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 Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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