Advocating for Yourself: Making that Mental Health Crisis Call - First in a Series by Brigid Hokana

This past year, 2017 into early 2018, was one of the most difficult of my life. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury after a work-related incident, and this experience, opened me up to a world I hadn’t known before, the world of mental health treatment.

I have since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in January 2018.

This is my story of making a call that saved my life.

February 2017

Doctor’s office, the room’s lights were too bright, headache, stomach ache. Lemon bleach from the office’s cleaner.

“You were hit by a child?” The doctor smiled and cocked her eyebrow. “He must have been a big child, I guess…How old do you teach again?”

“Five and six year olds,” I said, the paper overlay on the semi-plush bench crumpled in my hands. “I was slammed against a steel framed door about six to eight times. I lost count.”

She swirled her rolling chair closer to her laptop. “Oh, okay.” She side-eyed me, then looked at her laptop monitor, typed a couple of things. “Now I’ll perform a couple of tests.” She shone a light into my eyes, and stopped, the side-eye back. “Your eyes are really dilated, you haven’t been smoking weed, have you?”

No. I was not high. My head injury had only been a couple of weeks before. I blinked a couple of times, immediately thinking: was this my fault?

I defaulted to how I handled moments like this: joking. “I heard when your eyes are dilated it can mean you’re in love, too.” I chuckled, then held the back of my head against the now everpresent pain.

She didn’t laugh. “But you don’t smoke or drink, correct?” She shone the light in my eyes again.

“No.” That light. The back of my head ached even more intensely than before. “Can you stop that, please? It hurts.”

She narrowed her eyes, “I recommend seeing a neurologist.”

She handed me a business card. “We’ll give you more information on the way out.”

March 2017

The neurologist said as she looked over her clipboard. “Yep, you definitely have symptoms of someone who has a Traumatic Brain Injury.”

I fiddled my sweaty fingers, hoping she’d help me understand what was happening to me. “I feel dizzy. Most days I can’t see straight. Or the fact that I don’t want to get out of bed most mornings.” I said.

She nodded, but that was the end of our visit. “I’ll prescribe you this medication, and we’ll see if your situation has improved. Until then, I will see you in August.”

August 2017

I missed that appointment because family members said I looked like I had improved since March. I was better, right?

September 2017-November 2017

I’m better, right? Like a broken arm, or a bout of flu, it eventually just heals, and goes away...Right? This sadness, this anxiety, it goes away, right?

November through December 2017

I wasn’t better. Vertigo, headaches, anxiety that increased with every day. A series of panic attacks that left me useless, drained. I talked with some people about the anxiety. But the other things I didn’t talk about, to anyone.

Thoughts of ending the pain, ending the hurt.

January 12, 2018

Someone who cares about me, though, noticed. “Go back to the doctor--now,” she said.

I did. This time I told my primary care physician everything, about the vertigo, about the escalating anxiety, about the sorrow that grew darker and deeper every day. I couldn’t work. I tried, stayed in my job, even though I was drowning.

The doctor said turned her chair away from me to peer at her laptop. “There’s not much else I can do,” she said over her shoulder.

“This is just to get out of your contract, correct?” she asked. “It would probably be better from a psychiatrist; we’ll print a list for you before you leave here today.”

“But the headaches haven’t gone away--they’re getting worse, and I’ve had two panic attacks this week--” My chest felt like it was being crushed in a vice, and my throat burned with tears.

“I will give you some anti-anxiety medication, maybe that will help.” Her fingers pattered over the keyboard. “Here, I will give you a note for one week, that should be enough time for you to find a psychiatrist who will fill out this doctor’s note for you and identify you. Now for the rest of your examination.”

I cried a little bit, wiped up the tears.

She smiled, an efficient smile, then said, “Just think happy thoughts.” she said. Then she added, “And pray..” With that, she walked out of the room. I cried. This wasn’t about just needing to get out of my job.

I wanted help. I needed help.

Later in my apartment, I clenched my chest, and I cried, “I don’t know- I don’t know-I don’t know.”

I called a mentor. She lives in a town more than an hour away, but she heard me. I knew she heard me, because the next link she sent me was a psychiatric clinic, “It is a walk-in, there’s no guarantee they can see you,” she said. “ Call them, then call me right back.”

I left them a voice message asking for an appointment. I called her back, crying, gasping, “I couldn’t reach anyone.” My heart beat like a hammer clashed against my ribs; my breath slowed and quickened, deepened and shallowed. I felt like I would throw up.

“Okay, I’ve got one more link,” my mentor said. “But I want you to read this one carefully. I think this one will give you help, but I want you to understand what will happen if you call. Call me back once you’ve looked at it,” she said.

I clicked open the link she had sent. The title read Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. It read: “Crisis Intervention” with white lettering and a red background. I dialed the number..

A black haze covered my view. I spoke with a person, I couldn’t say anything except “Help,” then “I need help” and then finally, I gave them my address and phone number.

I tumbled inside myself, drowning in feelings. Shame: maybe I shouldn’t have asked for help. Fear: maybe I should have considered pills again or the car or-

I called my mentor back, “I did it.”

“I’m scared,” I told her. The tears were different now. ”I don’t know what they’re going to do when--when they get here. Are they going to handcuff me? My mom told me about a teenage girl they handcuffed to get her to go to the emergency room.” I stared at my front entrance, waiting for a swat team to kick down my door. Or maybe a nurse with a stretcher.

Oh my god, everyone is going to know I am crazy. People are going to think I am insane.

I felt pretty crazy. Panic burned up through me.

“No, no, sweetheart,” she said. “They are going to take you to the emergency room, then they’re going to do a psych eval. After that.sweetie, you will probably admitted. You understand?” she asked.

I nodded, then said, “Okay, I am going to hang up and wait for them.”

When the first responders arrived--no swat team--they were attentive and gentle, answering my questions, and taking me, I realize now, to the very place I most needed to be.

I want to make clear that this is an account of just my personal experience, and I am aware that the experience of others may vary. But I feel it’s too important to not share my experience, to maybe help someone understand what can happen when you call for help in a mental health crisis.

When you make the call, this is what will happen:

  1. The person on the other line will ask your emergency. They will ask if you think you are a danger to yourself or others. If you say you are in Crisis or an Emergency, they are required by law to help.

  2. Police Officers will show up to your door. They are just acting as first responders, people to wait with you.

  3. An Ambulance comes next, and they ask you a series of questions about your physical condition.

  4. Upon arrival, a nurse, a doctor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist will ask more questions about your mental/emotional condition.

  5. The psychiatrist will ask if you had any suicidal ideation and how. Answer honestly.

  6. You will possibly be admitted, but they will give you the care you really need.

This is my account with the mental health care system and while it was a good experience, if someone else doesn’t have as good an experience, then you do not need to give up. Keep asking for help until someone hears you. There is no shame in asking for help.

If you have or have had thoughts of suicide, know that you can advocate for yourself.

If you need help in making that call, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help.

If you live in the Richmond area, call their Crisis Prevention Hotline: 804-819-4100

If you are advocating for someone else’s life, don’t be afraid to look over the step-by-steps from NAMI. You can find those here. 

Click here for more information on advocates for Mental Health and Virginia NAMI

Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

 

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Brigid Hokana lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. She is an ABA Therapist for Building Blocks and a MFA student at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She wants to pursue a career as a Teaching Artist and Webcomic Artist. Brigid loves being a part of Writing for Peace and cannot wait to see this organization grow.

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Conversation vs. Retaliation: Passion, Advocacy, and ‘Fairness’ by Joel Worford

We live in an age where it’s difficult to lobby for restraint, and in many respects, this is a good thing.

Last weekend’s March For Our Lives serves as an excellent example of the beautiful showing of humanity that can come as a result of some groups’ (in this case, young students’), uninhibited exhibition of passion in working towards a goal. It was the students’ and marchers’ uncompromising position towards what they believed in that made last weekend’s event so powerful.

The March For Our Lives campaign shows one of the many positives that strong, peaceful resistance to compromise can result in.

In other words, passion is not the enemy. One can be passionate and have a respectful conversation with someone who holds an opposing view. Passion is necessary for change—without passion, nobody would show up to get things done.

Passion is the difference between one and one million.

There is no change without the presence of strong-willed, bold individuals who refuse to compromise, and so—join together in lobbying for their beliefs. Passion, advocacy, and outspokenness are qualities we should celebrate in this time where listening to and learning about the opinions of others is essential in building a better society. Passion is not to be stifled.

What we need to come to distinguish, however, is passion, advocacy and frankness from meanness, superiority, and revenge.

Regardless of how it may seem, there is no universal moral high ground. Believing that one’s opinion is the “right belief” is no justification for telling someone that their view is completely invalid and that they are stupid for believing it. The reality is that oftentimes when we seek change, we don’t know for certain that the result will be better; we just hope it will be. While this may be a bleak view, it is useful in discussing the dialogue on today’s controversial events, which often seem polarizing, antagonistic, and useless.

Social media is a blessing and a curse when it comes to progressive movements. On the one hand, social media provides a voice to those individuals who, otherwise, might go unheard. However, social media also becomes somewhat of an opinion cesspool—a place where everyone and anyone can express themselves anyway they want, and have an audience.

Expression is great, but the way one goes about expressing oneself can sometimes do more harm than good. Starting conversations is the best way to make progress on controversial issues, but it’s difficult to reach a level of understanding with someone when the discourse started with disrespect or condescension.

People often justify inflammatory and instigating social media posts with oppressed group’s past hardships. Lines that go something like, “How could you ask [oppressed group or individual speaking on their behalf] to be calm after all they’ve been through? How is that fair?”

Calmness isn’t so much what we’re asking for, but let’s be honest—when has anything been fair for these groups, and why do we choose to believe that there’s a necessity for fairness now that there’s actually a chance to change things? There is a time for anger, and there is a time for expressing those negative feelings, but taking them out on others is conducive to nothing but more hatred.

This might sound idealistic, and it might be disappointing, but the reality is that showing compassion and patience towards someone different than you is the best way to get them to listen.

Now is not the time for anger and retaliation. With society listening to oppressed groups and asking “How can we change for the better?” now is not the time to spit in the face of those engaging in conversation for the sake of avenging past mistreatment.

Is the anger justified? Perhaps, but regardless, accepting the aggressive, rude, and harmful acts of those who’ve been oppressed because they’ve been oppressed sets a nasty precedent. Granting this kind of invincibility ends up placing individuals in a sort of competition to see who’s been the most oppressed—a sort of battle for superiority and power based on past hardships. We need to treat aggression based on past mistreatment with understanding, but not acceptance.

The idea that oppressed groups need to restrain their anger to move society further away from the hatred that causes their anger is unfair. However, as earlier stated, the situation has never been fair for these groups, and when it comes to making sacrifices, the right to retaliate must be one of them.

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Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia, and a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Who We Are & Why We Care: WFP Member Profile: Courtney Rose

Hi! My name is Courtney Rose and I am an aspiring wedding planner and flash writer from Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

As an only child growing up in a single-parent household, I have always been curious about the concept of family—what it means for me, as well as for others, and for humanity in general (For example: For me, the idea of family is inherently female.). This led me to pursue a career in marriage where I have the opportunity to start two people off on the right foot through their wedding, most people’s idea of the traditional start of a “family.”

Family dynamics tend to be prominent in my writing. I have always been a very observant person, and, as a child, I noticed how different my friends’ home lives were from mine—sometimes better, sometimes much, much worse. I became hyper aware of divorce, abuse, hunger, and homelessness. My writing is an extension of that hyper-awareness: how family is defined, and how the idea of family survives (or doesn’t) in suffering.

I am involved in Writing for Peace because words have the power to open eyes and hearts. Too often we use words to divide us, but I believe that a far better purpose for our words is to connect us. Peaceful activism is so important in our society, perhaps now more than ever. Not everyone has money or time to donate to a cause, but everyone has a voice.

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Must Read! Thirteen Types of Activism by Roland O. Watson

THIRTEEN TYPES OF ACTIVISM

"The following are the standard types or methods of modern activism:

1. Volunteer: Volunteer on your own or with interested groups to assist disadvantaged and underprivileged people, and threatened species and habitats. In an international context, volunteer to work in refugee camps, at local schools and medical care clinics, or for some other NGO (non-governmental organization). There is a huge network of volunteer organizations around the world, and once you are part of it, once you start volunteering, it is easy to find new and fascinating opportunities.

2. Grassroots activism: Found or join community, student or other groups and then engage in “tabling,” where you set up a table at some social event and hand out literature and talk about your cause. In addition, such events are often supplemented with, or designed around, activist speakers and performances and exhibitions by activist artists.

The objective of grassroots activism is to increase the publicity of, and most importantly the support for, your cause. You particularly want to engage the interest and if possible the involvement of members of the different groups that are being negatively affected. Your goal is to organize them, to pull them out of their complacency and defeatism, and to assist them in their opposition.

For activism to be effective, we must organize large-scale movements to express discontent and to demand change, movements of such a size that they cannot be ignored. But to do this, we will have to find ways to unify the disparate sources of rebellion that exist, including environmentalists, workers, students, ethnic and indigenous rights activists, religious groups, and even the disaffected individuals who listen to gangsta rap and hard core rock. Further, we must solicit the concern of those individuals who one day will suffer the most, if we are unable to solve our problems: schoolchildren. (They must be recruited as well, to help protect the world they are destined to inherit.)

Activists also must recognize that only one thing, historically, has led to large-scale rebellion: the deaths of a great number of people. Rebellion has never been instigated by the destruction of nature (although the taking of land has been a contributing factor in some popular movements). This is a reflection of human chauvinism, that we only get upset when bad things happen to us. For example, this is one of the reasons why the debate over genetic engineering is finally starting to gain some prominence: it involves a threat to people. (The history of the twentieth century included a number of significant victories against government repression, but far fewer against environmental destruction.)

Lastly, there is the problem that activism is usually reactive. We assume, because we are ethical, that other people are as well; that they have a conscience and are not wholly dominated by personal selfishness. Then, when they demonstrate that they are so dominated, we have to react.

To be effective we must build large-scale movements, and we must anticipate this: we must be proactive, and unpredictable....."

Read the Rest of This Important List Here

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Good Read! "Why we need to move empathy from personal emotion to collective moral concern" by Roman Krznaric (from Aeon)

from Aeon

"Empathy comes in two distinct forms: affective empathy is our instinct for mirroring the emotions of others, while cognitive empathy is our conscious ability to understand someone else’s perspective.

In this installment of Aeon In Sight, the British writer Roman Krznaric argues that empathy is a uniquely powerful – if often overlooked – tool for transforming and improving societies on a mass scale. Using it effectively, however, requires much more than affective empathy’s rush of emotions and reflexive reactions, to which the culture today seems particularly inclined.

Rather, to get the most out of empathy, we must focus on widening our moral concern through cognitive empathy, finding ways to move from the personal to the collective....."

Read The Rest Here

AMAZING RESOURCE FOR EDUCATORS: "Starting at the Margins: An Invitation to Writing Our Civic Futures" (from Educator Innovator)

"We invite educators to a year of social reading, collaborative web annotation, and public conversation that explores our civic imaginations and literacy landscapes. As civic engagement changes and evolves, Writing Our Civic Futures will discuss and consider implications for connected learning and teaching...

In this collaboration, we partner with—and draw texts from—a range of educators, youth, scholars, media makers and journalists to think about the landscape of civic engagement and education while imagining ways that we can engage ourselves and our students as writers and makers of our civic futures. This project leverages the web annotation platform Hypothes.is, adding multiple voices to critical conversations about equity and education...."

How it works:

  • Writing Our Civic Futures will kick off the first week of October 2017 and runs through May 2018. See the Writing Our Civic Futures Syllabus for details!
  • The first week of each month a new reading will be posted on the syllabus as a live annotatable link for sharing and social annotation.
  • Related events happening that month will also be announced. CLTV broadcasts will be aired at educatorinnovator.org; follow @innovates_ed and #marginalsyllabus (on Twitter) to keep abreast of these opportunities.
  • We encourage your participation in the week-long annotation of each text, though readings will remain online throughout for annotation and discussion.
  • We encourage you to use these readings and the opportunity to annotate however it best works for you—organize a study group, bring a class you are teaching, engage as an individual, connect it to a meeting....."

Explore This Amazing Resource Here

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EVENT: "After the March RVA: Activism Convening" Hosted by Richmond Peace Education Center, Feb 24, 2018

Details from the Richmond Peace Education Center Facebook Page

After the March: Activism Convening Free & Open to the Public

What is it?

Timed approximately one year after the Trump inauguration, the After the March RVA Activism Convening is an effort by the Richmond Peace Education Center to bring together those that are and want to participate in work aimed at achieving equality. The convening will feature workshops, community conversations, and movement building/networking time. The registration below holds more information about the workshops and conversations.

When is it? And Where?

Saturday, February 24th, 2018 at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Ave) from 12pm to 5:30pm.

It is free and open to the public. However, we are asking you to please register.

Who is it for?

Everyone! Anyone who is (or has) been doing work to better the community and those who are looking to get involved in creating change have a place here.

What will I get out of this?

We hope that you leave After the March with a new or deepened network of folks to work in movement with and with new or deepened "real life" skills. In addition, some of the workshops at After the March will continue to be offered by the Peace Center throughout 2018. The intention behind After the March is to be engaged in the long-term, so this is not a one & done convening.

Childcare and Transportation Assistance Also Available

Read More Details Here

or Have other questions? Email our advocacy coordinator, Jelani at jelani@rpec.org

 

About the Richmond Peace Education Center

The Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC) works to build just, inclusive and nonviolent communities through education and action.

 

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GOOD READ: Your Turn: 4 Things You Can Do to Honor Martin Luther King in 2018 by Carlos Galindo-Elvira (from The Arizona Republic via ADL)

(From ADL--This article originally appeared in The Arizona Republic)

"As we head toward another day of remembering Dr. King, his own words are most suited for the moment: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.”

4 tangible things you can do

"King's work is far from over. Here are things to do in 2018:

1. Work in a bipartisan effort with state legislators to codify a standalone criminal provision for hate crimes. The law should be more inclusive and comprehensive, covering hate crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability......

2. Support a clean Dream Act – one that gives “dreamers” a path to citizenshipwithout other stipulations attached, such as border-wall funding. It's a moral imperative.....

3. Ask Congress to support the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act.....

4. Shrink the space for extremists to grow and thrive......"

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Learn more about the Anti-Defamation League Here

 

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GOOD READ: "10 Ways Youth Can Engage in Activism" from the ADL's Anti-Bias Education Resources

Never underestimate how powerful you are, how crucial your role in creating change, how integral your beautiful spirits to making the world better for everyone.

from the ADL's Anti-Bias Education Resources:

"Our country has a long history of youth-led movements that brought about significant social change. Young people have advocated for child labor laws, voting rights, civil rights, school desegregation, immigration reform and LGBT rights. Through their actions, the world has changed. Because young people often have the desire, energy and idealism to do something about the injustice they see in the world, they are powerful agents for change....

1. Educate others

2. Advocate for legislation

3. Run for office

4. Demonstrate

5. Create a public awareness campaign that includes social media

6. Do a survey about the issue and share the results

7. Raise money

8. Write a letter to a company

9. Engage in community service

10. Get the press involved

READ DETAILS & MORE IDEAS HERE

 

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In the New Year, Let's Listen to Each Other: Principles and Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue

"A compendium of concise and handy resources provides insight into the interfaith movement and its treasure chest of wisdom and learning opportunities. The collection explores the goals, types and stages of dialogue and touches on issues such as interfaith etiquette, listening, peace-building, hospitality, respectful presence and dialogue-versus-debate. These principles and guidelines are useful for those who are new to interfaith as well as for veterans of interfaith work."

Dialogue Principles

Dr. Leonard Swidler is a highly respected American scholar in the field of interfaith dialogue. Dr. Swidler has published this set of ten inter-religious principles which have become a classic.  Below please find this “dialogue decalogue. 

FIRST PRINCIPLE

The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn; that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.

SECOND PRINCIPLE

Inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be a two-sided project within each religious or ideological community and between religious or ideological communities.

THIRD PRINCIPLE

Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity.

FOURTH PRINCIPLE

In inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner’s practice, but rather our ideals with our partner’s ideals, our practice with our partner’s practice.

FIFTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant must define himself… Conversely, the interpreted must be able to recognize herself in the interpretation.

SIXTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant must come to the dialogue with no hard-ançl-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreement are.

SEVENTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can take place only between equals… Both must come to learn from each other.

EIGHTH PRINCIPLE

Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust.

NINTH PRINCIPLE

Persons entering into inter-religious, inter-ideological dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.

TENTH PRINCIPLE

Each participant eventually must attempt to experience the partner’s religion or ideology ‘from within’; for a religion or ideology is not merely something of the head, but also of the spirit, heart, and ‘whole being,’ individual and communal.

Website of Dr. Swidler’s Dialogue Institute in Philadelphia, USA:  http://dialogueinstitute.org/

 

More from Scarborough Missions on Interfaith Interaction Here

 

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Start a Writing for Peace Chapter Where You Are!

How to Start a Writing For Peace Chapter

We are so excited and honored to have communities across the country who are committed to promoting empathy and peace through creative writing. Peace takes on many different meanings, be it food and water access, affordable housing, gender equality, anti-racism, and much more. Peace should be global, but it does not have to take on a singular definition to be attainable. In order to show how varied these meanings of peace can be, we are introducing regional Writing For Peace chapters to showcase how different communities from all over the country dedicate themselves to peace, and how creative writing and education serve as tools for peace and activism at large.

Regional Writing For Peace Chapters will allow for community members to determine the most pressing issues at hand within those regions, to have access to the creative outlet that communicates those issues, and then via multiple forms of communication, drawing on the skills of writer-members, to share those regional issues with a larger community that fosters and speaks on solidarity. We want to provide awareness, foster education, and commit ourselves to peaceful action...."

More Details at Writing For Peace National

 

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"Liberty cannot exist if the most equalizing force in history is behind pay walls."-Stephen Ownby

Figting to Protect Net Neutrality

The FCC just voted to gut net neutrality rules, letting Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast control what we can see and do online with new fees, throttling, and censorship. But we can still get Congress to stop this—by passing a "Resolution of Disapproval" to overturn the FCC vote. 

This Resolution of Disapproval is possible under the Congressional Review Act, a law that empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation. 

Activists have been hard at work for months trying to prevent this rollback of the Net Neutrality Rules, but today, the five person committee, led by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, voted along party lines, 3-2, to overturn the protections and access put in place in 2015. 

What is Net Neutrality & Why Does It Matter?

One of the best resources for fighting this sellout of our freedom of access, information, and expression, can be found at https://www.battleforthenet.com/

They explain: 

"Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast & Verizon should not control what we see and do online. In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The rules prohibit Internet providers from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—"fast lanes" for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else."

Visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/

for quick and easy ways to let your voice be heard by your elected officials. 

Demand that Congress #ProtectNetNeutrality now!

 

 

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