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2019 Year in Review

2019 Year in REview(1)

2019 Year in Review

H. Bradford

2/09/2020


Typically, I would try to write up a “Year in Review” in January, but I just haven’t had time.  Where does the time go, I don’t know!  Thus, my year in review is ready near my birthday instead.  I will say that 2019 started off on a low note, but improved towards the end of the year.  My health, mental health, and finances were a little topsy turvy, but it was also a year of adventures and perseverance.  By the end of the year, I pulled things out of the fire and ended feeling optimistic for 2020!


Depression:


One downside of 2019, was the return of my depression.  This was a struggle between December 2018 and August 2019, with the worst symptoms occurring in December through the spring.  Most of the depression was probably work related, which isn’t something I am at complete liberty to share. I will only say that there was an intense period of labor struggle accompanied by a high attrition of staff.  In the end, I was one of the “last ones standing” or staying at my job. During the struggle and once it was over, I felt rather bleak about it all. I was depressed enough that I withdrew from some people and actively considered suicide.  However, since it wasn’t my first experience with depression, I also sought out some therapy. While I only attended a few sessions, it helped me hold myself accountable for my mental health. Eventually, things improved and I was better able to get a handle on my depression.  It is good to be at a place in life where I’ve had enough experience with depression that it will never be as destructive and debilitating as it was in my early 20s.


Gallbladder Surgery:


Another downside of 2019 was the sudden onset of painful attacks in my chest and back area.  One of these mysterious attacks sent me to the ER in February 2019….while celebrating my birthday!  It turned out that I needed gallbladder surgery. I had my gallbladder removed in April. The downside of all of this was the financial cost to it all.  Even though I have health insurance, the entire ordeal cost me about $6000.

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Owing to the unexpected expense of a visit to the ER and gallbladder surgery, I felt more stressed about finances than usual.  Coupled with student loans and car repairs, there were some financially stressful moments this past year. However, in the end I was able to manage these expenses, develop a payment plan for the medical bills, and pay off my car early in September.  I also picked up overtime on every paycheck between January and August at my primary place of employment. This helped with my financial security. I even increased my 401 b contribution and tried out a few new financial tools such as Acorns and Mint.  I am also proud that by the end of the year, my credit score reached a peak of over 760.


 

Work:


I worked….a lot.  As mentioned, I picked up quite a lot of overtime at the shelter.  Aside from this, I continued to work at the WE Health Clinic, as the mall Easter Bunny, and substitute teaching.  A downside of the year was when the work schedule I had enjoyed for four years was changed. However, I was able to eventually move to a work schedule that seems to work just as well.  This caused some distress during the interim between the old and newest work schedule. Also distressing was the loss of many of my coworkers after a protracted struggle. Thankfully, things have settled down into a less conflict ridden status quo (even though the struggle was lost).  It was an empowering experience, even if all consuming for a while.


 

Union:


I became Vice President of my union this year.  I feel proud of that.


 

Central America Trip:


In January 2019, I visited Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  I spent the most time in El Salvador and had a really great time. Highlights included seeing many wonderful birds, visiting the Copan ruins, hiking up two volcanoes, not getting sick, and visiting historical sites related to the civil war in El Salvador.

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Inca Trail:


Another travel highlight was completing the Inca Trail.  I visited Ecuador and Peru in November and December for three weeks.  The Inca Trail was physically challenging, but I am proud of myself for having made it!

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Galapagos Islands:


I also visited the Galapagos Islands in December.  I loved seeing the unique wildlife and celebrating evolution.

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Winnipeg Road Trip:


I went on a road trip with my mother to Winnipeg.  For me, this was in part to observe the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg general strike.  We kept a busy schedule, visiting museums, the zoo, camping, spending time in nature, catching an outdoor concert and First Nations festival, and much more!  Visiting Lake Winnipeg was also a highlight. We learned the hard way that the U.S./Canada border point that we wanted to cross closes at 8pm.

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Five New State Parks:


One of my goals is to visit all of the state parks in Minnesota.  Each year I try to visit a few new ones. One of the parks I visited was Forestville Mystery Cave, which is located in southern Minnesota.  Although I usually go alone, Dan was kind enough to go with me, indulging my desire to see the largest cave in Minnesota. I also visited Itasca State Park, which is the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  After visiting the park, I stayed with my father in Bemidji and we went to Lake Bemidji State Park together. We walked along the bog walk. Another nearby park was Schoolcraft State Park, which isn’t that impressive but is known for an old white pine.  I also visited Father Hennepin State Park on a day trip, but did not see the famous albino deer. Image may contain: sky, outdoor, water and nature

Where the Mississippi River begins


Friends:


I can always be thankful for my friends.  Adam, Lucas, and I went to Madeline Island and Houghton Falls for a memorable adventure together.  The three of us also went for a hike up Carlton Peak, while Adam and I did a few other hikes.  As I mentioned, Dan and I also went on an adventure to Forestville Mystery Cave.  I also had a great Halloween, as my friends and I dressed up as the seasons.  Although we didn’t win the costume prize, I felt proud of our costumes and had a great time dressing up as dry season! Image may contain: 6 people, including Heather Bradford, Jenny Hoffman and Bryan Bongey, people smiling, people standing and hat


39 Books:


I read 39 books last year.  To some people this may seem like a lot and to others, this may seem disappointingly low.  Some highlights include The Last Days of the Incas, Handbook for a Post Roe America, The End of Roe v. Wade,  The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, 1491: Before Columbus, Eels, Frankenstein, and a few books about Yemen. I always try to “read my age” so, I will have my work cut out for me when I am 80.


135 Activist Events:


I attended 135 activist events.  This includes meetings, protests, pickets, social justice educational events, etc.  The number is down from the last two years. Image may contain: 4 people, including Heather Bradford, people smiling, people standing and outdoor


133 New Species of Birds:


I saw 133 new species of birds in 2019, many of them in Peru and El Salvador.  A highlight from Minnesota was my first Boreal chickadee. Image may contain: plant and bird

Socialist Action Split:


The socialist group I have been a part of since the early 2000s split this past year in November.  This was a bit awkward since I had been the Vice Presidential candidate for the party. While this role was far outside of my comfort zone, on a personal level, I really hate disappointing people.  So, I regret if I disappointed the SA comrades over this matter. On the other hand, a large number of comrades were expelled over dues payment (which followed a long debate over Syria, analysis of imperialism, and trans issues), so leaving was the principled thing to do.

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From Leftist Trainspotters, the cover of SA news shortly after the split, before my photo could be removed…


  Socialist Resurgence:


Those who left or were removed from Socialist Action went on to form a new group called Socialist Resurgence.  There is a healthy energy within the group, even if we are small. The new group has made my local branch more politically engaged than it has been for a long while.


  New Activities:


Each year, I try to challenge myself to try new things.  A few things that I did that were new this year include attending a burlesque show, attending a mycology club, visiting new state parks, visiting Madeline Island, trying some new foods like Lingonberry ice cream, rose apple, cherimoya, rambutan, and Hibiscus Lacroix, making a bat house, attending a roller derby event, hiking at high altitude, becoming certified in mental health first aid, etc.  I wish that I had enough time to do roller derby, as that seems like a really fun sport. I also wish I had time to become more knowledgeable about fungi.


 

Old Activities:


I kept up my regular hobbies of reading, birding, camping, travel, hiking, and writing.  I didn’t write in my blog as much, but I felt pinched for time. I took a watercolor class, continued gardening, took a community ed class about preserving herbs, played community soccer, went cross country skiing and snowshoeing, attended Planetarium classes and events, tried DuoLingo for Russian and Spanish, and so on.  I also started to attend a poetry club and even read poems at an event about body autonomy. I failed to keep up with dancing, yoga, bicycling, and violin.


 

Facing Fears:


I also try to face my fears each year.  Playing co-ed soccer meant facing a fear, since I felt uneasy about playing soccer with men.  I also don’t enjoy substitute teaching very much, since I am afraid I will make a mistake, disappoint the teacher, be unable to control the classroom, or somehow my logins won’t work.  So, each time I sub, I face my fears. My short tenure as VP for Socialist Action and doing more writing for SA and SR also means facing fears, since I fear that I am not smart or knowledgeable enough.  I fear disappointing my comrades by “not being good enough.”


 

New Year’s Resolutions:


I had 100 New Year’s Resolutions.  I completed about 64 of them. I don’t feel upset about this, as 100 is quite a few.  For those who are curious, the black resolutions are ones that I completed and the red text are resolutions I did not complete.  There is always room to grow!

100 New Year's Resolutions(1)

2017: Year in Review

2017:  Year in Review

H. Bradford

1/26/18

It is hard to believe that another year has ended.  When I stop to think about it, this felt like a marathon of a year.  I feel tired.  I would say that it was generally a good year.   At the same time, I have the creeping sense that something in 2018 will go amiss.  I suppose it is simply the regression to the means.  I have had several good years, but nothing exceptionally good (or exceptionally bad) lasts forever.  So, while I have an ominous feeling about the future, I will take a moment to reflect upon the past!  And, I can only hope that 2018 continues the stretch of happy years.


 

154 Political Events:

I think that this year will mostly be remembered for the flurry of political events that I attended this year.  In the end, I attended 154 political events this year, including meetings, marches, protests, vigils, etc.   I basically did something related to activism every 2.37 days this year.  In 2016, I attended just under 90 political events.  Suffice to say, the presidency of Donald Trump has been the catalyst of a great deal of organizing, such as the Women’s March, March for Science, and Climate March, Immigrant Solidarity Marches, etc.   But, there have been plenty of local issues that have warranted attention as well, such the program cuts at UWS, Homeless Bill of Rights, Graham Garfield domestic violence case.  The largest expansion of social movement organizing was in the area of feminism this year.  Unfortunately, there is next to nothing in terms of anti-war activism.  I suppose war is just normal at this point, seeing as we have been in Afghanistan for 16 years.  I appeared on the news several times for organizing/participating in various events.  I was even interviewed by a British socialist newspaper.  I spoke out at a county board meeting and also did a radio interview about domestic violence.   So, I think that it was a big year of activism and I was in the spotlight far more than what is normal for me and this challenged me to be less quiet and introverted.  Looking back, I can be proud of this and I am sure in the years to come I will remember this as a time of dutiful activism.   For now, I am a little worn out and disappointed.  There are massive, startling, systemic problems.  Activists are rising up to challenge some of these- but so much more is needed.  Most importantly, we need a political program capable of energizing and emboldening social movements beyond the status quo of our dual capitalist political parties.

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A sign I made for the Climate March- one of the 154 events that I attended last year….


Central Asia Trip:

A major highlight of the year was that I spent most of June in Central Asia.  It was an extremely fascinating part of the world.  I saw astonishing things, like the Gas Crater in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat-Turkmenistan’s white marble capital, the remnants of the Aral Sea, Kiva, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Tashkent.  Honestly, this was one of my favorite trips in my lifetime, simply because of all of the surreal and strange things that I saw.  The world is always different and new, with many things to see and learn, but this part of the world is not heavily visited by tourists.  It felt unique and much more remote than other places I have been.  The trip also challenged me since it involved some bush camping and dry, hot conditions.

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Camping in the basin of the Aral Sea


Continue Birding:

I saw over 200 species of birds this past year.  I was very engaged in birding throughout the year.  Highlights of my birding include attending an International Migratory Bird Day bird count at Wild River State Park, attending Hawk Weekend at Hawk’s Ridge, birding at the Sax Zim Bog for the first time, various return trips to both Hawk’s Ridge and Sax Zim Bog, birding at Rice Lake Wildlife Refuge, and casually birding in the Caribbean and Central Asia.   I am impressed with the number and variety of birds that I have seen this year and that my birding skills are slowly growing.  There are a number of species that stand out, but I was most impressed with seeing a Northern Hawk Owl and Great Gray Owl at the Sax Zim Bog as well as a pair of Spectacled Owls in Costa Rica.  Interestingly, my very first bird of the year for 2018 was a Snowy Owl and the last for 2017 was also a Snowy Owl.  I guess it is a good year for owls!   Otherwise, Rosy Starlings, Red-billed streamertail hummingbirds, Yellow-crowned night heron, and Pied-Billed Grebes (since they are cute) are some of my other highlights for the year.

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New Job:

In December, I applied for and began a new part time job.   I already work full time at domestic violence shelter, but on a whim I decided to apply for an additional part time job as a Patient Educator in the field of reproductive health.   I will say that it is pretty exhausting working two jobs.  But, back in my late 20s I worked four jobs, so…I know I can handle this.   Really, I am pretty excited about this new position.  I often feel that I am stagnating or that I don’t do enough- so this is a great opportunity gain new knowledge and skills.  It is also a new way for me to learn more about reproductive health and an expansion of my feminist activism.   I enjoy learning new things and this really is a wonderful opportunity.   The job itself is unique.  I do not have any experience working in the health field, but I have enjoyed challenging myself to pick up new information.  Plus, I get to wear scrubs.  I have some awesome sloth scrubs…as well as Ninja turtle and dinosaur scrubs.  You know, because wearing fun scrubs is also important….


Raven Tattoo:

This is a pretty minor detail, but I got a new tattoo this year.  I decided that when I hit my 200th bird, I would get a new bird tattoo.  I chose a raven.  I really love the tattoo.  Now, I am just one bird away from my 300 th bird.  What will I choose for my next tattoo?  Perhaps a snowy owl?

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Blue Hair:

For many years I have kept my hair black.  This year, I decided to mix it up and dye my hair blue.  Thus, I have had blue and black hair all year.  This is another minor detail, but I have enjoyed the new color.  It has inspired me to wear more blue (rather than my typical red and black).  The only downside is that dying my hair black was far easier and took far less upkeep.  Nevertheless, I am getting the hang of it.


Try Two New Activities:

Every year, I try to attempt at least two new activities.  This year, I tried geocaching and snorkeling for the first time.  As far as geocaching goes, I think it is a fun distraction and something easy to do when I am hiking.  I began geocaching in March and by December I had already found 100 caches.  As for snorkeling, I am not a water person.   I don’t like swimming.  I don’t like being wet.  I am not a strong swimmer.  I get sea sick.  Water and me are not friends.  But, I don’t want to live my life entirely in fear (even if I am not always ready to dive right into water sports).  So, I went snorkeling for the first time.  It was sort of neat.  I was surprised by how many fish I could see from the surface of the water.  I was also astonished by how salty salt water actually tastes (when I accidentally dipped my head a little too low for a closer look at a fish).   I would go again.  I am not in love with the water, but it interested me enough to give it another go.  I saw some sort of parrot fish, which was a pretty sight.   My goal is to try snorkeling again when I (hopefully) visit Iceland in 2018 (as tourists can snorkel between the North American and Eurasian plates meet).  As for diving…hmm…well, baby steps.


Four New State Parks:

In recent years, I have tried to visit a new Minnesota state park each year.  This year, I visited four new state parks.  I visited St. Croix State Park, Wild River State Park, Savannah Portage State Park, and Mille Lacs State Park.   At least two of them I visited when I was a teenager, but since that was so long ago, I will count them as “new.”  They are new to my adult life anyway.  I also visited Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin as well, bringing the actual total to five.  With the exception of Copper Falls, I visited all of these state parks by myself.  These solo adventures were a peaceful escape from work and activism.  I enjoyed Savannah Portage State Park the most, since I liked hiking around the lake, hiking the continental divide trail, and walking along the bog walk.

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Solo Camping Trips:

I went on several solo camping trips to the previously mentioned State Parks.  The first adventure brought me to Wild River State Park, where I hiked and birded for International Migratory Bird Day.  I later went on a trip to Mille Lacs State Park.  It rained during this camping trip, which I undertook shortly after my trip to Central Asia.  Oh, it was also plagued with flies.  I also went camping at Tettegouche State Park- where I went on a wildflower guided hike and hiked the second tallest peak in Minnesota (not that impressive, I know.)  Finally, I went camping at Savannah Portage State Park, where it also rained, but I still had a lovely time hiking and enjoying the autumn leaves.   My solo camping trips gave me a small dose of adventure and independence, offering escape and peace of mind.

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Bog Awareness Week:

I celebrated the heck out of Bog Awareness Week.  I did more for Bog Awareness Week than for…Christmas.  But, bogs are cool.  I went to Savannah Portage State Park’s bog walk, I participated in Sax-Zim Bog’s Bioblitz, and I convinced my friends to head to Cable, WI with me to check out a bog there.  I bogged myself down with bogs.  A highlight of bog week was realizing that Pitcher Plants produce flowers.  I had never noticed this before.

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A pitcher plant at Savannah Portage State Park


Color Run and Pride 5K:

This year I tried the Color Run for the first time.  I love it, since it is not timed.  Although it is crowded with enthusiastic runners and walkers and the que to begin is pretty long, it was a fun time.  Various parts of the run are marked by groups of people who douse the participants with colors.  There are also foam bubbles, unicorn mascots, group dancing, and medals for everyone.  I loved it.  I also ran the Pride 5k.  The race was rather hot.  It was timed.  But, I did it!  Even if I did it terribly, I ran it and hopefully next year I will do better!

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At the start of the Color Run!


 

Go to the Ballet and Continue Ballet Lessons:

Speaking of things that I am terrible at…I continued ballet lessons this fall.  Continuing ballet lessons was one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017.  Another resolution was going to the ballet.  Well, I went and saw Stravisnky’s Firebird.  It was super.  I enjoy Russian folktales and liked how Koschei the deathless was portrayed.


Write Poetry:

Last year, I began writing poetry.  My goal was to write two poems, but I ended up writing at least two dozen poems.  It is a neat experience, since I never really cared for poetry when I was younger.   I often objected to it because it was too flowery and emotional. A lot of poetry takes itself too seriously.   I try to look at it differently now.  To me, poetry is just a short story.  A story about a moment, an emotion, a passing idea.  It expresses what narrative does with frugal words but ample meaning.


33 Books:

To many of my friends, 33 books is a light reading list for the year.  However, 30% of Americans do not read a single book in a year.  The average number of books read in a year is 12.   This average is skewed by some super readers, as the median number of books read each year is 4.   All of the books that I read this year were non-fiction, which is something that I hope to change in 2018.  The BEST books from this list include The KKK in Minnesota  by Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America by Mamie Till, An Environmental History of Russia by various authors, and Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici.  I read four books about witches, eight books about Central Asia in preparation for my trip there, four books about the Caribbean, including two about Puerto Rico, two few books about mycology, two books about birding, and several books on a variety of topics.  I will say that I came out of 2017 with greater knowledge of birds, mushrooms, Central Asia, the Caribbean, and witches.  I would love to read 50 books in a year, but with my work schedule, other hobbies, and activism schedule, it would be difficult.    

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Some graffiti on a bridge in Superior


Create Four Works of Art:

Another resolution for 2017 was to create at least four works of art.  I did this by dabbling with watercolor (the results weren’t awesome, but it was a start!).   I also painted four bird houses for the Solidarity House.  Beyond that, I framed some photos that I have taken.  I will say that I am not especially great at watercoloring or photography, but it is worthwhile to shamelessly create.  Through practice, I would like to improve my skills in these areas.

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This watercolor painting is still wet!  It depicts a magpie, mulberry tree, and fountain in Ashgabat.


Study Russian:

One of my goals was to continue studying Russian, or at the very least brush up on it from time to time.  Generally, I am not at all disciplined at studying languages.  There were a few times throughout the year wherein I tried to teach myself some new words or review some old ones.   Traveling through Central Asia helped me to brush off the cobwebs in my brain and try to remember how to speak some Russian.  I was able to communicate a few times, so knowing some Russian was certainly pretty helpful.  An elusive goal is to attend the Friday night Russian table at Sir Ben’s.  Alas, I lack the confidence to go!  I feel so foolish and incompetent when I try to string together what I remember.  Still…I sort of worked on this goal, at least by using Russian on my trip.


Attend Yoga Classes:

Attending yoga classes was on my resolution list for the year.  I squeezed in some yoga at the very end of the year.


Go Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing:

I did not go cross country skiing a single time in 2017.  As for snowshoeing, I only went twice.  But, the two times that I went snowshoeing were pretty awesome!  Back in February, I went for a full moon snowshoe hike organized by UWS.  I did not go again until Christmas Eve Day, when I went snowshoeing along a trail at the Sax Zim Bog.   Each year, I try to make a point of doing both of these activities so that I can better embrace winter.

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Snowshoeing over some icy, sand covered mounds at WI Point.


New Car:

A major event of the year was purchasing a car in March.   My car is a Volvo V70 and I love it!  It is the first time that I have purchased a car/financed a car loan all on my own.  I like my car.  I like having reliable transportation and my car took me on many adventures this year- such as the camping and birding trips.  I will say that the car is not great in the winter and since it is very low-set the passenger door bumps against the curb.  However, I am generally very happy with the car.  It has a moon roof and heated seats- which seem pretty luxurious compared to other vehicles that I have owned.

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Not my actual car- but similar model, year, and color.


50 Blog Posts:

I actually wrote 77 blog posts in 2017 and had between 350 and 1000 viewers each month.  My goal was to write 50.  The numbers don’t matter all that much.  However, I do like sharing my writing and opening up myself to others in this way.  I have had quite a bit of feedback that people enjoy reading my blog or at least find some of the posts interesting.


 

Texas/Caribbean Trip:

In November, I went on a cruise to the Panama canal, which also visited Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colombia.  I really wanted a vacation that felt like a vacation- where I could de-stress from the 150 political events I had attended/everyday stress of working with survivors/victims of domestic violence.  In other words, I wanted a super easy trip.  To that end, I went on a two week cruise.  It was really wonderful to relax and feel a true sense of easy escapism- even if cruises are consumerist monstrosities.  I saw many birds, especially in Aruba, which was an added bonus for the trip.  I have a lot of happy memories from the trip.  Once the trip was over, I spent a half a week visiting my brother in Texas.  We once again hiked at Government Canyon and visited the Botanical Gardens.  These are two of my favorite places to visit in San Antonio.  My brother will be moving to Minnesota in May, so this will probably be my last opportunity to visit him in Texas!

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Two spectacled owls in a public park in Costa Rica


Union Organizing:

Another highlight of the year, which also relates to my political events, was being more active in my union.  I have been a union steward since November 2016 and this year, went through contract negotiations in October.  I will say  honestly that contract negotiations was extremely stressful.  I worked night shifts, then would have to spend the morning to early afternoon in negotiations.   It was hard to fall asleep after negotiations, then return to work for another night shift.  Negotiations themselves were tense.  The whole thing felt very intense.  I was not overly fond of being on the negotiations team, but it is an honor to have the privilege of fighting for the interests of my fellow workers.  I feel that the negotiations went well and the contract was better because of our hard work.

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Loved Ones:

I often do not highlight this, but my year would not have been as great without my loved ones.  Yeah, I am not the gushy sort.   I am fortunate to have had some good times with Adam and Lucas.  We went to Copper Falls together as well as on an adventure to explore the bog near Cable, WI.  Of course, they also attend many political events with me.  Adam probably went to 200 political events last year- but unlike me, he does not keep a tally.  Another great friend is Jenny, who is my collaborator in feminist and bisexual activism.  She pushes me to show my emotional side-but being a rebel- I usually stubbornly resist this.  Dan is patient and supportive- sometimes even partaking in my adventures with some coaxing.  Lonnie always offers a fun time when I visit him in Texas.  I enjoy our long hikes together and that he humors my interest in birds and plants.  I have wonderful coworkers, some of whom I have attended fitness classes with, invited to trivia, and invited to political events.  They tolerate my eccentricities and listen to my newest ideas.  This year, I went to the State Fair with my mother.  I was crabby the whole time- as I was deprived of sleep.  But, she did not let my bad mood get in the way of a good time at the fair.  There are many others, like Chris, Angie, Amber, Carl, Jared, my grandma, Tiffany, Alexa, and many more.  I can be a real weirdo and anti-social turd.  I am fortunate to have people to enrich my life.

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Feminist Justice League Year in Review

Feminist Justice League Year in Review

H. Bradford

1/16/18

2017 was a big year for feminism.  The election of Donald Trump mobilized feminists towards activism, which was expressed through events such as the Women’s March, International Women’s Day Strike, protests and social media campaigns regarding sexual harassment and assault, forming new groups, and more.  It is an exciting time to be a feminist, to be sure.  Locally, there has been a flourishing of feminist activities this past year.  The Feminist Action Collective emerged in November 2016 as a large, active, vibrate group which has sponsored a variety of successful events over the past year.  Locally, we have also seen the re-emergence of the HOTDISH Militia, which began in 2002 but had become inactive over the years.  Our group, the Feminist Justice League, was established several years ago during a much less active time in feminist organizing.  The renewed interest in feminism creates new challenges and opportunities for our group.  The following is an overview of our activism in 2017 as well as our outlook for 2018.


 

January 2017 Women’s March, Duluth MN:

2017 started off big with several January events.  The first was the January 2017 Women’s March.  The Feminist Action Collective organized buses to Washington DC, but there was also a local march in Duluth.  One of our members, A. attended the march in Washington DC and later reported her experience back to the group at an event we hosted as a local coffee shop.  It was an inspiring experience for her, despite some mechanical mishaps experienced by the bus.  Several members of the Feminist Justice League participated in the local march in Duluth, which was attended by several thousand people.  This year, Feminist Action Collective is organizing an anniversary march.  Feminist Justice League is supporting their efforts in a number of ways.  Firstly, we have endorsed the event.  Secondly, we are going to make some posters for the event on Friday.  Thirdly, I have tried to promote their event by obtaining sponsors for them, such as Occupy Duluth, Socialist Action, and Safe Haven.  A. and I will also serve as Peace Marshalls at the event.

an image from the Duluth News Tribune- Duluth Women’s March

 

Glow for Roe:

Feminist Justice League organized Glow for Roe last year, which happened to fall on the SAME day as the Women’s March and Dough for Utero.  Although it was an extremely busy day, about two dozen people showed up to hold glow sticks for our glow in the dark protest in support of reproductive rights.  We have done this event twice before and this was the most successful year for that particular protest.  However, in 2018, we are not hosting a Glow for Roe event.  This is because there is already a Women’s March, Dough for Utero, and Party on the Plaza.  Glow for Roe was developed when there was far less feminist activism, so moving towards the future, it may not be as necessary as it was in the past.  Still, a glow in the dark protest is a fun idea, so perhaps it will return in 2019! Image may contain: 4 people, night and outdoor

Dough for Utero and Party in the Plaza:

January 2017 also saw Dough for Utero and Party in the Plaza, which were both organized by Hotdish Militia and the Women’s Health Center.  Dough for Utero featured $19.73 pizza and beer, raising more money than any previous fundraiser.  Party in the Plaza was a vibrant event in which several Feminist Justice League members attended.  We contributed to the event by promoting it and providing picket signs.  Certainly, 2017 saw more activism related to reproductive rights than there has been in Duluth for a long time! Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, dog and outdoor

Valentine Letters to Prisoners

In February, Feminist Justice League co-sponsored a Valentine Letters to Prisoners event with Superior Save the Kids.  The goal of the event was to send solidarity cards to prisoners near Valentine’s Day.  In Christian traditions, Valentine cards were first exchanged by St. Valentine while he was in a Roman prison, so the theme seemed suiting.  The event was attended by several people and was a way for our group to be more intersectional as we tried to connect feminism with issues in the criminal justice system.

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A photo of A.C.’s letters last year

Homeless Bill of Rights Letter Writing:

Feminist Justice League hosted a small letter writing event, wherein members gathered at a coffee shop and wrote letters to the editor to various news outlets regarding the passage of the Homeless Bill of Rights.  Feminist Justice League is one of the endorsing organizations of the Homeless Bill of Rights.  A year later, the homeless bill has not yet passed, protracting this already long struggle to pass a bill ensuring that homeless individuals are treated with dignity.


International Women’s Day Strike:

In March, Feminist Justice League organized a symbolic strike for International Women’s Day.  The strike was a protest that lasted for 78 minutes to highlight the pay gap between men and women.  At various intervals, we banged on pots to highlight the pay gap between Hispanic women, African American women, Native American women, Pacific Islander women, and women over the age of 55 and men.  This event was followed by a panel, wherein several speakers discussed labor issues and gender.  The event was successful in that it was covered by several news outlets and was even mentioned in a British Socialist newspaper! Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, hat, child and outdoor

HOTDISH Militia Bowl-a-Thon:

The biggest event that Feminist Justice League participated in April was HOTDISH Militia’s bowl-a-thon.  We had a team of about seven people and though I don’t remember the exact number, I believe we raised over $600.  Our team dressed as superheroes at the event and won a prize for best costumes.  It was a fun event and HOTDISH Militia’s best fundraising event yet!  They reached their fundraising goal and were able to obtain matched funds to help low income women access reproductive health care locally. Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

Graham Garfield Petition:

In May, members of the Feminist Justice League participated in several events related to the Graham Garfield domestic violence case.  We were able to develop a successful petition which contributed to his resignation as a Superior City Councilor.  However, interest in the case waned over time and although his trial is ongoing, there is little activism around it at this time. Still, I think that the group was able to effectively work towards his resignation and can be proud that we sought to educate the community about myths regarding domestic violence.


 

Mother’s Day Letters to Prisoners/Film Showing:

During the month of May, Feminist Justice League co-sponsored a film showing about incarcerated mothers with Superior Save the Kids.  The group also co-sponsored a mother’s day themed Letters to Prisoners event.  By helping to host and support these events, Feminist Justice League hopes to connect feminism with other issues.


 

Chalk for Choice:

During the summer and fall, Feminist Justice League sponsored Chalk for Choice events on the evening before clinic days at the Women’s Health Center.  While these events are often only attended by a few people, our group receives a lot of positive feedback from workers at the WHC.  During these events, we draw or write supportive images and messages for the patients and workers who utilize the Women’s Health Center.  The events provides us with a creative niche for our activism.  Looking at 2018, it should certainly continue these events as they are easy to organize, do not require large numbers of participants, and are a unique way to promote reproductive rights. No automatic alt text available.

40 Days of Choice:

For the past several years, Feminist Justice League has organized events for 40 Days of Choice, which happens each year in September and October in response to the 40 Days of Life.  The 40 Days of Life is an international campaign wherein pro-life activists gather outside of abortion clinics and reproductive health centers to pray and protest to end abortion.  The Feminist Justice League was actually founded in response to this annual pro-life campaign.  This year, as in year’s past, we participated in the event by hosting Friday pro-choice pickets.  Some of the pickets were smaller than in year’s past owing to FJL’s dwindling numbers.  On the other hand, some were larger owing to the participating of the HOTDISH milia this year.  HOTDISH sponsored its own Thursday pickets.  Our goal next year should be to increase the numbers at these events by bolstering our own membership, continued collaboration with Hotdish, and improved collaboration with Feminist Action Collective.  This year, we also hosted a successful launching party for the 40 Days of Choice, but the success of the event would not have been possible without HOTDISH Milia’s collaboration and WHC’s support. Image may contain: 1 person, child and outdoor

Feminist Frolics:

Once a month throughout the year, Feminist Justice League hosted events called Feminist Frolics.  These events usually do not attract more than four or five people, but are high quality educational opportunities and community building events.  This year’s highlights include a citizen science project wherein were learned about women in science and learned how to test the health of a river by examining small fauna such as snails, worms, and insect larvae.  We also learned how to geocache and did this while collecting garbage.  I researched women and waste management and did a short presentation on that topic for our event.  We also learned more about fungi and one of our members, Ar., told us about her experiences gathering and selling mushrooms to local businesses.   A few of us also attended a Halloween themed event wherein we hiked to an abandoned cemetery at night and learned about the history of witches and capitalism, based upon my readings on that topic.  We have not done a frolic in a few months due to cold weather, but we can consider planning more at our next meeting.  My suggestion is that we continued them, but on a more irregular basis in 2018.  Personally, I put a great deal of effort into researching these topics and lack the time I once had.  However, I think that these events remain viable if we can find others who are willing to research and present the topics.  These events remain important because they are an opportunity for learning, connecting to nature, and bonding. Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, child, shoes and outdoor

Spark in the Dark:

Following the swarm of sexual harassment and assault cases involving celebrities and politicians, FJL organized a small protest against assault and harassment.  The goal was to believe victims, hold public figures accountable, and make ourselves visible.  The evening event was attended by about a dozen activists, despite chilly weather.  In the end, we lit sparklers to symbolize the spark of social movement organizing around these issues but also light in darkness. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and crowd

Christmas Cards to Prisoners:

The same day as the Spark in the Dark event, we once again collaborated with Letters to Prisoners/Save the Kids to send Christmas Cards to Prisoners.  The event was the best attended Letters to Prisoners event yet.  It was hosted at Amazing Grace Cafe and activists at the event were interviewed by a newspaper. Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

 

Looking at 2018

 

Our Challenges and Assets:

As we move into 2018, our biggest challenge by far is that we have a small, active membership.  Over the years, we have lost a few people who used to be more active in the group.  One of our active members, A., has recently had a child so she will not be as active for a while.  Two of our members, C. and An., have young children so they will not be able to participate as much as they would like.  Children should not be a barrier to participation and this also shows our weakness in providing child care.  Since we are small, it is hard to provide this service.  At the same time, perhaps we can think of alternative roles for these members, such as posting online content to our Facebook page.  Small membership limits what we can do as an organization but also has a demoralizing effect.  I often wonder if I have personally failed as an activist when our numbers are low.  Thus, we should brainstorm ways in which we can attract new members.  Ideas towards this end might include collaborating with other organizations, tabling at events, putting up fliers more often, and advertising ourselves more on community calendars.  I think it is also important to reframe what success looks like and better work with what we have.  If interest in feminism is generally increased and other organizations have seen new members, then we should celebrate the overall victory of feminism, even if our organization is small.  Further, even a small organization can maximize its impact in the community through collaboration with others.


Despite our low numbers, we do have some assets.  I am proud of the many events that our group sponsored and organized last year.  We also have some great members with some useful knowledge and skills.  Both J. and I work in the field of domestic violence, which I think puts us in a good position to do activism related to this. I also work part time at the WHC, so I think this will help us continue our reproductive rights activism. We have a new member named C, who is smart, knowledgeable of science, and very active in criminal justice activism.  A. is a male member and close friend who is an asset to the group because of his long history of local activism, especially his labor activism.  We have several members who sometimes attend, but perhaps get spread thin by their own activist schedules.  Overall, we often attract low-income and working class activists to our group.  We also often attract members who have experienced homelessness, trauma, mental health issues, poverty, violence, etc.  I think that we can be proud of ourselves if we continue to be an organization that creates space for those who experience multiple oppressions.  While these things can be barriers to activism, it can inform the sorts of issues we work on and perspectives we promote.  At the same time, our organization mostly attracts white people.  There is no immediate solution to making our group more diverse, but, we should always be mindful of the pitfalls of “White feminism” and seriously consider how the group can tackle racism along with sexism.   Sponsoring, promoting, attending, and collaborating with anti-racism activism is one step in that direction.


Finally, several of our key members and most of those who attend our events are anti-capitalist.  This can help us create a niche in the feminist movement.  Although we are a small group, we can act as a complimentary group to FAC.  FAC is a larger group that appeals to a broader group of people.  However, based upon their focus on candidate events, female identity, representation in politics and the business community, etc. the group leans towards liberal feminist ideology.  Our niche in comparison is that we should try to attract anarchist and socialist feminists or provide space to promote those ideologies.  While this ideological focus is less popular, promoting anti-capitalist feminism is a way to differentiate ourselves and what we do.  This should not be rigid nor a requirement for participation/membership- but a useful framework for focusing the organization’s tactics and issues.  The goal is not to compete with other feminist groups, but to broaden the overall feminist movement through theoretical diversity while collaborating on common causes.


Our Goals:

Based upon the following summary, I suggest the following goals for 2018.

 

  1. Co-sponsor a Letters to Prisoners Valentine, Mother’s Day, and Christmas events in 2018 to continue criminal justice related work.
  2. Continue Feminist Frolics on a more limited basis in 2018.  For instance, create feminist history geocaches in the area for Women’s History Month in March.
  3. Host an event for International Women’s Day in March (depending upon other local events)
  4. Consider collaborating with other organizations to create a community Take Back the Night this summer as the major undertaking of the year.
  5. Continue to Chalk for Choice in the warmer months.
  6. Continue the 40 Days of Choice events.
  7. Work more closely with Feminist Action Collective
  8. Continue to work with HOTDISH Militia
  9. Consider other projects such as a Stitch and Bitch Group
  10. Plan an action related to Crisis Pregnancy Centers
  11. Participate in the Bowl-a-Thon
  12. Host a socialist feminist educational event
  13. Increase our membership by at least one or two core members
  14. Collaborate with and support other organizations and events in areas such as labor, anti-racism, environment, indigenous rights, anti-war, sex workers rights, LGBT issues, reproductive rights, mass incarceration, US imperialism, etc.
  15. Table, put up fliers, make better use of the media
  16. Continue to consider our purpose and niche so that we remain relevant
  17. Try to promote ourselves more!  We could make buttons…

 

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