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Archive for the ‘Issues to discuss’ Category

Wearing a Veil with Yazidi Women Survivors of Slavery

As a survivor of sexual trauma and someone who lives with complex PTSD every day, I have dedicated my work as an artist to speaking up for and empowering those whose lives have been hijacked by trauma.

Right now, there are thousands of Yazidi girls and women enslaved by ISIS.  The New York Times reports that “the Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority. As yet, there has been no widespread campaign aimed at enslaving women from other religious minorities” (ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape).  Nadia Murad, who survived and escaped enslavement, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.


A Danish friend of mine is currently working with Yazidi refugees in Germany.  She told me that, although their religion does not typically involve wearing a head covering, these women have started wearing veils to show that, after being victims of mass rape by ISIS, they are dead inside.  They only keep living so they can be there for their families and for each other.

This is something that resonates with me so strongly that I have to stand with these women.

Tonight I will be playing at Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem, and I will be wearing a veil to support the Yazidi women who are currently enslaved, and those who now have the long journey of recovery.  From 9-10 EST, you can come to see the show in NYC, or watch a live stream for free.

Please help to share the stories of these women by sharing the linked news articles, and by visiting  You can also follow @nadiamuradbasee on Twitter and search hashtag #Yazidi to retweet petitions and other calls for help.

Social Media is NOT Destroying our Relationships

I’ve heard a lot of backlash lately about social media and how it is destroying our society and our relationships.  In this business article the author addresses four areas where social media has negative effects: productivity, privacy, cyber-bullying, and a false sense of connection.  I’m not going to comment here on productivity or privacy – I’m specifically going to address personal relationships and how they are affected by social media.

In my life, the positive impacts of social media far outweigh the negatives.

First, we move a lot.  My husband and I lived most of our adult life so far in Europe.  I went to school in Colorado, and most of my family is on the East Coast.  My friends from high school moved all over the world.  Because of social media, I’ve been able to continue relationships with people I care about.  Some people have their friends in family all in one geographic location, but for me, I would never have been able to maintain my relationships with family and friends without social media.  In vastly different time zones, it’s not always feasible to call each other every day or fly to see someone.  If I have to choose between a virtual relationship with someone and none at all, I will of course choose the virtual one.

Second, social media helps to connect people with similar ideas.  I might have met someone only once, and then we become friends on Facebook.  I might not have known, for example, that this person also cares about animal rights.  As we share ideas on comment on each others’ posts, I learn a lot more about them and what they care about.  In a larger sense, this helps activists organize in a way that was never possible before.  We’re no longer just lonely individuals wishing something would change – there’s a forum for intelligent discussion of issues and a platform for organizing and taking action.

Most importantly to me, I think one issue that’s largely overlooked in this debate is that social media only seems like a deterrent to social life if you’re someone who already makes friends easily.  For me, as a teenager who had grown up being sexually abused and isolated, I felt extremely alone.  I spent most of my time alone in my room after school, and much of the time I was suicidal and engaging in self-destructive behaviors.  Without the internet to connect me to other people like me, I felt like I was completely alone in the world.  Now I am part of a network of abuse survivors online who can share their stories and support each other.  For people who are shy, dealing with difficult circumstances, or just feel like they’re different from the people around them and always the “weird one,” social media provides a way to connect with people all around the world who will support and accept them.

The big question is this: Is face to face interaction really all it’s cracked up to be?

When we are surrounded by a group of people, are we really our true selves?  Is this how we find people who truly can connect with us at a deep level?  I personally don’t think so.  Imagine being at a party, or being in class at school, or at your job.  We feel so pressured in that situation to fit in, not say anything weird, not bear our souls to anyone, that the likelihood of finding the people you could connect with at a deep level seems a lot smaller.  I’ve definitely met people at a crowded party or event, but didn’t really find out who they were as people until we connected on Facebook or Twitter.

Are we able to really be ourselves in an actual social situation?

When I was in high school, I bet a lot of kids looked at me as a pretty, talented girl who smiled a lot – no one realized how hard I was working to cover up my home life and my depression.   A little anonymity and a little distance may give us the courage to truly say what we mean and be ourselves – and finding other people like us only strengthens that.

Just like with any technology, people will be resistant to it.  Even if people may be uncomfortable with it, I think we just have to get used to way our relationships are changing.  For me, I’m so thankful to be alive at this time, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

~Sing Truth to Power~

Noelle Picara

Monsanto, Genetically Modified Foods and the Greed Effect


There are currently two pieces of legislation that will affect our health and nutrition: 1) In November California will vote on a state-wide law to label GMO (genetically modified) foods and 2) The current “Farm Bill” in Congress that allows the USDA to go against court rulings to approve pesticides and GMO foods that the court has ruled unsafe.

So why should I care?

Let’s back up.  I’ll share with you some information I got from The Institute for Responsible Technology.

Why were genetically modified foods introduced in the first place?  To feed the world, right?  So that everyone would have enough food, otherwise, many people would starve.  Right?  Okay, here’s the chain of events.

  1. Monsanto holds the patent on the pesticide Round Up.
  2. Monsanto developed genetically modified foods that would be resistant to Round Up so they could continue selling this pesticide.
  3. They sell these GMO seeds to farmers, who then have to buy Round Up to protect their crops.
  4. Any farmers not using the GMO seeds and Round Up are bought out or forced out of business.
  5. When they find out that farmers are saving the seeds from year to year, Monsanto gets upset because they’re not making money from selling more seeds.
  6. Monsanto creates genetically modified seeds that will not reproduce so that farmers have to buy new seeds every year.

Basically, Monsanto, the largest multinational agricultural company, has pushed genetically modified foods in order to sell more of their pesticide and to sell more seeds.  Yes, simply to make more money.

Who the hell is Monsanto?

If you’re not familiar with Monsanto, you probably should be, because much of what you’re eating is affected by their practices.  You can go to the website Millions Against Monsanto or read this article in Vanity Fair which reports that former Monsanto executives now hold positions of power in the USDA, FDA, the EPA, and the Supreme Court.  This means that Monsanto has a huge influence over our food safety and environmental policies.  At this point, 70% of food in supermarkets contains genetically modified ingredients.

But GMO foods are safe, right? They’re approved by the FDA and the USDA!

As I’ve already pointed out, the people in the FDA and the USDA who approved GMO foods are past and/or current employees of Monsanto.  And as we’ve also already established, Monsanto’s priority is to make money off of selling Round Up and selling their patented seeds.

Some information about the effects of GMO foods (from the Institute for Responsible Technology):

  • GMO seeds sprayed with Round Up are designed to destroy the intestines of insects who eat the plants.
  • In studies done in Europe (where GMO foods are illegal in almost every country, by the way), humans who ate these GMO foods developed similar problems with their intestines.
  • GMO seeds are designed to not reproduce, and this same genetic difference affects humans’ reproductive systems.
  • In doctors’ trials within the U.S., removing GMO foods from patients’ diets relieved most intestinal problems and disorders of the immune system.
  • Tests on human cells show that GMO foods cause cell destruction from the inside out.
  • Contrary to statements made by the FDA that all destructive properties of GMOs are eliminated in digestion, clinical trials have shown these toxins (that cause human cell destruction) were present in the blood of an overwhelming percentage of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.

So, where are we going with all of this?

There is a lot of anti-capitalist sentiment going around these days in the 99% and the Occupy movement.  Can you really blame people for being against capitalism in this environment?  People are out of work, sick, paying ridiculous amounts of money for medical care, all because of one thing.  And I don’t think it’s capitalism that’s the problem.

Greed is the problem, pure and simple.  The greed of banking corporations, the greed of insurance companies, and yes, the greed of Monsanto, who is on the verge of contaminating our food sources without regulation.

So how do we deal with such a large problem – isn’t human greed part of our nature?

When I was living in Germany for the past 7 years, there was a huge difference in the way they handle personal relations, business, and government.  Social responsibility is a priority over personal gain.  This starts at a personal level, with each person in his or her neighborhood making decisions based on how it will affect their neighbors, environment, and community.  For example, no one washes their cars in the street in Germany, because the soap will run off into the water system.  People go out every day and clean up the street, even as it extends past their house.  This extends to the way people run their businesses and the expectations of their government.

We need to educate U.S. citizens, from the time they are children, to make social responsibility a priority. In everything we do, we need to think about how it will affect others.  This is a mindset centered on compassion, community, and forward-thinking.  We are thinking about more than ME and WHAT I WANT RIGHT NOW.  Self-centered thinking is what makes the individual people at Monsanto feel like their own profits are more important than the health and well-being of millions of people.

What can I do right now?  Is there anything to protect the health of myself and my loved ones?


  1. STOP THE FARM BILL.  This is time sensitive.  Go here now to put pressure on senators and members of congress.  If enough people call a representative with the same issue, they will support you.  They want to be re-elected.
  2. Money talks.  If only 5% of consumers stopped buying GMOs, they would cease to be profitable.  See the Institute for Responsible Technology’s website for a non-GMO shopping guide and sign up for their newsletter to get involved in a “Click and Send Revolution.”  Education is always the first answer.
  3. In order to stop buying GMOs, we need them to be labeled.  Monsanto knows that if we labeled GMOs, 53% of people would not buy them.  Support California’s labeling bill to help this legislation spread to more states.

What about that big question of unchecked greed? That’s clearly leading us to a bleak future.

If you’d like to hear my thoughts about this, you can check out my song More, More, More, which is about this issue.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we could address this.  Please comment!

~~~Sing Truth to Power~~~

Noelle Picara

KONY 2012 – “Bearing Witness” in the 21st Century


I was really blown away by the power of the KONY 2012 video; it was extremely emotional and empowering to feel like I could do something to help stop a war criminal. I’m excited, as many of us are, about the future power of a populace that can “bear witness” by the millions to send a message to criminals that they will be held accountable. I keep thinking about the Michael Franti lyric “and to those who torture – we’re comin’ for ya.”

This link to Forbes has several great articles that give more information about the complexity of the situation in Uganda that are really worth reading. I was wondering why people were criticizing this movement; I kind of thought they were just nay-sayers, but now I’m seeing that there is a lot more involved in this situation.

It comes back to the old adage, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

As privileged Americans, we don’t always understand what is going to be helpful in another country where the situation is much different. I will always remember my outrage when we were told in Egypt that we were going to visit a “carpet school,” where children made carpets. I sat there fuming as we drove through the streets lined with small mud huts, emaciated animals, and begging children. I then began to realize that although wealthy Americans are outraged at the idea of children working, in this situation, these children felt lucky to have those jobs. The money they made at that carpet school was the difference between life and death for their families.

It’s too easy to say that we can feel good about ourselves for saving the world in 30 minutes of watching a video and a few mouse clicks. That comes from an inherent feeling of culturally superiority, that we are somehow “better” than the Ugandans, that we know what’s best for them, and that we as superior Americans can save them and then congratulate ourselves. All of that is too simple.

If we really care about the Ugandans, then we will all take the time to really see them, hear them, educate ourselves about their entire situation, involve them in this discussion, and then help as we can. Maybe the people at Invisible Children have done this, and maybe they have the right idea about how to help. Or maybe not?

I am very excited to see how this affects the future of activism and so glad to be living in this time. As always, I hold tight to the belief that PEACE is POSSIBLE.

Sing Truth to Power,

Noelle Picara

Planet of the Apes? Primate Testing and Google

After watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes this afternoon (which was great, by the way), the first thing I said when coming out of the theater was, “Isn’t medical testing on primates illegal?”  Rise of the Planet of the Apes focuses on the premise that an Alzheimer’s drug is tested on chimps, which increases brain functions and ends up making the chimps super smart – even smarter than humans.

So, back to my question.  I saw Project X as a kid; we’ve all realized already that testing on primates is unethical and we’ve stopped, right?

Well, some countries in Europe have made it illegal.  But the U.S. is the country that by far uses the most non-human primates in (no surprise here) medical testing.  If you’d like to sign a petition against primate testing you can go here to The Real Planet of the Apes.

What does Google have to do with it?

My concern is that when I tried to find this information, the “sponsored” pages that showed up at the top of the page were all medical research companies that supply chimpanzees for testing!  The only information I could find with petitions or organizations to stop chimpanzee testing were in Europe.  The only information I could find AGAINST primate testing were European websites.

Remember that most people don’t do the extra work to refine search options, or look at the second page of results.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist; I believe people do things for their own interests.  Pharmaceutical companies can pay, just like BP did, to control what results pop up for searches on animal testing, to try to prevent people from getting accurate information and working to stop this practice.

I’m going to remember this from now on while searching the internet – it’s not just a random and objective search you’re doing.  Ah, the freedom of information in our modern age!

Debt Ceiling – “No matter who wins, we lose”

I heard on NPR last week that some of the republicans in Congress are intentionally hoping that the U.S. will default on its debts so they can blame the problem on President Obama.  Fox News says that the president cares more about getting re-elected than he does about the debt.

Why are we in this problem in the first place?  Does anyone remember in 2008, when the democrats and republicans all got together and made passionate speeches about saving America’s main street, so that they could pass the bailout, which instead gave billions of dollars to people who are already billionaires?

There is no difference between the parties – they can certainly agree on making the rich richer.  Democrats and Republicans are only arguing right now to see who will get the most money and power out of this.

Believe me, it won’t be any of us.  The only real divide is not between Democrat and Republican, but between the rich and the poor.  The people who are supposed to serve us are only serving their own greed – no matter which party they say they belong to.

So which side are you on?

Read the Real News, not the Osama Hype

This all just seems a little too convenient for me.  Usually when a big news story like this is receiving all of the attention, I’m wondering 1) What else in the news are we distracted from right now? and 2) What’s the real story?

Here, I will give you a little synopsis of the news stories I was researching while everyone was having their parade for Osama’s death.

  • September 11, 2001 – Osama bin Laden responsible for WTC bombings
  • 2001 – U.S. invades Afghanistan and starts looking for Osama bin Laden
  • 2002 – U.S. oil company Unocal starts plans on the Afghanistan oil and gas pipeline (which, by the way, sends oil to Asia and not the U.S., and only helps this oil company make a lot of money)
  • 2003 – U.S. invades Iraq (Saddam Hussein’s supposed ties to Osama Bin Laden were later found to be unsupported)
  • 2005 – Iraqi constitution written with guarantees for foreign oil companies (U.S. threatens to withdraw military support if this clause is not included)
  • 2010 – BP awarded 500 million dollars in oil contracts in Iraq
  • January, 2011 – Obama promises to begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July
  • March, 2011 – U.S. invades Libya, with the largest oil reserves in Africa, without a congressional vote or an exit strategy
  • May, 2011 – Osama Bin Laden is finally found and killed after 10 years WHILE the U.S. accidentally kills civilians in Libya and Omar Gadhafi’s supporters attack the U.S. embassy in Libya
  • 2014 – Proposed final troop withdrawal date AND proposed completion date for Afghan oil pipeline

You can draw your own conclusions, but these are the facts in the larger picture.  Please check out @noellepicara for links to my sources.