Monthly Archives: January 2015

Celebrating a Century of Black Life, History, and Culture

We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.
-Carter Woodson, 1926

They also serve who only post and wait….

That’s how I feel when all I can do is encourage and support those who are in a position to do something real – especially about important matters such as celebration of African American History Month. As February nears and the time for planning bears down upon us I am left with no power to act other than to suggest some great resources for those who are in a position to celebrate Black History Month with the gusto it so richly deserves.

To be honest, when I read that both Nike and Adidas are featuring the Black History Month debut of theme-related shoes (replete with inspirational quotes paying homage to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career) I knew I had to do something

With the hope that these ideas may augment ongoing plans and possibly spur some new ones, here are some ideas of ready resources to share the history and stories of African Americans:

  • The 2015 theme for the month is “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.” The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) offers an excellent overview of the past century which has seen a transformation in our collective understanding of the role of African Americans in this nation’s history. The ASALH notes that “this transformation is the result of effort, not chance” adding that, though “the spotlight often shines on individuals, this movement is the product of organizations, of institutions and institution-builders who gave direction to effort.”
  • To augment the ASALH narrative the U.S. Census Bureau provides mountains of data reflecting the African American population now numbered at 74.5 million. Census Bureau stats cover everything from college enrollment to jobs to voting patterns, families and children. (U.S. Census Bureau CB15-FF.01)
  • The schedule for public television broadcasting during Black History Month is robust. ( The roster includes special new episodes from popular titles along with encore programming streamed online. Some interesting programming includes “Celebrating Black Americans,” a feature of the Antiques Roadshow, wherein participants present for appraisal an 1821 citizenship certificate for a free man of color and an African American beauty book written by entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, the first American female millionaire.  Also on PBS, on the Genealogy Roadshow, professional genealogists unravel the story of a New Orleans family’s links to the Civil War and connections to the New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. American Masters will premiere “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” which examines the legacy of the playwright in honor of his 70th birthday and the tenth anniversary of his death. On Shakespeare Uncovered PBS will offer an analysis od the personal passion of its celebrated hosts including Morgan Freeman’s discussion of The Taking of the Shrew
  • The National Council of Teachers of English weighs in with the National African American Read-In. It’s not too late to get involved and to be recognized as an official African American Read-In Host. Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations and interested citizens are welcome to join the Read In. (
  • Closer to home, Governor Dayton has issued the official Black History Month declaration recognizing the opportunity “to honor the many heroes who are unknown and unnamed, and who have contributed to the struggle for freedom and justice for all” and encouraging all Minnesotans “to come together, reflect on our collective past, and reveal its impact on present conditions.” (
  • The Minnesota History Center offers a number of public programs related to the theme of Black History Month. On Thursday, February 7, there’s a book launch celebration for Blues Vision, a collection of prose and poetry by forty-three Black writers. The following day, February 8, the Karen Charles Threads Dance Project performs in a program that uses expressive choreography and Negro spirituals to examine slavery, abolition and its legacy in the U.S. (
  • Though there are African American History Month activities planned in schools, libraries and colleges throughout the state of Minnesota, the list of activities at University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus gives the flavor of the breadth of related resources and events. The kickoff at the U of M TC’s campus on February 3, 6:00 p.m. at Coffman Union, focuses on the theme “Young, Black, Educated, and Gifted.” The campus calendar features a Black History Month activity — drama, politics, art or literature — almost every day of the month. (
  • KFAI will celebrate February 17-18 with a full schedule of programming suggested and produced by local organizations, artists and thoughtful citizens. (

The list goes on….Suffice to say, this is but a taste of the creative, informative and inspirational programs that promise to engage the entire community in celebration of “a century of Black life, history, and culture.” And this list doesn’t even include the wealth of print resources accessible at independent bookstores and libraries everywhere.

The thing about black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up. Henry Louis Gates







Thoughts on Sunshine Week 2015 – WWJMD?

The sun has shone and the sun has hidden behind many a bureaucratic and political cloud since the launch of Sunshine Week a decade ago. The decade has experienced cosmic change ranging from Wikileaks and Snowden to the emergence of open government groups such as Code for America to the President’s National Action Plan for Open Government to a last minute failure of the 113rd Congress to pass the FOIA Improvement Act.

Constant vigilance inspires Sunshine Week sponsors to join forces to plan for Sunshine Week 2015, March 15-21.

Ten years seems a propitious time to reflect on the basic principles as well as the visible manifestations of Sunshine Week including thoughtful editorials, inside the Beltway events, state and local awards, and the many examples of collaborative focus on a fundamental principle of this democracy.

It’s also a reminder to get back to basics — I think of it as a sort of WWJMD? (What Would James Madison Do?) approach to Sunshine Week 2015.   The focus on Madison stems from the fact that the celebration of Sunshine Week is set to coincide with his birthday on March 16. Besides Madison has always been my go-to thinker on the sometimes elusive permutations of the freedom of information tenet. (

My reflections have been informed and reinforced by a treasure collected and distributed by ( The thoughtful staffers there have produced a robust collection of freedom of information quotes, arranged chronologically from the 18th Century to the present. “Light on ponderous material from the preambles of laws” the listing of quotes is lively, inclusive, and open-ended, inviting those who care about such things to add their own.   FreedomInfo’s collection is great reinforcement for my personal WWJMD? Challenge and a must for any group grappling with plans for Sunshine Week 2015.

The other indispensable resource for Sunshine Week planners is the abundant assistance provided by Debra Gersh Hernandez who has been the illuminating presence since the pre-dawn of the national Sunshine Week initiative. Deb is responsible for the Sunshine Week website ( and for the steady flow of tweets that keep the ideas and energy flowing from Sunshine Week planners around the nation.

A bit of background: Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Prime movers are freedom of information proponents including journalists, civic socity groups, libraries and archives, government officials, schools and universities, and an expanding cohort of advocates for transparency and accountability at every level of government. Key players at the federal level are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors, organizations that welcome inclusion of the broadest possible circle of interest and activity. Sunshine Week 2015 is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation along with The Gridiron Cub and Foundation.

Sponsors and past participants in Sunshine Week offer a host of ideas and support materials, including an Idea Bank of “bright ideas” from a decade of Sunshine Week experience and a “Toolkit” rich with op ed pieces, editorial cartoons, logos, icons, sample proclamations and more. There is also a virtual catalog of Freedom of Information in action – samples of how federal and state freedom of information laws have been put to work to expose and resolve real life problems.

Back to my decentennial deliberations — WWJMD?   Admittedly, James Madison would have some catching up to do. On the one hand, he would hold the nation’s leaders feet to the fire, demanding that they move on passage of the bipartisan Freedom of Information Improvement Act sponsored by Senators Leahy and Cornyn. He would stoke up the heat under the President’s commitment to transparency as stated in the National Action Plan for Open Government.

Madison would applaud the unstinting work of state coalitions and national civic society efforts to keep the heat on – and to work with global freedom of information initiatives. And he would welcome the energy and commitment of the nation’s newest open government enthusiasts who are raising issues and developing new tools to make government information more accessible to more people. Most of all, he would work with leaders to make sure that all the players and stakeholders are at the table, talking with, not past, each other.

With specific reference to Sunshine Week 2015 Madison, the global thinker, would concur with British philosopher Jeremy Bentham who wrote that “without publicity, no good is permanent; under the auspices of publicity, no evil can continue.” (1768)







Local advocate Terri Horsmann speaks out for WomenHeart – the nation’s only patient-centered health organization

Some weeks ago I received an intriguing message from long-time friend and colleague Terri Horsmann. As so often happens, her “tip” led me on a search for information that has opened doors to a treasure trove of resources. With the media fixated on New Years resolutions and questionable medical/pharmaceutical advice, this seems a propitious time to share some of what I have been learning – thanks to Terri’s prompt

Terri Horsmann, a healthy young professional woman, is also a WomenHeart Champion. As a graduate of the national WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic Terri is now a recognized national spokesperson on women’s heart health and a support provider for women living with heart disease.

She joints nearly 700 other women described as “boots on the ground” in the fight against heart disease. These Champions have devoted themselves to advocate for prevention, early and accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

The story behind WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, is a fascinating saga of what is, in fact, the nation’s only patient-centered health organization. In fact, in late November 2014, at a much-heralded meeting in Rome, WomenHeart announced that it has joined forces with the National ‘heart hub’ for Heart Failure (iHHub) to form a new global alliance of patient organizations. The goal of the collaborative effort is to give the issue of women’s heart disease higher priority on the personal and public agenda – with special reference to the need to put women’s health disease on the research agenda.

Mary McGowan, CEO of WomenHeart, stresses the need to “spur gender-specific research reduce the disproportionate burden of heart failure among women.

An obvious focus of WomenHeart is to raise awareness about sex differences in signs, symptoms and treatment of heart failure. The basic facts are these: 1) heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization in women over the age of 65 and women account for 50% of all heart failure-related hospital admission, 2) only 25% of women are involved in heart failure studies; 3) women with heart failure tend to experience a greater burden of symptoms, e.g depression, and a reduced quality of life compared to men.

Support for WomenHeart and the advocacy campaign comes from a variety of sources including the St. Jude Medical Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and sponsored by Amgen.

Watch for a major national patient education program scheduled to launch in April 2015; the campaign is aimed at current patient education and at general public awareness of the issue and preventive measures. To learn more about WomenHeart and the research on which the coalition is based – or to receive a free online heart health action kit — visit If you want to talk with an extraordinary WomenHeart Champion, contact Terri Horsmann at


New guide leads to 35,000+ U.S. museums – hackers invited to expand the data

Museums provide places of relaxation and inspiration. And most importantly, they are a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions – the objects in museums are real. It’s a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art

According to the Museum Universe Data File, there are some 35,144 museums in this country – and still counting. The newly-released file includes a broad range of museums – aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children’s museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums and zoological parks.

The Museum Universe Data File is a new tool, recently released after several years of compilation and modification by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It’s the first–of-its-kind resource based not on third party commercially-produced sources but on original data from the IRS. The file includes information about nonprofits in the U.S. though not always from public and for-profit museums, e.g. museums governed by state and municipal agencies or public universities may be undercounted.

Still in its early release stages, the Museum Universe Data File is open and publicly available for use without restriction. It is a useful tool for a wide audience – for sight-seers and local chauvinists interested in geographic markers, for policy-makers concerned with fair allocation of funds, for journalists writing about local stories or sites, for educators teaching young learners about their community, and for families and individuals who just want to do some armchair travel planning. Because of its close links with pre-school and early childhood education programs IMLS has matched museums as social indicators with information about the locale and nature of other community-based resources such as Head Start Centers and early childhood service organizations.

The process of creating the data file is interesting in itself. From the outset, IMLS invited interested museum organizations to engage in the process – recommending additional sites, updating data, and otherwise contributing to the development process. The approach was to cast “a very broad net, include data from many different sources, and keep the records open to the public so the issues can be explored and discussed.” Short-term plans are to convene representatives of museum service organizations, museum faculty and other museum professionals in Spring 2015 to discuss next steps.

Patrick John-Murray has created US Museums Explorer, an app to complement the data file. ( Each entry is linked with a Wikipedia entry – If no entry is found the site displays an invitation for users to create a new Wikipedia entry – or to update the existing entry. Enthusiastic designer Murray-John is there to help. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to Tweet @patrick_mj, who writes “I built this [US Museums Explorer] because I love data, making data useful, and getting cultural heritage data out in the open and sharing it.”

Checking the resource may add some new sites to your local museum agenda – or get you started thinking about what’s out there to be explored when Spring vacation comes!