Ban Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Massachusetts

Our names are Aisha Yusuf, Hanna Stern, and Mariya Taher, and we each are pleading to the Massachusetts State Legislature to pass a law making it illegal for someone to carry out Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting/Circumcision (FGM/C) on young girls. FGM/C involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue on girls, and can cause physical harm including pain, bleeding, shock, tetanus, genital sores, and cause long-lasting psychological harm including sexual disorders, fear of sexual intimacy, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mariya - I was born in the United States and now live in Massachusetts, but at the age of seven, I was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in India. Friends and relatives of mine also living in the United States have undergone FGM/C both here in the United States or in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Australia, and many other countries in the world. Aisha- I got my circumcision when I was five. I know many women who also got it done. Personally, I know people in my community who talk about it as if it’s normal. I was aware of people practicing it behind closed doors but I also know that some people are looking for ways to keep the practice alive here in the States even though it might mean legal action is taken against them. I didn't know my home state, Massachusetts, had no laws against FGM/C until I met Mariya who works with many communities to protect girls against FGM/C. Hanna - I literally stumbled on the subject of female genital mutilation searching for a global health research topic online for a school project. I knew nothing about it and was concerned that others would find it uncomfortable and unrelatable. My teacher told me that was all the more reason to focus on FGM/C. It’s not a cultural issue; it’s not a third-world problem. FGM/C happens all over the world; it is happening in Massachusetts! Regardless of culture and tradition, and despite a lack of intent to cause injury, the end result is girls in MA are being violated and need our protection to safeguard them from FGM/C. Massachusetts is known for its progressive policies in terms of reproductive rights, anti-discrimination laws, and equality issues, yet our state still is in the minority of states that do not ban female genital mutilation or cutting. As FGM/C is nearly always carried out on minors, is a violation of the rights of children, and reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes that constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women, we must protect girls from undergoing FGM/C. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that over half a million girls and women in the United States are at risk. Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for at-risk populations with an estimated 14,591 women and girls.  Since 2012, the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association has over and over again tried to advocate for a state law criminalizing FGM/C. Yet, still to this day, no law has been put into place. The current bills, S.788, and H.2333, have been sent to committee for study and most likely will not move forward either. All three of us believe in the importance of education and community engagement to help create social change within communities and amongst groups where FGM/C might be happening. To that end, we each have organized and participated in community events to educate our friends and family members about the harms of FGM/C and why it should be abandoned. Yet, despite our efforts, FGM/C continues, often being touted as a religious or cultural practice that is needed to control women’s sexuality. In April 2017, a doctor in Michigan was charged with performing FGM/C on minor girls, highlighting yet again that FGM/C does affect women and girls living in the United States. The doctor claimed FGM/C was a religious requirement and that there were no harmful effects. We three believe that culture and religion should not be an excuse used to sanction harm to girls. We need a bill in Massachusetts that unequivocally reiterates that female genital mutilation/cutting is a form of violence. There are laws against domestic violence and sexual assault. We need a law against FGM/C as well. We three believe our state can do a better job of protecting girls in the Commonwealth by banning FGM/C. You can support us too by signing our petition demanding that legislators make passing a bill banning FGM/C high on their list of priorities. Let’s work together to take a stance against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting!  ~ Aisha Yusuf, Hanna Stern, and Mariya Taher

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418,040 signed of 500,000 goal

Giving birth alone during Covid-19

I am 40 weeks pregnant today and was exposed to Covid last week. I called my OB and he told me I had to get tested because I had an induction date in 4 days. If I did not get tested, Shelby Baptist Hospital were to treat me as if I was positive already and had it... taking away all rights... No support person and baby getting taken from me right after birth. Basically I was bullied into getting tested fearing that I would have to face child birth alone.  Even tho I have no symptoms or fever but my rapid test at AFC came back positive.  Because it is an elective inducement we are suggested to wait it out for 14 days, putting me at 42 weeks pregnant and possibly putting our unborn daughter at unnecessary risks!  The Head of Epidemiology Department at UAB said it’s useless to retest and are working to change their retest policy because the virus can come back positive for up to 3 months! So even with a “false positive” our situation would still be the same!  We are hoping for the best that our sweet Emma will hold out for two more weeks but If go into labor early I must give birth alone and our daughter will be taken from me the first 24 hours of her life to be put into isolation before she is tested. Imagine being a mother growing a child for 9 months and then them being stripped away right after they are brought into this world for 2-3 days!  There are no circumstances under which my husband can be present to support me and be present for the birth of our daughter if I go into labor early. Needless to say, I am is emotionally distraught and now physically exhausted from the news. They will not allow my husband to wear a mask and social distance in a fairly large room, even though they will be face first in the private parts of a woman with the virus. This is wrong. This sort of behavior is unacceptable. We were notified over the phone, in a very unpersonable and informal manner. I am looking for support to have this sham policy eliminated and to keep this from happening to other families. To say that somehow he is a risk to their staff while taking necessary precautions such as wearing an appropriate mask and standing more than six feet away, all while taking care of a “covid-19 patient”(myself) is inexplicably absurd. Not only that, they refuse to allow any other family member such as our parents or siblings who have not been exposed, to be present either.. The amount of emotional stress they have caused me and my family. literally right before delivery is inhumane and unacceptable. Our daughter's first days in this world will be with strangers, not her parents or grandparents! Please help my family and the other families having to deal with this crisis. Bring attention to this issue and help correct this wrong! Husbands should be able to be present and support their wives! Fathers should be present for the moment their daughters enter this wonderful world. Let's stop this nonsense early so families across our great state do not suffer needlessly from the policies of hospitals with anonymous messengers over the phone.

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10,068 signed of 15,000 goal

Demand a Fair Trial for Jonathan Irons, Wrongfully Convicted Since Age 16

Jonathan Irons has been incarcerated since 1997 for a crime that he did not commit. He was just 16 years old at the time and arrested for the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner during a burglary -- even though no DNA evidence, fingerprints, physical evidence, or footprint evidence collected ever linked Jonathan to the crime.  I’ve known Jonathan for over a decade, and I’m fighting to make sure his case gets a fair review and calling attention to the prosecutorial misconduct that I believe resulted in Jonathan being wrongfully sent to prison for 50 years as a teenager. Will you stand with me and demand new evidence be considered? Jonathan’s conviction was based solely on unreliable eyewitness testimony. Credible witnesses who could have provided testimony to Jonathan’s whereabouts during the time of the crime were never brought to court to testify, and Jonathan was interrogated by authorities without a guardian or attorney present, even though he was a minor. Moreover, when the shooting victim indicated that he couldn’t identify his shooter, police officers told him to give his “best guess” which led to his guess of Jonathan. Jonathan has now been in prison for 22 years, for a crime I know and thousands of others know he didn’t commit. I met Jonathan through a family member’s prison ministry program when I was 18. I was shocked and horrified to discover that this was happening to someone who was only a couple years younger than I was at the time of his arrest. I was even more shocked to learn that over 10,000 people may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year and that prosecutorial misconduct is rampant in communities across the United States. I’m dedicating my life to freeing Jonathan the same way I dedicated myself to each game in the WNBA. And it’s why I need your help today. I urge you to join me in asking Judge Daniel Green and Missouri Assistant Attorney General Patrick J. Logang, the Office of the Missouri State Attorney General and the Office of the District Attorney of Saint Charles County to take into account the undeniable facts of Jonathan’s case, and provide justice for Jonathan Irons once and for all.

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272,017 signed of 300,000 goal

Free Rojai Fentress

In 1996, 16-year-old Rojai Fentress was arrested for, and ultimately wrongfully convicted of, murder. Rojai has served 24 years of a 53-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. Rojai has always maintained his innocence. Charged with the murder of a white man shot and killed in a Richmond, Virginia apartment complex during a drug deal gone wrong, Rojai turned down plea offer after plea offer — the lowest offer for five years — telling the prosecutor in his case that he was not going to take a plea. He was innocent. Rojai was never interrogated, and his home was never searched. Yet when his case finally went to trial, he was convicted in a trial that lasted just under an hour.  In 2014, another man confessed to the murder. The actual murderer has repeatedly admitted to committing the murder, including under oath, to a Special Agent for the Virginia Department of Corrections, and to multiple news reporters. At trial, the only evidence against Rojai was the testimony of one eyewitness giving a cross-racial identification and one Richmond, Virginia police officer. The Innocence Project at UVA School of Law, which now represents Rojai, has since uncovered new evidence revealing that both the eyewitness and the officer lied under oath. Rojai has had a pardon petition pending before Governor Ralph Northam since 2017. It’s time to bring Rojai home. Please sign our petition to urge Governor Northam to pardon Rojai Fentress, an innocent man.

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8,131 signed of 10,000 goal

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery- Pass Georgia Hate Crime Bill

Sign our petition seeking the Georgia State Legislature pass House Bill 426 relating to Hate Crimes. The Bill Over the past three years, the Georgia State Legislature has failed to pass a hate crime bill. Georgia is one of four states without a hate crime law. House Bill 426 relating to Hate Crimes has passed the Georgia House and is stalled in the State Senate. Specifically, if passed, the bill will enact “the Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes Act.”   Recent Events On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was jogging through a neighborhood near his home in Brunswick, Georgia. At that time, George McMichael and Travis McMichael observed Arbery jogging and they confronted him with guns.  However, when Arbery tried to defend himself from one of the gun wielding white men, he was savagely shot and killed by the man and his son. The unsettling and graphic video of the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery has circulated on various news outlets and on social media. Such imagery conjures up memories from days gone by of unarmed black men and women being hunted by white lynch mobs.   Sadly, Georgia does not have a hate crime law that would address this unspeakable tragedy. Omega cannot and will not sit idle. We will take action. Omega joins other social justice advocates demanding the State of Georgia pass a Hate Crime law. Malcolm X once taught us, “You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.” Please sign the attached petition. We will forward this petition, along with a letter of support to the bill's authors. Furthermore, call Governor Brian Kamp @ 404-656-1776 and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan @ 404-656-5030 to voice your support for HB 426.

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1,110,724 signed of 1,500,000 goal

Re-theme Splash Mountain to Princess and the Frog

Disney parks should be a home for all to enjoy regardless of race, age, whatever your background may be. The classic log flume ride Splash Mountain is featured in Disneyland, Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. While the ride is considered a beloved classic it’s history and storyline are steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes from the 1946 film Song of the South. There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. Princess and the Frog is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks. Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks. The framing of the ride is such that it could be easily changed to tell the story of Tiana while not compromising too much of the ride/costing a fortune in remodeling for Disney. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for Princess and the Frog.  Splash Mountain is located in Critter Country/Frontierland in the parks, an area very close to New Orleans Square in Disneyland. It would be fairly easy to transition the ride into the bayou of New Orleans considering the location of the ride in each park. While the rides storyline is not an exact version of the movies plot line it is derivative from it, the characters, the songs and locations are all main features of the ride. Disney has removed Song of the South from its library, refusing to share it on DVD or their streaming services. The best next step to remove all traces of this racist movie would be to re-theme Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog themed ride.  Since this has gotten so much attention I just want to throw in this edit with a few things. I really didn’t think this would get any attention. I saw the discussion on twitter about retheming the ride, was speaking with friends about how there should be a petition to have a count on how many people actually support that idea and decided to make one since I couldn't find one. I appreciate everybody who supports it however as always with things that get attention like this there is a lot of nastiness. If you’re willing to have a discussion and potentially educate from a different perspective I appreciate that as well. However this is just a log ride in a theme park, abbeloved one yes, but at the end of the day it’s just a ride, there are more pressing matters in the world currently. If your here to hurl mean comments your energy would be much better spent doing something else more productive, there are plenty of petitions on this site and plenty of foundations that need support right now.   

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21,377 signed of 25,000 goal

Support the Zachary Martin Act (Florida Athlete Safety Bill SB1696/HB7011)

My name is Laurie Martin-Giordano and my son, Zach suffered an Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) during summer conditioning workouts for football in 2017. He fought incredibly hard for 11 days, but he could not survive his devastating injuries. I had to plan my 16 year old son's funeral. In the weeks after his death, I began to research exertional heat stroke and I learned a few things that crushed my already broken heart: EHS is preventable simply by recognizing the early symptoms of heat illness (dizziness, vomiting) and removing the person from the activity to a cooler area, away from the sun. 100% of EHS victims survive when Cold Water Immersion (CWI) is used promptly, on-site. CWI wasn't used to treat Zach, but why not? Florida high school athletes, cheerleaders, band members, and JROTC all traditionally participate in summer conditioning workouts. I learned that any rules and policies, set up by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) to ensure their kids' safety, ONLY apply during the academic school year. The guidelines for response to cardiac arrest and heat illness, 2 of the 3 most common reasons for sudden death of high school kids, are only suggestions. (Football practice for two weeks prior to school starting in the Fall is included as "pre-season" with a few specific rules.) All attempts over the last 2 years by me, along with heat illness experts, Athletic Trainers, and FHSAA's own Medical Advisory Board, to change the handbook suggestions to mandatory policies have been voted down by the FHSAA Board. This week, Legislators in the FL House of Representatives have a bill to vote on that incorporates "best practice" safety measures to protect our kids, including the use of AED's, Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer temperature activity modification guidelines and using Cold Water Immersion to treat EHS. By signing this petition, you are voicing your support of the proposed sports safety bill that will be discussed and believe this legislation will save lives, and is necessary to provide leadership to our schools in regard to sports safety. 

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32,678 signed of 35,000 goal

Change the name of University of Cincinnati's "Marge Schott Stadium"

University of Cincinnati’s baseball stadium is named “Marge Schott Stadium”. Marge Schott was a former owner of the Reds before she was banned from the MLB for her support of Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler in 1996. She is also known to have said multiple racial slurs towards African-Americans, Jews, and people of Japanese ancestry. Executive council chairman Bud Selig of the Brewers said: "Mrs. Schott's remarks reflect the most base and demeaning type of racial and ethnic stereotyping … indicating an insensitivity that cannot be accepted or tolerated by anyone in baseball." Marge Schott Stadium is represented by players of all races, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities, and plays host to middle and high school baseball teams as well. The field is getting national attention every year and to promote somebody so racist is not only irresponsible, but it is also directly contradictory to the University's mission statement which says that the goal of the University is "..to foster a community that prioritizes inclusion, transformational personal development, civic participation, and global responsibility." We have a responsibility to develop our kids for the future. Black kids should not be made to play and represent a name such as hers and white kids should not be celebrating her legacy subconsciously.  As a community of former and current players, staff, students, alums, and Cincinnatians alike, We will not be promoting her, or her legacy any longer.  We demand change for the betterment of society, and to push the values that represent what we believe in as a community.    

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10,043 signed of 15,000 goal

RAISE THE DEGREE

Derek M Chauvin is a Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd on Memorial day. May 25, 2020. The chokehold he used isn't even LEGAL in MMA, because it can kill someone in MINUTES. He has done this so many times against Latinos, Native Americans, and Black people. In 2008 he shot an unarmed Black man, he was one of the officers that helped MURDER Wayne Reyes, a Latino man, with SIXTEEN bullets. He is guilty. People of color will not be silenced by this system any longer.

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3,007,918 signed of 4,500,000 goal

Demand Ruth's Chris Steak House Return the Twenty Million Dollars

Ruth's Chris Steak House or its subsidiaries took 20 Million dollars of SBA loans intended for true small businesses.  Many small businesses are now being told there is no money left for them, and they cannot pay their employees, and may have to close forever.  This is a travesty, and a disgusting display of corporate greed during a time of disaster.  Tell Ruth's Chris Steak House "Return the money now!  You will be shamed forever if you do not.  People will not forget."  Demand that Ruth's Chris Steak House return the money that it, in effect, stole from actual small businesses across this great country. 

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262,974 signed of 300,000 goal