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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Monday, July 29, 2013

Event Recap: What Can You Do To Fight Intolerance? (7.25.13 workshop)

Salons at Stowe
What Can You Do To Fight Intolerance?
July 25, 2013
Racism, xenophobia and intolerance are prevalent problems, and prejudice and discrimination are reflected throughout United States history. To encourage conversation and solution-building, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center presents What Can You Do to Fight Intolerance?

Dr. William Howe is the program manager for culturally responsive education, multicultural education, bullying and harassment, gender equity and civil rights at the Connecticut Department of Education. He is the founder of the New England Conference on Multicultural Education (NECME) and Past President of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).

Dr. Howe began by commenting on the fear, anger, and frustrations he notices as a result of intolerance, yet a desire to talk about the issues and find solutions. He shared the story of James Baldwin and his call to people of all races to help in “ending the racial nightmare,” explaining that we are living the racial nightmare: and even though we have been talking about it for decades the situations are not changing. His goal, and the goal of the program, was to arrive at constructive answers.

Dr. Howe shared his background, starting with his parents who were born in China. His father was kidnapped at age 7, tied and kept in a closet, and had to relearn how to walk when released at age 9. His parents died while he was kidnapped, and his grandfather – fearing the kidnappers would come back – sent him to the United States. His mother was given away as a servant at age 16, and when she ran away back home she was not wanted. His parents met through an arranged marriage and William was born in Quebec. He has two children, a son who is a publisher and daughter who is a social worker, both who work in Chicago, and a wife who is a social worker and therapist.

He explained that we have to start talking about ourselves as cultural beings and be proud of who we are – “no child, no person, should be ashamed of who they are.” Dr. Howe then led participants in several one-on-one discussions with people they did not know. Each discussion related to culture, and several members commented on their pride in:
- The influence of African culture music and education on American culture
- The influence of Italian culture on American food and family
- The influence of Irish poetry, culture and literature

In the following discussion, they discussed things they wished people would stop saying about their culture, including:
- Associating Jamaicans/Jamaica with weed
- The stereotype that all Asians are brilliant
- The association of Colombians with drug cartels
- That African American women speak Ebonics
- That American women are promiscuous
- That people of culture are on welfare and receiving benefits
- The “We’re #1” American attitude
- That the Native Americans are “Indians” and were discovered by Columbus

Dr. Howe explained that when someone says what they wish people would stop saying about their culture, we should not be responding with “What’s wrong with that?” Instead we need to listen. He shared a quote from Margaret Wheatley's “ From Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future":
This is how great changes begin, when people begin talking to each other about their experiences, hopes, and fears.

The group discussion then covered how to ask questions and be an active listener. Dr. Howe commented that Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply (Stephen Covey), and shared several statistics, including:
  • 80% of awake time is spent communicating
  • We spend 45% of awake time listening.
  • 75% of the words are ignored, misunderstood or forgotten
  • Most Adults Listen Actively for 17 Seconds

The remainder of the workshop included training on the multiple types of questions, listening skills, cultural competence, and the idea of race. The workshop ended with an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere and a desire to do more to better our world and break down barriers of intolerance.

Enjoy these photos and video from the workshop and view more at www.facebook.com/HarrietBeecherStowe.


Explore the links featured on our Takeaway Sheet for more information and ways you can take action!  

The Stowe Center thanks Dr. Howe for leading this workshop and for his efforts to embrace and share the importance of multicultural diversity. We look forward to working with Dr. Howe in the future!


Brian said...

I just discovered "Story of America," a website/documentary/resource that might of interest to workshop attendees and blog followers. The project closely aligns with the goal of Dr. Howe's workshop: "Story of America is a web series and feature documentary that explores the polarization that exists in America today along political, economic and cultural lines. The filmmakers use the transformative power of dialogue to reach Americans from across the nation and across the divide to address their fears and bring us closer as a nation

Learn more at: http://www.storyofamerica.org.

I'd be curious to hear other readers' reactions and thoughts about "Story of America"...

Anonymous said...

I think this quote, recently released regarding the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman ruling, is pertinent to last week's workshop:

"A challenge for all of us is to be in genuine dialogue with people whose perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences are different than our own."

- Margot Stern Strom,
Klarman Family Executive Director of Facing History and Ourselves

Norma Neumann-Johnson said...

As founder and Principal Emeritus of the Breakthrough Magnet School, "a Global school for Students of Character" and founding director of the Breakthrough Institute, leading workshops and designing courses for students, parents, educators and educational leaders, I found Dr. Howe's workshop informative and catalyzing. A handout from Dr. Howe from the evening included "Seven Important Social Skills", which we have added to the social skills knowledge base in our Character Curriculum and "Seven Cultural Competence Skills", which we are converting for use by students in their own self-assessment rubrics surrounding their character development.

Stowe Center said...

That sounds like a great resource, Norma! Has it proven to be successful in your character curriculum? Keep us posted!