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, October 31, 2013

"Halloween is No Excuse for Hate"

How would you respond if you encountered two men dressed as a murdered Trayvon Martin (in blackface) and finger-gun-wielding George Zimmerman, or as Crazy Eyes (also in blackface) from Orange is the New Black this Halloween?

View image on Twitter   DBY1

Although incredibly insensitive, the above photos were taken and shared this week as examples of distasteful Halloween costumes. The photo on the left was shared widely via social media by those in costume, and the one on the right depicts former Dancing with the Stars pro Julianna Hough on her way to a party. 

Christine Pelosi, Chair of the California Democratic Party Women's Caucus, wrote that "Halloween Is No Excuse for Hate," in a recent article for the Huffington Post. She states that "Blackface is not "traditional" or "historic" or "makeup" for Halloween or any day of the year. Wearing blackface is as tasteless as waving a confederate flag and rebel yelling the black First Family in the White House." She goes on to call attention to the many offensive aspects of these costumes and motivates readers to speak out and educate people on racial injustices.  

A NY Daily News article, Julianne Hough dons blackface for 'Orange Is the New Black' Halloween costume by Margaret Eby, discusses Hough's choice of costume and her subsequent apology. 

So, How would you respond if you encountered two men dressed as a murdered Trayvon Martin (in blackface) and finger-gun-wielding George Zimmerman, or as Crazy Eyes (also in blackface) from Orange is the New Black this Halloween? Would you have the courage to say something? How do these costumes make you feel?

The annual reminders colleges need to send their students not to dress in blackface or red face or yellow face demonstrate that we need more voices in the chorus of people speaking out for justice and decency. Speak out, educate, do not be intimidated by the apologists, and do not let extreme racism be mainstreamed. Hopefully there will come a time when we don't need to tell our kids that Halloween is no excuse for hate, and that blackface has no place in a civilized society.
- Christine Pelosi 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bullying on the job: adults can be victims of bullying, too

Earlier this month, ABC News featured a special report "Bullying on the Job," following a survey by the Centers for Disease Control which stated that an astounding 12 million Americans are effected by bullying in the workplace, one third more women than men.

As National Bullying Prevention Month comes to a close, it's important to remember that adults can be victims of bullying, too, and that bullying in the workplace is a very serious issue. To learn more, or if you think you might be a victim yourself, check out the ABC News segment below.

For those being bullied in the workplace, Jill Brooke - author of The Need to Say No - recommends: 
  • Speak up - bullies respond to resistance 
  • Document the bullying - have proof
  • Build consensus with others - there is strength in numbers

Have you ever felt bullied at your job or by your peers? What have you done to stand up and defend yourself?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Freedom Riders" film screening and discussion tonight at Hartford Public Library

Tonight, Tuesday, October 29, at 4:30pm, the Center for Contemporary Culture at the downtown branch of the Hartford Public Library will offer a screening and discussion of the film Freedom Riders. This event marks the 150th anniversary of the the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and will share the stories and legacies of the famous activists who were "Threatened. Attacked. Jailed." for standing up for their rights. Visit HERE for more information.

For more about the anniversaries of the Proclamation and March, and ways you can take action, visit the Event Recap blog post for our Have We Overcome? Salon (April 2013). 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Event Recap: “Walking in My Shoes: How Can We Teach Empathy?” (10.24.13 Salon)

Salons at Stowe
October 24, 2013
Negative beliefs about "other" people lead to prejudice and discrimination. What is empathy and how does it differ from tolerance? How can empathy be taught?

Julia B. Rosenblatt is Co-Founding Artistic Director and Director of Education for HartBeat Ensemble, the Hartford-based performance company that creates productions drawn from contemporary life. HartBeat develops theater that are accessible beyond the barriers of class, race, geography and gender. Julia's most recent play, Flipside (2011), has received critical praise and been presented in Hartford, Boston and the New York International Fringe Festival. With a 2013 Artist Fellowship from the CT Department of Economic and Community Development she is creating a play examining motherhood and its place in our economy. (julia.rosenblatt@hartbeatensemble.org)

Stephen Armstrong is social studies department supervisor at Hall High School and King Phillip Middle School in West Hartford and an adjunct instructor of history at CCSU. He is President of National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). He has served on the NCSS Board of Directors twice and is the chair of their Government and Public Relations committee. He is a past-president of Connecticut Council for Social Studies and the New England History Teachers Association, and recently served on the committee that revised the Connecticut social studies standards. (sarmstrong@ncss.org)

Liah Kaminer is a senior at Hall High and an alumna of Solomon Schechter Day School. She noticed serious anti-Semitic language at school and worked to build a program addressing it. She hopes to go to UConn or UVM, expecting to major in biology and minor in French. She is also a vegan baker and her business name is My Treat Sweets.

Julia Rosenblatt 
Julia is the Co-Artistic Director and Education Coordinator at HartBeat Ensemble and is excited to now be in the Nook Farm neighborhood. HartBeat is in its 13th year as a theater company that creates mostly original work that tells untold stories, bring to light unheard voices, and make theater accessible beyond the barriers of race, class, gender, and geography. The entire theater company is based on the idea of empathy. Similar to Stowe’s efforts to tell a true story to raise awareness on an important issue, HartBeat seeks to share such untold stories. HartBeat came to Hartford in 2001, recognizing Hartford as a microcosm of the inequities in the country, the poorest/2nd poorest city of its size, while being the Insurance Capital of the World.

HartBeat'sEducation programs use theater to teach empathy as a tool for peaceful conflict resolution and teach play building at a high level. They offer the Youth Play Institute, a program in which 18 young people ages 16-21 come together to write a play on a specific topic – this year’s theme was institutionalized racism in schools, and the schools to prison pipeline. Students do their own research, interview people on all sides of the topic, and write a story about their findings. They also use arts to enhance unity in the school system through an interactive theater which incorporates common conflicts like bullying. The program is delivered in schools based on each school’s needs and current problems; the program also includes an opportunity for the students to write a play about the issue themselves.

With theater, the ability to see and put yourself in the place of someone standing before you live is as powerful as it gets. Studies show that 91% of our communication is non-verbal – the idea of someone being able to stand in front of a group and convey feelings and emotions is the beginning of creating empathy.

Steve Armstrong
Steve is a “veteran” teacher and has been teaching for “a while.” There are some kids that are very empathetic, and often comments are made which aren’t meant to be intentionally hurtful, but shows where we need to educate and teach students. When anti-Semitism is covered in school, it is only in the context of the Holocaust – students do not realize that anti-Semitism still exists. Liah came to him and asked to develop a curriculum. Liah, as a peer and as a student who experienced anti-Semitism, made the class much more effective than if he delivered it themselves.

Liah Kaminer
Liah attended a private school during elementary school and never experienced anti-Seminitism. When she attended public middle and high schools, she heard many anti-Seminitic remarks. Many times, she was in groups when comments were not directed at her but the others knew she was Jewish and that she wouldn’t do anything about it. The comment that put her over the edge was when she heard a boy in the hallway ask two other boys “Are you two Jews?” When the boys responded “no,” he patted them on the back and said “Good, you’re one of us.” She wasn’t sure how to handle the comments and bullying, and finally went to the principal with her father. She later met with Steve Armstrong who helped her develop a curriculum that wasn’t lecturing, but studying the evolution of the comments and debunking the stereotypes. It also raises awareness on the offensiveness of the phrases students use which are not always true. The class is presented in front of each freshman class.

Liah showed a clip from ABC’s “What Would You Do?” which focuses on anti-Semitism in America - the clip (see below) what starts the discussion in the classes. It prompts the class to think about what they would do if they were in that situation, and why the students might have reacted as they did. This is the second year of running the class. To learn more about the class, visit our recent blog post HERE.

Audience question: Do the students do a writing assignment after the class and watching the video clip?

  • Liah: No, but a survey was delivered at the beginning to see where they stood before the class. 
  • Steve: In preparation for the class, teachers delivered 3 lessons from the Anti-Defamation League. 
  • Hall HS teacher: Because of Liah’s efforts, this program has been institutionalized and will be part of the World History curriculum. She leads the Safe School Climate Committee and is working hard to make sure this effort isn’t lost. 
  • Audience member: Heard about Liah’s efforts while at the library (a group of parents of toddlers were talking) and was excited to hear about the difference she had made. 

Liah’s father: When he and Liah met with the former principal at Hall HS (African American male) he explained that African Americans have an entire month, Jews do not have an hour in the year. Would like to see students taught about the origin of differences that lead to conflict. As a child psychiatrist, he has met professional colleagues who have said “We like you because you are not like the other Jews we know” – they are “backhand compliments.” Liah received many compliments for her work, but not a single Jewish person offered to help her efforts and continue her work. He wants to empower Jewish kids to not only be proud of their religion, but to stand up for their rights, know their history.

Audience member: Recommends a TED Talks by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called "The danger of a single story". Its not that the stereotypes are not true, its that they don’t tell the whole story. She also notices that in conversations about race, stereotypes, etc., groups “fight for the trauma” and say their ethnicity or religion has had it the worst (“We’ve fought for 3,000 years, you’ve only fought for…”)

Audience question: What has been the takeaway for Liah and does she have any desire to work with these issues in college?

  • Liah: If she encounters this issue in college, she will certainly work to tackle it, and now feels more comfortable. The takeaway is not positive, she realizes that bigotry is everywhere. You need to try to change peoples’ minds or give a different perspective. 

Julia: When students participate in an “invisible theater,” (similar to “What Would You Do?”) they don’t always realize they are part of such an experiment and are often angry that when they find out. How much do you have to turn up the heat to make change? She graduated from Hall HS and is Jewish but did not experience anti-Semitism in high school, though encountered a lot of classism and racism towards African Americans and Latinos. When entering the world 20 years ago, many people reacted when learning that she was from Hartford. She is interested in Liah’s course and is curious how far it will go – she hopes it will go far beyond anti-Semitism.

Hall HS Faculty member: There is an urgency to create an atmosphere of social justice. They are working hard, especially during National Bullying Prevention Month, with programs around “The Laramie Project,” “It’s a Girl,” child soldiers, and other films and authors. The school is trying to understand that everyone suffers in some way. It is often classism which filters into everything else.

Audience question: What was the cost for Liah standing up?

  • Liah: Many bridges were burned, and many people felt she was overreacting; but if that is what you think, and cannot respect her for how she feels, they should not be friends. She feels very self conscious when she stands up for things, and doesn’t always hear what is said behind her back, but sees reactions when she talks about her work and in particular coming to speak at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Often time her Jewish friends would not react to comments, even when they were directed at them. 
  • Fellow Hall HS student: More programs need to be implements on different “isms” – racism, sexism, classism, etc. 
  • Julia: there are other schools where social justice is taught
  • Teacher who teaches social justice class: What is the role of empathy in all of this? Where did the empathy come in when Liah taught the class? How did you prompt the empathy?
  • Liah: When the class was originally taught, they were thinking about education not empathy; but empathy and feeling is what changes it from a classroom lecture to an understanding and life lesson. 

Audience member: What was it that motivated Liah? What is the difference in Americans and Israel Jews?

  • Liah: Was raised among American Jews, and noticed that they are much more laid back than Israel Jews – they are not insulted by stereotypical comments, and don’t know the history/background behind them. 
  • Julia: Is interesting to see when someone who is an oppressor is oppressed in another situation. Personality and strength of character plays a large role into what someone is willing to do.

Audience member: Learning about the stereotypes and comments makes her wonder what bigotry is in her, what she might be saying/doing that is actually offending others.  Learning about the empathy of another persons view, even in a political discourse, could change what is happening in our country we are not being empathetic towards others who might have a different belief for whatever reason. It is very similar to what happens in many of these situations.

Audience member: Are there any characteristics of those who make anti-Semitic comments? Low self esteem? Someone looking for attention? What are students supposed to do if they overhear racist comments?

  • Steve: In the last year and a half, he has talked to four individual students about offensive comments. The irony is that for three of the kids, until he pointed out that the comments were offensive, they had no idea what their words meant. 
  • Audience member: The behavior gets worse as they get older. 
  • Liah’s father: “There is always a simple solution, and it is always wrong.” You can sometimes understand someone and why they do it, but not necessarily empathize with them. 

INSPIRATION TO ACTION - ways you can take action

  • Stand up! - standing up one time can make a world of difference 
  • Read/watch Constantine's Sword to understand the history of anti-Semitism 
  • Teach and learn about the origins of discrimination and stereotypes
  • Listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "The danger of a single story"
  • Be a leader in promoting empathy and understanding 
  • Challenge your peers to stand up to stereotypes and discrimination 
  • Examine yourself - "Do I have biased/racist/discriminatory impulses?"

"Anti-Semitism on the Rise?" an episode of ABC's "What Would You Do?" opens the class that Steve Armstrong and Liah Kaminer teach at Hall High School.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Make a Stand Against Bullying

Youth Service America, an organization which "improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles," is also sponsoring several initiatives in recognition of National Bullying Prevention month. In a recent blog post, they discuss their partnership with the Festival of Children Foundation for the National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador Program, and share the stories of two youth ambassadors and their experiences with bullying. The post discusses not only the prevention of bullying, but the rising trend of cyberbulling.

Cyber bullying is bullying that happens through the use of electronic devices and equipment. It can happen through social media sites, text messages, email, online chat, and websites. “A major problem with cyber bullying is that people tend to downplay it. Instead of calling it what it is, some young people refer to it as ‘drama’ when it really is cyber bullying,” said Coaxum. Since launching her project, she has used YouTube as a platform to discuss bullying. She has created videos with her sister that challenge kids and teens to do positive things online—and receive prizes for good work. “I started my organization because there is absolutely no reason that anyone should have to deal with bullying.”

You can read the YSA blog post below and watch Victoria Coaxum's YouTube series HERE

Thursday, October 24, 2013

This National Bullying Prevention Month, check out past Salon resources on bullying

Looking for more information on bullying and how you can take action? Check out transcripts, resources and Inspiration to Action lists from our past Salons on bullying.

Bullied No More
November 29, 2012
Featured guests: Catie Talarski (WNPR) and Council Brandon (Student)

Stereotyping and Bullying: 21st Century Style
May 10, 2012
Featured guests: Robin McHaelen (True Colors) and Elaine Zimmerman (CT Commission on Children)
Watch a video of the Salon on YouTube

Bullied No More Salon Takeaway      

...and don't miss tonight's Salon, "Walking in My Shoes: How Can We Teach Empathy?" from 5-7pm in the Stowe Visitor Center. How will teaching empathy help eliminate bullying?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cartoon Network encourages kids to "Stop Bullying - Speak Up!"

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, Comedy Central is encouraging kids to "Stop Bullying - Speak Up!" Their website offers resources for anti-bulling advocates, including a petition, downloadable posters, videos, and more, which inspire young people to take a stance. They have also made available special adult resources for parents.

Do you have children or other young people in your life? Share these resources with them and encourage them to be up-standers against bullying. Visit http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/promos/stopbullying for more information.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Walking in My Shoes: How Can We Teach Empathy?" Salon this Thursday (10/24)

Negative beliefs about "other" people lead to prejudice and discrimination. What is empathy and how does it differ from tolerance? How can empathy be taught?

Join the Stowe Center this Thursday, October 24 from 5-7pm in the Visitor Center for our October Salon "Walking in My Shoes: How Can We Teach Empathy?" Our featured guests will be Liah Kaminer (Hall High School, Class of 2014), Steve Armstrong (Hall High School faculty) and Julia Rosenblatt (Hartbeat Ensemble).

Liah%20Kaminer%2C%2017%2C%20going%20into%20her%20senior%20year%20at%20Hall%20High%20School%20in%20West%20Hartford%2C%20says%20witnessing%20serious%20anti-Semitic%20language%20in%20her%20school%20led%20her%20to%20team%20up%20with%20the%20school%27s%20history%20department%20head%2C%20Steve%20Armstrong%2C%20to%20create%20a%20class%20to%20educate%20incoming%20freshmen%20on%20the%20origins%20of%20anti-semitism.%20Kaminer%20will%20be%20teaming%20with%20Armstrong%20again%20this%20year%20to%20teach%20it%20again%2C%20and%20hopes%20the%20course%20will%20continue%20after%20she%20graduates.%20%28Richard%20Messina%2C%20Hartford%20Courant%29In preparation for the Salon, we encourage you to read "West Hartford Student Educates Peers On Anti-Semitism," a July 28, 2013 article in the Hartford Courant by Julie Stagis which talks about Liah Kaminer and her efforts to educate her peers on anti-Semitism, alongside teacher Stephen Armstrong. Liah's work is an excellent example of youth taking action on social issues that are important to them and inspiring others.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Last Thursday was Spirit Day 2013, and our blog post talked about this international movement which encourages people to wear purple in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who are often victims of bullying. Another campaign, ThinkB4YouSpeak, raises awareness of negative language and phrases like "That's so gay," which are directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people. The website states that "The common use of anti-LGBT language is directly related to an even bigger problem – the bullying and harassment of LGBT students."

ThinkB4YouSpeak features a live feed which tracks the use of the words "fag," "dyke" and "so gay" on Twitter as a motivator for visitors to "Get Involved," "Get Informed" and "Sign the Pledge" not to use such offensive and derrogatory language.

Does the website change your perspective on the use of certain words? How will you stand up and speak out against this form of bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month?


Friday, October 18, 2013

"Awkward Years Project"

In honor of Bullying Prevention Month, Instagram featured the story of Merilee Allred, a user who is utilizing social media to oppose bullying. The "Awkward Years Project" started when Merilee's friend asked to see her childhood photos (we all have those awkward, embarrassing photos), which happened to be taken during a time when she was bullied. Merilee explained that at first,
I had a hard time wanting to show any of them to her because I was embarrassed of those pictures and my past...But then it sparked this idea to hold up my younger picture in portraits as a before-and-after. I realized I wanted to start a project that highlights our awkward years..."Since I was teased and bullied, I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness with it, and, maybe, hopefully help kids currently going through struggles, to let them know that life does get better.
Now, Merilee runs an Instagram photo series and blog which encourage viewer submissions of "then and now" photos to raise awareness of bullying and give hope to those who are subject to its cruelties. To learn more and submit your own photos, visit http://awkwardyearsproject.com or follow Merilee on Instagram at @merileeloo

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Today is Spirit Day 2013 (October 17)

Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan first observed Spirit Day in October 2010 by encouraging people to wear purple in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who are often victims of bullying. Spirit Day is now an international movement, this year being celebrated TODAY, October 17. All around the world Facebook profile pictures are changing to purple, purple clothing is being worn, petitions are being signed online, contributions are being made to the Spirit Day Fund, and supporters are even listening to the #SpiritDay channel on iHeartRadio.

GLADD, formerly "Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation," has been a frontrunner in promoting Spirit Day and has made many resources about taking action and showing your support available on their website (below):

So, today we ask:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

In 2006, the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights' (PACER) National Center for Bullying Prevention designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month. The campaign encourages people and communities nationwide to raise awareness of the realities of bullying.

In recognition of this month, we will be posting resources, articles and more about bullying and prevention. Do you have a resource we should share this month? Send your submission to bcofrancesco@stowecenter.org or share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

To kick off our posts on bullying, we thought we would share PACER's list of links and events for the 2013 campaign:

National Bullying Prevention Center

Coming in October 2013:

Would you like to receive updates about 2013 events for National Bullying Prevention Month? Complete the contact form for PACER or add your name to the digital “The End of Bullying Begins With Me” Petition.

Raise A Giant – PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is partnering with Green Giant to encourage parents to “raise a giant”. Green Giant goes to great lengths to help people grow and thrive. This means more than providing delicious vegetables for physical health but also helping people thrive emotionally. Green Giant understands that to grow and thrive you have to feel safe and that is why they are addressing one of the biggest emotional issues facing families today – bullying. To help parents raise kids who are strong inside and out, and to help them learn how to prevent, stop and cope with bullying, we’re asking you to sign in to Raise A Giant. Write a letter to the kids in your life telling them why they have the courage to stand up to bullying and asking them to do their best to be a giant in their life.

Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying – Schools, businesses, organizations, and communities will come together to Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Bloomington, Minn., and at dozens of other locations around the country throughout the month. This fun, active outdoor event increases awareness of bullying prevention and raises funds to support the cause. We have all the tools you need to host a Run, Walk, Roll in your community. Check out PACER’s free toolkit which shows you how to plan the event in five easy steps and includes tips, ideas, and resources.

New Student Event Toolkit
Need help planning a student-led bullying prevention event? PACER has partnered with Facebook to create a practicalStudent Event Toolkit that will make it easier to hold events in your school or community. This step-by-step guide will help you plan, promote, and execute a variety of events throughout the year using Facebook tools.
Take a look

Other exciting opportunities:

Whether you are an educator, student, family, or individual you can take an active role during the month, ideas include:
“The culture of bullying won’t end until people across the country take action and show kids that they care,” says Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. “National Bullying Prevention Month is a great opportunity to do that. This is a very real and painful issue that kids are facing but they don’t have to face it alone. Bullying can be prevented if we all work together to change the culture.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Film screening of "First Generation" on October 19th at Capital Community College

In celebration of College & Career Awareness Month in Hartford Public Schools, Hartford Public Schools, Capital Community College and Achieve Hartford! invite you to a special film screening of First Generation, a documentary which follows four high school students who strive to break the cycle of poverty. Official event details are in the invitation below.

To learn more about the documentary, visit firstgenerationfilm.com or watch the trailer below.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Malala in the news

Days after the one year anniversary of the Taliban's attempt to take her life, Malala Yousafzai is still going strong: raising her voice and raising awareness. Now, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by a Taliban gunman is being honored on a global scale for her advocacy.

It was announced yesterday that Malala will receive the European Union's highest human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The President of the European Parliament stated that "...Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman...Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected."

Rumors also spread that Malala was being considered for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Though she was not selected as the recipient, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland expressed that "She is an outstanding woman and I think she has a bright future and she will probably be a nominee next year or the year after that."

Malala shared her thoughts on education, her book and advocacy on October 8th's edition of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

This video, in particular, drives home the strong connection between Malala and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Both women recognized injustices in their worlds and used their talents - their voices as well as writing - to advocate for justice. As Malala said in the interview "I need to tell the world what is happening," which is part of what drove Stowe to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was moving to hear Stewart ask her "What gave you the courage to continue this?" which we find many visitors ask about Stowe. And as we mentioned in July, we were especially struck by her quote, "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world," which closely aligns with the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe herself:

"The way to be great lies though books, now, and not through battles...there is more done with pens than swords..."

What do you admire about Malala and Stowe? What connections do you see between them? What would Stowe think of Malala's efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

To learn more about Malala's award and her ongoing efforts to advocate for education, and how to take action on education advocacy worldwide, we recommend:

Associated Press
"EU Awards Top Human Rights Award to Malala"

"16-year-old Malala Yousafzai wins Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought"
by Raf Casert

"The Bravest Girl in the World"
by Christiane Amanpour, Sunday October 13 at 7PM on CNN
by Malala Yousafzai

Malala Day - Global Education First Initiative
The UN Secretary-General's Global Initiative on Education

Thursday, October 10, 2013

World Mental Health Day

Today, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. Every year, organizations such as the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrate the day by raising awareness on mental health issues. This year's theme is “Mental health and older adults.”

For more information about mental health, advocacy and ways you can take action, visit:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Activist, author and subject of the acclaimed series "Orange is the New Black" coming to Stowe and Twain

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Community Partners in Action and Mark Twain House & Museum are excited to announce that Piper Kerman, activist, author and subject of the acclaimed series Orange is the New Black, will be coming to the Stowe Center and Twain House this December!

Thursday, December 12 @ 7 PM 
Mark Twain Museum Center
350 Farmington Avenue, Hartford

Tickets: $25 
$20 for Members of Stowe or Twain Museums 

Click HERE for more information on the program. 

Piper Kerman
"...a serious and bighearted book that depicts life in a women's prison with great detail and - crucially - with empathy and respect...Expert reporting and humane, clear-eyed storytelling."
Dave Eggers

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do you know young people who are writing for social justice?

Are you changing the world?  Do you know somebody who is? Then learn more about the 2014 Student Stowe Prize!

The Student Stowe Prize recognizes outstanding writing by United States high school and college students that is making a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. Issues may include, but are not limited to: race, class and gender. Entries must have been published or publicly presented.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, appalled by the injustice of slavery, wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) as a call to action. Using print media and the familiar literary form of telling a story, she shone a harsh light on the American institution of slavery. The book became an international best seller and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.
Complementing the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize, presented in 2011 to Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and in 2013 to Michelle Alexander for The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, the Student Stowe Prize is presented in alternating years with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize.

Student Stowe Prize for High School Students
The winning student will be featured at a program and award ceremony in Hartford, Connecticut, receive $1,000, and have their work published on the Stowe Center website.

Student Stowe Prize for College Students
The winning student will be featured at a program and award ceremony in Hartford, Connecticut, receive $2,500, and have their work published on the Stowe Center website.

Visit our 2014 Student Stowe page for official guidelines and rules. Entries are due January 10, 2014, but it's not too early to get started! For more information, email StudentStowePrize@stowecenter.org.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Does talking about racism breed disunity?

If you attended our July 25 What Can You Do To Fight Intolerance workshop, you will recall that Dr. Bill Howe stressed the importance of breaking down intolerances and continuing a dialog on multiculturalism and diversity. However, some argue that conversations about race and racism are what breed disunity, and that we should avoid talking about such issues.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, an assistant professor of Africana studies at University at Albany - SUNY, considered this debate in his article "What’s Trending for Conservatives? ‘Racism Talk Breeds Disunity’" for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. Read the article below and then consider...Do you agree? Does talking about racism breed disunity? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

A thought for the weekend...COURAGE

Visitors recently left this message of "Courage" and a portrait of Stowe on our chalk board in the Stowe House discussion space. What do you admire about Stowe's courage? How have you used her story to inspire yourself and others to action? Share your thoughts in the comment section below! 

A few weeks ago we shared our plans to reinterpret the Stowe House and reconsider the visitor experience in our post Reinterpretation: the exciting re-imagining of the Stowe House experience. In what ways could we relay the idea of Stowe's incredible courage in our house tour? We want to hear from you!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Event Recap: Hartford's Asylum Hill: 2013 and Beyond (9.26.13 Salon)

Salons at Stowe
September 26, 2013
During the past few months, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation have engaged people throughout Asylum Hill in a series of conversations and held in-depth interviews with community leaders. Together, they have shared rich perspectives and thoughtful suggestions about living in Asylum Hill. The Harwood Institute and United Way will discuss and reflect on insights gained through these conversations, including the strong desire for a safe and more connected community; the challenges and underlying conditions that stand in the way of moving forward for positive change; and will invite sharing ideas for stepping forward to achieve the aspirations for living and working in Asylum Hill.

Wayne Rawlins, Board Chair, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut
Tony Mein, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association
Diane Cantello, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, The Hartford
Bill Booth, The Harwood Institute
Richard Harwood, Founder and President of The Harwood Institute 

Each featured guest gave opening remarks and an introduction to their organization, expressing the need and value of the Creating a Safer, More Connected Asylum Hill: How to Accelerate and Deepen Meaningful Conversations and Collaborative Efforts report.

Richard Harwood, Founder and President of The Harwood Institute, explained the purpose of the report and introduce it to the group. He explained that the research was an effort to understand ourselves as a society. At the current juncture, we are having a difficult time determining how to get the community to move forward, rather than placing blame and bickering. Communities are common enterprises and only work when we come together; work is shared challenges and aspirations.The report is not about sophisticated plans but rather talking about what a community is, and is a good step forward towards having a conversation; it is meant to be a beginning, not the end. The back of the report does not have report, but asks for recommendations - how can we understand each other without conversation? Talents, time and wisdom are as important as our money. It is clear that there is a lot of good work going on in Asylum Hill and the report intends to help build on whats already been done.

The report is based on conversations with 140 community members, 75% residents of whom are Asylum Hill residents, as well as The Hartford employees, and 18 civic leaders; the conversations were about solutions rather than the problems themselves; starting with problems devolves into complaining and finding more things that are wrong. 

Every conversation started with: What is your aspiration for your community? Whatever people say is rooted in their reality, and they have things in common with people they would not normally imagine, the shared aspirations leading to a desire to get involved.
Richard shared the three core messages of the report:
  1. People who live and work in Asylum Hill want a safer, more connected community. They want to be able to go out from their homes and workplaces to meet, socialize and work with others in the neighborhood. This all has to do with getting crime off the streets, creating safe places for interaction, and building trust – key ingredients for nurturing the kind of community they want. 
  2. Crime – or the threat of it – drives people's concerns about the neighborhood. It undermines people's ability to come out from their homes, and it can make those who work in the neighborhood fearful of engaging. All this serves to block people's ability to come together and create the kind of neighborhood they want.
  3. Trust in "change efforts" is key to residents. Residents want to know that activities that seek to strengthen the neighborhood reflect their everyday challenges, and that the efforts are long-lasting and not sporadic (here today, gone tomorrow).

Audience question: What are the boundaries of Asylum Hill? 1) What are boundaries defined by city hall? Not the ones that people live in, we go by a mental map.
  • Audience member: People have very different ideas from very different circumstances. 
  • Audience member: One thing we may want to do is discuss what those boundaries may be. 
  • Audience member: Good conversation to engage people in, it means that people are co-producers of something. This is a good place to start. 
Audience question: Has been living in Asylum Hill for 38 years and finally decided to dig up front yard and plant a garden. She’s met more people by having them stop by and talking about it. People watch out for each other. BUT you can go around the block and not feel that way.

Audience question: There were recent crimes of cars being broken into, raising the question "what’s our place here?" Surprised that people had had laptops stolen out of unlocked cars, things that are very basic to us. 
  • Audience comment: It is difficult to create a safer feeling community when you see these things, drives people back into their homes. 
  • Audience comment: Crime drives people back into their homes, providing for more crime because the opportunity (outside) is then there. It is a vicious cycle. 
Audience question: How do you change the dynamic? There is a difference between night and day activities: at night you can hear dealers knocking on doors yet leaders saying "We've solved the problem of crime during the day" - that has not solved the problem, you cannot ignore the fact that crime is still going on at night. At the same time, the concern over drug use prevents residents from doing what they want to do, police often perceiving groups of people as loiterers. It is all connected with the fact that people want to be outside, visibly, to reclaim the neighborhood. Police are trying to keep peace but are actually breaking this up. 
  • Audience comments: Sometimes police are too rough and will disperse people, not ask questions and diminish relationships, which effects trust in communities. This shows we need to draw stronger connections between police and neighbors, and build a better partnership to figure out effective ways to rid community of crime. 
Audience question: How did you know you had cross-section of community?
  • Richard: Formed relationships with groups already on the ground, such as churches and Habitat for Humanity. Researchers looked for well-roundedness and ways to interpret responses by looking for patterns. The way things enter the conversation is when they establish those patterns. In these conversations, there were a set of questions that were intentionally open ended. 
  • Audience comment: If communities are common enterprises, the only way to know what we’re thinking is to talk to one another. Found that surveying was not a productive use of resources, because patterns held.
Richard: Having trust in change efforts is essential to residents in Asylum Hill. It may sound obvious, but it is the missing ingredient; reality and perception is essential in communities. People don’t see efforts in community that are impacting their lives. If you live in a place like Asylum Hill and don’t feel safe/connected, what matters is whether or not efforts of community meet you where you are. Instead, residents perceive efforts are for the benefit of organizations and not their lives.

Audience question: A member of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, attendee has seen a Renaissance in the neighborhood with lots of outreach. What would be the definition of impacting their lives?
  • Richard: It may not be influencing their lives; they overlook it. When residents were asked which organizations they trusted in neighborhood, none were held in common. The old adage of “give you benefit of doubt” has changed to “until you prove your relevant, I assume your not of worth”
Audience question: Which organizations did people trust in the past?
  • RichardLocal churches, United Way, local pantries, arts groups. Research showed that residents want to know whose interest the organizations are working for; they feel organizations are working on their own interests. Residents want to know that you will be there when they need you (not only when it’s in your interest) and that you are accountable. Are you reflecting issues relating to our community, or just what you know? 
Audience comment: Volunteers can only go so far, at some point you need paid employees to drive change forward.

Audience comment: Attendee's organization struggles not with the operations of the organization, but that in the midst of wanting to take part in neighborhood change you still have mission of the organization to keep in mind. If you hear things you don’t like, you can hear it with humble heart or with sense of humiliation. It's not intended to be offensive or undermine what is being done, but as a means of finding ways to move forward. 

Audience comments: There are many outsiders in Asylum Hill who are sporadically engaged, (ie. mayors come in when they want votes, and then leave). This fact is important because leads to the consistency residents are looking seeking. What constitutes a relationship in your own personal life? Someone who will be there when you call them, all rooted in consistency. It raises the issue of quality efforts in the community - perhaps there need to be fewer, but more consistent, efforts. 

Audience comments: Asylum Hill is not hopeful - residents want to be but expectations are low. People come and go and efforts are started, but groups disperse and there is a communication gap which is a large obstacle. People don’t have time to invest in seeing change happen; they want to believe in themselves and their community, but do not have that faith now. 

Audience comments: There are many renters who don’t have the same desires and drive as the homeowners around them. They do not have as much of a vested interest which is understandable but is a large obstacle. 

Richard: The question is what dynamic needs to be created. Good work happening in Asylum Hill, so here’s one frame to use: most strategies are geared toward last 2 stages of the report, when funding is available to implement ideas. Asylum Hill is in the very early catalytic stage in that when you visit the community you find out pockets of change occurring but they are not connected. People touched in the smaller pockets recognize this and are likely to name those nearby organizations as groups that are making change. However, unless they are directly touched by such organizations, they don’t know about them. For the 80- 90% who haven’t been effected, they’re still living in the ‘status quo’, the other part of the story. It's not that they don’t care, they just don’t know. This is the dilemma and why residents have such responses. How do you more forward in this situation?
1.      For communities in this stage, people come in looking for a vision to change the community. These efforts don’t work in early catalytic stages because there is not enough trust. The most important thing to do is strengthen the pockets of change that exist. 
2.     Create new pockets so more people can see the change and positive effects; not after impact, but after visibility to prove that groups are getting things done.
3.       Don’t focus on creating the most sophisticated program, focus on visibility in the community. 
4.       As you’re doing this work, imagine a Venn diagram: on the left is the issue you are trying to change, and on the right are the conditions in the community. The key to moving forward is working in the middle section so the community is aware of what you are doing. 

Why are some efforts moving forward and others not? Hidden factor is the communities narrative: positive and negative stories/accounts drive attitudes, and there needs to be a change from a negative narrative to a ‘can-do’ narrative. Stories have a quality of a parable. All good parables don’t have an ending, but implicate that ‘you can do this to’ and emphasize the common enterprise. When enough stories are created, it creates a narrative. If people don’t feel it, they won’t talk about it. 

Read the Creating a Safer, More Connected Asylum Hill: How to Accelerate and Deepen Meaningful Conversations and Collaborative Efforts report below!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What happens to children after they are rescued from trafficking?

Love146, a friend of the Stowe Center that works to abolish the exploitation and trafficking of children, has unique after-care programs for youth victims. If you've ever wondered how victims of sex trafficking are helped after being rescued, read the article HERE from Upworthy.com and watch the video clip below.

Human trafficking happens all over the world, including in the U.S. So we know about it, but what can we do to help? Victims who are rescued from their captors can't just return to regular life as though nothing happened. This is an amazing program that makes a difference.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Living with Dead Hearts: the Search for China's Kidnapped Children"

This past August, we posted about Child trafficking in China in the news, sharing tragic stories of child trafficking in China where babies are being kidnapped from their parents and sold to orphanages. A new documentary, Living with Dead Hearts, follows several Chinese parents with similar stories; parents whose children "have been kidnapped as they struggle to track down their kids and to make sense of what has happened to them." It leaves you wondering, "How could this happen in our world today?" and "What can I do to help right this wrong?"


We hope you will watch this documentary, embedded above and available for free online. After watching, consider: How could this happen in our world today? What will I do to help right this wrong?