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Periodic meditations, musings, and meaning
from behind the scenes at POPS the Club,
a gathering of high school students
whose lives are affected by incarceration.

Post-Election Love Among the Powerless

Post-Election Love Among the Powerless

It’s impossible to articulate all the emotions following the 2016 Presidential election. I won’t try.

But two moments stand out, two that have helped me to crawl out of bed in the mornings since November 9, two that inspire me not to be cowed or afraid.

The first happened at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, November 9 at a POPS meeting at Venice High School where no one was smiling. We posted a sign on the white board that read:

We stand beside you.
We stand up for you.
We support you.

Everyone looked sad, and a vile note had already been scrawled across the locker of one of our African American students. We began to speak about the support we needed to offer each other, and as we talked, one young woman sobbed. “I’m so afraid. My mom is Muslim. I’m afraid they’re going to lock her up…” she was inconsolable.

Tory Toyama, a Venice High biology teacher, comes to every POPS Venice meeting. He is always there, always supportive, but quiet. Some people may not even notice he’s there, but whenever I see him out of the corner of my eye I am comforted by his kind, generous presence. He helps to make sure everyone’s fed and fine, but usually from the corner. But in that moment he stepped out of the corner and said, forcefully, “I need to say something. My father was born in one of America’s internment…no, concentration camps. And we Japanese Americans, we are quiet, but we will never let that happen again. We will NOT LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN.”

POPS meetings feel sacred, always, but in that moment everything felt warmer and closer and better. Milena stopped shaking. Tory’s words and the look on his face and the power of his passion wrapped themselves around her heart. Around all our hearts.

A few days later, Katharine Nyhus of Nytro Coaching, the lead volunteer at Lawndale POPS, sent me and Michelle Lee, the Lawndale club sponsor, a note

I’m out of town, but wish I were there today. If the election does come up, I wish I were there to say this:

I’m in my late 40s. I’ve seen a lot of things happen in my life. Some amazing, some terrifying. What I want you to know about this election is that ‘this too shall pass.’ I believe this will be a rough four years but we’ll get through. And then our path will change again-and I dream that the change will be a bright light like we’ve never seen before. Four years, when you are 16, 17, 18, feels like forever. But it’s not. As MLK said, “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.” But not always in a straight line.

So read this to them if you want to. Sending hugs.

And that’s just two of the large-hearted volunteers who help to make up our POPS family.

Many more of us gathered a few days later Barnes & Noble at The Grove  where 21 POPS students read to a crowd of more than 100. The room was full of tears but also full of the spirit to fight against the forces of bigotry, hatred and greed.

Sharing Our Stories

Hali Morell, Upper School Community Service Director at Crossroads School, invited me to speak at the school’s Community Service Assembly. Having attended our event at the Kirk Douglas Theatre back in June, Hali was moved by the stories of all our students and by our mission, and she wanted to introduce POPS the Club to… Continue Reading

HOW POPS BEGAN

One day Dennis, my husband and co-founder of POPS the Club, visited a former student of his who had been arrested at 17; despite having no criminal record, John was sentenced to a heinously long prison term, and some months later, Dennis traveled up to New Folsom prison to see John. There he waited for… Continue Reading

Before There Were Bars

Before There Were Bars

The 2016 POPS the Club anthology, BEFORE THERE WERE BARS, is finished at last off to the printer. Making a book is a complicated, often exhausting, daunting dance, and I’m not talking only about the writing and the artwork—the soul-wrenching work it takes to do that part. I’m talking editing, organizing, designing, proofreading, front and… Continue Reading

Light in the Darkness

Juxta-Positions

Dennis and I were walking the dogs, one of those idyllic Saturday evenings, cool wind, blue sky with a spray of springtime clouds, Eucalyptus scenting the air. Other neighbors were walking too—one with his growling Akita, another with the friendly Cockadoodle puppy that grows taller by the hour. We were telling each other about our… Continue Reading

A Most Happy Story That Begins With A Sad One – Part One

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead Paradyse Oakley, a 16-year-old junior at Lawndale High and the person who brought POPS the Club to her school, is passionate about justice and the civic process. Her passion is fueled… Continue Reading

A Happy Story, Part Two

In December 2015, Paradyse Oakley told me that besides being a track star (Michelle let that secret out of the bag), she was also her district’s representative for the Youth Ambassador Program (http://empowerla.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016EB-YAAPPoutgoing2-9-16openenrollment.pdf) that brings together teens in a year-long program of activities and workshops, travel and volunteer events to learn about policy, legislation, and… Continue Reading

A Happy Story, Part Three

It used to be when something like our visit from a White House representative was in the works, I’d call my dad, political activist, retired lawyer, a man who has always believed deeply in the importance of civic responsibility. If he’d known I was going to meet a representative from the White House who was… Continue Reading

Against The Odds

When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder. ~ John O’Donohue One day my friend Anna-Majia Lee called and in the course of our conversation about POPS the Club—Anna-Majia wants to help bring it to cities across Minnesota—she… Continue Reading

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