Are We Being Tested as to How We Care for One Another?


Images of suffering swirl all around us
Shootings, protests, shootings yet again.
Accusations and counter accusations without end.
I was talking to someone recently who said, essentially, “I get it”.
“Of course there’s racism but why do ‘they’ keep having to
protest…I already got it”.
I was caught off guard. Until systemic racism and bigotry
have ceased there is no time to say “I have gotten it.” Everyone
must get the message and act to ameliorate the wrongs.
Clearly until you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes
and experienced racism directly, you cannot have truly “gotten
it”.
Please read with me the following posted by James Milson
on his writing and creativity blog, about a poem that generated the phrase
we are familiar with “walk a mile in another’s shoes.”

“Walk a Milestone in His Moccasins”—by Mary T.
Lathrap
The name of this heartfelt poem by Mary Torrans Lathrap
(1838-1895) was originally titled “Judge Softly” when written in
1895, and has later come to be known by its most famous and
quoted line—“Walk a Mile in His Moccasins.”
Mary T. Lathrap was also known at the time as the “The
Daniel Webster of Prohibition”. She was an American poet, a
licensed preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1871, a
temperance reformer, and a suffragist, co-founding Michigan’s
suffrage organization in 1870. For 20 years, she was identified
with the progressive women of Michigan who had temperance,
purity, and prohibition as their watchwords, and the white
ribbon as their badge.
The “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” line was quoted by my
mother to me over and over growing up and has been
attributed to various Native American tribes over the years, but
actually comes from this poem by Mary Lathrap. Whether she
was inspired by a direct Native American contact or not I have
yet to find. Nevertheless, it reads as heavily influenced by the
conditions of Native Americans both on and off the Indian
Reservations at the time and still resounds meaningfully for us
today.
This piece always brings to mind another of my mother’s
admonitions, one of the more quoted passages of the Bible.
From Matthew 7:1-2, in her words—“Judge not, lest ye be
judged. Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but
do not notice the log in your own eye?” For me, there has
always been a two-fold meaning to Jesus’ cautionary words
which follow. One, since no one can be expected to live up to a
standard of perfection, no one should ever engage in judging others,

since we are all imperfect and will be held to the
same perfect standards we apply to others. Or the second
interpretation, that we should set our own house in order
before exercising judgment and helping others to do the
same.
Confusion over the title aside then, it is not the title of
this poem which is significant in the end, but rather the
meaning and true message of the words of compassion,
kindness, empathy, and understanding still so relevant and
needed in our world today, over a hundred years after it
was written.
“Judge Softly”
“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.
There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.
For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos

Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their
minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by
your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”
~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895
As we go through life together, be a “Good Finder”,
actively looking for and seeking out the best qualities in
others, and not a “Fault Finder.” If we search for the divine
spark embedded within each of us and in every creation, we
are much more likely to find the perfection inside and not be
misled by the outward appearance of the host container.”

Article by James Milson in his writing and creativity blog

This is the first o a series of AAUW Diversity articled whose goal is to
increase understanding and empathy. It is not one-sided as
we all can work to understand where each of us is “coming
from.” Until we have a sense of this, we may be doomed to
repeat the cycle of judgment and hate that we see
increasing today.

Fondly, Submitted
for the Diversity Committee

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking a Closer Look at the Racial Disparities in the Rate of COVID-19 Infection and Death

— I have always tried to keep our diversity column positive and focus on achievements and challenges in minority communities. I know I will return to this positive emphasis in the future, but now we’re in crisis. I want to share with you an article from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) which highlights something that we’ve all heard about, but perhaps, in a haphazard fashion. The news reports from time to time state that the African American community has been heavily impacted by Illness and death due to COVID-19. Now in this CDC article we see that the news may be even more concerning than we ever imagined. I want to share this article with you and also ask you to think about what we need to do to stop such a terrible and morally unacceptable tragedy.

“The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent CDC MMWR report included race and ethnicity data from 580 patients hospitalized with lab-confirmed COVID-19 found that 45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 55% of individuals in the surrounding community. However, 33% of hospitalized patients were black compared to 18% in the community and 8% were Hispanic, compared to 14% in the community. These data suggest an overrepresentation of blacks among hospitalized patients. Among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, hospitalized patients. Among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) persons. Studies are underway to confirm these data and understand and potentially reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minorities. Factors that Influence Racial and Ethnic Minority Group Health: Health differences between racial and ethnic groups are often due to economic and social conditions that are more common among some racial and ethnic minorities than whites. In public health emergencies, these conditions can also isolate people from the resources they need to prepare for and respond to outbreaks. Living Conditions: For many people in racial and ethnic minority groups, living conditions may contribute to underlying health conditions and make it difficult to follow steps to prevent getting sick with COVID-19 or to seek treatment if they Diversity—Cindy Goldberg, Co-Chair do get sick. Work Circumstances: The types of work and policies in the work environments where people in some racial and ethnic groups are overrepresented can also contribute to their risk for getting sick with COVID-19. Underlying Health conditions and lower access to care: Existing health disparities, such as poorer underlying health and barriers to getting health care, might make members of many racial and ethnic minority groups especially vulnerable in public health emergencies like outbreaks of COVID-19. What Can Be Done: History shows that severe illness and death rates tend to be higher for racial and ethnic minority groups during public health emergencies. Addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in emergencies includes improving day-to-day life and harnessing the strengths of these groups. Shared faith, family, and cultural institutions are common sources of social support. These institutions can empower and encourage individuals and communities to take actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, care for those who become sick, and help community members cope with stress. For example, families, churches and other groups in affected populations can help their communities face an epidemic by consulting CDC guidance documents for their organization type. The Federal Government is undertaking the following: • Collecting data to monitor and track disparities among racial and ethnic groups in the number of COVID-19 cases, complications, and deaths to share broadly and inform decisions on how to effectively address observed disparities. These data will be translated into information to improve the clinical management of patients, allocation of resources, and targeted public health information. Supporting partnerships between scientific researchers, professional organizations, community organizations, and community members to address their need for information to prevent COVID19 in racial and ethnic minority communities. • Providing clinical guidance and guidance to support actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools, workplaces and community settings, including those serving racial and ethnic minorities. Public health professionals can do the following: • Ensure that communications about COVID-19 and its impact on different population groups is frequent, clear, transparent, and credible. • Use evidence-based strategies to reduce health disparities. Those most vulnerable before an emergency are also the most vulnerable during and after an emergency. Community organizations can do the following: • Prepare community health workers in underserved racial and ethnic minority communities to educate and link people to free or low-cost services. • Help combat the spread of rumors and misinformation by providing credible information from official sources. Healthcare systems and healthcare providers can do the following: • Implement standardized protocols in accordance with CDC guidance and quality improvement initiatives, especially in facilities that serve large minority populations. • Promote a trusting relationship by encouraging patients to call and ask questions. What Individuals Can Do • Follow CDC’s Guidance for seeking medical care if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick. • If you or someone you care for is at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, take steps to protect them and you from getting sick. • Take precautions to protect yourself, your community, and others. • Cope with stress to make yourself, the people you care about, and your community stronger. • Find ways to connect with your friends and family members and engage with your community while limiting face-to-face contact with others.”

     In conclusion, this article points to such a concerning social issue. It also highlights that the conditions that lead to such a tragedy are not new. As long as minority communities have unequal access to quality healthcare, live in poverty and suffer the effects of poor nutrition, crowded living conditions and crime these tragedies will repeat themselves in one way or another. Our role as caring community members is to highlight these issues and then work toward social and economic equity which will allow minority communities to thrive and not suffer disproportionately when our nation and the world are in crisis. Fondly submitted, for the Diversity Committee PS Wishing you all and those you love, health and safety as we go together to meet the unknown challenges of today and the future. Be well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

African American Leaders in Medicine

When we think of leaders in medicine some names may immediately come to mind. Do you think of Dr. Jonas Salk? Do you think of Dr. Albert Sabin? Both were leaders in the fight against polio. Many young people today have no direct knowledge of the time that polio was the scourge impacting so many of our children with fearful rates of contagion, death and disability. These doctors were true heroes in their day. Many owe their lives to their research and creativity in creating the vaccines that largely put an end to horror which was polio. In the current COVID-19 pandemic we are waiting for new heroes to emerge. We don’t know who they will be and many will toil in relative anonymity in research labs all over the world. What we know is our stereotypes of who the hero doctors will be have no place now. Continuing this theme I would like to share with you the stories of some hero doctors you may not have heard of. Their stories are fascinating and many faced adversity which would’ve well-prepared them to the adversity we all face today. These trailblazers broke barriers and shattered stereotypes and went on to conduct research, discover treatments, and provide leadership that improved the health of millions They fought slavery, prejudice, and injustice—and changed the face of medicine in America. They invented modern blood-banking, served in the highest ranks of the U.S. government, and much more. Of course there were many black male doctors who made a difference, but we will focus on the women only this time.

1. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD (1831—1895) In 1864, after years as a nurse, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman in the United States to receive an MD. She earned that distinction at the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts—where she also was the institution’s only black graduate. After the Civil War, Crumpler moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she worked with other black doctors who were caring for formerly enslaved people in the Freedmen’s Bureau. While she faced sexism and other forms of harassment, Crumpler ultimately found the experience transformative. “I returned to my former home, Boston, where I entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment; regardless, in a measure, of remuneration,” she wrote. Crumpler also wrote A Book of Medical Discourses: In Two Parts. Published in 1883, the book addresses children’s and women’s health and is written for “mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.”

2. Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD (b. 1939) In a pivotal experience while working as an intern at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1964, Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD, admitted a baby with a swollen, infected hand. The baby suffered from sickle cell disease, which hadn’t occurred to Gaston until her supervisor suggested the possibility. Gaston quickly committed herself to learning more about it, and eventually became a leading researcher on the disease, which affects millions of people around the world. She became deputy branch chief of the Sickle Cell Disease Branch at the National Institutes of Health, and her groundbreaking 1986 study led to a national sickle cell disease screening program for newborns. Her research showed both the benefits of screening for sickle cell disease at birth and the effectiveness of penicillin to prevent infection from sepsis, which can be fatal in children with the disease. In 1990, Gaston became the first black female physician to be appointed director of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care. She was also the second black woman to serve as assistant surgeon general as well as achieve the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. Gaston has been honored with every award that the Public Health Service bestows.

3. Patricia Era Bath, MD (b. 1942) Interning in New York City in the 1960s sparked a revelation for Patricia Era Bath, MD. Bath, the first African American to complete an ophthalmology residency, noticed that rates of blindness and visual impairment were much higher at the Harlem Hospital’s eye clinic, which served many black patients, than at the eye clinic at Columbia University, which mostly served whites. That observation spurred her to conduct a study that found twice the rate of blindness among African Americans compared with whites. Throughout the rest of her career, Bath explored inequities in vision care. She created the discipline of community ophthalmology, which approaches vision care from the perspectives of community medicine and public health. Bath blazed trails in other ways as well, co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976, which supports programs that protect, preserve, and restore eyesight. Bath was also the first woman appointed chair of ophthalmology at a U.S. medical school, at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine in 1983. And she was the first black female physician to receive a medical patent in 1988 for the Laserphaco Probe, a device used in cataract surgery.

4. Alexa Irene Canady, MD (b. 1950) Alexa Irene Canady, MD, nearly dropped out of college due to a crisis of selfconfidence but ultimately went on to achieve dramatic success in medicine. In 1981, she became the first black neurosurgeon in the United States, and just a few years later, she rose to the ranks of chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Canady worked for decades as a successful pediatric neurosurgeon and was ready to retire in Florida in 2001. But she donned her surgical scrubs once again to practice part time at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where there was a dearth of pediatric neurosurgery services. Canady has been lauded for her patient-centered approach to care, which she said was a boon to her career. “I was worried that because I was a black woman, any practice opportunities would be limited.” But, she noted, “by being patientcentered, the practice growth was exponential.”

5. Regina Marcia Benjamin, MD, MBA (b. 1956) Regina Marcia Benjamin, MD, MBA, may be best known for her tenure as the 18th U.S. Surgeon General, during which she served as first chair of the National Prevention Council. The group of 17 federal agencies was responsible for developing the National Prevention Strategy, which outlined plans to improve health and well-being in the United States. But it’s not just her work at the highest levels of public health that earned her praise. Long before she was appointed “the nation’s doctor” in 2009, Benjamin worked extensively with rural communities in the South. She is the founder and CEO of Bayou Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Louisiana, which provides clinical care, social services, and health education to residents of the small Gulf Coast town. Benjamin helped rebuild the clinic several more times, including after damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a fire in 2006. Of the clinic, she said she hopes that she is “making a difference in my community by providing a clinic where patients can come and receive health care with dignity.”

In conclusion we see that greatness can be found amongst all of us. There is no limit to where we find brilliance, commitment, dedication and the ability to overcome the most difficult obstacles. These are the traits we need more than ever today. Now let us stay safe, be well and love one another. This is the way we will fight the difficult battle ahead of us.

Fondly, for the Diversity Committe

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The African American Women’s Suffrage Movement, a Lesson to Us All

When we think of the women’s suffrage movement many of us think of proud women marching, linking their arms, supporting women’s right to vote. The picture in their minds of many will be only of white women. That is often the image portrayed in the media and in history texts. It may be a surprise to some but there was an active and vibrant African American women’s suffrage movement. The African American community of women did not achieve full suffrage until the 1960s and even after that there were formidable barriers to full participation in voting. Today more than ever we see the need for women of all backgrounds to come together and assert the right to vote. The following (taken from Wikipedia) details the African American women’s suffrage movement which struggled to have the voice, that all of us deserve, in our nation’s political life. “As the women’s suffrage movement gained popularity through the nineteenth century, African American women were increasingly marginalized. African American women dealt not only with the sexism of being withheld the vote but also the political concerns of white suffragists who knew they needed the votes of some southern state legislatures and southern U.S. senators and congressmen. The struggle for the vote did not end with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In some Southern states, African American women were unable to freely exercise their right to vote until the 1960s. However, these difficulties did not deter African American women in their effort to secure the vote. The racism that defined the early twentieth century made it so black women were oppressed from every side: first, for their status as women, and then again for their race. Many politically engaged African American women were primarily invested in matters of racial equality, with suffrage later materializing as a secondary goal. The Seneca Falls Convention, widely lauded as the first women’s rights convention, is often considered the precursor to the racial schism within the women’s suffrage movement; the Seneca Falls Declaration put forth a political analysis of the condition of upper-class, married women, but did not address the struggles of working-class white women or black women. Well into the twentieth century, a pattern emerged of segregated political activism, as black and white women organized separately due to class and racial tensions within the overall movement, and a fundamental difference in movement goals and political consciousness. Black women engaged in multi-pronged activism, as they did not often separate the goal of obtaining the franchise from other goals, and wide-scale racism added to the urgency of their more multifaceted activism. Most black women who supported the expansion of the franchise sought to better the lives of black women alongside black men and children, which radically set them apart from their white counterparts. While white women communities overall, rather than their individual betterment exclusively as women. In Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis explains that ‘black women were equal to their men in the oppression they suffered…and they resisted slavery with a passion equal to their men’s,’ which highlights the source of their more holistic activism. Following the civil war, many African American women struggled to keep their interests at the forefront of the political sphere, as many reformers tended to assume in their rhetoric assuming “black to be male and women to be white. The women’s suffrage movement began with women such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, and it progressed to women like Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, and many others. All of these women played very important roles, such as contributing to the growing progress and effort to end African American women’s disenfranchisement. These women were discriminated against, abused, and raped by white southerners and northerners, yet they remained strong and persistent, and that strength has been passed down from generation to generation. It is still carried on in African American families today. ‘African American women, have been political activists for their entire history on the American continent but long denied the right to vote and hold office, have resorted to nontraditional politics.’ In June 1892 the Colored Women’s League (CWL) was founded in Washington D.C. Under their president, Helen Cook, the CWL fought for black suffrage and held night classes. A Boston-based group under the leadership of Margaret Murray Washington and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin called the National Federation of AfroAmerican Women joined the Colored Women’s League out of Washington D.C. In 1896, both groups combined to form the National Association of Colored Women under the leadership of Mary Church Terrell. Terrell was a college educated woman and was named the first president. This group did many things to contribute to the betterment of black women, as well as many other smaller groups who are not named.”

In reviewing the above material you can see the path to women’s full representation in our democracy has been especially problematic for the African American community, yet their struggle and their achievements have led to a better reality, if not a perfect reality. Their perseverance and courage are lessons to all women that no matter what the barriers, we must continue to work to have a place to fully express our wishes for this country through the vote. Women of all backgrounds, cultures, and experiences cannot be silent! Such is the historic struggle in which we must continue to engage. Failure is not an option. All women must have a voice and it cannot and should not be silenced!

Fondly Submitted for the Diversity Committee

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What We Can Learn From Black History Month and the Modern Conceptualization of Race

While many of us know that February is designated as African American history month or Black History Month in the United States and is celebrated now throughout the world, many of us do not know its origins. I would like to raise the question of why it can be so useful in helping us understand what is called another race and another culture, that of the African American community.

First on the definition of race. Many of us feel we understand the word race as it is used in contemporary society. Here we can look at the definition from a commonly used dictionary. RACE—”A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics. A population of organisms differing from others of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits; a subspecies.”—The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary This definition has been challenged and there is now a belief that race is a hypothetical construct used to support racist theories of superiority. Invoking “race” to define and describe individuals opens the door to false generalizations. Understanding the history and experience of others whose lives are different from our own helps destroy racial stereotypes.

Learning from Black History Month’s celebrations and activities helps break down these stereotypes and allows us better to see the real person we meet, not our fantasy about them.

(From Wikipedia)—”This article is about human races as a social concept and in anthropology— A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century the term began to refer to physical (phenotypical) traits. Modern scholarship regards race as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race does not have an inherent physical or biological meaning. Social conceptions and groupings of races vary over time, involving folk taxonomies that define essential types of individuals based on perceived traits. Scientists consider biological essentialism obsolete, and generally discourage racial explanations for collective differentiation in both physical and behavioral traits. Though there is a broad scientific agreement that essentialist and typological conceptualizations of race are untenable, scientists around the world continue to conceptualize race in widely differing ways, some of which have essentialist implications. While some researchers use the concept of race to make distinctions among fuzzy sets of traits or observable differences in behaviour, others in the scientific community suggest that the idea of race often is used in a naive or simplistic way, and argue that, among humans, race has no taxonomic significance by pointing out that all living humans belong to the same species, Homo sapiens, and (as far as applicable) subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens. Since the second half of the 20th century, the association of race with the ideologies and theories of scientific racism has led to the use of the word race itself becoming problematic. Although still used in general contexts, race has often been replaced by less ambiguous and loaded terms: populations, people(s), ethnic groups, or communities, depending on context.

Defining Race— Modern scholarship views racial categories as socially constructed, that is, race is not intrinsic to human beings but rather an identity created, often by socially dominant groups, to establish meaning in a social context. Different cultures define different racial groups, often focused on the largest groups of social relevance, and these definitions can change over time. The establishment of racial boundaries often involves the subjugation of groups defined as racially inferior, as in the one-drop rule used in the 19th-century United States to exclude those with any amount of African ancestry from the dominant racial grouping, defined as “white.” Such racial identities reflect the cultural attitudes of imperial powers dominant during the age of European colonial expansion.

This view rejects the notion that race is biologically defined. According to geneticist David Reich, “while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.” These biological differences in geographic ancestral populations are not consistent with zoological definitions of race, and there are no “sharp, categorical distinctions.”

Although commonalities in physical traits such as facial features, skin color, and hair texture comprise part of the race concept, this linkage is a social distinction rather than an inherently biological one. Other dimensions of racial groupings include shared history, traditions and language. For instance in the case of African Americans.

English is a language spoken by most African Americans, the United States. Furthermore, people often self-identify as members of a race for political reasons. When people define and talk about a particular conception of race, they create a social reality through which social categorization is achieved. In this sense, races are said to be social constructs. These constructs develop within various legal, economic, and sociopolitical contexts, and may be the effect, rather than the cause, of major social situations. While race is understood to be a social construct by many, most scholars agree that race has real material effects in the lives of people through institutionalized practices of preference and discrimination.”

Learning about others from their real history and achievements helps us begin an actual understanding of the individual you meet and not the stereotype often created by the concept of “race.”

Fondly Submitted by Cindy for the Diversity Committee

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does racial color blindness exist? The dangers of teaching the myth of racial color blindness

We didn’t know it but I guess I lived in what is now called a progressive family. I’m a first generation American and our focus was not on race as we understand it today. Our focus was on survival. The horror of World War II was still swirling around us when I was born. My parents experienced fear having just come out of the great economic depression to find out that Hitler was trying to exterminate all of my people and certainly we had lost most if not all of our relatives who remained in Europe. Until the end of World War II my family knew that death could be, at any time, at our door. I was raised to be a proud American forever grateful for the sacrifice of the nation in the war effort. I was, within reason, raised to relatively feel safe here. I was told the policeman was my friend and if I should get lost I should tell a policeman in uniform and he would take me to the police station and perhaps buy me ice cream. Today we know this blind trust in authority can not be shared by all. After World War II there was some good news though. Our family was a loyal Brooklyn Dodger family. Jackie Robinson was our hero. We talked about the fact he wasn’t treated right by the crowd and other players, but he was our hero and he withstood every test. We didn’t talk much about how he may have felt. In our mind heroes were above feelings of hurt, pain and fear. My favorite doll was soft, made of cloth and to an adult eye, of another race. Did I think I had a black doll? No, my doll was just something I loved beyond words. I think my family, without knowing it, was trying to raise me color blind. I went to an integrated high school in Harlem. I had friends who were varied in race and culture and when they came to my home their background was a non-issue. It was not discussed. They were just my friends and welcome. Today there is a different perspective. I would like to share this thought provoking article. Basically the thinking of this article suggests that by affecting the position that you are racially colorblind you deny the realities of what it is to be of another race and culture in our society. The article suggests rather than denying differences in race and culture we discuss and recognize it’s impact on our lives as a whole.

From Charlotte Parent, August 27, 2018—Liz Rothaus Bertrand ‘Why We Shouldn’t Teach Kids to Be Color Blind’ For many people, race is a topic that’s difficult to discuss, especially with kids. Avoidance, however, has complicated rather than improved our relationships with one another. In recent years, America has been rocked by the rising frequency of racially motivated hate crimes, deadly incidents of racial profiling, a resurgence of re-segregated schools and daily reminders of inequity. While families of color often feel compelled to have “the talk” about racial bias with their children for safety’s sake, too often white families are silent. One reason may be they don’t know how to start the conversation. Here’s a look at how we all can begin having fact-based, healthy conversations about race to promote understanding and positive change in our community. WHY SHOULD WE BE TALKING ABOUT RACE? We all have different physical features, cultural traditions and languages, but the concept of race is not biologically real. It is a system of power that has been reinforced over hundreds of years through social, political and economic means. “It’s basically been laws and practices that have separated [individuals] into people groups with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom,” says Dr. Lucretia Carter Berry, an antiracist consultant and educator. Perceptions of race affect the way we interact with one another and institutions, as well as our placement in society. “It’s related to every aspect of our experience whether or not we know it,” says James Ford, co-chair of the Leading on Opportunity Task Force. “Not just for families of color but white families as well.” Understanding how race has been used for the advantage of some people and the disadvantage of others is essential to make sense of many issues our community and country are struggling with today. “Even if you’re a good person, your experience within society will be radically different based on your culture and based on your appearance,” says Ford, who was also the 2014-2015 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The idea that equality comes from ignoring difference simply isn’t true. “We should be color rich and embrace and celebrate all the ways that we can show up in the world,” says Janeen Bryant, founder of Facilitate Movement, a consulting agency that helps museums and nonprofits engage new audiences and build community. “… I think ‘color blind’ is a cop out for when people have difficulty talking about difference.” Ignorance is also dangerous because it can warp our worldview and prevent people from speaking honestly with one another. It can also affect our ability to build authentic relationships and feel safe around people who are different from us; it also devalues others with harmful consequences. “If children don’t see race, then they don’t see racism,” Ford says. “If you teach them not to see ‘color,’ what you’re really telling them is not to be attentive to difference. And they’ll start to grow indifference to injustice based on race because we made it taboo to discuss those things.” We also need to show children how to combat bigotry when encountered. That means speaking up even when it’s uncomfortable. We have to model what we want the children to become,” Berry says. “For children to be more actively antiracist, they can’t do that without us showing them how to do it.” We can also look to history for examples of people of various backgrounds who worked for social justice to serve as models for our children to emulate. Ultimately, the message to kids should be truthful, hopeful and empowering. Learning and acknowledgement are the first steps; continuous engagement and informed action can help to move us forward. As Bryant says, “We co-design the future we want to build.”

I hope you found this article enlightening. It was to me. When I realized that being born in the midst of World War II surrounded by fear did influence my growing up and my personality. I found I took nothing for granted. I learned to seek refuge in the ways that I could and realized that that need for refuge was a legacy of the horrors of the Holocaust. I also came to recognize this sense of fear and threat is not unique to my culture. It has a relationship to the sense of fear and threat shared by racial minorities in our country. I felt for a moment after World War II that we, as an entire nation, were going to be safe. The recent increase in anti-Semitism and acts of hate against other minorities; these horrific events , taught me that as long as there is hate in the world, where people are not seen as individuals, but rather, as members of a hated group, no one is safe, not the hated nor the hater. Fondly submitted  for the diversity committee. Stay warm, well and share love. Feel free to comment on this article at our DiversityBlog, https://aauwhhl.wordpress.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kwanzaa a Joyful Light in the Holiday Season

As we look forward to celebrating the holiday season each in our own way we can look at a newer holiday tradition in one that may not be as familiar to us. That tradition is Kwanzaa and the following excerpt from Wikipedia article tells us more about this fascinating winter holiday. From Wikipedia—

“Kwanzaa (/ˈkwɑːn.zə/) is a weeklong annual celebration held in the United States and other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas to honor African heritage in AfricanAmerican culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in gift-giving and a feast. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67. History and etymology— American Black Power activist and secular humanist Maulana Karenga, also known as Ronald McKinley Everett, created Kwanzaa in 1966, as a specifically African American holiday, in a spirit comparable to Juneteenth. According to Karenga, the name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” A more conventional translation would simply be “first fruits.” The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan Africanism, especially in the 1960s, although most of the Atlantic slave trade that brought African people to America originated in West Africa. First fruits festivals exist in Southern Africa, celebrated in December/January with the southern solstice, and Karenga was partly inspired by an account he read of the Zulu festival Umkhosi Wokweshwama. It was decided to spell the holiday’s name with an additional “a” so that it would have a symbolic seven letters. Kwanzaa is a celebration with its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s. Karenga established it to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage,” which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy.” For Karenga, a major figure in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the creation of such holidays also underscored an essential premise, “you must have a cultural revolution before the violent revolution. The cultural revolution gives identity, purpose and direction.” During the early years of Kwanzaa, Karenga said it was meant to be an alternative to Christmas. He believed Jesus was psychotic and Christianity was a “white” religion that black people should shun. As Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so practicing Christians would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, “Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.” Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.

Principles and symbols— Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba–the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” They were developed in 1965, a year before Kwanzaa itself. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning “common.” Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows: • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle Kwanzaa celebratory symbols include a mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed: a Kinara (candle holder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), mazao (crops), Mahindi (corn), a Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) for commemorating and giving shukrani (thanks) to African Ancestors, and Zawadi (gifts). Supplemental representations include a Nguzo Saba poster, the black, red, and green bendera (flag), and African books and artworks–all to represent values and concepts reflective of African culture and contribution to community building and reinforcement. Ears of corn represent the children celebrating and corn may be part of the holiday meal.”

In conclusion let us enjoy our holidays, our homes, our families and friends knowing that none of us are alone in our celebrations. We recognize the diversity in joy of the season. We learn from one another and can imagine the common roots that we share. The darkness of winter is dispelled by lighting up the season each in our own way. Wishing you all a joyous holiday season. Fondly, for the diversity committee. Feel free to comment on this article at our Diversity Blog, https://aauwhhl.wordpress.com. AAUW Diversity Policy: AAUW values and seeks a diverse membership. There shall be no barriers to full participation in this organization on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or class.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Many Roads to Greatness

Maya Angelou, a gifted and highly recognized author and poet, had a challenging road to greatness. Given her life challenges how many of us would have imagined her to become a talented and highly acclaimed author. Hers was not a story of early success and recognition, leading to social and economic security. Her story was one of a challenge, hurt, trauma and the finding of redemption in writing. Please read below an excerpt of her biography. Imagine yourself going through her travail. How would you have been affected? Would you have shut down, withdrawn or lashed out? Clearly none of us know the answers to how we might have responded to Maya Angelou‘s challenges. What we see in her is her strength and ability to overcome adversity while recognizing that her trauma left a mark, but could be shared with others to let them know that trauma does not inevitably lead to the destruction of self but can lead to an enhanced awareness of life with all its richness and sorrow. From Wikipedia—

Maya Angelou born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928–May 28, 2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim. She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, sex worker, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of black culture. Her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide, although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries. Angelou’s most Diversity—Cindy Goldberg, Co-Chair celebrated works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics consider them to be autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family and travel. Marguerite Annie Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, the second child of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer, Angelou’s older brother, Bailey Jr., nicknamed Marguerite “Maya”, derived from “My” or “Mya Sister”. When Angelou was three and her brother four, their parents’ “calamitous marriage” ended, and their father sent them to Stamps, Arkansas, alone by train, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In “an astonishing exception” to the harsh economics of African Americans of the time, Angelou’s grandmother prospered financially during the Great Depression and World War II because the general store she owned sold needed basic commodities and because “she made wise and honest investments” Four years later, the children’s father “came to Stamps without warning” and returned them to their mother’s care in St. Louis. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou’s uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.” According to Marcia Ann Gillespie and her colleagues, who wrote a biography about Angelou, it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her. Shortly after Freeman’s murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again, who had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, Angelou attended the California Labor School. At the age of 16, she became the first black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. She wanted the job badly, admiring the uniforms of the operators—so much so that her mother referred to it as her “dream job.” Her mother encouraged her to pursue the position, but warned her that she would need to arrive early and work harder than Minority Transportation Officials as part of a session billed “Women Who Move the Nation.“ Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson) Angelou met novelist John Oliver Killens in 1959 and, at his urging, moved to New York to concentrate on her writing career. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild, where she met several major African American authors, including John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall, and Julian Mayfield, and was published for the first time. In 1960, after meeting civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and hearing him speak, she and Killens organized “the legendary”[ Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC’s Northern Coordinator. According to scholar Lyman B. Hagen, her contributions to civil rights as a fundraiser and SCLC organizer were successful and “eminently effective.” Angelou also began her pro-Castro and anti-apartheid activism during this time. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou to organize a march. She agrees, but “postpones again”, and in what Gillespie calls “a macabre twist of fate”, he was assassinated on her 40th birthday (April 4). Devastated again, she was encouraged out of her depression by her friend James Baldwin. As Gillespie states, “If 1968 was a year of great pain, loss, and sadness, it was also the year when America first witnessed the breadth and depth of Maya Angelou’s spirit and creative genius”. Despite having almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated Blacks, Blues, Black!, a ten-part series of documentaries about the connection between blues music and black Americans’ African heritage, and what Angelou called the “Africanisms still current in the US” for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS. Also in 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. This brought her international recognition and acclaim. In 1977, Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television miniseries Roots. She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world. In the late 1970s, Angelou met Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was a TV anchor in Baltimore, Maryland; Angelou would later become Winfrey’s close friend and mentor. In 1981, Angelou and du Feu divorced. She returned to the southern United States in 1981 because she felt she had to come to terms with her past there and, despite having no bachelor’s degree, accepted the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was one of a few full-time African American professors. From that point on, she considered herself “a teacher who writes.” Angelou taught a variety of subjects that reflected her interests, including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing. In late 2010, Angelou donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. They consisted of more than 340 boxes of documents that featured her handwritten notes on yellow legal pads for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, about, even traumatic experiences such as her rape in Caged Bird, in order to “tell the human truth” about her life. Angelou stated that she played cards in order to get to that place of a 1982 telegram from Coretta Scott King, fan mail, and personal and professional correspondence from colleagues such as her editor Robert Loomis. In 2011, Angelou served as a consultant for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. She spoke out in opposition to a paraphrase of a quotation by King that appeared on the memorial, saying, “The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” and demanded that it be changed. Eventually, the paraphrase was removed. In 2013, at the age of 85, Angelou published the seventh volume of autobiography in her series, titled Mom & Me & Mom, which focuses on her relationship with her mother. Beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou used the same “writing ritual” for many years. She would wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to play solitaire, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She would average 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she edited down to three or four pages in the evening. She went through this process to “enchant” herself, and as she said in a 1989 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, “relive the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang.” She placed herself back in the time she wrote enchantment and in order to access her memories more effectively. She said, “It may take an hour to get into it, but once I’m in it—ha! It’s so delicious!” She did not find the process cathartic; rather, she found relief in “telling the truth.” Angelou died on the morning of May 28, 2014.

In conclusion when we read of Maya Angelou overcoming her great struggles and also her being aware of their mark on her, we realize that all human beings have tremendous capacities to endure and overcome life’s challenges, but those capacities must be nurtured either from within the individual through their own strength and courage but also through the support of those around them. The role the larger society plays in either supporting or traumatizing the individual, or an entire gender or culture cannot be underestimated. Here we might give thought to how we treat one another and in what ways on a daily basis we affirm or deny the humanity that all of us share.

Fondly submitted for the diversity committee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This summer we lost a great poet

This summer we lost a great poet. A true artist who painted in words. She will not be easily replaced. That poet was Toni Morrison. I would like to share with you the story of her life which speaks to all of those who dedicate themselves to personal achievement and the expression of their social voice. Here is part of the story of Toni Morrison. From Wikipedia: Chloe Anthony Wofford “Toni” Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019) was an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for Beloved (1987). Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 and went to graduate school at Cornell University. She later taught English at Howard University and also married and had two children before divorcing in 1964. In the late 1960s, she became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City. In the 1970s and 1980s, she developed her own reputation as an author, and her perhaps most celebrated work, Beloved, was made into a 1998 film. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Also that year, she was honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. Early years Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, to Ramah (née Willis) and George Wofford. She was the second of four children in a working-class, African American family. Her mother was born in Greenville, Alabama, and moved north with her family as a child. Her father grew up in Cartersville, Georgia, and when he was about 15, white people lynched two black businessmen who lived on his street. Morrison said: “He never told us that he’d seen bodies. But he had seen them. And that was too traumatic, I think, for him.” Soon after the lynching, George Wofford moved to the racially integrated town of Lorain, Ohio, in the hope of escaping racism and securing gainful employment in Ohio’s burgeoning industrial economy. He worked odd jobs and as a welder for U.S. Steel. Ramah Wofford was a homemaker and a devout member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Morrison’s parents instilled in her a sense of heritage and language through telling traditional African American folktales and ghost stories and singing songs. Morrison also read frequently as a child; among her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. She became a Catholic at the age of 12 and took the baptismal name Anthony (after Anthony of Padua), which led to her nickname, Toni. Attending Lorain High School, she was on the debating team, the Diversity—Cindy Goldberg, Co-Chair yearbook staff, and in the drama club. Adulthood and editing career: 1949–1974 In 1949, she enrolled at the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., seeking the company of fellow black intellectuals. It was while at Howard that she encountered racially segregated restaurants and buses for the first time. She graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in English and went on to earn a Master of Arts from Cornell University in 1955. Her master’s thesis was titled “Virginia Woolf’s and William Faulkner’s treatment of the alienated.” She taught English, first at Texas Southern University in Houston for two years, then at Howard University for seven years. While teaching at Howard, she met Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect, whom she married in 1958. She was pregnant with their second son when she and Harold divorced in 1964. After the breakup of her marriage, Morrison began working as an editor in 1965, for L. W. Singer, a textbook division of publisher Random House, in Syracuse, New York. Two years later she transferred to Random House in New York City, where she became their first black woman senior editor in the fiction department. In that capacity, Morrison played a vital role in bringing black literature into the mainstream. One of the first books she worked on was the groundbreaking Contemporary African Literature (1972), a collection that included work by Nigerian writers Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe and South African playwright Athol Fugard. She fostered a new generation of African American authors, including Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, Black Panther Huey Newton and Gayl Jones, whose writing Morrison discovered, and she brought out the autobiography of boxer Muhammad Ali in The Greatest. She also published and publicized the work of Henry Dumas, a little-known novelist and poet who was shot to death by a transit officer in the New York City Subway in 1968. First writings and teaching, 1970–1986 Morrison had begun writing fiction as part of an informal group of poets and writers at Howard University who met to discuss their work. She attended one meeting with a short story about a black girl who longed to have blue eyes. Morrison later developed the story as her first novel, The Bluest Eye, getting up every morning at 4 am to write, while raising two children alone. The Bluest Eye was published in 1970, when Morrison was aged 39. It was favorably reviewed in The New York Times by John Leonard, who praised Morrison’s writing style as being “a prose so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry … But The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare and music.” In 1975, Morrison’s second novel Sula (1973), about a friendship between two black women, was nominated for the National Book Award. Her third novel, Song of Solomon (1977), follows the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead III, from birth to adulthood, as he discovers his heritage. In 1983, Morrison left publishing to devote more time to writing, while living in a converted boathouse on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. She taught English at two branches of the State University of New York (SUNY) and at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus. In 1984, she was appointed to an Albert Schweitzer chair at the University at Albany, SUNY. The Beloved Trilogy and the Nobel Prize: 1987–1998 Morrison published her most celebrated novel, Beloved. It was inspired by the true story of an enslaved African-American woman, Margaret Garner, whose story Morrison had discovered when compiling The Black Book. Garner had escaped slavery but was pursued by slave hunters. Facing a return to slavery, Garner killed her two-year-old daughter but was captured before she could kill herself. Morrison’s novel imagines the dead baby returning as a ghost, Beloved, to haunt her mother and family. Beloved is the first of three novels about love and African-American history, sometimes called the Beloved Trilogy. Morrison said that they are intended to be read together, explaining, “The conceptual connection is the search for the beloved – the part of the self that is you, and loves you, and is always there for you.” The second novel in the trilogy, Jazz, came out in 1992. Told in language that imitates the rhythms of jazz music, the novel is about a love triangle during the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. The third novel of her Beloved trilogy, Paradise, about citizens of an all-black town, came out in 1997. The next year, Morrison was on the cover of Time magazine, making her only the second female writer of fiction and second black writer of fiction to appear on what was perhaps the most significant US magazine cover of the era. Before Morrison published the third novel of the trilogy, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her citation reads that she, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” She was the first black woman of any nationality to win the prize. In her Nobel acceptance speech, Morrison talked about the power of storytelling. To make her point, she told a story. She spoke about a blind, old, black woman who is approached by a group of young people. They demand of her, “Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong? … Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story.” Final years: 2010–2019 In May 2010, Morrison appeared at PEN World Voices for a conversation with Marlene van Niekerk and Kwame Anthony Appiah about South African literature, and specifically van Niekerk’s 2004 novel Agaat. Morrison wrote books for children with her younger son, Slade Morrison, who was a painter and a musician. Slade died of pancreatic cancer on December 22, 2010, aged 45. Morrison’s novel Home was half -completed when her son died. In May 2011, Morrison received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Rutgers University–New Brunswick during the commencement ceremony, where she delivered a speech on the “pursuit of life, liberty, meaningfulness, integrity, and truth.” Morrison debuted another work in 2011: She worked with opera director Peter Sellars and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré on a new production, Desdemona, taking a fresh look at William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. The trio focused on the relationship between Othello’s wife Desdemona and her African nursemaid, Barbary, who is only briefly referenced in Shakespeare. The play, a mix of words, music and song, premiered in Vienna in 2011. Morrison had stopped working on her latest novel when her son died. She said that afterward, “I stopped writing until I began to think, “He would be really put out if he thought that he had caused me to stop. ‘Please, Mom, I’m dead, could you keep going …?'” She completed Home and dedicated it to her son Slade Morrison. Published in 2012, it is the story of a Korean War veteran in the segregated United States of the 1950s, who tries to save his sister from brutal medical experiments at the hands of a white doctor. In August 2012, Oberlin College became the home base of the Toni Morrison Society, an international literary society founded in 1983, dedicated to scholarly research of Morrison’s work. Morrison’s eleventh novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015. It follows Bride, an executive in the fashion and beauty industry whose mother tormented her as a child for being dark skinned – a childhood trauma that has dogged Bride her whole life. Morrison was a member of the editorial advisory board of The Nation, a magazine started in 1865 by Northern abolitionists. Morrison died at Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, New York City, on August 5, 2019, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88 years old. In closing, we can learn a lot from the life of Toni Morrison and from her poetry. Her voice has not been silenced but lives on through her writing to be heard by generation after generation after her passing. Fondly submitted for the diversity committee, Feel free to comment on this article at our Diversity Blog, https://aauwhhl.wordpress.com. Biographical material from Wikipedia

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Everyone Into The Pool

It is hard to believe summer is on the way and for some
of us, it’ll mean time spent around the neighborhood or
community pool. For many this brings good memories of
childhood. But for others there is a different story. It is the
story for some of racial discrimination which was reflected
in and today reflects tensions in our society that need to be
recognized so they may be dealt with. For many of us being at the water in
the summer meant going to the beach. Often this was a more egalitarian
environment. Beach blanket space and boardwalks somehow seemed to be
for all. There was often an informal sense of who settled where, but in post desegregation years, no hard and fast rules, at least we thought so. The
pool was a different reality altogether.
The following article casts a light on the issue of racial discrimination at
the pool in the past and today.
By Jeff Wiltse, June 10, 2015 , The Washington Post
America’s swimming pools have a long, sad, racist history
They’ve long been contested spaces where we express prejudices that
otherwise remain unspoken.
Last weekend, a harrowing scene unfolded at a private community
swimming pool in McKinney, TX. Several white adults taunted a group of
black teens, telling them to “go back to your Section 8 homes.” Another
reportedly referred to one of the teens as a “black effer.” The police were
eventually called in, responding with aggressive and unreasonable force.
Americans were shocked by the scene, which was caught by camera
phones. But I wasn’t surprised.
Swimming pools have long been contested spaces where Americans
express social prejudices that otherwise remain publicly unspoken. (Though
the McKinney pool isn’t open to the general public, it was being used by a
resident to host a party with friends from outside the neighborhood, like
someone might do at their own neighborhood pool.) They provide insight
into the state of social relations in America, both past and present.
The earliest public pools were built in large northern cities during the late
19th and early 20th centuries. They served mostly poor and working-class
boys (both black and white), and reveal the class prejudices of the time. In
1910, for example, the proposal to build a large municipal pool in New
York’s Central Park generated intense opposition from the city’s middle and
upper classes, because it would attract large numbers of immigrant and
working-class kids into their oasis of genteel recreation. “I should consider it
disastrous if the only swimming pool belonging to the city was put [in
Central Park],” one critic told the New York Times. “It would attract all sorts
of undesirable people.” The paper agreed and recommended that municipal
pools be located underneath the Manhattan and Queensboro bridges.
These locations would have effectively secluded working-class swimmers,
protecting the city’s class-segregated social geography.
The design of pools and the social composition of swimmers changed
during the 1920s and ’30s, when cities across the country built large, resortlike swimming pools and allowed males and females to use them together
for the first time. In northern cities such as Chicago, New York and
Pittsburgh, gender integration brought about racial segregation. Public
officials and white swimmers now objected to the presence of black
Americans because they did not want black men interacting with white
women at such visually and physically intimate spaces. And so, throughout
the North, public pools became racially segregated during the interwar
years.
In some cases, white swimmers imposed de facto segregation through
violence and intimidation. At Pittsburgh’s Highland Park Pool, for
example, white swimmers attacked black swimmers —
sometimes with rocks and clubs — to prevent them from
entering the pool. Police officers encouraged these attacks and
typically arrested the black victims, charging them with “inciting
to riot.” In attempting to explain why black swimmers were
being attacked at Highland Park Pool but not at other city pools,
the Pittsburgh Courier wrote: “The whole trouble seems to be
due to the way Highland Park Pool is operated. It is the only city
pool where men and women, girls and boys swim together. This
brings the sex question into t he pool and trouble is bound to
arise between the races.
The same type of trouble had no chance to arise at public
swimming pools in the South and Mason-Dixon line cities such as
St. Louis and Baltimore, because public officials mandated racial
segregation, explicitly barring blacks from entering “whites-only”
pools.
Across the country, public swimming pools were racially
desegregated after World War II, but that was met with
widespread opposition from whites that again exposed their
social prejudices. Southern cities typically shut down their public
pools rather than allow mixed-race swimming. In the North,
whites generally abandoned pools that became accessible to
blacks and retreated to ones located in thoroughly white
neighborhoods or established private club pools, where racial
discrimination was still legal.
Warren, Ohio, for example, was forced by a pending court
order to desegregate its municipal pool in 1948. The local
newspaper covered the first day of interracial swimming by
printing a front-page photo showing a dozen children waiting to
enter. The last two children in line were black; the caption read:
“Last one in the water is a monkey.” The racial antipathy
expressed in the newspaper was shared by many local whites,
who stopped using the pool when they realized black residents
intended to use it. Similarly, in 1962, several years after
Pittsburgh’s municipal pools were desegregated, a sign posted
outside a city pool still used exclusively by whites read “No dogs
or niggers allowed.” Public pools were racially desegregated, but
that did not mean blacks and whites started swimming together.
Even today, there are examples that things haven’t changed
that much. In 2009, 65 black and Latino campers from the
Creative Steps day camp in North Philadelphia arrived at the
Valley Swim Club in suburban Montgomery County to play for an
hour and a half. Camp director Althea Wright had paid the
private club $1,950 to use the facility Monday afternoons
throughout the summer. As the campers entered the water,
some club members reportedly pulled their children from the
pool and wondered aloud what all these black and Latino kids
were doing there. A few days later, the Valley Swim Club
canceled the lease agreement. When pressed to explain, the club
president stated, “there was concern [among the members] that
a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere
of the club.
We do not see this type of behavior in other public spaces
such as parks. Why do swimming pools bring out the worst in
people?
Part of the answer has to do with the uniqueness of swimming pools as physical spaces. They are visually and socially intimate.
Swimmers gaze upon one another’s nearly naked bodies, lie in the sun next
to one another, navigate through crowded water and flirt. This type of
contact and interaction piques social anxieties and exposes the lack of trust
and understanding between people of different social classes.
Swimming pools have also been intensely contested because they are
places at which people build community and define the social boundaries of
community life. Swimming pools are primary summertime gathering places,
where many people come together (often for several hours), socialize, and
share a common space. Swimming with others in a pool means accepting
them as part of the same community precisely because the interaction is so
intimate and sociable. Conversely, excluding someone or some group from a
pool effectively defines them as social others—as excluded from the
community.
For these reasons, swimming pools serve as useful barometers of social
relations. If we as a nation want to know how we relate to one another
across social lines, how we structure our communities socially, and how we
think about people who are socially different from ourselves, just look at our
swimming pools. The answer will be obvious.
In sum, the lazy hazy days of summer have been and are more
complicated than we may realize. Have a happy and inclusive summer.
Fondly submitted for the Diversity Committee

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment