Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Trayvon Martin's father Tracy Martin and his mother Sybrina Fulton at the Union Square protest against Trayvon's shooting death.

Today, a woman by the name of Sybrina Fulton is a childless mother. As our divided nation seeks to find understanding in the midst of the tragic death of her son, Trayvon Martin, Fulton faces the realization that he is more than the victim of a shooting. Fulton is living the terrifying reality of countless mothers who fear that their children will be harmed or killed for no apparent reason.

In late February in Sanford, Florida, self-appointed neighborhood-watch captain George Zimmerman, 28, reportedly gunned down 17-year-old Martin. In a 911 call, Zimmerman accused Martin of being under the influence of drugs and generally looking suspicious. Zimmerman was armed with a gun; Martin was equipped with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

Zimmerman has yet to be arrested and has proclaimed his innocence under Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. This policy allows you to use deadly force if it is in self-defense. The police must determine whether deadly force was necessary before arresting a suspect. In Martin’s case, what is apparent is that a child was senselessly killed. The laws working to protect the shooter have caused a miscarriage of justice and left the victim’s family defenseless.

The curious case of Trayvon Martin serves as a reflection of America’s treacherous history of gloomy race relations. As a nation demands justice for Martin, we must examine if we truly live in a post-racial America. This tragedy demonstrates that despite the fact that our nation currently has an African American president, we still manage to remain a nation heavily burdened by racism. In response to Martin’s death, President Barack Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

I have two brothers who look like Martin. My greatest fear is that Zimmerman will never be charged for Martin’s murder — and that my twin brothers could quite possibly be the next Trayvon Martins. Will my mother one day receive a call that her sons were gunned down for looking suspicious?

As our president, the nation, and I stand outraged over Martin’s death, we are reminded of the power of the citizenry to stand against injustice. Martin’s legacy is being honored through the Million Hoodie campaign, which was created to petition for Zimmerman’s prosecution and to demonstrate that merely wearing a hoodie doesn’t constitute being suspicious.

What makes someone appear to be suspicious?

Though it is not clear if this shooting was racially motivated, Martin’s name is among countless African American men who have been killed for appearing to be suspicious. Across the country, hundreds of people have attended vigils and rallies in support of Martin. The Miami Heat basketball team and members of Congress are standing in solidarity with Martin by donning hoodies in an effort to preserve his legacy.

As members of our nation try to make sense of this catastrophe, many continue to stand both in support of and against Martin. According to journalist Geraldo Rivera, “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”

In spite of criticisms of Martin, his mother’s ability to persevere in the face of hardship is remarkable. Her story reminds me of the struggles of African American women who were lynched  in the 20th century for demanding police intervention in the murders of their sons and husbands.

Though Martin’s mother can never find solace in the death of her son, she can find comfort in knowing that her son’s life has sparked a national movement for an end to inequality. Though Martin’s voice may be silenced in death, his life serves as a call for further peace and social harmony. Hopefully, we can wake up from the fantasy of a post-racial America and enter the reality of an America deeply divided by race and hierarchical privilege.

Martin’s legacy will live on — so long as we repair this breakdown of justice.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Ola Ojewumi.

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Today, the AAUW Action Fund is excited to announce the launch of It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard, a nonpartisan campaign to educate and mobilize young women for the 2012 elections.

You can be a part of the big launch by spreading the word about our campaign to your friends, family, followers, and fellow potential voters! Here’s how:

  1. Pick one of the quotes below from AAUW state presidents who are leading the way in 15 key states that have competitive statewide races. Maybe you’ll pick one from your home state or just choose your favorite. Now share it! Post it on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter — use the hashtag #MyVote — and encourage your friends to check out our campaign.
  2. Follow @ItsMyVote on Twitter.
  3. Check out the My Vote campaign website, and share the link with your social networks.
  4. Share your own thoughts on why you’ll be voting in this election in the comments below or on Twitter (#MyVote).

Here’s what 15 AAUW state presidents have to say about the campaign:


“We’ve come such a long way, yet many of the rights and privileges that we’ve struggled long and hard to win are at risk in this year’s general election,” said Judith Pfeil, AAUW of California president. “We’re working to educate women about the rights and privileges that are at stake in the upcoming election: equal pay, equal opportunity, college affordability, access to birth control, Social Security, the list goes on, and we’re committed to getting women to the polls in record numbers and turning up the volume of women’s voices.”


“We’re going to use our leverage to educate voters and get young women involved,” said Carol Napper, AAUW of Florida president. “We want everyone to be aware of the issues that particularly impact families and to come to the polls to make sure candidates know these issues matter.”


“The decisions our elected officials make now will shape the future Illinois these young women inherit,” said Lois Strom, AAUW of Illinois president. “As our state continues to face an uphill budget battle, I think it’s crucial that young women learn about the issues and get involved with the election. That’s what our campaign aims to do.”


“With so many outside groups trying to sway voters with attack ads, we hope to add a breath of fresh air with a simple message to young women: Go vote,” said Liz Fragola, AAUW of Massachusetts president. “Ignore the negativity, educate yourself on the issues, and get to the polls in November. That’s what our campaign is all about.”


“I have heard from some young people that they don’t think that their one vote is important,” said Sally Doty, AAUW of Michigan president. “That’s far from the truth. It is so very important for voters to remember that the people we elect are making decisions that affect our families both now and in the future.”


“Voting is a right. Voting is a responsibility. Voting is our voice,” said Bess C. Blackwell, AAUW of Mississippi president. “Therefore, we must exercise our right to vote, be responsible and vote, voice our vote through the election of a candidate for a specific office, and by voting in each and every election.”


“We’re very excited to mobilize young women voters this election, and we’re doing everything we can to get people involved and into the habit of voting,” said Julia Triplett, AAUW of Missouri president. “This is a unique opportunity to reach out to Missouri voters with the important message that each vote is valuable and powerful.”


“Young women are already engaged with many of today’s issues, from the Keystone XL pipeline to campus sexual assault,” said Diane Ehernberger, AAUW of Montana president. “We’re hoping to turn that issue engagement into a lifelong voting habit.”


“We encourage women voters to get involved in the political process because our everyday lives are affected by local and national laws and regulations,” said Marilyn Bombac, AAUW of Nebraska president. “AAUW members in Nebraska are raising our voices to establish a tipping point at which our voices are transformed into votes that make a positive difference in Nebraska governance.”


“It is critical to get women to vote in the 2012 election so we in Nevada can elect a senator who will fight for women and families,” said Joyce Destefanis, AAUW of Nevada president. “Education, child care, and health care are sorely in need of advocates. Nevada ranks low in all these areas, and young women know it. Now it’s time to show it by voting.”

North Dakota

“AAUW of North Dakota has a great track record for engaging voters on the issues,” said Julie Garrett, AAUW of North Dakota president. “It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard is all about talking to young women and getting them to the polls. This is a group that can pack a serious punch on Election Day, and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure the impact is heard and felt in North Dakota.”


“AAUW members in Pennsylvania are encouraging all voters to understand issues that impact their lives and their families — from campus safety and ‘fracking’ to equal pay and election accessibility,” said Margaret McGrath, AAUW of Pennsylvania president. “Once voters understand both the issues and the power of their vote, they’ll want to help shape the future by showing up at the polls.”


“It was at the Lorton Workhouse in Virginia in 1917 that the suffragists were imprisoned and force-fed simply for asking for women’s right to vote, something so important to them that they willingly endured physical abuse,” said Caroline Pickens, AAUW of Virginia president. “As precious and hard-won as it is, many younger women today aren’t exercising their right to vote. At every level of government, women’s voices and opinions are needed. Our vote is critical, and it honors those brave women from 95 years ago.”

West Virginia

“Women need to hear the truth about the issues that are going to matter today and tomorrow, yet every election season West Virginia is flooded with misinformation,” said Sharon Clagett, AAUW of West Virginia president. “There’s a great need for a campaign that takes a ‘just the facts, ma’am’ approach.”


“It’s crucial that young women get into the habit of voting and raise their voices on the issues they care about,” said Anne Lee, AAUW of Wisconsin president. “Our leaders need to know that quality education, reproductive health access, and government-backed postsecondary school loans matter to the women of Wisconsin. AAUW is doing all we can to make sure young women and their opinions are valued and heard in the upcoming election.”

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2007–08 American Fellow K. Maria D. Lane’s strong affinity for coastal southwest Florida, the region in which she grew up, led to her interest in maps and places. Although she was exposed to multiple cultural and environmental landscapes there, Lane’s career goal was not to become the academic geographer she is today. Her interest in environmental planning as well as her job with the Organization of American States led her to a deeper interest in investigating human-environment relations in a geography doctoral program.

Lane’s Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet, made possible in part by her AAUW fellowship, was published with academic acclaim this year. In her “imaginatively conceived” book, Lane explores the complex construction of Mars, “challeng[ing] dominant geopolitical themes during a time of major cultural, intellectual, political, and economic transition in the western world.” Lane describes the perceived connections between terrestrial and Martian landscapes through this historical, geographic book. Her work has enlarged the study of geography outside of the typical academic scope, asserting the intersection of astronomy and geography within the debates of life on Mars in the 19th century.

Like many other AAUW fellows, Lane has an interdisciplinary academic background. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of Virginia, her master of science degree in community and regional planning, and her doctorate in geography from the University of Texas, Austin. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. Lane has a broad list of research interests ranging from historical geography and political ecology to environmental knowledge. Lane’s current project is supported by the National Science Foundation. Through considerable examination of legal archives, she is analyzing the water-related disputes in New Mexico before statehood, a time when the responsibility of water management shifted from local communities to a centralized agency controlled by a state or territory.

Lane says that the AAUW fellowship came at an opportune time, allowing her to focus on research and writing. The chapters she finished during her fellowship year led to a contract and eventual completion of the now-published book. The announcement of the AAUW fellowship came the day of her interview, helping her achieve a position with tenure a track at the University of New Mexico. Lane proudly says that she has been lucky to take advantage of career opportunities as they have arisen while also balancing her aspirations with her personal life.

Lane and her husband have three children, and managing to find a personal-professional balance is one of her biggest accomplishments. She acknowledges that the academic career path for women is complicated by time constraints. Women must strive to exceed at a time where their responsibilities at home are most significant. She encourages current and aspiring academics and says that the balance gets easier over time; discipline, supportive structures, and the backing of AAUW make it all possible for her.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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The Supreme Court begins its 2011–12 term today, its second full one with three women justices. This term should be a busy one for the court, as it’s expected to hear a wide range of cases that set far-reaching precedents, including three cases of interest to AAUW.

The health care reform case will likely dominate because of public interest and political impact. This case, officially known as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. State of Florida, will examine whether the legal requirement that all Americans have health insurance is constitutional. If the court overturns this provision, it could leave the remainder of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act standing or strike down the entire act as unconstitutional. Throwing out the entire law could have serious implications for the provisions that AAUW supports, such as requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions, ending insurers’ practice of charging women more for coverage than men, and covering preventive care without co-pays or cost sharing.

In Daniel Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, the court will determine whether state employees can sue in federal court if their employers unlawfully deny Family Medical Leave Act requests. In 2007, Maryland state employee Daniel Coleman was fired after his doctor put him on bed rest and he requested medical leave under FMLA. Coleman filed a lawsuit under the self-care provision of FMLA, which guarantees eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave each year to recover from a serious health condition. Lower courts concluded that the State of Maryland is immune to federal lawsuits based on the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits federal lawsuits against an unconsenting state unless Congress has unequivocally “abrogated” (revoked) the immunity. Coleman argues that by passing FMLA, Congress clearly intended the federal courts would be able to apply FMLA equally to both private and state employers. AAUW led the advocacy charge that resulted in the enactment of FMLA and will continue to work to ensure this act is protected from all threats.

The third case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will determine which employees of religious institutions will be allowed the protection of federal anti-discrimination laws when facing illegal employment discrimination. In this case, Cheryl Perich was fired from her job as a teacher from the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School when she tried to assert her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school claimed that federal anti-discrimination laws did not apply because of the “ministerial exemption” — a court-made interpretation of the First Amendment intended to protect freedom of religion. The school’s position is that this exemption means the federal government cannot enforce anti-discrimination laws for employees of religious institutions, even those who are engaged primarily in secular duties. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the scope and application of the exception and whether religious employers should be exempt from all anti-discrimination laws. AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals.

Given the court’s recent disappointing ruling in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case last term, AAUW will closely monitor the court’s actions and the impact of its decisions. AAUW firmly supports a fair, balanced, and independent judiciary because so many of our fundamental rights and liberties have been established and are protected by the federal courts and Supreme Court precedents. To learn more about AAUW’s work on this issue, please visit our position page.

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On January 8 the AAUW St. Augustine (FL) Branch held a panel presentation on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to examine why fewer women than men enter these fields and how to overcome this challenge. Local STEM professionals participated in the panel, including Gail Cullum, an adjunct professor from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who also teaches college courses at the St. Johns County Aerospace Academy; Carrie E. A. Grant, associate professor in mathematics in the Math, Science, and Technology Department at Flagler College; and branch member Amy Myers, an environmental compliance officer at the Seminole Electric Cooperative.

The branch pledged at their state meeting to make STEM a priority in their local community work. This panel was an opportunity to talk about STEM and get the community involved. Overall, there were 45 people in attendance, an “excellent turnout,” according to branch STEM Coordinator Gerry Linton.

All the women on the panel talked about going through the educational world in various areas of STEM and working their way into professional fields. Many of the panelists described being one of few women in their classes, and only one had a female mentor who helped her through the challenges of being a minority in that environment. All the panel participants except one had fathers who were in STEM fields and encouraged them to enter these educational and career tracks. Myers, originally from Puerto Rico, credited her grandmother with encouraging her interest and letting her know that she could be anything she wanted to be.

To bring more girls into STEM fields, the women on the panel recommended that girls be encouraged at a young age to think about STEM careers as a possibility and that parents be included in the discussion. To help achieve this goal and nurture girls’ interest in STEM, a local philanthropist with a foundation in the St. Augustine area volunteered to give a local school $500 to create an after-school information technology program for girls.

Other AAUW Florida branches have held STEM events this year, including Girls Go Green in July, where girls visited the greenest home in the country in Florida’s Brevard County to learn about conservation in the home through storm water management, cisterns, and green roofs.

The St. Augustine branch is committed to holding at least two more STEM events in the near future, one to disseminate information on the AAUW research report Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and another targeted at parents on how to be supportive of girls who choose to go into STEM fields. One easy way for parents and kids to work on STEM outside of school is to visit www.howtosmile.org, a free clearinghouse of informal learning activities.

Learn more about AAUW’s work on STEM on our AAUW STEM web page. If you know of a STEM program at a local branch, please let us know! E-mail us at stem@aauw.org.

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Last weekend at the AAUW of Florida state convention in Gainesville, more than 30 AAUW women built green homes with nontraditional materials. Graham crackers with frosting mortar formed the main structure, green sprinkles stood in for native plants on a green roof, and a stack of small marshmallows on a toothpick represented a cistern to catch storm water. Others placed solar panels on the roof or built native plants in the yard with toothpicks and gum drops.

Anyone can do hands-on activities like these with girls to show them how much fun science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be. The aim is to expand girls’ minds about science and engage them in designing and creating an edible green home. The parts may be edible, but the concepts are sound: in the course of the fun activity, girls learn about the science and engineering that go into building a green home, as well as principles of water and energy conservation. In Gainesville, the ladies took it one step further and discussed hosting a green conference for girls to encourage them to care for our environment.

Activities like the workshop in Gainesville are essential for spreading the message to young girls that STEM is a viable career path. Out of the more than 3.25 million Americans employed in math and computer science, only 27 percent are women (U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 2007). We need more women in STEM fields, and you can make a difference. The most important thing you can do is spread the message that STEM is fun and that it provides opportunities for ingenuity, invention, and innovation — exciting, coolstuff that can transform life as we know it. Start early by encouraging the girls in your life to do puzzles, play with Legos, or take things apart and put them back together again. Plan a trip to the science museum, talk about how things work, and encourage participation in science fairs. Parent and adult encouragement really works, and Earth Day is a great time to show girls how much fun science and math can be.

This post was written by Jennifer McDaniel, AAUW National Girls Collaborative Project South Atlantic regional liaison to the Florida Girls Collaborative Project.

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