modern-day America.

Looking back on Till's murder, it's clear that he was failed by a society that didn't value black lives and a justice system that delivered anything but. It's clear that something needed to change, but has it? "Stand your ground" defenses and police officers claiming that unarmed black men make them fear for their lives aren't that different from the excuses used by those who rallied for Till's murderers' acquittal.

How do we fix it? Let's look to how Black Lives Matter activists are continuing the fight.

The reason why people continue to assert "Black Lives Matter" is because our society is six decades removed from the brutality of Emmett Till's death, and we haven't learned a whole lot since.

In 2015, activist DeRay McKesson launched Campaign Zero, a program aimed at ending police violence. It's plans like these that leave hope for a better future. While it's easy to get disillusioned, it's important to remember that there are some great people with great ideas pushing for a better future.


More than 60 years later and the fight continues in memory of Emmett Louis Till.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love 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!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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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

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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

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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."

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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

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

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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.

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