News & Announcements

Muxes: The Celebrated Third Gender

Posted: February 05, 2018

“There are women, men, and muxes,” says a non-binary individual from the Mexican town of Juchitan in Ivan Olita’s short documentary. “We have our own muxe identity, which is what defines us.”

The film Muxes explores the indigenous Zapotec culture of Oaxaca, which not only accepts but also celebrates a third category of mixed gender.

Some muxes are men who live as women; others are gender-fluid, with both male and female characteristics. All are viewed as good luck—even a blessing—for Zapotec families.

Generally, muxes are not defined by the mere fact of their predominantly feminine attire, but rather by the social role they occupy. They are accepted in both male-dominated public spheres, such as sports venues and cantinas, and female-dominated arenas, such as the city markets.

“It was incredibly reassuring and heart-opening to see how 100% of the people in Juchitan seem to celebrate the muxes and recognize them as an asset,” Olita told The Atlantic. “They are aware that [muxes] bring something different to the table rather than worrying about their differences.”

Olita learned about the existence of muxes in a Werner Herzog seminar. Determined to tell their story, he traveled to Juchitan with “absolutely no idea of how to track them down.”

“This is the kind of documentary in which the pre-production research is pretty limited,” Olita continued. “You have to physically go to the place that you want to document and start from there.” Once Olita arrived, he connected with a local film director, Michael Matus, who helped produce the film and began introducing Olita to muxes. “We would jump on these little cars and just cross the city up and down,” Olita continued. “I was trying to find personalities that would fit together, and at the same time help the audience to understand the diversity within the community.”

Although Olita encourages viewers of his film to observe the lack of discrimination muxes face in their society, “we cannot assume that whatever brought the muxes to be accepted will allow transgender people to be accepted everywhere,” he said. “We can, however, analyze and be inspired by the outcome of limited stigma.”

Watch the short film and learn more on

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Family Immigration Story Collection

Posted: February 02, 2018

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) is rooted in the dreams of immigrants and inspired by the promise of opportunity.  AAJC advocates for an America in which all Americans can benefit equally from, and contribute to, the American dream.  AAJC's mission is to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.

AAJC is leading a national story collection effort to highlight the importance of family immigration to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities across the country. AAJC wants to put a face on the issue and uplift the community's diverse immigration experiences, how they contribute to our country, and how family members support each other to be successful.

With your permission, stories may be shared on social media, with reporters, or with members of Congress. Members of Congress who advocate for the protection of family immigration sometimes use their time on the floor to share personal stories of people who are impacted by family immigration policies.

Anyone interested in participating in this story collection effort can either fill out this google form or email Bessie Chan-Smitham to schedule a time to talk on the phone.

Learn more about the story collection and Asian Americans Advancing Justice at

NNED Partner of the Month

Posted: February 01, 2018

In order to highlight pockets of excellence across the country the NNED selects an organization to highlight once a month. Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice has been selected as the Partner of the Month for February in celebration of Black History Month.

The Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at the Drexel University School of Public Health (Center) works to promote health, nonviolence and social justice through trauma informed practice, research, professional development, and advocacy for policy change. The Center was founded in 2008 with initial support from the Thomas Scattergood Foundation with the goal to change the conversation about violence away from a criminal justice perspective and toward a trauma-informed public health perspective. The flagship program of the Center is Healing Hurt People, an innovative, trauma informed, hospital based intervention designed to heal the wounds of trauma in young victims of urban violence.

Recognizing that victims of violence too often have symptoms of trauma that go untreated, Healing Hurt People (HHP) offers a hospital-based intervention to address the psychological and physical wounds of trauma. The Center understands that violence takes a toll on people, and we provide support for people as they recover. The Center helps young people and their families heal from trauma, stay safe, and plan the futures they want for themselves. The ultimate goals of the HHP program are to help victims heal from their physical and emotion wounds in order to break the cycle of violence, by connecting them to needed behavioral health, physical health and life skills resources. Knowing that young people in cities face many types of stress beyond interpersonal violence, the Center's goal is to give young people the tools to manage these life stresses while also advocating for positive change.

In addition to Healing Hurt People, the Center is home to other projects, like the Citywide Injury Review Panel, the Community Heath Worker Peer, and SELF Community Conversations. Since 2013, the Citywide Injury Reivew Panel, hosted quarterly by the Center, has reviewed cases of young survivors of violence with the goal of creating a forum for collaboration among systems that serve young victims of violence. The Community Health Worker Peer project (CHWP) is the development of a training and employment program for CHWPs, some of whom will work within the HHP program to support participants in their recovery. The SELF Community Conversations project focuses on supporting outreach to people in the community who are impacted by intentional injury and violence, but are not currently involved with Healing Hurt People.

Learn more about the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice and their projects improving the lives of survivors and breaking the cycle of violence.

View a list of previous NNED Partners of the Month here.

Veteran’s Aren’t Always Getting the Mental Care they Urgently Need

Posted: February 01, 2018

Thomas Burke Jr., a Marine who returned fromtours in Afghanistan and Iraq to attend Yale Divinity School, has also done three tours in the Veterans Health Administration for mental health care and says he's experienced mixed results.

Burke, 28, served in the infantry. He said his first counselor, in 2011, didn't have much experience with combat veterans and wasn't much help. In 2012, he clicked with his second counselor, who "really cared and took time to get to know me and gave me enough of a baseline to productively go through my academics."

Before becoming a minister and providing mental care of his own, he tried to get back into counseling. But it was a "very negative experience," he said.

"I went in, being vulnerable and laying out my problems, and they were dismissive and condescended to me and treated me like I am some victim and were not getting to the bottom of the problem and essentially said 'thanks for telling us,' " Burke said.

"Imagine what damage that can do to veterans who seek help. It's hard for me to badmouth the VA, because there are a lot of good people there who are trying to help and do care about vets, but a lot of people I talk with do badmouth them," Burke said.

Many Americans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars need mental health care, but they aren't always getting enough from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration, according to the results of a congressionally mandated investigation released Wednesday.

About 4 million people have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest sustained US military operations in history. A disproportionate number have come back with mental health challenges like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, research shows. The number of suicides for veterans of these wars has reached a record. The VA has not always been able to handle this crushing need for services.

But when veterans get mental health care from the VA, it is of "comparable or superior quality" to the kinds of care available elsewhere.

According to the new study, nearly half of American veterans who need mental health care don't get it. Also, more than half of those who would benefit from care don't know they need it, the research by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found.

The majority of those who could use these services don't know whether they are eligible, don't know how to get the services and don't even know that the VA provides mental health care, according to the report.

That's "one of the things the report pointed out that I found the most distressing," said Louis Celli, national director of the American Legion's veterans affairs and rehabilitation division, which was not involved in the new report.

Celli said the VA does a "herculean job through social media campaigns and outreach with their partners" to let veterans know about the care it provides. "It's hard to imagine more you could do, short of knocking on everyone's door," but he believes the lack of care is a "failure on the community's part."

One workaround that the American Legion has found successful is enlisting veterans' families to help them get the care they need.

That's what helped Seth Robbins. An Army veteran who was stationed predominantly in Korea, the 40-year-old has gotten his health care through the VA for more than a decade, but he sought help for anxiety only after his wife gave him an ultimatum.

"As soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, we are taught to 'suck it up and drive on.' We heard that on a regular basis, and it gets into your head," Robbins said.

He also hesitated to seek treatment because he had concerns that were shared by veterans in the report.

For instance, Robbins worried that his rifles would be taken away if he talked about his anxiety. "There's also the stigma or the feeling that something is broken and I'm not the normal one or that they'll lock you up," he said. "But I've got a job and a family to support and a house." The VA has helped him "get to a place where I can manage."

Veterans also find the VA's appointment system "burdensome" and "unsatisfying," the report said. Robbins agrees and says he's lucky his father, a Vietnam veteran, showed him how to navigate the system.

He also feels lucky to have a federal job that gives him the freedom to go to appointments that can take hours out of his day. Other veterans said transportation challenges and the distance to the VA from their homes can be a huge obstacle to getting care, according to the report.

For veterans like Robbins who succeed in getting treatment, the report found that they encounter "tremendous mental health care expertise" and that the system can deliver care in a "truly integrated and strategic manner." But the report added that chronic staffing challenges and confusing procedures and policies continue to be a challenge.


Two-thirds of Americans Live in a Border Zone; What are their Rights?

Posted: January 30, 2018

A viral video that appeared to show Customs and Border Protection officers arrest a woman after they boarded a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and asked passengers to show identification, has left many wondering: what are my rights if I'm asked?

In this case, the bus was en route from Orlando to Miami when it made a stop in Fort Lauderdale. That’s when the driver announced there would be a “routine” security check. Two uniformed agents got on the bus and identified themselves as Border Patrol officers, according to Florida Immigrant Coalition, a Miami-based advocacy group.

The detained woman, of Jamaican origin, had an expired tourist visa. She had traveled to Orlando to meet her granddaughter for the first time and is now at a detention center in Pompano Beach.

There has been an outcry from immigration and civil liberties advocates over the rights of individuals in cases like these. Although Border Patrol has broad authority to check people’s identification, there are some things to keep in mind in case you are randomly questioned.

What is considered a border?

When people think of the border, it’s usually the U.S. boundary with Mexico and Canada that comes to mind. But the Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations go into the country and affect the majority of Americans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In fact, Border Patrol agents may search any vessel, aircraft, or vehicle within 100 miles of any border for undocumented immigrants. This was the case last Friday when agents boarded the Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale. Because Florida is a peninsula, the entire state falls within this zone.

“Whereas a police officer would have to have suspicion of a car before pulling it over, Customs and Border Protection officers could board a bus, for example, within that area,” according to Adriana Piñon, policy counsel and senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

According to the ACLU, about two-thirds of the country’s population or about 200 million people live within the 100-mile zone. For example, most of New York state falls within the 100 miles.

Can I decline to show my ID?

Yes. “In these instances, even though CBP might be able to board a bus, an individual always has a right to remain silent. Always,” Piñon stated. So if an officer were to ask you questions on a bus or train, you are always free to say that you are exercising your right to remain silent and decline to answer any questions.

In addition, in the U.S. there is no requirement to carry identification, except in specific circumstances like driving a car.

“So the fact that CBP will ask you to prove your citizenship turns that whole concept on its head. A U.S. citizen doesn’t have to prove he or she is a U.S. citizen while walking around,” Piñon said.

Can I be detained temporarily if I remain silent?

If CBP chooses to detain you then they need to have suspicion that you have committed some sort of crime. “So if it’s based simply, on your refusal to answer questions, that’s completely wrong. It’s unconstitutional,” Piñon said.

She explained that in practice, the person might very well end up with a longer detention. “This is just the way, unfortunately, things might happen in the real world,” she said, adding that “one should feel confident that by remaining silent, it should in no way, raise any suspicion of wrongdoing for any law enforcement officer including CBP.”

What if the person is undocumented?

A person who is in the U.S. without documentation also has the same right to decline to answer questions. Officers cannot use the a person's decision not to answer questions as reason for suspicion of any wrongdoing, including overstaying a visa or unlawful entry.

“Now, an officer may continue to detain the person to try to get them to answer questions. And one should never, ever, ever give false information to a CBP officer or provide false documentation,” Piñon warned.

“In reality, CBP may detain you longer, but there are limits. At a certain point, after CBP detains you without any suspicion, it’s an unconstitutional detention of that person,” according to Piñon.

She said that in practice, it’s an intimidating moment and she emphasized to “never lie to a CBP officer, never give false documents.”

Is there a limit to how long you can be detained?

That is a grey area. It is difficult to determine how many hours become unconstitutional, she said. “That is, right now, a developing area of the law,” Piñon said.

She recommends taking note of everything that is happening, including who the officer is and for how long they have detained you. “If they detain you without any suspicion, at some point, that may become unconstitutional. And that can be challenged afterwards," she said.

Do the same rules apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well?

Any individual when confronted with questions from any law enforcement officer - whether it’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CBP, a sheriff, a state patrol, or your local policeman - always has the right to decline to answer questions and remain silent, according to Piñon.


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