Category Archives: Social Justice

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

 

 

 

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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

Justice Choir, a movement with a mission

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive ~ Thomas Jefferson

Resistance may take many forms – for the Justice Choir, it’s music that calls people of good will to share music and a commitment to a just society.  The motto of the Justice Choir “Start Local, Stay Vocal” says it all.

The Justice Choir is an idea that took form, then action, in the wake of the January 2017 Women’s March.  Learn more about the founders, Testa, Abbe and Ahmed here (https://www.minnpost.com/artscape/2017/06/tesfa-wondemagegnehu-and-westminster-church-are-starting-justice-choir-sculpture-ga) and about the role and support of Westminster Presbyterian Church here: https://www.minnpost.com/artscape/2017/06/tesfa-wondemagegnehu-and-westminster-church-are-starting-justice-choir-sculpture-ga

First on the Justice Choir to-do list was to create a repertoire for group singing, a Songbook, edited by Abbie, Testa and Andrea Ramsey.  https://www.facebook.com/justicechoirTC/.  And not the usual songbook.  The editors invited the public to crowd-create a collection of “songs to sing for justice, protest songs, marching songs, freedom songs, activist anthems, and songs of inspiration and change.”  Organizers encouraged “original songs, new tunes for old lyrics, new lyrics!” and advised the songs be “easy to learn, appropriate for all ages, accessible for group singing, and timely.

Submissions are now closed and the results are being readied for distribution under a Creative Commons license free of charge!  A matching YouTube video resource will introduce the songs to a broad community of singers and Justice Choir audiences.

Planners have also put out a call for sheet music, a growing resource of contemporary choral sheet music on themes related to social justice. (http://www.justicechoir.org/database.html)

Lest you think there is just one Justice Choir, performing in a single place of worship, know that the Justice Choir is not a single unit but a concept, a “living, breathing embodiment of the Songbook” as well as other music for social and ecojustice.”  The vision is of a movement of singing for change, programming and messaging focused on local issues, a nimble movement equipped to respond “popup” style to issues in their own communities” no matter the setting!

The energy of Justice Choir cannot be contained in one static blog post.  To learn more, then engage, stay in touch with the Justice Choir movement –  and get word of publication of The Songbook – here:

A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.” ― Barack Obama

RELATED POST:   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/8362528/Protest-songs-posing-or-inspiring.html

 

Tomorrow’s journalists – challenges, rights, and great promise

The First Amendment is not so construed as to award merit badges for intrepid but mistaken or careless reporting. Misinformation has not merit in itself; standing alone it is antithetical to the purposes of the First Amendment as the calculated lie… The sole basis for protecting publishers who spread false information is that otherwise the truth would too often be suppressed. Supreme Court Justice Byron White

As often happens thinking and learning about a topic leads me to deep thoughts on where we go from here, how we are the creators of our own future.  Thus, reflecting on a recent post about Constitution Day (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/we-the-people-celebrate-constitution-day-by-learning/) led me to reflect on our role as individuals on whom the Founding Fathers depended to meet their high expectations – specifically, 21st Century economic, technological and political  challenges that re-order the historic relationship between government, the press – and “we the people.”

As is their way, my thoughts turned to what comes next – Who and what forces will work to preserve the inalienable right to know?  What are characteristics, the status, the working environment of the nation’s journalists?   And thus I found myself wondering what are the influences on aspiring journalists, what is their training, and what will lure a fledging seeker of truth to risk a life as a professional journalist?

Clearly, these concerns were shared by those far wiser:

Moreover, the Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee has produced a resource guide specifically related to Constitution Day 2017. http://jeasprc.org/2017-constitution-day-lessons/.  In fact. the Scholastic Press Rights Committee is an information mecca of essentials.  The Committee has published a video intro and links to new materials, lessons learned and timely resources on the rights of student journalists.

Other timely resources include these:

  • An article by Matthew Smith on the “importance of independent active press” focuses on the Constitutional rights aspect of student journalism focuses on the local scene: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/05/06/your-right-to-know-state-should-protect-student-journalists/
  • The Journalism Education Association report entitled “Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A blueprint for success” is exactly what the title suggests, a comprehensive blueprint for action. This is thorough and timely review of the rights of student journalists, steps to be taken in a student press rights action plans, related organizations that support student journalists’ rights, sample laws and recommended language. One essential feature of this resource is an excellent listing of related organizations, historical information about past legislation, and the names of experts who can offer opinions about legislative language.
  • The JEA also hosts a robust website, http://jeasprc.org that features a unique “Tools of Truth Landing Page” that covers current topics related to student journalists’ rights  http://jeasprc.org/tools-of-truth-landing-page/
  • The Student Press Law Center, established in the post-Watergate era, now headquartered in Virginia, focuses on the legal rights of high school and college journalists: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Student+Press+Law+Center&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
  • The National Scholastic Press Association (http://studentpress.org/nspa/), located near the campus of the University of Minnesota, “promotes the standards and ethics of good journalism as accepted and practiced by print, broadcast and electronic media in the United States,”

Constitution Day 2017 inspires us to take a long view of a free press.  To do so demands that we get a better sense of what’s happening in student journalism.  Some indicators are close at hand:

In high schools and colleges throughout the nation young journalists are tackling major issues of social justice, civil rights, press freedom and the right to know.  Their rights demand attention and deserve recognition.

“I became a journalist is to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”Henry Luce

IMPORTANT UPDATE: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/aug/28/Student-Journalist-FOIA-Grant/

Protecting what’s OURS on Net Neutrality Day of Action

The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet.  It requires a certain relish for confusion. Molly Ivins

If ever there were a call to relish confusion it is now –  the options for “relishment” are myriad.   And if ever there were an organized effort to “weaponize” confusion, it is the  war to end net neutrality now raging on the nation’s regulatory frontlines.

“Confuse and conquer” is an ancient strategy rendered ever more lethal by the fact that the digital age effectively limits time for the body politic to think, much less thoughtfully discuss.  Issues, especially issues involving complex technology, speed their way through a political process well-lubricated with corporate contributions and compliant appointees.

As many but not enough affected Americans know, Wednesday, July 12, is Net Neutrality Day of Action.  (https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12   For many of us whose dependence on the Net is assumed without question the ethos of the tool is vague and the implications are vaguer still.  Here’s one digestible overview of the issues and implications:

And yet there’s always time to crib for a deep dive into the digital age version of Cliff Notes – some basics:

The corporate campaign to confuse the public opponents of net neutrality has clogged the web with more than the citizen owner of the communication tool needs to know. Still, this is a KISS “keep it simple, stupid” moment.

Herb Schiller is the wise man whose words have long  shaped my understanding of the principle, if not the technology, of net neutrality.  More about Schiller’s prescient caution in this 2013 post: https:/marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/herbert-i-schiller/

The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people ~ Tom Clancy

 

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/us-house-panel-wants-google-facebook-atandt-ceos-to-testify-on-internet-rules/ar-AAoP6zY?ocid=UE01DHP

BACKGROUNDER- MINNPOST: https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/07/everyone-claims-be-open-internet-so-what-s-latest-net-neutrality-fight-reall?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=956e5e91b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3631302e9c-956e5e91b0-123365126

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