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.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Event Recap: Is Your Race Bad for Your Health?

How do racism and poverty impact health? Can inequality make you sick? What disadvantages come from these inequities?

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Dr. Lisa Werkmeisters Rozas: Associate Professor at the University of CT School of Social Work
  • When we think about health disparities we often think about race
  • Race is one of the variables that is connected to disparities in health
  • Race is a social construct, not a biological truth. Pigment of skin is the only difference in the biological make-up. 
  • Racism does exist and we have to think about this when we think about inequities.
  • Social determinants of health determine why people are healthy than others: clean air, quality food, access to quality and affordable housing, access to quality education, access to safe employment, access to clean water.
  • Economics and health have a strong correlation, but even those who are in the same economic situation, but are different races have different health outcomes. 
  • Social identities that are targeted for discrimination have poorer health outcomes. 
  • Privilege (better access), power (who you know, networking ability), racism (health and mental health) are all big factors in health disparities. 
  • Pre-term labor and infant mortality rates are higher for black women. 
  • Racism is stressful and those who face this deal with more stress in their life and this has a huge impact on people. 
  • We have to begin to think and have a loud and clear discourse that health is a human right. It doesn't matter where you were born, who you are, what language you speak. 
  • It is everyone's obligation to make sure that everyone has access and equality in health care.
Dr. Raja Staggers-Hakim: Executive Director at the CT Commission on Health Equity
  • The Commission on Health Equity is a legislative commission that works in committees. We want to engage people who normally wouldn't participate in conversations about health equity. We support and work with community based initiatives. We have a public voice committee to work with communities and host public health forums to bring the voice of the people back to the General Assembly. 
  • Teach race, ethnicity, and gender at Eastern CT State University
  • When we look at a white male and a black male, black men are not going to live as long as white men and this is true among all economic groups. 
  • A lot of research points to discrimination and the experiences people of color face on a daily basis. The stress associated with the everyday painful experiences people face.
  • Everyday oppression due to race, class and gender impacts your health.
  • CT residents have the highest health outcomes in the nation when we compare to other states nationally, but we have such great disparities in our state
  • People in Bridgeport are still taxed the way the rest of Fairfield county is, so we can see that disparities occur here. 
  • Commission is concerned with 6 health areas: low birth weight (consistent in all women of color), HIV/AIDS, obesity, asthma, cardio-vascular disease,  and cancer. 

Group Discussion:

What are you seeing at the childhood level in terms of health?
  • Broad issue in childhood obesity, asthma, and dental issues. These are issues keeping kids out of school
In your work with state agencies, how are agencies working to provide equal access in communication? This is one of the most difficult ways to get state agencies to apply.
  • Commission is working on language access and cultural competency. 
  • Legislatively we proposed a bill to ensure that people can receive cultural and linguistically appropriate care. 
  • People don't show up for treatment because of a history of poor care and limited access to common language at their provider. 
  • We need to have a discussion about limited resources. We need to share resources among organizations/hospitals, etc. 
  • Beyond health care, because social determinants impact health, we have to develop health equity plans for all state agencies. There is a lot of education needed. We plan to work closely to engage these discussions. 
Nothing could be more productive than a single payer health system. Could this eliminate discrimination? 
  • Health care is one aspect. People need health care. 
  • We need to consider more than health care, we have to consider access to food, education, etc. 
  • Changing health care is not the only factor
  • We have signed many international treaties with clear agendas about equal access and we as a country have said we would do this, but we have not done so yet. 
  • There are more obligations that we have not fulfilled yet. We said we would do it, but we haven't. 
  • No one is pushing for monitoring our obligations. 
Disparities serve to divide people. What can we do to lift everyone up to a clearly defined standard?
  • This is the basic premise of human rights.
  • You are always going to have people that have more or less, but we can have a society that prioritizes, but we need a full change of culture. It is difficult to shape our founding ideology. 
  • Do we divide us from the start and then everyone fights for their piece of the pie? This wouldn't work. How do we agree on what the highest standard of health?
We have to look at cultural competence. There are middle and upper class African Americans that don't want to the deal with a racist health system. How do you address health care providers so that they are providing culturally competent health care or any other care? 
  • The Commission on Health Equity is trying to address these cultural competence issues. 
  • People need to feel respected
  • There is not just one type of cultural competence. 
  • People need to understand why things are important to others
  • We are a part of a racist system
  • We need to discuss this because we will not understand each other the way it is. 
How do we organize? 
  • Organization has been a weakness. 
  • A lot of professionals who know about the issue come to the public forums, the community is not represented enough. 
  • There is a trust issue. When community members see people in suits, they turn away.
  • We need to get into communities and connect with community members who are trusted within their community.
  • The CT Commission on Health Equity is creating a community committee so that members who would not naturally show up at a public forum are represented.
  • People have concerns that there won't be real change 
If we are seeking to provide not just adequate supplies of health care butr a target health standards, we have to consider that we don't all start at the same place, such as environmental health. How are we addressing this?
  • Hartford has a very high percentage of childhood asthma.
  • There is a different world. Modern society is unequal environmentally. Environmental justice is a huge issue. 
  • The CT Commission hasn't targeted environmental justice, but we are looking at social determinants that include asthma. We look at transportation, park locations and highways, and other factors. We haven't used the environmental justice "label".
  • Environmental justice is something the Commission could be educated on more. 
Publicity and exposure is so critical. Students could provide data and a comparative study of hospitals and other community health services. We have to educate for social change. What can publicity do?
  • Community organizing is critical
  • We need to rejuvinate the entire population, but it is most important for the younger population. 
  • It is very difficult to mobilize the younger generation. It isn't the majority that has been moblilized. 
  • There are opportunities to mobilize in social media, but they need inspiration first.
There are not only intervention points, but there are systemic issues. There are these predestined issues. How do we address systemic intervention issues and general health? 
  • The intervention comes too late. 
  • This is an issue of prevention as opposed to care. 
  • Research needs to be done to see what cures diseases, but we need to look at the entire system that isn't providing for everyone
  • Changing a system is overwhelming, we don't have the capacity at this point. 
  • People need to be invested and people who hold power and privilege are not willing to change it yet.
  • We need to educate policy makers
  • We need to reach beyond health care issues. ALL policies are health policies. 
  • This doesn't only concern health professionals
How do we work with all cultures? 
  • Cultural competency takes years and years
  • Being culturally sensitive is the first step.
  • At the root of it there is respect. It reaches deeper. 
  • We need to go beyond the training and experience different cultures. We need to understand why things bother different cultures. 

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Is Your Race Bad For Your Health?: Featured Guest Bios

    How do racism and poverty impact health? Can inequality make you sick? What disadvantages come from these inequities?

    Join the conversation Thursday, September 22 from 5:00pm - 7:00pm at the Stowe Center!

    Featured Guests for the evening discussion include: Dr. Raja Staggers-Hakim and Dr. Lisa Werkmeisters Rozas.

    Featured Guest Bios:  

    Dr. Raja Staggers-Hakim is the Executive Director of the CT Commission on Health Equity. Dr. Staggers-Hakim works to assure the goals and objectives of the Commission through community-level information sessions, training for health professionals, and the handling of policies around health concerns based on race-ethnicity, linguistic ability, gender, and income. The mission of the CT Commission on Health Equity is to eliminate disparities in health status based on race, ethnicity, gender and linguistic ability, to thereby improve the quality of health for all of the state's residents.

    Dr. Lisa Werkmeisters Rozas is an Associate Professor in the University of Connecticut's Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies program. She is the Director of the Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies project and chair of the Human Oppression curriculum. She specializes in cultural competence, pedagogy and diversity, and health disparities, specifically issues of health as a human right and the influence discrimination, power and privilege have on health status.

    This is a FREE event. 
    Reception from 5pm until 5:30pm. The conversation begins at 5:30pm and ends by 7pm.
    Bring you ideas and questions to help develop an action plan for change.

    RSVP: 860-522-9258 Ext317 or info@stowecenter.org

    Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.77 Forest Street.Hartford CT 06105

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Event Recap- "Great Expectations: Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap"

    What do expectations have to do with student success? How do we define those expectations and ensure they are met? How are students involved in these decisions and empowered to achieve their potential?

    Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

    Dr. Steve Perry: Founder and Principal, Capital Prep Magnet School
    •  One of the most powerful things we can offer someone is an idea.
    • College for the disadvantage, for many seems like a fantasy.
    • Started Capital Prep saying that college could be an expectation
    • Even in good schools children who were black and Latino were not given the same education
    • There is an achievement gap and an expectation gap
    • Poverty does not have an impact on child's performance. If you put a poor child in a good school, you will not change her parent's or her background, you will only change her expectations.
    • Even the best kid going to a failed school will only be able to do so much. When your windpipe is constricted there is only so much air that can go through. We are not letting education go through.
    • Teachers, principals, and janitorial unions focus on jobs, not the children. 
    • America's public education system has failed all around. 
    • We are at the bottom of the industrialized world in education because we focus on the adults', not the childrens' needs.
    • Schools are taking away from the children so that at the end of the day the adults continue to get paid and the children have a constricted academic windpipe.
    • I believe in an education revolution, not education reform. I believe in full choice. If the school is good and you want to send your kid there you should be able to take your tax money and send your child there. 
    • When we finally get serious about education, children will look at us differently. 
    • Our children deserve a better opportunity. 
    • Expectation gap is where the achievement gap starts.

    Chanda Robinson: Director of Pathways to Success, Our Piece of the Pie
    • Does not believe that the educational system can do it alone
    • Setting high expectations is key
    • Adults can generalize and stereotype young people without knowing what is at the core of those young people.
    • By giving them opportunities we can uncover diamonds
    • Work with urban youth, helping them become successful adults
    • Focus on 14-24 year old population for 11 years
    • Match young adults with mentors and the mentor helps them realize their dreams (in written form)
    • Young adults create goals and Youth Development Specialists help them break down the barriers that stand in their way of achieving those goals
    • Unemployment is very high for urban youth.
    • All types of techniques are used. If OPP does not have the resources, they help find it for them elsewhere.

    Jordan Carter: Senior at Capital Prep, Member of Congressman John Larson's Youth Cabinet
    • The achievement gap does not always effect kids, it also effects the parents.
    • Some of his friends are not as motivated, but this could be because of the lack of a support system. 
    • If kids without drive see someone inspirational in the community they can strive for something
    • My mother teaches me that I have a future everyday. 
    • Tell my friends everyday, do you want to graduate? what are your future plans? 
    • There are other kids working harder, why not push yourself
    • I know there are things I need to work on. I stay focused on my books and athletics
    • My friends look to me for advice. I go through the same thing they do everyday. 
    • I have to put my emotions to the side, graduation is coming up.

    Group Discussion:

    How do we make it full-on choice?
    • We need to go to the legislators to make the change
    • We have 1,370 children on our waiting list. If we have full on choice they would come with the money and we would open enough schools to provide for the children on our waiting list. 
    • There is too small a choice. There are not enough opportunities to open schools
    • We need to make sure we have enough quality schools. We get caught up in the symptoms of the problem and ask why the neighborhoods are not quality schools.
    A good school has a culture of high expectations in large part because of the leader. We don't have the high quality of leaders and in some cases high quality teachers.

    169 Superintendents in CT are saying that education cannot be reformed, it needs to be transformed. Their report comes out in October. Many groups are coming together to make this change.

    Concentration of children in schools who are below grade level. How are they going to catch up? 
    • School staff is paid to bring quality into a family's life. 
    • We need to add value. It is your right to have a quality education.
    • The promise of America is that if you give them to us we will make a change for them and the method is a public education. 
    Do race and social factors matter?
    • Some believe race, gender, sexuality, and social factors do matter.
    • Others believe they do not matter
    What are the other options?
    • There are many resources, but they are not properly coordinated.
    • Mentoring programs 
    • There is not enough collaboration between organizations. We need to talk more amongst organizations that we may consider our "competitors" 
    • Agencies are competing for funding so they do not talk, but we need to put the needs of the young people first. 
    • The schools are not shutting down any time soon so we need to do something. 
    • There has to be collaboration among grassroots, the larger non-profits might not be the ones who have the best answers. Some may not have the grantwriters that others do so we need to help each other. Larger non-profits need to collaborate with the smaller non-profits that they may not see as sophisticated.
    There are many schools that do not have changemakers. Teachers who are looking have to "really" look for a quality school to be a part of. Why should teachers work in Hartford?

    How do we train the leaders that we desire?
    • We should have an internal program that will develop the leaders we are looking to have. 
    • If you are not a certified teacher and haven't worked in the schools for 5 years, you cannot be considered for the role of a leader.

    Do teachers need to be certified teachers to teach? 
    • 20% of people are naturally good teachers
    • 80% of people need to be conditioned.
    • Certification is not the only answer. 
    • Good teachers do not mean that they are certified teachers.
    • The certification programs are important to the pedagogy of teaching
    • Mentoring in other schools can bring positive leaders to other schools
    • Successful schools are all designed the same. High expectations. 
    • There has to be an entry point, so there should be certification. 
    • Just because you are highly educated does not mean that you are able to teach. 
    • There are hardworking teachers in all towns that care about their students and the bureaucracy is getting them down. 
    We hear about the bad all the time. Good news is going to be important for moving education forward. What good is going on?
    • History and science projects
    • Social justice senior projects at Capital Prep. Look at a problem in the community and look at positive ways to change the problem. If we implement these projects in schools it will enrich them
    Some parents do not opt for school choice because if the parent is sick they cannot necessarily get their kids to school. There is a downside, so we need strong neighborhood schools. How do we do that?
    • If a parent does not send their child to a school out of choice, they make that choice. 
    • There are parents who will do all that they can to get their children to the school of their choice.
    • More parents want out of their community schools
    • We need to stay student focused. 
    • Reconstitution does not work. It is the same core school, it just has a different theme.  

      Inspiration to Action:  
      • Go to your legislators and ask for a change
      • Ensure that all schools are quality schools
      • Read the superintendents report coming out October '11
      • Work to make schools more kids focused and less teacher focused. 
      • Coordinate availabel resources and work to inform people of their existance
      • Develop internal leadership programs that foster strong leaders.
      • Publicize good news and ask media for positive sutdent stories
      • Change the testing cycle. 

      Wednesday, September 7, 2011

      Great Expectations: Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap: Featured Guest Bios

      What do expectations have to do with student success? How do we define those expectation and ensure they are met? How are students involved in these decisions and empowered to achieve their potential?

      September is the start of another school year...and a good time to consider how to overcome the achievement gap in schools and what YOU can do to be a part of the solution. 

      Featured Guest Bios:

      Dr. Steve Perry:
      Dr. Perry believes that success in life is determined by where you end, not where you start. It's this philosophy that inspired him, early on, to transform the lives of poor and minority children by providing them with access to a college education, and more recently, has inspired him to bring his ideas and passion to children everywhere, no matter what their socioeconomic and academic background. He is the founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, CT, a CNN Education Contributor, columnist for Essence magazine, and the author of several books on education, including the forthcoming Push Has Come to Shove.

      Chanda Robinson:
      Chanda is the Director of the Pathways to Success program at Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford, CT.  She has oversight of the Youth Development Services; Youth Employment Services; Youth Business, Vocation, and Education Services. Chanda is soundly committed to improving systems and identifying viable solutions that will drive social change for disenfranchised and vulnerable youth; whom she believes are full of promise and potential given the right mix of support and opportunities!

      Jordan Carter:
      Jordan is the son of Reverend Wayne Anthony Carter and Kim Newland. He is currently a senior at Capital Preparatory Magnet School . Jordan has always been ambitious in whatever challenges he takes on, whether it be in the river as part of the crew team or in the classroom. This past summer Jordan was selected to be part of the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. along with 364 young leaders from around the country. In addition, Jordan founded the male mentoring group entitled, 'Each one...Reach one'. Jordan plans to attend Howard University to pursue a degree in political science.

      This event is FREE and open to the public.
      Come to the Stowe Center at 5pm for refreshments and a book signing of Dr. Steve Perry's new book When Push Comes to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve (even if it means picking a fight).

      Conversation begins at 5:30pm and finishes by 7pm. Bring your ideas and questions and help develop an action plan for change!

      RSVP to 860-522-9258 ext 317 or info@stowecenter.org

      Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. 77 Forest Street. Hartford, CT 06105