Wearing Hundreds of Hats and Loving Every Minute of It It is a real honor to be part of this eclectic crew of people who write for HyperVocal’s Entourage. I’m not going to go into a long, boring introduction, because I like my readers to be awake when they’re reading my stuff. So, I’ll get to the point: I wear several hundred hats, just like most of us do these days. First and foremost, I run a non-profit for student loan debtors called All Education Matters and battle the politics of hate towards struggling, hard-working, educated Americans every day. I love it. I created my own job, and I did it when I was living in South Korea. I was a teacher over there last year and also launched a 501(c)(4) for voiceless student loan debtors back here in the United States. That is going beautifully, and politicians are now responding more readily -– it’s kinda hard to believe! For instance, I was in Washington DC this past August, and will be returning to represent millions of student loan debtors again in November; meetings with the “bosses” are already being set up. I am also an investigative journalist and have written, and write, for a number of media outlets. It’s a struggle to be a freelance writer, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I don’t even make peanuts at this point. I don’t even think I could say I make peanut shells right now. But you know what? I don’t care, because I wake up every single day and work hours and hours on end, and forget about eating and forget I have a dog and a husband. That’s because I am obsessed with my work, and I turned this passion into a job. As I said, I love it. Every day offers something new, and every day I meet someone different, and all of these people are so damned smart and open and honest. The debtors – they are the most special – motivate me to keep fighting, because they have the guts to tell me their stories and to ask for help. They have also given me the courage to talk about the fact that I am also a debtor, and I am so grateful for that. Not the being a debtor part, but for the way they’ve inspired me to be open. They have let me really get in touch with Truth (yeah, with a capital T). You see, I could have gone back to South Korea to teach (my passion, too, i.e. it’s another hat), and been making lots of money, paying off debt, living on my own, etc., but I decided to stick it out here. Why? Because this is home, and I want to play a positive and direct role in rebooting the country. We all know we need some serious rebooting. It’s high time. That means I have to live with my in-laws in a pretty lame state (Perry’s Republic of TeHas), far away from all the things I love, especially the quirky, weird state of Rhode Island. Yeah, that’s one last thing I’ll mention before I tell you about my latest letter to raise funds that will get me on the road and reporting about these powerful, ever-expanding protests across the country. I am a Rhode Island fanatic. That’s where I found God. I know! How lame does that sound? Now she’s gonna start talkin’ about God? Gawd. But it’s true. I found God, became a Catholic at a church that digs social justice, and welcomes all. And when I say, all, I mean all. For instance, the first baptism I saw there was that of an adopted Guatemalan baby whose parents were two lesbians – this blessed little parish does not judge anyone, and being gay is not a sin. It’s just who you are. I dig that, and I miss that community. I’ll save my crying for later, however. I know I’ll get back to little Rhody, but for now it’s about being in exile in TeHas (don’t get me started on how terrifying the summer was – it was cloudless, sunny, and over 107+ degrees for about, oh, 10 weeks). So, yeah, I am coming around and accepting this state of exile (and the Tex-Mex kind helps). After all, I am pretty busy in exile, and things are going to get a lot busier… I am hitting the road in the Heartland and in the South to report about the #OWS movement. I sent out the following letter asking people to pitch in… Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues: I am hitting the road to report about the occupy protests in 7-10 cities, and also want to meet face-to-face with people to talk about my work as an advocate for student loan debtors. I am heading to Austin, Texas tomorrow, and have already received a very generous donation from an author and activist. But in order to get to all the cities I have on my itinerary (Tulsa, OKC, Houston, New Orleans, Mobile . . . ), I need more support. I am going as an investigative journalist and will be sending my work to several outlets for publication – this will only help with my success at getting a book published (yes, I have an agent who is currently working her tail off to sell my book about the student lending crisis). Can you pitch in and donate to support me as a reporter and to help me spread the word about the student lending crisis? What’s this occupy stuff all about? On September 17th a small group of protesters descended on Wall Street. These protesters were and are channeling their anger through peaceful, non-violent acts of civil disobedience. Like so many millions of other Americans, they are fed up with the status quo, and feel like corporations and billionaires are calling the shots. The protesters also believe that our political leaders have been unable to fend off lobbyists and big money in order to represent the average American. Things went well for the first week in NYC, but then it got ugly when a high ranking police officer maced 4 young women for absolutely no reason. Last weekend, the NYPD arrested over 700 people after they isolated a swath of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge – there are images of a 13-year-old girl being arrested. Last night more brutality was captured on video when a police officer took out his baton and began beating a young man. Those in power seem to be running scared, and the police are being used as tools against the very people they should be protecting and serving. At least that is the case in NYC. Reports coming out of Boston – where there is a full fledged protest in the financial district – are different. It sounds like police officers are being very respectful of the protesters. The police aggression in NYC has only made protesters more determined, and, in my view, inspired people across the U.S. to occupy in their own communities. Last night, there were over 15,000 protesters in lower Manhattan. As I already mentioned, the movement is spreading nationwide, something I reported on before any of the major news outlets at The Loop 21.com (see here and here). For more information about the cities that are staging protests go to OccupyTogether.org. Boston, Denver, Seattle, L.A. . . . and more have already begun staging protests. Today also marks the beginning of October 2011, a Tahrir-style protest that is outside the White House in Washington, DC. October 2011 is affiliated with and supports the occupy movement, and I am in touch with the organizers. This is a well-defined, well-organized and coordinated set of protests, and it is only getting bigger. (All Education Matters, incidentally, is an organization listed in support of the October 2011 group). Finally, if you know someone who is indebted, educated, and struggling, I urge you to forward this message to them. I want to represent the indentured educated class, report about these protests, and discuss the student lending crisis with people face-to-face. I have been credited for disseminating information about this rapidly spreading movement via social media, and even had a conservative Twitter follow commend me for my leadership role. Of course, the movement is leaderless, but I have been able to help spread the word about these protests. Now it is time for me to hit the streets and take this to an entirely new level. In order to do that, I need your help. Thank you for your donation. Sincerely, Cryn Cryn Johannsen Founder & Exec. Dir. All Education Matters (AEM) Cryn Johannsen Founder & Executive Director of All Education Matters (AEM), Cryn Johannsen writes about the higher education funding fiasco, politics, and the economy, and has lived on 3 continents. She is currently writing a book about the student lending crisis and how this mess can be fixed.