Bring it on 2017!

I begin 2017 like many people, looking back at the year before. Or, in this case, the month before.

December was not easy. Aside from being the anniversary of my sister’s death, there was so much tension and turmoil following the presidential election that I’ve had trouble remaining upbeat.

A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.
A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.

I last blogged on November 10, when I wrote about the sharp increase in bullying. Some people’s negative reaction to that blog, which contained evidence of hate speech directed at a gay couple in West Virginia, deeply saddened me.

That was before I realized that practically the entire country had been hoodwinked by fake news. I came to this conclusion on November 11, after seeing replies to my Facebook post and Twitter feed, both of which featured that blog. As one person after another commented, I found myself feeling like I was living in the Twilight Zone. There was such a large disconnect from what they believed, and what I knew to be true, that it boggled my mind.

I know where my facts came from, but where on earth were they getting theirs?

So I asked folks that very question, which led to a discussion about the horrible, awful things the Clintons supposedly had done, which they said would soon be brought to light. They cited websites I checked out, which turned out to harbor dangerous conspiracy theories.

These same conspiracy theories, with some help from some fake news articles, led them to insist the Clinton rumors were true. (The fake news seemed real enough it led one man on a would-be “rescue” mission inside a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor—where no one needed rescued.)
big-girl-panties-photo
So, for anyone who is wondering where a serious, investigative journalist goes to find out if something is true before using it in a news story they’ve been assigned to write, I offer you this: The Poynter Institute, a leading education agency that any news reporter worth his salt knows and uses liberally. This is the group that participates in top-notch media panels such as occurred in Morgantown, West Virginia, following the Sago Mine disaster eleven years ago today. (The explosion occurred on January 1, 2006. Two days later, heartbreaking headlines got it wrong, proclaiming the victims were alive. They weren’t. Yet another valuable lesson for journalists: take your time. Get the story, but get it right, first.)

Founder Nelson Poynter realized that his nonprofit had a big assignment when he declared, “its job is to help train the people who are going to help maintain the integrity, the stability, the progress of self-government.”

Poynter’s website has several critical stories about how you can spot fake news yourself. It isn’t rocket science, that’s for sure. But if you care about freedom and liberty, you’ll spend some time fact-checking the news you consume—before sharing it with anyone else.

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I’ve also had some pressing family matters that kept me busy, and I traveled to Oakland, California, after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire. As the days of December marched by, I tried to find and focus on the good. The positive. The upbeat.

And I couldn’t have been happier when I learned that Mandy, the homeless Mississippi mother of three I met on my trip west, found a home. One small step—but what a difference it’s making in her life and that of her children! Her success is our own, and we should all celebrate with her.

In a month like December, it was a real challenge to find good news. But there were bits and bobs, here and there. For instance, I learned that my three-week bout with bronchitis left me thirteen pounds lighter. (Who says being sick doesn’t have an upside?) Which I may put back on, given that a large parcel of goodies just arrived from my Hawaii friend. Oh yes, and the BBC plans to publish an article I wrote, which is most gratifying.

As we step into 2017 we’re like the swimmer who pokes his big toe into the water, trying to see if it’s warm enough for a plunge, only to find that it’s frigid. And we know it may stay that way for longer than we like. But it’s exhilarating and destined to keep us doing the breaststroke so we don’t give up before we realize what’s possible.

Like Dory said, “just keep swimming.”

I refuse to let the ugly residue from 2016 get the best of me. No matter what happens, I am going to live each day of 2017—each minute—to the fullest. I am determined to be happy in spite of what the world around me does. Or doesn’t do.

I will be present. I will live in the moment. I will cherish every small gift that comes my way.

I hope you do the same.

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Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

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My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

BREAKING NEWS—Sexual Slavery Skyrockets After Trump Bans Journalists

June 2, 2018

By Anonymous Reporter

ANY CITY, U.S.A.—Under cover of darkness, a lone woman wearing a ski mask to hide her identity met me in an empty warehouse, far from the glow of the city lights. She was skittish, and kept glancing around as if afraid she was followed to our deserted meeting place.

Lily Clark (not her real name) was released from prison two months ago. When she reached out to me with accounts of female inmates being raped or, in some cases, forced into sexual slavery inside the prison where she was held for almost a year, I knew I had to get her to talk. It took some doing, though, because Lily was nothing if not terrified. She was afraid the feds would find out she squealed, and send her back to prison.

“Back to that living hell on earth,” as she called it.

Lily said the guards are actually encouraged to rape the women prisoners, who often end up being traded around among prison officials in a form of sexual slavery never before seen in this country. “They drew our names like it was some kind of sick lottery,” she said, “and then each of them took turns with us.” According to Lily, these actions are repeated daily, or as long as it takes to break the women, and get them to talk. To turn over the names of their menfolk.

Sadly, many of the women are innocent. They haven’t been charged or sentenced. None of them have even seen the inside of a courtroom. They are simply locked up, waiting for someone to tell them why they’re there. Or when they can go home. Lily says it’s a never-ending wait. Although no one in a position of authority will cite a reason, it’s a fact that the women were only thrown into prison after their husbands, fathers or brothers took to the street in demonstrations against President Donald Trump.

Under the current administration, which has targeted any citizen who speaks out against the federal government, these acts are seen as tantamount to torture. But they have only come to light recently, because most of America’s journalists are themselves behind bars. There, these once bold and courageous members of the Fourth Estate can do little to expose the gross wrongs that seem to grow in scope and number with each passing day.

President Trump quickly turned the American people against the media. Long before he ran for the highest office in the land, in fact, public outcry about “irresponsible journalism” was a common occurrence. Within months of moving into the White House, however, the President began a concerted campaign against journalists around the country, from reporters at prestigious, daily newspapers to pundits at Fox News, and every blogger around the country.

Now, though, as more and more people disappear, with family members relating how their loved ones were picked up in the middle of the night by military police, never to be seen again, some quarters are calling for a return to the days of an unrestricted media, when “freedom of the press” actually existed.

“I used to make fun of the reporters who called Trump a liar, and compared him to Kim Jong-un,” Lily said. “I mean, I know journalists are the lowest paid college graduates, and I thought they were just stupid windbags who were jealous that some rich guy was smart enough to get the American people to stand behind him.”

Lily glances again over her shoulder, before turning back to me and whispering something about a rumor that the next move is for the feds to take away citizens’ cell phones and Internet access.

“Now I know those reporters were right,” she said, shaking visibly from her fear. “But it’s too late. We’ve become North Korea.”

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog was written in the flavor of that satirical and popular publication, The Onion.

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My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog will begin appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it has been. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Listen, Learn and Love: My 2016 New Year’s Motto

It was almost midnight when she made her entrance, the beautiful, fair-skinned blonde with a red flower in her hair. Unlike most of the women I saw on the streets of Morgantown last night, she wore slacks. Not a sequined miniskirt.

Three men, possibly of Pakistani descent, in a nearby booth greeted her, and one of them stood out of what appeared to be a show of respect (perhaps they all did; I can’t recall), of chivalry, and to greet her with a kiss. That was when I knew: they were a couple.

I was at Gibbie’s eating a very late supper as I watched the people around me preparing to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The trio drank water or soda, which could mean they are Muslim. I didn’t notice her drink, which doesn’t matter anyway. What I did see was the essence of happiness and, perhaps, a twinge of trepidation, before she showed up.

Morgantown is a melting pot, filled with people from around the world who swirl around each other like vegetables in a thick stew. Many, many of them have dark skin, but I’ve never thought a problem. I’m sure most people here don’t.

I hope not, anyway. Not when every interaction I’ve ever had, as a woman, has been positive and even uplifting. Has filled me with awe at the level of respect I encounter—respect I haven’t received from most the Caucasian men in my life. In my intimate life, not my everyday, professional one, where all the men who know me are the epitome of respect.

But I digress. I watched the trio of friends before the red-flowered blonde’s arrival, and couldn’t help but notice that none of them made eye contact with me. I don’t know if that’s “the new norm” for people of Middle Eastern descent during these recent tense days, but I hope not. Which is why I smiled, when one of the youth passed my booth. He did a double take, as if he wasn’t expecting such warmth, and shyly smiled in return.

That’s when I began thinking about what it must be like for Muslims and people who don’t practice that faith but who are nonetheless lumped together, because of the color of their skin. How hard it must be, as it often is for women who are mistreated at home and even in the workplace, simply because of our gender. Because we are different from middle-class, white males whose power and influence can extend well beyond ours.

When the clock struck 12 a.m., ringing in 2016, the four friends raised their glasses in a toast. I heard the handsome fellow who shyly responded to my smile say, “with water,” and laugh. Then, as the quartet took turns hugging each other, the beautiful blonde turned to her bearded beau and they kissed. And kissed. And kissed. As all around them, the world came to a stop. It was not an ephemeral scene. It was timeless.

And it made me wish I could trade places with her, or with any of the four people celebrating in that booth. In spite of their possible troubles, to have that sense of love and happiness—that is what I want in 2016.

For you, for me, for everyone. No matter their gender, their religion, or their flesh tone. Listen, learn, and love, and see all the beauty around you.

This is my New Year’s motto.

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My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen