Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Legacy

October 05, 2014

Today, Advancement Project remembers Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy on the 97th anniversary of her birth. We are indebted to Fannie Lou Hamer’s sacrifice, courage, and fearlessness.

While Hamer’s bravery blazed a trail for the activists who followed her, we must never forget that civil rights activism came at a heavy cost to Hamer. After attending her first protest meeting focused on recruiting African Americans to vote, Hamer did the unthinkable. On August 31, 1962 she registered to vote. Within days, Hamer was fired from her sharecropping job and forced, along with her husband, to leave their community. This wouldn’t be the last time Hamer would suffer because of her activism.

On the way back from a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee training in 1963, Hamer and two other civil rights activists were imprisoned and savagely beaten by Mississippi police officers. The beating left Hamer with irrevocably damaged kidneys, a lifelong limp, and a blood clot in one eye. She would suffer for the rest of her life from the effects of this beating.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s endurance and perpetual leadership throughout the Civil Rights Movement, despite the aggressive retaliation she faced, contributed to many advances toward equality made during and since her era. Today we honor the positive change she pioneered.

As we remember Hamer’s courage in the face of aggression, we must also reconcile the harsh realities that remain: police brutality, for example, persists as a severe problem for African-American women today, just as it did for Hamer and others in the 1960s.

In 2007, 87-year-old Venus Green called the paramedics for her grandson who had been shot. She was instead assaulted and handcuffed in her home by a police officer when she refused to let him in her house without a warrant. In 2012, an off-duty cop fatally shot an unarmed Rekia Boyd in a Chicago neighborhood. This year a police officer was videotaped beating Marlene Pinnock on a Los Angeles freeway. Additionally, Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore was thrown to the ground by a police officer when he stopped her for jaywalking.

There are countless other black women who have also lost their lives for merely existing.

Too often these names are left out of the narrative when we talk about police brutality against African Americans. African American women must be included in the national conversation regarding police brutality and racial justice. Discussions and mobilization around police brutality must acknowledge that diverse members of the African-American community, and other communities of color, are affected. Our communities need to include conversations on the gendered forms of violence that police enact on African-American women—especially in terms of sexual assault, rape, and street harassment.

While we remember Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy as a civil rights activist, let’s not forget that she and so many other Black women have been survivors of police brutality. We do a disservice to them when we don’t include their stories in our discussions on systematic racism and police brutality. Solving the problem of police brutality is complex; yet unless we work to protect all vulnerable groups, it will continue to endure. As Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

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My Supervisor, My Mentor: 7 Lessons Learned from My Intern-Supervisor Relationship


May 20, 2014

When I met my supervisor, Christine Hernandez, I didn’t realize that I was meeting one of my first mentors and role models. Before I met Christine, I wasn’t reflecting on my career goals. I had never asked myself, “What skills do I want to learn at my job? Where do I see myself in five to 10 years?”

Christine and I have now worked with each other for four years — first at George Mason University and then at AAUW. Our relationship taught me professional lessons that could be helpful for other new professionals and interns out there.

1. Working relationships require patience and understanding.

One of the most valuable workplace traits that both Christine and I share is patience. We both know that it takes time to get to know your role within an organization, and it takes even more time to understand others’ work styles. When we met, I recognized that Christine was new to her position and that she would be adjusting to the culture at George Mason University. She also had great patience with me as a college student who was coming into her own workplace identity.

2. Learn to adapt and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

As a student assistant and as an intern, I’ve learned to adapt to different projects, deadlines, and personalities in the workplace. Through trial and error I have learned what works best for my team and our work. When Christine gives me a task, she gives me a deadline and then lets me complete the task without micromanaging me. Project deadlines, tasks, and goals may change, but I know that I am a stronger and better worker because I can adapt to these changes. To gain better clarity and to effectively manage change, I have also learned to not be afraid to ask questions.

3. Trust is a must.

When we first started working together I had to prove myself and gain Christine’s trust. Own your accomplishments and make sure that they’re visible to your employer. Don’t be afraid to show your strengths and acknowledge your mistakes.

I also learned to speak up when something didn’t go right. Rather than hiding any problems or issues, I made sure my supervisors knew. Yes, I made mistakes, but I gained trust when I was willing to be honest and own up to them.

As I gained her trust and demonstrated my capabilities, Christine gave me more tasks and opportunities for growth. I also felt comfortable in asking for more of a leadership role on team projects. This trust significantly strengthened our dynamic of mentor and mentee.

4. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

One of the best lessons that I learned from Christine is that I have to communicate with her even when I am unsure of myself. When I have a task that becomes overwhelming, I’m okay with letting her know. I learned to view this as a way of advocating for myself and doing what was best for my projects. Instead of internalizing it as a sign of weakness, I have realized that showing vulnerability and being honest are signs of strength. When I was honest about my weaknesses, Christine provided me with professional development opportunities to improve them and to grow professionally. I also learned that being vulnerable led to more self-awareness on my part.

5. Gratitude and appreciation matter.

A big must for us is tomake sure to appreciate one another’s work. If I’ve done a task well, Christine surprises me with a gift card for coffee. We’ve celebrated “Galentine’s Day” as a team. We make sure that we appreciate each other and others that work with us. Through these expressions of gratitude, I’m much more aware of the great things that my co-workers are doing and how lucky I am to work with such a strong team.

6. Mistakes are opportunities for growth.

I do well when my mentors want the best for me but are willing to let me make my own mistakes. Christine taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes even while aiming for high goals.

7. The support of a supervisor can lead to further growth.

When I was applying for graduate school, Christine provided guidance and support. She wrote my recommendation letter, talked to me about the GRE, and connected me to others in my field who had gone through the process of applying. She offered advice but also didn’t expect me to do everything she suggested. Knowing she trusted me to make the right choices instilled confidence in me.

Thanks to our four years of working together, I know what kind of supervisor, mentor, and colleague that I want to and can be. As I start a new period of my life, I hope to be the kind of supervisor and mentor that Christine was for me. I will look for opportunities to pay it forward as a mentor myself.

This post was written by AAUW college/university relationships intern Mabinty Quarshie and published at

Students create official George Mason University “Harlem Shake” video

harlem_shake_screenshotOver 200 students came out to collborate on a Mason version of the viral hit “The Harlem Shake” (photo courtesy of Ryan Glass).

What started off as a way to pass time during a slow day in Australia has become an instant viral hit. These “Harlem Shake” videos have become the latest pop culture hit. With millions of views on YouTube, everyone has joined in the craze.

Not to be confused with the popular hip-hop dance of the same name, this “Harlem Shake” dance is  quite different. The video features DJ Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake” while people dance frantically around after the first downbeat is dropped. A group of people are seen standing around, while one individual dances on their own. Once the beat is dropped, the people around that person begin to dance frantically.

Inspired by the popularity of the videos, George Mason University’s own students decided to create their own version of the dance and post a video of it online.

Vince Gomes, a senior at Mason, created the Facebook page to invite people to be a part of the shooting. In less than four days, over 200 students had joined the page. Ryan Glass, another Mason student, agreed to direct the video.

“I asked Ryan, you know we should make a Harlem Shake video,” Gomes said. “We kind of make artistic hardcore videos so we decided to go out of the box with the Harlem Shake videos.”

Having recently launched his own Youtube channel, Glass quickly agreed to help direct the video.

“I saw that everyone was going crazy with this video online. Everyone that seemed to be doing this video got millions of hits,” Glass said.

This past Sunday, the entrance level of Southside was transformed as a motley crew of Mason students gathered to film the popular “Harlem Shake” dance.

“We weren’t really sure what the turnout was going to be but we had a ton of people come out today I’m honestly surprised,” Glass said.

Dressed in anything from a horse mask to a power ranger outfit, Mason students were excited to make their own version of the “Harlem Shake” video.

The video was shot in four different locations around campus: outside of Southside, the Johnson Center, in front of the Mason Statue and at the Lecture Hall.

“It’s an opportunity to do something stupid before I graduate,” said Elyse Anderson, a senior at Mason who was one of the participants in the filming.

Other Mason students joined the video shoot simply to have fun.

“I like to shake it Harlem style,” said Nasia Olinger, a junior at Mason.

Glass and Gomes, along with Mason student Omar Zaki, had also previously shot a Parkour video that became an instant viral hit on YouTube.

When asked why they wanted to participate, students such as junior Marion Nieto simply replied, “I like to be epic.”

For others, however, demonstrating school spirit was the real motivation for taking part  in the video.

“It was a lot of fun. It was cool to meet people who really wanted our school to have the biggest one,” said Kathleen Welch, a sophomore at Mason.

The sheer silliness concept brought out a lot of Mason students to participate.

“The video always looks like so much fun and I feel like it is something that will connect everyone to Mason,” said Kristin House, a Mason sophomore, who also took part in the video. “It’s an excuse to wear whatever you want.”

What makes this video unique is more than just the excitement of Mason students. Glass wanted to shoot the video in a way that no one has shot it before.

“Nobody’s yet to use a glide cam while doing their video. It gives a little bit of a different perspective,” Glass said.

After the shoot, Glass edited and posted the “Harlem Shake” video to his YouTube channel Sunday evening.

The video was quickly shared by numerous Mason students on Facebook and Twitter. President Cabrera even joined in the sharing when he retweeted the YouTube link to his Twitter acount.

Within a day, the video has already been viewed over 15,000 times. With that, the Mason community is quickly making sure that their version of “Harlem Shake” becomes an instant viral hit.

**This post was originally published on Connect2Mason (

Documentary screening guides audiences to find their passions

chip-and-alexis-barnDirectors of the documentary “The Dream Share Project” Chip Hiden (left) and Alexis Irvin (right) traveled across America to learn about people’s passions. A screening of the documentary will be held on at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus on Wednesday, Feb. 6 followed by a Q&A with the directors (Photo courtesy of

Many people would love to know the secret to success. However, this elusive secret is not what most people would like to hear.

“You are going to fail,” says Todd Kashdan.

A professor of psychology at George Mason University, Kashdan is featured in the documentary “The Dream Share Project”  which will host a screening on campus in partnership with the Center for Consciousness and Transformation, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and University Career Services.

Kashdan was asked to be apart of the documentary based on his research on positive psychology, happiness and well-being. He has spent more than a decade teaching courses about the science of happiness.


George Mason University professor of psychology Todd Kashdan (Photo courtesy of George Mason University).

Before he began conducting reaseach and teaching, Kashdan had a career on Wall Street. Soon becoming bored with his lifestyle, he began volunteering at a research lab. There he found his passion in researching positivity and well-being. It was this research that caught the attention of two directors of “The Dream Share Project” who asked him to be apart of their documentary.

Screening this Wednesday, Feb. 6 in the Johnson Center cinema from 12 to 1pm, “The Dream Share Project” focuses on two recent college graduates who traveled across America interviewing successful people about finding and following your passion.
The documentary aims to instill in viewers the age-old cliché that anything is possible no matter what the circumstances are.

“It’s perfect for undergrad students or anyone under 80,” said Kashdan. “There is no age for having high aspirational pursuits.”

What students, particularly soon to be college graduates, can take away from “The Dream Share Project” is that there is no single career path. “Life isn’t linear” Kashdan says.

One of the great aspects of college is that it is a great opportunity for students to discover their passion.

“What books do you read in your free time? That’s where your interest lies,” Kashdan said about how people can find their own passions.

Kashdan argues that the real learning in college is done not necessarily in the classroom but between the lines. Real learning is done when you are not in the classroom. That’s also where you can find your passions.

Of course there will be anxiety as students discover their passions but Kashdan says, “You want to have anxiety. If you don’t feel anxious about anything you’re doing it means you’re not doing anything meaningful.”

Life is about being able to tolerate distress and being vulnerable. In that vulnerability comes the strength to discover oneself. The key to success might be the ability to deal with failure, heartbreak, and discomfort. In this ability lies the skill to lead a transformational life.

“The only way to grow as a person is to challenge yourself,” Kashdan said when he talked about dealing with anxiety. “The number one thing you can work on is the ability to tolerate distress.”

Kashdan suggests that people ask themselves “what gets you hot and bothered” The answer to that question could possibly lead to new possibilities.

Following the screening of “The Dream Share Project” there will be a 30-minute question and answer session with the directors, Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin.

** This post was originally published on Connect2Mason (

Pride Week event highlights overlooked LGBTQ African-American authors

pride_week_0This year’s Pride Week focused on the often overlooked authors in literature and the black community that fall under the LGBTQ spectrum (photo courtesy of

The stories of black gay and lesbian writers are often erased from history. Even when homosexual, black authors have been included in history, like Langston Hughes, their sexuality is often erased from their narrative. American students often learn about Hughes’ poems such as “A Dream Deferred,” but rarely do they hear about his poem “Café 3am” which describes police brutality against the gay community.

As part of Mason’s annual Pride Week, Dr. Keith Clark, a professor in George Mason University’s English department, and Amena Johnson, program coordinator for LGBTQ resources, facilitated a discussion centered on black LGBTQ authors and the erasure of black LGBTQ icons.

“Amena and I wanted to make sure that we focused on intersectionality,” said Dr. Clark at the onset of their event.

Intersectionality refers to the multiple identities that define and, at times, oppress minority groups of people such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and class.

Dr. Clark presented on black LGBTQ icons such as James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Audre Lorde.

“People like Baldwin and Bayard Rustin [the civil rights activist] often get exiled from the [Civil Rights] movement because of their sexual orientation,” Dr. Clark explained.

Often black LGBTQ identifiers face criticisms for not neatly fitting into stereotypes of blackness or gayness. As Dr. Clark said, “Baldwin is a strange icon because he is not black enough and not gay enough.”

In his discussion of Baldwin, Clark notedthat the FBI, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, referred to Baldwin as a pervert because of his sexuality. Eldridge Cleaver, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, also bitterly attacked Baldwin’s sexuality in his memoir “Soul On Ice.”

Author James Baldwin on the cover of Time Magazine in 1963 (photo couresty of

Black LGBTQ women have also received similar criticisms such as the ones faced by James Baldwin. When Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple” was adapted into film, black conservative Tony Brown assailed Walker for the sexual relationship between Celie and Shug, two black female characters in the novel. Brown referred to the film as, “the most racist depiction of Black men since ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and the most anti-Black family film of the modern film era,” on his television show “Tony Brown’s Journal.”

However, attacks on homosexual representation are all too often common.

“Black authenticity does not include black sexual differences,” Clark said when he explained critics’ reaction to the romantic relationship between Celie and Shug.

Clark shared a memory from when he went to see “The Color Purple” in a movie theater. He said people were disgusted by Celie and Shug’s kiss. It is only a small reflection of a larger societal issue in the acceptance of black LGBTQ members.

Famed playwright Lorraine Hansberry is another example of someone who, according to Clark, had her sexuality “straight-washed” by America’s history books.

Similar to Langston Hughes, many people are unaware that Hansberry was a lesbian because that part of her identity is often left out. Rarely do students who read “A Raisin in the Sun,” ever study Hansberry’s letter “The Ladder.” In her letter, Hansberry advocates against the oppression of the gay community where she continued the tradition of black women writers challenging sexism and patriarchy within black communities. Yet, this portion of her life is often overlooked.

After Clark finished his presentation, Johnson continued with a discussion about the role of present day black LGBTQ writers.

“Who are our Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurstons?” Johnson asked attendees.

Some answers included Frank Ocean’s groundbreaking letter, in which he wrote about his love for another black man. Although Ocean’s letter might lead to a more open definition of black masculinity, members of the audience did not want to label Ocean as a gay black man because he did not embrace the label himself.

Representations of black LGBTQ members were another focus of conversation in reference to the show “Noah’s Arc.” The show, which aired from October 2005 to October 2006, examined the lives of black gay men.

However, “Noah’s Arc” had its own imperfections.

“I consider myself a black lesbian and I don’t see myself anywhere in the media,” said Johnson. Johnson then asked the audience what they could do at Mason to help improve visibility of the black LGBTQ community.

In response to Johnson’s question, Clark explained that black LGBTQ members suffer “different forms of erasure and amputation.” If students at Mason wanted to see more representations of black LGBTQ members, “You have to articulate what you want.” Clark said.

As the event ended, Johnson gave one last piece of advice about the role of black LGBTQ members. “This is an everyday conversation.” It should not be one isolated to just Pride Week. Instead, it’s a conversation that must happen regularly.

**This post was originally published on Connect2Mason (

Want to avoid traffic? Ride With Strangers


Every morning Gladys Hama drives from her home in Woodbridge to her job in Arlington. But first, she stops at a parking lot near the highway and picks up a couple strangers.

Like hundred of residents in this Washington suburb, Hama is a fan of “slugging,” the practice of giving strangers a free ride in order to use the HOV lanes, which require three people in a car.

Slugging first began in the 1970s. When a carpool was missing an extra person they would drive to the bus stop and ask the people in line if they wanted a free ride to the Pentagon. Soon thereafter commuters would go to the bus stop and wait to be picked up.

Bus drivers would derogatorily refer to the commuters not riding the bus as “slugs.” The name stuck and is now apart of the commuting lexicon.

“I’ve slugged since 1991 and I am amazed at how well it works,” said Hama.

The slug lines are completely commuter operated without any management from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“VDOT wholeheartedly supports the concept of ridesharing,” said Jennifer McCord, VDOT’s spokeswoman. “We support slugging in the sense that we can design park-and-rides lots to accommodate riders.”

Hama picks up sluggers from either the Dale City commuter parking lot or the Tackett’s Mill lot.

“I used to do Potomac Mills but since they reduced the number of spaces I switched over to Dale City,” Hama continued.

Potomac Mills Mall used to have around 1,000 parking spaces specifically for sluggers. But in 2011 Simon Property Group, the mall’s owner, cut 750 spaces due to the addition of new restaurants. Now the mall has less than 300 spots left.

Many of the people who used to go to the mall have been forced to go to other lots.

To accommodate residents’ dissatisfaction with the loss of spaces at the mall, VDOT created an additional 500 spaces at the Horner Road lot, making it the biggest commuter lot in Woodbridge.

Still some people continue to slug at the mall.

Every morning on weekdays drivers will pull up and tell people where they are headed in downtown, D.C. “14th and New York?” they ask “18th and Penn?” From there sluggers can walk to their jobs.

“Slugging is the best commuting option in D.C.,” said David LeBlanc, who runs the website “It’s solved all the problems I had with carpools.”

Some of the benefits of slugging are that it’s free for those being picked up, drivers can bypass traffic, and commuters get to work faster.

Woodbridge resident Ashleigh Washington, when she worked in D.C., slugged to work instead of driving to the Franconia-Springfield Metro.

“When I got the job in D.C., my original plan was just to drive to Springfield to take the Metro,” Washington said. “But, my mom reminded me that slugging is much cheaper and I wouldn’t have to be in traffic like I would driving to Springfield, so I chose to slug.”

Riding with strangers may seem risky. But sluggers say otherwise.

“I feel just as safe slugging as I do taking any other type of transportation,” Washington said. “It’s even safer than cabs to me because I feel like there is a lot full of people to hold the driver accountable for your safety.”

Hama, who has slugged for more than two decades, said nothing dangerous has ever happened to her.

“Other than the occasional driver who wants to have a full conversation when all I want to do is read, I haven’t had any unpleasant experiences,” Washington said.

Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson Introduce Fair Tax Act of 2015

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) reintroduced the Fair Tax Act that would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, repeal income taxes and establish a national sales tax.

In a statement Sen. Isakson said, “Moving to the kind of system outlined in the Fair Tax of 2015 is a no-brainer. It’s time that we simplify our tax code, abolish the IRS, and create a more simple way to pay your fair share.”

The Fair Tax Act states that the federal income tax, “retards economic growth and has reduced the standard of living of the American public.”

The bill, which has 62 cosponsors, is in contrast to the President’s call for an increase in taxes for the wealthiest Americans to re-distribute to the middle class.

During the State of the Union address President Obama argued that corporations that take advantage of loopholes in the tax code increase inequality in the country.

“We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy,” Obama said.

Sen. Perdue and Sen. Isakson, along with several Republican congressmen, don’t believe that increasing taxes on the wealthy is the solution.

In a press statement Sen. Perdue said, “Instituting the FairTax will level the playing field and make America the best place in the world to do business. The FairTax is smart policy that will help protect hardworking Georgians and all American taxpayers.”

Americans for Fair Taxation, a tax reform grassroots organization, supported the re-introduction of the Fair Tax Act.

Robert Frenzel one of the board of directors for Americans for Fair Taxation said, “The beauty of the Fair Tax is that it completely replaces the income taxes as they exist today. They go away along with the IRS.”

“The Fair Tax is the only proposal out there of any tax which completely untaxes the poor,” Frenzel said.

According to Americans For Fair Taxation the bill would include a prebate program.

Each qualifying family receives an advance refund each month “so that purchases made up to the poverty level are tax-free.”

The monthly prebate is calculated by multiplying the poverty guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, by the Fair Tax rate and dividing by twelve.

Additionally the organization especially supports abolishing the IRS in order to reform the tax code.

“All those problems we’ve been experiencing with the IRS for the past couple years and their abuse of taxpayers and the system goes away,” Frenzel said.

Frenzel is referring to last year’s scandal in which the IRS was accused of targeting conservative organizations.

Meanwhile Democratic senators who disagree with the tax reform proposed by Republicans have instead proposed the Buffet Rule bill, also known as the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would tax those who make multi-millions to pay at least 30 percent in taxes.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said in a statement, If our new Republican majority truly believe in strengthening the economic security of our middle class, they’ll join us in supporting this commonsense idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will have the chance to get ahead.”

According to the Fair Tax Act only has “3% chance of getting past committee,” while the Paying a Fair Share Act only has “1% chance of getting past committee.”