Storytelling Archives - Point Made Learning

Pride Month Learning

Here at Point Made, we try to stay informed and educated about anything and everything addressing equity and inclusion. To that end, we recently started an internal newsletter that is turning out to be really helpful. Call us “nerdy,” but we really do try to learn something new everyday. 🤓 We’re pretty sure you — our wonderful community of equity-focused educators and learners — feel the same way so we’ve decided to share.

In honor of Pride this month, we’re focused mostly on the latest information and resources that will equip us to do better in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Let us know what else we need to know (send us a direct message here).

And, if we may, a request: If you learn anything new or useful in this newsletter, will you please share it with at least one other person? 

Here’s to learning something new, together. 

Raquel Willis is a black, queer, transgender activist, and the Executive Editor of Out Magazine.

Lambda Legal is the largest national legal organization litigating and advocating for LGBTQ+ people.  

Sydney Freeland is a Navajo trans woman, filmmaker and activist dedicated to creating equity in entertainment. 

SAAB: An acronym, commonly used online, for “sex assigned at birth” when referring to a trans person. 

Mx.: In place of Mr., Ms., etc. for someone who does not identify as a man or woman or whose gender identity might shift (ex. Mx. Smith) 

QPOC: An acronym that stands for Queer Person of Color or Queer People of Color.

Cissexism: The belief or behavior that transgender identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than those of cisgender.

Cisgender: Describes a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person was assigned at birth. 

Check out this comprehensive list of the latest terminology as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community.

What’s the deal with Incels? Check out the latest New York Magazine articleabout Incels (involuntary celibates) and “chads” (the pinnacle of masculinity in the Incel community). While this topic is creepy, disturbing, and a bit confusing, it’s something to be aware of as this internet-based group uses hate speech and sometimes even violent acts to target women and LGBTQ+ folks. There’s a lot to try and get our heads around and this podcast that goes in depth on the topic is a great start: Stuff Mom Never Told You; “Involuntary Celibacy.”

SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU SMILEThe Mayor of Mexico City drops gender-specific school uniforms for public schools.  “Boys can wear skirts if they want and girls can wear trousers if they want,” Mayor Sheinbaum said. She added that the measure would create “a condition of equality, of equity”. 

LISTEN UP!Stuff Mom Never Told You: A biweekly podcast focused on intersectional feminism, gender and sexuality. Their recent episode on asexuality was super enlightening! 

Making Gay History: A monthly podcast that tells the stories of largely forgotten LGBTQ+ heroes of history. Their recent Stonewall episode reminds us of the importance of Pride and giving credit where credit is due.

If you’re anything like us, you are always looking for ways to talk about race and racism in more meaningful ways with the people in your communities. Well, we’re pretty excited about an online program we’ve created to help you dive into those conversations. 

Look Deeper: Race is an interactive digital experience built around our documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I? and we want you and your friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow worshippers, book clubbers, and family members to go through the program and then get together and talk about it in Look Deeper: Race circles.

Starting in September, we’ll provide you with facilitation guides, discussion questions, and support from our network of facilitators. Plus, we are going to kick these circles off with a series of live webinar events hosted by a few of your favorite rockstar equity experts. Stay tuned for details later this summer. And be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to get updates. Start thinking now about who you’ll invite to join you in looking deeper!

PML Book Club – The New Jim Crow

“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy.”

So begins The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking look at the systematic mass incarceration of African Americans for more than 150 years. Book cover of The New Jim Crow

We frequently hear versions of this question: “Slavery ended so long ago; why are we still talking about it?” As Alexander explains, the thirteenth amendment did abolish chattel slavery in the United States. But it also left open the possibility for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. She then lays out a detailed and incredibly-researched look at how that 13th amendment loophole established a framework for using mass incarceration to continue to deny equal rights and protections for African Americans.

We first read The New Jim Crow years ago, before we started production of our feature documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I?. But this is the type of book worth coming back to again, and again. There are also now more discussion and teaching guides to go along with the book and, of course, Ava Duvernay’s incredible documentary 13th.

So, as we’ve grown our team this year, we decided now was a good time to re-read. We hope you’ll join us – particularly if you’re looking to expand your understanding of the specific and concrete ways American racism plays out today. This is one of the way to address the “mind gap” in our path toward racial literacy.

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Understanding Orientalism and More We Learned

Black Students Marched Against Gun Violence in Florida, But You Likely Didn’t Hear About It

Think critically about the ways we look at protest; why #NeverAgain and not #BlackLivesMatter? Why are the organizers of the former lauded as the leaders of a generation while the latter are deemed terrorists? Gun reform must be intersectional. The conversation must include a discussion about race and how gun violence disproportionately affects people of color. And why concern for that violence is only heard in an echo chamber of the folks who regularly experience that violence.

‘Like Stoneman Douglas, if they can … let their voices be heard, why can’t we do the same and let our voices be heard?.. Why can’t we do the same thing? It’s because we’re black? It’s because we’re in the ghetto … because we’re poor … and they’re richer? I don’t understand.’

We scorned addicts when they were black. It is different now that they are white.

The American Opioid Crisis has energized legislators and leaders in medicine to detach archaic opinions of morality from the conversation of drug addiction. Instead, they are focused on addiction as a medical condition and have made strides in providing appropriate care for drug dependent individuals, particularly for opioid dependent people. This changing tide in opinion about addiction differs greatly from that of the 1980s and 1990s during the height of America’s crack-cocaine crisis. That crisis primarily affected black people and the response to treating those addictions was to incarcerate and demonize an entire generation of people.

Though the difference in response to each crisis may not surprise some, this article digs into the qualities that make one crisis an issue of health and the other an issue of criminality.

Orientalism Is Alive and Well In American Cinema

Asian and Asian-American representation has only scratched the surface of American media. As characters begin to permeate film and television, we must continue to criticize the way Asian characters are portrayed. Orientalism refers to a colonial or otherwise Western representation of Asian cultures, particularly East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Snake charmers, for example, are classic caricatures in the Western

"The Snake Charmer", Jean -Leon Gerome, 1879
“The Snake Charmer”, Jean -Leon Gerome, 1879

Orientalist lexicon. Suffice it to say, representation begins with authenticity and truth. And in that vein, the author argues that Asian artists should have the agency to tell their own stories without the voices and perspectives of oppressive powers. 

[tweetshareinline tweet=”Orientalism surfaces in the New Age commodification of Eastern spirituality, in the predilection to glom separate cultures into a blurry whole…” username=”PM_Learn”]

What can ‘The Simpsons’ do About Apu? A lot, actually.

Similarly, comedian Hari Kondabolu challenges representations of South Asian men, through the lens of The Simpsons character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. His documentary, “The Problem With Apu”, unpacks the power of seeing a South Asian character represented for the first time on national television and the subsequent manipulation of that power to further marginalize the community Apu reflects.

“…the creators and writers of “The Simpsons,” like the rest of us, have a responsibility to upgrade and evolve their characters to align with cultural norms of the day. Tokenized stereotypes won’t cut it for an emerging generation that is demanding full and equal representation.”

STEM, Autonomy, and Social Responsibility in Black Panther

Following the massive success of Black Panther, Disney Studios plans to donate $1 million to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs at the Boys & Girls’ Club of America as a nod to the film’s emphasis of access to technology. Grossing over $400 million in box-office revenue worldwide, Black Panther has solidified its place in the Marvel Comic Universe not only as an iconic film but also as the most culturally impactful movie of its kind.

Black people across the world attended screenings for the “Black Panther Experience”, many dressing in dashikis, painting tribal art on their bodies, and hosting pre-movie events that included concessions, performance and networking opportunities. Influencers and celebrities around the country purchased entire theaters’ worth of movie tickets to supplement payment for underprivileged children. Black Panther proved to be far more than an experience — it was a testament to the power of representation.

In fact, Black Panther championed representation across multiple demographics, including women as innovators in technology. Shuri, the title character’s younger sister, is the brains behind the Black Panther operation. She designs his suit, his vehicles, his weapons, and she even performs life-threatening surgeries with the help of the technology she has mastered. Black Panther imagines a world of possibility for brown girls as leaders on the battlefield, in politics, and in the laboratory. And though this world is fictional, some of its elements have the potential to exist in reality, including a fully realized Africa with autonomy and access to wealth along with a world of women leading advancements in technology.

[tweetshare tweet=”Black Panther imagines a world of possibility for brown girls as leaders…” username=”PM_Learn”]

In that vein, Disney decided to donate $1 million of the film’s earnings to the Boys & Girls’ Club of America to provide resources in STEM programs for underserved communities. It reflects the commitment declared by King T’Challa who, after battling his vengeful cousin, donated a community center emphasizing STEM research and programs in Oakland’s inner city.

Black Panther deserves a dissertation as proven by the hundreds of think pieces and reviews published in the wake of its premiere. One of the film’s primary themes is of social responsibility: who is responsible for the security of diasporic black people? On one hand, T’Challa believes that insolation is the best form of security. Wakanda, the fictional country where the story takes place, is untainted by colonial influence, having thwarted slave traders and completely isolating itself from the outside world as a means of self-preservation. Sharing resources means that Wakanda’s doors must open, leaving the country and its people vulnerable. Killmonger, T’Challa’s vengeful cousin (and potential heir to the Wakandan throne), takes a more radical approach through which he will grant black people access to advanced Wakandan weapons to reclaim their power and hold white colonialists accountable for the marginalization of black folks around the world.

Ryan Coogler, the film’s director, asks the audience what is more important: autonomy or security? And who is responsible for allowing black people access to either of those things? T’Challa realizes that both have profound benefits, and charges the political world with  repairing the damage of slavery and colonization by providing resources that will both free and secure marginalized populations.

This fictional example of reparations is perhaps not so far-fetched. Disney’s STEM program with the Boys & Girls’ Club paves the way for the development of tools that ultimately allow marginalized communities to access the autonomy and security Black Panther asks its viewers to consider.

Cutting SNAP Benefits Further Marginalizes the Poor

The Summary

Last week, President Trump proposed a major cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “food stamps”, in an attempt to jumpstart his plan for welfare reform. It’s the administration’s latest effort to further marginalize Americans on the fringes or economic privilege without an introspective look at the limited access to resources that keep them on those fringes.

The new program would require able-bodied SNAP beneficiaries to work despite other limitations including access to transportation, job insecurity and child care assistance. It would also institute a program, called “Harvest Box”, through which SNAP beneficiaries would receive a box of USDA-approved groceries to supplement the cut to food stamps, a program that already allots low-income folks access to groceries of their choice. The President’s proposal has been scrutinized by advocates for public assistance and welfare programs but especially by SNAP beneficiaries who interpret a cut to the program as damaging regardless of its positive intention. It has also inspired a discussion about a “war on food” in which poor folks are systematically denied access to fresh groceries and healthy food options.

What Is In the “Harvest Box”?

The USDA anticipates that the Harvest Box will include “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, read-eat-cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish and canned fruits and vegetable.” As the SNAP program currently

Food Stamp Sign in Maine Grocery Store
Food Stamp Sign in Maine Grocery Store

exists, recipients have the autonomy to purchase their own, fresh groceries. This reform in welfare benefits is intended to mobilize poor people upward, requiring them to work in order to earn their benefits in some cases. This amendment is made, of course, under the assumption that welfare recipients don’t already work.

Food As a Weapon of Control

Nina Martyris reflects on Frederick Douglass’s analysis of “food as a weapon of control” in a recent article for NPR. Douglass’s writing explores the ways slave owners employed hunger to establish a hierarchy between slaves, often privileging house slaves with food consumed by the master’s family and guests while field slaves were afforded an insufficient cornmeal dish, comparable to dog food. Douglass even mentions that he and other slaves would compete with the slave master’s dog for the evening’s dinner scraps.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in Martyris’s article is a recounting of holiday festivities on the plantation where slaves were not only expected to participate in the revelling but often required to engage in drinking competitions as entertainment for the master’s guests. Douglass mentions that refusal to participate reflected a sentiment of ungratefulness and that ultimately, “we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum.” Slaves had no autonomy, let alone the jurisdiction to decide when and what they wanted to eat, yet the expected response for one, balanced meal a year was gratitude.

The Big Picture

Food options in low-income communities reflect what the community can afford, which often means fast-food restaurants comprise the majority of eating establishments along with locally owned restaurants and grocery stores that offer limited, fresh produce. The Harvest Box initiative might also perpetuate what the Food Research and Action Center calls a “feast or famine situation”, a term that refers to parents who will skip meals to increase food options for their children. And, of course, it might contribute to the myriad health issues poor people face including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other diseases related to malnutrition.

There are many comparisons to draw here, though that is not to say the President’s proposal to cut SNAP benefits is comparable to chattel slavery. But there are comparisons to draw. Most important is the question of autonomy; do the oppressed have access to agency under a capitalist bureaucracy? This question is further complicated by this nation’s legacy, built on the free labor of slaves who, of course, had no agency in the matter of their work. In deciding how poor Americans are nourished, the Trump administration participates in a legacy of surveillance and population control that has changed its face over the course of the country’s foundation. SNAP benefits already limit food options for poor people but it still affords them the autonomy to choose. Under the President’s initiative, underprivileged communities will be further dependent on government resources for something as basic and necessary as food. And all of that despite the work they do to uphold the country’s economy. While data indicates that most able-bodied welfare recipients work, there is still an insidious assumption, from the Trump administration in this case, that they do not. As president of the National WIC Association, Donald Greenaway, put it, “removing choice from SNAP flies in the face of encouraging responsibility… the budget seems to assume that participating in SNAP is a character flaw.”

We must be vigilant about the way politicians will weaponize the oppression of women, the queer community, the poor and people of color in the future. In just one year we have witnessed an assault on all of the aforementioned communities; the exclusion of trans people from restrooms matching their gender, staunch support of a politician accused of pedophilia (on multiple accounts), and xenophobic legislation aimed toward expelling Middle Eastern and Latinx immigrants from the United States. This recent effort to punish Americans for their lack of access to food resources indicates a nearsighted understanding of wealth disparities in the United States and how they are inextricably connected to the same denial of those resources.

Here are some interesting things we read this week about race and equity in the United States.

“‘Resist White Supremacy’: A sign. A farm. And the fury that followed.”

Cox Farms has a history of practicing free speech through their business, a practice that has elicited controversy for the owners’ family. Their recent poster, as detailed in the article’s title, stirred their Northern Virginia town into a frenzy. Aaron Free speech at Cox FarmsCox-Leow, daughter of the farm’s owner, expressed that, “when it comes to speaking out against systems of oppression and injustice, wwe see it as our moral responsibility to se our position of privilege and power… to engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice.”

“Secrets, statistics and implicit bias.”

Microaggressive behaviors reflect the ways we, as a society, have been conditioned to respond to specific demographics. For example, clutching one’s purse when a person of color enters an empty elevator is a response to our conditioned understanding of men of color as inherently criminal. Implicit bias tests seek to exploit those conditioned responses and use them to uncover our own biases, regardless of gender, race, and other intersections of our identity.

“Jones and Williams Discuss Racism During Focus Week Chapel”

From Barb Lee: “Go, Baptists!  If I had not heard this “sermon” myself, I would not have believed that this happened in a Baptist Church in Oklahoma. Bam! Caught in my own biases again. This video is incredible for those of us who grew up in white Southern Baptist churches. This makes me hopeful.”

“ South Carolina Lawmakers Want to Ban Baggy Pants Because What Other Political Issue Could Possibly Be More Pressing?”


The title speaks for itself. In an effort to further police people of color, politicians in South Carolina plan to criminalize sagging pants, overlooking the racially loaded implications of instituting such a law. It is a boldface attempt to criminalize citizens based explicitly on their race, though politicians from the area would like to convince us that the law will affect people across races. 

“A Pound of Flesh: The Criminalization of Private Debt”

From the ACLU: “Arrests stemming from private debt are devastating communities across the country, and amount to a silent financial crisis that, due to longstanding racial and economic inequalities, is disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income communities.” Attached is the full report conducted by the ACLU. Read this article for a synopsis of the report.