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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

What will you do to effect social change in the new year?

On this New Year's Eve, the Stowe Center is gearing up for another year of Salons and programs that inspire action. As you prepare your 2013 resolutions, consider how you will create positive change and inspire others. What social issues are important to you? What can you do locally do make a difference and impact your local, national and international communities?

For those who have attended our past Salons on bullying, the Fostering Empathy and Action in Schools conference sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves may be of interest to you. Continue the conversation on bullying as well as homophobia and learn additional "strategies for creating positive school culture." See the ad below for more information and visit Facing History and Ourselves to register.

Happy New Year from the staff, volunteers, and friends of the Stowe Center - we look forward to seeing you at our first winter Salon on February 28th! (stay tuned for details)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supporting the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

"Sorrow reveals forces in ourselves we never dreamed of..."

Harriet Beecher Stowe, in The Minister's Wooing (1859)

Our thoughts and condolences go out to our neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut as they cope with the sadness following last Friday's tragedy. In keeping with the Stowe Center's mission, below is an "Inspiration to Action" list of things you can do to support the victims of Sandy Hook.



  • Observe the Connecticut state-wide moment of silence on Friday, December 21 at 9:30AM  
  • The U.S. Postal Service has established a unique Post Office Box to allow the public to send condolences to those affected by the tragedy in Newtown, CT last week. Expressions of comfort should be addressed to: Messages of Condolence for Newtown, PO Box 3700, Newtown CT 06470
  • Show that there is more love than hate int he world via Wall of Love: http://walloflove.org
  • Visit the Facebook group R.I.P. Sandy Hook Elementary School Children
  • Wear green and white - Sandy Hook Elementary School colors - in honor of victims, via R.I.P. Sandy Hook Elementary School Children
  • Offer voluntary assistance by calling the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection at 211 or (800) 203-1234

Speak Out, Take Action


Friday, November 30, 2012

Event Recap: Bullied No More

Salons at Stowe
November 29, 2012

Strategies for taking a stand against bullying -- for the bully, the bullied and the bystander.  Join the discussion with guests Catie Talarski, Co-Producer of the public radio special BULLIED: Teen Stories from Generation PRX, and Council Brandon, a teen featured in the radio program.

Catie Talarski is the Senior Producer of “Where We Live,” WNPR’s morning news program.  She got her start in documentary radio at the Salt Institute in Portland Maine. She has produced several award-winning programs and her work has aired on NPR, Hearing Voices, Studio 360, and member stations across the country.  Catie launched “The Ear Cave,” a listening session hosted by a rotating cast of local radio professionals at a Hartford coffeehouse. And her Radio Adventure Theater is an experimental variety show combining music, theater, poetry and documentary radio.  Early this year she worked with the Public Radio Exchange to produce the hour-long youth special BULLIED: Teen Stories from Generation PRX.

Council Brandon, a sophomore at Watkinson School, was featured in the Bullied program. She lives in Hartford and enjoys singing, acting, writing, film and photography. From 4th through 8th grade at Noah Webster School, Council was bullied. As a result of the bullying, she skipped 5th grade, though that did not stop the harassment. She was asked to be involved in the Bullied documentary and agreed because she knows how common and pressing this issue is. 

 Catie Talarski
  • Produced radio documentary last February which was co-hosted with Council and another student, and produced with PRX (Public Radio Exchange) to learn what youth producers thought was important about bullying. The special aired on 32 channels across the country.
  • Bullying is a very complicated problem, often very difficult for youth to define – drawing the line between playing around and being destructive is often challenging.
  • Catie played and audio clip produced by Cassanova Robinson, an Indian student, who has been bullied and called a “terrorist” because he plays shooting video games.
    •  His guidance counselor put it back on him – told him that he needed to draw his own lines with his friends and not allow them to call him names.
    •   Catie raised the question: Is this more challenging that it sounds?
  • Catie played clip by Destiny Chandler, from Middletown, who was bullied because of the size of her forehead.
    • Her mother told her it was her responsibility to speak up, but Destiny said it was difficult to admit she was being bullied.
    • Catie raised the question: Who do kids go to for help?
  • Catie played a clip by Cynthia who suggests ways to stand up to bullying
    •  Group interventions, community bullying, and creating positive peer pressure is easier than targeting a certain person; need to build empathy. 
    •  Catie raised the point: Is a stigma attached to bullying?
  • Stage legislature passed Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws (available at: http://cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/Pa/pdf/2011PA-00232-R00SB-01138-PA.pdf)
    • Bullying is defined in the law as: “(A) the repeated use by one or more students of a written, oral or electronic communication, such as cyberbullying, directed at or referring to another student attending school in the same school district, or (B) a physical act or gesture by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student attending school in the same school district, that: (i) Causes physical or emotional harm to such student or damage to such student's property, (ii) places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property, (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for such student, (iv) infringes on the rights of such student at school, or (v) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Bullying shall include, but not be limited to, a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any Substitute Senate actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin,  gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics”
    • Catie raised the questions: How do we work as a community with parents and families to protect kids from being bullied? What are best practices for schools?

Council Brandon
  • Was bullied grades 4-8, was a minority as a young white girl in a school of predominantly Hispanic and African American students, as a student serious about getting an education.
  •  She had attended a school in Springfield before transferring to Noah Webster School (pre-K through 8th grade) in 4th grade – she was an outsider, it was difficult to find friends even in 4th grade.
  • At the beginning of 5th grade was cornered in a bathroom stall at the end of school. The girl who cornered her told her friends in the bathroom: “Hey guys we need to give Council a makeover” and said how she didn’t like her clothes, the way she dressed, etc. Council immediately left the bathroom, but the experience still affected her.
    • Council told her teacher but it took time, she was afraid to admit there was a problem and turn it into a public situation.
    • Council skipped 5th grade and avoided having to admit there was a problem with bullying.  
  • 6th grade was also difficult because everyone had friends, but her homeroom included the clique of popular girls who she wanted to befriend in order to be socially accepted.
    • She would hang out with them, but they would make fun of her behind her back and to her face, saying they were joking because they liked her – she tried to convince herself that they were joking and from 6th grade until 8th grade wanted to be friends with them even though they “hated her.”
    • She then became a bystander during bullying, also becoming involved in bullying herself – it was motivated by her desire to fit in and “become one of them”.
  •  Last year Catie (friends with Council’s mother) asked if she would be part of the documentary and he agreed because it is important to raise awareness about bullying - everyone can do something about bullying.
    • Council helped Catie write the script and organize stories from all around the world. It was a powerful experience because she realized her story was not unique – there are others out there who have gone through the same thing and could relate to the other stories.
    •  She interviewed a cyber-bullying expert from Arizona who talked about initiatives to regulate bullying worldwide and examine what kids are saying to each other while online (what bullies can do to stop themselves and how kids can recognize bullying).

What could have been done to change what you experienced?
  • Council: Adults in school were not recognizing what was happening, or if they did they did not do enough to stop it. Her parents went to the principal who confronted certain students on their behavior, but that did not stop anything – having to write apology letters does not change behavior
  • Council: The teachers did not understand that students in their classroom were being hurt and maintained the mentality that “middle schoolers were being middle schoolers”.  It would have helped to have teachers better trained to identify bullying.
It must have been difficult the first time you told your parents you were being bullied – what was their reaction?
  • Council: She did not remember when she first told them, but was in middle school. She would tell them what was happening, but never added it up to being bullying.
  •   Council: It was hard to talk about it “because they’re my parents…they won’t understand,” and it was scary to hear them say they were going to the principal – students never want the principal to know that there is a problem. The principal was not very helpful, not very productive – she worked better with younger children and did not associate with 6th, 7th and 8th graders

Did you ever consider going to another school?
  • Council: No, because she did have some friends, and it would have been a lot harder to start again at a new school where students were again already in cliques.
What was the most significant factor that effected this? Are there things the school could have done to talk about bullying to change the culture and behavior? What do you think could work better in schools?
  • Council: It would have helped if Noah Webster weren’t pre-K through 8 so administrators could work with an age group they felt comfortable with. Some form of bullying program would have been very helpful to her and others who were also being severely bullied.
  • Council: Attending the school early on, rather than transferring in 4th grade, would have allowed her to find a group of friends.

You said you weren’t sure when you put it all together – what were the effects on you and how did it affect your daily life (did it affect your classwork, what were the signs)?
  • Council: A lot happened during lunch time, when teachers were too busy monitoring to notice, and she played a lot of it off and ignored it to avoid embarrassing herself or classmates.
Audience member stated, there seems to be a similarity between bullying and both segregation and women in the work place: it took a lot of education to explain why races should not be segregated, and has also taken a lot of education and time to not separate women in the workplace (the idea that “men will be men”). We seem to be accepting the need to address bullying much faster than segregation and women in the workplace, but is still a lot of education that needs to happen.

Why was the state law written just for students and not adults?
  • Jo Ann Freiburg (State Department of Education): We should not focus on bullying and bullies but on school environment
    • Connecticut’s law on bullying dates to 2002, amended in 2006, 2008, and sweeping changes in 2011. We are among 49/50 states with a bullying law – each has a different definition of bullying.
    • Have never wanted to tackle the issue of adult bullying, want to address student-to-student
    • 1,400 cases sent to the Department of Education each year, 10% involve adults.
    • We did not start to address bullying until Columbine – she would argue that prior to Columbine, we were not asking the question “Are you being bullied?” – prior to Columbine such actions were seen simply as teasing, poking fun etc.
    • True prevention is creating an environment and empowering adults to recognize lower-level bullying, which if not identified will escalate.
    • We have to lose the label of bullying, change the conversation to not be on bullying and switch to the goal of having a positive school environment.
    • National school climate standards – is the direction which we ought to be moving; each student must reach a level/goal of school climate standards like CMT scores, etc.
    • Is the dilemma that by legislating, we are saying to adults and schools that their responsibility is to identify bullying and intervene, rather than that schools need to intervene with any act of harassment, bullying, etc.

Audience member recalled an experiment based around blue- and brown-eyed third grade children and empathy. One day the blue eyed children were made to feel good and the brown eyed children were brought down, then vice versa. The best way to learn something is to feel it. We would like to act in a way of “do unto others as you would have done unto you” – learning cannot be a lecture or a law, it needs to be an experience.

A fourth grade teacher shared that earlier that day, during recess, a group of girls cornered a male student and caused him to cry. Teachers intervened and had planned to call parents, but when reported to the Vice Principal were told that because it wasn’t repeated behavior it was not bullying (could not call the parents) – in the morning, the boy will get the same punishment as the girls. The Vice Principal told the teacher “not to use the ‘b’ word” (bullying).
  • Another teacher in the audience was being bullied by her high school students. She learned the student was also being bullied at home, and she is now part of the school’s anti-bullying task force. She suggested that the teacher align herself with others with the same mindset to speak up for her.
  • Jo Ann: Being told “not to use the ‘b’ word” shows that “bullying” label is a stigma.
    • Every public school, charter and magnet must have a safe school climate specialist in place, as well as a district- wide safe school climate coordinator, a safe-school climate committee (does not to have that name and can be an existing committee – must have at least 1 parent on the committee).
    • Council’s mother: The school was adamant that she not file a bullying complaint (school never mentioned that she could file a complaint, had to learn from someone associated with the Board of Education). Many parents do not realize it is an option – it benefits the school to not let people know they can file a complaint because it avoids a paper trail.
  • It is not enough to make changes in school: teachers are under the gun with standards they need to achieve and oversized classrooms, and administrators with other problems and pressures. Classroom sizes need to be smaller and need to be emotionally supportive environments.
  • It seems that you cannot say anything that could be construed as affecting a child’s good self-esteem – there is an emphasis on self-esteem vs. dealing with empathy; there should be more focus on empathy.
  • Council: Empathy is tricky because you need to support kids and give them  positive self-esteem, but then if you take it too far you make them feel self-righteous.
  • There was an editorial in the Hartford Courant that students with high self-esteem are more likely to be bullies than those with courage (http://www.courant.com/features/parenting/hc-parenting-self-esteem-rosemond-20121128,0,5751081.story).
  • Resentment and envy are some of the causes of bullying. Those who are being bullied need to speak up – the “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.
  • Audience member works at a school cafeteria – she has no kids of her own and was not hired to enforce the rules, but becomes a disciplinarian because the teachers do not speak up and notice bullying. Bullying needs to be discussed and talked about.
    • She has also noticed that adults become bullies as well because they were not taught to be civil – were bullied themselves and do not know to not take aggression out on others.
  • The conversation is often about victim-bully, but bystander is also an important role – everyone needs to takes responsibility and that are part of the problem if not part of the solution. Part of the solution is creating a culture of support.
  • An audience member teaches at a school that not only has an anti-bullying taskforce, but an “Upstanders” student group which teachers students to stand up to bullying themselves.
  •  Posed question: “How much do we do in our daily lives where we don’t think about that we’re doing and how it effects other people?”
  •  Bullies do what they do because it’s the only way they know how to have their needs met – bullies have been bullied too.
    • Jo Ann: Most bullies have a role model who has bullied them or is a bully
  • Council’s grandmother: Being a victim of bullying is a very complicated issue, and the culture is extremely important. At Council’s old school in Springfield there was a zero tolerance policy – schools have to have a policy in which such acts are not accepted and addressed
    • Jo Ann: “That’s the climate, that’s the work that has to be done”
In the corporate world, is the label of “harassment” – should there be such a label to get the help that is needed?
  • Council: Yes, it is a way to have others understand the “what” and “how.”

 What does one do about insidious bullying (being left out)? (ie. Everyone in the class being invited to a party accept one person – you cannot regulate friendships, activities, etc., but is still bullying)
  • Council: Experienced the exclusion as well, but cannot regulated who people are friends with or what they do outside of school. From her point of view, there is nothing you can do to change the situation. If someone is excluding you, you are better off without them.

Is bullying a mandated report?
  • Jo Ann: Everyone is a mandated reporter by law, but a reporter of what? Today, everything is bullying – someone reported that their four year old child’s friend ripped their paper and it was bulling. When everything becomes bullying, nothing is bullying. Is a lot of in-class harassment which may not be bullying.

An audience member watched Catie and Council’s documentary and did filming of his own with students in Bridgeport, but the students did not understand what bullying was and if they were being bullied or being bullies. He had a student who was being bullied by an older girl, but the family and societal message to “man up” and accept it, caused him to not recognize it as bullying.

A teacher said it is difficult to sort out the real situation when it comes to bulling (who is lying, etc.). She recommended sitting students down in the same room and asking them to answer the following questions independently and in separate parts of the room: What happened? What’s the rule? What did you do? What should be the next step?

A study from the 1950s turned students against each other, then brought them together to share common problems and feelings – the students then reconciled and were better connected because of mutual empathy.

Were you ever sat down with your bullies to discuss the problems and what was happening?
  • Council: No, it was never done.
  • Jo Ann: Is not about mediation, it is about power and relationship, especially with girls. Mediation is not a good strategy in general.

·         Catie: Hearing stories from young producers and students about why bullying was important to them was a good thing to be a part of. Are many other intertwined issues – like suicide – which are connected with bullying
·         Jo Ann: “If it’s mean, intervene.” People bully on those who cannot self-advocate, like children. Kids who are of different races, ethnicities, regions, etc. are even more likely to be targets.

Inspiration to Action:
  • Stand up for people that are being bullied
  • Find out if your school has an anti-bullying program or policy
  • Change the stigma around the term “bully” – focus on what is causing someone to bully
  • Don’t ignore the signs of bullying
  • Advocate for teacher training and in-school anti-bullying training/awareness
  • Focus on school climate improvement
  • Need true prevention instead of intervention
  • National School Climate Standards – equity for all
  • Learn and teach empathy
  • Find out if your school has a Safe School Climate Specialist or Committee (Safe School Climate Coordinator at district level)
    • It is the law for all public, charter and magnet schools
  • As a parent, know what resources exist
  • Work to create emotionally supportive climates in schools
  • Stop abusive behavior and tell people you won’t stand for bullying
  • Don’t be a passive bystander – create a culture of support
  • Be an upstander
  • Work to make mean spirited behavior unacceptable everywhere
  • When everything is bullying – nothing is bullying
  • Define what bullying is
  • Have students write up incident reports (good for problem solving)
  • “If it’s mean intervene”
  • Watch the video “Stop Bullying Now” (available at your local school or library)
  • Read Public Act 11-232 http://cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/Pa/pdf/2011PA-00232-R00SB-01138-PA.pdf)

Explore the links featured on our Takeaway Sheet for more information and ways you can take action!
    Bullied No More Salon Takeaway      

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Event Recap: How to Fight Human Trafficking

Salons at Stowe
November 15, 2012

Harriet Beecher Stowe fought to end slavery, yet it still exists today.  Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery.  Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money.  The terms human trafficking and sex slavery usually conjure up images of young girls beaten and abused in faraway places, like Eastern Europe, Asia, or Africa. Actually, sex trafficking happens locally in cities and towns, both large and small, throughout the United States, including here in Connecticut.

Featured guests:
Steven Ferraro, Director, Loving Our Children, has been a Volunteer Abolitionist since 2009. He’s been the Connecticut State Co-Director for Not For Sale Campaign with Karen Herbert for 2 years. He also works with Truckers Against Trafficking. By training Steve is a Manufacturing Engineer employed as Director of Engineering and Quality at a local manufacturer.

Tammy Sneed is the Director of Girls' Services for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Academy for Family and Workforce Knowledge and Development. She’s a national expert on Gender-Responsive Programming for adolescent girls, and specializes in programming for youth in the legal system.  She has developed and implemented a training model on how to work with traumatized adolescent girls for police departments resulting in significant arrest reductions.
Recently, she has focused on DCFs response to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). 
Tammy is also a foster/ adoptive mother. She has developed training for foster and adoptive parents and has been a mentor for forever families. 

Opening Remarks:

Steve Ferraro, Volunteer Abolitionist
  • Became a volunteer abolitionist four years ago when he became impassioned about the issue and the idea that slavery should not be happening.
  • First volunteered for Not For Sale, an organization based in California working to educate about and combat human trafficking, eventually becoming a co-director of the Connecticut chapter.
  • Wherever he went to speak about human trafficking, people wanted to hear from the experts. He learned that the only experts are those enslaved, survivors of slavery, or those working on the front lines of the issue.
  • Learned that while there are limits to what people can know or do, everyone can do something.
  • Left Not For Sale, which has an international focus, to focus on human trafficking in Connecticut and US
    • Truckers Against Trafficking effectively educates truckers about what they need to look for and who they should contact to take action. Question posed:  Do you know the signs of human trafficking?  Do you know who to call?  Truckers are ranked number 8 of all groups who call the national trafficking hotline.
    • While training a group of truckers in Knoxville, TN, a trucker was able to identify a young girl who was being trafficked and contacted police to rescue the girl.
  • Steve hopes to develop an information card like the one that Truckers Against Trafficking distributes that can be adapted for local communities to help save children.
  • The “demand side” is rarely discussed.  Within our sphere of influence we all know someone who pays for sex, goes to strip clubs, or paid sex websites.

Tammy Sneed, DCF
  • Runs a small department within the Department of Children and Families.  The staff is small and workers share priorities, as no funds are exclusively allotted for this initiative.
  • Need is great with few resources, parents with children as young as 11 years old have asked her to come and speak.
  • The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 (TVPA) covers all forms of human trafficking.  This national law, which guarantees all victims certain rights, is up for renewal and President Obama has said it is a priority. http://www.justice.gov/olp/pdf/wilberforce-act.pdf
  • 100,000 to 300,000 youth are victims of domestic trafficking. 20,000 international youth are trafficking victims in the US.
  • Connecticut DCF child victim data:
    • 108 victims of sex exploitation under the age of 18
    •  Age range of children is 11 to 185 of the reported were boys
    • Nationally the percentage of boys trafficked is 20% and boys are less likely to disclose they have been trafficked because of sexuality questions.  They are more embarrassed.  We need to do a better job identifying male victims by asking better questions.
    • 99% have long histories of neglect and abuse before they are trafficked according to DCF records
  • CT is ahead of other states in laws regarding trafficking. 
  • Trafficked youth under 16 can be arrested, but not prosecuted.
  • Reference slide on Domestic Sex Trafficking
  • Local examples of trafficking:
    • Boyfriends selling their girlfriends at private parties
    • Gang related trafficking where the fear factor prevents the sharing of information
    • Girl convicted with legitimate identification saying she was in her 20s, but in reality she was under 16 years old
    • Pimps responding to ads for escorts during Super Bowl (national problem)
    • Pimps seeking young girls and boys
    • Pimps even try to solicit the help of other girls who were rescued and living in Congregate Care facilities.
    • A mother became suspicious that something was wrong with her daughter and discovered she was lured into sex trafficking after meeting the wrong people at a party. She discovered a list of johns in her daughter’s diary.
    • A teen girl (who had been abused and neglected as a child) was found to be trafficking a transgender boy.
  • Suggested everyone watch Very Young Girls, by GEMS (Girls Educational Mentoring Services). While very difficult to watch, it is very informative and Tammy uses it as teaching tool.
  • DCF work includes DCF Director meeting with police chiefs from around the state training them that police should call DCF if they suspect trafficking.  They discovered information was not moving down through the ranks. DCF has done “roll call” trainings with police officers and trainings with EMS workers.
  • Education is needed. Once people are educated, the calls to DCF come in.  People need to be educated that those trafficked are victims, not “just a prostitute” as Tammy has even heard a nurse say.
  • Steve reminded us that police officers serve the public and that it is important that we call, write and visit our local police departments and ask them to request the training that DCF offers for our police officers.
  • Tammy is training 500 police officers from West Hartford and surrounding communities.
  • Any young person can be a victim, including those children that have never had any connection to DCF.
  • Physical signs of youth being trafficked: tattoos that are identical to those of a pimp, branding by a pimp. -Victims don’t always want police, EMS, or DCF help and may not see themselves as victims
  • DCF Careline is 800-842-2288
  • Multicultural Director Bill Rivera works with Tammy on a three-day certification offered monthly that anyone can take.
  • Non-profit organization Love 146 has developed a program for high school students.  The 10 week program is called My Life, My Choice and educates teens about signs of trafficking and how to avoid it and help their peers. It is offered without cost to schools, and they are developing a program for middle school youth.
  • Parents must be educated so that they can educate their kids. Steve wants to develop more community training.Trafficking issue is where domestic violence issue was years ago.  People didn’t understand why the victim didn’t just leave.  Officer Deborah Scates, from the Hartford PD, noted that people don’t realize that victims are “groomed” or “charmed” into the life and then they can’t get out.
  • Tammy and audience members emphasized that there should be a movement away from the language used.  Not using “prostitute” acknowledges that the girls and women are victims.  There is a reason why they are on the streets.  There is a reason why they are an escort.  Begin to see all as victims.  Even the adults usually have records that can be traced back to DCF cases where they were neglected and abused.

Group discussion:

Why do women (who are on the “supply side” of the issue) get their pictures put in the paper and men don’t?
  • Steve:  Men are the minority at this program and are at most trainings, even though they are the problem. There are never more than 25% in the room. For every john arrested there are 50 women arrested. A john that is arrested is wrongly treated like he is the victim because people consider that his wife, children, and co-workers might find out. Ignorance causes a lot of this attitude.  If there were no men buying sex there would be no people selling it.
  • Steve quoted Stowe: “Women are the real architects of society.” Women who have boys in their care have to teach them to be respectful men.  Talk to the males in your life. Give your sons a positive expectation. Tell them you don’t ever want to see them in a strip club. 
  • Respect everyone.
  • Tammy: Her son, in his 20’s, was asked to secure an escort for a boss who was traveling. He didn’t do it, but discovered from colleagues that the boss’ request was very common.

Is there a curriculum for boys?
  • Love 146 integrates training for boys in their program. And DCF has a 10 week program called “Man Up.”
  • Steve: Watch Truckers Against Trafficking video and Very Young Girls.

What about legalizing prostitution?
  • Draw the line between minors and consenting adults who are prostitutes. 
  • Steve:  “No child should be commercially sold for sex.  And remember most prostitutes are in the life because of force, fraud, or coercion.  We love our own children, but we need to love each other’s children as much as we love our own.  Know the kids in your neighborhood—who waits for the bus, what are their names, who are the parents that wait in their cars.  Pay attention and learn to recognize when something isn’t right.
  • Tammy: Young people share a lot of information on Facebook and the internet.  Respond right away when you see something inappropriate on the internet.

What are the efforts to stop human trafficking?
  • Audience member has interviewed more than 300 johns over the last 16 years. Community Court hears these cases and has a program for johns where they pay a fine and enter a program with classes that educate them about trafficking.  Their pictures are in the paper and their fine goes to women’s programs.  If they are arrested a second time they go to jail.  Many johns believe that the women want to be with them and learn otherwise for the first time in these classes.
  • Community Court also has a program for women.  The problem is that these programs are funded by grants and Officer Scates said they may be losing the money for these programs. 
  • Audience member noted that we should call trafficking what it is.  Stowe called slavery what it was (in Uncle Tom’s Cabin). We need to change the way we talk about trafficking.  Say “To be prostituted.”  This language changes the paradigm.  Focus is what is now on what is being done to the victim.

  • Closing
  • Steve: For a full day, try to think of everyone you see as a person.  Not the person who cuts in front of you in traffic, or a poor or homeless person, or an old person.  No labels.  Just a person.  This would help us see a trafficked girl as a victim.  No one was born to be a slave of another person.  That is not what they were intended to be.

Inspiration to Action:
  • Educate yourself
  • Organize your groups, community, church, etc. to work together to stop trafficking
  • Visit: www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com
  • Advocate at Legislative Office Building (LOB)
  • Watch Showtime documentary “Very Young Girls” (purchase through Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS))
  • Talk to your local police department about importance of  training on trafficking
  • CT DCF Careline (800) 842-2288 http://www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/view.asp?a=2556&q=314388
  • Organize a workshop at your school. Educate parents so they can educate kids
  • Take the DCF three-day training or Love 146 training
  • Educate boys and men about human trafficking – it is never ok to exploit women/children
  • DCF “Man Up” curriculum
  • Respect – break down myths about prostitution
  • Start small, pay attention
  • Know the names of the kids in your neighborhood and what cars should be at the bus stop, etc.
  • If you hear or see something, do something
  • If you see something on a child’s Facebook or website, do something – TAKE ACTION
  • Pay attention to what you and your loved ones are doing online
  • Be aware of how you talk about prostitution and human trafficking
    • Don’t romanticize prostitution
    • Refer to trafficking as “to be prostituted” rather than “prostitute”
  • Look at people without labels
  • Find everybody that is about to be lost
  • Live your life differently and you can make a difference in the world

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Event Recap: Liberating the Spirit

Featured Guest Opening Remarks: 

Beth Burgess, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

  • Connections between Harriet Beecher Stowe's life and modern emancipation
  • Stowe lived from 1811 until 1896. She had limited lifestyle options. She lived in the confines of women of her time. 
  • As a Beecher she had a great upbringing 
  • Her emancipation, or liberation of the spirit came through her writing.
  • She used her writing to encourage others to create positive change. 
  • We know that Abraham Lincoln checked out A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin during the time that he prepared the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • She was inspired not only by what she lived through, she was inspired by slavery, anti-slavery movements, education, women's suffrage, the Reconstruction. 
  • Gardening was a hobby of Stowe's. This was a lifelong hobby. She wrote that it was a "healing place for the soul". It brought her into a place of calm, to remove her from her career. 
  • The international impact of what she did was vast. The women of Great Britain invited her after the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. She was like a "rock star" there. A 26 volume petition of half a million women's signatures lives at the Stowe Center and shows her life's work. 
  • Stowe promoted Southern economic recovery and encouraged Northerners to go down to Florida as a rustic getaway. She lived there during the winter and promoted and encouraged educational development. 
  • She painted and was inspired by what she wrote, where she travelled, what she thought of. 
  • The gardens here show what she wrote about gardens. 
  • Stowe had a spirit that could not be brought down and gave her causes some weight. 

Judy Dworin, Judy Dworin Performance Project
  • The creative act is an act of affirmation of self, of one's place in the world. That is empowering and liberating.
  • We say these expressions to ourselves and other people. That dialogue is powerful.
  • An inmate at York Correctional Institution. "I am not a wasted life, I am talented...art has allowed me to transend these walls, with or without permission." 
  • The act of creating allows us to push beyond boundaries, it offers us possibilities.
  • Creativity is within all of us. 
  • Ask my students to write about their own inner prison, it makes us look within. When we look at that we start a process of emancipation we didn't know we had to do. 
  • There are pressures of achievement that hold us back. 
  • Finding the beauty in the muck, that is what creativity allows. Digging down deep, something says "yes". 
  • Art transforms us and hopefully it moves others.
  • Meditations from a Garden Seat: My husband and I saw a button with a Stowe quote that "gardens are a place of healing for the soul" when we took a tour at the Stowe Center and then we saw all of her paintings. I worked with the women at York on gardens and this added to our work. 
  • The garden is a place of meaning for both Stowe and the women of York. 
  • It was a challenging connection to make. 
  • Joan Hedrick (Pulitzer Prize winner biographer of Stowe) is the voice of Stowe in the performance. 
  • *Comparison between Stowe's writing and the writing of women at York Correctional Institute*
  • You might discover out of us weeds there are pretty little flowers inside. 
  • The creative spirit lives within the walls of York and calls for us to reconsider justice. 
  • "You may restrict my movement but my mind runs free."

Group Discussion: 
How do you get from a creative spark to something that you can put to action or bring out?

  • Listen to the most urgent ideas, thats the one you need to listen to. Write about it, draw it, find the medium that allows you to express and communicate. Play is the feeding ground of creation. We learn so much as children from play. We forget about that as we grow older. 
  • Refining it and working on it until it is where it needs to be is important. 
Is it important to have a quiet place to create? How do we shut things out? 
  • The Stowe Center garden 
  • Sometimes the more we try to get it, the further away it gets
  • One of the hardest balances to find it carving out time with yourself.
  • Carving out space whether physical or metaphorical and leaving that open no matter what. 
  • We don't make enough appointments with ourselves. 
  • Creating the space and then having the spontaneous energy is a difficult balance. 
  • Our society does not value this time enough because it is not concrete enough, though innovation is critical. 
  • It's a practice
How many women participated in Meditations, how did they come to be chosen.
  • Each year 25-35 women. 
  • 2/3 of the women continue and 1/3 are new. 
  • The selection process is by application, they write in a writing sample and we select based on the staff and the application. There are 1,000 women at York and 32 women participate, but 500 women are in the audience.
  • The work is honest, raw, and impactful. It is very hopeful. 
  • The more time they are in the process, the deeper they go. 
  • Some have started to write about their crimes now and that is probably one of the hardest places for them to go. 
Is there an outlet for women without you there?
  • It is organized and supervised. 
  • There are other arts activities, but they could not just go paint in the art room, there is not any kind of freedom in that way. 
This makes me think about people that are living in shelters or a tent in Haiti. There is that garden that we all need to create. I hope that the women at York are encouraged that they are not the only ones that are imprisoned. 
  • They get that 
  • They also see a reality to prison, but none the less they see that internal sense. 
Play is not part of the expectation for adults. Things that I did when I was young come back now when I play with my child. How do we find our own time?
  • Taking time for ourselves, even taking a walk and feeling present in that walk is important. 
  • We are conditioned to try and make everything work
  • Our lives are so busy. We try to make things happen, rather than letting things happen
  • Finding likeminded people to work with is important. 
  • Being inspired by others
  • Sharing with others and interacting with others that are inspired by what you are doing. 
  • Being inspired by those you work with feeds your own sense of where you're going.
  • Self preservation is important: Taking time to do things for nothing but ourselves, living in that moment. Finding things we like to do with people that feed all of our interests. This makes us feel whole again and makes us feel positive. 
In visual arts, decorating the physical space that we are in with inspirational pieces can give us positive, self liberation. 

If you look at where Stowe would have placed her art in her house you see that she would have been inspired by that work. 

The colors of Stowe's garden were meant to create a feeling. Writing and gardening were a sense of calm for her. 

Poetry and writing are an outlet for people to get their thoughts out. 

How do you handle when some of the women say that they are not artistic? 
  • Anyone who comes into the group knows that they are coming into art. 
  • We work in narrative, song or dance. We also cross fertilize. Singers and invited to write, writers are invited to dance. Trying is important
  • There is a community of support. Generally prison does not provide them with a community of support, but within the program there is a community of support that provides a safe place to take those risks. 
  • Listening to what is possible and knowing how to open up.
  • The fact that we are there listening is important. 
  • In prison you are identified by your number or your last name, your voice is not important in many ways. 
  • Some many of us think that our stories are unimportant, but when you dig in there are stories that are bigger than ourselves.
Do you collect data about the women or evaluated the healing afterwards?
  • We try to keep in touch with the women who leave and if possible include them in the works. 
  • It is not 100%. There are so many complexities. 
  • It is hard when you get out of prison. There is a high rate of incarceration.

How ofter do you meet?
  • We meet once a month and then more frequently leading up to the performance.
  • It is a big commitment on their part.

Where is the lack of respect in prison coming from?
  • There is a lot that can be positive, but the overall idea of prison is something that we need to think about.
  • 95% of these people will leave and reenter the community. How do we want them to come back? 
  • We have to think about what it means afterwards too. 
  • There are a lot of irretrievable things that happen in prison.  
  • It's the idea of what prison is supposed to be that we have to think about. 
  • When you set up a system where they are known by a number or last name, that is making a statement. 
  • Changing things and rehabilitating is difficult when there are budget cuts as well. 
  • We are not going to change this in a day, but we need to think about what we provide to people in prison and what should be given to them before they reenter society. 
  • Prison is an industry now. 
  • It is not just the prison, it is also about what we are providing when people leave prison. 
  • Reentry should start the day they arrive in prison. How do we assist in job finding? How do we support these people who reenter? 
  • The number of years that people are asked to serve are different throughout the world. 
  • There are so many changes that can be made and we need to look at it in a bigger way.
Being an educator, the way we are handling education now, using data to control rather than the human being. We have the same attitude towards children, this "out of sight, out of mind" when we send children to school. There are a lot of things that we don't want to look at, but these are human beings that we don't necessarily interact with. 
  • One of the greatest things about art is that it is a life-changing experience. 
  • Artists take risks to say things that people aren't saying. 
  • Society does not celebrate artists that much right now. 
  • We have been very fearful since 9/11 and we are trying to take too much control, art doesn't fit into that. 
Who is noticing what JDPP is doing and what the women at York are doing? Stowe changed systems, the change of JDPP is happening to individuals within a system. Is there anything that will change to systemic change?
  • The Commissioner came to see the performance of the women. The Governor's wife came as well. They were all amazed. This kind of work could not spread to other prisons. 
  • The fact that the arts are there indicates change. 
  • Talking in situations like this, writing articles, and bringing performance work out gets ideas going
  • It is beginning to be recognized. 
  • It is very different from when we started.
  • There are parameters that we agree with when we work with the women at York. One always walks a fine line. We have to agree with things that we wouldn't always agree with. 
  • You can work within the prison to create change within or you can be outside making it public and vocal. You cannot do both.
Was there resistance in starting?
  • Everyone starts with a skeptical sense. 
  • First there was no video, then there was video taping allowed. 
  • There has been a lot of change that has occurred over time. 
  • There is a balance.
How has the experience changed the women of your team that are going into the prison to work with the incarcerated women? 
  • It has changed all of us. It has changed our perception of freedom and justice.
  • Prisons are a microcosm for so many things
  • When we started we had no idea of how it would affect me. One huge strand of what we do is working with the incarcerated or those impacted by incarceration.
  • It is a processing time to travel to the prison and home from the prison. 
  • The whole notion of freedom has become wider. 
  • The first time I met someone my age it was the most impactful (statement from a JDPP staff member). Seeing them perform is amazing, they could have been my best friend. That was the moment, that is what changes you. 
The words of the women provide this liberation for all of us. The arts have a wonderful power and they make us realize that we are just as capable of making a bad decision, but that the seeds of transformation are spreading. There are bright opportunities to make this type of change.
  • A lot of the change we are making isn't measurable by data. 
  • There are a lot of great people doing great things that cannot be measured that way. 
  • Beware of the gloom and doom picture. There is more than meets the eyes.

Change comes one person at a time. 

The discipline that comes with the performance. The rest of the day for the women at York is regimented with no choice. With this outlet they have choices. Through discipline they are able to make work that is good and make that work better. This has been liberating for them. 

We can be skeptical of art, but there is a lot of risk and there was a lot of work that came. 

The value of showing up and practicing our craft is important. 

There is some real healing that is happening here. Art, music and movement are very healing. If we could do that with younger people that might be a outlet away from the pipeline to incarceration. 
Cutting off the arts are cutting off a lifeline. 

Have you considered mentoring people that would like to work with other groups such as immigrants or young people?
JDPP has a mentoring program with young people who have parents who are incarcerated. 
JDPP would like to teach other teaching artists. Training people that want to do this type of work is in our plans. 

Art is a courageous thing, it is exposing, especially if it is an emotional place. When you go there, how do you handle that emotion?
  • In the last year a counselor from mental health follows up with the women. 
  • A group every other week with the women helps them get to the emotions that come up that have never been tapped before. 
  • All of the teachers that go in know that the arts are therapeutic, but we are not therapists. The counselor allows them some follow up. 
Inspiration to Action:
  • Go see Meditation from a Garden Seat
  • The use of self expression to inspire action through writing and art. 
  • Creativity is empowering and liberating. 
  • Art transforms us
  • Take time to yourself, be present
  • Feed your spirit
  • Find likeminded people to work with
  • Challenge cultural assumptions
  • contribute to efforts of systemic change
  • support a culture of creativity and innovation
  • Challenge your own notion of freedom.