What It Means to Me

April 15, 2012

Yesterday was the third annual National Youth Rights Day. A few days ago, I tasked some of my fellow NYRAnians with sharing, in whatever way, why they supported youth rights. Perhaps a little hypocritical on my part, as I not only didn’t share my own but wasn’t even sure how to answer my own question for myself!

But then I realized. Yes, I do!

Youth rights has been such a major part of my life over the past several years that it’s hard to even pinpoint any single sources of inspiration anymore. And even before I found NYRA, there were many little things here and there, the recognition that people thought little of me during my teen years and before, and, of course, my 8th grade English teacher saying “There’s no such thing as a typical teenager.”

But there is an underlying motivation, and it’s a simple one.

In short… I know this is right.

And I know it works.

I’ve met youth who were raised in whatever way in less oppressive conditions than average. In 2006, Alex and I were tabling at a conference and next to us was a table for Albany Free School, and with an adult or two from the school was a group of ten-year-old students from there. These kids? They were actually pretty mature and socially competent. They saw our NYRA table and were happy that we existed and related their frustrations at an Albany mall that had a youth curfew (Fuck you, Crossgates!) and they bought a bunch of our buttons. I don’t remember many more details than that about them, but I recall being pleasantly amazed at these ten-year-olds, the product of a non-oppressive school and probably non-oppressive families (if they had parents cool enough to send them to the non-oppressive school). It was nice to be reminded all the info flyers in front of me on my own NYRA table weren’t just spouting nice-sounding ideas that had little basis in reality, but were encouraging real changes to the way young people are thought of and treated, encouraging freedom and respect, and here were comfortable, competent, dignified kids at the table beside us, having grown up with that respect, as living proof of it.

Unschoolers, too! Whether it’s that teen rebellion isn’t necessarily a thing or just the continual accounts of unschooling families of the quality of life of unschooled youth as compared to traditional school students (yeah, I know there’s a “consider the source” factor here), the comparison between the unschooled youth who are generally more included and their choices respected as opposed to the voiceless traditional students who are coerced and dictated to at every turn.
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Fearless 2011

December 31, 2011

And… here we are! 2011 has run its course. Let’s review!

January: Unapologetically Fierce

-Nothing like a 7-year-old’s birthday party at a sports bar!
-Missed New Year’s Eve skiing but I’ll get up there some evening.
-Liberty’s restaurant says anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
-Uh oh! Big snowfall at afternoon rush hour on untreated roads!
-Three hours to go ten miles.
-Come on, car! Don’t get stuck. Doing great…
-Okay, now it’s stuck… just outside my house. Okay, COULD be a lot worse!
-Dinner invite! How nice!

February: A Reclaimed Minuet

-Superbowl Sunday! To Brookside. To climbing gym. To get fried chicken. To bake cookies. And, well, watch the game!
-Hey, lots of free sheet music for classical music online. Public domain!
-Uh oh! Lots of changes and of course fighting over NYRA’s website redesign.
-Yay! #16tovote on the 16th is a year old!
-Helping out in NYRA office on weirdly warm day. And burrito with Dave from weird burrito truck guy.
-WES Auction! I won a big urn!
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#16tovote on the 16th – Typical

December 16, 2011


12:00am, the 16th: Introductory “yay it’s #16tovote on the 16th!” tweet along with link to Top 10 Reasons to Lower the Voting Age

12:02am: tweets some basic voting age point to get things started

12:10am: trying to think of another voting age tweet, comes up with crap

12:15am: finally just tweets link to recent voting age news article, if one’s available

12:30am: facepalms at Max’s “#16tovote or I’ll chop off your dick and shove it down your throat” tweet

1:00am: manages to tweet some good stuff, perhaps a couple tweets and/or retweets from regulars

1:30am: can’t come up with anything else for night but stays up late with it for some reason

2:00am: finally tweets link to NYRA voting age page or something from the downloads section, to get people through night

2:30am: goes to bed, ready to get up and get to work nice and early to resume
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You Thought Otherwise?

December 15, 2011

I’ll never understand how there are corporal punishment supporters in NYRA. It’s something that shocked the hell out of me loooong ago when I was new on the forums and found there was anyone in the organization justifying the practice! I mean, in a youth rights context, it should be a no-brainer. One of the most basic aspects of supporting someone’s rights is supporting their right to not be assaulted for supposed “misbehavior”.

Got a reminder of it yesterday when an anti-corporal punishment article was posted to NYRA’s Facebook page. Seriously, click through that and check out all the comments.

Some people are all “WTF? I thought NYRA was only against corporal punishment in schools?!”


Do they really think our opposition to corporal punishment is about WHO is hitting the kids rather than, you know, the idea of them being hit at all? Or, in general, did they not catch that we’re a “youth rights” organization?

Hell, in 2009, when our opposition to school paddling was added to our Education position paper, someone at the annual meeting out and asked me “this is just for schools, right? so if I had kids, I could still smack them?” I gave him a dirty look that made him recoil a bit and answered plainly “just for schools” and my look that seemed to add “but go fuck yourself”. I mentioned this to Alex later, since that guy was a friend of his, but Alex insisted the guy was joking. Eh, maybe.

While the words “youth rights” can make people think all kinds of different things, many of which way off what we do, you’d think freedom from assault that’s called “discipline” would be obvious. I wonder if these same people join or follow an LGBT org and are surprised they are for same-sex marriage. I wonder if they join or follow an animal rights org and are surprised they are against fur.

NYRA Holiday Cards – Fun Facts!

December 13, 2011

Today I’ve officially completed the sending of the 6th Annual NYRA Holiday Cards! Yay! Last year I sent 570 cards but this year it was back down to 480. No really reason except by the time I went to order more the price had been raised. Oh, well.

It’s teal with snowflakes and some pink gifts on either side of the Annual Meeting picture.

Like 2009, Alex was nowhere to be found with helping with recipients. Though maybe that’s not totally true, as what helped me the most this year was not only some he provided last year but the last two years’ Annual Reports, which he put together.

Anyway, having been doing this for six years now, there are some things that have changed and some that stay the same. So enjoy some fun facts!

-There were 90 cards in the first holiday card run in 2006. They were all sent on the same day.

-Daily batches of holiday cards are always a multiple of 30 because that’s how many labels there are on the Avery label sheets I use.

-Cards are sealed using a moist napkin and clear tape. So, don’t worry, my tongue goes nowhere near them!
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Usiel the Occupying NYRAnian

December 3, 2011

Now for a youth rights, occupied edition of…

Here’s to You!!!

So I raise my glass and say, “Here’s to you, Usiel Phoenix!”

She’s the President of NYRA. Jeffrey Nadel’s the Vice President now. I like having the two of them running NYRA as I strongly believe they are our two greatest youth rights activists, though their powers and specialties are in different areas. Jeff’s a pro with the media and public relations and prestige and legal action and that sort of thing. Usi was an emancipated minor who’s had to not only overcome the conditions that led to her seeking it to begin with but the legal hurdles to at long last obtain it. And now that she’s gotten her freedom, she’s dedicated to doing the same for the other youth. She’s experienced more youth rights violations than most and is about attacking the root of the problem and expanding understanding of it.

And that is just what she’s been doing at Occupy Wall Street! Voting age. Behavior mod. You name it. She even stopped a mother from forcing her 15-year-old daughter home from the protests.

And then she was there when NYPD raided Zuccotti Park.

And the cops attacked her. They tried to suffocate her, but succeeded only in cracking a rib. Later they dislocated her elbow when forcing her to the ground.


And she battles on.

She’s alright now. But, damn, she is one of the bravest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

Technically, since one of the main things she’s been doing there is promoting youth rights, she experienced police brutality in the line of duty, so to speak.

Yet due to some weird technicalities her actions were completely left out of NYRA Freedom.

(Good Lord, our own organization is censoring Occupy stuff from its news! LOL)

And this is only the most recent of her wonderful youth rights endeavors. Last year, when we were rallying at the Supreme Court during the oral arguments for Schwarzenegger v EMA (later changed to Brown v EMA, which you may recall we won 7-2), she gave that amazing speech about free speech and voting rights! Not to mention her work leading up to it to find people to share their thoughts on the value of video games for our Amicus Brief. She’s also helped UTEC Lowell with their campaign to lower the Lowell, MA voting age to 17. She testified in DC against the curfew. She gave a presentation at the 2010 Annual Meeting about her emancipation process. And on top of all that, she’s the only board member besides myself who’s a regular at chats, who is interested in what our members have to say. Plus lots of other stuff I’m surely forgetting.

She’s a fierce fighter for the cause. We’re very honored to have her. 🙂

Round 11 Complete!

August 31, 2011

“Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom. July is dressed up and playing her tune.” -Seals and Crofts, Summer Breeze

Now for the eleventh time and ten years exactly after the end of the first, here we are on this lovely…


The final day of this eleventh round of the 100 Days of Summer! A tradition dating back to 2001, finishing a round of each day occurring exactly ten years after the corresponding days of the original run. Began May 24 and ends today. Another summer has come by, and goodness, who’d have thought a round of the 100 Days of Summer that begins with me dancing on a giant piano could be so crazy?

Oh, yeah, I danced on a giant piano! Let’s get into the recap.

Day 1, horribly sleep deprived and feverish with an ill-timed late spring cold, I picked up Kathleen O’Neal in Georgetown and headed to Greenbelt, only to get pulled over by a DC cop for going the wrong way down a one-way street. Gah! Despite delay, got to Greenbelt and caught Bolt Bus and by noon we were in New York City! At long last, I got to Ferrara in Little Italy, where I’d wanted to go the last several times I went to the city but wasn’t able to. Then to a piercing place Kathleen wanted to see, then to the Met, then met Gella! Then to FAO Schwarz where I found the Big Piano and played Ode to Joy with my legs. Hehe. And by 7pm we just barely made the bus back to DC.

Day 2, still feverish. Sitting in a hot car fixes that right up!

Day 3, skipped work and went to NYRA office for annual meeting planning.

Day 5, laaaaate night of hanging out with Kathleen!

Day 6, still hanging out with Kathleen since previous day, saw 3am brawl in Adams Morgan, helped buy groceries at like 6am before finally getting home and sleeping! Also, poorly attended board meeting where some troublesome staffing changes were mentioned. And the summer NYRA drama begins!
Continue reading “Round 11 Complete!”

Final Boss Defeated

June 27, 2011

And by final boss, I mean the Supreme Court has rendered its verdict in Brown v EMA, formerly known as Schwarzenegger v EMA. This was the case where California has been defending its ban of selling M-rated video games to people under 18. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. On November 2, 2010, day of the oral arguments, we NYRAnians rallied in front of the Court in defense of youth rights and free speech. And Usiel gave this amazing speech, of which I totally shot the video! And after that it was just a matter of waiting and seeing…

And today came the verdict at last…

7-2, in favor of EMA. Two dissenters were Stephen Breyer and (surprising absolutely no one) Clarence Thomas.

WE WON!!!!

Check out the official document here!

I’ve been retweeting a lot of remarks and articles today in response to this ruling, so here’s a nice roundup.
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WTF 2010

December 31, 2010

And here we are. New Year’s Eve 2010, looking ahead to the still uncertain 2011. Though more on 2011 a year from now once it has actually occurred. Right now, let’s have a look back at 2010. It’s a year that from the get-go seemed rather, well, odd. Now through it, well, it was odd, certainly annoying much of the time, and certainly without a lot of the awesome encounters previous years had. Though with two heart-breaking losses. In any case, now for the recap!

January: Check Engine

-I think I’ll make guacamole
-Wow, this guacamole is fucking gross. Ack! Is this earwax?!
-Oh, I got the wrong kind of avocados. Okay.
-I need to get NYRA’s blog restarted.
-Ugh, NYRA online community is pissing me off, seriously.
-I’ll try this guacamole again, with the right avocados this time…
-WTF?! Why is my check engine light on?
-Oh, I left the gas cap loose. Lulz
-I think I’ve got an idea for a hashtag Twitter campaign for NYRA.
-Still awkward and uncomfortable? Well, fuck you too then!
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#16tovote on the 16th – Myths and Facts

December 16, 2010

Starting this past February, I’ve been running a little Twitter campaign called #16tovote on the 16th, where we tweet about lowering the voting age throughout the 16th of the month. Today is the eleventh run of the event, which has grown a little since it began, though its success varies month to month, hardly a linear progression.

Anyway, the idea is that there are a lot of tweets on this specific day in support of lowering the voting age, and all tweets must use the hashtag #16tovote. This way, I can watch the search results for the hashtag to see who and what has contributed to the event. Fairly simple. Yet even so, I often find myself having to clarify the same things constantly, to bust some myths that don’t want to be busted. Such as…

Myth: The #16tovote hashtag is for use only on the 16th.

Fact: The #16tovote hashtag is for use whenever, for any tweet about lowering the voting age. The event #16tovote on the 16th of course is special in that it specifically uses the hashtag because of the emphasis on voting age tweeting. Sort of how even though Thanksgiving is about eating turkey, we still eat turkey throughout the rest of the year.
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