Why one athlete ditched the U.S. Olympic team to make history for another country.

One of Jordin Andrade's earliest memories was watching his uncle Henry run in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Henry also played in the NFL briefly, but for 4-year-old Jordin, the Olympics was much more exciting. Because even though he was born in the U.S., Uncle Henry was one of four athletes on the first ever Olympic team from Cape Verde, a small island nation 300 miles off the west coast of Africa with a population of about 500,000 people. (It's also known as the Republic of Cabo Verde.)

The Andrade family — including Jordin's father, Joe — immigrated to the United States from Cape Verde in 1960, just two years before Uncle Henry was born. "This is an opportunity to represent me, my family, my people and my country," Henry told the L.A. Times that year. "Cape Verde is so small and so poor. The place needs a lot of giving."


"That was a big inspiration to me as a kid," Jordin said in an interview with Idaho's KTVB7. "'Wow, my bloodline has some athletics.'"

Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Allsport/Getty Images.

It took Jordin Andrade until his junior year of high school to follow in his uncle's footsteps, but he did.

During high school, he became passionate about track and field and enlisted his Uncle Henry as a training coach. After graduation, Andrade ran for a junior college in his native California before being recruited by Boise State, where he went on to top national rankings. He even set a school-wide record in the 400-meter hurdles during his senior year and ran a 49.24 at his last NCAA Championships that same year — well below the Olympic qualifying time of 49.4.

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Qualifying for the Olympics was one thing. But Andrade still had another hurdle to face: Which country should he run for?

"It was between what everybody wanted me to do and what I wanted to do," he told South Coast Today. "Everyone I associate myself with is from the U.S. and they wanted me to represent."

At the time, Andrade had never even visited his ancestral home in Cape Verde. But his mind was made up after visiting New Bedford, Massachusetts — a small whaling town with a large Cape Verdean population. The trip gave him an opportunity to meet and connect with great-aunts and uncles and cousins he'd never met. Even the Cape Verdean Prime Minister José Maria Neves greeted him on one of his East Coast trips.

"When I first came out there, I wasn’t expecting much," Andrade told South Coast Today. "I ended up getting a big standing ovation and I met a lot of people with a lot of connections."

"I chose Cape Verde because that’s my family."

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Andrade set off for Rio in 2016 as a representative of Cape Verde, and in his very first race he ... was disqualified before he finished.

It didn't matter that he finished the race with a qualifying time of 49.35 seconds — the judges claimed that he intentionally knocked over a hurdle in the last 50 meters, which was an automatic disqualification.

As you can imagine, Andrade was upset. And so was the entire country he was representing. "My phone hasn't stopped ringing, everyone wanted an explanation that I couldn't explain," he told KTVB7. "I had to sit in my room watching the clock, and prep my body as if I was running the next day just in case."

Cape Verde officials immediately filed an appeal, and what followed was eight tense hours of waiting and deliberation.

Eventually, the judges agreed to overturn their decision and reinstated Andrade as the sixth-place finisher in the race, making him the first Cape Verdean athlete ever to advance to the Olympic semifinals.

That might seem like a small feat compared to a gold medal. But that monumental moment was enough to make Cape Verdeans across the globe burst with pride:

While Andrade may not have advanced past the semifinals, he still achieved an incredible feat — for himself, and for his entire heritage.

Sure, Andrade could have run for the United States. But instead, he became a champion who brought hope to an entire culture — one that too often goes ignored.

"I'm really happy to represent a small country," he said. "I want to give them a voice and make sure that whole world can hear them. I finally get the opportunity to."

Congrats to Jordin Andrade and the entire Cape Verdean diaspora!

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!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."