Jazz Singer Audra ‘Ms. Blu’ Berger Adds #ForeskinPride to Her Repertoire
She Wowed Crowds at NYC Pride 2016 with Soulful Voice, Foreskin-Friendly Messages; Now, She’s Intact America’s Intactivist of the Month for August 2016
From 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington to ‘Bringing Foreskin Back’ Today
Tarrytown, NY—August 15, 2016
It was impossible to miss Intact America’s latest Intactivist of the Month in all her blue-festooned glory in the 2016 New York City Pride Parade on June 26. There she was, jazz singer, songwriter, and storyteller Ms. Blu, standing atop the Intact America float and singing her own foreskin-friendly lyrics to hit songs. (Watch video.)
With her bold, soulful, sexy voice, Ms. Blu’s words to the Donna Summer hit “Hot Stuff,” became “Looking for some foreskin, baby, this evening!” To Marky Mark’s punchy “Good Vibrations,” she added the lyric: “foreskin—it’s a great sensation!” Justin Timberlake may take credit for “SexyBack,” but Ms. Blu sang, “We’re Intact America, and we’re bringing foreskin back!”
Her brash courage and dedication to advancing human rights, forged in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and blazing now as brightly as ever, earned Ms. Blu (Audra Berger is her off-stage name) recognition as Intactivist of the Month by Intact America, the largest national organization advocating against involuntary circumcision of baby boys and a healthy sexual future for all people.
In 1963, when she was 13, she took her budding activism to the great March on Washington. To this day, she recalls an unforgettable experience.
“I kept singing the freedom songs on the bus and was so happy and free!” she says. “When we got to Washington, I remember it was early and the sun had not come up yet. It seemed like I just blinked and when I opened my eyes, people of every color and race and religion were all around me.”
She felt much of the same exhilaration at NYC Pride. “Throughout my life and career, I’ve never stopped believing in the power of music, lyrics and love to make the world a better place,” she says. Ms. Blu vows to return for the parade next year, and each year after that “for as long as it takes to assure all Americans the rights to an intact body.”
“It’s time for doctors, politicians, the uninformed, and religious leaders to stop trying to circumcise America! ‘We the People’ are all perfectly whole.”
About Intact America
Intact America is the largest national advocacy group working to end involuntary circumcision in America, and to ensure a healthy sexual future for all people. Intact America is based in Tarrytown, New York. For more information, visit Intact America at www.intactamerica.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
APRIL 2016: April’s Intactivist of the Month is Kira Antinuk, a registered nurse and founder of the Canadian Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership (CHHRP, pronounced “chirp”).
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Kira first learned the truth about circumcision in 2003, when pregnant with her first child. She began researching and speaking out about the practice and, using her background as a graphic designer, created a line of T-shirts to raise awareness.
In 2006, Kira attended the International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity, and Human Rights in Seattle. “That’s when it became clear to me,” she says, “that I needed to leave my career as a graphic designer and follow in the footsteps of Marilyn Milos, the courageous nurse who has inspired so many.” Kira returned to university and became a registered nurse.
She won the Paul Wainwright Nursing Ethics prize, and published a paper on circumcision and nursing responsibilities in the journal Nursing Ethics. She also founded CHHRP, based on “an awareness that, as health care professionals, we can and must do more to promote and protect children’s rights to genital integrity.”
The non-therapeutic circumcision of all infants was condemned in a resolution by British Columbia’s registered nurses at their annual convention in 1995. “What was particularly noteworthy about this resolution,” says Kira, was its emphasis on the fact that “nurses play an important role in educating parents about the harm of circumcision, and that nursing associations have a responsibility to raise awareness about this issue.”
In 2012, in collaboration with physician Christopher Guest (pictured with Kira above, and a former IOTM), CHHRP was incorporated. Children’s rights advocates Tim Hammond and Dave Saving are also co-founders and serve on the Board of Directors of the organization, which counsels Canadian health professionals on their responsibilities and obligation to promote genital integrity for all children through positive and professional education and advocacy.
CHHRP also provides new media and print resources, referrals, and support to the greater public. Kira serves as Nursing Director, working to educate Canadian RNs regarding their right (established in the Canadian Nurses Association’s code of ethics in 2008) to take conscientious objector status in the case of male circumcision.
In addition to working for CHHRP and studying for her Master’s degree, Kira is employed as a Registered Nurse Medical Adjudicator for the federal government of Canada. In Fall 2016, she will begin a PhD program at the University of Victoria (British Columbia), where she plans to examine factors that influence nurses’ perceptions about circumcision, and explore how gender bias may impact nursing research on male and intersex child genital cutting.
“It is my hope that nurses in the United States will work to ensure that their right to take conscientious objector status is similarly protected by U.S. nursing bodies.” To that end, Kira has created a brochure for Nurses for the Rights of the Child, which outlines conscientious objection to non-therapeutic child genital cutting for nurses, employers, and educators. About Intact America, Kira says: “I want to acknowledge the education and advocacy work your organization does to protect the human rights of children in the United States and around the world.”
“While Canada’s circumcision rate is lower than that of the United States, challenges to ending the practice are similar in the two countries,” says Georganne Chapin, Intact America’s executive director. “Kira Antinuk is a dynamo in the fight to expose and end infant genital cutting, having brought together a group of powerful allies to carry out the work, and having helped to further both the theory and practice of conscientious objection in nursing. When infant genital cutting finally goes the way of other outmoded and barbaric medical practices, Kira will be among those to whom we will forever be indebted.”
MARCH 2016: March’s Intactivist of the Month is Marilyn Milos, RN, director of NOCIRC and Genital Autonomy America. Early this month, Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), announced the renaming and reframing of the mission of her 30-year old organization. On the second page of the NOCIRC newsletter, in a personal letter to her supporters, Marilyn describes her growing involvement in Genital Autonomy, an international organization headquartered in England, and the establishment of a U.S. branch of that organization under her leadership.
Without question, Marilyn is the “mother of the intactivist movement,” born when as a young nurse she witnessed the mutilation of a helpless infant at the hands of a physician in a California hospital.
Yet, with her customary humility, Marilyn takes little personal credit for the founding of this human rights cause, the movement’s growth, and the increasing public acknowledgment of its legitimacy over the years. What Marilyn does say in her letter, though, is that she feels the movement to protect boys from routine circumcision, a uniquely American medical phenomenon, is in good hands. She cites her direct involvement in the founding of Intact America, and says she now feels free to “shift focus” to international efforts to promote the autonomy rights of male, female and intersex persons.
The new organization Marilyn will lead is called Genital Autonomy America, or GA-America . It will function under the international GA rubric, and in collaboration with a growing number of other GA organizations in Western Europe, Canada and Australia.
Answering an obvious question, Marilyn says: “Some people have asked if I’m retiring. How could I?” She continues, “Besides establishing and leading GA-America, I am working on a book about the history of NOCIRC, I continue to field dozens of phone calls and emails every week, and I work with Georganne and Intact America, writing the monthly “Do You Know…” feature for the IA newsletter. I want to thank all of you for your efforts on behalf of infants and children and for your friendship, and I hope you will support me in my new endeavors as the movement for the rights of all children continues to evolve locally, nationally, and globally.”
To read the Marilyn’s full message about the retirement of the NOCIRC name and the establishment of GA-America, see page 2 of her most recent newsletter.
Says Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America, “Marilyn is that rare person whose response to a single event can open up a moral universe. The circumcision she witnessed nearly 40 years ago set in motion a new human rights movement. Whether under the name NOCIRC, or GA-America, Marilyn will continue to be a beacon of inspiration to all of us working to protect children and support adults who have been damaged — directly or indirectly — from forced genital surgery.
“Intact America is immensely proud that Marilyn was one of our founding members, and to be able to count on her ongoing involvement,” Georganne continues. “Marilyn told me, in the context of establishing GA-America, that she’s so gratified that others have taken up the banner of American intactivism — and that groups such as Your Whole Baby are engaged in the type of local education and activism historically carried out by the former NOCIRC Centers. We honor Marilyn for her past and present work, for her wisdom, compassion and bravery, for the millions of babies spared the painful loss of their normal sexual anatomy, and for the future victory that — working together — we will certainly achieve.”
FEBRUARY 2016: February’s Intactivist of the Month is Alexandre Rotta, MD, FCCM. Dr. Rotta is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care and the Linsalata Family Chair in Pediatric Critical Care and Emergency Medicine at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, in Cleveland, Ohio. He also is a Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
A native of Brazil, Dr. Rotta earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Colégio Farroupilha, Porto Alegre, Brazil, and his doctorate in medicine from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul School of Medicine, also in Porto Alegre. He completed a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, and a fellowship in pediatric critical care at The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, in Buffalo, New York. He has authored more than two dozen textbook chapters and nearly 150 papers and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Rotta is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric critical care. His special interests include cardiac critical care, mechanical ventilation and acute lung injury. He is a Fellow of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and a member of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society and the American Association for Respiratory Care.
Dr. Rotta was first exposed to infant circumcision during in his pediatric training in Michigan. “Back then, it was an optional activity,” he says. Once I saw [a circumcision] being done, I realized that, number one, I was never going to do that to a human being and, number two, that if I had the option to never be involved in one again, I would take that option.” (Dr. Rotta talks about his evolution on the subject of circumcision in this webinar, recorded in January 2016 by Amy Wright Glenn.)
But as his career progressed, circumcision “went to the back-burner” of his medical knowledge, “until many years later when… we started seeing babies that would come into the emergency department or the intensive care unit needing critical care following a circumcision.”
Even then, his awareness was limited by a “state of detachment” about the procedure that he describes as common among physicians in general and, as in Dr. Rotta’s case, in critical care: “Even when you’re exposed to severe forms of injury to children…, it is very difficult for many intellectually-sophisticated people in the medical field to look back and [see] the very simple truth staring you in the face, which is: ‘this should not have happened’.
“[Y]ou just go into ‘lifesaving’ mode; you do the things you need to do to save that child’s life and you don’t give a second thought as to what caused it, how [you got] into that predicament in the first place, and what could have completely prevented that from happening, which is to just not do genital cutting….”
It was not until 2014, after 24 years of practice, that his consciousness about infant circumcision changed. While attending the annual convention of the American Academy of Pediatrics in San Diego, Dr. Rotta met Brother K and a group of other intactivists. “That was my epiphany on this subject. Up to that point, I was completely unaware that there was an organized movement to educate and fight against genital cutting. As I talked with them, I realized, ‘Oh my goodness. This is so simple and it’s been staring me in the face all along.'”
Months later, after 24 years of practice and in protest of the organization’s support for the routine circumcision of baby boys, Dr. Rotta renounced his membership (including his prominent editorial board participation) in the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can hear his explanation in this video by James Loewen.
Regarding Intact America, Dr. Rotta says, “I am thankful for the commitment and resolve of this professional organization that reaches tens of thousands of people every day with positive messages about the intact male body, and reasons that cutting babies is medically unnecessary, unethical and harmful.”
“There are few physicians of Dr. Alex Rotta’s stature who have taken such a public position against the routine genital cutting of children,” says Georganne Chapin, Intact America’s executive director. “When I first asked him if we could honor him as Intactivist of the Month, he declined, saying, ‘I read the distinguished roster of previous honorees from your archives and it is evident that my contributions pale in comparison. I don’t [yet] feel I have contributed enough to warrant this level of distinction… I will continue to work for the cause.'”
Thankfully, Georganne was able to persuade Dr. Rotta of the power of his voice. In subsequently agreeing to allow IA to feature him, he said, ‘If this helps bring more attention to the cause and make some of my colleagues more likely to speak out, let’s do it.'”
DECEMBER 2015: In lieu of a December Intactivist of the Month, we want to acknowledge all of YOU – die-hard intactivists who are raising awareness about the harm that forced circumcision inflicts on our baby boys and the men they will become, and promoting each person’s right to keep the natural body they were born with.
So, for everyone who speaks out even when it’s uncomfortable to do so, for those who write letters to their local newspapers and post comments on the web; for those who distribute flyers and cards; for those who show up to demonstrate in all kinds of weather at all kinds of public places; for those who initiate painfully difficult conversations with their sons, with their brothers and sisters, their parents, their friends; for those who donate to their favorite intactivist organizations.
You are our Intactivists of the Year. Together, we are pulling away the curtains, exposing the truth about what is done to babies by doctors in American hospitals. Pat yourselves on the back, pop the champagne — and then get back to the work of changing the way America thinks about circumcision!
One of Intact America’s greatest strengths is the diverse and supportive intactivist community. Our “Intactivist of the Month” series highlights some of the most ardent opponents of infant and childhood circumcision, whose tireless efforts will ensure a future where all babies are kept intact.
DECEMBER 2013: As we head into the holiday season, thoughts turn to giving, to both our friends and loved ones and to our community. Within the intactivist community, generosity from donors is what makes possible the work we do. This month, Intact America is honored to celebrate one such generous donor, Robin Banks Beatty.
Robin’s introduction to the question of circumcision came via a relationship with an intact man. “When I was 21, I was dating a guy from Austria. That’s when I found out what circumcision was. I’d never heard it mentioned before, and as soon as I heard about it, I was opposed to it.”
Robin Banks BeattyA mother of three, Robin says her reaction to circumcision was intuitive. “I didn’t need facts to know that it was wrong and abusive. I had two daughters and never even considered circumcision. Many years later I had a son, and it was while he was a baby that I noticed how most of the baby boys I was around were circumcised. I brought the subject up gently with other moms and discovered the anger and discomfort that often surround discussion of the subject.”
That’s when Robin began speaking out at every available opportunity. She attended her first demonstration this past March in Washington, D.C. for Genital Integrity Awareness Week, and she’s become profoundly devoted to protecting baby boys’ rights. Earlier this month, she made a significant donation to Intact America, her second, through a family foundation.