It’s Small Lights Friday, everyone. And yes, we had Small Lights last week, but this is an emergency, and I need to use every outlet I have. Unfortunately, I cannot wish you a happy Small Lights, as this is one of the most serious posts I will likely ever make on my website. We all need to be BIG lights, every single day, from now on until women’s rights are no longer under such intense attack. 

We cannot be small on this day. We need to be high beams, tactical construction lights, fireworks, the bright light at the end of the tunnel. This is a critical moment in our country. We need to be very angry. The past few days have brought upon us the very difficult realization that women’s rights are not safe, and tough choices just got a whole lot tougher.

Today, we are going to be talking about everything we can do to help our sisters in Texas who are now living a very dangerous life. Soon, other states will follow. I stand in solidarity with all who identify as a woman, who all watched in shock and horror as SCOTUS refused to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8. 


I will do my best to keep this brief. I make no promises. I have been very angry since 1 AM Wednesday night. 

  • Abortion is fully banned at 6 weeks. This is weeks before most women even know they are pregnant. 
  • There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • It puts the power of enforcement in the people. This means anyone – anyone – can bring a suit to any person they believe got an abortion, helped provide an abortion, assisted a woman in getting to a clinic, and on and on. Even more egregious is the fact that this also applies to citizens who suspect someone is planning on terminating a pregnancy. 
  • The snitch can receive a bounty of up to $10,000 for a successful suit. This, and the bullet point above, will almost certainly be used against clinics currently open in Texas. They will likely be sued into non-existence. 

So, let’s look at some scenarios: A woman who desperately wants a child but finds out mid or late stage in her pregnancy that the child has a lethal birth defect. She will be forced to bear a doomed child, or even a baby she knows is already dead. Or, maybe, it’s a 14 year old girl, raped by a family member. She will be forced to carry this fetus to term. Why should her fetus be more important than she, a child already in this world?

Miscarriages can now be considered highly suspicious, especially when you realize how little the public discusses it, how often it happens, and how little men seem to know about it. Imagine, you want to get pregnant, you want the baby, you miscarry, and then you get served a lawsuit. You’re already heartbroken beyond words, and now you’ve got Karen from Pilates accusing you of murder. These are not hypotheticals anymore. For Texas women, this is their reality.  


Not much, but not nothing. We can demand the expansion of the United States Supreme Court. It’s currently so right leaning I’m surprised any of them are standing up straight. The fascist we recently evicted from the White House had 3 SCOTUS appointments, and all 3 were part of the 5-4 decision to choose not to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8. 

We can also pressure our representatives to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would “protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions.”

This piece of legislation, championed by our own Congresswoman Aryanna Pressley (Massachusetts shout out!) and California’s Congresswoman Judy Chu, is essential to women’s rights and must be passed. If passed, WHPA will establish “a statutory right for healthcare professionals to provide abortion care and the right for their patients to receive care.”

You can find your house representatives and their contact information here. You can find your senators here.  I’ll even provide a basic template for your message to help you reach out if it’s something you have not done before or are uncomfortable doing. We must do everything we can, even when it’s uncomfortable. See below:

“Good afternoon, 

I hope this email finds you well. As your constituent, I am writing to voice my grave concern regarding the reproductive rights and health of women. With the recently passed Texas legislation banning all abortions at 6 weeks, it is imperitive we take action to combat the assault on women’s rights. I urge you to expand the Supreme Court. I urge you to work towards passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. Swift action is required if we are to maintain women’s constitutional right to choose. 


Your name (if you’re going to straight up copy and paste this please remember to change this to your actual name, lest we all look silly)

There. I’ve made it so easy for everyone. You don’t even have to think about it. Call your representatives. Call them every day. I have called and written my representatives as well as Speaker Pelosi every day since Wednesday, and I will continue to do so. 

Both of these options would be extraordinarily helpful, but these things take time, and Texas women are in trouble now. 


You can donate to organizations that are actively fighting to strike this unconstitutional law down.

The ACLU currently has a suit against Governor Abbott. You can donate here.

Planned Parenthood has also filed a suit. Donate to them here.

Donate to teafund.org. They are an organization based in Texas that helps low income women get access to abortion services.

You can also talk about this. You can talk about this all the time. All day, every day, to everyone, regardless if they want to listen. Tell your friends and loved ones to contact their representatives. Encourage them to donate, and donate what you can yourself. Since writing this article, I have donated the precious little excess funds I have (hello, rent week) to this cause. I will continue to donate whatever I can, whenever I can.

I leave this Small Lights post with a quote from a separate article I had written in response to this abhorrent assault on our rights: 

“I end this piece angry, unprofessional, and without any semblance of a conclusion. We have not concluded yet. I refuse, I refuse to accept the fate of my dear sisters in Texas and the states that are likely to follow. I will not let this happen to you. We will fight, we will persist, we will win. There is no other option. We have reached a turning point; let us fight to ensure it turns in the right direction.”

Now is the time. We must meet this moment. Be bold. Step out of your comfort zone. Fight for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend, and the strangers you will never meet. Fight for them simply because it is the right thing to do. To be silent is to be complicit. I will say this again.


Now get out there and do some good. It’s mandatory.



Happy Small Lights Friday, everyone! I hope everyone is staying cool in the heat, staying dry in the rain, and staying away from doom-scrolling through recent events. There’s been a lot going on in the world this week, and it’s hard to wrap my head around it sometimes. I thought we could use our Small Lights Friday to talk about one piece of big news that affects all of us, and it is very exciting news!


The Pfizer vaccine has officially cleared FDA approval, and not a moment too soon. With schools opening back up (and many across the country already open), it is more important than ever to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones from the Delta variant. Children under 12 are still not eligible to receive their dose, which means we need to ensure we are all doing our part, collectively, for each other. 

I know there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy. I certainly was not immune to it  – when the last administration was championing their Operation: Warp Speed, I turned to my husband and said, “I am not taking a Star Trek vaccine.” In my own defense, our former president did stare directly at a solar eclipse, so my weariness over his confidence was justified. Just look at what he tweeted after President Biden took office: 

Made ya look

All jokes aside, (wait – not all jokes – don’t hold me to this), we have all collectively faced an almost insurmountable challenge for the past 17 months. So why now, with a light at the end of this dreadful tunnel, are we seeing such intense backlash against a life saving vaccine?

If you’re reading this article in hopes that I am going to tear into anti-vaxxers, I am sorry to disappoint. My goal today is to help anyone who is still feeling hesitant to feel more comfortable about it. This is a literal life and death situation; it makes sense to be afraid. It does, however, seem that some of us are afraid of the wrong thing. Whether it’s due to disinformation, a lack of information, or just plain stubbornness, it’s time to spit facts.


Here are some common myths, accompanied by the truth, straight from the CDC:

Are we gonna be microchipped?

If I’m being honest, I started with this myth because it’s the one I’m most disappointed in. Imagine being able to Venmo your friends with a simple shoulder bump? Missed opportunity.

What about shedding? I thought that was reserved for dogs?

I don’t have a funny quip for this one. I didn’t even know shedding was a real thing, so I learned something today, too!

What about the timeline? How did we get a safe vaccine so fast?

You can find a detailed answer here, but the short answer is that we didn’t speed up the science, we cut through the red tape of bureaucracy. My only regret is that we didn’t have Fauci symbolically cut a large red ribbon with oversized scissors. Another missed opportunity.*

*I would like to take this moment to advise my readers I spent the better part of an hour in Microsoft paint trying to get a pair of large scissors into Fauci’s hands, but it was not meant to be.

What about altering our DNA (What I like to call the Spiderman Initiative)?

God, that’s so boring.

Don’t believe the CDC? Listen, I don’t blame you. The messaging coming out of the CDC has changed frequently as we learn more about this virus. In my personal opinion, I believe the CDC has been doing the best they can for the given situation. Of course, it has not been perfect, but I can forgive imperfection as long as we’re working towards a solution, and not contributing to the problem.

But hey, if the CDC has lost all credibility with you, I have something even better. Or, maybe I should say, John Oliver and Catherine O’Hara have something better. Check this out: 

Not a fan of O’Hara? First of all, change your opinion. Secondly, maybe John Cena would be a better fit!

You can go to the website John Oliver created, The True True Truth, to see if there’s another celebrity on there who resonates with you more! (Paul Rudd has one – you know you wanna watch Paul Rudd). Thanks, John Oliver!

I got my Moderna shot as soon as I was eligible. My side effects were mild; I was very tired and had some soreness on my arm, but that was it. I’m not magnetic (damn it), my DNA has not been altered (damn it), and I’m not microchipped (I hope my friends take cash). 


Here’s the thing: People in other countries are desperately trying to get the vaccine, and here in America, we are letting it go to waste. There are other people on this planet who see us as some of the luckiest people in the world. When it comes to vaccine availability, we kind of are. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s protect our loved ones and get the shot.

If, at this point, you’re not getting the vaccine simply because you don’t like being told what to do, I would recommend the following: Never order takeout, never request the wardrobe attendant to get you a smaller pant size, never call a plumber to fix your leaky pipes, and never ask your children to clean their rooms. Don’t go to the hospital for help when your lungs are filling with fluid and you start to choke from the inside. After all, why should anyone be told what to do? Why should you bother getting a free, life saving vaccine when the child suffocating to death alone in the hospital isn’t even your kid? Has the world gone crazy? These are your freedoms! You fought for them, right? Well, likely not, considering the military requires so many vaccinations I can confidently deduce most anti-vaxxers have never served.

…Okay, maybe I am tearing into anti-vaxxers a little bit.

Get the facts. Get the shot. Get out and dance. In that order.


mariana cabral art

Mariana is as much an empath as she is an artist. Her own secrets are woven into the textures and colors of her creations. She, herself, personifies self expression. It is as real as the paint on her canvas. The colors call out, almost like plucking the strings of a Spanish guitar, in a quiet plea for understanding. Mariana understands. She gets it every time. Born in The Azores and growing up in Massachusetts, Mariana now finds herself in Los Angeles, making a space for herself in the art world. 

Perhaps her deep understanding is rooted in her early start.

“It just felt like therapy to me at that age.” 

From a young age, she has understood the need for self expression and self actualization. When she was younger she was mostly expressing herself through dance but she also did writing and painting. “It was my way of expressing emotions that I didn’t know how to process at that time.” As for her early art, “It just felt like therapy to me at that age.” What she couldn’t know at the time, is that she was already dabbling in the abstract. With delight, she described to me how she would just dump all her arts and crafts out and just go crazy putting different materials and colors together.

For her senior year of college she took abstract art as a summer class so she could have the credits to graduate. “I didn’t really know that abstract painting was a thing until college…Now when I look back on it, and I think of all the times I was ten years old and painting and creating at home…I was already abstract painting and creating in a sense, I just didn’t know it.”

Mariana told me about how eye-opening that class ended up being. “At the time, I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues…it was a really, really tough time for me…But that summer completely shifted just the way that I processed a lot of that stuff.” She continued, illustrating a treasured moment as vividly as if she had painted it: 

“One moment in particular we got this huge canvas glued to the wall, it was massive, from the ceiling to the floor. And I just went crazy, and I started splattering paint, and putting my hands all over it and scribbling it, and it was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life…From then on I was constantly painting.”

Mariana Cabral

This art class is what catapulted her love for art; it reminded her of when she was a child and would express herself through dance, getting lost in the moment, feeling and expressing. Abstract painting is more than just flinging your brush at a canvas, of course. “There is a knowledge; there is a spine of abstract painting that you do have to know,” she told me.

Expanding on color theory, the art of composition, and playing with textures, Mariana is glowing. It’s so easy to see how much of herself she puts into her art.

Overall, from the conversation I had with her, I feel like the core of Mariana’s art seems to be centered around mindfulness, the act of bringing peace to yourself through art and just making beautiful things. She draws influence from Jackson Pollock and, especially, Salvador Dali. “From a young age,” she says, “his work is what inspired me to kind of dive deeper into surrealism.” 

“I think my work is really active.”

Mariana Cabral

under the paint

There is a deeper beauty on her canvas. For Mariana, creating art is a cathartic, meaningful experience. Likening it to meditation, she gets lost in the joy she feels when she hits her sweet spot. “When your mind is just constantly on a rampage and you can’t shut it off…I never really knew that that was a thing until I started abstract painting and I could feel it shut off…It feels like meditation.” As a writer, I can relate to this. It reminds me of hitting your stride when writing a poem. All of a sudden, the world is shut out and it’s just you and your words. There are few better feelings in the world. 

Mariana talks more to me about the meaning of her paintings: “I let the painting guide me, and I let the materials kind of choose me…That feels very spiritual because you kind of go into it having an idea sometimes, and then as soon as you enter that flow state…it kind of takes on a life of its own.” That flow state, for Mariana, is a therapy. Throughout our conversation she touches on her mental health struggles and how painting has been a fantastic outlet for processing those more difficult emotions. “I would reach for the canvas and nothing would come out, and then over time stuff would start to filter out…I would look back on that canvas and I would see those feelings projected back to me.”

Mariana’s finished pieces reflect her intentions like a mirror. “I think a lot of my pieces, you look at them and you’re like ‘What am I…looking at?’ especially my more illustrative stuff. But then once you look for a while you might see pieces of things you may have seen in your dreams and things you can kind of make out.” That is, to me, the most apt description of her work.

The painting I bought from Mariana is so inviting. I am not a visual artist, nor is my husband, but when my painting came in the mail and I unwrapped the piece I recalled Mariana’s explanation of the abstract: the more you look, the more you begin to see. 

My husband and I spent a good chunk of that evening looking at Mariana’s art and picking out what we saw. I saw a young girl with an umbrella. My husband saw a wildcat. Even as I write this, I am looking at her painting. I keep it at my work desk, and whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a few moments for myself and I look at this painting. It brings me peace, and I can’t even really explain why.

I am so moved by this painting. As a person who, again, really has never been good at any visual art, I was surprised at my strong reaction to it. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would love it – I ordered it specifically for my apartment – but I had no idea how much I would love it. Under the description of the piece, Mariana said she was thinking of coffee, chocolate, and richness, all of which sit delicately on the canvas. 

is it all this deep?

Mariana, as in tune with herself as anyone could be, also relishes the simplicity of beauty for the sake of beauty. “Sometimes I like painting for aesthetics. Sometimes I really just want an abstract painting to look good in my house.” She’s laughing as she tells me this – many times her friends have asked her the deeper meaning behind some of her décor. “Girl, I just really wanted to make something pretty for my house!” I think she’s right – there is so much meaning and beauty in her work and yet, sometimes, beauty on its own is enough. 

Don’t tell that to her art teachers, though. That particular motivation was never a favorite among her professors. Laughing, she tells me, “That did not go well with my art teachers.” 


For Mariana, it’s not just about the finished product. As made clear through our conversation, and as you’ll soon see through her videos, it is just as much about the process. The process of letting go, feeling your emotions in an honest way, and being kind to yourself. Please take a few minutes and watch her video on visiting her family during the pandemic, the struggles and joy she experienced, and the art that comes out of it. It’s such a beautifully told story. Her talents with video editing and writing shine just as brightly as her art does.

“The only thing that’s really changed is that I’m comfortable with the…blemishes, I guess, in my life. I’m okay with them now. They are a part of me and I find them to be just as beautiful.”

Mariana, “Finally Opening Up”

I’ll be honest with you all – I cried a little watching this video. It’s so honest. It’s so moving – the story, her story, and how she weaves her life into her work. The result is just stunning. I didn’t know I enjoyed abstract art until I saw Mariana’s paintings. I didn’t know I loved abstract art until my painting arrived and I could sit with it and look at it in person. 

Watching the story behind the painting and the process itself was such a blessing. She is honest in her videos, and I am personally so grateful she chooses to share her work through this medium. “I wrote the script, I did the piece, and I kind of – It was full circle – It’s like, waiting to go to The Azores, painting that, being there, struggling and being happy at the same time and then creating something that I think hopefully captures that.”

Mariana has big plans. “I’m in a big transition phase right now where I think that, hopefully, [the] art selling and print making and all that’s gonna be my main focus. With that strategy there is going to come a lot more merchandise, so I want to do a lot of my prints.” She wants to reach further than that though. “I would also love to see my work in a gallery here in LA. It would be nice to get to know other artists around here.” As far as her marketing strategies, she is taking it day by day. Quite true to form, if I may say so.

Right in the here and now, Mariana continues her focus on creating and the process within it. Having come so far – from battling self doubt in her teens to putting herself out there as honestly as one could imagine on a very large scale, she is living her truth. She wants you to live yours, too. “There’s a medium and a way to express out there for everyone…There’s something out there for everyone to process what’s going on.” And, most importantly, “You don’t have to be amazing, you just have to be making something.” It’s all a part of the process.

You can buy Mariana’s prints on Etsy here.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Mariana’s Art



Happy Friday, everyone! And – of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! I hope everyone has been staying cool in this oppressive heat. Hey, speaking of oppression, let’s get straight to it! Today, I would like to use our Small Lights platform to discuss systemic racism, and how to be anti-racist. Not just “not racist,” that is just not good enough. I mean actively, every day, be an anti-racist person.

Passivity and Anti-Racism do not coexist

According to The National Museum of African History and Culture, to be anti-racist results from “a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily…In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society.” Being anti-racism requires confronting your own prejudiced thoughts, understanding where these thoughts come from, and working to overcome those thoughts. It means consciously supporting Black owned businesses. It means using your whiteness (and therefore your louder voice) to lift Black people up. It means calling someone out at the grocery store when you hear them spout racist nonsense because they don’t know how to read a coupon and now it’s the black cashier’s fault.

Up until last spring, I was proudly anti-racist. I could see past the systemic racism that plagues our nation simply because I knew it was there. I was ahead of my time. I marched in BLM protests, donated to the appropriate charities, and spoke up when I heard a friend unintentionally say something problematic. I was the perfect example of a white ally. Until I wasn’t.

On May 25th, 2020, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. The world came to a screeching halt and I halted with it. I couldn’t sleep. I paced around my apartment for hours, tears streaming down my face, red with anger and confusion. When I couldn’t pace any more, I laid down on the carpet and stayed there. I couldn’t eat. I was immobilized by his murder. Thinking about it now, my heart still shudders. This unrelenting grief was new to me, and I didn’t know where it was coming from. Why was this death crippling me, but not the others? Why not Trayvon Martin? Why not Eric Garner? Ahmaud Arbery? Countless others? 

My grief was soon met with another, equally powerful emotion: brutal shock. Throughout my entire life, I considered myself a “good white person.” A white person who is not racist and does not succumb to ingrained stereotypes. I realized on May 25th, 2020, I was wrong. I was wrong about myself, perhaps even unknowingly lying to myself. Up until George Floyd’s death, I was living my life through the lens of white supremacy. It is still difficult to admit, but it is something I (and we all) must admit if we are going to address systemic racism. 

Why didn’t I feel such intense sorrow each time these killings made headlines? Are these men, women, and children less dead to me? Why is my heart only being torn up now? Why didn’t I care this much each time? These questions only brought more painful questions. 

Is it because I can remove myself from the distant pain? Is it because, deep down in my primitive brain, I hold onto these ignorant fears and stereotypes? Because I am comforted knowing it will never be me? Did I subconsciously make these deaths make sense? Justifiable murder?

The most painful part of becoming actively anti-racist is the very difficult realization that the answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes. 

the truth (really) hurts

This was a very hard realization to accept, and I’m physically cringing as I explain my internal mistakes on a public forum. However, my feelings are far less important than the point I am trying to make, and if using myself as an example proves helpful to anyone else, even one person, I will be happy and it will be worth it. 

I realized last summer that I am not special, not unique and, therefore, not immune to white supremacy. It was a difficult pill to swallow. I knew I had to swallow it. And so began my journey to learn what it meant to truly be anti-racist, to wake up to my own prejudices and challenge them head on. 

There were moments in my journey where I would scoff at a piece of information. This one isn’t about me. And yet, it was. It always is, and it always will be. Not me specifically, and not you specifically, but until we all recognize all white Americans alive today are benefitting directly from slavery, I fear we cannot move forward. 

“Being racist or anti-racist is not about who you are, it is about what you do.”


I started listening, really listening, to Black Voices. I started reading books. The most beneficial book I read was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. I read it through once and then I read it again. I also read Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. Okay – for this book – when I say “read,” I mean “read slowly and painfully, putting it down for days at a time, because our history is so abhorrent and disgusting I could not sit and read it all the way through without getting sick to my stomach.” In her book, Washington details the sickening treatment of Black Americans in the American healthcare system. I highly recommend both of these books if you’d like to peel the curtains back. 

it’s not all black and white

In Caste, Wilkerson discusses the origins of “whiteness” and “blackness.” Before the United States, people did not call themselves black or white. These terms didn’t gain any traction until the era of slavery; newcomers emigrating into our young country needed to find where they fit in this hierarchy where the bottom class is barely regarded as human at all: 

“Somewhere in their journey, Europeans became something they had never been or needed to be before. They went from being Czech or Hungarian or Polish to white, a political designation that only has meaning when set against something not white…It was in becoming American that they became white.”

Caste, pg 49

I did not know that. I did not know that at all. I was never taught that in school. Sure, we covered slavery – in the most white washed fashion imaginable. I remember learning that if a slave ran away, they may be punished by having a leg cut off. Terrible, yes, but nowhere near the atrocities committed on the very ground we walk on every day. 

For example, again pulled straight from Wilkerson’s brilliant book, I never learned that Nazi Germany came up with their strategy by pulling ideas straight from America’s playbook. That’s right! Did you know that? I did not know that. I was not taught that. From chapter 8: “As they [Nazi bureaucrats] settled into their chairs to hash out what would eventually be the Nuremburg Laws, the first topic on the agenda was The United States and what they could learn from it.” When I read that for the first time, I just could not believe it. How could I not know any of this? 

This past year, the amount of information I have absorbed probably far exceeds the information made available to me in my public schooling. And while it’s true I could have sought this information out had I wanted to, I really had no reason to. I was, after all, a white high schooler living in a very white area where people wave their hands in front of their face or tap their hands to discreetly indicate blackness. Otherness. Different. The idea of seeking out new information never even crossed my sheltered mind. That alone is another glaring example of my privilege.

I can no longer consider myself proud to be anti-racist; I am not there yet. I am proud to be on the journey towards it. I no longer see myself as an example – how foolish I was to ever assume I could be without putting in the real work. 

I still do not know why it was George Floyd that woke me up, and not the countless other souls. Up until Floyd’s murder, I thought I was was “woke,” progressive, a part of the solution. It’s painful to write, but I have to write it. There may be a white person who reads this and learns the same painful truth I learned, and if I can reach even one more person, it would be a victory. 

Covid-19 stripped us of the cultural veil that usually drapes over us weightlessly. We learned who was essential and who was not. We learned who our friends and family truly are, for better or worse. We stripped the facade down to its nuts and bolts and exposed rusted weak points. I wonder, if not for the pandemic, would I have ever seen these truths? I really don’t know. I’d like to think so. Of course, me “liking to think” I would be a good person is just another example of my privilege. The very idea that it’s a choice is inherently privileged. The difference for me now is that I can recognize that privilege and address it, and the problems that come with it.

A Little signal

The other day, at the liquor store in my blindingly white town, a group of black men walked in while I was in line. My primitive brain did what it has been doing and will probably continue to do until I can fix it- it sent a little signal to the forefront of my thoughts. A tiny little signal that’s been in all of us for hundreds of years. A split second flash: “Different.” 

I can recognize the signal for what it is now. It is not how we are meant to be. It is a manufactured response from hundreds of years of social conditioning. It is a direct result of political propaganda, fear, and hate. It is a lie. 

I am still very much a work in progress. There are books I still need to read, historical events I still need to dive deeper into, prejudices I need to address. But now I am awake, so I say “good morning.” It’s a beautiful day to be better than we were yesterday. It’s a beautiful day to be anti-racist.


Buy Caste from a Black-owned bookstore

Buy Medical Apartheid from a Black-owned bookstore

Here is a list of 4 star charities that fight for civil rights



There is so much I do not know. I am humbled constantly by the overwhelming sonder that washes over me whenever I meet someone different than myself. Growing up very white, in a very white town, I am probably towards the bottom of a list of people you would expect to write about African head wrapping. So I am, of course, humbled and incredibly grateful to be telling you all about Imani McFarlane, Delmeshia Haynes, and their absolutely breathtaking work. This mother-daughter duo is Tafari Wraps, a Boston based business dedicated to the art of African head wrapping and its cultural significance.


Imani McFarlane moved to Boston from Jamaica when she was just ten years old. Not yet knowing the ugly racism that holds its unrelenting grip on America, she describes her culture shock in her video. “I felt like I was put into a pool…a deep pool, and had to learn how to swim.” She was 13 when she first started wearing head wraps. Local Rastafarians were able to share more about the culture, and McFarlane found her community within Rastafari.

“You feel empowered when you wear headwraps.”

Imani McFarlane

Designing since the age of 16, McFarlane now boasts an impressive resume. She is a master seamstress, an educator and, of course, a business owner. Her daughter, Delmeshia Haynes, is now her business partner, COO of Tafari Wraps and a Wrapologist herself. 

Haynes’ list of accomplishments is also something to behold. She is an educator, event coordinator, and an integral role in the logistics behind the business. Like her mother, she is dedicated to celebrating African Culture. Haynes is a champion in educating and preserving the ancestral lineage that is beautifully woven within the art of head wrapping. 

Together, these two women visit retail establishments to teach the art of head wrapping and educate others on the vast culture steeped within it.


I want to describe Tafari Wraps’ creations and how gorgeous their wraps are – it’s hard to find the right words. Looking through their Instagram is, to me, like peeking through a previously unopened door, cracked just enough to allow a stream of light to flow from it. It’s an old door, older than my grandparents and their grandparents, and it’s beautiful and inviting. When I pull it open a little bit more, the light is warm. I’ve found myself looking in from the outside, at a culture so different from my own. I want to tread carefully so as to not unintentionally disrespect or disrupt. 

Source: Instagram

When I say African Diasporic religion and culture is rich, I’m talking double chocolate cake rich. Learning about African Culture, for me, was like being plucked by the Hands of God and submerged, head first, into another world. A world right next to me all the time, that I never deeply explored. I am so glad I have pulled open the old door. The beauty is blinding. Color, Pride, Light, are the words that come to mind. One cannot fully understand the beauty, the divinity of head wrapping without learning about its cultural significance. So, what’s it about?

African Diaspora religions and Traditions

Can I sum it up in one word? No. Can I sum it up in one article? No. Can I sum it up in one lifetime? Almost certainly not. It would be a disservice to Diasporic Religions to even attempt to do so. These religions and traditions span different countries, continents, different languages, and myriad Deities. I will not try to teach what I do not understand. However, there are explicit characteristics of these religions, of which I am excited to share with you.

African diaspora religions are several related religions that developed in the Americas, specifically the nations of the Caribbean and Latin America. There is a term for a group of related religions: Religious Syncretism “exhibits the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation of beliefs from unrelated traditions into a religious tradition.”

They are derived from traditional African religions. These religions involve ancestor worship and include a creator Deity, as well as a pantheon of divine gods. Many of these individual religions also include elements of folk Catholicism.

Mcfarlane discusses Rastafari specifically in her video. “Rastafari is a way of life, a natural way of life…a way to connect with your divine self.” A monotheistic religion, Rastafarians believe in Jah (God). Music, singing and dancing, and prayer are all facets of Rasta. Head wrapping is an important tradition within the culture. Reading about Rasta was enlightening; I connected with their prayers.

“Jah causes the sun to rise and to set, a new day comes every 24 hours. With this new beginning day, we are encouraged to release all that is no longer serving us, and make way for new opportunities, and experiences to come.”

Segment of a Rastafari prayer for forgiveness


Pouring through Tafari Wraps’ Instagram is an adventure. The colors McFarlane uses are so rich, so bright, and so bold. Red, yellow and green are the primary color elements, and there is a good reason for it. Color choices are intrinsically linked to the culture and spiritualism of Rastafarianism and other Afro Diasporic Religions and, in turn, head wrapping.

Red represents the blood of Black people who were killed while fighting for justice and civil rights, and standing up against slavery. The yellow represents the wealth of Africa, especially gold. The green represents the lush vegetation of Ethiopia, the Promised Land. McFarlane and Haynes use these colors to uplift and celebrate their culture, and the result is undeniably gorgeous. These colors pack a punch; they evoke strength. As well they should – the strength and endurance of Black Women throughout the history of our country and other colonizing countries is immeasurable. Where would we even begin? I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll say this. Be loudly anti-racist and support Black Women whenever the opportunity arises. It is, quite literally, the very least we can do to help heal the wounds of slavery. 

Home grown strength

Earlier, I mentioned that there were so many different types of African Diasporic religions that it would be an impossible feat to deep dive into them all. There is, however, one country I would like to focus on for just a moment, and that country is the United States. 

Yes, right here at home, Afro Diasporic religions were born. Hoodoo was created in the Southern United States as a way of resisting slavery. Hoodoo was practiced in secret.

I find myself humbled again. The United States is a young country, and slavery is not as far away as we sometimes like to pretend it is. To go from needing to hide your beliefs from the monsters that enslaved you to operating a business where your beliefs are not only celebrated, but taught, is a testament to the incredible endurance and strength of humanity. That is not to say we are done with the work. Today, our country seems so polarized we may never heal. There is systemic racism strangling our country, fueled by ignorance and fear. The racism within our police forces alone continues to be devastating to the Black Community. Yet, it is apparent, there will be no silence against white supremacy. Again and again, Black Americans demonstrate strength and resilience I could never replicate. 

Imani McFarlane and Delmeshia Haynes are a part of the solution. Through their celebration of culture, there is inspiration. Through their education and outreach, there is hope. And, through McFarlane’s incredible designs, there is a loud, unapologetic, brilliant beauty. McFarlane and Haynes are providing for us what we so desperately need. Education, pride, strength, and the courage to be your true self. As beautiful as their creations are, so too is their mission.



Happy Friday everyone! More importantly, happy Small Lights Friday! I gotta tell you all, I missed being here while I was gone. I can’t stay away from my love for writing. So, I’m back in it, full of piss and vinegar and chicken salad, which brings me to our Small Lights topic for today: Self care!

If I ever run for public office, This will be my campaign poster.

I know – there has been a lot of self care buzz all around us the past year. It almost seems like the topic has been infused into our lavender bubble bath or hidden in our peanut butter. (Is it in the vaccine? Do you think telling people that would help?) But I do think it’s important to talk about, especially after the collective trauma we’ve all experienced with Covid-19. Especially since we may be facing another mask mandate.

I wanted to use this Small Lights to talk about the difference between self care, and self medication. Believe me, baby, I’ve done both, and I’ve labeled it all as “self care.” Grab your Pinocchio dolls, ladies. Today, we’re gonna get real. 

Content warning: substance abuse. This is a judgement free space, and I will never use this platform to promote any sort of ignorance about addiction, nor will there ever be even a drop of judgement. However, we will be talking about it, and if you are sensitive to the subject, you may want to skip this week and wait for the absolutely incredible piece I have planned for next Friday. 

Self care versus self medication

Wine is a big hit right now, perhaps for the first time ever in the history of the world. Women everywhere (and men – scandal!) are discovering this incredible and 100% brand new trend – the elation elixir. I’ve seen everything from doing wine push ups, to straight up promoting alcoholism.

Look, I drink. I used to drink a lot. When I was younger and unsure how to navigate my genetic disposition, it was a topic I discussed with my therapist often. Alcoholism is incredibly common and, with the pandemic, drinking has increased even more. Nearly 15 million Americans over the age of 12 suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder. There is no shame in this. We have all been through a wild time. I actually started drinking gin during this pandemic. Gin! Have you ever had gin? Gin is a watered down pine tree sat overnight in a hamster cage. And I drank it, hamster wheel and all (citation needed).

What I have noticed is the normalization of drinking as a form of self care. I feel a personal responsibility to address this, as someone who used to self medicate quite often. Binge drinking is not self care. And in that same vein, smoking an 8th of pot a day is not self care. It may feel that way in the moment, but we all know, deep down, it’s not. We are not bettering ourselves with this behavior. (Okay, maybe sometimes, an 8th of pot in one day is self care. But these are RARE occasions). Self care should propel you forward, not halt your progress (or worse, move you in the wrong direction).

Shabangover* over Hangover 

*Okay, I know we need to address shabangover before we move any further. It’s a word I made up, okay? I literally just made it up; it wasn’t even in the outline of this piece. Because you know what’s better than a hangover? Anything that would call for someone saying “Shabang!” So just accept it, alright? I mean, come on, you probably accepted Inception. You can accept Shabangover. You’re welcome. 

In the meat of the Shabangover lies its true benefit. The bliss of the hangover antithesis. Waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed, having set your alarm early enough to squeeze in a good stretch, your morning skin care routine, and a hearty breakfast. I’m a big fan of staying away from high horses (back off Clydesdales), and I’m not going to tell you not to drink. I’m just going to advise that it’s always better when you don’t drink every night. 

Your heart will thank you, your head will thank you and, eventually, your liver will thank you. I know what it feels like – at the end of a rough day, you want to pour a drink, feel the warm burn, and numb those feelings. But I have bad news that you already know: just because it’s numbed for now, doesn’t mean it’s gone away for ever. Ask any dentist. 

Maybe don’t ask this dentist.

If you had a really bad day, and you have to pour yourself a glass, by all means pour that glass. But be mindful that glass does not become your nightly routine. Long term drinking exacerbates depression, can cause cancer and diabetes. It can also lead to embarrassing situations, which are almost always funny later, but never funny in the moment. In this world of instant gratification, we simply cannot afford to wait for something to become funny. The Earth is on fire; we do not have time. 

So what is self care, genius?

Thank you so much for calling me a genius; I’m doing my best. Let’s focus on what truly is self care. 

I am using myself as an example here for two reasons. The first is that I think it’s important we are open about these issues in order to break the stigma against them and, secondly, it’s too good of an example not to share. I do depression expertly.

The picture on the left is my desk when I’m engaging in the self medicating side of self care – you know, the wrong one. You’ll notice a dirty ashtray, a PBR (gross), medications strewn about, trash, Dante’s the Inferno (WHY?), just a total mess. This is what my nightstand looks like when I’m having an episode of what I like to call the Big Sad: Hey, I’m so sad, I deserve a drink. Why should I have to feel like this? I can make myself feel better. Anything is better than this.” 

Sound familiar? The left picture is the result of drinking to cope. That’s late night munching (without cleaning the trash), unorganized meds, and an open tube of lipstick. Again – why?

The picture on the right is when I am truly engaging in self care. (I still don’t have an answer for Dante’s the Inferno.) And yes, my self care almost always includes bubble baths and a favorite comfort food, but there is much more to taking care of yourself than bundling up in a cocoon. 

Real Self Care

This Monday, I engaged in self care. True self care. Let me paint a picture: It was a Monday morning and I knew it would be a busy day at work, and I also had business with both my bank and my job.

I did not drink the night before, as much as I wanted to. I was anxious about the Monday that lay ahead. I did my best to suck it up and go to sleep anyway.

I woke up early and spent some time stretching. Afterwards, I did my skin care routine, even though I was tired and I’d much rather have been browsing my phone. Once I was back to looking like I was 19, I went to feed Queen Dolly and make a smoothie for myself.

The Queen, next to her portrait

Throughout the day on Monday, I experienced a few stressors. Instead of telling myself to walk away from the situation, I chose to face the situation. After all, we choose how we can react to situations and make the best of them. This took years for me to learn, and I am still learning every day. There are still a lot of days I choose to walk away, but self care is a learning process.

Forcing myself to stick through the stressors, recalibrate my attitude towards positivity, and taking reality head on was my self care for that day. Yes, it was hard. And no, it was not comforting. But I gained so much. I gained confidence in myself, I gained the pride that comes with overcoming obstacles, and I am in a much better headspace as a result. 

Self Care is different for everyone

Everyone leads a unique life, so of course, not all self care will look the same for everyone. I found this helpful information chart on the CDC website:

I would also encourage everyone to look into practicing mindfulness. I practice mindfulness almost every day, and it’s like an instant quick fix for small stressors. And it’s a much healthier quick fix than a shot of whiskey.

Are You Self Medicating?

Sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re engaging in self medicating. Take a look here to see what forms it can take: 

This resource has a lot of helpful information. You can check it out and go over the signs of self medicating. If you find that you are, I want you to know that’s okay, and nothing to feel bad about. It’s something we all do. However, I hope that sharing my personal experience on the matter will bring you comfort, and the knowledge that you are not alone.

If you need outside help, there are resources: 

SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-4357

Peer Recovery Support Centers in Massachusetts

National Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255

Be a Small Light for yourself this weekend. Engage in some real self care. Nature is beautiful in July, and so are you.



Let’s talk about art. Art is subjective. Art is a personal journey. It is movement, pressure, hesitation, and release. Art is the cartilage surrounding our joints, giving nuance to the rigid and allowing flexibility within our perceptive reality. No one I know personally knows this better than Allison Bamcat, one of the most spellbinding muralists of Los Angeles. A pop surrealist, Allison is pushing the boundaries of reality and testing the waters of the whimsical. Her pieces are fantasies of pastels and double-takes. If I could step into one of her murals, I just know I would be standing under the warmth of an enormous sun.

Early Interpretations

“My earliest memories are coloring and eating construction paper.”

There was an immediacy in Allison’s pursuit, from the very beginning. Like many of the women I am privileged to meet and talk to, she’s always known what she was meant to do. “I have been an artist basically since I was a little kid, ever since I was probably five or six…My earliest memories are coloring and eating construction paper.” As a fellow supporter of the 6th food group, parchment, this resonated with me. I ate a lot of paper. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pictured-my-breakfast-this-morning.jpg
pictured: my breakfast this morning

Allison had an itch for art, but she couldn’t scratch it at school. There was no art curriculum within Allison’s elementary school. They had an art day once a month, something she was always looking forward to. “If they ever skipped it I remember just like, sobbing. I was so disappointed because all I wanted to do was art.” Thankfully, where the curriculum fell short, her teachers stepped up. Like a four leaf clover, she was plucked from the crowd and ushered into her dream world. “When I was…in third grade, my teacher actually told my mom that she should consider putting me in art classes. And she did, and I ended up doing those on Saturdays for a few years.”

Those Saturdays were all she needed. “I decided during that time that I really wanted to go to art school, and I really couldn’t picture myself doing anything other than professional art.” Her parents were supportive of her choice, which, to me, is just so important and so delightful. Pursuing art as a career is fiercely competitive and demanding. The majority of those who chase paint find themselves in a cubicle working data entry, quietly scribbling their true love within the allotted margins. 

Allison was and is different. I like to think her parents were not afraid, but excited. I imagine them enthusiastically telling her, yes! not just because of Allison’s innate skill, but because they knew she would put her feet to the proverbial pavement. And, with the blessing of her parents, she was immediately agitating gravel. “I actually skipped my senior year of high school and went to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I just met all my credits in advance and was just so determined to make this my life path.” Seriously – that is what she did. My time in high school was spent trying to squeeze into skinny jeans and crying about skinny jeans. How many teenagers are that determined, that focused, that clear minded? The answer is one, and the answer is Allison. (Well, it was Allison. She’s grown up now).

Allison’s education was more than vanishing points, still life, and color theory. The pursuit of her illustration degree led to a deeper understanding of herself and, congruently, her work.


“I think the catalyst for me wanting to talk about my life story and my life journey [through art] was my college thesis.”

Allison’s take on clowns and clowning in her thesis, “Put on a Happy Face,” was simply bewitching. I sit firmly in the fear camp when it comes to clowns, but even my view has softened upon hearing her personal exploration of that famous corner in Uncanny Valley.  “I actually always like clown imagery and clown stuff. I liked the dichotomy of someone painted to look happy who was just a regular person but they’re an entertainer.” Allison peers behind the mask and uncovers the human. “These people are like, maybe struggling with a divorce, or trying to reconnect with their young children…and then working all night as a chef and then working the weekends too. That kind of complexity…you’re painted up to look happy but you’re really struggling on your own to be an artist, and an entertainer, and a performer.” Having fought her own battles with depression, you can see how it’s easy to relate to. 

Looking at her work, you wouldn’t guess she’s had her own personal struggles with depression. Her prints inspire delight; looking at her art makes me smile. “Why do I want to paint with bright colors? Is that a distraction from what I’m going through, or is it an interpretation of that? I’m still kind of exploring that in my work.” Through the lens of a certain strangeness, somehow both jarring and comforting, I find intrigue in her color palettes; her wide open window into surrealism provokes exploration in us all. 

a splash of color

If you haven’t already noticed, Allison has a style. Her unusual creatures are always brightly colored, against bright backgrounds. “I’ve always just found this magnetism to wanting to use bright paint and things like that…like, colored pencils my favorites were always the neons.” Eliciting joy from just about everyone in her audience, the bright pastels bring her otherworldly animals to life.

“I consider myself a pop surrealist”

Allison Bamcat

Allison is happy to tell me about the joy she finds in her creative process. “Being able to use paint- I’ve used acrylic wash and I also use spray paint the majority of the time. I also airbrush a little bit. But learning how to show different surfaces on a flat painting and make things really recede and protrude in space, being able to figure that out is a really fun challenge for me.

“As well as, like, making something metallic. How does that look by using only a 2D medium? How do you make that apparent? Or fuzzy, or feeling the texture of a leaf…I really strive to be able to portray that to people who view my work and I love the challenge of just using flat paint to do that.”

Bamcat works on one of her murals

Allison’s work takes her around L.A., working on commissioned murals while also doing artwork in the fine art gallery circuit.  “I [also] do some custom illustration things like that, and sell my own paintings.” She told me about mural festivals, which I had never heard of before but now desperately want to attend.

A mural festival, she tells me, is a celebration where a bunch of different artists’ murals go up at the same time. I want to go to one of those so badly, it sounds amazing! “Everybody’s sweaty and tired by the end of the day but we all get to watch each other build up our pieces and get tips and tricks from each other…it’s a great way to build relationships and comradery, and also develop new relationships with other communities.” So, that sounds incredible. But you don’t have to be at a festival to catch Allison putting up a mural. She’s more than happy to share her joy with anyone who stumbles upon her mid-project.


One of her favorite parts of working outside on murals is getting to meet different people she wouldn’t otherwise run into – especially when it’s someone who doesn’t expect to see a woman out doing street art. “It’s like the first time somebody saw a girl using spray paint,” she says, and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive. “Maybe it’s a woman in her forties who’s like, ‘oh that’s so cool that you spray paint,’ I’m like, cool, do you wanna help me fill in this part?” The idea of bringing women together through street art is the most heartwarming thought I will have in my head today. 

Actually, nevermind. This is the most heartwarming thought I will have in my head today: This is the gas mask Allison uses when she is out spray painting. 

Now imagine again, a woman in her forties seeing a female street artist for the first time, wearing this incredible gas mask, and being so excited to be a part of it. That is the community I want to be a part of. 

coming into focus

Allison has plans. “We’re developing a mural festival called Spracy C LA which is in accordance with SPRAY C MO.” she tells me, in regards to her neighborhood council’s ad hoc committee, of which she is a member. When it comes to her professional work, she stays true to herself. “I try to really keep it to my style… The more pieces that I create that are in my style and authentic to the work that I do, the more examples I have of what I’m able to do if you kind of let me run with it…I have a pretty beefy portfolio when it comes to that.” Through her social media marketing, Allison has set herself up for success through myriad avenues in the art world. 

Allison always knew what she was doing, ever since she was young. She trusted her instincts and chased her dream. She got her education in illustration and from there blossomed into a creator of warmly bizarre, unusual, gorgeous and unapologetic Lisa Frank inspired pieces. Now, living in L.A and creating full time, she is in her happy place. Her painted creatures are inviting, her surrealism is haunting, and through all of her creations, she is still exploring. Allison describes her art succinctly. “The purest reflection of me.”

You can check out Allison Bamcat’s Instagram here, and you can buy her prints and original paintings here. Now get outta here and go live your life in full color!


The Results Are In: You ARE The Small Lights!

Happy Small Lights Friday! I am so excited and grateful for all of the amazing contest entries received over the past few weeks! I’m also very pleased to announce our winners. First and foremost, everyone who entered will receive assorted stickers, magnets, and twinkle lights! Our Second and Grand Prize Winners have been announced on my Instagram; head on over to see their shout outs! 

Small Lights has been focused on giving back and how to give back in ways that work. Today, I want to highlight someone with such a big story, they might not fall under the category of a Small Light. I know, I know – I’m breaking my own rules here – but in honor of Pride, I want to look at one of the brightest souls. Happy Pride!


I’d like to take a moment to thank my dear friend Steve for introducing me to the Marsha P Johnson Foundation, which of course led me to Marsha P Johnson! Thanks, Steve! Marsha P Johnson self identified as gay, a transvestite, and a Drag Queen. (Let me point out that the term transgender was was not broadly used in her lifetime, and the term transvestite is considered derogatory today). I will be using she/her pronouns, as that is how she is identified within her foundation. It should be noted that Johnson did not consider herself transexual, which she defined as someone who was on hormones or having surgery (think of some of our transgender community members today). Johnson left a stunning imprint on Queer history. To understand her impact, you need to understand who she was.

The Mayor of Christopher Street 

That’s how Johnson was known to the locals in Greenwhich Village, New York, once she had staked her claim on the street. She was a welcome presence. She was an AIDS activist. Her Drag performances were comedic and political; she was a member of Hot Peaches, a Drag performance troupe. She was photographed by Andy Worhal. She was known for wearing crowns of fresh flowers.

Marsha P Johnson’s Drag was, according to her good friends, an artform. She didn’t have much money at all, and when she did get money it was usually quickly given to someone else who she thought needed it more. As a result, her outfits were plucked from thrift stores or received as gifts. Her Drag style was, in essence, what she could afford.

Pay it no Mind

While she was born Malcom Michaels Jr., Johnson took the moniker Marsha P Johnson. Her new surname was borrowed from a restaurant on 42nd St, Howard Johnson’s. The P stands for “Pay it No Mind.” I love this story: Apparently, Johnson had quipped this to a judge who found it amusing enough to let her off after one of more than 100 alleged arrests. This incredible and very cool sounding number, 100, is claimed by Johnson, who found herself in trouble with the law frequently for sex work. 

Regarding her treatment by the police, Marsha said that they treated her like she was one of the “worst murderers.” Being trans in 2021 is hard enough; being trans and black in the 80s and 90s was a completely different ballgame. “We thought of her as a patron saint,” said Sasha Mcaffrey, a friend of Marsha’s.

Johnson was arrested often for her sex work but she also had a different thorn in our governments’ side, one we can all relate to these days.

stonewall was a riot!

Marsha P Johnson is a recognized veteran of the Stonewall Uprising, the now well known riots that erupted spontaneously after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn. In fact, even before the uprising, Johnson was one of the first patrons to show up in full Drag. The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and now national monument, is the birthplace of Pride. The Stonewall Riots is widely regarded as the biggest event in our country’s history regarding the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Any guesses to who started it? 

The shot glass heard round the world

“Pay It No Mind” documentary

According to those who were there, it was Marsha who was in the forefront. She shouted, “I got my civil rights!” and threw a shot glass into a mirror. One friend remembers it being coined as “the shot glass heard round the world.” If not for the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement would most certainly not be nearly as powerful or as progressive as it is today. Gay rights did not just happen. No one woke up and decided, hey, you know what? I’m not going to oppose gay rights anymore. I’ve changed my mind. That’s not how we work. Stonewall was a necessity, an imperative, a mandatory precursor for the fight that lay ahead. Without it, where would we be now? 


Johnson was involved in far more than just Stonewall. She also founded STAR, a shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. It stands for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionary. And, I’m sorry, I just need to take a moment. That is an amazing acronym. How much relief one must have felt, having been kicked out of their homes for being gay only to find that there was someone like Marsha, ready to make you feel valid and loved. 

She marched in the first gay pride rally. She participated in sit ins fighting for gay rights. She joined the Gay Liberation Front and was an active member in The Drag Caucus.

She was a friend to everyone, she knew everyone, and was always there to help (unless she was servicing one of her ten day prison sentences – then you would need to wait ten days).

It was who she was, to be loud and out and just be Marsha. 


Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River shortly after 1992’s Pride Parade. Despite fervent protests from family and friends who all insisted there was reason enough to suspect foul play, police ruled her death a suicide.

“Marsha paid the price for who she was.”

Michael Lynch, member of Hot Peaches 

On July 4th, Johnson was seen in an altercation with a neighboring resident. This resident was later seen at a bar bragging about having killed a drag queen named Marsha.

The police ignored this information, and no one was brought to justice. It would be 2 decades before the police were convinced to reopen the case as a possible homicide in November of 2012.

When you go outside today, or tomorrow, or any day, live your full truth. Celebrate you. And if anyone has anything to say about it? Pay it no mind.

Pay It No Mind Documentary

Donate to Marsha P Johnson Foundation



With any piece I write for this blog, I’m always wondering where to start, and I feel like that goes without saying for almost everything humans do. Where do we start, where do we begin building our foundations? I ask myself where I’m going to start when I try a new recipe, and when I have a BIG idea, like buying rollerblades when I have no business experimenting in balance. I ask myself where to start when I want to do something good.

How you begin something, be it a project, a new job, or even a bar fight, is an integral step in your process. Everything you expand upon in the future needs to rest on the foundations you’ve built. Hopefully you are using something concrete, like, say, concrete. And while everything in your life innately has a beginning, how about the foundation of your life in itself? Where do we begin?

There is a preschool teacher in Medway, Massachusetts who is laying a concrete foundation for her students every day. And now, in a world with increasing technology, increasing standardization, and decreasing opportunities for children to socialize appropriately, she is always walking uphill.

Wendy Kilty, owner and teacher of Back to Basics Daycare and Preschool, has dedicated her life to educating and shaping the minds of children. Over Zoom, Wendy tells me about why she made her transition from Operations VP at a bank to opening her own pre-school. Let’s be real: That is a pretty drastic career shift. 

Source: Facebook

Accounting for the Kids

For Wendy, it truly is all about the kids. “[I] started having children, and then realized what am I doing? I need to be home with my children.” Wendy sounds so sure and secure in her decision to leave her career when she speaks to me. The more you talk to her, the easier it is to understand why. Her love for teaching and helping children is big and loud and bright. She is matter-of-fact when she speaks, always mindful and in control. Someone that speaks with such determination and focus surely has always known what she wanted to do, but that’s actually not the case. She found her passion accidentally: “I decided to go into early education. At the beginning [it] was to work the schedule that my kids were in school. Being a single mom at the time, it worked out great.” 

Wendy is the kind of teacher you used to wish for as a kid. She is calm, in control, and truly, genuinely enjoys being around and teaching children. While you’d think that would be the norm for most elementary schools, I would like to point you to one of the most famous teachers.

So, where is Miss Wendy molding minds?

Preschool Paradise

Wendy recently found a new space for her school, and it’s very exciting. Just as finding her passion was a bit of an accident, so too was the blessing of this new facility. “This February I expanded, and it was quite by accident…I took over a childrens indoor play place and cafe…Now it’s Back 2 Basics Preschool and Daycare.” When she went on to describe her new building to me, I found myself wondering, am I too old to attend a daycare? “It’s got the ball pit, and slides, and jungle gyms, and ziplines, well, one zip line, and little saucers…We made classrooms. I opened February 1st, and started with two little classrooms, and we’re building up and by June 1st I will be at full capacity, so I’m excited.” At the time of this piece, Wendy has reached her full capacity for her school. And she’s right: this is so exciting!

This school sounds like any child’s dream. These interactive play spaces rival Chuck E Cheese, and this is a school. Wendy has curated a space that caters specifically to our youngest community members which is, again, a surprisingly rare find in our education system. What really makes Back to Basics Preschool and Daycare so special is the incredible level of empathy demonstrated by its main teacher.

A School to Vouch For

Wendy tells me about a state program she signed up for through the State of Massachusetts. “I branched out to the voucher program, so I work with the state to bring in the less fortunate.” This voucher program allows students to attend her daycare when their parents are otherwise unable to afford it. Childcare is, after all, prohibitively expensive. In fact, Massachusetts ranks number one for the cost of center based daycare in the country – and not in a good way.

Now, there are certainly benefits for schools that are a part of the voucher program. During a 3 month Covid-19 shutdown, Wendy was able to use the funds from the program to keep her school open, and thank goodness for that. But Back to Basics really shows its true colors here. Wendy didn’t sign up for the voucher program just because she should, because Wendy does everything with specific intention. “Another reason that I started the preschool was that it just seemed like…I know I struggled when my kids were little to put them in preschool. I didn’t have the money to do that. So when I opened Back to Basics way back when, one of the other things I said was ‘I’m gonna keep the cost low and I’m gonna help these parents that are struggling and more so single moms.’ So it was an affordable preschool.”

It’s so refreshing to hear someone talk about how they remember how hard something was for them, and instead of taking the attitude of “I did it, so can you,” Wendy is actively doing everything she can so that other young parents, or single parents, do not have to experience the hardships she experienced. And if we’re staying on the theme of Miss Wendy encompassing attributes that should not be rare in the teaching world but are anyway, yes, it is rare to find someone with this attitude. So many of us choose to pull the ladder up behind us and forget where we came from, but not Wendy Kilty. Wendy extends her hand, again and again, as demonstrated by her motives behind her teaching. 

“I can do this,” she tells me of taking on the burden of childcare and education.  “I can really start learning more and be able to help kids overcome a lot of these [unhealthy behaviors] like anxieties, and depression and wild behavior and all those fun stuffs that go along with childhood.” 

Record scratch.

Hang on. Depression? Anxiety?

I asked Wendy if there really are a measurable amount of young children experiencing these symptoms. Not only did I get a solemn yes, but apparently this has been getting worse. But why? What’s going on?

2021 Is A Scary Place

Honestly, yes, that’s kind of the answer here. 2021 is a much different world than 1995 when I attended kindergarten (shout out to Mrs. Hunt, sorry I got everyone to tie their shoelaces together that one recess). Our lifestyles have really changed in the past couple of decades. With the introduction of the internet and, not long after, affordable technology, we’re seeing the results of a dramatic cultural shift in our children. 

“I’m not mom, and I’m not dad.”

A big part of it, it seems, is lack of quality time at home. In 2021, it’s rare to find a family where one parent can afford to stay home and take care of their children. Day care is becoming more and more necessary. “Some of these kids I have from 7 o’clock in the morning to 5:30 at night, that’s a long time to be away from your home.” And while Wendy does focus entirely on creating a rich and engaging atmosphere for her students, she sums up her one shortfall succinctly: “I’m not mom, and I’m not dad.”

Long hours at the daycare center are not going to measure up to quality time at home, but let’s focus on the key phrase here, quality. As noted above, things are different in 2021. Drug addiction has skyrocketed thanks to the Opiate Epidemic, which can lead to infants needing to go through detox upon birth. And while divorce is not anything new, it isn’t any less traumatic for a young child just because they can now zone out on their iPhone. These are just two examples out of a countless array of variables that could stunt a child’s development.

Wendy paints a pretty clear picture. “[For the] first three years [of life] either they can crawl around and roll around and touch things and feel everything, or they can sit in a high chair in front of a television, or in front of a phone. I’m the first way: I want everyone to be able to experience everything. Roll around. Touch things. And that’s where I think they become a well balanced child.” Of course, I’m not about to sit here and demonize parents who sit their kid in front of a tablet now and again. Women are raising children in more isolated settings than ever before; if you need to plop your toddler down in front of Paw Patrol so you can scream into your pillow for 22 minutes, I’m not going to mount a high horse and gallop across your moral compass. But when your child’s only source of entertainment is one screen, there can be physical consequences as well as emotional ones. 

“They’re only using one side of their brain, the other one’s sitting dormant,” says Wendy. The internet provides us with limitless knowledge now, so one might presume that it would provide benefits to growing children. However, we have to think about things in terms of human development.

Scrolling through a tablet using only your thumb instead of running around outside, collecting sticks and berries or climbing trees, have children not developing the way humans have been developing for centuries. Fine motor skills are not being developed. 

This isn’t just happening at home, and the problem is not concentrated within too much screen time. Wendy talks about the detriment caused by systemic changes in our education system. “We’re drilling in these kids the MCAS, all the pressure we put on them now of learning, learning, learning, but it’s all academic learning. It’s not real life learning.” Personally, if I had a dollar for everytime I threw my hands up in frustration and cried to my cat WHY did I not learn about finances in school! I would be in a much better financial position, especially considering I did not learn about finances in school. “I do think that we’ve taken a lot of stuff, like gym class and shop class, and home economics, and all of those life skill classes have been taken away. I think it’s… I don’t think it’s good.

“Woodworking [for example]… You’re still doing numbers, and measurements, and hammering, and cause and effect, all that fun stuff. Basics.” When she spells it out like that, it does become obvious, doesn’t it?

Basics seems to be the operating word here, and for good reason. “I’m still old school. We don’t have electronics, we don’t have televisions. I think with kids being able to do hands-on [learning], that anything can be taught.” How is Wendy combating screen time, long hours away from home, and rampant standardization? You don’t have to look far for the answer; it’s right in the name. 

Back to basics 

“We’re teaching compassion.”

Wendy’s school takes a step back from the bells and whistles of new tech that seems to hurt more than help. She tells me it’s important in early childhood education to take into account every stage of development. “For the first 3 years you’re trying to get to the different milestones. Getting to those milestones, and being creative getting to the milestones and adapting to how each child is going to learn, I think that’s the biggest thing. There’s different ways of learning. And not everyone learns the same way.”

The basics of storytelling, of time spent outside, of curriculums built to engage, not just keep busy. The basics of simply being around other children. The basics of having a small enough facility where your teacher:student ratio is more than acceptable, and every child gets enough attention. These seemingly simple basics we do with and for our kids have a tremendous impact on their lives, for the rest of their lives. Wendy knows this from experience. “I have parents that I can go into the grocery store and their kids are like 21 now, and they’re like thank you, thank you so much for starting that beginning foundation.”

There are a lot of adults walking around Massachusetts with a solid foundation, and they have Miss Wendy Kilty to thank for that. There’s one lesson that’s always being taught at Back to Basics, no matter where you are developmentally: “Kindness.” Wendy didn’t miss a beat when I asked her to describe Back to Basics in one word. “We’re teaching compassion.”

Check out Back to Basics Daycare and Preschool Facebook page here. You might not be young enough to attend next semester’s class, but we could all use a lesson on compassion. Wendy Kilty is a lesson in compassion. You don’t have to be a child to learn from her.


Donate Smart!

Happy Small Lights Friday, everyone! As promised in our last Small Lights post, I’m dedicating today to sharing everything I know about being a well informed donor. In honor of our month-long contest I thought we could educate ourselves and make the most out of our monetary donations by being armed with information! Who doesn’t love weaponizing knowledge? Maybe add that to your weapons inventory, original Doom II on DOS.

Let’s take a moment to review the contest rules! Winner is being announced June 25th. We got a lot of entries already but I bet we can get even more!

Memory refreshed? Awesome! Let’s go!

Where To Start?

Where to start is the most important question in almost every endeavor we embark on in life. Informed donations are no different. Not all nonprofits are created equally, and sometimes a donation you make goes towards different expenses than you intended to support. We’ll get a chance to look at some great charities, and then one REALLY bad one, just for fun.

So, what are your passions? What does your heart bleed for? For example, anyone who knows me knows that my heart bleeds for just about everything. I’ll be using one of my favorite charitable organizations, Amnesty International USA, as an example in this post to guide us on how we can be smart contributors.

I love Amnesty International USA and it’s one of the very few organizations I contribute to monthly (I’m not made of money, go ask Jeff Bezos for more. Oh wait, you can’t, because he’s going to space). Here’s a quick overview of what AIUSA does around the globe. Now, do keep in mind, if I were to list everything this organization does, this blog post would go on forever until you find yourself in a vintage painting and realize you’ve actually been here all along. Here are their top priority campaigns right now:

  • Freeing people from ICE Detention Centers 
  • Ending gun violence
  • Refugee and Migrant Rights

They are also working to abolish the death penalty, combat police violence climate justice, and defend the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, just to give you another small sample. Are you in love with this charity yet? You can sign up to be a sustaining donor here! Every year I get a pamphlet from AIUSA advising what my contributions helped pay for, who they were able to release from detention, and much more. But hey – this isn’t a pitch for AIUSA, as much as it may sound like one.

So how did I decide I wanted my money to go to this charity? Let’s get into it.


In another life, I fundraised for different nonprofits, so I had a bit of a head start when I finally had enough money in my own budget where I could eke out an extra $15 a month. (Bezos? Can you hear us from space? Send money). I knew I liked Amnesty International USA, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to contribute monthly. Once you know what cause you want to support with your dollar, you have to ask yourself: is the money I’m sending going to the programs and services provided by this nonprofit? Where, exactly, is my money going? 

Let’s check out Amnesty International USA’s front page:

There’s a LOT going on here – and their main page is a slide show, so there’s even more going on than I could grab in one screenshot. Let’s take a closer look at their menu:

When you hover over the “About Us” tab, notice the second to last link: “Financial and Legal Documents.” Let’s give that bad boy a click!

Once you follow the link to their financials, you will be taken to a page where you can download all of their reports, their audits, and their 990 forms. They’re so transparent you can actually see through your entire computer when you look them up. Try it, it’s absolutely true.

Most nonprofits have very similar menus on their website. See the ACLU main page:

All you have to do is hover over “About” and it will direct you to their financial information.

If you don’t have the time to download and read an entire financial report, I’ve got news for you: nobody does! The only time I ever dig this deep is if I’m deciding whether or not I want to make my contribution monthly. 

While it’s always best to get your information straight from the source, there are much quicker ways to find it. Let’s stick with Amnesty International USA as our example.

Show Me The Money

There are a number of websites you can go to that rate charities based on their financial performance, their transparency, and more. My personal favorite is charitynavigator.org; it’s the one I use most often and I’m familiar with the layout. You can also use givewell.org or charitywatch.org. These sites do the heavy lifting for you.

For our journey today, I am utilizing charitynavigator.org for my source, and all data has been pulled directly from the site. Let’s take a look at AIUSA’s overall score:

Looks pretty good to me, better than any report card I’ve ever received anyway. While there are 4 star charities that score higher than AIUSA, they are still my favorite organization because of the work they do, and because of their fiscal transparency.

Let’s take a little swim through their expenses. You’ll notice 77.3% of their expenses are for the programs and services they provide. There are organizations who’s percentages in this category are measurably higher, but before you balk at the number, take a look at the second highlighted portion. 10.3% goes towards their programs’ growth. Not bad at all, especially when you take a peek at their administrative expenses. And let’s not let the transparency score of 97/100 go unnoticed! For me, transparency is a huge indicator for whether or not I choose to donate. 

What I love about this website is that you can click on every metric and it will lay out the formula used for calculating their numbers. You can also search for charities on this site, filtering by cause, rating, size, and more.

Alright, now that we’ve covered how to research our contributions, and provided a couple examples of some stellar nonprofits, I think it’s vital we take a look at a low scoring nonprofit. Not just because it’s important to know how to spot questionable financial reports or other red flags, no, there is far more to it than that. We need to look at this low scoring nonprofit because I hate Citizens United.

How To Spot a Bad Apple

Citizens United v. FEC, everyone’s favorite SCOTUS case. For those unaware, Citizens United v. FEC is the case that defined money as free speech. It is currently playing a huge role in dismantling our democracy, but that’s a story for another time. 

Let’s take a look at their home page. 

So far, so good. Let’s see what happens when I hover over “About”:

Seriously, folks, visit this site at your own risk. It made me ill.

Notice the drop down features “Who We Are,” “What is Citizens United,” “Fulfilling Our Mission,” “CU V FEC,” “Contact Us,” and “Internship.” I perused this entire site for the sake of this week’s post (you’re welcome), and I could not find a single financial report, audit, or 990 form. That is not to say they aren’t available on the site, perhaps I just didn’t know where to look. But if the information is on the site, it is incredibly difficult to find. So, let’s check it out with our charity navigator tool.

Now that, my friends, is what I like to call a Big Yikes. CU spends over half of their budget on fundraising expenses and only 40.3% of their programs. What are their programs? It’s hard to say – visiting their site was like walking into a Hollister at the mall. I left almost immediately because the smell was giving me a headache. I then became lightheaded and needed a pretzel. Literally two completely identical experiences.

I now understand why this information is difficult to locate on their website. Let’s take a look at their overall score: 

That looks like my high school chemistry grade average through the semesters. For just as I am unable to understand anything beyond “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” so too fails Citizens United Foundation in both financial and transparency measurements. Thank you, Charity Navigator, for always being there for me. 


Take this knowledge with you everywhere. Your deep dives don’t have to end with nonprofits. Journalistic integrity is being challenged now more than ever, and false narratives are being passed as official news. We need to work together to arm ourselves against misinformation.

The best thing we can do is to simply check our sources. You can utilize mediabiasfactcheck.com, a nonpartisan website dedicated to fact checking news organizations and journalists. I use this every time I visit a website I don’t already trust. Or maybe you trust the source, but want to go further? Who wrote the article? What are their expertise and what other publications have they contributed to? Do some digging of your own and find out for yourself. 

Another way to spot misinformation: If something is misspelled in an article, that‘s a big hint to you to do some independent fact checking. If someone isn’t proof reading their work, their integrity can come into question. Of course, do not write off every article with a comma splice, or perhaps a misspelling of the word lieutenant. No one is perfect, and no one can spell lieutenant. However, if you see something like, “The Unitted States of America,” you’re going to want to do a little research. And yes, we have seen errors that blatant

And finally, the best way to get your information? It’s the same way you’d get your nonprofit financial information. Go straight to the source! Seeing a bunch of headlines about a controversial or complicated bill? Don’t wait for a journalist to tell you what to think about it. You can go to the house website and read the bill yourself!

The truth is always available, and it’s usually a lot more boring. 

You are empowered. You got this! Share your knowledge with those you love, take care of your people and provide them with these tools. The world will be a better place for it.