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Poverty Porn

I have been a volunteer to assist after several natural disasters, as well as traveled to 3rd world countries in my life and career. Went to help after the earthquake in Haiti. Left my big cameras home. There really is no need to document disaster, and unless you are a seriously twisted individual – you really don’t want to relive, or even remember the really bad shit you see.

Met a few photographers taking pics for the world media, mostly concentrated around the worst of the worst, some for the NGO’s pleas for money.

My second or third trip did involve bringing cameras to document the “why” of the damage done by the earthquake. So I have hundreds of  pics of structural failures in destroyed buildings and geographical features… And a few dozen of the de rigor pics with politicians and other players. Somewhere there are pics of me with a group of Mayors from a local newspaper. I’m not even sure I still have it. Two or three of the type of portraits I prefer taking of people, providing a still view of character, and perhaps their lives. I have none of post-Katrina.

Then there are the folks who come loaded with cameras to ghoulishly document the carnage… The following author defines that as “Poverty Porn”. I think that is an apt description.

The dangers of poverty porn

It’s the time of year when social media is inundated with posts about the importance of being thankful for family, friends and well-being because there are starving children in Africa who wish they had a quarter of your good fortune.

Cue the images of an emaciated child with flies buzzing around his face, protruding rib cage, runny nose, and extended hands toward the camera — also known as poverty porn.

Poverty porn is a tactic used by nonprofits and charity organizations to gain empathy and contributions from donors by showing exploitative imagery of people living in destitute conditions.

It leaves many of us feeling uncomfortable, disconnected and guilty — conflicted between turning a blind eye and reposting these pictures in hopes that sharing images of human suffering will enlighten others about poverty.

“There is a human tendency, by some more than others, to want to be helpful,” retired photographerChester Higgins Jr. said. “The ads make it easier. You call a phone number, donate and you’ve done a thing.”

How many of us have considered the possibility that rather than help others, poverty porn does considerable damage?

Higgins, a former New York Times photographer, said it’s time to change the visual conversation. He has been traveling to Africa since 1971. For the last 20 years, he’s taken trips along the Blue Nile, through Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to “make photos,” live and create relationships.

Oftentimes when he see pictures of African people, they are “theft pictures,” which means the pictures were made without the consent of the subjects.

“A photograph never lies about the photographer,” Higgins said.

A distinct mark of poverty porn advertisements and photographs made by non-African photographers is the lack of decency, dignity, virtuous character, or that it shows the subjects’ most vulnerable moment, he said.

He refers to photographers, charities and nongovernmental organizations that exploit the situations of people in dire need as “poverty pimps.”

Save the Children, one of the most-well known aid organizations, operating in more than 120 countries, has come under scrutiny for controversial advertisements some have deemed poverty porn.

A 2014 Save the Children commercial features a woman giving birth at a clinic in Liberia to an unresponsive baby. As the mother moans and shakes, a midwife cleans and rubs the blue newborn, Melvin, to kick-start his lungs. The graphic and distressing scene are followed by text: “For a million newborns every year, their first day is also their last.”

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children UK, said in a statement that the organization has robust guidelines for the images and stories used, and their priority is safeguarding the children.

“Our image guidelines ensure all our communications reflect the truth, balancing the huge child suffering we witness with stories of hope and progress,” Forsyth said.

The idea that only impoverished Africans, South Americans, Asians and Middle Easterners need Western aid detracts from the impact poverty has in our own backyard, say some experts.

Mark Rank, professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, said poverty is an issue that touches the majority of Americans.

Compared to other Western industrialized countries, the United States has by far the highest rates of poverty, as well as the highest rates of income and wealth inequality, he said.

Approximately 60% of Americans will experience at least one year in poverty between the ages of 20 and 75, said Rank, who included this statistic in his book “One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All.”

Rank said poverty porn is a graphic way of portraying extreme economic distress, and we mimic this practice in the United States to some extent.

“We focus a lot of time on … inner-city, minority groups living in dilapidated housing as an image of poverty in this country,” he said. “But the majority of folks who experience poverty do not fit that image. In fact, they’re more likely to be the person down the block going through a spell of unemployment.”

In 2014, 17.4 million U.S. households didn’t have reliable access to food, according to the USDA Household Food Security in the United States report.

According to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 40.2% of SNAP food aid recipients are white, 25.7% are African-American, 10.3% are Hispanic, 2.1% are Asian and 1.2% are Native American.

Rates of infant and maternal mortality/morbidity in the United States, some of the highest among industrialized nations, are also concerning, said Dr. Wanda Barfield, director of the Division of Reproductive Health within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The successes of modern technology can only go so far. There is still high burden of premature birth,” Barfield said. “They’re not just small babies; their entire organ systems are immature (and) until they are full-term they run risks of complication.”

The risk factors for premature birth include being African-American, stress, multiple births, obesity and diabetes, Barfield said.

It’s not only mothers in Africa, like the one in the Save the Children ad, who are at risk of infant mortality, but that’s the prevailing narrative, that all Africans are in need of saving.

Twitter user Diana Salah helped jump-start the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShows to showcase the continent’s diversity on social media. Users post images of grand architecture, fashion, cuisine, culture, engineering, universities, diamond mines and female heads of state.

So, now that we’ve heard a few of the problems associated with poverty and poverty porn, what are some solutions?

Barfield said people can help support the health of infants and pregnant women in their communities by joining organizations like the March of Dimes, which has state chapters to help educate the public and community about risks of preterm births.

Communities can help support families and children by educating them about opportunities to get good nutrition, and making sure young girls grow up into healthy women.

Demanding transparency from NGOs and charities is crucial to differentiate legitimate causes from “poverty pimps,” Higgins said.

To avoid being duped, Higgins said potential donors should ask questions like:

  • How much of the money is transferred to local causes?
  • Can the charity/NGO provide an audit?
  • Are the locals given agency to handle their problems with the money raised?
  • Is the charity or NGO building local infrastructure?
  • Are skills being transferred to locals so they have the ability to use your money to do good?
  • Is the programming respectful of the cultural norms and local perspectives in the country it serves?

Don’t donate money to a charity or NGO based on emotions; instead ask for a measurement of what good they’re doing, because “good” is a variable word, he added.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in American Greed

 

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A System That Cares…

As a kid growing up in segregated Virginia…

My Mother was a primary School Teacher. Besides learning to write in perfect letters in both cursive and block letter, she insisted that every piece of paper I handed in look perfect.

She would often correct papers at home, after dinner, One day, when I was in about 3rd grade,  noticing that some of the papers had grease stains on them, I asked why. That question led to a sit down, which opened my eyes to realities beyond our black middle class home. She told me that some of the kids I went to school with lived in homes where the only place to do homework was at the kitchen table. They had no other place to go, and sometimes he food stains got on the papers as their mother was preparing dinner. I had honestly never considered that some of my friends lived in small, very old homes, where 5 or 6 kids tried to live in in 2-3 bedrooms. Scotty was my friend who played baseball after class….It never occurred to me that anything wasn’t as it should be, or that his home life would be any different than my own.

She organized a food and supplies drives through her Sorority and Church, and very quietly made sure these kids had enough food, clothing, and supplies – often delivering them herself, after sending a note home with the kids – who often didn’t have telephones in their homes. I went with her to deliver some of the supplies, and what I saw truly changed my worldview…I got strict orders never to discuss any of it, ever with my friends or school mates. It was our secret for many years.

The black community looked after the black community in those days…Because nobody else would. And did so in a way to try and preserve the dignity of those receiving aid. My Ebony and Jet reading dumb behind, never thought about it until then.

Now I grew up in what has consistently been ranked by those who keep track of such things as one of the 5 or 6 wealthiest counties in America. After desegregation, many of the white teachers were shocked to learn that abject poverty (both black and white) existed in the cracks and crevices of our otherwise wealthy and highly educated area.

It has taken damn near 50 years…But somebody else caught on to the things my parent’s generation knew.

School’s Private Pop-up Shop Lets Underserved Students Buy Basics With Dignity

Students require more than just books to succeed in school, and this innovative resource is helping teens in need build confidence both in and out of the classroom.

Administrators and the student government at Washington High School, in Washington, North Carolina, have created an anonymous, in-house shopping experience that provides underprivileged students with basic resources like food, hygienic products, school supplies and clothing. To eliminate stigma or judgment, students are able to discreetly approach a school administrator to privately take what they need from the shelves, where all items are targeted specifically to teenagers.

“If we want academics to improve, we have to make certain we’re meeting our students’ basic needs,” Misty Walker, the school principal, told The Huffington Post. “We want to strengthen our community, and schooling is just one aspect of that.”

The idea for the pantry came about when Walker realized her students’ needs were constantly growing. Though Washington High offers free and reduced meals, some students would not eat their next meal until they were back at school the next day, Walker explained. Students even began coming up to her personally, asking for items like toothpaste and toothbrushes.

As more of these needs began to surface, Walker consulted with Washington High School partner Bright Futures — an organization focused on school and community development. With the group, school administrators and the student leaders first developed a hygiene closet, and when that was successful, local donors helped expand the service into a school supply closet, food pantry and clothing shop.

“It’s a slightly different concept because we focused really on trying to help our high schoolers, versus the experience of preparing a whole box of food for a family,” Walker said.

To gain access to these resources, students simply speak in confidence with a teacher, counselor or administrator about their needs. A member of the school staff will then take them to shop in the pantries, all of which are located inside the school. This system both provides teens in need with basic resources, and strengthens the school community…Read the rest here

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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The Long Hard Fall of Olympic Figure Skater and Physician Debi Thomas

How does a World Champion skater, and Olympic Silver Medalist who is a Physician fail?

Debbi Thomas as we remember her –

Here a discussion of her appearing in Iyanla “Fix My Life” on Oprah’s Network…

How An Olympic Icon Ended Up Living In A Bug-Infested Trailer

Debi Thomas used to be a renowned figure skater and a surgeon. Now, she’s broke and unemployed.

From the time Debi Thomas was a young girl, she wanted to grow up to become two things: a renowned figure skater and a practicing physician. She did both.

In the 1980s, Thomas captured the world’s attention from the moment she got onto the ice. While studying for her engineering degree at Stanford University, Thomas won both the U.S. and World Championships. She soon set her sights on Olympic gold. Though her stumbles at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary cost her first place, Thomas took home the bronze and became the first African-American athlete to medal at any Winter Olympics. Then, after a successful figure skating career, Thomas went on to fulfill her second dream. She became a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, eventually opening up her own private practice in Richlands, Virginia.

Today, however, Thomas’ successes seem worlds away.

In between the Olympics and the World Championships, Thomas got married, but says the relationship crumbled after just three years because her husband felt lost in the midst of her popularity. As with her professional stumbles at the Winter Games, Thomas considered this personal stumble to be a failure. Then, more failures: As a physician, Thomas says her high expectations led her to go head-to-head with colleagues, and she was let go from two jobs. Though she had never really wanted to open up her own practice, she did. That’s when another divorce led Thomas to lose her nest egg, she says, and she soon had to close her private practice after two years.

Thomas is currently broke, jobless, twice-divorced and living in a bug-infested mobile home in a trailer park with her fiancé and his two sons. She even lost custody of her own 13-year-old boy, and her fiancé struggles to control both his alcohol use and his anger. Thomas knows it’s time to turn her life around, so she asks life coach Iyanla Vanzant to help her face some harsh truths on a path toward healing….Read the rest Here

 
 

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Why the Poor Stay Poor in America

In summary – America is Failing

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.

Where you are born counts… What you should notice is that the Red State South still serves as the boat anchor holding the rest of the country back. That is in huge reason today due to failed Republican Tax CUt policies necessitating a reduction in every service from social services to education. You get what you pay for, and in the case of conservative tax cut and slash policy – what you get is stagnant economic mobility. Ergo the poor stay poor.

In America, the Poorer You Are, the Poorer Your Children Will Be

This country’s terrible social safety net is making it impossible for working-class parents to keep up with their wealthier peers.

When people talk about “balancing work and family,” they’re usually talking more about the workplace than what’s going on at home. Now we’re starting to get data on what the workaday life looks like from a kid’s eye view, and it doesn’t look good.

When debating the issue of work-life balance, arguments over unlimited vacation and employment discrimination center around women’s barriers to opportunity—the perennial glass ceiling that Anne Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg rage at when lamenting not “having it all.” For working-class folks crushed by on-call schedules or poverty wages, it’s often hard to find any life outside work, let alone to balance work and family lives. But centering the conversation not on career ambition but the life course of a family helps put the false dichotomy of work vs. life in perspective.

In their new book “Too Many Children Left Behind,”Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook help illuminate these gaps by comparing the impacts of inequality across four wealthy countries—the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They found that poor children in the US are “doubly disadvantaged relative to their peers in the other three countries” because the government’s “social safety net and supports for working families do the least among the four countries to combat inequality”—particularly our national lack of guaranteed paid time off and vacation.

That’s old news, but the center of the researchers’ narrative is not necessarily workers’ lives but their children’s. Poverty limits access to basic resources like nutrition and decent childcare. But a geometrically expanding class divide looms over all income brackets, as wealthier parents zealously splurge on “enrichment expenditures”:

spending on books, computers, high-quality child care, summer camps, private schooling, and other resources that offer a motivating and nurturing environment for children. A generation or more ago, during the early 1970s, a typical family in the top fifth of the income distribution spent about $3,850 per year on resources like these, four times as much as the typical family at the bottom of the income distribution, which spent about $925…. by 2005 it had grown tremendously, to $9,800 versus $1,400.

So poor parents struggling just to cover basic food and shelter face both massive income inequality in their day-to-day lives, plus a seven-fold gap in the amount they can “invest” to help their children thrive in the future. Given that social mobility is already suppressed at all income levels—with children’s future earnings highly correlated with the earnings of their parents—the Herculean amount of “catch up” poor parents must undertake just to get on the same footing as their higher-earning peers makes the great American wealth gap seem even more devastating, for both today’s working households and generations to come.

Moreover, the gender gap straddles the class divide: the “earnings advantage” provided by parents’ wealth, or lack thereof, is skewed against women. A child is likely to inherit a greater share of his dad’s wealth than mom’s. Beyond the perennial “equal pay” debate and the simplistic notion of “78 cents on the dollar,” how does that reality of gender inequality play out in family dynamics, in those difficult late-night conversations on who should stay home with a newborn, or stay late at the office?

But the most enduring impact of these deficits may be impossible to quantify. Economic disadvantage intertwined with structural inequality has a savage effect on a child’s long-term educational prospects—including basic preschool-level skills, like language aptitude and sociability, and failing primary-school grades. And the “achievement gap” (which is itself a notion often politicized with complex racial biases) has folded into a deepening black-white education divide over the last three decades.

Other research has revealed that economic status is a growing factor in academic outcomes, as “the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply” over the last 50 years. So wealth trumps intellect on many levels.

Closing the gap takes more systemic solutions than just “leaning in.” Class lines reflect a deficit of democracy, created by neglect of government institutions. Research suggests much of the education gap is perpetuated or aggravated while children are wending through the highly segregated school system.

Co-author Jane Waldfogel says via e-mail that in addition to better workplace benefits, policy solutions might come through richer, more accessible early education and childcare: “Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds would help level the playing field by ensuring that all preschoolers receive educationally oriented early education (rather than the case now, where more affluent families can buy preschool, while lower income families have to make do with lower quality care).”

Federal programs like Head Start and childcare subsidies have for years suffered massive funding gaps, leaving tens of thousands of kids underserved. But some states are directing resources into expanding preschool—with pioneering programs in New York City—though it remains to be seen whether lawmakers who have failed to adequately fund K-12 are really willing to invest enough public dollars in the long-term to create a sustainable universal pre-K system.

Waldfogel’s research reveals a need for not just income supports but simply less need to work all the time. For young children of parents who are either out working around the clock, or constantly stressed at home, overwork translates into a materially and emotionally impoverished home environment. During the developmental years, research shows “inequalities in income and family resources are in turn linked with disparities in more proximal factors such as books in the home, lessons and activities outside the home, and parents’ spanking.”

Although many factors shape a household’s social climate, the connection between a parents’ economic frustrations and a pattern of a lack of nurture, even cruelty at home, suggests a troubling through-line in this inheritance of inequity: Wealth doesn’t trickle down, yet economic violence does.…More…

 

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On that conservative Welfare Meme & Uncle Ben Carson

An 1860’s handbill, containing all of the elements of the current conservative-Republican belief system abut race, welfare, and white victimization

In the late 1860’s conservatives, including the first KKK, sought to stir up white resentment by attacking the Freedmen’s Bureau with a number of falsified accusations. Like today’s conservatives (with the help of the 3rd KKK), today’s Republicans argue the “dissolution of the black family” the loss of “work ethic”, and “black laziness” having as a root cause the Great Society (re: Welfare) Programs instituted under President Lyndon Johnson. Frequently quoting numbers of $15 trillion to $30 trillion devise by the conservative “think tank” The Heritage Institute, racist conservatives conveniently ignore the fact that the Heritage Institutes numbers are fake – and that whatever that amount may be – nearly 80% of that money was spent on places like The Great White Ghetto, and other areas of the Republican led, poverty stricken South. Not the inner city, mostly black ghetto.

The same three elements are carried over from this racist handbill to today’s racist Republican Party:

  • The “Hard working white man” vs the “Lazy Negro”
  • White Victimization in terms of (falsely claimed) benefits to whites vs blacks
  • That hard working whites are supporting lazy blacks though their hard earned tax money.

Ben Carson’s claim that ‘we have 10 times more people on welfare’ since the 1960s

Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, asserted in a television interview that government efforts to ease poverty have largely been a failure. He specifically made two claims — that $19 trillion has been spent on anti-poverty programs since the mid-1960s and that “we have 10 times more people on welfare.” More generally, he also said that there are more people living in poverty.

We’ve often explained that statistics can be manipulated when comparing decades. For instance, the population of the United States is 60 percent larger in 2015 than it was in 1965, so it may not be relevant to compare raw numbers. There are definitional issues, such as what constitutes an “anti-poverty” or “welfare” program. Is it all means-tested programs, including health insurance such as Medicaid that also assists people above the poverty line? Or should it be limited to traditional anti-poverty programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?

Let’s check out Carson’s math.

The Facts

Eligibility for participation in government benefit programs can be based either on financial need (means-tested) or the occurrence of an event (such as reaching retirement age). Examples of mean-tested “social welfare” programs include TANF; food stamps; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the disabled; Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); public or subsidized rental housing; free or reduced-priced school meals; and Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.

Doug Watts, a Carson campaign spokesman, said, “We’re speaking of means-tested public assistance programs.”

Under that rubric, the “federal government is spending almost $1 trillion a year on welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical treatment, social services, training, and education to poor and low-income Americans,” providing benefits and cash to almost 100 million recipients, Watts said. “Dr. Carson recognizes the need and value of public assistance. Our point is the way government has addressed it, by virtually throwing money and programs, that have mostly proved ineffective or inadequate at reducing poverty.”

The poverty rate in 1965 was 15 percent, when the “war on poverty” announced by President Lyndon Johnson began to be implemented; Watts noted that in 2010 it was still 15 percent. (It was 14.5 percent in 2013, the first drop since 2006.) Watts also provided two other figures, though without providing a source: In 1965, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) “had roughly 400,000 cases (recipients),” he said. “In 2015, TANF (the successor to AFDC) had 3.1 million recipients. That alone is 8 times.”

100 million recipients

Definitions are important for this number, which is made up primarily of people on Medicaid (64.9 million people in 2014) and food stamps (46.5 million in 2014). But Medicaid is increasingly aimed at the elderly (people in nursing homes) or the disabled. “Medicaid spending per participant is much higher for people who are elderly, disabled, or pregnant than it is for nondisabled children or for working-age adults who are not disabled or pregnant,” the Congressional Budget Office said in a report. The Medicaid rolls have also expanded because the Affordable Care Act extended it to some people with income above the Federal Poverty Level.

The 100 million figure is a bit misleading, though, because it includes anyone who resides in a household in which at least one person (such as someone who is disabled) receives a means-tested payment. As of the fourth quarter of 2012, the Census Bureau says, the number stood at 109 million, but the Medicaid figure is listed as nearly 82 million, far higher than the number of people who actually receive Medicaid. Indeed, other census data indicates that 82 percent of the households that receive means-tested benefits included at least one person who was working.

In a May report, the Census Bureau said 52.2 million people — 21.3 percent of the population— participated in one or more major means-tested assistance programs, on average, each month. That seems a much more reasonable figure to use — and it’s about half the size of number touted by the Carson campaign.

The poverty rate

In saying that the poverty rate has barely changed, the Carson campaign is referring to the official poverty rate. It is worth noting that even by the official metric, the rate has declined slightly since 1965. But increasingly scholars believe the official figure is not especially informative because noncash benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or public housing are not recorded as income, meaning it does not capture the effect of anti-poverty programs that Carson suggests are ineffective.

The Census Bureau has tried to mitigate these concerns with a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) introduced in 2011. In fact, the 2014 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers reassessed poverty rates over time using the SPM.

“Poverty rates fell from 25.8 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012 — a decline of nearly 40 percent,” the report concluded. “In 2012 alone, the combined effect of all federal tax, cash and in-kind aid programs was to lift approximately 14.5 percent of the population — over 45 million people — out of poverty.”

$19 trillion in spending

Carson’s $19 trillion figure is within the range of estimates by right-leaning organizations that have placed spending for anti-poverty programs at $15 trillion to $20 trillion in the past 50 years. These figures, which are in inflation-adjusted dollars, include spending on about 80 means-tested programs by the federal government, plus state and local governments. The estimates include items such as nearly $100 billion for education programs, with about half devoted to Pell Grants for college, as well as the refundable portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit — which one can receive receive if you hold a job. So some might find it debatable that all of these programs constitute “welfare.”

Medicaid, again, is a huge part of the number — but the growth in the Medicaid budget is reflective of increases in health-care costs in general. The Congressional Research Service, in a 2012 report, says that between 1962 and 2011, “federal outlays for low-income health programs have increased, in inflation-adjusted terms, at a rate of 13.3 percent per year versus 6.5 percent for other spending.”

And while $19 trillion sounds like a lot of money, that’s over half a century. In context, federal spending in constant dollars amounts to nearly $110 trillion in that period.…More…

 
 

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Pharrell Williams…”Freedom” and Prince …”Baltimore”

Enjoy the song – but check out the background and symbolism…

Prince’s song on Baltimore and the death of Freddy Gray…

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Republicans and Welfare

 

Poor people are “animals”…

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in American Greed, Domestic terrorism

 

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