Jasmin Kaur’s poem got an unwelcome internet edit, and her response is something all white feminists need to read.

Punjabi-Sikh poet Jasmin Kaur recently posted a poem on Instagram that many women have found cathartic, especially while accused sexual assault perpetrators continue to be placed in the highest positions in the land.

The poem reads, "scream / so that one day / a hundred years from now / another sister will not have to / dry her tears wondering / where in history / she lost her voice."

A white feminist crossed out the word "scream" and wrote in the word "vote."

Kaur's original poem was well received by thousands of women. Then, a white woman took the liberty to change the first word from "scream" to "vote." The altered version of the poem (which has now been removed from the originator's page) was shared tens of thousands of times in largely white feminist circles.

[rebelmouse-image 19346205 dam="1" original_size="382x376" caption="Screenshot via Priya Hubbard/Facebook." expand=1]Screenshot via Priya Hubbard/Facebook.

Before we get into the reasons why race matters here, it's worth pointing out that changing the words of anyone's poetry is a no-no. Poets painstakingly choose every word; it's the nature of the art form.

Changing a word fundamentally changes someone's work. Don't do that.

But the issue goes far beyond the purity of poetry.

Kaur explained in an Instagram post why the "edit" was problematic—and the irony in having her words colonized.

On her website, Kaur says that her written work “explores otherness, decolonization and the beauty of resistance” and “acts as a means of healing and reclaiming identity.” So the coopting of her work by a white American is perfectly and sadly ironic.

"As a kaur — a Sikh woman — I write to disrupt my erasure from the world," Kaur wrote. "From media, from feminist discourse, from social justice spaces, from everywhere. This poem, specifically, was inspired by my reflection on the way that kaur voices have been erased from history in many ways and the pain I have felt as a direct result of that."

"I didn't expect women of other communities to engage with this piece the way they did, but it was surprising and cool. I recognize that there is so much overlap in the experiences of marginalized women across the world."

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The irony of this shitty poem edit is so blatant that I need to unpack it. Recently, a terribly edited version of one of my poems started making its rounds in white feminist spaces (swipe). The word scream was replaced with vote. I figured that people would clearly be able to see how this isn't cool, but I guess I was wrong. Let's break this down. As a kaur - a Sikh woman - I write to disrupt my erasure from the world. From media, from feminist discourse, from social justice spaces, from everywhere. This poem, specifically, was inspired by my reflection on the way that kaur voices have been erased from history in many ways and the pain I have felt as a direct result of that. I didn't expect women of other communities to engage with this piece the way they did, but it was surprising and cool. I recognize that there is so much overlap in the experiences of marginalized women across the world. The issue is that overlap in experience ≠ the same experience. When the word scream was changed to vote, someone made several shitty assumptions: 1. That my words were directed specifically at their neo-liberal political experiences of Amerikkka 2. That I made a mistake in explaining how to confront injustice and erasure 3. That my voice doesn't actually matter in a poem about my voice. Point 3 is the most important here, I think. The imagery of a Sikh woman's voice being erased from yet another space that she tries to exist within is too much. To edit my ideas without permission for your own interests is peak white entitlement. It says that my voice doesn't matter unless it suits your specific needs. It says that you don't know anything about me + that you don't need to. I write to exist. To be seen. To hold a mirror up to myself + women who look like me. In a world that very selfishly consumes the work of women of colour and marginalized folks. If you share my poetry (or your version of my poetry) without actually understanding who I am and why I am, you're engaging in my work passively. If you, as a white person, feel that I matter so little within the context of what I create that you can remove me from the work all together, you're colonizing my poetry.

A post shared by jasmin kaur (@jusmun) on

"The issue is that overlap in experience ≠ the same experience. When the word scream was changed to vote, someone made several shitty assumptions:

1. That my words were directed specifically at their neo-liberal political experiences of Amerikkka

2. That I made a mistake in explaining how to confront injustice and erasure

3. That my voice doesn't actually matter in a poem about my voice."

As a white woman in the U.S., that first point struck a chord. I am witness to, if not a part of, these white feminist circles Kaur speaks of. I saw this edited version of her poem shared in my Facebook feed several times.

The woman who altered the poem probably had good intentions and didn't give a thought to the background of the woman who wrote it. But that's the problem. We assume we have good intentions, but don't think beyond ourselves. We don't take the time to examine whether our actions might be adding to the oppression of a marginalized person or group. We assume everything is ours for the taking, without being consciously aware or acknowledging that that's what we tend to do.

As a result, we constantly make it so that women of color have to expend emotional labor to (hopefully) increase our understanding of our own actions. And too often, when confronted, we deny that we do all of the above.

If you still don't understand why the edit was a problem, Kaur breaks it down further.

Kaur explains how this woman essentially colonized her poetry:

"Point 3 is the most important here, I think. The imagery of a Sikh woman's voice being erased from yet another space that she tries to exist within is too much. To edit my ideas without permission for your own interests is peak white entitlement. It says that my voice doesn't matter unless it suits your specific needs. It says that you don't know anything about me + that you don't need to.

I write to exist. To be seen. To hold a mirror up to myself + women who look like me. In a world that very selfishly consumes the work of women of colour and marginalized folks. If you share my poetry (or your version of my poetry) without actually understanding who I am and why I am, you're engaging in my work passively. If you, as a white person, feel that I matter so little within the context of what I create that you can remove me from the work all together, you're colonizing my poetry."

She's right. Sure, the edited version still credits Kaur as the poem's creator. But to change that creation without permission, to place our own desire for political change over the voices around the world who may be denied that power, to imply that the American privilege of casting a ballot is an inherently superior method of revolution than raising the a female voice—all of that is wrong.

White women must be mindful of how we may be trampling over women of color in the march for gender equality—by erasing their unique experiences, silencing their voices, and coopting their efforts, and denying that we do all of the above. Our impact trumps our intent. Every time.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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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
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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.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


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