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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month, formally observed by the United States government since the early 1990s, honors the traditions and rich ancestry of Native Americans. Each November, The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join forces to pay tribute to Native American culture. You can learn more through their collaborative online portal http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov.

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, we invited Sandra Polacheck, a Cherokee woman living in Connecticut, to be a guest blogger and share her views on being a Native American and some of the social justice issues facing First Nations Peoples today.

I have been asked many times over the years by nonnative people, "What percent Native American are you?" My answer is that I am a whole human being and I cannot exist any other way. Can half of a human being survive? Can a quarter of a human being survive? I have never thought to define myself in pieces. To ask a person to cut themselves into pieces of ethnicity is asking them to be less than human. I don't think that people who ask this question are being mean. I think racism or prejudice is unconscious and part of the human condition that we strive to overcome.

In my experience, most First Nations Peoples are concerned with issues that effect our ability to live in Right Relationship with each other and our earth. There is deep concern for the care and purity of drinkable water within Native communities. The water table has been rapidly and steadily declining on the North American Continent within the past few years. There are many examples of this. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and anthropologist Wade Davis explored the impact that the practice of damming rivers to create reservoirs have had on the water table in North America combined with draught and freshwater shortages in the movie, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, in 2008. The Diné or Navajo people who live in the Southwest have limited access to fresh water sources and must walk a long way to reach the closest artesian well where they can draw water for the day. There is nothing in the U. S. Constitution that states that access to freshwater is a basic right for all human beings. Most people who live in Connecticut or the North Eastern United States do not practice good water conservation. This is because there has been an abundance of fresh water in this area; however, with the pollution of the environment the water we drink is not always the healthiest choice and may not always be so readily available.

In my experience, First Nations Peoples are also concerned with the American Justice System. I have often heard Elders say that Native People lived for ten thousand years without jails. Helping individuals, especially young people to heal and return in good relationship with the community is more important than their punishment. Restorative Justice is the practice of bringing offenders, victims and the people who support both together to work out their problems in order to restore balance and harmony. The relationship between the individual and the whole is restored for the benefit of all. This is a deep concern for all of us. If we lose our youth to gang life and anger, we lose our future.

Many First Nations Peoples I have known are trying to restore their languages, cultural stories, songs, and traditions. The Hopi People began teaching their kindergarten students Hopi language in addition to English as part of their curriculum in an attempt to restore their Native language. Grandmother Snow Song, a Cherokee Elder who lives in this area, is translating her poetry into T'salagi (Cherokee) language. She uses her poems as the words for songs, which are passed on to the community. It is important to hold on to original languages because no language has a direct word for word translation into English or any other language. People think in language and original ideas are expressed by their thinking language. Imagine how many wonderful problem solving ideas could be lost to the human family if the language to think the idea is lost? This is why people should remember and honor their original language in addition to learning a new one. There are many other social justice issues I could discuss, but my heritage does not make me an expert in Social Justice issues that impact Native Culture. There were over 500 Indigenous Nations in North America at one time and they are as unique and diverse as any country or nation would be. To lump all of those nations and peoples into one category: Native Americans is in itself a social injustice.

Sandra Polacheck is a third-year Peace Keeper, studying under Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, the 27th generation lineage holder of the ancestral Ywahoo lineage in the T'salagi/Cherokee tradition. Venerable Dhyani is the Chief of the Green Mountain Ani Yunwiwa, Eastern Band of Cherokee. She has been a land trust member of the T'salagi Peace Village in Vermont for 6 years and an Elder caregiver during the annual Gathering of Elders for 3 years. She has had the honor of serving and caring for Native Elders as well as learning from their wisdom over the course of many years. In her professional career, Ms. Polacheck is a Reading Specialist at Francis T. Maloney High School in Meriden, CT.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Inaugural meeting of the Asylum Hill Hunger Action Team

A group of concerned citizens and organizations have partnered with Foodshare to start the Asylum Hill Hunger Action Team (HAT), a group which will address the root causes of hunger in Asylum Hill. Their charge is to answer two questions: “Why are people hungry in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood?” and “What can we do together to end hunger in the Asylum Hill neighborhood?”

The inaugural meeting of the HAT will be on Monday, December 9, 2013 from 10:30am-12:00pm at Asylum Hill Congregational Church (814 Asylum Avenue, Hartford). Anyone interested in fighting hunger and working to support the hungry in Asylum Hill are invited to attend, and should RSVP to Jim Palma at jpalma@foodshare.org or 860-286-9999 x124.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What are you doing this Thanksgiving to inspire change?

Thanksgiving is a time to show our appreciation for all we are fortunate to have, and is the perfect time to demonstrate this gratefulness by helping others. What are you doing today or this season to take action? Are you using the spirit of the season to inspire a drive to create change?

We are eager to hear about what you are doing, whether its serving a warm meal, organizing a food drive, visiting a nursing home, or advocating on behalf of hungry children. We hope you will share your efforts in the "Comments" section below!

...and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours 
from your friends at the Stowe Center!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving, help end childhood hunger

Earlier this year, we blogged about Youth Service America (YSA), an organization which "improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles" and is celebrating 25 years of youth changing the world. This Thanksgiving, they're as active as ever around issues of childhood hunger and homelessness.

When it comes to taking action on childhood hunger, YSA lists 10 Ways You Can Help End Childhood Hunger for both kids and adults:
1. Find ways to put surplus food to better use.
2. Organize food drives or fundraisers.
3. Plant or spruce up a school or community garden.
4. Volunteer at a local food bank, pantry, shelter, or community kitchen.
5. Start or support a backpack feeding program.
6. Support and raise awareness of summer feeding programs.
7. Increase use of  SNAP (formerly called food stamps) and/or Free and Reduced-Price School Meals programs.
8. Help teach families about healthy eating and cooking.
9. Raise public awareness of childhood hunger in your community.
10. Advocate for policies and programs that will help end childhood hunger in your community.

The YSA blog also features three stories of interest this Thanksgiving season:

Are you a teacher or educator? Be sure to sign up to receive an advanced copy of YSA's forthcoming guide A Teacher's Guide to Engaging the Next Generation of Anti-Hunger Advocates and read Celebrating Teachers who Engage a New Generation of Anti-Hunger Leaders.

What are you doing this Thanksgiving season to take action against hunger and homelessness? Share your efforts in the "Comments" section below!

News from Health Justice CT

Our friends at Health Justice CT have announced the return of their annual Challenge video contest as well as an upcoming program Health Equity: Two Sides of the Same Coin. See below for details!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slavery Isn’t a Thing of the Past

The United States is home to about 60,000 people who can fairly be called modern versions of slaves...These modern slaves aren’t sold in chains in public auctions, so it’s not exactly the same as 19th-century slavery. Those counted today include illegal immigrants forced to work without pay under threat of violence and teenage girls coerced to sell sex and hand all the money to their pimps.
- Nicholas Kristof

Journalist, columnist, and 2011 Stowe Prize winner for Half the Sky (written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn), Nicholas Kristof is one of the world's leading activists on human trafficking and modern day slavery. In response to the wide-spread attention surrounding the recent release of the film 12 Years a Slave, Kristof wrote "Slavery Isn’t a Thing of the Past" an op-ed piece for the New York Times, which raises awareness on the slavery that still exists today. Just two weeks later, the Associated Press ran an article "UK police: 3 women held for 30 years" which reported that three women - a Malaysian , a woman from Ireland, and a third from Britain - had been freed after being held captive in a south London home for 30 years and "basically treated as slaves." Sadly, stories like this continue to surface.

Kristof's article was also prompted by the new Global Slavery Index 2013 which estimates the number of modern slaves across the world, country by country, and shares the work of each government to work to end slavery. The report reveals an astounding 30 million people who are enslaved today, 60,000 being right here in the United States. Read the report below or visit www.globalslaveryindex.org.

Looking to the future, Kristof closed his article with a compelling thought and call to action: The abolitionists succeeded in ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but their work is not finished. I fear that a century from now, someone may put together a movie about slavery in 2013, leading our descendants to shake their heads and ask of us: What were they thinking?

To avoid future generations asking "What were they thinking?" what will you do to help create change around human trafficking? Visit the event recap of our How to Be an Abolitionist Workshop to learn how you can take action around this important issue, and share what you are doing/will do in the Comments section below. 

Global Slavery Index 2013 by Ryan M. Baillargeon

Monday, November 25, 2013

Event Recap: "What About the Kids: Incarceration’s Forgotten Victims" (11.21.13 Salon)

Salons at Stowe
What About the Kids: Incarceration’s Forgotten Victims 
November 21, 2013

Following up on the discussion started at the 2013 Stowe Prize programs, this Salon focused on the impact of incarceration on families.

Giselle Jacobs-Lawson, Community Outreach and Advocacy Specialist, Breaking the Cycle, http://www.cpa-ct.org/
Giselle Jacobs-Lawson, US Army Veteran and lifelong resident of Hartford is a University Assistant working as a Community Outreach and Advocacy Specialist for the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University.  In this capacity she provides outreach and education initiatives for the Children of Incarcerated Parents project.

After working several years as an Administrative Assistant and Target Balance Analyst in the banking industry, Mrs. Jacobs-Lawson decided to follow her hearts desire, which is to serve her community and make a difference in the lives of others.  Mrs. Jacobs-Lawson has worked for several community organizations including the Center for Human Development - Connecticut Outreach as a Financial Counselor where she provided money management services to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and their Hartford Young Adult Services Program.  Most recently Mrs. Jacobs served as the capable and resourceful Assistant Executive Director for the Minority Construction Council in the City of Hartford where she used her fundamental knowledge of administrative support to aid in research, grant writing and fundraising.

Mrs. Jacobs-Lawson is a great example of someone who works hard and overcomes life’s challenges to serve her community and the Nation.  She is a recent graduate of the City of Hartford Department of Families Children Youth and Recreation – Youth Development Practitioners Academy and the Connecticut Commission on Children - Parent Leadership Training Institute.  She also attended the Building One America and the New Jersey Regional Coalition - National Leadership Training.  She is engaged in civic affairs, socially, politically and otherwise. Her interest in the advancement of her community through the generous contribution of her time, talent and resources has earned the respect of many residents in the city.

Virginia Lewis, Program Manager, Community Partners in Action
Virginia was born and raised in Hartford. She has worked in the Human Service field for the past thirty –five years. Virginia started her career with Community Partners in Action in 1997 as a Substance Abuse Counselor for the than newly created Project SAMH program. She recognized the need for leadership and eventually became Project SAMH’s Program Manager. Virginia’s skills in listening, counseling, and encouraging individuals were fine tuned during those ten years working with people with multiple diagnoses. Virginia saying is “your clients are your best teachers”.   Virginia’s  past six  years in the criminal justice systems has presented many rewards. As Program Manager of Hartford AIC she combines the beat of both worlds her clinical skills and management experience.
Virginia  is active in her community block watch and serves as a broad member for AIDS Project Hartford and the KNOX Foundation. She’s been married for Forty years and is the proud grandmother of four.

Giselle Jacobs-Lawson
Breaking the Cycle is a grassroots support organization for children of parents who are incarcerated. Her parents were incarcerated when she was young and had to be watched over by her grandmother, and remembers looking for role models, being pregnant at 15, living on her own at 16, and dealing with many struggles as a young mother with no support.  In 2010, after attending dialogues across Hartford about incarceration, Giselle was invited to serve on a steering committee through the library and organized a youth forum at the downtown library. At the forum, social workers, law enforcement, youth, an others effected by incarceration discussed how to help children and families of those in prison. In California, a Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents was developed and served as a guide for what children need. Eight task forces came out of the forum (ie. A school task force, transportation task force, support task force) and Giselle was asked to head the support task force in December 2010. The task force started with meetings in her living room, considering ways to give back to the community with the idea that there are more resources when working together. Today, the group is Breaking the Cycle. The group now also offers programs for incarcerated families, lobbies at the LOB, partners with organizations like CCSU, and works on behalf of families. Her son had been incarcerated, was released, but was incarcerated again recently for missing parole – she saw that though it had an impact on her and her son, it had a bigger impact on his daughter, who saw her father return to prison one week before her 10th birthday. They teach people that children should not be shamed that their parents are incarcerated, but that they can make there own choices – they need to be empowered. Breaking the Cycle is now starting a pen pal program for children of incarcerated families and is soliciting the help of faith based organizations, but has not had a response.

Virginia Lewis
Virginia has a facility that houses 33 men on parole and bail, and some stay up to 1 or 2 years, as well as a walk-in program for men dealing with bail and looking to be educated on drug and alcohol rehabilitation. They run rehabilitation programs that help young men and women make better decisions. At one point, the program was insensitive, calling the program Alternative to Incarceration, and has since renamed itself Alternative in the Community. They run a special program for women, Women Offenders Case Management (WOCM) that helps women, mothers, and children of incarcerated families. The program assesses the needs of the women, as well as their relationships with their children, males, and their parole officers. Some women have been with the program for 18 months, have been in and out of prison and parole for years. The organization has also changed its structure to allow children to enter the facility and visit with their clients at least once per week, often partnering with the Department of Children and Families and other organizations/departments. Many of their clients do not understand that their decisions affect not only them but the people around them. Change is just starting around this issue and you have to have sustainability, especially since it deals with children (clients must have continued support once they leave). Her challenge to the group is how to continue support and ensure that programs sustain to help both those who are incarcerated and their children. Collaboration helps sustain funding while helping the clients. Reuniting with children after years of incarceration is difficult for parents who have been separated, and Virginia’s program also provide support and training for parents.

Audience comment: As a reverend, he is surprised that faith-based organizations are not responding to Giselle’s request. He promised to help “get the ball rolling,” as he is concerned about children not receiving the support they need. Collaboration is the key to change – when we are on the same page, change will happen. He is encouraged by what Virginia does, and knowing that when young men are incarcerated and released they are receiving the opportunities they deserve. Many young black men, in particular, only have two strikes. He is involved with an organization Mothers Organizing Against Violence, and many members have children in jail. He says that it is a shame that faith-based organizations have been absent from this effort, and will motivate other pastors to take action. “If everyone is sincere about making change, it will happen – it’s going to happen.”

Audience member: Is there a way to find out if prisons and facilities are willing to help make this effort move forward?

  • Giselle: Prisons are more receptive when there are events and conversations in the community around the issue. If someone with a relationship with the Department of Corrections reaches out, it may help get their efforts “through the door.” Her son is recruiting for Breaking the Cycle from prison, and is writing to her about fathers coming home who want to be there for their children, but truly need to start building their relationships before they are released. 
  • Audience member: CT is very progressive by having commissions which work to allow children access to their incarcerated parents. It often takes time to close the gap between what the commission and groups are working towards and what the families experience, but Connecticut is working to improve the relationships between parents and children. Many states now only have video visitation and have ended all human contact with children. 
  • Audience member: Left the State to work in the private sector. The Department of Correction once had a progressive leader who allowed her to take incarcerated men and women into the community to do service at nursing homes and other organizations. The group Cabbage Patch was then developed in the prisons to allow prisoners to read to their children – during that time, she experienced no riots, no run-aways, which showed building the men’s’ relationships with their children and others created a more positive environment. The cycle is ready for Virginia and Giselle’s organizations and efforts – it’s an opportunity for change. 

Audience member:  It’s her impression that the Department of Children and Families is responsible for many children of incarcerated parents what cooperation do you get from DCF in providing transportation and visitation?

  • Audience member: It depends on who the parent is – DCF is more supportive of children who need to connect with incarcerated mothers. A new DCF fatherhood engagement team is involving fathers and their families in the conversation to find alternatives for foster placements. DCF could certainly do more, but is currently very active in maintaining relationships between children and their parents. 

Audience member: Is working on a program for fathers and kids and reading. Children who go to school and are unable to read are 3,500 words behind and do not pass 3rd grade mastery test. Fathers play a key role in parenting and she is working to bring books to prisons so children can read with their fathers and discuss books. It has been a hard road, and they are currently working in New Haven schools and planning a December 30 event at Yale, but would like to take their efforts to other districts and work with fathers and children statewide. When fathers are involved, it is proven that children do better in school. Her church also purchases gifts every Christmas for children of incarcerated parents.

  • Giselle:  What are the chances that Breaking the Cycle can work with the organization and church? A lot could be accomplished together. 
  • Audience member: Meeting dates for her organization changed so they do not meet at the same time as Breaking the Cycle, which will hopefully lead to more partnerships. 

Audience member: Is the reading problem also related to the adult literacy rate being so low?

  • Giselle: Yes. When she was a child, her mother and grandmother had books and were reading, so she was always reading as well. Now, she goes into homes and there are no books and no reading between parents and children. Parents need to learn from their children, so encouraging children to read with parents might also inspire a love of reading in parents. 
  • Audience member: Young men who cannot read often do “stupid things,” and they continue to do so to hide that they cannot read. Some kids are told they should not read, or are not taught to read, which continues the cycle. You need to instill goals in children. Of 50,000 teachers in CT, there are less than 2,000 African-Americans, less than 2,000 Hispanics, less than 100 Asians, and less than 100 Native Americans – diversity is needed, and role models so they can set goals and aspire to be successful. 

Audience member: It is difficult because Department of Corrections does not allow children to bring books or toys in, nor do they provide items for kids – they are in a stark environment, are allowed to hug their parent quickly, then have to sit across a table.  DCF is required to bring children to see their parent on a monthly basis, but they do not always do so – they can report that they brought the child, but even if its untrue they are not required to change their report. Families have to sign up on the visiting list (space is limited), and if under 16 need to have 2 forms of identifying (some facilities require ID for infants), and rules change from facility to facility. If family members have a felony on their record, they cannot visit someone incarcerated (even if the parent of a child looking to visit their other parent). If you make it onto the list, you must arrive early, be dressed properly, go through metal detectors, and then wait between stages. You are only allowed a 1-hour visit, and time starts from when they call the inmate not when they enter the room. Stories of unfairness in visitation and seeing family members are not told because of fear of retribution. Some Departments of Corrections look to preserve the connection between parents and children as a right, but Connecticut looks at it as a privilege.

  • Audience member: CT’s Department of Corrections policies are more transparent and progressive than other districts, and are posted on their website. CT DOC’s jails and prisons house both detainees and those being imprisoned for less than a year, and do not always allow contact visits. Touch is very important to maintaining relationships. CT currently has an interim Commissioner of Corrections, and hopes that a more sensitive Commissioner – perhaps a female – will be appointed. 

Audience member: What’s happening to support children of incarcerated families outside of the prison setting? Are there programs or services that are being provided?

  • Audience member: Families in Crisis has funding from Central Connecticut State University to provide support for children. They also partner with Judy Dworin Performance Project to support kids through dance and movement. Equine therapy is a new program that Families in Crisis is beginning. Children have a stronger impact when they’ve had a relationship with their parents prior to incarceration, and need to support children who still want to see their parent every weekend, or perhaps no longer want to see them. Some children say their relationships with their parents improve when they are incarcerated – sometimes it is the first time they have been sober, nonviolent, etc. Families in Crisis is a statewide organization that provides family counseling in major urban areas. 

Audience member: Accessing children of incarcerated parents is challenging – there is no list, have to search for the children. The question is how to reach the families and children.

Audience member: Even if fathers cannot read, they should be able to look at picture books with their children to begin to enjoy reading to get past the stigma of being illiterate. She is from the Unitarian Universalist East and has a social justice committee, as well as an interest in such reading programs and to help families of incarcerated parents. She will try to work directly with Giselle to partner.

  • Giselle: Breaking the Cycle is looking to start a support group in Manchester and looks forward to the partnership. 

Audience member: He is originally from New London but now lives in Springfield. Was late in arriving because of a trial going on in Springfield this week about a multi-racial young man who was an entrepreneur and family member, ten charged with doing gun running and drugs in the black and Latino community. The FBI approached him 2 years ago to spy on the Muslim community in Western Massachusetts and had his wife as an informant. A few nights ago, he and others went to visit the man in a Ludlow prison and was shocked to see little children separated from their father by a thick glass partition but were still happy. Why are there more visits for men than women?

  • Audience member: There are more men getting visits because the women stick by their partners, while the men often disappear and do not visit their female partners in prison. 


  • Support and encourage support of organizations like Community Partners in Action and Breaking the Cycle which provide support to families of incarcerated men and women
  • Learn more about California's Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Bill of Rights
  • Read the book Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado, a story about a young boy who lies about his whereabouts so he can visit his father in prison 
  • Advocate on behalf of incarcerated men and women and their children at the Legislative Office Building and with other activist groups
  • Get involved with Breaking the Cycle's forthcoming pen pal program
  • Contact Jackie Bryant to learn more about her organization's efforts to start reading programs for children whose fathers are incarcerated (programs with both the child and father), and get involved with her upcoming program in Hartford on December 4 
  • Visit the Department of Corrections and Department of Children and Families websites to learn more about the commissions and the system in Connecticut 
  • Learn more about the work of Families in Crisis, Inc.
  • Continue the discussion by posting a Comment below!

Friday, November 22, 2013

"I Am Malala": BANNED

In September, we posted about National Banned Books Week and how Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, has been banned since it was first published in 1852. We've also shared the story of young activist Malala Yousafzai, who - like Stowe - has shown the courage to speak out on injustices, using her voice to inspire action and lead a global movement. Also like Stowe, Malala is now a banned author.

Just last week, the Associated Press reported that Malala's book, I Am Malala, has been banned in Pakistani private schools. The All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, led by president Adeeb Javedani, has banned the book in its 40,000 affiliated schools and is pushing that the government do the same in public schools. The organization is stating that Malala has become "a tool in the hands of the Western powers" and does not show respect for the Isalamic Prophet Muhammad. You can read the full article, Pakistani Private Schools Ban Malala's Book, by Zarar Khan HERE.

How do you view the response to I Am Malala? Should the book be censored in Pakistani schools? Share your reactions in the Comments section below. 

You can also read about Malala in our July 17, 2013 post "Malala: "ONE...can change the world."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Each year, one week before Thanksgiving, National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. During this week, a number of schools, communities and cities take part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness.

This week, November 16-24, is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and events are going on right here in Hartford. The Center for Contemporary Culture at the Hartford Public Library will be hosting A Day of Caring and Sharing tomorrow, Friday, November 22, from 11am-3pm. Community members are encouraged to visit the library to hear firsthand experiences of homelessness and hunger through music, poetry, open mic, and more. The event is presented by by Hands On Hartford, Faces of Homelessness-CT, Beat of the Street at the Charter Oak Cultural Center, Journey Home, Hartford, and Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford.

Educating yourself on an issue is a great first step in taking action, so be sure to add this event to your calendar! For more information about hunger, in particular, check out our April 25, 2013 Cultivating Food Justice Salon Recap post. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A modern day suffragette...who is only 12 years old!

The Stowe Center uses the life and story of activist Harriet Beecher Stowe to inspire people of all ages to take action on issues that are important to them and use their talents to create change. We love to share stories of people doing just that, especially young people, which is why we were excited to learn about 12-year-old Madison Kimrey of Burlington, NC who is a self-proclaimed (and we agree!) modern day "suffragette." Madison recently addressed a crowd in North Carolina about young people and their voting rights in the state. Through a well-developed and researched speech, she challenged the Governor and Legislature for taking away preregistration rights for teenagers. Check out her speech below for a dose of inspiration:

Madison represents the amazing passion and drive young people have to speak out, and the civic engagement they can achieve. Do you know someone who is using their voice like Madison and Harriet Beecher Stowe? Be sure to tell them about the 2014 Student Stowe Prize Writing for Social Justice and send us their stories!

"Young people, our state needs you; our nation needs you. Pay attention: find the issues that are important to you and take action!" 
- Madison Kimrey

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Seven score and 10 years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. That day, November 19, 1863, he delivered the Gettysburg Address consecrating the hallowed grounds before him, "with a faraway look in his eyes as if appealing from the few thousands before him to the invisible audience of countless millions whom his words were to reach.”  Perhaps the best known speech in American history, documentarian Ken Burns has called it "one of the most important declarations ever made on human equality."

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Burns is creating a documentary about boys at Greenwood School in Vermont who memorize and recite the Address to challenge themselves personally, academically, and socially. In conjunction, Burns is challenging every American to recite the Address and share a recording of themselves. He has already recorded many leading politicians, musicians, comedians, actors, business leaders, and more, and created "The Address Mashup" below.


Part of Burns' effort is to consider the relevance of the Gettysburg Address today. What does it say about human rights and equality, as it hearkens back to the "Liberty, and...proposition that all men are created equal" of the Declaration of Independence? As we also honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech, what do the two speeches mean to our generation? Share your reactions to the video and these questions in the Comments section below. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Racism in the criminal justice system

Lat week, the website Feministing featured several eye-opening charts the article Charts of the day: a friendly reminder of our criminal justice system’s racism. The article is particularly timely with our What About the Kids? Salon this Thursday from 5-7pm.

The graphs and charts break down the race of current prisoners serving life without parole and compare against their percentage in the overall US census. The disparities are staggering, and provide great context for both this week's Salon and our December 12 program with author of Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Climate change threatens our health, land, food and water security"

"Climate change threatens our health, land, food and water security."
- Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to release a report on the impact global warming is having on peoples' lives and futures in March 2014. A draft of the report was leaked to the press last week and prompted an Associated Press article "Warming report sees violent, sicker, poorer future."

These issues of climate change and global warming and their impact on our livelihood were also touched on in our August 29 Author Talk with Iowa State Senator Robert Hogg. His book, America's Climate Century, calls on Americans to take the climate action we so urgently need and to make the fight against climate change our new national purpose.  As he says, it is the defining moral challenge of this century – and Americans need to lead the world in the global fight for sustainability and survival. Check out our post on the Senator Hogg talk for resources and ways to make change, and stay tuned for the forthcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change!

After reading the Associated Press article, what do you realize about the future of our Earth? Does it motivate you to change your lifestyle and create change around these issues? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

"Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger," the report says. "Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality."
-  Excerpt from "Warming report sees violent, sicker, poorer future" by Seth Borenstein 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"What About the Kids? Incarceration's Forgotten Victims" Salon on November 21

Following up on the discussion started at the 2013 Stowe Prize programs, our November 21st Salon will focus on the impact of incarceration on families.  We will be joined by Giselle Jacobs-Lawson, Community Outreach and Advocacy Specialist for Breaking the Cycle, and Virginia Lewis, Program Manager for Community Partners in Action. Given that future incarceration is significantly more likely for youth who have had a parent in prison, Breaking the Cycle creates grassroots family support groups to help reverse this trend.  Community Partners in Action is a non-profit agency building community by providing services that promote accountability, dignity, and restoration for people affected by the Criminal Justice System.

The Salon will be from 5-7pm on November 21 in the Stowe Visitor Center, the discussion beginning at 5:30. To reserve a seat, please email Info@StoweCenter.org or call 860-522-9258, ext. 317. Click HERE for more information about the program

If you're looking to learn more about incarceration's impact on kids, we hope you will watch the videos below. The first features Michelle Alexander, recipient of the 2013 Stowe Prize for her book The New Jim Crow, and her reflections on mass incarceration 50 years after the March on Washington. The second is a video from Sesame Street's toolkit on incarceration, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration.


Don't miss this Salon to learn more about incarceration and its impacts on families and children, and how you can take action to create change around this issue. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Michelle Alexander encourages backing of the Justice Safety Valve Act

In a recent Tweet, 2013 Stowe Prize recipient Michelle Alexander encouraged followers and activists to sign a petition asking Congress to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act. The bill  "is designed “to prevent unjust and irrational criminal punishments.” If enacted, it would allow judges more discretion in sentencing below the mandatory minimum for many federal crimes if they are convinced that doing so would not endanger public safety."

Click HERE to sign the petition and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"In Her Own Words" with Sandra Fluke - November 14 at Trinity College

Attorney and women's rights advocate Sandra Fluke, labeled a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh for advocating for affordable access to contraception, will speak at Trinity College on Thursday, November 14 from 12:15-1:30pm. Attend the talk to learn more about Sandra's story and her efforts to speak out and advocate. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Free courses on "Human Rights" and "Social Problems" at the Henry George School

The Henry George School of Social Science in Manhattan promotes "economic and social justice based on the philosophy of Henry George, including his seminal work, Progress and Poverty," and has been offering courses in economics and social philosophy since 1932.

In September, the School partnered with We, The World to launch the awareness-raising component of their Economic Justice campaign. As part of this campaign, they are offering free, mission-based courses at the Henry George School, 121 East 30th Street, Manhattan. Two courses are particularly aligned with the Stowe Center's mission and may be of interest to you! Both are also offered in Spanish, and you can register by visiting www.henrygeorgeschool.org.

Human Rights
Using Henry George’s “A Perplexed Philosopher” as reference, this course examines the inalienable rights that took millennia and much sacrifice to establish. The course will also study classic human rights Declarations and evaluate them based on first principles
First Class:  Thursday, November 14 at 6:00 PM
Dates: Thursdays 11/14, 11/21, 12/5, 12/12            
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Instructor: Dra. Quisia Gonzales

Social Problems
Using Henry George’s “Social Problems” as reference, we will analyze and discuss current issues such as Real Estate, the Money system, Health care and Education.
First Class:  Tuesday, November 12 at 6:00 PM
Dates: Tuesdays 11/12, 11/19, 11/26, 12/3          
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM  
Instructor: Gerardo Calderon, Ph.D.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Colin McEnroe's "The Nose Tackles Racism, Past and Present" today at 1pm

The Nose panel kicks-off with a look at "12 Years a Slave," an adaptation from the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1850 and sold into slavery. They'll punt to the future where a free black man playing in the NFL in 2013 is drop-kicked for being...soft? Join us in the stadium at 1 for a head-butting discussion.
Leave us your comments below, email us at colin@wnpr.org, or tweet us @wnprcolin.
  • Rand Richards Cooper is an author, freelance writer, and restaurant critic for the New York Times
  • Tracy Wu-Fastenberg is the Director of Development at The Mark Twain House and Museum
  • Jamil Ragland is the Office Coordinator at Trinity College

Click HERE to listen live at 1pm!

The humanities need your help! Use your voice to oppose devastating cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities

In its Fiscal Year 2014 budget resolution, the House of Representatives Budget Committee called for the complete elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, writing that the programs funded by NEH “…go beyond the core mission of the federal government, and they are generally enjoyed by people of higher-income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” The House subcommittee that oversees the NEH’s appropriation has followed through on the spirit of this resolution by approving a 49 percent cut to the agency’s budget.

Funding for NEH is already at just 29 percent of its peak and 62 percent of its average.

After years of deep cuts, the Obama Administration has proposed restoring some of NEH’s capacity with a 12 percent increase in funding.   Oppose the cuts and help restore NEH's critical support for the humanities.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

In recent years, the Stowe Center has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities for collections preservation (including the renovation of the Library/Archives vault) two national teacher institutes, and many public programs and projects via Connecticut Humanities. 

How can you take action? The National Humanities Alliance has a page on their Online Action Center which will generate a message of support. Visit Oppose devastating cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities! or see the embedded web page below to complete the form and email your Representative/Senator today! Be sure to mention the impact the Stowe Center and its programs have had on you and the community, and why funding of such institutions is critical for the preservation of history and inspiration of many generations of visitors.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Human rights are women's rights & women's rights are human rights, once & for all."

On Saturday, the Clinton Foundation tweeted a quote from Hillary Clinton:

Clinton's quote was in reference to No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, her new program at the Clinton Foundation to bring together partner organizations to evaluate and share the progress women and girls have made in the 20 years since the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This new effort will help chart the path forward to accelerate full participation for women and girls in the 21st century. The full participation of women and girls is critical to global progress, development, and security. The program was launched on November 1, 2013.

Be sure to check out the website for No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, sign up to follow the progress of the program and reflect on Clinton's quote - what are your reactions to her statement? Will you get involved with "No Ceilings"? Share your thoughts in the "Comments" section below.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Lack of black women becomes 'SNL' issue"

This past weekend, actress Kerry Washington hosted "Saturday Night Live," raising questions and concerns by the cast and viewers on the show's diversity. According to the Associated Press in "Lack of black women becomes 'SNL' issue" the current SNL cast features no black women and of the 137 cast members since the show's inception in 1975, only four have been black women.

"The show still is an important part of the culture, and misses something when there's a lack of diversity, [Miriam Petty] said."
- David Bauer, Associated Press

How important is cast diversity to you in shows like "Saturday Night Live"? Should show and network executives make it a priority to incorporate more minority females in the show? Share your thoughts in the "Comments" section below!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Election Day: VOTE!

During many of our Salons and public programs, we recommend that you contact your local government and leaders to express your opinions as you work to create positive change. This Election Day is your chance to elect local officials who will make that change in your community and support the issues important to you. So, don't forget to...
For more information about your local election, visit the Connecticut Secretary of the State's website.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bringing lessons of empathy and humanity into the classroom

A Stowe staff member was excited when he found comments about empathy, humanity and bullying in a middle school classroom earlier this week. Lori Frederick, who is in charge of In School Suspension at Lincoln Middle School in Meriden, "deal[s] with a lot of kids who are bullied and also the bullies themselves," and uses lessons about these topics to improve student behavior. Her messages are an excellent connection and follow up to National Bullying Prevention Month, and our Salon last week, “Walking in My Shoes: How Can We Teach Empathy?” which focused on Liah Kaminer (Hall High School), Steve Armstrong (Hall High School) and Julia Rosenblatt's (HartBeat Ensemble) efforts to build empathy in students.

What are your reactions to the message Lori Frederick is sending to her students? Why is it important to engender empathy in students, and what more can be done? How did you learn to treat others with respect, honor others and their stories, and have empathy for other people? Share your reactions in the "Comments" section below!