Baby Riley Melts Hearts as Gerber’s New Photo Search Winner

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Photo: Gerber

Baby fever is real.

So when 7-month-old baby Riley from Lewis Center, Ohio won the 7th annual 2016 Gerber Photo Search, my heart melted with joy.

Here is the little guy wearing what looks like an adorable baseball onesie with the words, “All-Star.” Just look at those eyes.

Riley was one of 110,000 entries for the annual photo search contest.¬†According to NestleUSA, his parents will receive $50,000 in addition to $1,500 that will go toward Gerber Childrenswear. And that’s not all — Baby Riley also gets to star in the next Gerber ad as the official “2017 Gerber Spokesbaby.”

Last year’s winner was the adorable baby Isla from Michigan.¬†

Could your child win the next photo search? The annual search is open to babies that are as young as a day old to 48 months old, according to the contest’s official rules.

Riley’s mom, Kristen Shines, told the press that the cash winning will go toward starting a college fund for Riley.

‚ÄúRiley brings such joy to our family with his infectious laugh and big, gummy smile, and we can‚Äôt wait to share that joy with the rest of the world! We are truly honored to be joining the Gerber family,” Shines said in an interview.¬†

In 1928, Gerber held its very first contest to search for its Gerber Baby back in 1928. You’ll notice that all of the products feature the¬†historic sketch of the now 90-year-old Ann Turner Cook.

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  • Monica Luhar

Mirror Memoirs Founder and Sexual Assault Survivor Amita Swadhin Delivers Powerful Testimony Against Sen. Sessions

On behalf of rape and sexual assault survivors, activist Amita Swadhin from Los Angeles, California, testified Wednesday against the¬†confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general,¬†New York Magazine’s The Cut reported.¬†

“I am here today on behalf of rape and sexual assault survivors to urge you not to confirm Sen. Sessions as attorney general,” Swadhin said.

During her powerful testimony, Swadhin discussed the trauma she experienced as a survivor of child sexual abuse:

‚ÄúMy father raped me at least once a week from age four to age 12. I endured psychological, verbal and physical abuse from him for years. I also grew up watching my father abuse my mother.”

Swadhin, a daughter of immigrants from India who was raised in New Jersey, explained that she continues to suffer every day from complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the assault.

“I am here today on behalf of rape and sexual assault survivors to urge you not to confirm Sen. Sessions as attorney general,” Swadhin said.

During the testimony, Swadhin discussed the leaked tapes that were released during the election, exposing President Trump for his lewd comments about women:

‚ÄúI just start kissing them, it‚Äôs like a magnet. When you‚Äôre a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‚Äėem by the pussy.‚ÄĚ

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Shortly after the tapes were released, Sen. Sessions was asked about whether the comments made by Trump constituted as sexual assault, according to the Weekly Standard. “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant‚ÄĒ” Sessions¬†told the Weekly Standard in October of 2016.¬†

Earlier this week, however, Sessions changed his stance when asked whether “grabbing a woman by her genitals would be considered sexual assault,” according to the Huffington Post.¬†¬†Sessions proceeded to state, “Clearly it would be,” according to the Huffington Post.¬†

In the wake of these events, millions of sexual assault survivors were triggered and re-traumatized, Swadhin explained.

Sessions voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

His nomination has been denounced by many, including Planned Parenthood, several civil rights organizations, and Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis. 

Swadhin is the founder of Mirror Memoirs, an oral history project that aims to empower sexual assault survivors of color and end child sexual abuse. This year, Swadhin aims to focus on trauma healing in the community and collecting at least 50 audio recordings from LGBT child sexual abuse survivors of color and create an online audio archive, according to Mirror Memoirs.

-Monica Luhar

Ronda Rousey Says #StrongIsBeautiful in Fierce New Pantene Campaign

Can Ronda Rousey be any more badass? The MMA fighter and actress is the fierce new face of Pantene’s empowering new campaign, “Don‚Äôt Hate Me Because I‚Äôm Strong,” #StrongIsBeautiful.

 

The campaign shatters stereotypes and misconceptions about feminity and what the definition of beauty is. Rousey¬†also shares her journey as a fighter as she chooses to move past the criticisms and¬†constant stream of “Nos.”

“People call me Miss Man. They call me Savage, but if you think fierce can’t be feminine, I’m about to show you what only a strong woman can do,” Rousey goes on to say.

In the video, Rousey goes head to head with the spitting image of herself as she gears up for a fight with her hair pulled back, and another, in which she shows off her newly washed Pantene hair.¬†She proceeds to say that she’s “not one without the other.”

 

-moni

My Brownness is Beautiful

*This post was also published on Medium.

For many years, I grappled with my identity as a South Asian woman as I flipped through the glossy pages of children’s books and magazines.¬†I never saw anyone who looked like me — and that was deeply troubling.

After 9/11, hate crimes¬†against my fellow Muslim American and¬†South Asian brothers and sisters significantly rose. Like quick sand, the conversation dramatically shifted as countless families like mine were suddenly targeted and ridiculed for their “brownness.”

It was like we were under a microscope, constantly questioned and judged for every action based on the color of our skin.

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Growing up, my parents did everything in their power to shield me from racism and from feeling as if I didn’t belong. My mother encouraged me to join the swim team at my neighborhood recreation center. She was at every afterschool dance class, cheering me on from the sidelines as I tried to memorize the choreo to¬†Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life.”

But as much as I tried to assimilate, there were still moments when I felt like¬†I just didn’t belong.

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Celebrating the Camellia Festival with my Girl Scout troop 141 in Temple City, Calif.

There were lucid instances where my “brownness” suddenly felt like an immense burden to carry.

Somewhere between the “Fair and Lovely” ads that sought to erase my beautiful brown skin,¬†I lost myself and built a sort of self-hatred that lingered over the years. I suppressed some of my feelings and ignored the racist taunts from classmates as my community¬†and POC continued to be targeted across the country.

I first felt the weight of my brownness during dodgeball when a group of white kids had singled out us brown kids and laughed and joked about how the circle on their side was “not open to browns.”

In middle school, ¬†my “brownness” stuck out as others joked about the fact that my family and I didn’t belong in the United States of America “because we weren’t white, therefore we weren’t American.”

I continued to feel the weight of my “brownness” again when I carried a bag of groceries after shopping in Little India (Artesia, Calif) with my mom, only to be greeted by a stranger who echoed these words: “Go back to your country, you dirty Indians.”

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Even all of the textbook discussions, “circle times” at school, and calls for cultural competency and understanding couldn’t prepare me for what we we — and countless other families across the country — were about to endure.

Growing up, I never felt truly American because of all of the instances where others made me feel like my brown skin was something to be ashamed of. I was, of course, thankful for the friends who stood up for me and reminded me that “brownness is beautiful.”

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My grandparents owned a convenience store in EAst Finchley, London, in the ’70s, before immigrating to the San Gabriel Valley in the ’80s.

It wasn’t until years past when I came to terms with my brown skin and learned to love and embrace the sacrifices my ancestors had made to ensure that we were living the American Dream. My “brownness” is something I cannot erase. I am proud of being South Asian. I am proud of being an American, even though this country has¬†shattered my heart into a million pieces over and over again.

Today, I stand in solidarity with anyone who has been told they do not” belong.”

There is SO much work to be done. There are stories that need to be told during these daunting, and uncertain times.

We need to create, organize, and be there to spread and embrace love. We need to LOVE more than ever.

I’ve been silent this week because my family and I are still processing all of the hate that has engulfed this country I love so much.

Growing up, I longed for someone to stand up and remind me that my brownness was beautiful and powerful. Truthfully, this strength has always been by my side.

I just never knew until now.

xmoni

Gabrielle Union on Sexual Assault, ‘Birth of a Nation’

“The Birth of a Nation” actress¬†Gabrielle Union coined an op-ed for the LA Times today in which she reflected on her¬†experience¬†as a sexual assault¬†survivor. Her op-ed comes at a time when she recently learned of “Birth of a Nation” writer and director Nate Parker’s 1999 rape allegations and later acquittal of sexual assault.

In August, Parker spoke out about the allegations in a detailed Facebook post, stating, “Over the last several days, a part of my past – my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault – has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women‚Äôs right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult. And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.¬†I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow‚ĶI can‚Äôt tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can‚Äôt help but think of all the implications this has for her family.”

Union, 43, who plays the role of a victim of sexual assault and rape in the film, opened up to the View about her sexual assault when she was held at gunpoint and raped at a shoe store at the age of 19.

Though the news of Parker’s allegations came as a shock to Union, she feels she cannot back down from the role which she believes is an opportunity to educate others about consent and sexual violence.

“As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly,” Union wrote.¬†

Union adds:

“But I believe that the film is an opportunity to inform and educate so that these situations cease to occur on college campuses, in dorm rooms, in fraternities, in apartments or anywhere else young people get together to socialize.”

Union signed on to the role two years ago to talk about sexual violence. She writes about her personal experience and the opportunity to “give a voice” to a character who had been largely silenced:

Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.

My compassion for victims of sexual violence is something that I cannot control. It spills out of me like an instinct rather than a choice. It pushes me to speak when I want to run away from the platform. When I am scared. Confused. Ashamed. I remember this part of myself and must reach out to anyone who will listen¬†‚ÄĒ other survivors, or even potential perpetrators.

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have experienced rape in their lifetime. RAINN reports that younger people are at the highest risk of sexual violence, adding that every two minutes a person in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. 

Laverne Cox¬†lauded¬†Union’s powerful essay which opened up the dialogue about consent and sexual violence and ending rape culture:

More reactions from Twitter:

 

Dada’s Massive Stamp Collection and USPS’ First-Ever Diwali Forever Stamp

My grandfather¬†was an avid stamp collector. He’d cringe every time my younger brother and I would go anywhere near his massive stamp collection. We were told not to remove stamps from their original condition or leave any fingerprints behind. For years,¬†dada dedicated his time making sure his stamps were in pristine, laminated condition.¬†He kept an updated list of all of the major holidays, science discoveries, and prominent figures from history.

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A stamp commemorating the passing of the “Quit India” resolution by the All-India Congress Committee on August 8, 1942.

In addition to his massive international stamp collection, he boasted a pretty awesome collection of U.S. Postal Service stamps (everything from the 1998 Lunar New Year Series, Alfred Hitchcock, arctic animals, Looney Tunes, to the 1994 Winter Olympics). Dada also meticulously calculated the cost of all of the stamps he collected on an annual basis.

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On his birthday, he’d ask for stamps in exchange for presents or cake. We¬†fondly knew him as the “dada with the massive stamp collection.” I can’t count the number of times he’d rearrange and alphabetize the stamps he collected from places I had never been to. My curious eyes would always divert to the filing cabinet where he placed all of his precious belongings, including his stash of photo albums and newspaper clippings from the ’70s.

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Dada’s collection of commemorative stamps from India.

He must have collected well over 100,000 stamps during his lifetime — from commemorative postage stamps of East Africa to Gandhi’s “1942 Quit India” movement.¬†Every stamp would be a history lesson from dada.¬†He knew details of each¬†stamp’s issue date and the story behind each person, object, or design featured on the stamp.

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Snail mail was his preferred mode of communication, and almost all of the USPS staffers in Rosemead, California, knew my dada.¬†He’d look forward to sending letters to friends and family and letting the USPS work their magic. Every trip to the postal service would involve a¬†purchase of freshly minted commemorative stamps that he would cherish and pass down to his grandchildren and their grandchildren.

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Lunar New Year, Year of the Dog.

On August 23, 2016,¬†the U.S. Postal Service officially announced that it would commemorate the festival of Diwali in the form of its new Forever stamp on October 5, 2016 — the first Hindu stamp of its kind. The stamp features a clay diya placed alongside colorful rose petals. I’m sure my dada would have been so thrilled to hear this announcement on his birthday month.

Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” marks the start of the Hindu New Year.¬†This year’s Diwali celebration falls on October 30, 2016.¬†The celebration signals the triumph of goodness over evil and the willingness to receive the power of goodness, health, and prosperity.

The Diwali Forever stamp is¬†USPS’ “first stamp honoring the Hindu religion,” according to the Washington Post. Some of the most recent¬†Forever Stamps include “Eid Greetings,” which was issued earlier this summer, along with other religious celebrations and holidays.¬†

This moment is for you dada, and the many stamp enthusiasts who have waited for this electrifying moment. (P.S. Happy early 84th Birthday. Remembering you, always). I will be sure to buy a Diwali Forever stamp in your memory.

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x moni

Khizr and Ghazala Khan Respond to Trump’s Inflammatory Comments

Khizr Khan penned an emotional tribute to his son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died serving his country in 2004. Watch the full speech from the Democratic National Convention below:

As American Muslims,¬†Khizr Khan said like many other immigrants, they came to America with the hope he and his wife Ghazala Khan could raise their sons “in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.” Khizr Khan’s middle son Humayun sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers and defend his country, he addressed.

In 2015, Republican presidential candidate Trump officially announced a proposed ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. under his presidency. 

The defining moment of¬†the convention was when Khizr Khan asked Trump, “Have you even read the United States Constitution?” Khan and his wife were greeted with thunderous applause. Khizr Khan proceeded to then take out his pocket book Constitution, waving it in the air and highlighting the basic tenets of democracy.¬†“I will gladly lend you a copy,” Khizr Khan said with confidence (possibly the most desi uncle moment that seriously brought us to¬†tears). After Khan’s powerful speech, people took to Google to search information about voter registration.¬†

Trump took to criticize Khizr Khan’s wife, Ghazala Khan, telling ABC News,¬†“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

Khizr Khan’s wife Ghazala Khan responded to Trump’s condescending and inflammatory remarks today in a column for the Washington Post. She¬†recalls the last conversation she had with her son and the constant reminders of her loss which have paralyzed her family and countless others.

“I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun. For all these years, I haven‚Äôt been able to clean the closet where his things are ‚ÄĒ I had to ask my daughter-in-law to do it. Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

She mentioned in an interview with ABC News that she remained silent when she went on stage with her husband at the DNC because she was in pain. Her silence, in many ways, speaks volumes of her courage. She is a grieving mother who, 12 years after the passing of her son, still cannot look at pictures of her son or talk about what happened because it is too painful. For Trump not to understand that is beyond insulting.

xmoni