You probably didn't hear about this woman's death in the media. This group is making sure you will.

When Penny Proud was shot in New Orleans, her community had had enough.

The violence itself was upsetting on its own — only February and 21-year-old Penny was already the fifth transgender woman of color to be killed in America in 2015.


An image of Penny from the news. All images via BreakOUT!.

Media coverage just added insult to injury.

On top of already tragic news, it seemed like the police and the media felt that trans people were "almost less than human," as one person with the New Orleans group BreakOUT! commented. (More on that group in a sec!) They called Penny "him," even after activists pointed out that doing so was incorrect, and the media basically engaged in smack talk and insinuations about her, rather than sticking to the facts and details relevant to the story and the public.

Sadly, none of these problems were new.

Five deaths, and it was only February.

For years, the police had looked more like enemies than allies.

People of color and LGBTQ people experience more police harassment than anyone else. (It's not the kind of thing you can find oodles of statistics about, but if you're thinking, Really? then take a peek at this.) Things get especially gnarly sometimes when cops interact with people whose gender they may not accept or understand.

And in the state of Louisiana (y'know, the whole thing that surrounds New Orleans), they lock up more people than any other state in America ... and, it must be said, America already has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

(Fun fact time! Right now, Texas — a classic lock-em-up kinda place — is working on closing its prisons rather than opening more. Turns out it saves taxpayers money and creates a safe and happy society.)

Things were so bad in New Orleans that the U.S. Justice Department had to step in.

Yep. In 2011, the federal government had to investigate the New Orleans police department.

Basically, nobody in the black trans community was feeling too excited about asking the police for help protecting their lives. Most of them had already interacted with the police, and they weren't positive experiences.

"I've experienced police violence. Most people that I know have experienced police violence." — Shaena Johnson, BreakOUT! Co-Director

But that inspired a group of young people to change their city and their lives.

On the verge of change.

In 2011, they founded a group called BreakOUT!, just for people ages 13-25. Their main mission? Help people heal when shitty stuff goes down personally or in their communities, teach leadership, and, oh yeah, change the city of New Orleans for the better.

"We have to stick together because that's the only way we can survive." — Ja'Leah Shavers, BreakOUT! Outreach and Development Coordinator

After Penny's death, they put up this billboard:

Transgender people have often been "invisible." Hard to miss this billboard, though!

And they've run a Know Your Rights campaign to help young people deal with the police.

It really shouldn't be young people's responsibility to help the cops do their jobs right — they're still learning math and how to drive, for crying out loud — but it's a step toward keeping them safe and well!

Good to know!

New Orleans is more than the home of Mardi Gras and Jazz and vampires.

New Orleans is a huge part of the South's long history of civil rights activism.

It's also, incidentally, a place where people:

  • go to work
  • check out library books
  • adopt kittens
  • get stuck in traffic
  • eat doughnuts (though probably, they're eating more beignets, lucky them)
  • fall in love
  • watch videos on the Internet
  • get bug bites

In short, it's a place like anywhere else.

And the founders of BreakOUT! believe that you should be able to be safe in your own city. For New Orleans, their work is one step in the right direction.

"We have a shared vision of being able to be safe in the city you grew up in." — Wes Ware, BreakOUT! Co-Director

Home should always be fun and safe, right?

Meet the founding members of BreakOUT! in this video

This video is actually the latest installment from SIGNIFIED — a documentary series profiling the work of queer artists and activists. They traveled down to New Orleans to talk with BreakOUT! members about fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth there, the national "Get Yr Rights" toolkit, youth leadership development, and the deep history of social justice organizing in the South.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.