Why I Started a Travel Blog

Last month, I pulled the trigger on something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time – I started a travel blog. I held off for so long because, unlike the most popular travel bloggers, I don’t have the money or vacation time to travel to different countries constantly. Instead of letting this desire linger in my mind forever, I decided to make it work for me.

My travel blog will include all of my international travel, but it’s main focus is how to explore – wherever you are. In my case, that means finding the fun and interesting things to do in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, as well as trips to places that are within a car or bus ride, like New York City.

The first post on Urban Escapist, included below, talks more about the blog and why I created it. Please visit Urban Escapist here and follow me on Bloglovin’ and social media!

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Welcome to my blog, Urban Escapist.

First, a little about me. My name is Aisha and I’ve lived and worked in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., D.C. itself, and Baltimore my entire life. Even though this has always been my home base, I love to travel everywhere and anywhere as much as possible.

Since I can remember, I’ve been drawn to languages, cultures, and diverse people. Those interests led to studying Spanish and touches of other languages, living and studying in Peru for a summer, and exploring foods, music, dance, and history from around the world.

I come from an international background myself. I was born in Maryland, but my mother is from Germany and my father is a first generation American with parents from Barbados. The opportunity to visit family overseas has always felt like a huge privilege for which I’m incredibly grateful.

This blog combines my love of travel with another passion: writing. Writing is free and can be done anywhere. Travel is another story. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to do the kind of frequent international travel featured on many travel blogs.

Through Urban Escapist, I hope to meet my audience in the middle. Here, you can read about international travel, but also see where I go locally or by road trip when I want a mini-getaway from the stress and routines of daily work life.

I hope this blog inspires you to explore your own city while you’re saving up for those big vacations. Follow my blog and social media to stay up to date with what I’m discovering next. Thanks for visiting!

Mental Health Awareness Month: My Experience with Selective Mutism

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would share my experience with selective mutism, a childhood social anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate in select social settings, such as school.

I only learned what this disorder was called about a year ago when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one morning in bed and noticed a New York Times headline that caught my eye. I only had to read the first few sentences before I recognized my childhood self.

Not knowing what to do with myself, I sat on the edge of my mattress staring at the article and thought about who I could text with this news, but instead just ended up crying. I didn’t cry out of sadness. I felt a mix of excitement, relief, and validation knowing that nothing was fundamentally wrong with me as a person, but that this was something with a name that happened to me.

As I read more about selective mutism, the pieces started to fall into place. So many aspects of the disorder applied or still apply to me. I was a perfectionist afraid to make mistakes, embarrassed to eat in front of others so I often tried to hide in a bathroom during lunch periods, had/have anxiety in crowds, and was/am especially sensitive to sounds, light, and touch (Sensory Processing Disorder). As a child, I hated having to wear socks or underwear. They felt so uncomfortable on my skin that I would hide them in the house so my mom couldn’t force me to wear them. Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that phase, but still prefer loose clothing and low sound volumes.

Many kids with SM come from multilingual families or have been exposed to another language during their formative language development–my mother is German and I spent time with family in Germany as a child. It’s also common for kids with SM to suffer from depression as adults, as I do. And although I never received an OCD diagnosis, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a mild case. I’d often do things like repeatedly pour beads out of their container and put them back in according to color and shape. Every school photo until later in high school shows me with a frozen, blank facial expression, a common characteristic of SM and a perfect visual expression of the fear that gripped me during social (one-way) exchanges.

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My blank expression typical of SM sufferers

There wasn’t much information available about SM during my childhood, but my mother was my lifeline and helped me through it as best as she could. She suffered from the same disorder as a girl and encouraged me to push my boundaries, but with a gentle touch. She may not have known at the time, but what she was practicing with me was behavioral therapy, a recommended treatment for SM and other mental health disorders. She guided me to take risks including entering the elementary school spelling bee which, looking back, was a huge feat.

I also had teachers, two in particular, who helped me through it. One of my teachers had the idea to keep a running journal since I couldn’t speak in class. He wrote in it then handed it off to me and I wrote back to him and brought it back to him in class. To this day, I feel more comfortable and my thoughts flow much easier when I write rather than when I speak.

Despite the isolation, loneliness, low self-worth, and lack of confidence that came with SM, I am strangely grateful for the experience. For better or worse, it shaped who I am as a person. As I get older I learn to appreciate who I am more and more, even if I need to remind myself daily. Without SM, I don’t know if I would be as compassionate and sensitive to others’ feelings as I am. I may not be as observant as I am or be able to examine a situation through anyone’s lens but my own.

It also made me realize something that keeps me going whenever I just can’t bring myself to get out of bed or someone hurts me deeply–I am much stronger than I thought and ultimately, I’ll be okay.

Countdown: 1 Week

I was planning to attend the inauguration with my friend and her 6-year-old daughter if Hillary Clinton won. Just like I attended the historic inauguration of the first Black president, I was going to make sure I was there for the inauguration of the first female president.

As we all know, those plans were shot.

Now there is an endless stream of tragic news- disastrous Trump appointees, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, passage of the REINS Act, a coordinated lack of transparency around multiple simultaneous cabinet nominee hearings, and more.

I was in a bit of a haze since the election and avoided any in-depth news coverage. I wasn’t in denial, but unwilling to let a Trump administration become a daily part of my thoughts and worries for the sake of my mental and emotional health. Now, with 8 days left in Obama’s presidency, the feelings of loss and fear are catching up to me.

Though I don’t agree with everything President Obama has done, he has meant a lot to me and so many people around the world. There were many instances when his thoughtfulness, intelligence, love for his family, humor, and progressiveness made me proud.

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His views on feminism and treatment of the women in his life were nothing like what I’d seen from a U.S. President. He set an example for the men who haven’t caught up yet and showed everyone what a loving, beautiful Black family looks like. In June 2016, I was invited to attend the first ever White House United State of Women Summit. I reflected on how amazing it was that this kind of event can happen under a presidential administration. Trump wasn’t even on our radar yet, but I wondered whether it would be the first and last summit of this kind. I think we all know the answer to that now.

I particularly appreciated his unique perspective given his biracial and international upbringing. From reading his memoir and throughout these eight years, I recognized how I can relate to his worldview in many ways. In other ways, I see how the difference can be attributed to generation and other life circumstances. (Video: The Making of a Black President)

The 2016 presidential election was personal. It happened the way it did largely in response to the personal and cultural significance of a Black president. With pride and jubilation on one side and defeat and loss of perceived power on the other, backlash was inevitable. Even without the racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, this election was a defeat of human decency at the most basic level. The severe contrast between presidents makes the departure of President Obama even more painful. Still, one thing we can look forward to is seeing what Barack and Michelle Obama do after leaving the White House. Following some much deserved time off, I’m sure we will see more of them both.

2017: The Year of Side Hustles

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions for 2017 and I never have in seriousness. I figure if I really want to and am ready to reach a goal, I won’t need to wait until the end of the year to get started. This year, even though I didn’t make a resolution, I am continuing the process of refocusing my life goals and taking consistent steps to achieve them.

I’ve recently become more serious about the idea of working remotely. Since I graduated from college in 2008, working at jobs where I am underpaid and overqualified has taken its toll. I grew up with the belief that going to college and getting a good job is just what people do and of course, I would do the same. That idea was abruptly shattered with the recession and it’s been a demoralizing struggle ever since.

Just the thought of being my own boss and having the freedom to work from anywhere makes me happy. To make it a reality, I’ve narrowed my best options down to three related side hustles that, hopefully, will become main hustles. (Multiple streams of income are a must these days.)

When I look back over random notes and planners from years ago, the common thread is writing and travel. Those old documents serve as an important reminder that that is where my passion lies and it hasn’t changed with time. I would be cheating myself if I didn’t wholeheartedly pursue these goals.  I’m finally focused and confident enough to put dedicated action behind my goal of working for myself.

On New Year’s Eve, with my two best friends and my boyfriend, we thought of things or people that we want to leave in the year 2016 and wrote them down on small pieces of paper to burn in the bonfire. On three of my pieces of paper I wrote self-doubt, self-sabotage, and selling myself short. Burning them in the fire was the easy part. Now comes the hard work of actually leaving these bad habits behind so my mind is free to focus on living the life I want.

I’m Not Confused: Identifying as Mixed Race

This piece, originally published on the Mixed Roots Stories blog, is the last in a series of pieces I wrote as Guest Blogger for the website.

These days it has become more common to find mixed roots people who identify as biracial or multiracial. The days of ‘passing’ are a part of American history and unimaginable to most people today. What does this mean culturally and for multiracial people personally? As someone who has always identified as biracial, I wonder about this often. How do we reconcile our individual identities with the realities of society and the way mixed racial identities are perceived? Is that even possible?

A 2015 literature review published in Current Directions in Psychological Science explores the psychology of multiracial identity. One of the findings is that multiracial people can have higher self-esteem if they are raised with an understanding of all of their racial heritage and identify with both parents. When they are asked to choose only one race, they experience a decrease in self-esteem.

Personally, I can identify with those findings. Being asked to choose one race not only doesn’t make sense to me, but is a painful experience because it would mean a part of me is missing, or I am actively rejecting my white mother. I believe it is especially damaging for young people to be told or encouraged to identify with only one part of their background. This is the time when we are forming our sense of selves and starting to figure out who we are. For youth of any race, self-esteem is fragile or nonexistent. Therefore, outside pressures have more influence given this impressionability. When it comes to being mixed race, even adults can have a hard time placing themselves in the world and often default to the path of least resistance, whatever that may be in their environment.

Despite some benefits, having a strong mixed race identity comes with its challenges. As a mixed race family and individual, intolerance can come from all sides. Intolerance from white people is damaging and has the power of institutions behind it, but I’ve found intolerance from black people to be hurtful in a more personal way. All people of color endure racism from the race in power at some point or another. So if I’m rejected by a fellow person of color based on my racial identity where does that leave me? It can be a lonely place to identify as mixed race in a world where external and internalized racism creates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

I don’t think any of this is new. The difference could be that now we have the freedom to identify however we want so the issues that always existed are simply out in the open for us all to grapple with. We no longer have to choose one side (though the pressure is still there) and this freedom comes with a need for dialogue and understanding. That’s a challenge that multiracial people face in our culture today. How can we reconcile- within ourselves and others- the divisiveness of racism with our right to accept and love the whole of our identity?

How An Anxiety Disorder Shaped My Mixed Race Experience 

This piece, originally published on the Mixed Roots Stories blog, is the second in a series of pieces I wrote as Guest Blogger for the website.

One of my most vivid memories is from Kindergarten. Holding my mother’s hand, I walked into the school building. An adult bent down to speak to me; I don’t recall her words or who she was, but she said something as simple as hello and asked for my name. At that moment, my body took control. I froze, my body temperature shot up, my heart raced, and my mind went blank. I was physically unable to say or do anything. The feeling of terror from being trapped inside my own body lives in my memory to this day.

This was not a singular event. I had a childhood social anxiety disorder called selective mutism, in which a child is unable to speak in social settings, but has no problem speaking in settings where they are secure and relaxed, such as at home. Some children are able to speak only in a whisper or a few words while others are unable to speak at all. This anxiety is often inherited from one or more family members. In my case, my mother struggled with the same disorder as a girl.

Because of this disorder, I was very isolated and unable to connect with my peers. Isolation, loneliness, self-consciousness, and self-hate led to self-harm starting in middle school and depression that I manage to this day. As traumatic as all of this was, I look back and see how it protected me from some of the deeper race-related issues that many multiracial people experience. Most of my life has been spent working around social anxiety and its effects–any other problem couldn’t stay on my radar for long. How could I worry about fitting in with a racial group when I would have been overjoyed just to be able to socialize with anyone like a normal child?

I was never confused about my racial identity. It was and is a simple statement of fact that my mother is a white German woman and my father is a black Bajan man, therefore I am biracial. It never occurred to me that I might describe myself in any other way. My limited social contact in school, including through the college years when I studied Spanish and lived in an intercultural living exchange dorm, provided few opportunities for that self-identity to be challenged.

This is not to say that social anxiety protected me from all racial influence, either negative or positive. Like anyone living in this racialized society, I had many of the experiences that are common among mixed and minority people. I dealt with microaggressions like any other person of color, both from black and white sides. The difference was that I was hyper aware of my disorder and self-conscious of how I was perceived, so I attributed any negative social experience to my anxiety and never to my racial background. Although it is true that my anxiety affected every aspect of my life, in hindsight I now remember some instances when my race also had something to do with it.

Even with a social anxiety disorder, I realize that my race could have played a more central role in my youth had I grown up somewhere else. I grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The public schools I attended and the neighborhoods where I lived were racially and culturally mixed. I had classmates of all races and religions. I don’t remember any instances of blatant racism, though there may well have been some that didn’t register with me at the time. But my diverse and generally tolerant environment sheltered me from in-your-face racism that I would have had no choice but to confront. Anything short of blatant bigotry would not have been enough to distract me from my intense fear and anxiety.

Now that my social anxiety has become less severe, I’ve been able to breathe and take time to examine my racial experience more closely instead of being consumed by anxiety. I am steeped in social justice issues because of my full-time job at a civil rights nonprofit and the light that is now being shone on racism in this country. As a woman of color who participates in activism and social justice work in a majority black city, there is no escaping racial issues. Due to the nature of my work and its connection to current social movements, I have had to confront race head-on not only externally, but also in an internally reflective way, for the first time.

It’s clear that a wide range of factors affect a person’s lived experience with race. I’ve noticed a lack of non-stereotypical stories when it comes to the mixed experience. Unless you are a tragic mulatto or identify with only one side, your story is rarely heard or shared.

As multiracial people like me increasingly claim all of our heritage and become comfortable with ourselves as the whole, complex people that we are, I hope a greater diversity of mixed roots stories begin to emerge.

What Exactly is the Mixed Experience?

This piece, originally published on the Mixed Roots Stories blog, is the first in a series of pieces I wrote as Guest Blogger for the website.

The idea behind a shared lived experience is that different people can identify with similar things that happen as a result of some part of their identity. Unfortunately, I have met too many people who don’t understand or accept that the mixed experience is on equal footing with any monoracial experience. I’ve listed five common experiences that I have noticed as a black and white biracial woman, but that apply to other mixed backgrounds, as well.

  1. Explain, Justify, Defend

Multiracial people are very familiar with constantly having to explain, justify, or defend who we are, our experience, and essentially our existence in the world. The most obvious example of this is the question that all mixed or racially ambiguous people know well: “What are you?” However, the issue goes much deeper than an inconvenience or awkward conversation starter. Sometimes, the answer to the question doesn’t satisfy the asker. It may lead to further explanation or in rare cases, even to an argument.

I am often mistaken for Afro-Latina. More than once, when a Latino person has asked me what I am and I respond, they can’t believe my answer so they continue questioning me. “Really? You have no Latina background at all? But you have the face of a Brazilian. (I don’t know what the ‘face of a Brazilian’ looks like, but it has been said to me.) And you dance salsa? You must have at least some Latina in you.” In this situation, my reaction may be amusement, annoyance, or simply boredom with the conversation. In situations involving monoracial black people, things can go a different direction. The dialogue can get much more heated and emotional due to a perceived betrayal or rejection of blackness. In my experience, any negative reaction is more commonly a subtle change in tone of voice or mood. I have a visceral reaction, as well, because I know this to be far from the truth and am hurt by the questioning of my right to accept myself as a complete human being and acknowledge my lived experience.

I often avoid these conversations entirely because even the most subtle slights become exhausting and the conversation has never resulted in increased understanding or even acceptance of my experience. Despite what some have been made to believe, acknowledging and validating different experiences among people of color does not create division; rejecting them does.

  1. Rejection

No one likes rejection, but everyone experiences it at some point. For mixed roots people, rejection can come from one or all sides of one’s heritage at different times. This reality is what leads to the common feeling of being an outsider and not knowing where we fit in in a racialized world.

Some multiracial people, myself included, are most comfortable in racially diverse environments because there is less pressure to conform to the group along racial lines. There is a certain trauma that comes with being rejected over and over again. After years of rejection based on race, you develop defense mechanisms and learn to avoid situations where rejection is more likely, such as a monoracial group setting. But when that avoidance happens, it can be seen as thinking you’re better or rejecting the race. Since we are rarely given a space to talk about mixed experiences, resentment and misunderstanding continue unaddressed.

  1. Acceptance — With Conditions

The other side of rejection–acceptance–still involves rejection in a way. Acceptance into a monoracial group often is contingent upon mixed people subverting their own unique experiences as mixed people. If you mention your mixed experience, you risk having to justify or defend it. (See #1) But if you never speak of your experience of being mixed, unless it’s to acknowledge light skin privilege, then you are acceptable. Again, I tend to keep those experiences private because I don’t want to be put in a position where I feel compelled to defend my lived experience.

Groups want to claim or reject multiracial people whenever it is convenient- to some people I am black, period. To others, if someone has a parent of any race other than their own, they’re not truly a member of that person’s race. To some white people, as long as you’re some shade of brown or ethnic looking, you’re a minority and that may be enough information for them. At least in my case, I’m sometimes treated as an honorary Latina because I can pass for Latina, I speak Spanish, and dance salsa. All of this can be confusing, especially for youth, and it is why I believe it’s incredibly important for mixed race people to have a strong sense of self despite what anyone else decides to project onto them.

  1. Fluidity

Fluidity, when it comes to the mixed experience, means the ability to move between different racial categories and having a variety of experiences with and entry points into different cultures. This wide experience can provide deeper insight into race and the way it plays out. It also means that your perceived and internally felt identity can change depending on your environment. While this is a privilege because it allows increased access to a variety of spaces, there are also downsides. In a world where everyone wants to put people in a box, fluidity can be confusing and very isolating. There is a particular kind of certainty and solidarity that comes with a singular racial identity, something multiracial people do not inherently have. As convenient as it can be to blend in with multiple crowds, it is human nature to desire and seek out one stable community that feels like home.

  1. Letting Things Slide Off Your Back

The term “microaggressions” has gotten more attention lately due to the increased dialogue around race. Multiracial people experience microaggressions just like any other minority group; some that are shared with monoracial groups and some that are specific to multiracial people. The difference is microaggressions come from all of the races to which we belong. Sometimes I feel on edge, ready to brace for the impact of microaggressions or outright aggressions from either side. A simple, dismissive “oh, but you’re light-skinned” can throw someone off balance regardless of the intention behind the statement. On top of that, multiracial people are not supposed to speak of the unique experiences they encounter. As I mentioned before, speaking one’s own truth can somehow be seen as a betrayal or statement of superiority.

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None of this is to complain about being mixed race; there are ups and downs to everyone’s experience and I am not a fan of the Oppression Olympics. However, I do believe there needs to be more listening and understanding of the fact that our experience as mixed race individuals is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. It is my hope that one day this fact will not need to be stated because it will be implicitly known.

 

Writing, Vulnerability, and Managing Fear

Part of the reason why I haven’t strongly pursued writing in the past is my fear of exposing vulnerability. The best writing happens when someone writes what he or she knows. That means vulnerability will always be present since personal experience is involved.

The topics I’ve just recently started to address in my writing–depression, anxiety, and my experience as a biracial woman–make me feel vulnerable and anxious, but are ultimately freeing. Each time I put these topics down on paper and then release them to the world, my mind runs wild with worry and fear. After I’ve submitted a piece and some time has passed, the frantic thoughts lessen and I reach a place of acceptance. With acceptance of whatever may come, a huge burden is lifted from my shoulders. This process happens over and over again. Sometimes the worried thoughts last for a week, sometimes for months. Usually, the entire process restarts when a new person reads my work. But I’ve learned to click the Send button anyway, despite the anxiety that I no longer allow to rule my actions.

In September, I will be a Guest Blogger for Mixed Roots Stories, a blog where multiracial people can explore their experiences in community with one another. This is the first time I have written exclusively on this topic. Although I went through the typical process of fear, anxiety, and frantic worried thoughts, I kept writing. Finishing all the pieces was cathartic and even fun, encouraging me to continue writing as truthfully as possible.

Human Rights Leaders Institute

A couple of months ago, I applied for sponsorship to attend the Amnesty International USA Human Rights Leaders Institute from July 28-30 in Chicago. Human rights has always been a passion of mine and one that I first acted on in high school when I started an Amnesty International club despite my intense shyness and social anxiety disorder. Recently, I’ve felt the need to reconnect with that passion as I’ve contemplated my goals and priorities now that I’m 30. 

Later, I had a call with the Field Officer and was invited to attend. I won’t go into the details of our activities; I’d rather focus on my takeaways from the weekend. 

First, I met a lot of smart and inspiring people at the HRLI, including the women who I will be working with here in Baltimore. I made instant connections with some and for others, I developed a respect and admiration gradually over the three days. 

Second, I was reminded of the problems that plague mostly white-led organizations, whether they acknowledge it or not. I don’t entirely believe these issues can be solved since whiteness always comes with blind spots despite the best of intentions. But the problems can only be brought to light and addressed when a wide range of people of color are active participants and decision-makers in every aspect of an organization. 

I also felt re-energized after leaving the conference. For the past couple of months, I have been taking a break from actively leading or organizing around social issues to focus on personal goals to which I hadn’t been able to devote the necessary time and effort. I came to the HRLI with no decisive result in mind. Since I just returned a few days ago, this hasn’t changed, but the regional planning sessions did invigorate me the most. These were sessions where regional groups met to discuss and plan our group agendas. The chemistry between the Baltimore women was effortless. As I usually do when making plans, I felt my excitement rising for the possibilities of human rights activism in my city. Our ability to set concrete goals and have a meeting of minds with no tension made me optimistic about future efforts together. 

The closing exercise was an unexpected and slightly uncomfortable, but invaluable experience. Everyone stood in a circle facing outwards and closed their eyes. After everyone gave consent, a smaller group stood inside the circle and touched individuals on the shoulder or back who they felt matched the prompt being called out. For example, the exercise leader said “someone who showed you kindness” and people in the middle of the circle walked around to touch those who had shown them kindness that weekend. A few people started tearing up and crying, myself included. I can’t even put my finger on why, but it speaks to the power of physical human contact and kindness. It’s not every day that we express appreciation for others and it’s a powerful act to give and receive it at the same time. 

This, along with new relationships, new skills, and renewed motivation, is what I will take away from the HRLI.

United State of Women Summit 2016

I was excited to be invited to attend the United State of Women Summit as a member of the AAUW delegation. The summit was organized by the White House and focused on women from all walks of life working towards gender equality and fighting for women’s rights. The day consisted of plenary sessions which featured high-profile speakers like President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Biden, Valerie Jarrett, Loretta Lynch, Mariska Hargitay, and Kerry Washington (!!!), as well as less known but equally, or even more, impressive speakers such as Jaha Dukureh and Joanne N. Smith.

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Violence Against Women breakout session

In between plenary sessions, attendees signed up for three breakout sessions. The breakout sessions were smaller panel discussions on a particular topic. I chose “From the Margins to the Center: Solutions to Stopping Violence in All Communities” and “Creating Pathways Towards Equity: Advancing Opportunity for Women and Girls of Color.” There were some panelists doing great work and I was glad to learn about it, but I would have preferred  more personal workshop-style sessions where women can speak to each other in small groups and make personal connections.

Throughout the entire day, there was an expo which included organization tables, a booth for free headshots, and musical acts. I stopped by to listen to Mariachi Flor de Toloache– a Latin Grammy winning all-female mariachi band and a new favorite of mine.

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My best friend in my head, Kerry Washington, spoke about financial abuse

Overall, I was glad to have been able to attend this one of a kind summit. I kept thinking throughout the day how this type of event would never have happened under any previous administration. There were logistical issues like the event running long, which can be blamed on the sheer number of attendees and on Joe Biden not being able to stop talking. Even though the summit was far from perfect, it was a step in the right direction. There were a wide range of identities represented- race, religion, gender identity- but there is always room to make those voices even more visible by putting them, literally, on the main stage. There was one instance of direct talk about intersectionality from Joanne Smith. Though this is the only direct mention that I remember, I did appreciate how intersectionality was shown in the speakers present and the topics discussed, even if intersectionality itself was not explicitly referenced. Of course, there were problematic statements made by some, including Joe Biden, and people who have made problematic statements in the past, like Patricia Arquette. However inevitable problematic statements may be during a summit of this magnitude, that doesn’t make it excusable. It just means it’s even more important that minority women are present and their voices are amplified. I feel like their, our, voices were heard at the United State of Women Summit and I hope the event gets better every year.

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Michelle Obama and Oprah