Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma

Veerni Project - Founders

The Veerni Project is guided by the core belief that when girls and women are educated and healthy, they will have the strength to create positive changes in their lives as well as in their communities and gain economic independence.

I happened to read about the Veerni Project on NPR and was very impressed with the work they do. There are definite gaps in my information and I am trying to find out more. However it seems to me to be a genuine cause where your money would probably be put to good use to help a girl child or even a child bride get an education that might be life saving for her. You can even sponsor a child. Do check it out.

Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma

This new 'sexual consent and tea' video from the police is brilliant

Thames Valley Police have decided to tackle the issue of sexual consent by comparing sex to a well known British pastime - drinking a cup of tea.

Sexual consent, a big topic of discussion these days, has been explained brilliantly in this stupendous video by British police. The explanation is simple to the point of being funny. The cartoons are stick figures that totally convey the expressions! The voice over is done amzingly! Must must watch!!!

Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman wonderfully drawn and said. Leave it to the British to help us laugh and learn about a very serious and sad reality... another example of how Art can be such an important tool.

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Jeff Gordan

Jeff Gordan Tea drinking ought to be seriously taught instead of bud drinking.

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Evan Calves

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TheHobMob

TheHobMob

Kavita Mehra is the Chief Transformation Officer at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark (BGCN), which provides affordable after school, weekend and summer programs to nearly 1,000 children in Newark, NJ. I reached out to her after being moved by a short speech she gave about the work of the BGCN earlier this summer in New York City.

The ensuing conversation taught me a lot about the importance of an everyday awareness about people’s struggles, especially when surrounded by academia’s elite institutions and mindset. I am inspired and uplifted hearing about the work of BGCN-- the organization and its children are truly, as Kavita said, “bright stars in what often seems to be a very cloudy sky”. Add your questions/comments below!

Q: HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS WORK?

A: This has been my life’s work-- I started in university, working with survivors of domestic violence. While I was in graduate school, I worked for the New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC), an organization dedicated to combatting domestic violence. I primarily worked in its shelter from 7pm to 7am. After leaving my shift, I would go to my apartment, take a shower, and then head to the Upper West Side to attend class at Columbia University. I continued this cycle for nearly two years.

Working in a space centered on women’s rights was really important to me, and continues to inform my work. As an undergraduate at New York University, I pursed a double major in Gender & Sexuality and History. It was, and still is, crucial for me to have an intellectual and emotional connection to my work.

After NYAWC, I worked for the New York Taxi Worker’s Alliance, Easter Seals New York, Asian Women in Business and GlamourGals Foundation (GG), which was my most recent role prior to BGCN. After GG, I continued to explore the type of impact I hope to achieve; I came to the Boys & Girls Club of Newark because of our CEO and our incredible kids.

When I met our members at BGCN, I saw the opportunity to effectuate change. I’m the first and only Chief Transformation Officer among 4,200 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. At BGCN, we’re invested in innovative, entrepreneurial ways to garner a 360 impact through youth development. The Lachman Family STEM center is a reflection of that, but our work in public health, food security, producing high-quality, easily replicable programming are also of the same mindset. I love being able to foster opportunities that will level the playing field for the kids we serve.

Q: DID YOUR WORK EVOLVE FROM YOUR COMMUNITY BACKGROUND AT ALL, AS A SOUTH ASIAN LIVING IN THE US?

I am often asked about my socio-ethnic background. I’m South Asian, and I work in Newark for an organization that serves largely African-American and Hispanic communities of color. I come from a humble means; I began working when I was 14 and worked my first 100-hour week in our family business before I was 15.

The South Asian experience in America by has been very different from that of other communities of color, but coming from a post-colonial understanding is what grounds me in this work. It is admirable for those who can break out of the legacies of poverty, classism, and the structures that sustain the status quo. It is also our obligation to help others who have not broken out of this cycle. It is key to increase opportunity and education by providing equity; I see my work as first and foremost social justice work.

Q: ARE THERE ANY STORIES IN PARTICULAR THAT INSPIRE YOU TO DO THIS WORK?

At the clubhouse in the summer we see around 300 kids and see almost a completely different group in the fall. Because I have a touch point with the kids on a regular basis, all of them are really inspiring. If I took my laptop outside right now, you’d see kids in the pool. If I ever need a moment of inspiration, all I need to do is walk outside my office door.

Do you want to see?



This is my day. There are a few stories I could think of, but it’s hard to choose, because this is what I see and what I love.

Coming to our building, you’d never think that we were in one of the most dangerous parts of Newark. Avon Avenue and Stratford Place is considered one of the most dangerous corners in the country; it has a 24 hour police presence, and is also half a block from my office.

Three weeks ago while leaving the office, I heard gunshots; and two weeks ago, a woman across the street from our building was shot five times. Despite the rampant crime in this area, seeing the kids in the pool, seeing them produce artwork, seeing the opportunity to create a promising trajectory for a future generation is exciting to me.

Q: WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN AT THE BGCN TO THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT, AND THE EVENTS RELATED TO RACIAL TENSION AND POLICE BRUTALITY IN THE US THIS PAST YEAR?

We have to acknowledge what’s going on in our country right now. It’s promising to see that there’s a dialogue that’s starting to happen on the national front, yet heartbreaking that it has stemmed from such tragic moments.

At BGCN, we have started a pilot project with the Newark police department. BGCN operates the only bike shop in Newark, which is the largest city in New Jersey. The pilot project pairs five police officers with two BGCN members to create five teams of three. Over the course of six weeks, they’re building bicycles together. They’re creating long term relationships, getting to know each other, working in collaboration with each other. The project will culminate with a joint bike ride with officers and our members to our Clubhouse, where we will have a celebratory lunch.

I share all of this to demonstrate that we, BGCN, realize what’s happening in our country and are thinking of programming and opportunities that will help strengthen community relations. We encourage dialogue with our members through multiple touchpoints; our frontline team members are mentors to our kids, building those relationships and having those conversations are critical.

Q: WHAT BARRIERS ARE YOU FACING RIGHT NOW, AND HOW CAN INDIVIDUALS BEST HELP THE BGCN?

I’m really happy with where we are in terms of growth for this year. In the last 15 months, we have grown from 400 members and 3 sites to nearly 1,000 members and 9 sites. Come 2016-17, I hope we can continue with a similar pace.

The easiest way to help us is to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If anyone is ever interested in learning more about our work, please contact me and I would be happy to share more of our message. We’re also always happy to see volunteer interest. I am most interested in sharing our message; BGCN is a really bright star in a really cloudy sky.

Q: ADVICE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS?

While attending Columbia University, I found it difficult to adapt to the school’s culture.
Simultaneously at this time, I had a very traumatic case while working at NYAWC, an experience that still haunts me.

Mrs. C, has five children; on her son’s 13th birthday, she was in the kitchen putting candles on his cake. With the cake in her hands, she walked from the kitchen to the living room singing Happy Birthday, her estranged husband walked through the front door carrying a machete. He pinned Mrs. C down and attempted to cut off both of her arms and her inner thighs. She survived, thankfully, but was in the hospital for several weeks. From the hospital she came immediately to the shelter with her five children; I was working that evening and was responsible for her intake--at the time I was 21. When she walked into the shelter, her arms were stitched together; her face and the experience from that continue to stay with me. The morning after this experience, I had class “Labor in America”. It became impossible for me to connect with my coursework—I grew restless very quickly. Within the span of 24 hours, my personal and professional priorities shifted, still grounding me to today.

Looking back, I realize I did not take full advantage of my experience in graduate school. There are those who utilize institutions to its fullest extent and I failed to do this.
My work in domestic violence will stay with me, and that moment with Mrs. C., will stay with me, forever. However, I was short-sighted in having my work cloud my perspective; I should have taken advantage of every opportunity that crossed my path at Columbia University. I did not recognize my own privilege and have now grown from this experience.



Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma Kavita, many good wishes to you and immense respect.

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Kavita Mehra

Kavita Mehra Thank you all for the incredibly kind words. Would absolutely love to continue the conversation and am more than happy to connect via email (kmehra@bgcn.org) to set up a time to chat on the phone. Also, you're always welcome to tour our Clubhouse in Newark!

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman Simply amazing, @Kavita. I am curious, when you say you could have taken advantage of your opportunities at Colombia, to which are you referring?

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Elizabeth Kimball

Elizabeth Kimball What an amazing life story. Do you have any major goals for BGCN?

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma This post has made me question myself. How does one help people in unsafe places without being unsafe herself? Am I right in putting self-preservation before helping others? Hats off, Kavita, really..

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Rajat

Rajat

CHILD 31 - OFFICIAL TEASER
YouTube l https://www.youtube.com/

A trailer from documentary made by Grassroots Films based in Brooklyn, New York. They are a talented bunch of people who bring human stories to people. "They tell stories that speak to the heart"

Lalka Bunny

Lalka Bunny

I have been struggling for the past two months to formulate a reaction -- a productive statement to give -- to the instances of hate crimes committed on Fordham's campus this semester. I am however, at a loss. These events have repeated themselves, as if there is no sense of shame for the bigotry committed and witnessed by whole university community. The apparent apathy of the student body has been just as shocking as the incidents themselves. In the midst of these events, I am overwhelmed by feelings of outrage, shock, and isolation.
I would like to share the information that has been released about Fordham's recent incidents because I can no longer stand for these events to go unnoticed.

September 13, 2015: A racial slur was scrawled on the door of an American American student in a university dormitory. The NYPD classified this as a hate crime.
http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150914/fordham/police-investigating-racial-slur-scrawled-at-fordham-university-dorm

September 14, 2015: A swastika was found etched into a stairwell wall, right before the Jewish high holy days. [acknowledged in email from the university president]

November 11, 2015: A swastika and white supremacist reference found etched in a university bathroom. [acknowledged in an email from the university president]

November 13, 2015: In off-campus university housing, in the middle of the Bronx community, students heard their neighbors loudly chanting racial slurs and white supremacist phrases [presumably during a party].
https://www.slantnews.com/story/2015-11-18-we-need-to-have-a-real-discussion-about-race-at-fordham

I am at a loss because this behavior is the antithesis of this university's mission as a Jesuit institution. Jesuits are devoted to social justice, service and education. Students at Fordham are taught these values in classes, talks and orientation events. The perpetrators of these crimes must have closed their eyes and ears very thoroughly.

Adam Pryor

Adam Pryor it is alarming that the university chooses to do nothing about it.

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman

It's a hookup culture, not a rape culture

Sexual assault has undoubtedly entrenched itself deep within the minds and lives of college students everywhere. Naturally, such a broad toxification demands attention and remedy; regrettably, efforts which attempt to address the notorious substance-induced assault have been starkly misguided and ill-informed.

HOT debate online for the College of William & Mary tonight after the turbulent publishing of the attached article in the school's daily newspaper, The Flat Hat (in the opinion section) on November 2nd. The Gadfly, a new, liberal online news source for students published a responding article (http://gadfly.x10.bz/home/gadflyx1/public_html/it-039-s-a-rape-culture). I have to say, for me, emotions were running high when reading each article. I see that both have faults but both make somewhat logical points. I do believe the writer of the Flat Hat article was pushing for an eradication of "hookup culture", and that the Gadfly writer didn't quite pick up on that or necessarily address it. There is a lot to be discussed on these articles and this topic. What do you think?

Steve Ashokaan

Steve Ashokaan Wow-- I see what he's saying but this article could have been written WAY better...

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Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma

Scales tip for struggling 13-year-old after Facebook post - The Times of India

It's not often that one comes across a boy sitting in a metro station busy doing his homework. So, when a passenger, who got off at the busy Noida City Centre metro station, saw this boy, she stopped.

There is so much social injustice where I come from but once in a while you do hear stories that brighten your day. It is my belief that there are many people with a good heart and a desire to bring about change but are lost in the sea of people with need and do not know where to start. Small steps, with one good deed at a time is all that is required. I read a FB post regarding this young man which requested people to go weigh themselves and not simply put money by his side in order to keep his dignity. That is important. I hope the boy finally got help.

Elizabeth Kimball

Elizabeth Kimball What determination! I should get my kids to read this, then maybe they won't grumble about their homework so much. It is too bad that he hadn't received any funding yet-- I hope Gupta follows through!

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TheHobMob

TheHobMob

Too often discussions around social justice are filled with anxiety and tension, rather than hope and positivity. Let's change that this week.

Share with us a part of your identity you are proud of-- whether it's your language, culture, hometown, or anything else!

Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma

Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama

HOUSTON - Ahmed Mohamed's homemade alarm clock got him suspended from his suburban Dallas high school and detained and handcuffed by police officers on Monday after school officials accused him of making a fake bomb.

If you haven't already heard about this story, take a look-- a 14 year old Muslim child was detained by police officers for bringing in a homemade clock to school to show his teachers.

What do you think this show about the state of social justice and prejudices in the police system and our society? I'm heartened by the outpouring of support for Ahmed, but sad to think that there are thousands of kids and students being profiled every day- and since they aren't making the news, they don't get the support they need.

Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma He said he's lost his innocence forever and that just broke my heart. Rest later, I have a lot to say...

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman I understand that the box looked suspicious. My dad got detained at the airport one time for having a bunch of jewelry making supplies in a suitcase (its a great story). But he was in an AIRPORT. They let him go after an explanation and confiscation of the actual explosive components (smh). My dad is white. This was a school, where a child was learning engineering. Nothing was dangerous, but Ahmed is Muslim. What a strange world we live in... we are trying to grow technologically, but still cannot put aside prejudice. I feel that parts of us are evolving while the rest are still in the dark ages.

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Steve Ashokaan

Steve Ashokaan I wonder if this has ever happened to a student that wasn't a part of a marginalized minority. I feel like we wouldn't hear about it in the news-- but maybe it just hasn't happened.

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Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma ^ Good point, I wonder that too. Emma, that is a great story about your dad-- never knew that! There are definitely parts of our country and stories like this that scare me...living in liberal NJ/NYC we probably have a very different conception of what our country stands for than many Americans around the states,

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Emma Zahren-Newman

Emma Zahren-Newman

"Picture yourself as a stereotypical male" | MIT Admissions

Sep 3, 2015 - There is empirical evidence to support the idea that males have a higher capacity for spatial reasoning than females. A large-scale 1995 meta-analysis found that on average, men outperform women in a cluster of tests related to spatial ability by nearly a full standard deviation, and in attempt to explain this, researchers have hypothesized about the impact of testosterone and...

A really great article coupled with examples of studies that support her claims... A quotation that stuck out to me was: "Black students under the “score is based on your personal intellect” condition performed significantly worse than whites, while the black participants who were given the alternate context performed with zero significant difference."

Adam Pryor

Adam Pryor Also very pertinent to remove stereotype imagery about women in STEM..."There is something of a solution to all of this: one thats a bit more complicated than to stop being affected by stereotypes, a bit less fun than deporting all the meninists and of course in addition to a long-term ideal of say destroying the culturally-ingrained white supremacist patriarchy. See, we know that highlighting identities associated with impaired performance will cause impaired performance, but as a counter to this, research also confirms that thinking about our complex, intelligent, talented, individual human selves before the given tests will partially or completely dissolve this impairment."

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Sarah Kimball

Sarah Kimball What a beautiful excerpt from a great article. I couldn't help but think of the movie, Stand and Deliver, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_and_Deliver when reading this. I don't want to give too much away, but it is absolutely worth the time to watch!

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Sofia Perello

Sofia Perello

Toward a New Understanding of Modesty

For the past several months, a group of Christian writers have been debating the value and meaning of dressing modestly--a conversation that is relevant even to people who aren't part of religious communities.

Not sure how I feel about this, but it caught my eye. I feel that modesty is a term that is often used as an excuse to police female bodies and cut women off from their rights to self-expression and self-determination. At least this article shows that it isn't just Islam where this discussion occurs.

I largely agree with this quote from the article: "While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them," said Evans at the Q Ideas website. "In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men."

Anju Sharma

Anju Sharma Haha that was a good one! I concede!

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Lalka Bunny

Lalka Bunny You do bring forth part of the story that should be considered though! Society is not changing very fast. Day to day, women have to choose how to dress knowing that other people in society may percieve the

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Lalka Bunny

Lalka Bunny *them in an unwanted way.

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Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma That was a great example, Lalka! This is playing out recently in NYC with topless women protesters arguing about their right to dress (or not) as they wish. They've all faced creepy men video recording them while marching, of course, but they argue that this is a problem brought on in part by the fact that going topless is a social taboo.

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Elizabeth Kimball

Elizabeth Kimball I feel the creepy video-taping is what we should be critiquing, not the right to self-express through clothing of the lack thereof

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Sofia Perello

Sofia Perello

Venice Ban of Children's Books Becomes Subplot in Gay Rights Debate

VENICE - As subversive books go, many of the 49 children's tales hardly seem seditious. There is the story of the male dog who aspired to be a ballerina. The one about the little boy who wanted to be a princess, and a princess who wanted to be a soccer player.

I haven't really followed the gay rights movement abroad, so I found this article about the climate in Venice interesting-- especially since it's one of the cities I always imagined through a very touristy lens (and not actually where real people live & struggle!)

Sadly ironic that these books ended up being targeted after they were put together by university profs on a reading list that was meant to help students fight prejudices.

Youngbin Yoon

Youngbin Yoon Thanks for sharing the link! It seems like there are a lot of good questions that can arise from this! What is the purpose of education (an author named in the article argues that it's to pass on values)? Is it the place of politicians to dictate educational standards? Extrapolating further, we can even ask things like what role does external institutions like Amnesty International have to play with respect to city-wide decisions? How does Italy's close connection to Christianity (and the conservatism often connoted with it) affect its reluctance to accept a more multicultural/multifaceted society? I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on these questions!

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Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma

The Man Who Shot Michael Brown

Darren Wilson says he wants to stop thinking about what happened in Ferguson. But the town isn't done. Jake Halpern reports.

Here's Darren Wilson's first full-length interview since the shooting in Ferguson about a year ago. The writer stayed at Wilson's home for a few days & has gotten mixed receptions. It reinforces many of the deep flaws in our justice system that have been discussed since then just from the small details about Wilson's life, then and now.

Elizabeth Kimball

Elizabeth Kimball

12 words you need to ban from your vocabulary to be a better ally

You're all about thoughtful solidarity. Your favorite word is "problematic." You're constantly on that social justice grind. I mean, come on, you even clicked on this article to better your ally skills. You're a pretty darn good ally, if you do say so yourself. But hold on there, tiger.

Before I read this article, I thought, "psht, I'm a great ally, I don't use offensive language!" Boy was I wrong. The words evaluated here are: Lame, Retarded, Colored, OCD, Derp, Crazy, Tranny, Illegal, Gyp, Exotic, Ghetto, and Fat.

Vidushi Sharma

Vidushi Sharma I had the same reaction after reading. I'm really surprised that "fat" is a feeling on FB?! Interesting also that shutting down a fat shaming thread is one of the things that made reddit explode...

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Lucy Lane

Lucy Lane Strange that the origin and definition of "gypped" is so underground. The only popular use dictionary that I could find that traced the origin of the word was in fact the Oxford English Dictionary, which is heavily academic... I wonder how many Romani people themselves are aware of the word's origin besides obviously academic persons...

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Sarah Kimball

Sarah Kimball It's interesting you say that, Lucy. For some reason I've always assumed it came from the word "Gypsy". I think it may be because the words look so similar along with the bad connotations of being called a "gypsy" and their connection to being "gypped"

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Lucy Lane

Lucy Lane That is even more curious! It seems that the dictionaries erased the racist connotations, but colloquial use did not?

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Elizabeth Kimball

Elizabeth Kimball That IS curious! I remember when I took latin in school, I suddenly felt like I knew the etymology of every word. What random we are exposed is probably indicative of Sarah's ability to make that connection

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Alexej Filicek

Alexej Filicek

This is an interesting/disturbing interview of Jared Taylor, the spokesman of the CCC (The Council of Conservative Citizens) which is the group that Dylann Roof cited in his manifesto as helping motivate his actions. Taylor defends the CCC and tries to distance them from Roof.

"The parallel I would draw is, let’s imagine that you are deeply concerned about global warming and that you have researched the subject and arrived at strong conclusions based on what you think is conclusive evidence and it turns out that someone with whom you agree, even 100 percent, then walks into the headquarters of ExxonMobil and shoots up the executive floor, kills people." Slimy.

http://politics.blog.statesman.com/2015/06/23/cofccs-jared-taylor-on-dylann-roof-this-guy-is-not-a-credit-to-his-race/

Sofia Perello

Sofia Perello This part probably rings true, sadly-- Q: Were you surprised or disappointed that conservative politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott so quickly distanced themselves from Holt and the CofCC?

A: The pressures on them must be tremendous and I am not surprised they are doing this.

But these are extraordinary circumstances. Otherwise, of course, theyd happily accept this money. Theyre giving it away because of the circumstances and thats the only reason.

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Malcolm L

Malcolm L

How using 'they' as a singular pronoun can change the world

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site. Hopefully, by now you know that calling people the pronouns they want to be called is a basic and necessary way to demonstrate respect for their identities. This includes learning to use non-binary pronouns, such as singular "they."

It's funny. I started using "they" as a singular, gender neutral pronoun when I was very young -- maybe 7 years old. It was intuitive to me that there should be a such a pronoun! Isn't it time for the sake of practicality, respect, and gender-justice to officially give "they" this new grammatical position?

Sofia Perello

Sofia Perello as the most intuitive gender neutral pronoun, I say go for it! I ad never even heard of s/he or "hir" (the other options people have proposed) and wouldn't know how to pronounce them to difference from she/her...

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