School Officials Tried to Stop Her From Talking About Sexual Assault. She Wouldn’t be Silenced.

This week’s Recharge profiles people who stood up for truth, love, and even for strangers.

Lulabel Seitz after her microphone was shut off.Erik Castro/The Press Democrat/AP

No, Lulabel Seitz would not shut up. The first in her family to graduate high school, the Petaluma, Calif., senior wouldn’t let school administrators stop her from publicly talking about sexual assault at school.

“Let her speak!” her classmates shouted when her mic was cut, four minutes into her speech.

The high school principal defended the muzzling, telling the Press Democrat, “We were trying to make sure our graduation ceremony was appropriate and beautiful.” But school officials declined to comment on the assault allegations, citing student privacy issues.

Seitz quickly turned to YouTube to get her message out. “Learning on a campus in which some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault and silence their victims—we didn’t let that drag us down,” Seitz, who is headed to Stanford, said in her uncensored speech, which has now racked up hundreds of thousands of views. “We may be a new generation, but we are not too young to speak up, to dream, and to create change.” (Press Democrat)

Hi, David Beard here, and this week in Recharge, I’m profiling people who stood up for truth, love—and even for strangers. Recharge is a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. You can sign up at the bottom of the story. 

  • Tiana Smalls saw something. And she said something. A passenger on a Nevada-bound Greyhound bus said she thwarted a US Border Patrol search by shouting that the search was illegal and alerting other passengers. In a Facebook post last Thursday that has exploded online, Tiana Smalls said the bus was nearing the California-Nevada state line when the driver announced they would be boarded by Border Patrol agents who would ask for “documentation.” Smalls said she realized this was illegal and amounted to racial profiling—Border Patrol agents aren’t allowed to conduct searches unless they’re within 100 miles of an international border. She wrote that when the agents boarded, she stood up and said loudly: “I’m not driving this bus, so you have NO RIGHT to ask me for anything! And the rest of you guys don’t have to show them anything, either!” She used Google Translate to convey the message to Spanish-speaking passengers. Smalls said the agents looked “exasperated”—but departed the bus without doing the checks. Selma and A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay praised Smalls’ effort. “Sometimes the right thing to do is to ‘act a whole donkey,’” DuVernay tweeted, echoing the phrase Smalls used. “Brava.” (NewsOne)
  • Abused as a teen at her church, Emily Joy launched the #ChurchToo movement. It started with a text. Last November, Emily Joy, 27, asked her close friends if she should out the church leader who she says abused her. “Probably, huh?” she concluded. Her story has sparked a #MeToo moment within the evangelical community. Hundreds of people have since shared their stories, bringing attention to abuse that has often been swept under the rug. The hashtag helped others know they weren’t alone, writes Becca Andrews for Mother Jones, and has even prompted several pastors to step down. “A reckoning,” writes Andrews, “has been a long time coming.” (Mother Jones)
  • This couple’s house burned down. They moved on. Now they have the last laugh. “The Jackie Robinson of Marriage.” Janice and Charles Tyler hear that about them from a neighbor. It’s kind of a joke, and a tribute, too. Fifty years ago, the Tylers bucked convention. Janice, a white woman, and Charles, a black man, got married during a tumultuous time in American history—in the weeks between the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, when interracial marriages were still uncommon. Try as they might, it wasn’t easy for the Tylers to live at peace with their neighbors back then. And one likely burned their house down. They were young. They moved on. Through the years, the two have cycled through meaningful careers and watched their four kids turn out to be a social worker, a teacher, a public defender, and a nurse. And nowadays, their walks through their Southern California neighborhood are pretty uneventful. “They’ve been through a lot in 50 years, but have overcome it all with positivity, humor, and a deep mutual respect for each other,” reporter Colleen Shalby tells me. Shalby wrote about the Tylers for the Los Angeles Times. “I walked away feeling uplifted,” she says. (Los Angeles Times)
  • One more thing: How we #LiveThroughThis. The unexpected deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week prompted an outpouring of stories from people who were helped by friends—and often strangers—as they were riven with loss. One person shared a story about being too depressed to get to work one day, and after telling his boss, he was invited to a Shabbat dinner. A woman grieving a recent death wrote about how her friends took her to the airport and the flight attendants took turns sitting with her in the back row. In each case, when a person needed it most, someone took the time to help. (Mother Jones)

Have a Recharge story of your own or a suggestion on how to make this column better? Send a link or a note to me at recharge@motherjones.com. Have a great week ahead and make sure to sign up for the newsletter below.