Category Archives: Social Justice

This generation’s test – Lessons from Seneca Falls

 

We all know that each generation has its own test, the contemporaneous and current standard by which alone it can adequately judge of its own moral achievements, and that it may not legitimately use a previous and less vigorous test. The advanced test must indeed include that which has already been attained; but if it includes no more, we shall fail to go forward, thinking complacently that we have “arrived” when in reality we have not yet started ~Jane Addams

On July 19 and 20, 1848, some three hundred brave souls, supporters of a common cause, gathered in Seneca Falls, New York.  They shared a common cause, to affirm and eventually guarantee, the rights of women, including a woman’s right to vote.   The enormity of their challenge is matched only by the results of the progress they envisioned, sought, and ultimately achieved.

As we grapple with the challenges that face this democracy today we may lose hope, not to mention stamina.  Thinking about the Seneca Falls Convention may shed welcome light on these dark days.

To preserve and strengthen our democracy will demand nothing less than a movement of informed, committed American truth-seekers who care – and dare — to speak out, join forces and share energies towards a common purpose.

As always, we can draw strength and wisdom from those who have fought the good fight in the past.  A glimpse of the humble beginnings of the Nineteenth Amendment offers a sense of how a movement is born and how it grows with time and effort.  We may draw strength from a look back at the movement born at Seneca Falls some 170 years ago.

Some manageable starting points:

Previous posts related to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

 

 

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National Catholic Sisters Week 2018

Possibly I was too wrapped up in Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to remember that March also heralds the special recognition of some of the strongest women of all.  I have just realized that this week, March 8-14, is also National Catholic Sisters Week http://www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org

In the interest of sharing that time-sensitive message without delay I am taking the liberty of quoting the website description of this major initiative:

Created to honor women religious, it is a series of events that instruct, enlighten and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women. It’s our chance to recognize all they have done for us. It’s also our hope that as more young women learn about women religious, more will choose to follow their example. 

 National Catholic Sisters Week, a branch of National Catholic Sisters Project headquartered at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisc., is headquartered at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., and is held in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

For a not-quite-recent update on today’s women religious this 2011 article in the National Catholic Reporter offers a brief history of the contributions of women religious to the history and values of this nation. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/us-women-religious-have-earned-place-american-history

I am also taking the liberty of noting some past Poking Around posts that give a sense of the unique missions and roles of women religious in this region:

These posts are a minimal sampling of the myriad articles and books that reflect the leadership of individual women and communities of women religious in Minnesota.  In the interests of piquing the interest of readers, I presume to note just a smattering of the stories that record the work of strong committed women who have shaped the state’s health, education, political, social movements and intellectual life.

Minnesota Women’s Press has published several articles about women religious; following are links to just a couple:

A quick skim of MNOpedia disclosed these articles about women religious – there are, and will be, more but these offer a taste of the research that has been and needs to be undertaken, recorded and shared:

On my personal bookshelf I found these books that record the work of the women religious in Minnesota.  The shelf is tilted to the contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet because the CSJ’s were my teachers throughout high school and college:

  • They came to teach; The story of Sisters who taught in parochial schools and their contribution to elementary education in Minnesota. Annabelle Raiche, CSJ and Ann Marie Biermaier, OSB. Published by North Star Press, St Cloud in 1994.
  • Eyes Open on a world: The challenge of change. A collaboration by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province. Published in 2001 by North Star Press, St. Cloud.
  • On Good Ground, The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. by Sister Helen Angela Hurley. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1951.

By any measure this is a sadly incomplete listing.  My last-minute effort is to share the message that we are now celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week.  Much more important, this post is intended to spark and encourage scholars’ interest in learning and share more stories.  The archives of the religious communities and academic institutions (of which there are many!) are robust, meticulously preserved, and open to serious students of the history of these too-often under-recognized powerful women of faith and vision.

I am interested in and will post other publications – please share ideas, suggestions, stories and publications that fill in the gaps in the role that women of strength and wisdom have played of Minnesota’s and the nation’s history.

National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14 2018

 

We the People face the challenge to aim high

Tolerance is another word for indifference. W. Somerset Maugham

The spirit of tolerance, though true and essential, is a vague concept. I have always grumbled – sometimes raged – at the word and concept of “tolerance.”  In most situations and on most issues I care too much to passively tolerate.

The challenge we face today demands more energy, more passion.  Today’s challenge is to embrace, to work shoulder to shoulder, to share the values, the burden and the benefits of the society and the culture envisioned by our founders.  It’s the principle we as Americans have always celebrated with pride.  We honor the fact that no individual, even the president, is the center of the universe.  The core value of the democracy we share rests on the stated principle that it’s not “me” but “us”.

The Constitution goes so far as to spell out just how we go about achieving the goal of creating and living in a democracy.  As a matter of fact, the Constitution is fairly explicit about the presumption –- and commitment — that We the People are responsible for making the democratic system function.

The good news buried in today’s political debacle is that the challenge to the democracy evokes the best from the nation’s residents and, in many cases, from the institutions that We the People have created over time.  As we practice the fine art of crafting an enduring democracy we are increasingly aware of the means at hand – the law, the press, open elections, a just judicial system, free speech, history, education, technology (managed with care.)

At the same time, we have come to understand the sophisticated and systemic ways in which any of these can be “weaponized.”  Experience is teaching us the subtle in which malevolent manipulation of the tools can undermine democracy processes and principles.   Over time we have grown to realize the extent to which accepted democratic institutions and structures can be shaped to create a society and a culture that we cannot and will not tolerate.  We know in our souls and feel in our hearts that we must join forces to resist with the fierce persistence and unflinching integrity democracy demands.

Once we get outside of our own shadow we begin to comprehend, if dimly, that the whole of our democratic society really is greater than the sum of the parts.  We can no longer be indifferent….

Our Founders always wondered about how long it would last. The price of liberty is everlasting vigilance. You’ve got to be on your guard every minute or you will lose it.  Michael Novak

 

 

Remembering the Little Rock Nine – Where are we now?

Most years September 25 would pass with little news and less reflection on the historic significance of the date.  And yet, on this sixtieth anniversary of the Little Rock Nine, it behooves us to take note of the day.  It was on this day that nine brave children and their parents mustered the courage to exercise their right to learn.  It’s an inspirational American story of the consequences of action – and the danger of inaction. http://www.littlerock9.com/index.html

The simple story has made its mark on the annals of history. Wikipedia offers a helpful review and links to further learning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rock_Nine

Nine from Little Rock, the award-winning 1964 short documentary, has been restored by the National Archives.  View the 18-minute documentary on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPVOO5sugMY

Today’s Axios post reminds readers of the reason we should care about this long ago and far away episode in our shared history: https://www.axios.com/remembering-the-little-rock-nine-2489346862.html

Questia offers a good overview of the Little Rock story and an exhaustive list of books and articles that offer various historic facts, as well as personal stories of the Little Rock Nine themselves. https://www.questia.com/library/history/united-states-history/african-american-history/little-rock-nine

Honoring the anniversary of this momentous, if too often forgotten, historic fact today’s media offer a number of “takes” on the story that warrants reflection these six decades later – just a few of the many online resources:

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything – Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Young poet envisions “a world worth building!”

These days my head has been teeming with images of the many faces of Resistance – mostly the ways in which people of good will have gathered to blend their skills and societal commitment to share truth, experiences and opinions — eventually, to take arms (or voice, or knitting needles, laptop, paint brush, cello, chisel or camera) to oppose – and end – the “sea of troubles” in which the nation is floundering.

The splash this weekend has been news of Amanda Gorman, a young woman whose powerful presence and poetry have taken the nation by storm.  As the first National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda was omnipresent in the media as she spoke out at last weekend’s Social Good Summit.

Learn more about this powerful young woman of words — and listen to her message — here: http://mashable.com/2017/09/17/amanda-gorman-us-youth-poet-laureate-social-good/#ydD41XQL_iqg.  Or read this piece about Amanda and the National Youth Poet Laureate title here: https://www.pw.org/content/amanda_gorman_named_national_youth_poet_laureate

Because Amanda is the first to wear the laurel wreath as National Youth Poet Laureate it’s important to know more about the backstory of the initiative.  The project itself reflects the vision of Urban Word, a “youth literary arts and youth development organization” whose mission is “to elevate the voices of teens while promoting civic engagement and social justice.”  (http://urbanwordnyc.org) The project places youth in “spaces of power” where they can “creatively respond to the litany of social and political factors that impact their cities and their lives.”  https://www.pw.org/content/amanda_gorman_named_national_youth_poet_laureate

Last month, the youthful Poet Laureate met with the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and staff of the Poetry and Literature Staff of the Library of Congress. The description of that informal gathering, prepared by LC staffer Anne Holmes, offers a thoughtful overview of the Youth Poet Laureate initiative and insights about Amanda’s experience. You’ll feel the flicker of hope springing eternal: https://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2017/07/amanda-gorman-inaugural-national-youth-poet-laureate/

Reflecting on her experience as a participant in the Social Good Summit, Amanda shared these elegant words with Summit attendees:

With one microphone, we streak/ across the globe like an eclipse. We strike our plans into stone/ and from this we build a summit worth climbing, / a goal worth reaching, / a world worth building.”

 

Banned Books Week honors a fundamental right

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light. Plato

Given the free flow of and ready access to misinformation and disinformation it would seem that there should be a special category for “lies in print.”  And yet, the defenders of free speech who sponsor Banned Books Week,  (September 24-30, 2017)  would shun the concept – with great justification.  They are more concerned to respect the right to read and their focus is on the reader who decides the quality of a book, aware that some books don’t deserve to be read.

Banned Books Week began in 1982 “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries.” BBW continues to be sponsored by the Banned Books Week Coalition. (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/about))  It’s interesting to note that some titles on the list of banned books are perennials, while others reflect the times or the expressed outrage of a few committed censors.  The BBW Coalition website is a great starting point.  Among other tools the site provides free and reproducible graphics, available in multiple formats for digital or print distribution.

Another essential starting point is the American Library Association, an indispensable source for background information, including legislation related to access. The ALA  tabulates and posts each year the “top ten” challenged titles: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

The site is also the source of eye-catching graphics, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/banned  The press kit posted on the ALA site is the key to jumpstarting a BBW campaign.

BBW on Twitter offers another approach to a complex and volatile topic https://twitter.com/BannedBooksWeek?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bannedbooksweek.org%2Fcensorship%2Fbannedbooksthatshapedamerica

The Library of Congress has mounted a wonderful exhibit entitled “Books that Shaped America”,  described as books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” They also created a companion list of books from that exhibit have been banned or challenged….

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica  LC also sponsors Banned Books online site – which is blessedly sparse just now:  https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=13848727

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/ offers an abundance of promotional tools, videos, a section on Mapping Censorship and excellent graphics.  A unique feature of this site is a guide to planning a Virtual Read-Out. http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us ~   William O. Douglas

Fun update from Shelf Awareness 9/20

Banned Books Week Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Bookstores, libraries and other organizations across the country are preparing for Banned Books Week 2017, which runs next week, September 24-30Shelf Awareness takes a look at what some stores are planning:

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Ingram is running a special promotion for independent bookstores. Through October 5, indies can receive additional discounts on orders of 25 or more books from a list of over 450 banned and challenged titles. Ingram has also teamed up with American Booksellers for Free Expression to create promotional kits for ABA members. So far, this year’s kit has been sent to more than 500 stores.

Digital audiobook platform Libro.fm, meanwhile, has created a Banned Books Week playlist featuring many of the most-challenged books in the United States, so “readers can choose to listen freely.” Included on the playlist are the audiobook versions of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and many, many more.

Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., got a head start on Banned Books Week earlier this month with a store display featuring banned and challenged books from years past, and is once again supporting a D.C.-wide scavenger hunt organized by the D.C. Public Library called #UncensoredDC. For the scavenger hunt, copies of banned books have been hidden around the capital in libraries, museums, cafes and bookstores and will be there until the end of the month. The books feature a special black cover and are “free to those who find them.” Next Monday, September 25, P&P is co-sponsoring an offsite event with Salman Rushdie, who lived under police protection for close to a decade after Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for his death in response to Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie will discuss his new novel, The Golden House, in downtown D.C.

In Omaha, Neb., indie bookstores Solid Jackson Books and Dundee Book Company are hosting a Banned Books Week party at Brothers Lounge on Thursday, September 28. Readers are invited to “come grab a pint or two, join the conversation about why it’s important to keep free speech free, and stick it to the book-burners by perusing important books that some want to label as obscene. And some that are obscene!” A selection of banned books will be available for purchase.

City Books in Pittsburgh, Pa., is hosting a day-long Read-Out this Sunday, September 24. “In direct response to the recent events in Charlottesville and across the nation,” the store has decided to “shine a spotlight on books that feature equity, diversity, and inclusion as a primary function of character and plot” by choosing Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as the Read-Out selections. The event will run from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m, and readers can sign up for 20-minute reading slots. Food and beverages will be provided by City Books.

In New York City, the Strand Book Store is hosting a Banned Books Week discussion panel on Monday, September 25, in partnership with PEN America. Authors David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy), Coe Booth (Kinda Like Brothers) and Ariel Schrag (Adam) will discuss their experiences of having their books banned or challenged, and how to get skeptical readers to give their books a chance. Jason Low, publisher and co-owner of multicultural children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, will moderate the discussion.

The Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, N.J., is taking part in the official Banned Books Virtual Read-Out, now in its seventh year. On Sunday, September 24, the bookstore will dedicate space for customers to record brief videos of themselves reading aloud from banned or challenged books or discussing a favorite banned book and what it means to them. The Book Shop will then upload the videos to the store’s Facebook page and submit them to be shared on a dedicated YouTube channel. Anyone who participates in the Virtual Read-Out will receive a 25% off coupon for any book on the banned books list.

And last but not least, Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., is partnering with a local high school for Banned Books Week. Skylight will put up a behind-the-counter display of banned and challenged books with each title featuring a small sign explaining why it was banned or challenged. Customers can then purchase those books at a 20% discount to be donated to the high school’s library. —Alex Mutter

And more….

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/17-of-americas-most-surprising-banned-books/ar-AAslJl6?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=UE01DHP

https://twitter.com/BannedBooksWeek?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bannedbooksweek.org%2F

http://www.bookglow.net/30-quotes-from-banned-books-to-celebrate-banned-books-week/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/18750/10-classic-books-have-been-banned?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=mf&utm_medium=09_27_17-article_2-18750

http://hclib.tumblr.com/specialcollections

The ironic enduring legacy of banning T Kill a Mockingbird.  https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/the-ironic-enduring-legacy-of-banning-%E2%80%98to-kill-a-mockingbird%E2%80%99-for-racist-language/ar-AAtuyKC?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=UE01DHP

Weaponization of information-Can truth survive?

Long ago and far away a library educator friend published an early info age book that promoted and explained the role of the library as an access point to information useful to the citizen activist.  Her intent was positive, to explain to activists the potential of reliable, authoritative, timely information that would affirm and validate a proposed action.  When her publisher suggested the title “Armed for action” she objected to the militaristic tone….

Now I realize that my friend was prematurely wise to eschew the “armed” image.  In this age information has morphed into the transportable  “weapon of choice”  to foment political action.  Though weaponizing information is usually attributed the Russians it is important to acknowledge that Putin’s tactics are not unique…

To be certain of the implicit evil of weaponized information, I checked with Merriam-Webster to affirm that use of the word “weapon” definitely connotes negative intent: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weapon

In truth, information is simply a resource, the user determines the use… My friend’s benevolent theme may seem naïve now – though just when information deserves no blame for the fact that it’s been weaponized.  Though history is replete with lies, the digital age opens the floodgates to their unfettered flow and proliferation.

And so we are drowning in a flood of commentaries on the weaponization of information; a smattering of opinion pieces are listed below.

Okay, information can be used as a weapon.  And yet the essential power lies in the receiver of information who is challenged to think and act according to the content and source of the information.  The “armor” we need today rests with the individual or institution that will take or resist  action based on the weaponized information.

As a society, we are called upon to grapple with the challenge to make “critical thinking skills” the norm—or in today’s parlance, how do we “normalize” critical thinking…  I prefer, and frequently quote,  my good friend Ruth Myers who would often ask, How do we inoculate learners with a healthy dose of “perceptive paranoia?”

The Founders, influenced by Jefferson,  envisioned a democracy founded on citizen access to and wise assessment of information.  Knowing this, we should focus not so much on the weaponry as on how we harness the power of good information (aka truth) to support this democracy.  In a word, how do we sustain a political system based on truth, and arm “we the people” with the power to recognize bald-faced lies when they are aimed at us with malicious intent.

RELATED READ: Social Media Helped Trump Win By ‘Dumbing Down the World,’ Twitter Founder Says  https://www.printfriendly.com/print?url_s=uGGCF_~_PdN_~_PcS_~_PcSJJJmpBzzBAqErnzFmBEt_~_PcSArJF_~_PcS