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She worked with the civil rights movement in 1964. Here's her truth now.

I reached out to a civil rights movement veteran expecting to get some nice quotes about hope; what I got was so much better.

Shaun King, a professor and leader in the modern movement for racial justice, said in a Facebook post:

"If you EVER wondered who you would be or what you would do if you lived during the Civil Rights Movement, stop. You are living in that time, RIGHT NOW."


Image of Black Lives Matter protest in Missouri via Jarred Gastreich, used with permission.

I have definitely wondered that. Who would I be if I had been born then? I needed to get some advice for how to move forward today, as the civil rights movement continues.

I found Jane Adams of Carbondale, Illinois, on the website Civil Rights Movement Veterans.

White mob marching in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo by John T. Bledsoe/Library of Congress/Flickr.

The site is a magical treasure trove of our country's wisdom. Each person on the site — and there are hundreds — has written a letter, a testimonial about their time fighting in the civil rights movement. Jane Adams was at the very top of the list on the front page of the site.

Jane participated in the Freedom Summer of 1964 and '65.

Jane was a white teenager who saw injustice, didn't like it, and tried to help. I'm not a teenager, but I am white. I'm in that boat, too, so her story stuck out to me.

Her parents were back-to-the-land folks from Chicago. Her dad bought a farm in the 1950s and worked for the unemployment office in Carbondale — a part of Illinois that's closer to Kentucky than Chicago. Despite her parents' more Bohemian origins (at least by the standards of Southern Illinois), she was mostly raised on a farm there, one of the only homes to have running water at the time it was built.

The Freedom Summer was a tactical moment in the civil rights movement that recruited hundreds of white students from the North to come to Mississippi for a summer, and Jane was part of that group.

Jane's story was fascinating to me for many reasons.

First, here is an excerpt of what she said about her time in Mississippi on the Civil Rights Movement Veteran website:

"I went to Mississippi with Freedom Summer and was assigned to Harmony Community in Leake County, working on Federal Programs. ...

The work changed my life. It was far more important to me than anything I — a naive youngster — contributed. As Bernice Reagon said, 'I was reborn in the Civil Rights Movement.' I learned, more than anything, that people make history. I saw heroism that I could never have imagined, and a sense of hope that infused people who had lived all their lives with the degradation of white supremacy. I also saw what is probably the most important kind of leadership — that at the level of communities, where people have to confront and deal with the people who make their day-to-day lives possible."

I was intrigued, so I called Jane to learn more.

As it turns out, she had a lot to say about growing up, her civil rights work and the work of today's civil rights leaders.

She told me that her summer in Mississippi was a violent summer. Three participants were killed. But that was part of the deal.

"We were shipped in. We all knew, if a white person got beat up, a white person from a good family with connections to legislators, that had a lot more impact than a black field hand who didn't know anyone connected to power," she said. "We were brought down because we could awaken the consciousness of a nation ... hopefully and get Congress to act."

Civil rights activist Priscilla Stephens being arrested in 1961, in Florida. Image via State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory/Flickr.

"As Bernice Reagon said, 'I was reborn in the Civil Rights Movement.'"

I asked Jane what she thought of all that's happening today with Black Lives Matter and with just "the world today" in general.

I was expecting some encouraging, hopeful quotes. But what I got instead was a challenge.

Civil rights movement boycott and picketing of downtown Tallahassee in 1960. Image via State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory/Flickr.

She challenged me, and anyone interested in participating in social change, to watch out for what she called "the politics of grievance" — a fight for political change based solely upon the hardships a group has faced — and to always find something to fight for, even when you're fighting against so much.

"There was a positive thing that people were fighting for," she said, "that people were willing to risk their lives for. Fighting for the right to vote, the right to hold jobs, the right to go to school ... the right to be treated like an equal person."

Jane reminded me there's a wonderful banality to the dream of equality.

Humans just want to be treated like humans. Black lives should matter. It's almost boring because it's so obvious — it's often not shiny, but it is important.

The 1963 march on Washington. Photo by Rowland Scherman/U.S. National Archives/Flickr.

The last story Jane told me really captured the delightful banality of living in a just world:

While wandering around a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, she says a young guy asked her husband to take a photo. Jane's husband did, and that was that. She told me it was a normal, everyday moment, but for Jane, a white person in a predominantly black crowd, it was really significant.

For her, it was a moment where everyone, in a crowd supposedly fraught with racial tensions, was just treating each other as humans. Unremarkable humans.

"We got giddy over it!" she remembers. "Like 'Wow, this is what we fought for. This is what we put our lives on the line for. To be in a place where we could just be.' That's what we were fighting for."

A Black Lives Matter protestor in Brooklyn in July 2016. Image via lolololori/Instagram.

Jane reminded me that I can't just be mad if I really want to inspire others and even myself.

Instead, I have to find something worth fighting FOR, not just against. Yeah, it's kind of obvious, but it also cracked my mind open in the best way.

I hope that y'all can find someone to talk to when America's path to justice gets bumpy (tragically bumpy), like it has lately. For me the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website was the perfect place to start finding inspiration about how to take steps forward.

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.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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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.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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