From our Friends at Safety.com

by Mary Blowers

Teens, we know you might be struggling during this pandemic. Your social lives and your education have been upended, and we know that coping with those changes can be difficult. If you’re staying up to date on COVID-19 news, you know that certain groups are more at risk during this pandemic than others. You may not personally be high risk, but you likely know or love someone who is over the age of 60 and/or has preexisting conditions.  Surveys have shown that many adolescents have rising anxiety over the health of your family members, which can make any of your normal stressors even worse. 

In this strange time of social distancing, your anxiety is at an all time high, while your level of support may be at an all time low. We know you are stuck at home without your usual social groups and routines, so we want to offer some non-traditional support options so that you and your family can feel safe from the outside world. Luckily, there are considerable online resources on everything from home security to emotional support to addiction management that can help you to feel more at ease. Take a look at the list of mental health resources that we’ve compiled below, and then keep scrolling for support on issues related to cyberbullying, substance abuse, smartphone addiction, and more.

Mental health resources

  • Teen Mental Health 
    • This organization delivers the top scientific information on mental health in an accessible, easy to understand format. They also have tips and resources specific to issues surrounding COVID-19. Their information is delivered in a variety of formats including videos, animations, brochures, e-books, face-to-face training programs, and online training programs.
  • Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
    • SAHM is an award-winning organization that focuses on improving young adult’s mental health through clinical practice, care delivery, research, advocacy, and professional development. In addition to their usual mental health services, they are now offering help with new stressors related to COVID-19 like teen mental health and coping, parenting and caring for one’s family, resources for online education, guide to discussing social distancing, and sexual health considerations.
  • Youth Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • This lifeline understands the reality of young adult mental health and the serious danger of suicide. Youth Suicide Prevention doesn’t ever disregard your feelings because of your age or assume that you are just seeking attention. They offer coping resources and helpful guides to making safety plans. You can visit this site,  Text “START” to 741-741, or call 1-800-273-8255 if you would rather talk to someone. 
  • Suicide Prevention Recource Center
    • SPRC focuses on preventing suicide through a series of steps that are systematic and data-driven. They offer education, screening, treatment through their programs and practices to best meet a variety of needs. They have a goal to increase “help-seeking” and they aim to address many of the barriers that might prevent you from reaching out. 
  • JED Foundation
    • This nonprofit organization partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. JED recognizes that teens are becoming overwhelmed by anxiety as this pandemic continues, so they have developed a Coronavirus Mental Health Resource Guide specific to young adults. 
  • TeenHealth Matters
    • This organization focuses on providing resources for everything related to teen health including mental health and suicide prevention, stress management, sexual health, drugs and alcohol, and physical health. Their site is designed to provide resources to you, your friends, your parents, your mentors and the people who care about you most to best help you stay safe, happy and healthy. They also offer helpful podcasts and videos. 
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    • NAMI started as just a group of like-minded families, but it has become the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to helping the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They also recognize that COVID-19 is posing additional challenges to people living with mental illness and are providing information and support to help.
  • Ok2Talk
    • This unique organization is a NAMI and Tumblr community where teens and young adults can safely talk about their mental health by sharing stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Ok2Talk allows anyone to post thoughts, poems, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space. 
  • Apps that Can Help with Mental Health:
    • Mindshift CBT
      • This app offers free evidence based mental health based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it helps you take charge of your anxiety. It provides quick tips for shifting your thinking, breathing, and coping with issues as they arise. It also has features for keeping a thought journal, facing fears, and expanding your comfort zone. 
    • notOKapp
      • This app was created by teen sister and brother who realized the importance of being able to tell someone the moment that they knew they were “notOK” and developed this app to meet that need. When you download the app, you select 5 trusted contacts who you want to communicate with if you are not ok. When you are in need, you simply open the app, push the red button, and the app will immediately alert your trusted contacts and even send out your GPS location.
    • Top 25 Mental Health Apps
      • These apps address a variety of needs including but not limited to anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, OCD, and suicide prevention. These apps are either reasonably priced or free and can offer you quick assistance when you need it.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has become so wide-spread that you likely know someone who has been a victim – maybe you personally have had to face those online attacks. Unfortunately, now that everyone is online so much more, there may be even more instances of cyberbullying. Dr. Sameer Hinduja said that certain groups may be more prone to fall victim to online bullying during this pandemic: “It is also very possible that xenophobic or racist cyberbullying may go up,” she said, referencing parent complaints that their Asian children are being targeted. With this increased potential for harassment and without teachers and school staff to intervene, you may need to take advantage of online resources to keep your friends and yourself safe from cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying resources

  • Teens Health
    • This site helps to explain what cyberbullying really involves. This form of harassment takes many forms and Teens Health aims to educate parents, teachers, and teens about the potential dangers involved. It also offers a helpful guide for what to do if you become a victim and who to contact. 
  • StopBullying
    • StopBullying addresses the danger young adults face online, and they offer a list of warning signs to watch out for in your friends or loved ones. If you are a victim of cyberbullying, they also have a guide to “Get Help Now” that tells you who to contact in a variety of scenarios. 
  • Cyberbullying Research Center
    • This organization offers a list of “Top Ten Tips for Teens” who are targeted by cyberbullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center suggests blocking bullies and even reporting their posts to the platform provider. They also have resources that you can use to educate other teens to help keep you and your friends safe while online. 
  • Teens Against Bullying
    • This organization cares about the ideas and opinions of kids and teens and offers videos and resources to help victims understand that they are not alone. You can peruse their support options or listen to advice from real teens. 
  • Go Speak Up!
    • This app gives students and schools an opportunity to prevent bullying by increasing reporting. It allows students to anonymously report incidents through either the website or the phone app. When you use this app to report cyberbullying, you are not only helping victims, but you are also empowering yourself by standing up against harassment.

Substance Abuse Addiction

Among teens, abusing substances as a way to cope with your isolation and anxiety is not uncommon. Since there are no legal recreational substances for teenagers, those who are utilizing illicit substances are doing it in secret, which is even more dangerous. Due to your age, you are already at a higher risk for mental illness and depression, and social isolation and pandemic worries make those concerns even worse. It’s understandable that you are looking for distraction or comfort during this time, but misused substances pose serious dangers to your health. If you or a friend have found yourself in this situation, please seek out one of these resources.

Substance abuse resources

  • Addiction Center
    • This organization talks about the dangers of recreational teenage drug use developing into long-term adult addiction. They recognize the additional pressures from COVID-19, and they make it easy to contact a professional, even during this time of social distancing. From their home page, you can easily call  for help, or request that a professional call you. 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    • SAMHSA offers support for both mental illness and substance abuse, recognizing that often those issues go together. While they do not provide professional counseling, they can put you in touch with professionals who can help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service.
  • American Addiction Center
    • This organization recognizes that teens have different needs than older substance abusers. They have research-based treatment models that aim to address the unique circumstances related to age and life experiences of a teen or young adult. They also believe in utilizing community, family, and peer support to overcome substance abuse. You can call them at (888) 832-7603 or request that a professional call you.

Smartphone and Device Addiction

Drugs and alcohol are the first things that come to mind when you think of addiction, but your phones and devices can also be extremely habit-forming. As you find yourself at home and alone more now than ever, you are likely to become even more wrapped up in your phones and devices. While it may seem like a harmless outlet, there is actually considerable evidence that smartphone addiction and social media are negatively affecting mental health, making device-addicted teens more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, as well as sleeplessness and impulsive behavior. In fact, between the years of between 2011 and 2015, there was a spike of major depressive episodes among teens increasing by 50 percent within those few years. San Diego State University Professor Jean Twenge says that smartphone use has replaced time that teens would normally spend socializing in person or sleeping. 

While you are stuck at home, you are likely increasing your screen time, and since school is remote and online for many of you, you may find yourself using devices over 7 hours a day. Teens are becoming hyper-connected to their devices even though many realize that they are online too often. Smartphone and device addiction can cause chemical disruptions in the brain, meaning that this type of addiction could be associated with damaged cognitive and emotional processing. If you or your friends are finding it impossible to disconnect, look into the resources below.

Smartphone addiction resources

  • Help Guide
    • This resource explains that smartphone addiction can cause issues related to virtual relationships, information overload, cybersex addiction, and online compulsions. They describe warning signs, and withdrawal symptoms, and self-helps guides for quitting the habit. Their step-by-step guide and goal-setting plan can help you to reduce your internet use without added anxiety. 
  • Thrillist – 13 Ways to Break Your iPhone Addiction
    • This guide offers tips for incorporating different habits into your daily routines. They suggest easy to apply changes, like not bringing your phone into your bedroom, turning off notifications, or keeping your bathroom tech free. These changes still allow you to use your devices when you actually need them, but limit any other use.

RELATED : BACK TO SCHOOL AFTER THE SHUTDOWN

Social Distance Activities

Alright, we’ve talked about how this pandemic is causing increases in mental health issues, cyberbullying and addictions, but now we want to share some alternative outlets to keep your mind off all the stressors. Exercise can be a major help when it comes to staying physically and mentally healthy. In fact, research suggests that elevated levels of aerobic activity and strength training can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of course, exercising is more difficult to do in isolation with limited equipment, so you may need some additional resources to help you get started. If workout programs aren’t your favorite pastime, check out our list of other game and activity resources below.

Work-out resources

  • Aaptive
    • This app provides unlimited access to thousands of work-outs, with 30 new ones added each week.  Their focus is on developing wellness through exercise and they adapt to all skill levels.There are expert trainers to guide and support you through each workout, and you can even incorporate your favorite music. 
  • obé fitness
    • This app will help you fight boredom in your workout by providing unique, curated content throughout the day in addition to on demand work out programs. They also have a feature that lets you export your workout schedule to your calendar app so that you can plan your days to include exercise while social isolating. 
  • DanceBody
    • This program also offers an anywhere anytime workout model, but they focus on developing a dance physique. They have both live classes and on demand options. DanceBody has a free trial so that you can determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Games or activity resources

  • Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic 
    • Many of your favorite outdoor activities are still safe during COVID as long as you practice safe distancing. The Mayo Clinic has a list of those safe activities that will help you keep your body active and your spirits up. Some of the activities they suggest are walking, running, hiking and biking.
  • House Party App 
    • Although you may be trying to limit your social media usage, you will likely still want to connect with friends from a safe distance. The house party app is free, and it allows you to video chat on any wifi enabled device without the public interactions on other apps. 
  • Bunch Group Video Chat and Games
    • Bunch is a free gaming app that brings people together through the games they love, even when they are physically apart. Basically, it allows people to group video chat while playing their favorite multiplayer games. It offers silly low risk games that are fun for all ages and skill levels.

RELATED: THE WHINY LITTLE RICH KIDS

Meditation and Disconnecting

In addition to physical activity, meditation and self-reflection can be essential for keeping your mind healthy. The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health says that studies have investigated meditation benefits for different conditions. Taking time to meditate may be exactly what you need to disconnect from social media and find peace in your mind and home. If you are interested in meditation, but don’t know where to start, we have a list of resources to help you get started.

Meditation resources

  • Headspace
    • Headspace is a meditation and sleep app that has a “How to Meditate Guide” for beginners. They are committed to both providing expertise in meditation and also studying the science of meditation. Their goal is to increase the health and happiness for all of their users. 
  • Calm
    • Calm is an app for sleep, meditation and relaxation. They also have body-focused video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching so that you can also incorporate some light exercise. Calm uses nature scenes and sounds to enjoy while relaxing, sleeping, working or studying.
  • Ten Percent Happier
    • This app focuses on meditation, stress management, sleep and happiness.  Ten Percent Happier utilizes the expertise of highly accomplished meditation teachers, and they have a “Basics” guide for beginners who want to get started in meditation. Additionally, they have a Coronavirus Sanity Guide that may help you find your center during this strange time.

Conclusion

There are a myriad of mental and emotional obstacles that you as teenagers must navigate in near isolation during the pandemic. You may feel lonely without your usual school and social environments, which can make it especially difficult to cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Since you are spending more time online than ever, you are at greater risk of cyberbullying and developing smartphone addiction. You may also be more sedentary than usual, not exercising or taking care of your physical health. Luckily, there are online resources, apps, communities and people out there that can help. Use our safety guide and reference links above to find the specific support you need, and most importantly, please remember that you are not alone in your struggles with the pandemic.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SAFETY.COM

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GEORGIA’S ON OUR MINDS

BY C.C. Campbell-Rock

“My focus is on Georgia. But the reality is, Georgia matters to everyone, if you change the leadership of Georgia, you change the South. If you change the South, you change the country.”

              Stacey Abrams—Former Georgia State Rep. & Founder, Fair Fight 2018

Civil Rights Era Protest

Georgia is on everyone’s mind.  Georgia’s voters will pick the winners of the state’s two Senate seats in the January 5, 2021 runoff elections. If Democrats win the two seats the party can control the Senate. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote.

Georgians must choose between Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock and Incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler is a wealthy financier appointed by Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson. The other race pairs Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. .

Unethical Behavior

Indeed, “The fate of the country is at stake,” as U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham told a reporter, when asked why he called Georgia’s Secretary of State. Graham represents South Carolina, so he had no right to interfere in Georgia’s electoral process.

However, Republicans are so afraid of losing their grip on the U.S. Senate and their ability to obstruct democratic bills, that they are breaking ethics laws to retain power.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger is a Republican who admits to voting for Trump. Raffensberger blasted Graham for calling him and asking him  “whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots”. Raffensperger interpreted the questions as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. https://www.nbcnews.com/video/graham-denies-asking-georgia-secretary-of-state-to-toss-ballots-96065605814

New Forms of Suppression

Georgia’s  Black community is used to voter suppression efforts. Now the Republicans are boldly interfering with the southern state’s electoral process. Republicans are going to the courts to ask judges to toss out absentee ballots from predominately black counties. They are suing not only in Georgia but also in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, they sued to throw out millions of mail in ballots and overturn a Pennsylvania election law that was passed with overwhelming Republican support.

Thus far, 33 lawsuits have been filed by the Trump Campaign. At least 31 have failed, been settled, or withdrawn, none in Trump’s favor. It’s been nearly four weeks since  the election and Trump is still crying foul. He insists that  the election was rigged and fraudulent. Further Trump claims Biden must  prove that 80 million more ballots cast for Biden are legitimate.

Trump plans two stump trips in Georgia for the two Republican candidates.

A Real New South

Whatever the outcome of the January 5 run-off elections, what is clear is that a New South has emerged. Georgia is leading the transformation, and other states are following, including South Carolina.  Black voters in both states turned up and turned out and put the country on notice that their voices will not be silenced, nor will their demands for equality and justice. Early voting in Georgia this year was record-setting. By the end of October, nearly 4 million people had cast a ballot, a 64 percent increase compared with the same point in 2016.

“The South, and the Deep South in particular, fielded more Black candidates in 2020 than it has since Reconstruction,” Adam Harris wrote in “The South Has Already Changed.” an article that appeared in The Atlantic.

Proof

“We proved that a new South is rising. Tonight, only slowed us down,” Jaime Harrison told aides and supporters, during his concession speech. Harrison lost his senate bid to incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham, who won by a mere 10 percent of the votes cast.

“But a new South with leaders who reflect the community and serve the interests of everyone will be here soon enough,” said Harrison, who worked as director of floor operations for Jim Clyburn, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus and chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Taken for Granted

Many Black southerners have often wondered why the Democratic Party has overlooked voters in so-called  ‘red states.’ While it’s true that Republicans have dominated state legislatures and politically gerrymandered counties (parishes in Louisiana), to retain power locally and nationally, changing demographics and bloc voting by ethnic groups can overcome the GOP’s grip on elective offices.

Obviously, the Democratic National Committee learned nothing from Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Democratic presidential nomination run. Although he lost to former Vice-President Walter Mondale, in 1984 Jackson won five statewide primaries. The majority of those victories were in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and his home state of South Carolina. Four years later, when Jackson again made a bid for the White House, he won three times as many delegates in South Carolina as his nearest competitor and swept the Deep South.  Black voters gave Jackson those victories in the Deep South.

The Abrams Impact

Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, proved that appealing to Black, Latino, Asian voters, and young voters, specifically, is a formula for electoral success. Additionally, Abrams’ group registered 800,000 new voters. Fair Fight did reach out to white voters in urban and rural settings, but the organization focused on registering voting age people who had never cast a ballot before. The group also encouraged absentee ballot voting to avoid long lines and to protect voters’ health during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Abrams’ electoral performances silently signaled that Georgia was slowly changing from red to blue.

“In 2014, Abrams, then a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, co-created a group called the New Georgia Project that focused on getting people of color in the state who haven’t previously participated in the electoral process to vote. In 2017 and 2018, Abrams ran for governor and diverted from the normal Southern Democrat strategy of centering a campaign on winning as many white swing voters as possible. Abrams did try to win white swing voters, but also invested heavily in boosting turnout among voters of all races in the Atlanta area and among Black people in particular in the state’s more rural areas,” reported FiveThrityEight.com.

In a segment called, “How Georgia Turned from Red to Purple,” National Public Radio interviewed Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.

Purple Reign

Steigerwalt said there are many reasons why Georgia is now in play – among them an increasingly diverse electorate, which includes a growing Black middle class and increasing numbers of Asian and Latino voters. “The ‘blue-ing’ of the suburbs is probably the biggest thing that’s happening,” she said. “These areas that have long been Republican strongholds are not anymore.”

“Steigerwalt also gives substantial credit to activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whose Fair Fight organization worked to register and mobilize voters statewide after her narrow – and controversial – loss to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018. The group raised about $40 million from more than 200,000 donors nationwide to turn out Democratic voters in Georgia and other key states,” NPR reported.

Abrams’ group has created a blueprint for flipping states blues.  Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams former gubernatorial campaign manager in 2018 announced the release of The Abrams Playbook: The Strategy and Path to Victory in 2020.

https://fairfight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/TheAbramsPlaybook.pdf

Currently, Abrams and Fair Fight and their partner organization are working diligently to flip the U.S. Senate blue by sending Reverend Warnock, who pastors Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and who presided over Civil Rights Leader John Lewis’ funeral, and Jon Ossoff, an Investigative Reporter and former national security staffer and aide to Representative Hank Johnson, to the United States Senate.

Senate Keys

Georgia’s voters hold the keys to whether the U.S. Senate will continue to be gridlocked by its GOP members or if a progressive agenda for all the people will move forward, including the Democrats Heroes Act, the 2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Indeed, all eyes are on Georgia.

Here’s Stacey Abrams speaking about the upcoming challenge:: https://twitter.com/i/status/1324865042148421633

by Arthur Rizer and Casey Witte

By all accounts, 2020 has been a watershed year for policing. Now more than ever, Americans are looking at how police go about keeping the peace — and they are asking questions. The deaths of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice and too many others have shed a light on long-obscured problems in policing. Racial bias and unrestrained use of force procedures have brought both emotional and physical pain to many communities.

However, with the widespread recognition of these problems, we can begin to solve them. In a way, Iowa has begun to do just that. This past June, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that largely banned the use of chokeholds by members of law enforcement. And after a year of careful study and deliberation, the governor’s Fueling Ongoing Collaboration and Uncovering Solutions (FOCUS) committee has a few suggestions for the legislature on how to solve the problem of racial bias in criminal justice. The legislature should be quick to adopt these recommendations, but also commit to a long-term agenda of study and reform.

Lesser known victims of police violence

Committee Suggestions

Under one of the committee’s suggestions, a person’s race would be listed on their driver’s license and automatically recorded whenever a member of law enforcement asks for their identity. As it stands, data on race is only collected haphazardly by members of law enforcement, resulting in incomplete or even false data. With more complete data, we can begin to have a deeper understanding of the role that race plays in law enforcement. We can then take targeted action.

The other committee suggestion of note addresses racial bias in a more direct way: If passed as the committee outlines, a new law would not only prohibit the use of racial profiling, but punish offending officers and allow individuals to take civil action if they were profiled. The Iowa Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of racial profiling in traffic stops. But the court declined to create new case law which would place alleged instances of profiling under stricter scrutiny. If adopted by the legislature, this suggested ban on racial profiling could change that.

While these efforts to address racial bias in policing should be commended, we must keep two key things in mind. First, nothing happens until the legislature acts; and second, there is always more to be done when improving our criminal justice system. It should be common sense that discrimination on the basis of race should not be tolerated. But it is not the only component in public safety causing harm to communities of color.

Community Profiling

Further, disproportionate police contact with certain communities is another issue in criminal justice which can cause harm. In fact, some research suggests that more youthful interactions with law enforcement is associated with an increase in future delinquent behavior. This in turn creates its own problem as once someone enters the criminal justice system, the likelihood that they return to crime and add to their record increases. Ultimately, this creates a vicious cycle where more police contact results in more arrests which leads to yet more police contact. Initiatives promoting alternatives to arrest for both youth and adults should be explored.

We should also carefully examine what happens after an arrest is made. Some people still cling to the old notion that the prosecutor with the most convictions is the best at their job. However, this is not necessarily the case. If prosecutors are solely examined by the number of convictions they make, then they might feel outside pressure to pursue insignificant crimes in order to keep their numbers up during times of decreasing criminal activity — a time which we have now lived in for the past three decades. This outdated method of measuring prosecutorial effectiveness on convictions alone stands to warp the pillars of fairness and equal protection which prosecutors try to uphold every day.

Solutions Coming Soon?

While there are serious problems we must address in our criminal justice system, more people than ever are working to find solutions. The vast majority of men and women who strive to maintain and improve public safety today are doing so with the best intentions, and as those that benefit from their protection, we should support them. However, it is also our role as citizens to point out flaws and make corrections when the promise of equal protection under the law is not kept.

This is all to say that while Iowa’s efforts to address the problems endemic in our criminal justice system are commendable, these efforts should not be the end, but only the beginning.

RECONSTRUCTION


by Jordan Rock

So, Biden’s in. We can recount all day and all night, but America has spoken. Trump’s so called “silent majority” was, in fact, neither silent nor the majority. Both Georgia and Pennsylvania have recounted, and they still spell victory for Biden. Mainstream outlets like CBS now refer to Biden as the President elect. So, even though it won’t be made official until the Electoral College votes on 14th of December. Joe Biden is the next President of the United States. What do we want from Joe Biden?


Senate Republicans are agreeing to make room for Biden’s cabinet, even though we know the GOP is going to do the same obstructionist song and dance we saw in the Obama administration as soon as Biden sits in the oval office.


According to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska), “He’s our president-elect. All presidents have a right to their Cabinet. Our job, our role is to make sure that he selects folks that are … within the mainstream. And are good, qualified credible candidates. And if he does that, sure, I am going to work with him.”

Within the mainstream, she says. What that means is some Republicans in the Senate are going to get onboard with what seems like Biden’s general theme. That theme being a return to normalcy after the screaming insanity that was the Trump administration.

Joe Biden Listening to the People

What do We Want From Joe Biden?

Here’s the problem; there is no “normal” anymore.
“Normal” is what led us to Trump, and you can be sure that the discourse from the left is going to reflect that sentiment.

I agree with much of Biden’s politics in regards to undoing the damage that Trump has inflicted on America. But damage control is not the only concern on our minds. And I can assure you that the discourse from “The Left” is going to reflect that.

RELATED: THE BIDEN PLAN


Progressive Views


According to Ben Burgis of Jacobin magazine, “If there were ever a case where the victory of the lesser evil over the greater evil merited busting out a bottle or two of champagne, this was it. But once you’ve sobered up, remember that being less evil than Trump is fully compatible with being an implacable enemy of the working class.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

He goes on to posit that Joe Biden’s claims that he’ll get America back on track may actually mean that he’s going to lean into the old guard democrats in Congress instead of fulfilling the progressive promises of his campaign.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) shares this caution. In an interview with the New York Times, AOC had this to say about Biden’s upcoming administration: “I don’t know how open they’ll be. And it’s not a personal thing. It’s just, the history of the party tends to be that we get really excited about the grass roots to get elected. And then those communities are promptly abandoned right after an election.”

Let me get down to brass tacks. It’s not just the House Democrats that got Biden into office. Black community organizers tripled the turnout in Georgia. Organizers in Pennsylvania urged voters to mail in their ballots while the president was screeching about nonsense voter-fraud.  It’s you and me.


So here’s what I think We want from Joe Biden:

  1. A basic approach to Medicare for All in a functioning form that doesn’t break the bank when you break a leg.
  2. An ACTUAL response to the virus that has been tearing our country apart. Free access to vaccination when the vaccine is ready. And stay at home orders with pay in the case of another surge of infections.
  3. Free college tuition across the board for low-income families, not just to community colleges like Biden has promised.
  4. The dismantling of ICE and full transparency of their activities during the last four years.

    If Biden can make those things happen, we’ll be on our way to a new normal better than the dregs we started with when Trump was elected. Biden talks a big game. But we can’t take any of his claims seriously until he starts showing some actual progressive initiative.
    Bonus if he withdraws the violent feds that have been illegally detaining and beating the crap out of protesters.

    In other words, this is no time for Biden to be resting on his laurels. We’ve seen what kind of damage Republicans can do when they run amok. It’s time for the Democratic party to show it can do more than just cry in the corner while the common man gets his rights taken away.

    Biden has his work cut out for him, and the left is going to be watching the whole time.

 Yes, You Can Believe The Hype.

by Kenneth Cooper

Flashback, early 2020: we should’ve known something was wrong. It was like the universe was trying to tell us something. Identical freak accidents killed two people at two different parades. As strong favorites, the Saints lost in the first round of a playoff game — in the Dome no less. But while the Coronavirus cases were building around the country, we partied on, defiantly declaring ourselves untouchable.

You know how we roll.  We teach our children how to suck the intestines out of dead crawfish heads. The indigestible flames with 190 octane, flavored syrup, and cheap food coloring – aka a daiquiri? Make it a large to go please. We have bodies built to dilute the grease and cholesterol from cold Popeye’s fried chicken at 8 o’clock the next morning to recuperate. Southern immunity, we said. The Coronavirus ain’t got nothing on us.

Fast forward. Here we are 9 months later. 200,000 cases statewide, about 15,000 here in the city, and Mardi Gras cancelled in New Orleans. Contrary to popular opinion, the Coronavirus definitely has something on us.

Since there isn’t going to be a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Saints and the Mayor have to guarantee us a Super Bowl, then deliver one. It’s the least they can do. We’ve suffered enough. But then we’d have to have a parade, and then that’d be cancelled. People all around are searching for alternatives.

Word from the suggestion box:

“Maybe we can have community parades.”

“Community parades? What the hell is that? Mini super spreaders?”

“No, kids can parade up the block while people watch from their porches.”

“That’s just called sending your kids outside to play.”

“Yeah, but during Mardi Gras we can call it a parade.”

“🤦🏿‍♂️”

All is not lost though. Canceling Mardi Gras is actually very good for some people. For example…

The biggest winner of Mardi Gras being canceled in New Orleans

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx

You know the story — Black Lives don’t Matter and allegedly how neither did the one that was killed by a float during last year’s parade. How when pressed for an apology (about the black lives) the krewe captain/founder offered a basic response of, “I’m all out of you-know-whats-to give.” The mass departures of krewe members and marching bands that followed. The final result -Nyx, in all of its All Lives Matter glory, was set to roll down St. Charles with the flair of a Metairie parade. The biggest question would’ve been would black people still beg for cups and beads, kneel in protest, turn their backs, or simply pack up their chairs and ladders and go home. Now that Mardi Gras in New Orleans is canceled, Nyx gets a year to let this blow over. They can hope of time turning the controversy into a matter of bygones being bygones.

The next biggest winner of Mardi Gras being canceled in New Orleans

The NOPD

The last time Mardi Gras was cancelled was 1979. And it was because the NOPD was on strike. This year due to budget cuts and furloughs there might not have even been enough police on duty to actually police a parade. You know how that story would’ve went. Any robbery, murder, or fight that broke out over ladders or beads would’ve been blamed on a lack of police presence and the mayor cutting the department funding by not re-opening the city up fast enough after the Coronavirus numbers went down. Like Nyx, that potential controversy is something the mayor and NOPD won’t have to worry about.

There are plenty of losers though

Some people are suffering serious economic losses though — like all those specialty bead shops that justify their existence during Mardi Gras season. Gone will be the revenue from riders dumping hundreds or even thousands of dollars on stuff to throw off of floats. Some may go the route of those permanently closed restaurants that went out of business because of the Coronavirus.  Bars and restaurants who are already struggling will not get the huge boost from crowds along parade routes.  Even the street vendors who sell water and beer along the parade routes will lose income. 

But the real winners are all of us. The mayor made the right call. And she made it early enough for the krewes to adapt. If they want to parade on the Northshore, then so be it. They have that option. But  the promised 2nd wave of the virus is in full effect. There’s no responsible way to encourage tourists from all over to come cram themselves on our city streets. That is literally inviting or importing the virus to town.  

Still, a few questions remain: are we going to get the day off come Fat Tuesday? Will our bosses actually require us to work? Or will they pay us to stay home, eat king cake, and watch our kids parade up the street in a procession. No word yet. Maybe we should check the FAQ section of the mayor’s website for direction.

WILL LOWER PROPERTY TAX RATES

By C.C. Campbell-Rock

New Orleans voters go to the polls on December 5, 2020 to select a district attorney, school board members, and judges. They will also have the opportunity to vote on the City of New Orleans’ millage package. Funding for early childhood education and library services, dedicated revenues for infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic development are included.

 “It’s very important for people to continue to vote,” Mayor Cantrell said during a conference call with the black press.

“The package will come to the voters as a tax decrease. We know there will be a reduction in turnout. But our millage proposal is aligned to civic and social unrest we’ve seen and offers a tax decrease and budget renewal plan that supports the initiatives and priorities from the grassroots.”

Early voting will be held Nov. 20-28 (excluding Sunday, Nov. 22, Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The current millage ends in 2021. The mayor is seeking to renew it and redistribute some funds to include grassroots’ community’s needs. “This rededication gives us the flexibility to redirect funding to priorities that are important to residents,” Mayor Cantrell explains.

Three propositions are on the ballot:  1) Infrastructure & Maintenance; (2) Early Childhood Education & Libraries and (3) Housing & Economic Development.

“This proposal would reduce taxpayers’ property tax bill in 2021. The millage proposal is a redistribution of current tax revenue so it will not raise taxes. This is a historic opportunity to create long-term funding for early care and education and the New Orleans Public Library,” she adds.

The city has never had a dedicated fund for infrastructure and  maintenance. We invested $1.5 billion since Katrina. But there is no source of funds that will help the city maintain the investment we’ve already made.

The tax revenue will be used for maintenance and repair of roads, the drainage system, street repairs, and vehicle replacements and repairs. “Our capital budget can’t provide funds for operations and  routine maintenance,” Cantrell says of the necessity for a dedicated infrastructure fund.  

The city expects the infrastructure and maintenance millage to generate $10.5 million in its first year and $375 million over the 20 year life span of the millage.  

The Mayor’s proposal redistributes a portion of the Library’s existing millage to the other programs. Approximately $4.5 million will be generated annually for the library and early childhood education.  $1.5 million to early childhood and $3 million for the Library, for a total of over $30 million. “Our children and families need this right now.”

The funds generated from the early childhood education millage will fund 100 additional seats at childcare centers for young children. Currently, there are 7,000 at-risk, low income children who do not have access to early childhood education.

However, there is fierce opposition to the City’s millage package.

“We’re getting pushback from folk who don’t have any issues taking care of their children,” Cantrell comments.

“The biggest issue and challenge on this one (childhood education and library millage) is coming from the library itself, internal,  some of our employees and I think one of our board members,” Cantrell acknowledged.

 “We do anticipate some level of opposition. But at the same time understand that our library system is healthy, will remain healthy, will not see any reduction in library services or programs. It will actually see more effective programming. And increased programming that will be more aligned with the needs of the communities and the people the library system serves.  We’ve looked at the library’s expenses and we know they are running a surplus.”

Andrea Neighbours, a New Orleans Public Library board member, went on record opposing the childhood education and library millage. ‘I hope the voters kill it,’ “ Neighbours told a reporter with The Lens.

 “Our millage doesn’t expire until next year,” she said. “We have time to work on a better solution. So, I can’t support this proposal. I hope we come back in the coming year and come up with a better solution that works for the kids and the families of this city. So, I just want to be on record as a board member who loves this library deeply that I just can’t support it.”

Are Libraries in NOLA under attack

“The library typically has an annual 10-13% attrition rate, which will allow the library to right-size its budget while they supplement the budget with the fund balance. The fund balance has increased to $14.5 million,” Cantrell adds. 

“The library can withstand some cuts but if the entire millage goes away, which is what will happen without an extension, it will make it much harder for the library to develop a sustainable path forward. Our proposal lowers the millage, but it also buys some time for the library to come up with a sustainability plan while it can rely on its large reserve to make up the difference between existing expenses and new revenue.”

“New Orleans Public Library Executive Director Gabriel Morley has been supportive of Cantrell’s plan. He’s repeatedly said that if the ballot measure fails, the library would lose the entire value of the expiring property tax — roughly $11 million a year — instead of just part of it,” according to the non-profit news site.

The Affordable Housing and Economic Development millage will generate about 4.25 million for affordable housing. And another 4.6 million for economic development in its first year. Over 20 years, the millage will provide upwards of $317 million.

Housing Matters

“We have put in place a pipeline to affordable housing and we want to leverage additional resources that we get from HUD, and the state, with the millage.

  • The Affordable Housing millage will fund Affordable Housing Units, Rental Assistance. New Housing Construction. Down Payment Assistance, and Home Repairs for Seniors.

Regarding the Economic Development millage, Cantrell explains, “In this COVID environment, we have an obligation to pivot toward the more diverse economy and helping our people pivot to this growth sectors. We need to bring workforce readiness opportunities to residents in ways we have not done before. We have restructured our Economic Development Plan as a generational plan to build our people up.”

The Mayor’s office says 44,000 New Orleanians are unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Another 4,000 have been denied unemployment benefits. Cantrell’s plan is to create an equitable and diversified economy that focuses on  green, blue, and gray infrastructure jobs.  

BGR Opposition

The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) opposes all three propositions. The BGR is a nonprofit governmental watchdog, wrote in a recent report.

In its report it cited a lack of spending plans for the tax dedications. And it seemed to think a 10-year millage period was better than the 20-year proposal. 

“The overall plan is to rededicate a group of property taxes that generate approximately $25 million a year. The new dedication would take roughly $6.5 million from the New Orleans Public Library system and distribute the funds to economic development, housing initiatives and infrastructure maintenance. The mayor’s plan would also carve $1.5 million from the Library budget to pay for an existing early childhood education program,”

“Voters are asked to approve a nearly 40% revenue cut for public libraries without a strategic plan or a clear roadmap for right-sizing their budget before their reserves run out. The proposal further asks voters to increase taxes for infrastructure, housing, and economic development without any spending plans. As a result, all propositions have significant flaws, despite the compelling needs they might address,” the BGR report concludes.

Mayor Responds

“While we have plenty of plans, what we don’t have are the resources to accomplish them. We are talking about maintaining city services in the face of a health and financial crisis. These funds will be crucial in helping us keep up with what the city does already. All while dealing with crippling cuts to our other revenue streams. If these dollars are not renewed, the effect will most certainly be felt by our citizens.” the mayor explains.

“This assertion that there isn’t a plan also disregards the work my administration is doing on a generational economic development plan,” says Cantrell.

Cantrell reiterated the fact that the millage package will reduce taxes not increase them. “The current millage in place generates about 41 million, so in the renewal package for 2021, if passed, we will garner 23 to 25 million a year, which is a reflection of the tax reduction.”

For more information on the millage package visit:

https://nola.gov/mayor/2021-millage-rededication/

Check out the BGR Report here: https://www.bgr.org/report-index/bgr-examines-december-5-new-orleans-property-tax-propositions/

Finally a Starting Line
A sigh of relief by Jordan Rock

As the curtain falls on election season, what’s in store for those on the left in the wake of Trump’s eviction notice?

The election is closing and America’s voice has made the results clear. Joe Biden is our next president. According to CBS, Joe Biden has set a historical record by winning over  79,658,000 votes in this election, which is more than any other presidential candidate that has ever received. It is a staggering victory for stable-minded folks across America that have witnessed the horror of Trump’s America.

US President Donald Trump uses his cellphone as he holds a roundtable discussion with Governors about the economic reopening of closures due to COVID-19, known as coronavirus, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)


Trump Continues


Trump in the meantime has done his usual caterwauling on Twitter about how he should be able to decide when to stop counting votes.  His tweets increasingly spurious claims about voter fraud this and mail-in ballots that . Makes a man wonder; you spent all this time railing against mail-in ballots, and you’re surprised that your supporters didn’t send any in?

Trump has made it apparent that he’s going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House as he tearfully shoves campaign support dollars into his pockets. That’s to the tune of 2.3 million dollars, according to Forbes. As usual, Trump is running on stolen money and borrowed time, but the writing is on the wall now more than ever.

It’s over for Trump. You know it and I know it, but the real question is; What’s Next? The answer, as is often the case with democratic nominees, is damage control.

Damage Control


The fact of the matter is, Trump did unspeakable damage to our country’s infrastructure. He set a precedent that people in power can do whatever they want and hurt thousands of people while doing it without any repercussions. His regime is a stain on our recent history, and undoing that damage is going to be the main focus of Joe Biden’s presidency.

But what about the justice-seeking youth of America? Those of us out here fighting for our rights and demanding change? The fight is going to continue. If Obama’s presidency was any indication, simply getting a favorable looking representative in the White House is not the same thing as progress.

It’s Hot in America

Trump lit a fire in America, igniting racial tensions and giving a voice and platform to the bigoted dregs of our society. They aren’t just going to go away. On the other side, the protests aren’t going to stop until the change that we demand is put into practice.

The left will pressure Biden to make moves in the White House that will benefit the American people. The race is on for him to address Covid-19, something that Trump refused to do even as the virus asserted itself by latching on to his very lungs. Biden will have to denounce white supremacy. He will have to stand with the American people and fix our busted medical care system. And he’s going to have to dismantle the horror show that is ICE.

I expect his cabinet to expose the ghoulish feats of cruelty that Trump enacted while in the White House as he goes about the task of damage control. Over the next four years, expect to keep getting buzz on your social media about the awful deeds coming to light in relation to Trump’s stay in office. It seems at this point that an avalanche of litigation is inevitable, but then again, we’ve seen what happens when presidents get caught red handed before.


Don’t expect miracle, is what I’m saying, America.


Don’t expect normalcy to come back either; there is no “normal” anymore.
After all the sludge that we’ve had to wade through, we’re finally hitting the starting line that lies before progress.

The fight isn’t over; it’s just beginning.


From Our Friends at La Belle Negresse

Black woman in bed

I recently wrote about women so accustomed to less than, that they accept any old behavior and cannot differentiate between a man who goes above and beyond, with that of a basic dude. Those same women know little about relationships and dating. Some,  although married, have never had a healthy dating life and have never experienced courtship. They go from meeting a man at a club, through friends, school … to being boyfriend and girlfriend, without ever going on a proper date(s). Boy meets girl ( hopefully boy made initial contact), they talk for a few days, “hang out” for a bit and BAAM they are now “sex mates.”

Sex mates are “couples” who have little to no interactions outside of the bedroom. The man never initiates or plan activities outside of the home, and the woman, not knowing any better and lack self-worth, accept this as normal behavior. The guy will come over to “hang” or ask the woman to stop by (sometimes asking her to bring something to eat) and spend the day indoors doing what he does best… or so he thinks.

Sex Mates or Couple?

This behavior is seldom seen or accepted by women of other races. Black women will make excuses for why this behavior is no big deal  and should be accepted. Some will use the economy, citing times are hard and “we” must understand the difficulties faced by men, who may not have the means to afford them a proper date. If a man is so stress for money that he can’t afford a proper date, he clearly needs to take a break from dating until his finances are in order. Black women must understand, “Hanging out” is not a date and should only be done with girlfriends.

A proper date is planned, done OUTSIDE of the home and payed for by the man. Under no circumstances should a woman accept an invitation to “hang out” with a man she just met. If the bulk of you time together is spent indoors “hanging out” or “messing around”, you do not have a relationship, you are sex mates.

What is a proper date?

A proper date does not have to end with sex. No woman should feel obligated to sleep with a man over a meal. While premarital sex may work for women of other races, judging by the high rate of out of wedlock pregnancies and women in their 40s with babies, but have never been proposed to, nonetheless married, premarital sex does not work for black women.

The bottom line is simple: know your worth, the importance of your time and boundaries in dating. Learning to put boundaries in place and enforcing them can help you weed out undesirables. Even the most ill-informed woman has a long list of requirements, and “must haves” in a relationship. But, having well defined boundaries is NOT the same as having a checklist of relationship requirements. Boundaries have more to do with the kind of behavior and treatment you expect in a relationship or courtship.

Set Boundaries

When considering what they should be, start with what your values are. Think about how you want to be treated in a relationship. What your expectations are, and make them known. Never assume he should know better or will change eventually, and you’ll manage until then. Unless he knows of your requirements he has no reason to change. Look at your past relationships and think about what made you unhappy. If you see yourself accepting the same behaviors and habits, you already know how it will end.

You don’t have to state your boundaries loudly on the roof top. Your actions should do the screaming for you. If he has a habit of texting you, but never initiate a call, stop responding to his text. If his idea of spending quality time, is “hanging out” at his place, don’t go…. Know your boundaries and expectations and stick to them.  Don’t waste time hoping for change and trying to change grown men. The first few dates are set up to impress you and convince you he is worth your time. If he doesn’t see the importance of wooing you and keeping your attention in the early stages, move on.  Time wasted is never retrieved.

“You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.” ~Ruth E. Renkl

By Taylor Davies

Tips for getting the conversation started — and making sure it remains for their eyes only.

Image: young woman using a smartphone in bed

Research shows that those in a committed relationship who sent sexual pictures to their partners reported positive sexual and emotional outcomes.

What was the last text you sent your spouse? “Have a good day.” “Can you grab milk on your way home?” “I’ll pick up the kids today.”

It may be time to get your mind out of your to-do list and into the gutter.

As an out-and-proud sexter, I was curious whether others in my circle had the same penchant for swapping sexy texts with their partners. An informal poll of my own friends and Twitter followers revealed that I’m not alone: about 85 percent of them have sent or received a sexually explicit message. A much more formal study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that 75 percent of young adults claimed to have engaged in sexting in general, while 62 percent said they had sent or received a sexually-explicit picture message.

Half of sexters report that it positively influences their sexual and emotional relationships with a partner.

While sexting may seem like a flirty form of communication mostly used by people looking for a fling, it turns out that those who benefit the most from sending steamy messages are actually in long-term, committed relationships. The study revealed that both men and women reported greater “positive consequences” from sexting in committed relationships than in casual ones. Further, about half of sexters reported that it “positively influenced their sexual and emotional relationships with a partner.” Research also shows that those in a committed relationship who sent sexual pictures to their partners reported more positive sexual and emotional outcomes than those in casual relationships.

The data may be intriguing, but in reality, the act of sexting is much easier said than done. We’re human: We fear rejection, we’re protective of our reputations, and let’s be real — talking and typing about sex (or sexy things) can make even the most confident among us blush. So, how do you know if it’s right for you?When Your Relationship Might Benefit From Sexting

While any couple can reap the benefits of spicing up their text messages, some may be more likely to feel it’s positive effects than others. Studies show that while the majority of men can experience positive feelings as a result of sexting in both casual and committed relationships, most females need a higher level of emotional commitment to feel comfortable partaking. Experts hypothesize that women use sexting as a way to achieve emotional closeness, which explains why they feel most comfortable doing it in committed relationships — and why married couples may just be prime candidates for experimenting with some explicit messages.

Don’t Be Boring

“Just because you see your partner every day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sexting,” notes Gigi Engle, a feminist writer, educator and speaker, who teaches a Sexting 101 class in New York City. “It’s a great way to get your partner jazzed up for when he or she gets home, and set the mood for a great night. The brain is our biggest sexual organ, and to get aroused in the body, you have to start in the mind!”

If you travel often for work, feel like the chemistry in your marriage has dulled, or feel disconnected as a couple, your relationship may also benefit from the emotional and sexual gratification of sexting. Kelley Kitley, LCSW, owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy and author of “MY Self,” always recommends sexting as a method for increasing closeness with many of her struggling couple clients. “It helps them to stay connected throughout the day and increases lust for one another,” she says.

There’s science to support the use of sexting as a tool to help mend marital issues, too. One study conducted on married couples found that sexting led to higher relationship satisfaction among those with high levels of avoidance in their relationships, and sending sexually explicit pictures improved satisfaction for men and women with attachment anxiety. Sexting may also be a gateway to a more open line of dialogue about your sex life, which a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships showed can improve your sexual and overall satisfaction in the relationship, especially for couples who had been together longer.

Convinced it’s time to give sexting a try? Here are some expert tips for breaching the subject.

Want More Sex? Try Using Emojis

Pro Tips for Easing into Sexting with Your Partner

The first and most important step towards starting a sexting conversation with your partner is making sure you’re both comfortable with it. Like any act of intimacy, sexting should only be brought into the mix if both of you are not only willing, but legitimately excited by the idea. If you are, then it’s time to have a little fun and ignite some serious IRL fire using purely digital sparks.

  • Start with something flirty. Engle suggests testing the waters with a message like, “I’m wearing a new dress and I’m really feeling myself in it. I feel pretty sexy actually…” Which will serve to gently test the waters with your partner, and move the conversation to a flirty place. She also suggests that you could describe a dream. “Something like, ‘You were in my dream last night, we were making out in my bed. Wish you were here,’ is flirty and pretty innocent,” says Engle. Your partner’s response will let you know if they’re in same mood or not, and a message like this is a fun and low-risk way to introduce some sexy energy into your texting. Again, start by thinking of sexting as a bit of virtual foreplay to the in-person fun.
  • Find a specific source of inspiration. Once you’re comfortable, start to move the conversation from suggestive to explicit. Inspiration for your sexting can really come from anywhere: It could be a past experience or memory that really turned you on, a scene from a TV show, an erotic passage from a book or a fantasy you’ve always had. What that idea inspires is up to you. It could be a photo or it could be a text. “It really depends on what you feel comfortable doing,” says Engle. “There is absolutely no right or wrong way. For some people photos are easier because you don’t have to think of the words to say. But since sending nude or suggestive photos can make someone feel especially vulnerable, texting words often is the easiest way to start.”
  • Make sure it’s a two-way street. Even if you’re the one that first initiates a sexting conversation with your partner, keep in mind that the more engaged you both are, the better it will be. If you’re both new to it, your partner may be unsure of how to respond, and that’s okay. But Engle says to be on the lookout for partners who respond with just emojis or one-word answers to your sexts. You want to be receiving as much as you’re giving. To get them engaged, she suggests using positive affirmations to build up your partners confidence. (This can come from describing a past experience or a fantasy, or a body part of theirs that you love.) Finally, Engle recommends trying her favorite, go-to question to get your partner involved, “What would you do to me if you were here right now?”

Emojis are often a key part of sexting for couples, since they can so easily take the place of words that don’t necessarily need to be written explicitly.

  • Get creative with adjectives, emojis, voice memos and even gifs. At the end of Engle’s sexting 101 class, she hands out a take-home worksheet to help her students get inspired. With lists of adjectives, nouns and verbs, the worksheet functions like a sexy version of Mad Libs. She notes that adjectives are especially key — the more you use, the steamier the sext will be. Emojis are often a key part of sexting for couples, since they can so easily take the place of words that don’t necessarily need to be written explicitly. But think beyond the expected eggplant and peach. Hands, faces, fireworks, the bathtub, the volcano … You get the idea. They’re all open to your creative interpretation. In fact, you and your partner will probably invent your own emoji sexting shorthand once you get into the groove of communicating this way.

Tech-savvy tips for safer sexting

If you’re feeling hesitant to sext based on the risk of other people seeing what you and your partner are sending, there are a few steps you can take to protect your illicit content from prying eyes.

  • Switch off the “Show Subject Field” toggle on your phone. Normally, a clip of content of your messages (including photos) will show on the lock screen of your iPhone when it arrives. In the case of sexts, this is not ideal, especially if you or your lover happen to be in a meeting or say, at lunch with your family. To ensure that these private messages stay that way, go into your iPhone’s settings, scroll to “Messages” and make sure the toggle that reads “Show Subject Field” is grey, not green. For Samsung phones, you’ll want to go into “Notification Settings” and turn off “Preview Messages.”
  • Put an actual privacy screen on your phone. For your eyes only, literally. You never know who is looking over your shoulder on the subway, in a meeting or in line at Starbucks. To keep nearby eyes from seeing what’s on your phone, tablet or computer screen, try applying a screen protector that obscures and darkens what’s on your phone except when viewed straight on.
  • Protect your photos with an app like Private Photo Vault. There are a lot of apps out there which serve the same purpose, but we like Private Photo Vault because while it uses a 4-digit PIN code to lock photos and videos, it also has a private camera within the app, so you can safely record and snap without anyone seeing your content unless you deliberately share it outside the app.
  • Use a private app designed for couples. Between is a self-contained space where you and your partner can “chat, track anniversaries, share photos and video, and plan your schedules together all in one private space.” Perfect for sexting if you ask us. For example, you could establish that you’ll always know if a message/picture is suggestive or NSFW if it arrives via the app, so there’s no risk of accidentally exposing a private conversation or photo when you go to check your texts. Waiting for a notification to pop up in the app may even add another element of excitement to your new mode of communication.

By Arlette Saenz, CNN

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 10, 2020. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 10, 2020. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

(CNN)As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January, nearly half of the transition team laying the groundwork for his administration is made up of people of color, and women are in the majority.Forty-six percent of the transition staff are people of color, according to new diversity data of the transition team provided to CNN, and 41% of the senior staff are people of color. The majority of transition staff — 52% — are women, and 53% of the senior staff are women.The new diversity figures come as Biden is set to announce his Cabinet picks and senior staff for the White House in the coming weeks — one of the first tests of his campaign pledge to build an administration that will “look like America.”Biden’s first major step toward diversity in his administration came when he selected Kamala Harris, a Black and South Asian woman, as his vice president. In his first staffing announcement, Biden chose a White man and longtime adviser — Ron Klain — as his chief of staff for the White House.The transition team’s diversity also extends to its advisory board — where 43% are people of color and 52% are women. Nine of the 13 members of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board are people of color and five of the members are women, according to the data.Biden Transition

Last week, the transition team announced its agency review teams despite the General Services Administration not yet recognizing Biden as the winner of the election. The teams consist of roughly 500 people, more than half of whom are women. About 40% of the team “represent communities historically underrepresented in the federal government,” a transition official said, which includes people of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities.

Biden to take characteristically deliberative approach to filling Cabinet

Biden to take characteristically deliberative approach to filling Cabinet“For months, the Biden-Harris transition has laid the groundwork for a Biden-Harris administration, and at the core of that work is an unrelenting commitment to diversity,” said Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition. “As we continue working full-speed ahead to Inauguration, our diverse group of leaders and staff are reflective of America — upholding President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris’ belief that through diverse voices we can develop and implement a policy vision to tackle our nation’s toughest challenges.”MAP: See 2020 election resultsThe diversity figures mirror that of Biden’s presidential campaign, which in September said 46% of its full-time staff and 40% of its senior staff were people of color. Women made up a greater share of Biden’s campaign — 59% — than the current makeup of the transition team, according to the transition.A transition official said the team provides weekly updates to its leadership to track the progress made in its diversity.Biden has repeatedly promised that ensuring diversity in his administration and his Cabinet will be a top priority.”My administration’s going to look like America, not just my staff, the administration from the vice president straight down through Cabinet members to major players within the White House, and the court,” Biden said during a June townhall focusing on issues tied to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. “It’s going to be a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

Honest Communication is the Key

by Love Dr. Rob

Her first words to me were, “I don’t know what happened. We were the best of friends.” She said that they talked about everything. That’s why him just up and leaving was so confusing. She had never even known that he was unhappy. All she wanted was her friend back. 

It didn’t feel good explain to her that she had lost a friend but he didn’t.  If he was the friend she thought he was, not only would she have know what was wrong he would have given her a chance to fix it. The mere fact that there was something so off between them that he would simply walk away says so much. The question is what else didn’t she hear?

You Have to Listen to Hear

She was in a relationship with a man who allowed his actions to speak for him. While her communication was verbal, his was non-verbal. She thought they had the perfect marriage. Although, she had to tell him coming in at four and five o’clock in the morning was unacceptable. At the same time she would go hours without talking to him, because he didn’t answer his phone when she called. If this wasn’t him saying something was wrong, I don’t know what is. 

The more we talked, the more she realized she missed so much. She would do most of the talking, so she felt as they were connecting. What she didn’t see was he wasn’t opening up. He listened enough for her to feel close to him, and at the same time stayed quiet enough to remain distant. This is why he was able to leave like it was nothing. She was his friend, but he wasn’t hers. 

Be Still

The key is to quiet down and listen. See if your partner is sharing as much as you, or if any at all. Ask questions if you feel they are too quiet. And make sure if nothing else, you pay extra attention to their actions. Remember actions will speak even when your mouth is shut. Keep in mind most of us share more as we feel closer and safer with someone. If you’re not receiving that from your mate there is definitely a problem. 

Most men are taught not to share. It takes a special woman to get us to open up and even then there are moments when we still shut down. As men, we need security. Something as simple as you telling a friend or family member something he said in private can rob him of that safety. Ultimately he completely shuts down and becomes a distant stranger. 

The thing to remember is honest communication is key. It is the foundation of any relationship, and without it you have nothing. Take time to make sure Y’ALL are friends and it’s not just one-sided. If y’all aren’t friends be prepared for someone to find a friend somewhere else.