President's Blogs: 2008
December 14, 2008
I just came back from seeing a film which should be required viewing for everyone in and out of the U.S.: Milk. The theatre that I went to see it at is an art house movie theatre, I've been going to it for years, but in all the years I have been going there I have never seen the theatre as packed as it was at the 2:25 PM show today for Milk.
We've all had that experience, of seeing something epic, something that glues you to your seat, all the more when it is about a real person. This film, which traces the life and death of Harvey Milk is all that it's cracked up to be, and more! I remember, back in 1978, when Harvey Milk and the mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, were murdered by Dan White. I remember the outrage, my own included, when Dan White was convicted of manslaughter and not murder. And I remember reading, years later, that a couple of years after being released from jail, Dan White committed suicide. Yet, how much more I had forgotten or just not known! I do not recall anything about proposition 6 - seeking to bar gays men and lesbians and anyone how supported them from being teachers, from working in California's public schools. How ironic to see this film where Prop 6 was defeated while Prop. 8, just one month ago, passed. How far we have come and how much farther we have to go. I did not know, though I have read of it and seen it, how the AIDS quilt first came to be. And so much more.
While sitting in my seat, I was outraged at the actions of so many back in the 1970s, of those people who equated being gay with words that I just can't write. Yet, as I sat in that same seat, I am outraged that to this day, today, there are those who almost exactly 30 years later, would not vote for someone because they're gay, would no longer be friends with someone if they found out that their friend was gay, whose family might cut them off if they found out that a family member is gay, who could lose a job or advancement if it came out that they are gay. I watched this film and saw people taking to the streets, back in the 70s and wondered why we don't do the same now. . . ah yes, I know, the Internet. I am thankful for this medium because it allows us to communicate with each other, quickly and easily but it will never, never, replace that sense of unity in marching, physically being together to fight injustice.
Yet, in conclusion, I want to leave you with the word "HOPE" for as Harvey Milk learned, where there is hope, and where there is activism and people willing to put themselves on the line, things can change. I believe that getting yourselves to the theatre, bringing those with different opinions to see this film, and subsequently, when it is available for purchase, showing it and discussing it with your students, (OK, some nudity so HS and up), showing and sharing this history can go far in ensuring that as that old saying said, "we've come a long way." We need all of us to go that extra mile, to not lose hope, never to lose hope, for with that energy and activism less than 30 years than now, hopefully less than 10 years from now, heck, less than 5 years from now, we can look back at Harvey Milk's life and Milk the film and we can say, "that was then, this is now" with true equality for all.
November 27, 2008
Good morning! As perhaps all of us, throughout the world, know, today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Over the years, on this listserv, we have discussed and reflected on what this day means to all of us, individually and collectively. We have also spoken on the effects of this day on our First Nations' Peoples. In that vein, I am forwarding an e-mail I received from Bob Shiel, one of our TAP members. I urge all of you to read it, reflect on it and discuss it.
Today, as many of us gather with family and friends, whom we are most thankful for, please take a moment to remember others - locally, globally and originally, and realize that whatever situation we find ourselves in this year, we are strengthened, individually and collectively, when we realize and recognize that we have the ability and the responsibility to work together and create a better world.
As basic as this might sound, all of us who are reading this are alive. We may be in financial straits, we may be in physical pain, we may be struggling, we may not be able to do everything we did in previous years but as long as we have air to breathe and can draw breath into our lungs, we have more than many. That very basic truth enables us to not only invite people into our homes today but into our hearts everyday. For what is life without a conscience and what is freedom without a heart?
To all of you, have a warm, thoughtful and enjoyable holiday weekend. But also please, spare some time and "educate" others to both what we have to be thankful for and what still needs work. Remember, education doesn't just happen in a classroom. It happens each and every time we engage with others.
In peace and with thankfulness for all of you,
November 16, 2008
Good evening! I am writing to you today as a result of an e-mail I received from one of our members and a phone call I received from my son both having to do with the same clip from a Keith Olbermann show. Both of them asked me to watch this clip which I have. Now, I urge you all to follow the link below and watch it. Before doing so, I must tell you all that I know I am not unbiased when it comes to the subject contained herein: marriage for all and prop. 8 in California. Both my son and our member are, in my estimation, absolutely correct: we all must watch this.
In the interest of full disclosure, this past Friday, on November 14, I officiated at my first marriage since CT's law was changed. My heart filled with joy for Michael and Larry, the two men I married, not united, married. They have been together for 32 years! 32 years and finally they had the ability to marry. They came from NY for the ceremony as NY recognizes marriages performed in CT and MA. They were crying and I was crying. For the most part, they were tears of happiness but there were tears of sadness too as we discussed afterwards. Tears for those who did not have the legal right to do what they had done. Tears for the fact that federal rights are still denied them. Tears for those in California in legal limbo. Tears, happy and sad.
The next day, Saturday, November 15, I gave a workshop on marriage at the annual Justice of the Peace Conference. It was the fourth year in a row that I had been invited to do a workshop at this conference. For the first three years, the workshops had focused on civil unions. Yesterday, it was on marriage. Again, my workshop was filled with both education and emotion. The upshot of it all is that I/we Justices of the Peace in CT now have the honor, yes honor, of officiating at all weddings. I am not saying, trust me, that everyone should be married, only that it should be a right dictated by love and committment, not gender, not sexual orientation.
Larry and Michael, together for 32 years, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the honor of choosing me to officiate at your wedding. I wish you many more years together and I personally look forward to many more weddings and celebrations of love.
I also promise to continue to do what I can until there is no more discrimination, until we truly have a level playing field for all.
November 10, 2008
I am not sure how many of you know of the life, lyrics and music of Miriam Makeba. I cannot remember how young I was when I first heard of her and heard her music and her story. It was many, many years ago. I just read on the news (cable channel lower case scroll) and my heart stopped for a minute. Then, in thinking about her life and her dedication to justice and peace, it started beating again.
For those of you who knew of her, I share with you an article on her life and death. For those of you who never knew her, it is never to late and please consider the article below and introduction.
"Mama Africa", rest in peace,
Miriam Makeba, Singer, Dies at 76
from The New York Times
By ALAN COWELL
Published: November 10, 2008
LONDON — Miriam Makeba, a South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her own country though her music was formally banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died overnight after performing at a concert in Italy on Sunday. She was 76.
Miriam Makeba performed in a concert on Sunday night in southern Italy shortly before she died early Monday.
The cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to Vincenza Di Saia, a physician at the private Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno near Naples in southern Italy, where she was brought by ambulance. The time of death was listed in hospital records as midnight, the doctor said.
Ms. Makeba collapsed as she was leaving the stage, the South African authorities said. She had been singing at a concert in support of Roberto Saviano, an author who has received death threats after writing about organized crime.
Widely known as "Mama Africa," she had been a prominent exiled opponent of apartheid since the South African authorities revoked her passport in 1960 and refused to allow her to return after she traveled abroad. She was prevented from attending her mother's funeral after touring in the United States.
Although Ms. Makeba had been weakened by osteoarthritis, her death stunned many in South Africa, where she stood as an enduring emblem of the travails of black people under the apartheid system of racial segregation that ended with the release from prison of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the country's first fully democratic elections in 1994.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Mandela said the death "of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation."
He continued: "Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us."
"She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours," Mr. Mandela's was one of many tributes from South African leaders.
"One of the greatest songstresses of our time has ceased to sing," Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement. "Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid and colonialism through the art of song."
For 31 years, Ms. Makeba lived in exile, variously in the United States, France, Guinea and Belgium. South Africa's state broadcasters banned her music after she spoke out against apartheid at the United Nations. "I never understood why I couldn't come home," Ms. Makeba said upon her return at an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990 as the apartheid system began to crumble, according to The Associated Press. "I never committed any crime."
Music was a central part of the struggle against apartheid. The South African authorities of the era exercised strict censorship of many forms of expression, while many foreign entertainers discouraged performances in South Africa in an attempt to isolate the white authorities and show their opposition to apartheid.
From exile she acted as a constant reminder of the events in her homeland as the white authorities struggled to contain or pre-empt unrest among the black majority.
Ms. Makeba wrote in 1987: "I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realizing."
She was married several times and her husbands included the American black activist Stokely Carmichael, with whom she lived in Guinea, and the jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who also spent many years in exile.
In the United States she became a star, touring with Harry Belafonte in the 1960s and winning a Grammy award with him in 1965. Such was her following and fame that she sang in 1962 at the birthday party of President John F. Kennedy. She also performed with Paul Simon on his Graceland concert in Zimbabwe in 1987.
But she fell afoul of the U.S. music industry because of her marriage to Mr. Carmichael and her decision to live in Guinea.
In one of her last interviews, in May 2008 with the British music critic Robin Denselow, she said she found her concerts in the United States being cancelled. "It was not a ban from the government. It was a cancellation by people who felt I should not be with Stokely because he was a rebel to them. I didn't care about that. He was somebody I loved, who loved me, and it was my life," she said.
Ms. Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932, the daughter of a Swazi mother and a father from the Xhosa people who live mainly in the eastern Cape region of South Africa. She became known to South Africans in the Sophiatown district of Johannesburg in the 1950s.
According to Agence France-Presse, she was often short of money and could not afford to buy a coffin when her only daughter died in 1985. She buried her alone, barring a handful of journalists from covering the funeral.
She was particularly renowned for her performances of songs such as what was known as the Click Song — named for a clicking sound in her native tongue — or "Qongoqothwane," and Pata Pata, meaning Touch Touch in Xhosa. Her style of singing was widely interpreted as a blend of black township rhythms, jazz and folk music.
In her interview in 2008, Ms. Makeba said: "I'm not a political singer. I don't know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us."
In a tribute, Jacob Zuma, head of the ruling African National Congress, said the party "dips its banner in tribute to an African heroine, Miriam Zenzile Makeba, a freedom fighter and outstanding African cultural figure."
"Miriam Makeba used her voice, not merely to entertain, but to give a voice to the millions of oppressed South Africans under the yoke of apartheid," Mr. Zuma said.
Celia W. Dugger contributed reporting from Johannesburg and Rachel Donadio from Rome.
November 9, 2008
Tonight on PBS at 9:00 PM EST there is a program on entitled, "God on Trial." It airs the day before the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. If not the onset of the Holocaust, it certainly was a horrific portent of things to come. While the program tonight is part of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre programs and has from what I have read, much to do with questioning G-d by prisoners (actors/characters) in Auschwitz, from what I have learned in my time on this earth, both pre, during and post my years in Germany, whether or not one believes in G-d, it was human beings who committed these atrocities and who perpetrated the Holocaust.
So as humans can overcome prejudice and hate and turn a page in a book, not close the book but turn a leaf, a page, as the U.S. seemingly did on November 4, 2008, so too must we remember that the book is not closed. That while racism was restrained it is not eliminated. That while heterosexism is seemingly on the decline with young people, so too does it remain in those who are older. That while Anti-Semitism does not result in concentration camps for Jews today, so too is it not eradicated. All of us, in times of economic ups but particularly in times of economic downturns, must we be aware of the tendency for scapegoating and blaming. Blaming not those who are truly responsible but the most convenient target.
In one week we have witnessed an election that we all should learn from but let us not forget that the past is only around the nearest corner and that one can slide backwards as easily as one can move forward, without vigilance.
With that in mind, please read on. . .I have included an article from the Irish Times below. While you read, remember, we owe it to each of us and to our children, to discuss with our students our collective history. Whether tomorrow or the day after, whether in mainstream or ESL classes, whether you teach middle school, high school, adult ed, or university classes, honor the memory of those who were lost during and after Kristallnacht and discuss this night of broken glass with your students. We must remember and we must teach.
November 4, 2008
On this historic election day, I am forwarding you all something that one of our members sent to me this morning. I debated whether or not to send today or hold off until after the election results are in but opted to let you all read for yourselves. Makes you think - no matter what the outcome of today's election, some people are entrenched in their thinking. The good news is that often, their opinions are not in the majority. Unfortunately, for one high school in Florida, the school board chose to stay with the original name of their high school and the man that it was named for, a "confederate general and ex-grand wizard" of the KKK.
Please cut and paste the link below, read and discuss with your students. I know I will!
Back to the election results,
Fla. high school retains Klan leader's name
A Florida school board voted late Monday night to keep the name of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader at a majority black high school.
October 31, 2008
Happy Halloween! Hope you all have had a good week!
You might have noticed that I have not sent my usual list of TV selections for the past two weeks. Frankly, this is due to the fact that there hasn't been much to recommend outside of the wall-to-wall election coverage. Today's posting doesn't change that but does bring a movie recommendation for this weekend's viewing pleasure: The Secret Life of Bees.
I saw this movie last weekend with a friend. Usually, it is difficult for the two of us to find a movie that we can agree on seeing let alone agree, after we've seen the movie, that it was a find. We agreed on this one. In addition, the movie keeps coming to mind unbidden almost every day since I've seen it.
So what is it about? It takes place in 1964 in South Carolina in the midst of the civil rights movement. A young fourteen year-old girl who has "lost" her mother runs off, along with her caregiver, to try and find the answers to the few clues she has to her mother's life. One of these mementos is a label from a jar of honey. A timely, relevant film, it features the talents, and I mean talents, of Queen Latifah (August Boatwright), Alicia Keyes (June Boatwright), Jennifer Hudson (Rosaleen), and last but in no way least Sophie Okonedo (May Boatwright). Sophie will knock your socks off and pull at your heartstrings but in no way are any of the emotions contrived or phony. These four amazing actresses, with three playing sisters, are the strength and soul of the movie. They along with Dakota Fanning who plays the central character of Lily take you on a tour of the south at a time in the not-too-distant past when segregation was reality. Yes, there are consequences of attempts at integration but ultimately the film shows us that not everything in life is either "black or white" but ultimately comes down to individuals - their spirit and their humanity.
This is a film to take young people to as well. In this day and age, when the U.S. presidential election looms before us, it is important for some of us to remember and for others of us to learn who we are as a nation and where we came from. When Nate Parker (Neil) talks of being a lawyer some day, we who came later know that that could happen - not just as a possibility but as a concrete fact. Who knows? If Nate Parker was a real person he just might be running for president today.
Four stars and a big thank you to the entire cast,
September 28, 2008
With all the news over the past week about the Wall Street bailout, I thought an article I read this past Sunday might offer a reality check, so to speak. To quote someone, "these are the times that try men's souls." I would probably change it to "everyone" as opposed to men but that is a minor quibble. Think about this as you read: $260, just $260. . .a lifetime of memories, a connection to loved ones. . .a woman's rent money. One way or another, whether we have personally walked in this woman's shoes or countless others like her, whether one or more of our students have. . .every single one of us should empathize with Ciera Smith and the family of Amou Smiley. We should also never forget that, for better and for worse, we are all in this together.
Here is the article from email@example.com
PS I am trying to put into words, what the life of Paul Newman meant to me and how it impacted both me personally and TAP. I am working on it. . .stay tuned
To her, $260 might as well be a trillion
Sunday, September 21st 2008, 12:10 AM
As her government pursued a trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, 22-year-old Ciera Smith was in a Bronx pawn shop, removing a ring from the second finger of her left hand.
"My grandmother gave it to me," she explained.
She also had set a gold nameplate and gold earrings on the counter, but that was only jewelry. Parting with it brought no pain.
"It's just the ring," she said.
Her eyes welled with deeper hurt than could be measured by any market index as she set down the gold band that she had been wearing since she was 14.
"How much will I get for these?" she asked the clerk.
She watched through the plexiglass partition as the clerk set it all in a silver dish atop a digital scale that measures neither love nor sentiment, only weight. He entered the number into a small digital calculator, then multiplied it by the shop's current price per ounce for gold.
He mutely turned the calculator toward Smith, who stared silently at the tiny numbers. Her priceless ring and the rest of her jewelry were appraised at $260, less than she hoped, less than she needed, but as much as she was going to get.
"Okay," was all she said.
The clerk slid a white form through the slot cut into the plexiglass. Smith signed her name and slid it back. The clerk counted out $260 and slid it out, along with a pawn ticket certifying that Smith had four months to reclaim her property.
Smith placed the ticket and the bills in her wallet. She explained with a single word what had brought her to where she was pawning her most prized possession.
"Rent," she said.
She tucked her wallet in her handbag and turned away from the counter. She left the store called 167 Jewelry having completed a loan secured by collateral in accordance with a fundamental principle of finance that was tossed aside down on Wall Street in pursuit of ever more immediate profit.
"I'll come back to get my jewelry next month," she said.
The cap and T-shirt store next to the pawn shop was shuttered, and a mass of candles and flowers were on the sidewalk. The proprietor of that store, Amou Fall, was an immigrant from Senegal who had followed another fundamental principle of finance out of fashion on Wall Street, driving a yellow cab for years until he saved up enough to open his own business. Fall was uncommonly generous and of such good cheer he was nicknamed Smiley.
He had been shot to death by a would-be robber on Sept. 10.
"You're not safe anywhere," Smith said of the safest big city in America.
A neighbor was now out front with a plastic bucket, soliciting donations to send Fall's body back to Senegal and help those he was supporting there.
"One person here represents 20 back home," a countryman named Sega Lo was saying. "It might be more than 20. That's the way we do it."
Fall was so widely popular and respected that the hard-pressed people of the neighborhood had joined in a Bronx-style bailout, contributing more than $5,000. A woman named Vivian Young-Thomas now paused with her 11-year-old daughter, Strawberry, and put $6 in the bucket.
"A hardworking man," she said.
Smith might have made a contribution herself, but she had rent to pay. I asked if she was being pressed by her landlord.
"I don't want it to get that far," she said.
Smith is of the view that the way to avoid serious trouble is to head it off before it gets beyond managing. She was speaking with more foresight than was demonstrated by the CEOs of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG combined.
I watched her walk on down E. 167th St. with her pawn ticket, her ring finger bare. I awoke Saturday to more stories about the billions for Wall Street, and I figured I could at least offer Smith the money to get back that ring.
But when I telephoned to offer a modest bailout, she was so unlike Wall Street that she declined, saying she would reclaim the ring herself. She had a new job at a fast-food chain.
"I start on Monday," she said.
September 21, 2008
What a week! Season premieres, series premieres, sandwiched in between the Annual Emmy Awards and the first Presidential Debate of this electoral season. Why call your attention to tonight's Emmy Awards? Because of the hosts - all hosts from reality TV. I am pointing this out to you because one cannot escape, short of not watching television or being completely unaware, that reality TV has become a regular part of our airwaves. Not advocating for such TV fare but pointing out the "reality" of the television world in 2008. It is one of the reasons that our 2008 Middle School Essay Contest focuses on reality TV. We want to know which programs our students/young people are watching and what messages they are getting from it. One would have to be naive not to realize that many of our students and perhaps some of our own children are not glued to one or more reality series. (On an interesting side note, one of the reasons for the rise in reality shows is the relative cost of these series in comparison to a drama or comedy series. Guess which one is much less expensive to make? Yep, a reality series!)
At the other end of the week, on Friday evening to be specific, two of the Presidential Candidates (I say two because Cynthia McKinney, Green Party; Ralph Nader, Independent Party; and Bob Barr, Libertarian Party have not been invited to attend or participate in the debates) will be facing off in this first of three debates. I urge you, even if you've made up your mind, to watch the debates and either record and watch with your students or assign your students to watch them as they happen. It is absolutely essential that classrooms around the country come alive with debate and discussion around what the candidates say and what they omit. What students agree with and what they don't. What they would like to have answered and what questions were not even asked. What issues are important to them and which issues they think impact their lives, their communities and their world. It is equally important, in my eyes, to ask why they think the debates are limited to only John McCain and Barack Obama and do not include other parties' candidates. This exercise can be done in and out of the United States (as well as in ESL classes) as the global impact not only of presidential elections but surely including presidential elections, is felt around the world.
Well, I'm off to pop my popcorn for tonight's awards show.
Have a good evening,
September 1, 2008
Many of us today in the U.S. are celebrating Labor Day by getting together with family and friends for parties and barbecues. Throughout much of the world, eyes are glued to the TV or perhaps the radio or Internet watching the track of Hurricane Gustav as it weaves its way to Louisiana and Mississippi after having inflicted death and destruction in Cuba, Jamaica and other island nations. We at TAP, offer our hopes that our members and friends in Louisiana are safe and on higher ground.
What does this have to do with Labor Day? All too often it is the poor and the working class that are affected and to them I dedicate today's missive which will highlight a few films that are new to me and perhaps to you. They are offered in the true spirit of what Labor Day should mean. They are offered to you to use in your classrooms and to work with your students on. While many of us and our students have recently headed back to class and/or will be heading back tomorrow, please remember that this is not simply just a long weekend, for while that is true ask yourselves how many of us actually think about the meaning of Labor Day and those who struggled and who labor, who fight not with guns and other destructive weapons but whose ammunition are words, commitment and dedication to a cause - fighting for the equality to which all are entitled. Accessible to middle school students and all the way up through college, these films resonate today as surely as they did when they were made and provide both a historical history lesson as well as providing the basis for living history.
To all who fought and organized, those alive today thank you!
PS If anybody else has any films to suggest to add to this list on labor and Labor Day, please share.
10,000 Black Men Named George (2002) Recommended Middle School and Up
I just saw this film for the first time about a week ago. It is the true story of the fight for the formation of the first black-controlled union, The Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters. Many of us think that the civil rights movement began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott - and if so, how wrong we would be. The fight to form this union began in 1925 and the struggle lasted until 1937 when after enduring much the union was finally recognized. The prejudice and discrimination illustrated throughout this film was rampant throughout the U.S. and mirrors the struggles of many. The title of the film comes from the fact that the majority of porters were called George by their white customers, a racist slur, although, obviously, each and every one of them had their own individual names. The obstacles that this group of men had to overcome to see their hard-earned rights acknowledged by both their company's president and the white unions is indeed, a struggle for the soul of this country.
FYI: One of the leaders of the movement, A. Philip Randolph, remained active in civil rights for decades. It was Randolph who initiated the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King gave his famous speech, "I Have a Dream" continuing the fight for civil rights.
Salt of the Earth (1954) Recommended Middle School and Up
Last night I watched this incredibly eye-opening film. Made in 1953, during the height of the McCarthy era by producers, writers, and directors, some of the "Hollywood Ten" who had been blacklisted it is the only film which itself was blacklisted. Based on actual events, the film concerns the plight of Mexican-American zinc mine workers who banded together, again, as a result of the prejudice and discrimination to which they were subjected, to form a union and strike for their rights. Beyond this, it is the story of the grit and determination of the miners wives who played a pivotal role in keeping the strikes going and in doing so, changed the dynamics of their own unequal relationships. Filmed mostly with non-actors, the grittiness of this film will seep into your bones. The reality of what these workers then and others today have to endure to feed their families and provide for them will have you drawing parallels between then and now. This film is included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
Both of the films listed above are available at www.amazon.com The DVD for Salt of the Earth includes a documentary about the Hollywood Ten, a history of the Hollywood Blacklist, congressional testimony of the blacklisted filmmakers and the history (with photos) of the strike that is the subject of this film.
Other recommended movies about Labor and the Labor movement:
The Killing Floor (1985)
Set in 1917-1919, it is the true story of Chicago's meat-packing plants, the move to unionize, and the race riots of 1919.
On the Waterfront (1954)
Directed by Elia Kazan (and that itself should be enough to recommend seeing it due to Mr. Kazan's role in the Hollywood Blacklist) it is the story of longshoreman and of union corruption witnessed on a daily basis.
July 20, 2008
While reading TIME Magazine this morning, I came across this quote, "It was never about the money. We just wanted water." Richard Kennedy Jr. of Zanesville, Ohio, after a jury ruled that city officials denied a mostly black neighborhood access to public water for nearly 50 years; the case's 67 plaintiffs were awarded a total of $11 million.
After reading this, I knew I needed to know more. Below is more from time.com
Beyond raising awareness of this case, it got me thinking about that saying "where there's smoke, there's fire." More than likely this is not an isolated incident in terms of water access. We already know that garbage dumps are more likely to be placed in low-income neighborhoods, predominately Black neighborhoods although poor whites get their share of "dumping" too and we also know that mortgage predators are more likely to charge higher interest rates to African-American purchasers. There was a court case just this week in New York, I believe, where the lenders were found guilty - I'll try to find the article and post it.
The bottom line is this: are there inequities in many systems, be they health, wealth, essentials of living and education? Based on everything I have read and can document, yes. Has there been progress? Yes on that score too as the number of court cases going against individuals, companies, towns and cities which practice inequality have risen. Is it enough? Never enough. Enough will be when there is no need to bring such suits (and remember, lawsuits cost money) because in reality there will be no discrimination but real equal access, and equal treatment for all.
July 7, 2008
I'm not sure how many of you have subscribed to CNN alerts. This is one of the ones I have received recently. I think it bears reading considering the Olympics are again the subject of concern re: China's role in Darfur and Tibet. As much as things change they remain the same? While the story, in this case, is about Jesse Owen's and his accomplishments at the 1936 Olympics if you read the article you will find something that I had only found out about in the last year or so - that his place in the 4x100 meter relay team was secured because two Jewish athletes were dropped from the team. Prejudice is prejudice and hate is hate.
Owens went on to dispel the idea of Arayan supremacy in Germany, even if only during the week of the Olympics. (Note: Jesse Owens would still have to face intense racism when he returned home to the U.S., a fact none of us should ever forget - not the racism directed towards him nor anyone else within the U.S. borders.) It would take Germany a heck of a lot longer to admit its actions/responsibility and work towards equality for all, in and out of its borders. Too many people, millions, died in the interim.
Can things change? Absolutely! I just hope we don't have to wait as long for China to come to its senses and that the death toll from its actions does not rise from this day on.
Changes? Sure! But it takes people to call a halt to inhumanity.
June 27, 2008
Rising gas prices globally, food prices increasing worldwide, in the U.S. a mortgage bubble burst. . .these are all important relevant concerns as the gap between rich and poor, with the working class having to scrape by on less and less, continues to grow. However, sometimes it is important to realize that wherever in the world we are, and this is no excuse for the various issues/crises that we face, it is important to direct our attention to places where "worse" equals "nothing," where "having less" means "doing without" and where leadership and voting don't even come into play or are a total farce, with people not only being disenfranchised but being harassed and killed for even trying to exercise their "right" to vote. Perhaps I am not articulating this well, and so, I will let Nelson Mandela speak about Zimbabwe. If you think inflation is bad in your country think of Zimbabwe and an "official inflation rate of 165,000 percent in February" 2008.
PS The question then arises, what if anything can we as nations do when many countries have squandered their/our right to apply any kind of pressure? It is easy to sit back and say that we need to do nothing, that colonialism is at the root of so much that is wrong in the world today and need to let individual nations and citizens sort it out for themselves. Easy, but what of the people whose lives are at stake?
June 16, 2008
Attached you will find four photos taken with my cell phone camera which is my way of apologizing for the not-so-perfect images. Yet, I think you will see a bit of what I saw.
The first picture is of the artwork I mentioned in my previous posting. Entitled, 13th Trophy of the Holocaust by Denton R. Lafferty, Oglala Latoka, it depicts Mount Rushmore at the top and a trail of shoes leading up to it. It recalls the rooms at Auschwitz and other concentration/death camps where entire storage rooms house the shoes of Jews who were murdered. I must say that I personally felt an immediate connection to this art and understood the connection Mr. Lafferty was making.
The second picture was taken, bluntly, so I could recall the artist's name.
The third and fourth pictures are of the memorial to the Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29, 1890 and of the cemetery. Of note, while I was at Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Wind Cave National Park, although there was plenty of room and it was not too full of tourists, there were tourists. In my entire time both at Wounded Knee and at Pine Ridge Reservation on the whole, we did not see another white person and at Wounded Knee, except for the Tribal Memorial Representative on duty, did not see another person. The representative, whose name, to be honest, I cannot recall, told me that very few people ever stop or visit there. While I admit that it is very much off the "tourist beaten path" (about 200 miles or so) I feel that this is a travesty. While there, I felt humbled, horrified, mute and connected to the souls lying in the ground there and elsewhere.
They say a picture or an image is, at times, "worth a thousand words." I cannot put a word count on the pictures attached but can only hope that the photos convey at least something to all of you.
April 21, 2008
This is quite a week not only for TV viewing but also as Earth Day is celebrated this Tuesday. This calls to mind, to me, months we have set aside for Black History Month, Women's History Month, and other months. This week we set aside one day for Earth Day. Just as Black history should not be relegated to one month, so too should our awareness of our home, the earth, not be limited to one day. On the other hand, at least these days and months call attention to people, living beings, and places that, unfortunately, otherwise might be forgotten or might not be included/discussed.
On that note, I give you this week's three programs of interest:
1. PBS: American Experience: Roberto Clemente
Monday, 9:00 P.M. EST
For those of you who are not into baseball and/or aren't old enough to remember, Roberto Clemente, was a baseball player who grew up in Puerto Rico, and was a true humanitarian. He, like Jackie Robinson and others, faced prejudice and discrimination yet took his heritage, specifically Puerto Rican and in general terms, as a Latino, as both a source of pride and responsibility. I clearly remember when he died, in 1972. He was on a plane which was bringing relief supplies to the victims of an earthquake which had devastated Nicaragua. How many people then or now, would personally get involved in the tragedy of others? Learn more about how he lived his life and the challenges he faced - watch this program and discuss with your students.
Here is the website for more information PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/clemente
Please note: this program can be viewed on-line, can be purchased on DVD, and is available in both English and Spanish.
2. PBS: Frontline: Hot Politics, Global Warming
Tuesday, 9:00 P.M. EST
Please note: This program can also be viewed on-line.
excerpted from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hotpolitics
"The way it happened was the equivalent to flipping the bird, frankly, to the rest of the world ... on an issue about which they felt so deeply." That is how former New Jersey governor and the former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman describes the Bush administration's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in Hot Politics, a FRONTLINE report co-produced with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
As more and more Americans look for a response to the realities of climate change, FRONTLINE correspondent Deborah Amos investigates the political decisions that have prevented the United States government from confronting one of the most serious problems facing humanity today.
In February 2007, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the science on global warming is "unequivocal" and asserted with 90 percent confidence that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, have been the main cause.
Yet, since 1992 -- from President George H.W. Bush's insistence that the first world climate change treaty make CO2 emission targets voluntary, through former President Bill Clinton's failure to pass a promised energy tax or to push for U.S. Senate ratification of the Kyoto treaty, through President George W. Bush's 2001 reversal of a campaign pledge to push for mandatory limits on CO2 emissions and his complete withdrawal from Kyoto -- the executive branch of the U.S. government has failed to join in climate change agreements adopted by much of the rest of the world.
Hot Politics goes behind the scenes to examine the forces behind the inaction, including a well-financed energy industry campaign that challenged the broad scientific consensus on the human causes of climate change in an effort to stall federal regulation. Fossil fuel companies funneled millions of dollars to the institutes of global warming skeptics, including former President of the National Academy of Sciences Frederick Seitz, who cast doubt about the science in media reports on climate change.
According to some whistleblowers, a parallel campaign has occurred within the Bush administration, which stifled the dissemination of key findings by government scientists about climate change. "In my thirty-some years in the government, I've never seen constraints on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public as strong as they are now," says top NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
In interviews with scientists like Hansen and Seitz and with political insiders including Whitman, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former senator and Kyoto negotiator Tim Wirth, Hot Politics investigates why the U.S. federal government lags so far behind much of the world in responding to global climate change.
And in special reports on FRONTLINE's Web site and elsewhere, CIR and FRONTLINE go further, with features including closer looks at the manipulation and suppression of science, a timeline of the politics and science of global warming, and a map tracking U.S. CO2 emissions and regulations state-by-state.
3. PBS: National Geographic's Strange Days Earth
Wednesday, 9:00 P.M. EST
This program is also available for purchase.
check out the website at http://www.pbs.org/strangedays also check out http://www.pbs.org/strangedays/interactivemarket Great activity: Discover the hidden costs of many store items and test your green shopping skills in our Interactive Market. I just did it and looks like a great activity, for those of you who have computer access, to do with your students or have them do it as an assignment.
While reading through my TV listings, I saw this caption for this program: "Reports say 90 percent of important commercial fish are gone." Honestly, that is a figure with huge ramifications beyond the obvious fact that some of the types of fish we grew up on in various parts of the world are either gone or have escalated in price. As fish are part of the food chain, this lack has serious consequences.
Do any of you have activities planned in your schools or communities for Earth Day? If yes, please share. Remember, we all learn from each other!
In honor of the earth and its inhabitants, whether fish, fowl, human, trees, or grass,
April 4, 2008
While a healthy body image varies from culture to culture and from generation to generation, there still seems to be an unhealthy (subjective?) trend towards "the thinner the better" with far too many girls and women falling under this illusion of beauty. The article below is on France's attempt, following last year's by Spain, to legislate when thin is too thin.
As this affects men and women, or boys and girls, I believe that it makes a good topic for discussion in our classrooms. There are many articles on this from other publications (and from other countries, decades, etc.) and would make a good research subject for your students. After all, the "weight" is on their shoulders. While sharing with your students, ask yourselves what your own opinion is on this and if, along with many others, you too suffer from a bias, one way or the other.
March 3, 2008
Last night, I was watching the news (the channel is irrelevant) when I heard Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma, and viewed the YouTube posting described below. To read the article and its related links and to watch the YouTube posting, please cut and paste the following: http://newsok.com/article/3214388/?mp=0 which is "powered by" the Oklahoman. As you will see below, there have been calls for Rep. Kern to be censored. In my opinion, this would make an excellent discussion in the classroom. Your students can discuss free speech, whether or not they feel that Rep. Kern should be censored, and the content of her comments as well - read on - there is quite a bit of content. If you google "Sally Kern oklahoma gays" there will be plenty of other articles from different publications that you and your students can read and draw from, too.
Please note: Rep. Kern is a former Social Studies teacher in the Oklahoma School District.
Read, watch, think, discuss,
January 10, 2008
What do these three have in common? Apparently, the Golf Channel co-host Kelly Tilghman thinks that the following is an acceptable exchange with her co-host, Nick Falco. Faldo said, "To take Tiger on, well yeah, they should just gang up for a while until ..."Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman interrupted with a chuckle.
Now, here's the thing. Tiger Woods has accepted her apology - but the Reverend Al Sharpton, among others, has not. It's an interesting question: if the person to whom a prejudicial remark (and heck, there have been enough nooses around lately to know that this is not an issue relegated to previous eras) is said accepts an apology does that mean that the incident is over and done with? I don't know that one person has the right to forgive such a comment which offends more than just an individual. Additionally, I refer once again to my belief that if such a thought is not in a person's mind, consciously or subconsciously, it would never come flying out of a person's mouth.
Anyhow, it is a good question to discuss in classes and around dinner tables. And don't forget the empathy quotient - imagine if something similar were said about, not your personality, but your race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc. What would be your reaction?
Food for thought,
January 3, 2008
Tonight, the first primary vote gets underway in Iowa. My sister-in-law and her husband hope to be among the voters headed to the caucus. Unfortunately, the reason I say "hope" is because they have two children under the age of three and the way the caucus voting works in Iowa, once you arrive at your caucus location, you are there for quite a while. Unlike most other states where you simply pull a lever, fill-in a ballot or touch a computer screen, in Iowa, you must "cast" your vote in public and then, in the democratic caucus, if your candidate does not receive 15%, your vote is up for grabs and you are encouraged to then stand with another candidate with more support and supporters. I mention this because, besides the weather, all this is difficult at best to accomplish with two little ones pulling at you. Of course, another way to look at this is that babysitters