December 26, 2009

Not Under the Bus! Women and Health Care Reform

Writing this post, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Why do I even need to be writing about health care reform and women?"  To think that in 2009, women are still an other, needing special attention and consideration when it comes to basic health care, is not only mind-boggling, but utterly outrageous.  Consider the following clip from a recent Senate Finance Committee debate regarding health care reform as well as comments from Rush Limbaugh from his 12/17/09 show "upset by 'women's issues' in Health Care Bill":


To even be having a conversation questioning the need for quality maternity, reproductive, and other health care for women is, I believe, a direct violation of basic human rights.  Does this mean that women and children are not worthy of basic human rights?  Are we not human?  To some it may seem like I'm blowing things out of proportion, but consider the work of the women's liberation and the second wave feminist movements in the late 1960's and 1970's. What have and have we not accomplished 30 plus years later?

Too many women do not believe that there is a need for feminism.  They think that we live in a post-feminist era and that the need to pay attention to women's "issues" is a thing of the past. This conviction, however, hardly seems justified when women's basic human right to health care is being challenged on the world's center stage. The right to determine how we use our bodies and the opportunites that we have to take care of them are at great risk.  There are people other than ourselves wanting to make a decision about what we are allowed or, in the case of health care reform, financially able to do with our bodies.  Whatever you call it--feminism, equal rights for women, choice, or the way in which we feel free to walk down the street, wear what we like, work, live, play freely--is silently taken for granted.  It is in this silence that women are more likely to slip through the cracks and have our voices taken away.

The Women's Media Center is working diligently to ensure that every woman's voice is heard and to prevent Congress from running over women's health!  They have numerous facts, resources, petitions, opportunites for action, and more on their website, Not Under the Bus.

For more information about health care reform and women's rights, visit  If you are intersted in organizing around a particular topic and would like the support of the WCC, contact us to get organized!

December 23, 2009

Phree To Be Me - Speaking Her Voice: Ahyana King

Ahyana King is entrepreneur extraordinaire and founder of   Phreedum, an independent novelty t-shirt company.  Phreedum is dedicated to providing unparalleled creatively constructed clothing to the socially conscious fashion forward individual.  Ahyana uses the creativity of fashion design to raise money through sales for non profit organizations currently addressing societal challenges such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, and access to education.  Each quarter Phreedum donates 5% of our profits to a different nonprofit organization addressing such needs.

A native of West Philadelphia, Ahyana is a Crisis intervention Counselor for Philadelphia’s only free rape crisis center. She also works as a resident director where she has been for three years at a girls home in Swarthmore, PA, living in an building community with eleven other young women. Additionally, Ahyana is a full time graduate student at Walden University earning a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. 

 Thank you, Ahyana for sharing your inspirational writing with the WCC!

Phree to Be
by Ahyana King

     In 2006 the singer India Arie debuted her song “I am not my hair.” I suppose the song was meant to revolutionize the way women, especially Black women think about their hair. I suppose it was her response to the age old cultural debate in the African American community, good hair versus bad hair. In 2009 comedian and actor Chris rock debuted his film Good Hair. His film was a comedic documentary about hair, textures, colors, weaves, perms, wigs, hair shows, etc. I suppose his film was his attempt o enlighten the world about the age old good hair versus bad hair debate and to instill a sense of pride about whatever happens to grow out of our heads. Three weeks ago I sat in my office with one of my adolescent clients who stated she did not like being African American, and a huge part of that was because…..she did not like her hair. India I and my client are our hair. Chris, I have “good hair” and my client doesn’t.

     I am an ethical practitioner, so I won’t betray my client’s confidence. I’ll just betray the confidence of most women, Black or not. My client was unhappy with herself. This time it wasn’t her weight or height, but her race. She didn’t associate her race with wealth, power, influence, or intellect. She didn’t find her race, or features such as her hair that are common characteristics of her race, desirable. And as I talked with my supervisor about this, my supervisor normalized my client’s feelings. After all she was not only an adolescent, but an adolescent girl. My supervisor had a point. I spent many a nights on my knees, days in the bathroom, in the back of the school bus praying to be pretty. I wanted “long stringy hair” and didn’t want to be in the sun too long because I did not want to get any darker. Even as I left work and called close friends to express my shock that an African American teen girl could bluntly, seriously, and unapologetically express her disdain for being Black, no one else was really fazed. In fact I even had friends, even guys, who shared they don’t blame her and that they too had times when they wished they were not African American. And don’t even get me started on the hair issue. My girlfriends and I shared stories for days.

     But none of this comforted me. I didn’t want my client’s feelings normalized. I didn’t want to see how she could be dissatisfied and why no one wants bad hair. And bad hair for those who don’t know is kinky nappy hair. If it doesn’t move, it’s not good. And that’s not my opinion, that’s the generally accepted definition in the Black community. Don’t let length full you. If you have to perm it, run a hot comb through it, or braid it, yet it’s long, it’s still no good. I didn’t really want to reflect on my own process of growing self acceptance. I didn’t want it to be an issue at all. I didn’t want to be reminded of India Arie’s song, Chris rock’s film, or my own secret gratefulness that on a bad day I can wet my hair let it curl up and still look good. I didn’t want my client to not like herself. I certainly didn’t want to chalk her dislike to her being a woman. I didn’t want to acknowledge that perhaps as women our self dissatisfaction is a rites of passage of sorts and I just needed to let my client self loathe until she was twenty, thirty, or forty something and then she’d be like….

     She’d be like most women I know. Women constantly having a love hate relationship with themselves. Constantly lying in the tension of acceptance and rejection, dissatisfaction and satisfaction, goals yet to achieve and pondering missed opportunities. Is this the added bonus that comes with being a woman? Is that what we do? And why? Why do laser, lose, bleach, perm? Why do we stop at Bachelors, believe we can’t be successful in our careers and as wives/mothers? Why do we default to mom jeans and nikes?

     I went back the following week with my client and I told her the next several sessions would focus on identity development. I told her that we were going to explore the woman she was becoming. I didn’t tell her I was sad she didn’t like her race or her hair. I didn’t say it was a shame she didn’t equate her culture with anything good. Instead I made a commitment to simply walk her through the process. I made a commitment to help her explore, discover, challenge, and rethink.

     I didn’t write this article to educate or enlighten. I didn’t write it to have someone remind me that we are human and all humans regardless of race, gender, religion, or orientation spend years developing their identity. I know. I did write this article to say that as women I think we do have a continued obligation to help each other through the process. We have an obligation to lay with each other in the tension of self acceptance and rejection. We walk with each other through self discoveries. We celebrate the victories of weight lost or gained, hair permed or picked out. We acknowledge that certain parts of us don’t make all of us but some of us are judged as parts. And we stand with our sisters who are judged as parts until they judge themselves as whole.

For more information about Phreedum and to support the fundraising efforts for local non-profit organizations, please visit Phreedum's Website.

(Printed by permission of the author. All rights reserved).

December 20, 2009

Speaking Her Voice: Q & A - Melissa Kushner

What really goes on in a woman's mind?  

As part of the WCC's mission, we hope through narrative and various forms of media to draw on women's connections with one another; creating a greater understanding, compassion and utility within our relationships to build stronger selves and communities.  

Melissa Kushner, Executive Director and Founder of Goods for Good, took time out of her very busy schedule to answer our questions.  Thank you Melissa for your generous contribution!

WCC - What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

MK - I feel like I learn something new everyday whether it is in my job or at home with my husband. Life is so fast and there are so many things coming at you at once I continue to learn and struggle with how to juggle everything, but I am starting to realize that this is life.

WCC - What do you see when you look in the mirror?

MK - It all depends. M-F I would say a WOMAN. Sat-Sun I would say a tired little girl (does that make any sense?)

WCC - What defines you as a woman?

MK - This does not define me as a woman but as a person...I work among and within many different worlds that require quite a bit of navigating. Whether it is in a rural village in Africa, living in the West Village in Manhattan, fundraising among powerful business people, working hands on with orphans...I am always amazed that I am able to adapt...I think this is a very interesting human characteristic and capability.

WCC - What motivates you to get up in the morning?

MK - The hope that in some small way I am making the world a better place for the millions of orphans and vulnerable children that have no one to fend for them.

WCC -  If you could share any piece of wisdom with a woman or girl of a younger generation, what would it be?

MK - You can do it all, but get ready its tough out there!

(Media printed with permission by Melissa Kushner.  All rights reserved.)

Speaking Her Voice: Melissa Kushner/Goods for Good

Melissa Kushner, Founder and Executive Director of Goods for Good, has spent her entire career dedicated to international development.
She was first presented with the opportunity to travel to abroad to Malawi, East Africa with her mentor from the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships in 2003. Melissa knew that she would be exposed to extreme poverty and wanted to do more than just visit; she wanted to contribute. In preparation for her trip she researched the needs of the region and initiated a delivery program to an under-funded orphanage and community center serving children affected by AIDS.

Melissa negotiated with several U.S.-based manufacturers to donate goods from their excess inventory, and raised funds from friends to cover shipping costs. In just a few weeks she was able to collect and deliver over two tons of clothing and educational toys to St. Mary's Orphan Care Center. Throughout the course of her stay in Malawi, Melissa saw first hand how something as simple as a pen and school uniform can mean the difference between a child being able to attend school or not.

Witnessing the impact of her work and recognizing the long-term potential of this model, Melissa knew where her future lay. Over the next several years, while continuing to work part-time and studying for her graduate degree, Melissa continued to coordinate shipments from New York to Malawi as well as Liberia and Pakistan. She returned to Malawi on many occasions, including a seven-month stay during which she taught English in a rural elementary school and researched methods of care for orphans and vulnerable children. In 2006, three years after her first trip, she formally founded Goods for Good.

Goods for Good currently provides material support to 183 community-based organizations, orphan care centers, and public schools, which serve the needs of 54,000 orphans and vulnerable children across Malawi and Haiti. By providing school supplies, clothing, shoes, and health and hygiene products, Goods for Good ensures that a lack of basic materials is not a barrier to their achievement.

Prior to establishing Goods for Good, Melissa served as a consultant for Hahn Associates, a New York-based development consulting firm, as well as a Project Consultant for Gay Men’s Health Crisis, focusing on strengthening health systems. These experiences provided Melissa with a deep understanding of multi-sector partnership building, health infrastructure strengthening, fundraising, field research, and program development.

Melissa received her Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in International Development from New York University, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She was recently featured on NBC’s Nightly News, in The Gap’s “Born to Fit” advertising campaign and will speak at the upcoming TEDx Atlanta Conference in January of 2010.                                               


For more information about Melissa Kushner and how to support Goods for Good, please visit

(Pictures reprinted by permission of Melissa Kushner.  All rights reserved.)