What 2 powerful women taught us this week about telling the truth.

This week was a banner week for women standing up and, as the saying goes, "speaking truth to power."

On Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave a passionate speech on racial equality at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. Her remarks offered a bold defense of the Black Lives Matter movement and went further than any high-profile, mainstream politician's have before to support the modern-day civil rights activists who are, in her words, "fighting for their lives."


Photo of Cecile Richards by Mark Wilson/Getty Images. Sen. Warren by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Federation for America President Cecile Richards testified before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. The five-hour-long session was Richards' chance to defend the vital women's health organization that some in Congress are seeking to defund. It was long and hard but a tour de force performance in grace under fire. And Richards never wavered.

Together, they gave a master class in how to tell the inconvenient truth. Here are three lessons they taught us:

1. Have confidence when the facts are on your side — and share them.

When you're standing up with a strong argument, it helps to know the facts and, as tedious as it may feel, educate your audience on them. Does it mean you'll ultimately convince them? Maybe not. But it helps to start with the basics.

Sen. Warren's speech was basically CliffsNotes for the history of the American civil rights struggle and structural racism in the areas of economic policy, policing, and voting. It gave her impassioned support the grounding it needed with a side dish of "I probably know more about this than you do, so let me school you a bit."

Richards was no different. She patiently responded to every unfounded claim and attack with facts about women's health generally, reproductive rights specifically, and Planned Parenthood repeatedly. Richards wasn't just there because of what she felt or believed. She was there because of what she knows to be true.



2. Sometimes, it will feel like you're standing alone.

Cecile Richards' testimony was difficult to watch. Time and time again she was interrupted, accused of lying, and aggressively questioned as the panel of mostly male Congress members interrogated her about the value and worth of her work — and ultimately, as a woman, her health and rights. Even Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, called out the rampant "disrespect and misogyny."

Richards sat, head held high, one woman against the world, fighting for humanity ... OK. Got a bit carried away there. But it was a pretty serious setup. And it couldn't have been easy being the lone target of all of that ire and anti-woman sentiment.

Sen. Warren's environment, on the other hand, wasn't as physically isolating. But she too was standing alone in a field of mainstream politicians who have, until now, given timid, tepid, and downright contrarian responses to black Americans' simple call for human rights and justice. For her to stand up and speak without a lot of public allies took a boldness and authenticity that is not popular among her peers.

3. People will have your back.

When you're standing alone and telling the truth on behalf of people who otherwise aren't being heard, it's highly likely that those people will make sure you actually aren't alone.

Cecile Richards may have been one woman sitting in that room. But online and off, thousands were standing with her. Literally. #IStandwithPP and the first ever National Pink Out Day engaged men and women of all ages, races, and backgrounds to publicly stand behind the core truth of her testimony: Planned Parenthood is necessary and good. They were her chorus as she spoke for them.

And the response after Warren's speech was no different. Black Lives Matter activists and anyone who has been working hard to end discrimination and inequality praised her for her boldness, her depth, and her willingness to say what they already know to be true: that America still has a long way to go in ensuring true equality. And in the meantime...

We live in a world that has made it pretty darn hard for those in power to say what needs to be said.

But even for the the rest of us, telling the truth isn't always easy, especially in the face of those who challenge or threaten what you believe in. These brave women not only showed us how it's done, but they empower us to do it ourselves with authenticity, dignity, and grace.

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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Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

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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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