Category: Isabella B.

Weekly Update 3

Coming up soon is the first event that Engage Miami has hosted while I have been part of the team. The Bystander Intervention Training, an event that will teach attendees to deal with harassment, is this Wednesday. We have been preparing for this event by gathering material, organizing panelists, and expanding awareness. Part of what sets this event apart from other such trainings is that we will be positing scenarios that have been taken from popular media to attendees . For example, there are many cases of sexual harassment in music videos. If you were in a situation like those, what would you do? The use of examples from popular media not only helps Engage Miami create scenarios but also highlights how harassment has been portrayed and even normalized in our culture.

The popular media portion of this event was what I researched Monday. I scoured through easily recognizable movies, TV shows, and music videos to find instances of harassment. This is harder than it sounds, considering how often we as a culture witness harassment in media. My first obstacle was when asking around which nineties music videos had instances of sexual harassment the most common answer I received was “well…all of them.” Even more frustrating is that most instances of bigotry in pop culture is more insidious than a character outright harassing another. A common answer I got to the question of music videos portraying harassment was the infamous ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The degradation of women in this music video, however, is not in verbal or physical aggression towards the women but rather in the symbolic placement of them as objects. We face religious and racial discrimination less often as the scene where a man spews vitriol towards a black or Muslim person and more often as Muslim people are cast time and time again as terrorists and black people are cast time and time again as thugs or servants. It was frustrating to know that bigotry in popular culture lies mostly beneath the surface rather than presenting itself outright. Those media which do show an outright scene of harassment are usually presenting a commentary on it rather than condoning it, while every day we are inundated with subtle choices in media that inform our outlook and promote bigotry.

Despite challenges, I found clips for religious, sexual, and racial discrimination.

On Tuesday, I met our new intern! I was very excited. I trained her on making phone calls, reading through the script, showing her the spreadsheet we use to document data, and sharing tips that I have formed throughout my experiences calling. As our call list has about doubled (!) since I arrived, I assigned a section of the list to be her calls. The rest of the day we spent meeting and chatting with one of our board members who is taking a sabbatical from being a public defender. She is also a co-founder of Miami’s only independent record store and a co-founder of Engage Miami’s parent organization, Emerge. Needless to say, she is a very interesting (and busy) person.

On Wednesday, I helped to construct the presentation for the event. The training will be broken down into three basic section: the presentation, to make sure all attendees are on the same page with regards to what harassment is, why bystanders are important, etc. The second part will be a panel discussion. There will be a civil rights attorney, two organizers, and a teacher, all of whom are extremely knowledgable and leaders within other local organizations. Finally, there will be the popular media scenarios and the discussion of what should be done in each of those scenarios. The presentation is mostly visual, so I found pictures and gifs to supplement the ideas that go along with each slide.

Thursdays are of course Planned Parenthood days. I collected another story from a woman named Elizabeth who received birth control for debilitating menstrual cramps. She was able to afford them despite being uninsured, and said she had tried several other places before finding Planned Parenthood.

Finally, on Fridays I made calls inviting people to our big event. I would guess, based on calls, that around 20-40 people will be attending. I am very excited to see my first official Engage event, and will keep you all updated with pictures.

Have a great week!


Weekly Update

Last week, my work focused around a three day at the North Campus of Miami-Dade College, a large community college in Miami. The event was called Spring Into Sustainability, and was held over three days. The first two were talks held by various members and organizations in the community working towards sustainability in Miami. Engage Miami was asked to speak on Monday. It may seem odd that Engage Miami would be chosen to speak at a sustainability event, as our mission does not have its main focus in environmentalism. However, sustainability extends beyond environmentalism. In order for a community to be sustainable, it must balance human, economic, and environmental factors. Affordable housing, for example, contributes to a sustainable Miami in that it allows its residents to live and work in the city as it grows economically. Eco-friendly housing contributes to a sustainable Miami by helping to ensure that the city will still be livable in a century. By connecting young people to local politics, Engage Miami hopes to encourage sustainable living in Miami. Only those living within a community can express to representatives what needs to happen in order for balance to be maintained between humans, the environment, and the economy. During the talk, our organizer explained it this way: It is our job, as citizens, to express our opinions to our representatives. It is their job to take the all the input and synthesize solutions.

Tuesday was another office day, and I decided to make calls then rather than Monday in an effort to reach more people, or even different people, than the ones who answered regularly on Mondays. It was actually very successful. I spoke to and scheduled volunteers who had never answered the phone before, demonstrating the effect that simple scheduling has on volunteer outreach. Because of this, I have decided to vary the times and days I call volunteers week to week. On Tuesday, I also learned some exciting news. We will have another intern joining us this week. Because I’ve had success contacting and organizing volunteers, I will be training the new intern on call making and will be put in charge of volunteer management. I am very excited to meet and train the new intern, as well as find out what my new role entails!

On Wednesday, we returned to the Miami-Dade College North campus for the festival portion of Spring Into Sustainability. Various organizations were there tabling and entertainment was provided. There was a live band and a performance from the interpretive dance class on campus, as well as short speeches from the organizers of the event and all of the organizations present. At this event, we collected around 20 signatures, which is a big number for a small organization. For local organizations like Engage, each signature requires a detailed explanation of the work we do, what our meetings entail, how often we will contact those who sign up, etc. Larger organizations like Planned Parenthood have immediate name recognition, making it far easier to collect signatures. Beyond the sign-up of volunteers, I was very impressed with the event. It was entirely student-organized, which is a perfect demonstration of Engage Miami’s philosophy: that young people, when given a proper platform, can create change.

This Thursday, I did not go into the Planned Parenthood offices due to the fact that my supervisor was in Tallahassee lobbying law makers. I did, however, collect my first story for the Planned Parenthood Story Bank. It was from a woman named Peggy who was born in the 1920s. The amount of change she has seen, from a time when even talking about the use of birth control was punishable by jail time, is incredible. But what struck me was how much has stayed the same, mostly the attitudes towards women’s healthcare that has to do with women’s sexuality. I plan to talk more with my supervisor about what details can be shared of Peggy’s story and hopefully have a blog post on its own examining her story and its implications in today’s political climate.

On Friday, I worked more on the bios of the Miami-Dade county commissioners. This project has been a little slow going, mostly because of the time it takes to consolidate information from the various places available. I would again encourage any reader to research their city council or county commissioner and give them a call. Everyone has things about their community they wish to change. Is there a road with too many potholes? Do you want recycling bins in public libraries? A stoplight at an intersection? Contact your local government! Real change happens swiftly at the local level.

Finally, a few weeks ago I mentioned working on a graphic for Harassment Intervention Training. The finished product is below. Its very different from my original draft, due to name changes, the addition of logos, and other factors. However, the structure remained the same, and I’d like to share it with you.

harassment intervention graphic

Have a good week!

Weekly Update 1

Hello all!

As you may have noticed, I have been falling behind on daily updates. The reason for this is that, in general, my projects are either based around a weekly event or are designed to take up an entire week. Therefore, I have decided to instead update whenever my projects are done, once or twice a week. This will help me focus more on the big picture of the work I am doing rather than day-to-day minutiae. I hope you like this format.

Last Week:

On Saturday, I attended an ACLU event in which I ‘tabled’ for Planned Parenthood. Tabling is what it sounds like: sitting at a table, promoting an organization and providing opportunities to volunteer. The ACLU event was at the University of Miami and taught those who attended how to organize politically. It was very well attended (over 1,000 people) and Planned Parenthood collected over a hundred names of people who were interested in volunteering.  This is an incredible accomplishment for a non-profit, considering how difficult it can be to get volunteers. It was also a very rewarding experience, as some women who signed up mentioned that Planned Parenthood had provided them with great services.

On Monday, I was working once again with Engage Miami, and once again went through our call list. This time, not as many people could talk at the moment I called them. Therefore, we are going to experiment with different times in order to see when the highest number of people answer their phones and have time to talk.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I worked on more politicians’ biographies, but this time from the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. The way that local government in Miami works is that the county, which holds 35 cities (Miami, Coral Gables, Aventura, etc.) and other unincorporated territories, has more power than city councils, which operate on a smaller scale. There are thirteen districts within the county, each with their own commissioner. These commissioners are elected by constituents in their districts for four year terms. Most have served previously as mayors, city counselors, or in the Florida House of Representatives. Especially in a big county like Miami-Dade, the Board of County Commissioners has real political clout.

On Thursday, I went to Planned Parenthood and began calls to collect stories for the story bank. The story bank is filled with experiences from real, non-paid people who have used and enjoyed Planned Parenthood’s services. I have the outlines of the stories that people have already shared in clinic waiting rooms and am calling them to flesh out the details more. With permission, these stories are shared on social media, to news outlets, and during legislative hearings in order to show the human impact of Planned Parenthoods services. I was struck by how many of the stories collected just in March were about how women without health insurance could only rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable cancer screenings and birth control. It was very informative and showed me the importance of the work I am doing.

Friday, I was trained in voter registration for an event with Engage Miami next week. There are many complicated legalities to voter reg., which incur strict fines if not complied with. I am excited to begin registering young voters here in Miami!

Thank you for reading, and have a nice week.

Day 4: Local Election Bios

I’m sorry for the short break in posting. This update is detailing my work at Engage Miami Friday, March 10. That day, my work consisted of compiling Biographies of the candidates running for election in North Miami, Florida. That election is May 19 of this year. The mayor and two city council members are running for reelection. I also compiled biographies of the other two council members, but neither of their terms expire this year. This was interesting work for several reasons. First of all, I was unaware that North Miami is home to a sizable Haitian population. As a result, all of the candidates running for office, the mayor, and three of the council members are Haitian born. However, it was not until 2001 that the first Haitian mayor was elected in this city. It is interesting to see how the population and influence of Haitian immigrants has grown in the city, and how it affected local politics. What is also interesting is how directly local politics can affect the daily life of constituents. One council woman, for example, managed to remove the charge present on second water meters that was introduced by water companies. Another council member is currently working t0 cut back  on red light cameras in the cities. These might seem like common nuisances, but they’re problems that affect quality of life. There was a years-long campaign in Tucson to eliminate red light cameras, and it could have been resolved through city council selection. Finally, I found it interesting that there is very little information on some of the candidates, and how little is available for some of the current council members. It is incredible how, although these people can influence our lives on a fundamental level, consitituent know little about local elections or the people who run in them. It is worth looking up those who represent you locally and find out if their agendas match yours. If you cannot find information on them, feel free to call their offices.

Day 3 : International Women’s Strike

Wednesday was International Women’s Day. People commemorated it in a variety of ways: by wearing red, by not going into work, or by staging protests against restrictive reproductive health laws, gender violence, and other women’s issues. I attended one such protest here in Miami called the International Women’s Strike. We walked around a mile through streets which had been closed for the protests, stopping at City Hall and the Freedom Tower. I would estimate that there were around 400 people who attended. It was an uplifting experience to see so many who cared about women’s rights come together and speak out. The pictures below show myself as I make my sign for the protest and the Freedom Tower lit up red.


Day 2 Engage Miami

Yesterday, I worked primarily on designing graphics. I have never done this previously, but I found that using an easy design software is the key to amateur graphic design. I used, which is free, if anyone is interested in designing flyers, social media posts, cards, and more. For this particular graphic, I was advertising an upcoming even organized by Engage called Harassment Intervention Training. The details of the event are still up in the air, but when the date and time have been decided I will let you know and perhaps share the graphic I designed. I was glad to get some experience with design, because I know it will be useful for future organizations or companies I may be a part of.

As for the Harassment Training, I am very excited to participate in this event. We will be working with other local organizations to train bystanders how to intervene in and deescalate situations when they witness harassment. I think this information is vital, especially in a time when hate crimes are on the rise. Bystanders can be keeping to keeping someone safe or even saving their lives. I hope to share more information with you about how to react and what to do when facing harassment in your everyday lives.

Day 1 Engage Miami

Hello all! I have completed my first day at Engage Miami. For this first week, I will be receiving a lot of training in order to complete my organizing duties. Today, we covered volunteer organizing through phone calling. This is also known as phone banking. Basically, we call people who have expressed interest in our organization and inform them of upcoming volunteer events, confirming whether or not they can join us. Many political organizations use this tool. It is fairly straightforward, and it provides an opportunity to connect one-on-one with the prospective volunteers and allows organizers to compile a strong volunteer base on which they can rely consistently.

Ideally, the prospective voter list should be pretty large; only around one in every 5-10 people actually pick up and it can be hard to mobilize people to volunteer. I, for example, made around 80 calls today and had only two strong confirmations for our event and around six ‘maybes.’ All others either said no or did not answer. Although this sounds like a lot of work for a little pay off, every volunteer counts for political organizations. One person can register 20 voters. One table assistant can help write 50 letters to elected officials. One person can affect real change, especially at a local level, and this is what Engage Miami is all about!

Another secret to phone banking is to have more than one opportunity available. People lead busy lives. More often than not, they want to help, but have previous engagements. Having more than one event on offer increases the likelihood of a volunteer confirmation.

As for our upcoming event, I will be attending the International Women’s Strike this Wednesday and will be uploading pictures then.

Week 2 Schedule and Focus Update

Hello, and thank you again for your patience. I have officially started my Planned Parenthood Internship. Unfortunately, there have been some complications to my schedule. Because I am not yet 18, I cannot work in the clinic as part of the health advocacy program. My project coordinator even asked the national level of P.P. if I could work with permission from my parents, but liability prevents me from doing so. My role has shifted to an administrative one, just once a week. This will involve data entry, phone banking, and other administrative duties. I do, however, have a positive development. I have found a second internship with a program called Engage Miami. This is a grassroots organization that developed as part of a larger national movement. It is focused on increasing civic engagement amongst youth, particularly at the local election level. With this internship, I have managed to create a schedule with 15 hours a week or more, depending on event schedules. Because of these developments, I will be shifting the focus of my Research Project somewhat. Tomorrow afternoon, following the first day of work Engage Miami, I will be posting a updated project description, as well a detailed account of the work I am doing in my two internships. Look out for that post tomorrow!

Week One

Thank you for your patience everyone! I arrived in Miami this Saturday and got settled in. I will be heading to the offices of Planned Parenthood Thursday to hammer out the details of my work and hopefully begin. I am very excited! I will keep all of you updated on the work I will be doing.

The Politicization of Women’s Healthcare and its Effects on Provided Services

The purpose of this project is to help defend Planned Parenthood’s funding through advocacy and action, and in doing so, answer questions surrounding the politicization of women’s healthcare. I will participate in their Health Advocacy Program, encouraging individuals who have used Planned Parenthood services to share their stories. I will also participate in political activism and demonstrations organized by Planned Parenthood and other organizations in its network. I hope to answer questions about the historical reasons that women’s healthcare has become politicized and explore how this politicization has affected the services women are provided.