Charities for Black History Month, week of 2/7 – 2/12

Black History Month 2017This week I’m running late and ended up not donating on the exact days, but I’ve assigned each charity I donated to a day anyway :)

2/7 – I have a particularly big place in my heart for orgs that help abused children. Misssey is an organization devoted to helping kids in danger of or subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. They started in Oakland when Oakland was identified as a major locus of child porn and street prostitution of children.*  Nola Brantley, Adela Hernandez Rodarte, Sarai T. Smith-Mazariegos, and Emily Hamman were working in a youth assistance program called the Scotlan Center, and witnessed the impact of this on the kids of Oakland. They started Misssey to be a surivor-led and survivor-focused organization. Not only are they striving to help these kids either get out or stay out of sexual exploitation – they are working to change the narrative about their circumstances. Broadening the conversation from “child prostitute” to “victims of child sexual abuse” is critical, and decriminalizing children’s engagement is paramount to their healing. Misssey offers advocacy, case management services, referrals, mentoring, and foster youth programs. They are amazing – and bonus, their new Executive Director, Holly Joshi, is super kickass and served on Kamala Harris’ Human Trafficking Task Force.

2/8 – Black Women’s Playwright’s Group is a group whose mission is to “support and promote the work of our members as well as provide leadership and advocacy on critical issues within the theater world. ” They have monthly meetings, offer critiques to members, and do a lot of interesting experimental work using alternate media (like SMS) to explore the boundaries of theater. They also offer programs for the families of incarcerated people and residents of group homes. It’s very interesting stuff! Follow them on Facebook.

2/9 – Continuing on my arts kick, Sistagraphy is a collective of black women photographers that started in 1993 in the Atlanta area and expanded to 100 members. They’ve done over 50 amazing exhibitions in the past years, and while their blog has not been as active in the past 2 years, their Facebook feed keeps updating with current exhibitions and events.

2/10 – Here in Houston, Community Artists’ Collective (or just is the brainchild of two artists, one of whom ran a gallery and one of whom was a college professor of the arts. According to their terrific website, Michelle Barnes and Dr. Sarah Trotty organized this group to “meet the needs of the professional African American artists and with a special sensitivity to African American women artists.” They offer educational programs like after-school events and classes for children, as well as Saturday classes and workshops in art appreciation for adults. Check out their quilting events, but don’t stop there! They support and promote African-American art events of all kinds, and host many exhibitions at their gallery in Houston’s Midtown area. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

2/11 – Do folks know I love drums and drumming? I LOOOVE drums and drumming. So I was extra happy to see I could donate to Ayodele Drum and Dance. They’re based in Chicago (I’m so jealous) and have events for kids, teens, and adults. This year they are an Arts Org in Residence at the Chicago Cultural Center, so they have a bunch of free events.  (DOUBLY jealous.) Their site is fully updated, but also check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2/12 – All right, so this charity does not focus specifically on serving black women and children, but really, how in the WORLD could I not give to the Hurston/Wright Foundation?? Seriously, if I even need to say what this charity is all about, you need to go to African American Writers 101. Check out their programs and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Next week I’ll post the charity I donated to yesterday, since that takes me back out of the arts arc I started in this post.


*Note: This is a touchy topic for me, which is why the rest of the post focused on arts organizations.

And If One Is Interested, A Bit of Back History

(Nyuk nyuk. Get it? *Back* History?)

((Also, this is the point at which tl;dr folks should scroll past. This post is LOOOONG. *snore*))

I love that moment when you discover that a bunch of the things you’re struggling with turn out to all be one specific wound. There’s SUCH a relief knowing if you heal the wound, all these other things will go away.

That’s been true of my mental health and of my creative health – now it’s true of my physical health as well.

I’ve had back problems from my teens, and have been given a grand assortment of possible reasons why. My hips simply didn’t like the whole “standing around” thing, and after a certain age riding a bicycle hurt like hell. I’ve had orthotics since I was 12. Had debilitating headaches when I was 17/18. From age 23 on, every so often my hip and right leg would hurt like hell. I started getting migraines at 25, which were attributed to TMJ when I was 28.

Yadda yadda yadda, my list of illnesses and conditions and diagnoses (both correct and incorrect) goes on for paragraphs. My primary care physician always gave me painkillers and sent me to physical therapy, but it never “took.” The only solution I ever found to the pain was with this one amazing chiropractor – Avery Ferentz – who always used to say “If I can’t fix you in 3 visits then I can’t fix you.” I would literally be put up on blocks to change the angle of my hips and/or shoulders, and after two visits I’d be pain free and on my way.

But Avery Ferentz unexpectedly died in 2002, at age 49. The last time I saw him was late 1999. Which meant things went downhill from there.

I had my first herniated disc in November 2004. (While cleaning the tub, of all things. Nothing like feeling like someone is stabbing you in the back while you’ve got rubber gloves on and a noseful of cleaning product fumes.) I kind of attribute it to not seeing Ferentz for 5 years. And of course, when I asked my PCP to send me to a chiro, she said no and sent me to physical therapy. And let me just take a moment to kiss the sky for the existence of Cynthia Gormenzano – she’s the one who told my PCP to send me for an MRI. I had my first back surgery in 2005 and it was a success.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2013.
(I can hear you breathing a sigh of relief – but there’s still more!)

Now that I am look back, I think I herniated one of the discs while dancing during a wedding. While that intense pain went away within two months, that WAS when I started getting what I called The Swell – around noon every day I’d start to feel any clothing I was wearing close to the skin tightening on me. At first I thought it was bloating, but now I believe it was inflammation increasing as I moved through my day.

So fast forward again to early 2014.
It started with my feet. While poor Amelia was dying. I was having a tough time putting pressure on my feet when I got up in the morning.

I thought it was because the orthotics I got in 2004 had bad worn patches in the padding and I’d been wearing a pair of sandals with too-low arch support.

I had the orthotics replaced, but that made it worse. Plus I started gaining more weight because I couldn’t move around as much.

Ended up having to move out of our huge Bronx apartment into a smaller (but better for us) one while in extreme pain. Yeah, that was fun.

Diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in 2015.
Hydrocortisone shot didn’t do a damn thing. Plus I got a scar from the freezing spray.
This guy tried orthotics but the pain just got worse. And traveled up my legs. Ended up having to move out of NYC entirely while in extreme pain. I believe I herniated the second disc at that point.

But I am SO grateful I ended up in Houston for my next go-round with doctors, because the health care culture in Houston is a thousand times better than in New York City (albeit still fat-phobic and gender-restrictive). I got xrays in positions I was never asked to do before and it made the spondylolisthesis quite obvious. The MRI was actually nice. I’ve been given estimates on cost the whole time. Given that I’ve had terrible luck with doctors my entire life, I’m feeling really positive now.

And that, my dear readers, is truly the tl;dr – changed my place, changed my luck.