Morning and Mourning

First, I want to say that I stand with the peaceful protesters.

Second, I condemn rioting, looting and vandalism.

Third, I value our police, first responders and law enforcement.

Finally, there is no place for racism in law enforcement. Equal justice under the law mandates equitable enforcement of the law.

I awoke at 5:57 AM today, a little less than 30 minutes after last night’s curfew in Los Angeles lifted. I had grown used to helicopters circling at the nearby park like clockwork at 11:30 PM each night. I admit that hearing the helicopters made me nervous. The noise pollution was my nightly reminder that COVID-19 was still out there, lurking, being transmitted by those not practicing social distancing. Last night, it was the helicopters hovering at 10 PM that got to me. Those were not patrolling the park. They were patrolling against the rioting and looting taking place. I have a friend who’s a citizen of another country and doing business in California. She’s currently living in Beverly Hills. I made it a point to check on her.

Photo by Edgar Colomba on Pexels.com

Before bed last night, I promised my mother I’d be in touch as soon as I woke up. It’s a quiet morning as I sip my coffee. However, the news is disquieting. Hundreds were arrested yesterday. Businesses in neighborhoods I love were destroyed, already crippled by the pandemic. Those yearning for justice who were peacefully and lawfully protesting, were overshadowed by opportunistic anarchists.

“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan. Last night, all many people heard and saw was the rioting and the looting, not the well-justified despair behind the protests. Protest is a legally protected form of communication. Looting and rioting are not. So many will write this off as “an urban problem”, a “race issue”–and put the news into convenient thought-oubliettes of their own making. They’ll write this off as one “incident” among many, not questioning or thinking about the systems and systemic injustices that cause and foment this type of behavior.

It’s hard in the face of such devastation to maintain nuanced thinking patterns. Right now, many Americans are tuned in or tuned out. Many are stuck in the familiar us-versus-them mentalities or “not my problem”. This morning, I read another unsettling article. Rural America has not reached the apex of it’s COVID-19 fight. Being a “small town girl” living in a city devastated by riots and looting, my heart hurts today.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We love to think in terms of conflict. We are taught that narrative is conflict–man versus man, man versus society, man versus self, man versus nature. One of the biggest issues we have is that we don’t agree what the “conflicts” are. It’s more than right-and-wrong and black-and-white. The type of problems we face are not solved by caped, masked heroes and feel-good soundbites.

We are habituated to think in terms of conflict. What if we started from a place of consensus? Instead of focusing on what we don’t agree on, can we clarify what we do?

Let’s start here:

Can we agree that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” regardless of skin color?

Can we agree that public health threats affect all of us, directly or indirectly, rural or urban, young or old, well or not?

What can we agree on? In times of disagreement, we tear down. In times of agreement, we can build. We’re at the point where we need to re-build. A society divided against itself cannot stand. We need to stand up for each other now. If you haven’t done anything lately to heal race relations, take some time and do so today. I donated to the NAACP.

A little extra effort goes a long way. Yes, we’re social distancing. Yes, we’re wearing masks. Thank you. Please take a moment and do something for our health heroes and public health today. I choose to report my symptoms and social distancing to How We Feel app. Find something that’s do-able for you.

Please do something, even if it’s just listening, without judgement or prejudice, to someone’s pain, whether that person has been affected by racism or COVID-19 or both. We must take the time and make the effort to heal each other. The cures are better than the social and medical ills that affect us.

Land of the Free?

“land of the free and the home of the brave…”

aspire posterAm I brave enough?  I ask myself this question constantly.  Am I taking the path of least resistance because it’s more convenient?  I see and hear from so many angsty people daily, in person, on my social feeds.  And sometimes, I’ve taken the primrose path of least resistance or sat on the sidelines or decided to be above the fray.

This week, I started questioning what would have happened if George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders had taken the path of least resistance.  Would I be here today, enjoying (for now) my freedom of speech and freedom of the press which enables me to have a Hollywood livelihood?

I was saddened by the shootings at the Capital Gazette, but it’s not enough to be saddened.  It’s not enough to have prayers and thoughts.  Almost everyone has thoughts.  It’s what you do with those thoughts that count.  What brave action have you undertaken lately?

For me, it’s been delving into an aspect of film making I know little about:  documentary.  I am currently producing and narrating “George Hobbs:  Stick Figure Wisdom“, about Los Angeles artist George Hobbs who uses his free speech to make art that pushes back against the powers that be.

There’s a swath of people in this country who are decidedly anti-journalist and anti-media, which is why those of us in fields that depend on freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of information must continue to offer the truth, whether it’s heard and appreciated or not.

This Fourth of July weekend, enjoy the fireworks, but make some fireworks of your own in your own life in a metaphorical sense.  Make a big bold statement.  Make a declaration.  Speak your truth AND act on your truth.

Happy Fourth!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.  Nearly 17.7 million women in the US have been the victims of rape or attempted rape since 1998.  Every 98 secs, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

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Please take a moment and listen to this excerpt from last week’s What Women Want Radio broadcast on LA Talk Radio with authors and playwrights Veronica Loving and Jazzmine Jackson.

Their memoir of surviving sexual assault by a family member, “Feeding a Monster“,  is now a stage play at the Hudson Theater.  Click here for more info.

Tell the FCC to Maintain Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality concerns all of us.  Actor friend Carl Bressler just gave me the scoop on Facebook on how to petition the FCC to keep the net neutral.

Here’s how to do it, courtesy of Carl:

1. On your computer, not your phone! – go to: www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express
2. Enter under Proceeding the numbers 17-108.
3. In comments, say you support Title 2 oversight of ISPs. Also say that you support net neutrality.

*Fill in the form carefully; they’ve made it less friendly and impossible to fill in by phone, on purpose. 

Here was what I wrote to the FCC:

 I support Title 2 oversight of ISPs. I support net neutrality. Like the printing press of the 1400s, the internet fundamentally democratized the way we communicate, make it easier for everyone to have a voice–not just leaders or the wealthy. Any attempt to de-neutralize the internet is deeply damaging to our freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly and no “free market” consideration should ever infringe on our freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

So many of us actors and other creatives are now really in the business of content creation, just as much as we are in the entertainment biz or the movie biz.  The neutral net has created immense opportunities for us to showcase our talents and a net that is not neutral will limit what audiences we can reach.  It is important for every creative to fight for net neutrality.

Please do this today!

Walk with Me

In March, I received a call I was never prepared to receive.

Earlier this month, I received a similar call.

Both times, my mother called to inform me that someone I knew had committed suicide.

At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the realities of these situations.  I’ve dealt with deaths.  There’s an ineffability of the aftermath of a suicide.  No words can fully contain it.  I am the type of person that always feels better when I DO something, which is why I am walking in the Out of Darkness Walk in Pasadena on November 4.

Please help me to vanquish the darkness of suicide by raising funds and awareness.

Pumping Up the Cash for Animals

Los Angeles is a tremendous city, but in terms of animal welfare, it is still not a no-kill city.  Animal euthenization did hit a three year low in 2015, according to city statistics, but LA still kills 14,000 animals a year in its shelters, which even city officials admit is too high.  As the mother of two feral cats that I tamed off the mean streets of the City of Angels, I am very concerned about the welfare of our city’s animals, which is why I went to Lisa Vanderpump’s Pump Restaurant last night to pump up some cash for the amazing St. Martin’s Animal Rescue.  

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Kristin West on the red carpet to support St. Martin’s Animal Rescue.  Photo courtesy of Bob Delgadillo.

St. Martin’s is unique in its mission and focus.  Check out their inspiring Mission Statement:

Our focus this year is to create an innovative, self-sustainable, solar powered haven in Southern California. This exciting new eco sanctuary and learning center will welcome families to enjoy free and enriching activities. This will expand the minds of our youth in a positive way and give them a sense of community and the importance of their involvement in our precious world.

I really like that. Animal welfare and our planetary, ecological welfare are deeply intertwined and it’s exciting to see St. Martin’s come up with innovative solutions to address both.  I also like their emphasis on education.  Our children are our future and Founder Sky Valencia’s commitment to education is evident when you meet with her and discuss the issues she is so impassioned about.

Check out this short interview with Sky at the opening of What Women Want Talk Radio Show last week.  I can’t wait to have Sky back on the show!

If you are interested in learning more about St. Martin’s click here and you can also donate here.

Take Action to Alleviate Hunger

I saw this petition on Change.org today and I had to sign it.

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Photo courtesy of Change.Org

One in five Americans go hungry and one reason that happens is because of waste.  There is no one culprit, though this petition specifically asks Albertson’s to take action.  It’s an attitude adjustment that we need to make toward “ugly produce”.  Food is food–whether it’s picture perfect or not.

It’s time to embrace the ugly produce so we can eradicate the ugly reality of hunger in our nation.  It’s time to embrace the ugly realities, so that we don’t place blame, but take action.