Monday, November 27, 2017

Moxie Girls Fight Back

Have you read the book Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu?
It's an awesome young adult novel about the power of voice, the importance of feminism, and the empowerment of having guts, gumption, and grit.

Today I left a few copies of Moxie in women's restrooms with the following note:

Moxie is the perfect book to get for every girl you know this holiday season.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Be Kind To Elephants

On Wednesday, the Trump administration lifted the ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States from elephant hunts in two African nations.

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In a passionate speech, Ellen Degeneres promised to make a donation to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for every share her #bekindtoelephants campaign received. Saying, "I love elephants and if you take the time to learn about elephants you would love them too. Elephants show compassion, sympathy, social intelligence, self-awareness … all the things I have yet to see in this president."

Use the hashtag #bekindtoelephants; retweet and share @TheEllenShow's post on twitter, Facebook, and instagram; educate yourself on the magnificence of African elephants.

Monday, November 13, 2017


“Hope”by Victoria Safford 
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,” but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave.

Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.
- Reinhold Niebuhr

This weekend I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. This book will break your heart as well as give you hope ... it is a whirlwind of emotions.

This is such an important book!
Get this book for anyone who believes:
"We must reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent."

From the Introduction: Higher Ground:
This book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America. It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. It's also about a dramatic period in our recent history, a period that indelibly marked the lives of millions of Americans - of all races, ages, and sexes - and the American psyche as a whole. 
When I first went to death row in December 1983, America was in the early stages of a radical transformation that would turn us into an unprecedentedly harsh and punitive nation and result in mass imprisonment the has no historical parallel. Today we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are nearly six million people on probation or on parole. One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.

Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I've come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. 
We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it's necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and - perhaps - we all need some measure of unmerited grace.

From Chapter Fifteen: Broken
My years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression, and injustice had finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn't just illuminate the brokenness of others; in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed my own brokenness. You can't effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. 
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. 

From Chapter Sixteen: The Stonecatchers' Song of Sorrow
I believe that so much of our worst thinking about justice is steeped in the myth of racial difference that still plagues us. I believe that there are four institutions in American history that have shaped our approach to race and justice but remain poorly understood. The first, of course, is slavery. This was followed by the reign of terror that shaped the lives of people of color following the collapse of Reconstruction until World War II... The third institution, "Jim Crow," is the legalized racial segregation and suppression of basic rights that defined the American apartheid era... The fourth institution is mass incarceration. Going into any prison is deeply confusing if you know anything about the racial demographics of America. The extreme overrepresentation of people of color, the disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, the targeted prosecution of drug crimes in poor communities, the criminalization of new immigrants and undocumented people, the collateral consequences of voter disenfranchisement, and the barriers to re-entry can only be fully understood through the lense of racial history.

Read this book. Get it for the young people in your life who have an interest in justice and the judicial system. Get this book for those who need a little mercy and compassion in their life. Read this book.

Also, you must watch Bryan Stevenson's TED Talk:

“We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.” This way of thinking is in line with other pronouncements he makes throughout: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” They are like phrases from sermons, exhortations to righteous action. “The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?

Then, watch the documentary 13th on Netflix featuring Bryan Stevenson:

I'll close with my favorite quote also from Chapter Fifteen:
“Rosa Parks turned to me sweetly and asked, 'Now, Bryan, tell me who you are and what you're doing.' I looked at Ms. Carr to see if I had permission to speak, and she smiled and nodded at me. I then gave Ms. Parks my rap. 'Yes, ma'am. Well, I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we're trying to help people on death row. We're trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We're trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who've been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice...Ms. Parks leaned back smiling. 'Ooooh, honey, all that's going to make you tired, tired, tired.' We all laughed. I looked down, a little embarrassed. Then Ms. Carr leaned forward and put her finger in my face and talked to me just like my grandmother used to talk to me. She said, 'That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave.' All three women nodded in silent agreement and for just a little while, they made me feel like a young prince.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

keep up the struggle in difficult times

On The Week, I saw a book list titled Brene Brown's 6 Favorite books that inspire bravery. It's a great reading list and I loved seeing Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks. It's a great book and if you like it, you should also read Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope also by bell hooks. Teaching Community is a book we all need right now.

 From Publishers Weekly:
Readers of hooks's prolific body of work on feminism, racism, cultural politics, art and education will find much that is familiar here. Grounded in autobiography and storytelling and written for an intelligent lay audience, these essays exhort readers to keep up the struggle in difficult times. A distinguishing characteristic of hooks's work is the challenge to recognize, confront and overcome "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy," a recurring phrase that captures her hallmark theme: oppression occurs at the intersections of race, gender and the dominant economic system.

Some of my favorite parts:
We need mass-based political movements calling citizens of this nation to uphold democracy and the rights of everyone to be educated, and to work on behalf of ending domination in all its forms - to work for justice, changing our educational system so that schooling is not the site where students are indoctrinated to support imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy or any ideology, but rather where they learn to open their minds, to engage in rigorous study and to think critically. 
In education especially, this community connects us with the... 'great things' of the world, and with 'the grace of great things' ...We are in community with all of these great things, and great teaching is about knowing that community, and then drawing your students into it. 
Certainly as democratic educators we have to work to find ways to teach and share knowledge in a manner that does not reinforce existing structures of domination (those of race, gender, class, and religious hierarchies). 
Whether or not any of us become racists is a choice we make. And we are called to choose again and again where we stand on the issue of racism at different moments in our life. 

To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.

I highly recommend this book to teachers, facilitators, leaders  -  or for anyone interested in deconstructing racism and the existing structures of mysogyny, and kyriarchy.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

home and hope

Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Genius, Matthew Desmond, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction for his heartbreaking book EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City. I read Evicted after hearing this story on an old Diane Rehm show on NPR.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid prose, Desmond provides a intimate view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. Evicted follows the stories of actual families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods. Readers bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast income inequality, systemic poverty, economic exploitation, and real Americans' determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

It is brutal to witness... and yet

And yet the Epilogue provides some fresh ideas for moving forward - it is titled  Home and Hope.

I'll leave you with this question from the Epilogue:
All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary. Because it is unnecessary, there is hope. These problems are neither intractable nor eternal. A different kind of society is possible, and powerful solutions are within our collective reach. 
But those solutions depend on how we answer a single question: do we believe that the right to a decent home is part of what it means to be an American?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

it's finally your turn, and then it's not

Today I read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. It is poetry and essay in seven chapters, interspersed with image and collage. It is a work of art.

Citizen is a collection of microagressions and racial incidents; it is a complex journey on race.

And the cover... a hoodie. The new image of fear in America.

Your friend is speaking to your neighbor when you arrive home. The four police cars are gone. Your neighbor has apologized to your friend and is now apologizing to you. Feeling somewhat responsible for the actions of your neighbor, you clumsily tell your friend that the next time he wants to talk on the phone he should just go in the backyard. He looks at you a long minute before saying he can speak on the phone wherever he wants. Yes, of course, you say. Yes, of course.

In chapter two, the part about Serena Williams was heartbreaking. How had I not known about the 2004 US Open or 2009 or the 2012 Olympics or Indian Wells?
For Serena, the daily diminishment is a low flame, a constant drip.

Get this book. It is painful and beautiful to read.

In line at the drugstore it's finally your turn, and then it's not as he walks in front of you and puts his things on the counter. The cashier says, Sir, she was next. When he turns to you he is truly surprised.
Oh my God, I didn't see you.
You must be in a hurry, you offer.
No, no, no, I really didn't see you. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

courage to stand alone

"People are hard to hate close up. Move in.Speak truth to bullshit. Be Civil.Hold hands. With strangers.Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart."

Be sure to read Brené Brown's new book, Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.

I believe that Chapter Four was written just for me.

Brown's research on dehumanization is a reminder we all need to hear. I will read chapter four again and again.

If you want to follow along, Brené Brown discussed each chapter individually on Facebook Live during her book tour. 

And... watch this TED live video with Brené Brown and Helen Walters.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

all is not lost

"There is great danger in these times. And yet, all is not lost. The future remains unwritten, ours to shape - though it will not be easy. Institutional power has been hijacked by a crew of corrupt, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, blithely incompetent leaders bent on dismantling the very hallmark of this nation's democracy. We need to be in a sustained and continuous state of resistance, for as long as it takes, in order to protect our collective rights and the future of the planet. This is hard work. One could easily become exhausted, or paralyzed by despair. That is where this book comes in." - Radical Hope

This weekend I read Radical Hope: Letters Of Love And Dissent In Dangerous Times edited by Carolina De Roberts. It is a collection of individual letters written by some of our favorite authors. It is a reminder to stay engaged in what is good and true and kind.

This book was in a list of titles I saw recommended for young adults trying to make sense of our current political landscape. While there is much to despair, it is essentially a book about hope. By knowing our past, by being connected to our present day communities, and by looking to future inheritors of what happens now - we can create a better world.

From Junot Díaz's letter:
But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I'm trying to cultivate is not blind optimism or inane positivity but what the philosopher  Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. "What makes this hope radical," Lear writes, "is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is." Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as "imaginative excellence." Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future. 
And in Aya De León's letter to millennials:
We older generations haven't built the world you deserve. We wish we had, but we haven't. We often fall back on criticizing you when you make different choices about how to navigate the world's imperfections. So on behalf of older adults who have lectured when we should have listened, and dictated when we should have disclosed, I want to offer an apology. We did our best, but you deserve better. Can you forgive us? I know we've broken our promises. We didn't mean to hurt you. We weren't really lying because, crazy as it sounds now, we believed it at the time.
Jeff Chang writes:
As we face the new day, we must remind ourselves: We are not alone. We are not marginal. We are the majority. We are ready. And we will not stay silent.

In Claire Messud's letter to her daughter:
... my dearest daughter, it's up to us - and in the future, it will be up to you - to defend substance, to forge a true path, and a meaningful one. To be fearless, joyful, hopeful. Privileged as we are, we have an obligation to be happy, to work for justice, openness, and generosity whenever possible; to listen fully to complexities and to try our best to understand; to hold the lamp illumined and aloft. No good gesture is wasted. No kindness is otiose. No sacrifice is too great. Each of us must shed light wherever we can.