Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Event Recap: The Power of Words

Harriet Beecher Stowe used her words to change the world and tonight's discussion was on the Power of Words.

Uncle Tom's Cabin has had a long and controversial history through the term "Uncle Tom" and the afterlife of the book onstage. Words can leave a lasting impact.

The world premiere of our guest speaker Michael Kramer's play at the Hartford Stage is titled Divine Rivalry and it opens February 24th.

Introductory statements from our featured guests:
Susan Campbell:
  • There is old media and new media. New media now works in conjunction with old media.
  • Would Harriet Beecher Stowe have used social media? Yes, it would be an opportunity for her to reach more people.
  • If it takes going on Facebook or blogging to reach people that is what you have to do.

Michael Kramer:
  • The idea of following world news such as Egypt in "real time" is reason enough to applaud social media's existence.
  • For journalists, feedback by e-mail shows your word is getting out and people are responding.
  • When you think you are going to make a difference and then it seems like you don't, then you start to wonder about the power of words.
  • He sees his play, Divine Rivalry, as an educational opportunity for his audience. You will come away having learned something.

How can words inspire others?
  • She has a great deal of fun having people talk because of her words. She doesn't think change happens quickly, but she can either inspire or annoy them into action.
  • When you make a call to action you may be surprised how many act.
  • Newspaper columns have potential to annoy people and she knows she is going to get angry feedback.
  • Fictional writing can also inspire and will anger less people than straight talk.

  • It is healthy for people to get out what they're thinking, otherwise it's a closed circle and nothing changes.
  • The difference between when he was a journalist and now is social media. Now, the magic is more apparent and more people have the opportunity to know about it.

How do journalists and writers feel about competition in media?
  • Competition is good. The news NEEDS to get out there and it doesn't matter how it does.

Is there objectivity in the news? If not how do we find it?
  • The question then become "what is truth?". Some say it is as the individual sees it, other believe the truth "is what it is".
  • We can confront the untruths, but with all of the news outlets it becomes difficult.
  • Investigating the truth has always been done, look at how Stowe was accused of mistruths in Uncle Tom's Cabin and she answered by writing A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  • The are websites such as www.politifact.com and the truth-o-meter that check the validity of "facts" in the media.

How many people are willing to hear what they don't want to hear in the media?
  • Listen to news and go to websites that have opinions that challenge you. You are likely to limit yourself. The more sources you have the better. You should never rely on one source for anything.
  • Closing the Sunday paper and saying "I'm informed" is not how we should get our news.
  • Words can only be heard if they are spoken or written.

What do you make of the immediacy of social networks?
  • When we communicate so immediately we don't have the time to reflect on it.
  • Critical thinking is difficult to begin with and especially with this type of media.

Who is involved and how do we get more people involved in what's going on around them?
  • A majority do not read and reflect. Social media is a portal into getting people involved.
  • When you read a book it's a different kind of thinking. Are kids losing the ability to process words themselves? Understanding reading and just reading are two different skills.
  • Children love being read to and this is proof of the power of words. "Everybody Wins CT" is a great program where you can volunteer to read to children.
  • We underestimate the number of people who want to be informed.
  • Teachers need to use new media to reach their students
  • Journalists are important, they lay out the news we read.
  • Collect books for prisons; many don't have libraries. Many prisoners want to learn.

Information to Action
  • Words can provoke and inspire people to take action
  • You can talk about social truths through fiction in a more manageable way
  • Blogs can reach people and move them to action
  • It's healthy to get out what you are thinking (on Facebook or Twitter) and get reactions
  • Challenge what you think is true and read multiple perspectives
  • Check out http://www.patch.com/
  • Check out the Connecticut Mirror's website: www.ctmirror.org
  • Check out www.politifact.com
  • Check out www.everybodywinsct.org to engage children in reading
  • Donate books to prisons
  • You have to reach people where they are
  • Go see Divine Rivalry at Hartford Stage, February 24th-March 20th
  • Invite people to your home to talk about the issues.

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