The Wind River Candidate

Lynnette Grey Bull: A voice Congress needs.

By Jessica Berg

On Tuesday, a primary election for the sole congressional seat in Wyoming will take place. The current seat is held by Republican Liz Cheney who does face a primary challenger in her party, but the more interesting primary race comes on the Democratic ticket which includes candidate Lynnette Grey Bull.

In early July, Lynnette Grey Bull announced her run for congress. She is a Hunkpapa Lakota of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Northern Arapaho from the Wind River Indian Reservation. If elected, she would be the first Native American Representative from Wyoming.

Image from Lynnette Grey Bull for Congress Facebook Page

With many heated primaries and races happening across the nation, I will admit that Wyoming wasn’t exactly on my radar until I had the chance to hear Ms. Grey Bull speak as a part of Loudoun County NOW’s speaker series (editorial disclosure, I am Vice President of Loudoun County NOW).

President of LC NOW, Barb Jones, met Lynnette at the Rose Bowl Parade in January, back before everyone was under quarantine, and immediately recognized something in Lynnette Grey Bull. Barb knew she had to reach out and introduce Lynnette to the rest of us here in Virginia because we, too, would be inspired by this candidate.

And here is what I want you to know about her, about this woman, about Lynnette Grey Bull: she is a voice. A voice that is needed, not just in Congress, but in the conversations that are taking place in America.

Think about it, she is running a race in Wyoming, yet she took the time out of her schedule to talk to grassroots organizers in Virginia. It isn’t because we are her constituents and she is vying for our vote. No. It is because the issues she cares about, the issues that affect her as a woman, a Native Woman, and a citizen of a reservation and of this nation, are issues that are being silenced and ignored.

From the Instagram of Barb Jones

“The statistics that hang over my head are these: I am among the most stalked, raped, murdered, sexually assaulted, and abused of any women in any ethnic group, and I am among those who suffer domestic violence 50 times higher than the national average. I share this reality with you not to elicit guilt or unease, but so that you will realize that I understand what this moment in America is. For some 400 years, people of color in this country have been crying, ‘I can’t breathe,” Lynnette Grey Bull stated in her announcement speech. She continuously reiterates these points again and again because for far too long people have not been paying attention.

Lynnette Grey Bull’s platform has been her passion throughout her life. While working to eradicate human trafficking, Lynnette ‘noticed there was no organization focused on Native American victims,’ so she started Not Our Native Daughters. The organization was ‘created for the education and awareness of the missing, exploited, murdered Indigenous Women & Children.’

Senator Elizabeth Warren is a strong supporter of MMIW legislation

“I have a personal passion working with the Native American communities, on education, training and offering victim services of sexual assault… I have served the women’s unit as counselor in the mentorship program, to which continued upon their release – most of which – were victims of sex trafficking by various forms. Furthermore, surviving and overcoming the many obstacles of being a sexual assault victim myself – I have a personal passion for victims,” she states on her LinkedIn page.

“What good is our sovereignty, if there is no justice? We must return to the truth that our women and children are sacred.” 

Lynnette Grey Bull

Grey Bull also serves as Vice President of the Global Indigenous Council that states it’s founding premise to recognize, ‘that, in the current political climate, it is imperative that an indigenous advocacy organization exists that is free from federal political influence, and will instead hold federal government cabinet secretaries, agency secretaries, members of congress and corresponding parliamentary members accountable for their actions and policies…’

In her platform, Lynnette states, “The COVID-19 crisis has drawn into stark focus the systemic failure of federal policy and administration in Indian Country and glaringly exposed what indigenous people have known for generations… Indian Country needs a functional infrastructure! Every aspect of vital infrastructure is lacking in Indian Country and we must change this with bold initiatives, not more of the same incremental failures.”

From the Facebook page of Lynnette Grey Bull for Congress

Listening to Lynette Grey Bull speak, reading up on her bio and work, and understanding that her candidacy is not about ‘politics as usual’, rather it is about a need for a voice in a position to make Native Women a priority in America, I wish I could vote for her.

Her candidacy is about an invisible epidemic that far too many of us are at best ignorant of, and at worst have outright ignored. Her candidacy is an eye-opening check on the status quo who have been complacent about the quality of life for all women in this country. Her candidacy is one of truth and justice. Her candidacy is what Wyoming needs and what this country needs.

On her website, Lynnette Grey Bull states, “I seek this nomination to represent the Democratic Party not as a candidate for Native America, but as a proud Native American who aspires to give voice and serve all the people of Wyoming.”

Wyoming gets one congressional seat; I want to see Lynnette Grey Bull fill it, for the citizens of Wyoming, and for the Native Women and Daughters who are owed a voice.

For voting information in Wyoming, visit: https://www.vote411.org/wyoming

For voting information in your state, visit: https://votesaveamerica.com/

To the Friends who Stayed Silent

A letter from a young activist.

Introduction from the Editor:

I was introduced to Henri Somadjagbi, a recent graduate from Clayton High School in North Carolina, when he joined Allies for Black Voices to discuss his massive social media platform and his use of it to ‘take action and do his part,’ for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Seeing the power of the next generation and their ability to organize, vocalize, and make a difference was moving, as a high school teacher and an activist. One of the most poignant moments was when Henri was asked if he lost friendships because of his more recent vocal activism.

Image from the Instagram of @jberg33

He responded, “Actually, yeah…a lot.”

He continued to explain that his anger arose from friends and classmates who partook in the products of Black culture, from music, to style, and slang, “Yet when we need you, you don’t want to speak up.”

“I spoke, and so much happened. I lit that match.”

Henri Somadjagbi

Under the surface of Henri’s measured response, you could sense the frustration and sadness, but also the very mature resolve in understanding that some friendships don’t withstand true tests of this magnitude.

When he created a post, directed to those silent friends, he received responses and comments asking him if he was going to let something like this ‘ruin our friendship.’ His reply:

“Yes. You are supposed to be my friend… You have to see my color…that’s what this whole fight is about. This is something that is a threat to my life. You have a voice too, you make a big difference.”

In that moment, from the voice of a young 18-year-old, wisdom and insight into the reality of relationships and the fight for equality in this country became sharply clarified. If you do not speak up and stand as an ally, it is your loss, not Henri’s.

From the Instagram of Henri @henrisomad

Below is a letter I asked Henri to write for the site, unedited:

To the friends that stayed silent,

When the black lives matter movement began, I immediately decided to take action &’ do my part. I consistently shared everything and anything I could on all my social media platforms to inform my supporters, friends &’ family.

As I got farther into my activism, I realised many of my non-coloured friends weren’t speaking about what’s going on, and it left me very upset and disappointed. I made a statement saying “if you aren’t speaking about what’s going on &’ you’re non-coloured… I don’t want you apart of my life anymore” Everyone has the right to say &’ do what they believe in, you have the right to be silent if you choose to… but I equally have the right to defriend you if you’re quiet.

Some of the same people who were asking me questions such as “would you be mad if I said the N-word” &’ get upset with me when I say yes are now saying “I don’t see color” or statements that are viewed negatively towards black lives… others just didn’t care enough to reach out to me and say anything, or stay silent.

I felt hurt &’ betrayed. Some of my friends that I’ve had for two years now… relationships ended. On top of that I know many of them use the n-word in the dark where no one can hear them, but in the light when black lives matter you can’t scream “black lives matter”?

Having “friends” who love black culture, using black slang, &’ having me as a black friend &’ then being silent when MY life is at risk…is one of the most significant moments of betrayal I’ve ever felt. 

Henri

And, as Henri said, you have a voice and a platform. What are you doing with it? Are you standing on the right side of history?

Follow Henri:

  • Tiktok: @Henriidanger
  • Instagram: @henrisomad
  • Twitter: @Henriidanger

Check out the full Allies for Black Voices discussion:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiM3ESiX9Ek

And Visit the ‘Pick up the Battle’ Page on the side menu of the site to see where you can become an ally.

4 Students, 1 Summer Mission

I think it’s important to use the privilege and power that comes with my white skin to uplift those who our country has failed time and time again.

The Origin of Allies for Black Voices

By Grace Crangle

My name is Grace Crangle, I’m 19 years old, and I have lived most of my life in Northern Virginia. Once I graduated high school though, I decided that I wanted to see more of the world than just Virginia. I am currently a rising sophomore at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

I am majoring and Communication Studies and minoring in Film Studies in order to hopefully pursue a career in social media and/or the film industry. I’ve always had a passion for creating content that is not only important to me, but that is also important to others, and I hope to one day change the world!

I’ve always been very passionate about social justice issues like feminism and racial justice, but now that I’m a young adult, and with the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve realized that there is more than I can (and should) do than just post on social media about it. Two of my best friends, Roma Sharma and Nikita Sajai, felt the exact same way.

This was much easier said than done, however. Because we are in the midst of a pandemic, and we realized that not everyone was able to go out to protest, canvas, march, or attend events with a large crowd. Roma, Nikita, and I wanted to figure out a safe alternative to support the Black community while keeping ourselves and others safe.

We found that while we, as non-Black individuals, want to speak UP for the Black community, it is equally as important to not speak OVER.

The three of us decided to join forces with another mutual friend, Pooja Tanjore, and she got us connected with the Loudoun County National Organization for Women (NOW http://loudouncountynow.org).

Before we knew it, we were on a Zoom call with NOW members and figured out our plan: we were going to host weekly Zoom sessions led by members of the Black community in order to provide their voices with a platform and encourage our community to listen and learn how to be the best allies possible. We found that while we, as non-Black individuals, want to speak UP for the Black community, it is equally as important to not speak OVER. By providing a platform for these voices who are too often silenced, Allies for Black Voices was born.

As of now, July 18th, 2020, we are almost in week five of our sessions. I have put everything into creating our Instagram account, making the flyers each week, advertising the sessions accordingly, and recording and uploading the sessions onto our YouTube channel. I’m not going to lie; Allies for Black Voices has put a lot on my plate. With that though, has come one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

First Allies session with the captivating George Lee (https://georgeleespeaks.com/).

For the first time, I feel as though what I am doing is REALLY making a difference. It has been an incredible opportunity to make these connections and to meet so many inspiring Black leaders, business owners, social media influencers, and fellow activists. I think this kind of experience is so necessary, especially for myself as a white person, because of the privilege that comes with the color of my skin. If I really wanted to, I could just delete social media and never have to think about the Black Lives Matter movement ever again – simply because it doesn’t impact my daily life.

I think it’s important to use the privilege and power that comes with my white skin to uplift those who our country has failed time and time again.

My white skin is a shield from the racism, discrimination, and violence that Black people have to experience every day, simply because of the color of THEIR skin. For this reason, I think it’s important to use the privilege and power that comes with my white skin to uplift those who our country has failed time and time again.

Going forward, I’m not really sure where this project will take me. While our series is planned for the rest of the summer, we’re not quite sure what will happen to Allies for Black Voices in the fall and beyond. I would love to keep this going in some way, shape, or form, and I know that the rest of the team agrees. Personally, whether it’s with Allies for Black Voices or not, I want to continue to advocate for social justice.

I’ve considered politics, activism, and everything in between- all I know is that I want to help people. I want to live for more than just myself. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Become an Ally and join this Thursday’s session at 4 p.m.
And continue to keep up with Allies for Black Voices: