Please, take your knee off my neck.


Many days, I find myself mesmerized by my daughter's brilliant eyes and vibrant confidence. She's enchanting, warm, and outspoken. I feel privileged to know her and love her. However, there are also many days I look at her, and far too often, think, "I am thankful that she does not look like me."


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My daughter is biracial.

Even at three, we've already had many interesting conversations about race. Caroline sees herself as brown — dark brown. When we color our family, she picks the richest shade of mahogany and gleefully squiggles lines and circles to represent who she is. If you were to ask her who she looks like, she'll adamantly vocalize that she looks exactly like mommy, and is utterly confused by anyone who would say otherwise. It warms my heart that she views my skin as beautiful. And I agree. However, I constantly worry about the day when she realizes society feels otherwise.

Each day, I wake up fully aware of my brown skin. Every day.

I intentionally style my hair, walk, and speak, knowing how others might perceive me as a black woman while in the grocery store, at work, or in the gym. I am entirely aware of my race, as I've spent my entire life as an outsider. The token person of color in a world that is mostly white.

  • I remember being shown out of a craft store in elementary school as the shopkeeper screamed, "I don't want nigger children in my store."
  • In high school, I reported that I was raped. The white man, whose sperm was found inside me, denied touching me. The detectives told me he was innocent and called me a liar. At that moment, I recall feeling powerless and worrying, "What's the point of crying for help? Because, as a black woman, society will always value his words over mine."
  • In college, I remember having to console friends after a swastika was carved into a classmate's dorm room door at Miami University.
  • As a young adult, I've heard too many times to count, "You're really pretty… for a black girl. But I can't date black women."
  • As an adult, I worry about the day when I may be stopped, in my mostly white neighborhood, not because I did anything wrong, but simply because I look like I do not belong.

Now, before you draw your eyes away from this message:

  • If you have turned on your TV and only see a mob instead of protesters — this message is for you.
  • If you have shrugged your shoulders at President Trump's tweets as "not that bad," — this message is for you.
  • If you've replied to reading "Black Lives Matters" with "Well, White Lives Matters too," — this message is for you.
  • If in those quiet moments in your home, you've thought, "But I'm not a racist. I don't see color." — this is for you.
  • If you have watched the video of Amy Cooper in Central Park and thought, "I could never be her," — this is for you.

To my white friends, family members, and neighbors — this article is for you.


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November 9th, 2016, I woke up with swollen eyes that were still stinging from hours of crying. The type of cry where your entire body aches and you simply feel worn — even hours after finally managing to catch your breath. I was sitting in our newly painted nursery, staring at the light yellow walls, and reflecting on the news of the day — Donald Trump Wins the 2016 Election.

I'm not writing this as a political statement — but as a plea to be heard. As it would merely be irresponsible of me to not mention the pivotal catalyst for my more vocal advocacy over the last several years.

I write this as someone who has defined her political views as conservative. I've worked for Republican leaders and have spent the majority of my adult life voting for and supporting candidates who believe in free enterprise and less government intervention in the lives of everyday Americans. Which, frankly, is all the more reason why I'm sharing these thoughts.

The 2016 election was devastating. It was devastating because I genuinely believed that it was impossible for someone who flooded the airwaves with so much hate could then become the leader of the country I love. A person who continues to falsely claim five young black men known as the "Central Park Five" are guilty of sexually assaulting a jogger in 1989, who is okay with continuously sexually assaulting women, and who belittles immigrants from "shithole" countries.

Like me, President Trump descended from immigrants. However, his continuous statements about immigrants from mostly black and brown countries are repugnant. It's hard not to be offended when the President of the United States says that my parents didn't deserve the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, like his, simply because of their country of birth.

Nevertheless, as I reflected on this new era, that we as Americans were about to venture into, I blamed myself.

The struggles of victims of violent crimes, immigrants, women, and people of color are real, and our voices need to be heard. However, I sat there crying and thinking, I did not do a good enough job sharing my experience as a human. I cried, thinking perhaps if I had more conversations that were open about my life and my experiences, maybe others would have a heightened sense of empathy and awareness for people like me.

As irrational as it sounds, I blamed myself.


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With Caroline in my arms and only a few days old, I promised her I would not remain silent. I would be fearless in the face of adversity, and I would leverage every tool I had to be a better and more vocal advocate for myself and others. I promised her I would do everything I could to change the world. I promised this to my firstborn child, hoping that her experience as a black child would be better than mine.

We are approaching the four-year mark of this promise, and last night I had another one of those cries. I believe my therapist would say this is good, as showing tears and anger is not one of my strengths. Nevertheless, it was another night of hyperventilating and hot tears as I realized we have so much further to go.

The dismissive and indifference highlighted by some of my friends and family members who continue to look the other way when it comes to people of color, victims of violent crimes, and immigrants must stop. I need you to take a moment to understand what it feels like to walk in my shoes, in my daughter's shoes, and in #GeorgeFloyd's shoes.

  • I need you to acknowledge and take the time to understand what is at the core of our anguish and concerns.
  • I need you to realize there are systemic injustices that black and brown people face every day in our country.
  • I need you to understand and acknowledge institutionalized racism exists.

The issues listed above impact us all.

However, how can it be that a photo from 2020 can look like a photo from 1967? How can you then look at the humans marching in America's streets and dismiss them all as foolish thieves?

Do not let the small number of individuals who are using this moment and demonstrating violence as an easy excuse to dismiss the pain and injustice of an entire community. We are expressing raw anguish because we continue to share our stories, and we are not being heard.

You've told black athletes to stay in their lane. You've told black comedians to focus on jokes. You've mocked black politicians who focus on race as a public health crisis to look elsewhere.

I ask, who is supposed to speak out about our plight, and when will you hear us?
  • Imagine being a young black girl and receiving harsher discipline at school because you're perceived to be unruly, loud, and unmanageable. #BlackGirlsMatter
  • Imagine what it is like to go on a run and die because you don't look like you belong. #AhmaudArbery #LivingWhileBlack
  • Imagine what it is like to be violently assaulted and being accused of making it up. #SophiaFifner #MeToo
  • Imagine what it is like to be unfairly convicted of a crime that if you were just a few shades lighter would be a misdemeanor #FerrellScott
  • Imagine what it is like to be black and to die simply because you exist. #BreonnaTaylor

People who look like me are living with this injustice every day, and we are tired. The only difference between me and the protester's face you see on Fox News is that our anguish is released in different but equally valuable forms.

I have the privilege of access to health care, education, and resources to channel my frustrations through volunteerism, legislation, and countless therapy sessions. However, my plight is no different than the faces of the black and brown people you see on your screen. I am them, and they are me.

We are both living in a world where, whether we take a knee or protest in the streets, our concerns are not being heard — and we can not breathe.

I realize every person's journey for understanding humanity takes different shapes in forms. Some jump headfirst completely embracing words and phrases like #blacklivesmatters, intersectionality, and implicit bias. However, for others, you may need a more gradual approach.

For those who need a more gradual approach, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Actively listen more than you speak
  2. Admit your bias and check your privilege
  3. Learn with intentionality to understand people who do not share your same experience.

Change cannot happen in a vacuum. I refuse to live another 50 years, waiting for justice. I refuse to silently sit by waiting for you to listen. Therefore, I'll close with this simple ask.

Please, take your knee off my neck and help me breathe.


This article originally appeared on Medium. You can read it here.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date.

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.Gorgeous!

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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Police arrest man suspected of scamming an elderly woman.

There has been a rise in scams against the elderly during the pandemic. According to the FBI, American seniors were scammed for $1 billion dollars in 2020, up $300 million from the previous year.

To stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic, more seniors joined social media, opening them up to new avenues for fraud.

“The combination of online shopping and social media creates easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements,” the FBI report said. “Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item.”

But when scammers came after 73-year-old Jean Ebbert in Long Island, New York, they had no idea they were dealing with a law enforcement veteran. Ebbert is a former 911 dispatcher, so she knows exactly what a scam looks like.

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