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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Social Justice #Trends of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we are greeted once again by a continuous cycle of rankings and end of the year lists. And as this year was one characterized by political strife, failures of justice, and active protest, this following list recounts the top social justice trends of the past 12 months. 

10. #Notbuyingit 

Created by The Representation Project, an organization devoted to combating gender stereotypes in the media, #Notbuyingit takes aim at sexist commercial advertisements. Though used throughout the year, the hashtag gained prominence during the Super Bowl, where viewers would “live tweet” moments of misogyny or degradation during commercial breaks. 

9. #CrimingWhileWhite 

After a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Pantaleo over the death of unarmed Eric Garner, activists and onlookers took to Twitter to express anger, grief, and action steps. Emerged from this Twitter discussion was #crimingwhilewhite, a hashtag initiated to highlight the privileges white individuals are granted while interacting with law enforcement officials. Examples included: "I shoplifted when I was 14 and they let me go because my parents came down and we "looked like a nice family."" #crimingwhilewhite. "Arrested for stealing street signs Xmas Eve back in high school. Probation waived as it would interfere with DRAMA CLUB." #crimingwhilewhite. 

8. #ALSIcebucketchallenge 

Taking summer 2014 by storm, the #ALSIcebucketchallenge, featured friends daring friends to donate money to ALS research or dump a bucket of cold water over their heads (or both). The challenge raised an unprecedented $115 million for the ALS Association and unintentionally triggered discussions on the efficacy of social media charity campaigns and online activism. 

7. #raisethewage 

The fight to raise the minimum wage went mainstream this year, as fast-food workers, retail employees, and even President Obama took action to raise state and federal minimum wage laws. Workers took to the streets to #fightfor15 and protest unjust labor practices. 


6. #Bringbackourgirls 

On April 15th, militant group Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 girls from their school in Nigeria. Political officials were slow to respond, motivating Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi to create #bringbackourgirls, a campaign designed to bring widespread awareness to the kidnappings. The declaration went viral, and soon everyone from celebrities to President and First Lady Obama began offering their support to bring Boko Haram to justice.       

5. #Carrythatweight 

In the spring of 2013, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz reported to school authorities that she was raped by a male student. The claims were brought forth through the University’s adjudication process, and after a long and degrading investigation, the alleged rapist was deemed not responsible and allowed to remain on campus. To protest the University’s response to her case, Sulkowicz began Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight, a visual arts piece in which she vowed to carry a dorm-room mattress everywhere she traveled on campus. On October 29th, 2014, the project expanded, as thousands of students across the country carried mattresses or pillows on their campuses to stand in solidarity with Sulkowicz and take aim at unjust university processes. #Carrythatweight served as an anchor to the movement, working to galvanize support and awareness over the issue of rape on college campuses. 

4. #AllMenCan 

The beginning of summer 2014 was marked by the horrific murder of seven individuals in Santa Barbara, CA. The tragedy evoked conversation on gun-control, mental illness, and male entitlement, as the suspect was linked to both a YouTube video and written report detailing his desires to terminate women who had rejected his advances. From these discussion spurred two popular hashtags-one of which focused on the role men can play in advancing equality for women. 

3. #ICantBreathe/#WeCantBreathe 

The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Pantaleo was made even more shocking by the accompanying video in which Garner repeatedly screamed "I can't breathe."  #ICantBreathe/#WeCantBreathe thus served as a rallying cry for black Americans to draw awareness to discriminatory policing practices.

2. #YesAllWomen

The second hashtag that emerged from the events in Santa Barbara was #YesAllWomen, a trend in which girls and women shared experiences of sexism, misogyny, and gender-based violence over social media. The hashtag served to emphasize that even though "not all men" engage in sexist behavior, all women at some point in their lives experience harassment, fear, or inequality on the basis of gender identity.   

1. #BlackLivesMatter 

The lasting memory of 2014 will undoubtedly be on the death of unarmed black individuals at the hands of law enforcement and the subsequent demand to enact fair and equitable policing and justice practices. After the death of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, John Crawford, and the numerous other black men killed every 28 hours by police officers or vigilantes, individuals took to the streets, social media sites, and city halls to declare, even in a country that profiles and discriminates against people of color, that black lives do indeed matter.  

As social media hashtags, these trends originated and largely remained in the electronic world. In what ways then, does so-called "hashtag activism" help social justice causes? Did these trends contribute to the overall progress of social movements in 2014? Do you have any other hashtags to add to the list? Let us know!

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Have you ever board?" at #StoweCenter

In order to further engage with visitors on contemporary issues of justice, our Visitor Center features interactive displays and exhibits on matters of racial, gender, and socio-economic identity. One of these displays is the "Have you ever?" board, a feature that invites visitors to share experiences of stereotyping, profiling, prejudice, and discrimination.

Today, several new questions were added to the board including:

Have you ever....

- Confronted a prejudice of your own?

- Noticed yourself acting differently around someone with a different ethnic, religious, gender, or socio-economic background?

- Felt biased against someone whose social identity was different from your own? 

How would you answer these questions? What can we learn from our answers? Share below in the comments and your remarks may be shared (anonymously) in the Stowe Visitor Center!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Students Standing Up for #Justice in #2014

HuffPostEducation devised a list of five examples of students standing up for social and political causes in 2014.  

The list includes:

1. Demonstrations for Michael Brown

2. Protests to support Union-protection and health care for Philadelphia teachers

3. Campaigns to demand sexual assault reform at Norman High School in Norman, OK

4. Boycotts over standardized tests in Boulder, CO

5. Protests over "whitewashing" and simplifying history in Denver, CO

2014 was a year characterized by political strife, but also by public protest and activism, especially by young people. In June, the Stowe Center honored two young activists, Madeline Sachs and Donya Nasser, for the Student Stowe Prize, an award given to one high-school and one college student for excellence in writing to advance social justice.    

What is the role of students in greater social, political, and cultural causes? What capital and power can students leverage to enact change? Do you know of any students advocating for change? Let us know!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The #NewJimCrow: 2014 Stats on Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

The Southern Poverty Law Center complied a set of 18 info-graphics detailing the most startling and important facts on mass incarceration in the United States. The facts were derived from two reports- "The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences" by the National Academy of Sciences (2014) and "Prisoners in 2013," by the U.S. Department of Justice (2014).

The info-graphics detail the following statistics among others:

-2.2. million: The number of individuals incarcerated in the U.S.

-African Americans are incarcerated at 6 times the rate of white individuals

-Black males aged 18 to 19 are 9 times more likely to be arrested than their white peers

-Though black and white individuals engage in drug use at roughly the same rate, black individuals are 3 to 5 times more likely to be arrested

-49,100: The number of individuals incarcerated for minor drug offenses

-About 3% of all U.S. children have incarcerated fathers

Which facts surprised you? Why? Do you think society at large is aware of these statistics and the high rate of incarceration in the U.S.? How does mass incarceration impact other social institutions like housing, education, and health care?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#IllRideWithYou Goes Viral Amid Sydney Hostage Crisis

In a week highlighted by terror attacks in Sydney and Pakistan that left numerous unarmed civilians and children dead, a small piece of solace emerged on Twitter. After an unarmed gunman stormed a cafe in the city center of Sydney, Australia and raised an Islamic flag in the shop's window, many members of Australia's Muslim population feared retribution toward their community. Yet, these fears may have been assuaged, as Australians quickly reacted with "I'll Ride With You," a Twitter hashtag aimed at letting individuals identifying as Muslim know that they have committed allies when riding on public transportation. The hashtag erupted and for several hours remained as the number one global trend.    

What do you think of the power of the hashtag? Can a tweet like "I'll Ride With You" combat Islamophobia? Can social media activism procure more equitable and just communities? Does empathy on the screen translate to the empathy off the screen?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Socially Conscious Gifts for a More #Just World

Still have some last minute holiday shopping to do? Check out New York Times journalist and Stowe Prize winner Nick Kristof's "Gifts that Reflect the Spirit of the Season." In the piece, Kristof highlights creative organizations working to reduce poverty, empower marginalized individuals, or improve education around the globe.     

Through the gift-giving guide, Kristof draws attention lesser-known organizations like Reach Out and Read, a program that partners with medical professionals to encourage early-childhood literacy. 

 What do you think of Kristof's suggestions? While the holiday season is a ripe time for giving, as seen by campaigns such as #GivingTuesday, how can we spread this charitable spirit throughout the year? 

Looking for ways to teach about #Ferguson? Check out #FergusonSyllabus

Since the death of Michael Brown in August, teachers, parents, and community organizers have been searching for ways to best educate young people about difficult issues of race, profiling, and police violence. From this challenge, emerged #FergusonSyllabus, a Twitter hashtag used to collect books and articles that dictate creative and accessible lessons on race. Georgetown University Professor Marcia Chatelain created the hashtag as a way to facilitate conversation among educators on ways to teach on the events in Ferguson and larger issues of discrimination and brutality. The hashtag gained traction and soon elicited direct action through the creation of #FergusonFreedomLibrary, a social media call encouraging teachers, students, and activists to donate applicable books to prisons, schools, or community organizations. Of the hashtag, Professor Chatelain writes "A hashtag cannot address structural mistrust, public negligence, poverty and unemployment. But the incredible educators who have shared their resources and ideas with #FergusonSyllabus do have the power to move us closer to reconciliation, a greater commitment of justice and conversations that are long overdue."

What do you think of #FergusonSyllabus and the use of Twitter to engage teachers and students? Does it work? In the new Stowe House experience, we seek to facilitate conversations on difficult subjects by using primary source documents, inquiry-based dialogue, and multimedia presentations.  What do you think are the best tactics to invite conversation and questioning on difficult subjects?    

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Learn About the Young Women of Color who Planned #MillionsMarchNYC

One of the largest protests in response to the grand jury decisions over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, took place on Saturday, and was organized by two millennials- Synead Nichols (23) and Umaara lynnas Elliott (19). Millions March NYC, an act of protest and resistance, drew nearly 50,000 people of all different ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds, under the objective of demanding justice for victims of color of police violence.

                   #MillionsMarchNYC  (photo credit: Instagram)
In addition to the march, the leaders compiled a list of demands of which they were seeking through their organized action. The first of these demands reads "We Want an End to all Forms of Discrimination and the Full Recognition of Our Human Rights."  

Of the march Nichols stated, “Together we peacefully demonstrated that NYC, and people in cities across the country, will not stand for a police system that shoots to kill with no accountability. This is only the beginning.”

Did you hear of the #MillionsMarchNYC? As this "is only the beginning" what do you think are the next steps? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Confronting the Racist History of the North

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Professor Jason Sokol unearths the muddled and often overlooked history of race and racism in the North. "The Unreconstructed North" juxtaposes Southern racial history, of which there is a clear and identifiable discourse, against the seemingly non-racialized history of the North. 

Map of U.S. States during Civil War 

Southern history, as Sokol describes, is impossible to face without acknowledging Jim Crow, slavery, and the post-war reconstruction period. Yet, this same introspection and critique is never applied to the history of the North, a history that includes school segregation, race riots, open discrimination both by law and by fact, and evident most recently with the death of Eric Garner, bouts of police brutality.

To continually ignore the realities of race in the North, is to not only offer a misguided view of history, but to perpetuate the unnecessary and unproductive North/South socio-political dichotomy. Since the days of the first colonizers, the South has always occupied a unique cultural and political space- one that has often drastically differed from the identity of the North. In many ways this divide has deepened since the Civil War- just this week for example, all Democratic Senate seats were expelled from the region, making the South entirely Republican represented, while the North remains connected to the Democratic party. 

How can we properly address Northern history? How do we confront the ways in which the North was complicit in slavery and thus in the residual structural inequities that slavery procured? Will confronting American history from a holistic view instead of a geographic view, help mitigate the division between North and South?     


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Little Free Library Movement

Looking for some positivity to start off the week? Check out young Madison exclaim her love for books as she promotes the "little free library," a community movement designed to increase access to reading materials and promote a love of literacy. The "little free library" is exactly as its name suggests- a network of small containers scattered across the globe that hold books, magazines, and articles for neighbors and community members to share. The libraries exist by the "take a book, return a book" method, much like a traditional library. 

It's hard not to share enthusiasm for the "little free library" after listening to Madison's exuberant monologue. "What would the world be like without books?" Madison so passionately questions towards the end of her speech. Hopefully, with campaigns like the "little free library," no one will have to find out. 

Beyond increasing access to books, are there any other social, political, or economic benefits to the "little free library"? Can other services follow a similar model? What about "little free art galleries" or "little free museums" or even "little free legal clinics?" 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

5 Ways to be an #Ally to a Community You're Not a Part Of

On November 24th, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Roughly a week later, a Staten Island grand jury announced that Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted for the killing of unarmed Eric Garner. The decisions prompted protests across the country-from St. Louis to New York City to Los Angeles and New Haven. These mass protests have been characterized by their diversity; they have included individuals of all different ethnicities, races, gender identities, and sexualities, fighting for a common cause-increased accountability for police officers and a reformation of the criminal justice system. Yet, is it possible for an individual who is not a member of a marginalized group to stand in true solidarity with those that are? 

In the video below, vlogger Franchesca Ramsey details ways in which individuals can work to be effective allies to members of marginalized communities.  

Ramsey's 5 tips for being an ally: 
1. Understand your privilege.
2. Listen and do your homework.
3. Speak up, not over.
4. You'll make mistakes, apologize when you do.
5. Ally is a verb -- saying you're an ally is not enough.

How are you an ally? What are ways we can improve recognizing our own biases and privileges? What is the best way to create a diverse coalition of activists to stand-up against injustices?  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fighting for an Inclusive Democracy with International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPD

As sanctioned by the United Nations General Assembly ruling 47/3, December 3rd serves as the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. With an estimated one billion individuals living with a disability, the day serves the purpose of honoring individuals with disabilities and recognizing the need for greater awareness and action on issues of accessibility and equality.


Threaded in the history of the Disability Rights Movement, is the fight to gain access and protection from established social institutions that so readily serve able-bodied individuals. Like many other marginalized communities, whether it be racial, gender, or sexual minorities, individuals with disabilities have long fought to gain equal benefit from the health care, education, and criminal justice systems that characterize our democracy.  

The history of the Disability Rights Movement is often not explored in classroom contexts. Why not? How does it connect with other civil and social rights movements? When we think of contemporary events, like the failure to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, how do we hold the failed institutions at the base of these issues accountable? Specifically, how do we hold institutions accountable for serving individuals who are not able-bodied?    

For further reading, check out the Zinn Education Project's list of teacher resources designed to engage students on the history of individuals with disabilities. And if you are an able-bodied individual, try thinking about the services and institutions you would not be able to access-whether physical, like gaining immediate entry into a multi-floor office, or political-like seeing individuals that look like you in government, if you were not able-bodied.   

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


While Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become ingrained in consumerist lexicon, Giving Tuesday, a recent addition to the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Holiday shopping schedule, serves as a day to encourage giving across the globe.  Giving Tuesday asks individuals to not just contribute monetarily, but to also donate time, services, and ideas to national and global causes as well.    

Looking for ways to take part? Blog site Gawker, compiled a list of charities most effective at helping the word's most vulnerable.  The Guardian created a list of ways to get involved on Giving Tuesday that don't require fiscal contributions. 

While ostensibly good, Giving Tuesday has drawn slight criticism for its inclusion of large for-profit corporate entities, who while promoting charity, do so under the guise of their own company brand and marketing platform. Companies like Macy's, CVS, and Paul Mitchell all promoted Giving Tuesday, but through asking patrons to re-tweet their logo. thus serving as another marketing tactic.    
What are you doing in honor of #GivingTuesday? Are there ways to encourage giving without promoting corporate entities? What compels individuals to give money, time, or service? How can we spread these actions throughout the year?  

Monday, December 1, 2014


Beginning in 1987, December 1st has marked World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness on the AIDS pandemic and honor those who have been lost to the disease. Activists around the globe have used World AIDS Day as a launching point for advocacy campaigns, policy proposals, and public demonstrations all as an effort to mitigate the spread and find a cure for the disease that has taken 35 million people.

NBC compiled a gallery of photos and articles detailing World AIDS Day events across the globe.

                The red ribbon serves as a symbolic representation for the fight against AIDS
What are the benefits of large scale awareness events such as World AIDS Day? Do you think these events are able to successfully spread their campaigns throughout the year? Do they run the risk of concentrating too much attention on one day?  

Friday, November 28, 2014


All that Black Friday consumerism got you down?

Check out Better By Half, a blog dedicated to sharing individuals and organizations working to create change for women and girls around the world. Created by Melinda Gates, Better by Half' runs on the principle that as half of the population, women, when empowered, have the capacity to make the world "twice as good." This credo is similar to that of  2011 Stowe Prize winners Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

The blog features articles on women and girls taking action around the world and even offers the opportunity for readers to contribute their own stories.

The lives and conditions of women around the world vary based on social and temporal context. How does a blog, like Better by Half, work to spread awareness on the rights and conditions of women? How can someone with the privileges of living in a developed nation, like Melinda Gates, work to empower women in developing countries? Does "empowerment" manifest differently in different contexts?  With so many different cultures and practices, can a global women's movement exist? And if so, how do we get there?   Let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rewriting the Myth of #Thanksgiving

There are few things as patently American as Thanksgiving. With football, pie, and family, the holiday is a recipe of Americana traditions and unbridled nationalism. Yet, the holiday's origins are slightly more nefarious than its current iteration.

As writer and scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explains in "The Myth of Thanksgiving," the concept of Thanksgiving as a way to reflect on colonial settlers' relationships with Indigenous people and honor the founding of the U.S., does not derive from historical fact, but rather as a conditioned myth. While "Thanksgiving" became a national holiday by President Lincoln, the holiday begins to shape into its current form during the Great Depression, when economic and social chaos necessitated feelings of national unity.  

Of the holiday, Dunbar-Ortix writes "But this idea of the gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources."  She finishes her piece by challenging readers to a new tradition of Thanksgiving-one where the colonist practices of the U.S. are critiqued and the history of Indigenous people are celebrated. 

What are ways in which Thanksgiving can serve as a platform for honest and critical thinking about America's origins and history? Beyond the holiday, how can we work to draw more attention to the history and lives of Indigenous communities?    

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being "Color Brave" over "Color Blind"

The existence of race as a point of discussion is largely subject to greater national policies surrounding issues of racial equality and discrimination. Just as the politics circulating race have shifted, the ways in which we talk about race have changed as well. In the mid-20th century, as overt forms of racism gave way to more subtle institutional discrimination, the term "color blind" appeared in American lexicon. Largely deployed by well-intentioned, but unaware individuals, the term is used to indicate that "one does not see color" in social, political, or cultural contexts. Seemingly benign, this term actually shrouds the still existent biases and inequities towards members of marginalized races. In recent years however, individuals have taken aim at color-blindness with the intention to create more direct conversation about racism, implicit bias, and equality.

Mellody Hobson, Chairwomen of Dreamworks Animation and President of Ariel Investments, implores listeners in a recent Ted Talk to be "color brave" instead of "color blind." In a humorous, yet powerful 14-minute presentation, Hobson outlines the ways in which race operates as a "third rail" for social conversations, and how our fear over potential controversy while discussing race has prevented real, substantive progress in matters of equality.  

Hobson begins by declaring, "The first step to solving any problem is not hide from it...and the first step to any form of action is awareness." She then encourages listeners to be aware that talking about race is uncomfortable, but that we should embrace this discomfort and approach conversations with boldness.

She then concludes by stating:"We can not afford to be color blind, we have to be color brave."

What do you think of "color blindness"? Have you ever heard anyone identify as "color blind" or say "they don't see color"? In what ways can we be more deliberate in how we approach race? Hobson finishes her speech with a call to action, claiming anyone, from corporate executives to farmers, can be more bold about race. With the ongoing protests in Ferguson and across the country, the need for honest conversation about race has become more important than ever.  How will you take on Hobson's challenge and what will you do to enact more bold and brave conversations about race?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#AllHandsonDeck: Street Art for Change in Ferguson

In the wake of the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for Brown's death, much attention has rightfully been paid to the flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system and the subsequent protests that have erupted over these institutional inequities. 

Yet, beneath the protests lies another, less overt, form of deliberate mobilization and social action, that of street art. St. Louis based artist Damon Davis spent three days creating "All Hands on Deck" an outdoor exhibition displaying the hands of a diverse range of activists and Ferguson community members. The project serves a dual purpose-beautifying the streets and businesses of Ferguson and exemplifying the need for solidarity in the fight against racial profiling and social inequities.

What do you think of the project? Is it a legitimate way to enact positive action? In what ways can art galvanize individuals to create change? How does art, and street art in particular, function as an inclusive and subversive space? Let us know what you think!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Young Activists Shine in #Unilever's #BrightFutureSpeeches

From Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" to Martin Luther King jr.'s "I Have a Dream," we can often trace our nation's landmark moments through speeches.  

Unilever, a consumer goods company specializing in health and well-being, recently launched Bright Future Speeches, a project designed to promote young individuals working and speaking on issues of social and global relevance. Bright Future Speeches is a campaign from Unilever's Project Sunlight, an initiative designed to promote sustainable living and consumption. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a champion of the written word and harnessed the power of writing to galvanize readers to abolish slavery. In the same vain of these young activists, Stowe used the media of her day to draw attention to an issue of national importance.
What capacity do speeches have to promote change? What steps are necessary to move from talking or writing to conscious political or social action?  Check out the video above and let us know what you think! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#Hunger and #Homelessness Awareness Week: Nov. 15-23

Sunday, November 15th, marked the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a period of reflection and action towards ending poverty in the United States. Hosted by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the campaign is held annually the week before Thanksgiving, a time of year conducive to eliciting compassion and actions towards those experiencing homelessness or hunger. 

Currently, 46.2 million Americans live below the poverty line, including roughly 16 million children. The aim of this week is thus two-fold; the campaign is designed to bring attention to statistics and figures on poverty, but also to work to reduce the number of individuals living below the poverty line. 

The holiday season is a rife time for charity contributions and giving. Yet, often times charity can only provide surface level solutions to deep, systemic problems. What are ways we can work to move beyond charity and into creating institutional changes within our economy? What are ways in which we can create solidarity with those experiencing hunger or homelessness? How do awareness campaigns like National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week help?

Monday, November 17, 2014

#SalonsatStowe Event Recap: "Children Behind Bars: Juvenile Justice" (11.13.14 Salon)

Keep the conversation going! After reading the conversation transcript and Inspiration to Action list, we encourage you to share your ideas, reactions, and plans for action in the "Comments" section below.

Featured Guests

Representative Toni Walker-State Representative, 93rd Assembly District
Representative Toni Walker is a seasoned social activist and advocate for youth, education, and human rights. As a Connecticut State Representative, Rep. Walker serves as House Chair of the Appropriations Committee and participates on several other legislative bodies, including the Higher Education and Judiciary Committees. For several years, Rep. Walker has committed herself to juvenile reform in Connecticut beginning with raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. During the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions, Representative Walker introduced and championed legislation that would allow for 16 and 17 year-olds to be considered juveniles in the eyes of Connecticut courts. Rep. Walker also created and chaired both the Juvenile Jurisdiction Planning and Implementation Committee and the Juvenile Jurisdiction Policy and Operations Coordinating Council.

Representative Walker has resided in New Haven for most of her child and adult life, and received an undergraduate degree from Southern Connecticut State University. She later received a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University.

Sandra Staub- Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of CT
Sandra Staub has been legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut since 2010, supervising litigation and legislative advocacy. Among her major cases are Does v. Enfield Public Schools, which reinforced the separation of church and state, and Biediger v. Quinnipiac, which strengthened Title IX protection for female athletes. She has taken a leading role in the fight against racial profiling in Connecticut and serves on the Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board. Before joining the ACLU of Connecticut, Sandy worked in private practice as a partner at Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas, LLP, the largest law firm in Western Massachusetts, and at Allison, Angier and Bartmon, LLP, a small firm in Amherst, Massachusetts. She had previously served as Chief of the Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit for the Northwestern District Attorney’s office in Massachusetts, where she prosecuted marital rape, child sexual abuse, domestic abuse and other crimes while supervising attorneys and engaging in community education and outreach. For ten years she volunteered as a board member, including as President, for the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition. In addition to many other community activities, Sandy served as a Trustee for Greenfield Community College and as a Distribution Member of the Western Massachusetts Community Foundation. She is a graduate of Greenfield Community College, Amherst College and Yale Law School, where she was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Opening Remarks and Discussion 

Sandra Staub:
I was born in CT, grew up in East Lyme, and when I read the New Jim Crow it resonated for me. When the war on drugs was beginning in the 70s I didn't see it in East Lyme,-primarily a white town, lots of drugs and adolescent misbehavior, I wasn't immune, but I have no criminal record. I am white and grew up poor, in my community there was no rollout on the war on drugs. I wasn't assumed to be a criminal. The militarization of police wasn't seen. But if you changed the demographics by three points-if I was born male, black and in New Haven-the odds would have been against me. I would be living in Enfield.

In the 80s, I was a prosecutor, I was a domestic violence prosecutor, but I learned in the courts about drug prosecution. I saw people come into the criminal justice system, leave, and then come back and when you come back the punishments are tougher. I didn't know any better as a prosecutor, I didn't recognize the color line. Now you go to the 90s and 2000s, I moved back to CT and back to East Lyme. I still saw no rollout of the drug war in East Lyme, no police officers in sight. These kids are not getting charged because they're white. When I go to talk to schools, in Hartford, in New Haven, I run the gauntlet with police cars and security systems. And when I go to these schools the questions the students ask me are-can the police arrest me for a cell phone violation? The reality is if you look at the statistics these kids are getting arrested for school policy violations and it puts them on the school- to- prison pipeline. We know it [arrests in schools] is a racist policy implemented by our state. But we know that there are no-cost or low cost ways to change this.

First, is passing something called the Memorandum of Understanding. The Memorandum of Understanding creates an agreement between police officers and the schools they are in. With schools that have the MOU, we know arrests go down and the disparities between those getting arrested dissipate as well. This bill has gone to the legislature and not been passed twice. It is an action item- it will get passed and will make a difference. The Memorandum of Understanding is an agreement between police officer and school that arrest is not the first thing. Zero tolerance policy is not the policy.

Abby Anderson- Executive Director of the CT Juvenile Justice Alliance:
After Sandy Hook, people said more police in school. I don’t want to be insensitive, but school shootings are extraordinarily rare. There is a perception that police are in schools to protect the school from the outside, but what happens is police, who are trained to police, end up policing the schools. It’s not fair to put police in schools without proper agreement-they are not social workers, they are not counselors, they are police officers and they will police.

With the MOU, at least the police in school have roles in place. The agreement includes graduated sanctions of what police should do. For example, if a teenager is smoking a cigarette we do x. A positive side of it not passing is we get to talk about it every year. They know people are watching and as a result schools/police are changing what they do.

Senator Gary Holder-Winfield- 10th District (New Haven & West Haven):
Sometimes people do not know that with police in schools, schools can give over discipline to the police. Some people think the police are doing something positive.

Representative. Walker:
No one wants to reduce public safety, so reluctant to question police presence in schools.

Audience question:
If this MOU law is accepted by your school, what does it require?

MOU law only says schools and police have to talk about what the role of the police officer will be.

Audience question:
Is it mandatory for every CT school to have an officer?

Rep. Walker:

Representative Douglas McCrory-7th Assembly District:

I have been a school administrator and every time there is a fight, the students involve get arrested. The responsibilities should be with me as an administrator, but they often fall to police.

Rep. Walker:
I was an Assistant Principal for adult education. Our resource officer does a good job, not turning to arrest first.

In my [current] school, we have a lot of territorial issues- if a child comes to school, and a weapon is found, automatically arrested. Sometimes students will bring box cutters to school and leave them by the bushes, because they need them to feel safe while walking home.

My dad was a Minister, I was born in Oklahoma, then moved to Greensboro, but we moved north because the KKK burned crosses in yard. All my life though, I've been in an environment where people were going to help each other.

I ran an art program in New Haven, often times we would have kids who were deemed “the problem kids”, and they did great, because no one judged them.

We have to think about how laws impact our kids. Most of the kids I worked with grew up in rough situations and that’s how I learned more about how laws are impacting certain children.

For example, I found that 16 is the age in which a child could be tried as an adult. 16 year olds are not adults. The mind is not fully developed-they do things that are normal for 16 year olds, but we criminalize them.

Abigail at the Juvenile Justice Alliance, has been one of my main partners; this is a civil rights fight for our children. We should all fight and all understand. The question is “How do we get people to understand the impact?”

When we were fighting to “raise the age” [of when you can be tried as an adult] we had to take color out of the issue. We needed people from Westport, Stamford, and Guilford- wanted them to take the blinders out and we wanted to talk about all of our children. As long as we all understand that children are children. We had people [supporters] show up to the LOB [Legislative Office Building] with orange t-shirts on. We just came to make a statement. Prior to this, when we were discussing a bill on foster care, we had all foster care children come up with suitcases-you have to do visuals-get people to notice.

Audience question:
What are the schools and the towns that have highest expulsion rate in CT?

Rep. Walker and Rep. McCrory:
Suspension/Expulsion rates by school type:
Elementary school
Public Charter schools: 14.2%
Ed-reform: 7.7%
Non Ed-reform alliance: 2.5%
All other-districts: 0.9%

High School
Public Charter schools: 18.5%
Ed-reform: 29.8%
CT Technical High schools: 25.4%
State school districts: 6.2%

Rep. McCrory:
In elementary school, K through 8, many states start identifying students who are not reading at grade level by third grade, and that's a predictor of how many beds you'll need [at incarceration facilities] down the road. 80% can't read at grade level. We do put money in. Every dollar you put in 80 percent goes into teacher salary. We can’t just to give more money to school district that is failing. We have to be specific about what you're advocating-add targeted dollars.

Rep. Walker:
Part of the problem is we have failed at training our teachers. We have the same requirements still for education, the courses that teachers take have not really changed-most have not gotten trained in how to manage a classroom. When I contacted my board [of the school], I asked do you have a program to train teachers in classroom management. We developed our own training program. Want teachers to walk around the classroom. I got rid of desks. I lean red from my father- as a minister he infused drama into his ministry- need to engage students. Some teachers left, but the ones that stayed are incredible teachers.

Audience comment:
I get a little nervous talking about education without socioeconomic contexts. Last week, there was a presentation on The Children in Room E4, where we learned how Hartford was deliberately segregated. You can’t change it all with methodology or teachers.

Audience comment:
I am a teacher trainer, and we train our teachers with what you are talking. If a teacher has 25 students and 18 are special needs, it is impossible for this teacher to do her job. It isn’t just about teachers being trained, because they are. It is a combination of factors.

Audience question:
I wonder if you could take some about parents, participation in schools…

Rep. McCrory:
Often there is a systemic, generational failure. If parents were not successful in that particular school, parents can't advocate for kids. No parents want their children to fail. Let me tell you something, most schools don't want the parents there. As educators, we don't like it- what they [parents] ask. We can't change parents, but we can change schools.

We live in a pretty segregated state. I was at an event at Yale Law School, and an investment banker sitting next time commented that perhaps we have segregation due to single mothers. [Laughs] But even if a kid has a single parent, if he’s a person of color and getting stopped while driving his car, if he’s in school and getting searched, that’s not bad parenting, that’s racism. We can’t take race out of the issue.

Sen. Holder-Winfield
Sometimes we assume that if parents aren’t doing what we would do, they are not doing anything. My mother was a single mother, and never came to my school- but she made sure I always had my work done. There are different ways to stay involved.

Rep. Walker
A lot of the families, don't have a lot of flexibility in their day, to be involved in schools. If you are earning $10 an hour, working several jobs you do not have that flexibility to be there.

Rep. McCrory
There’s a term we lost in American culture and that is segregation, specifically housing segregation. We think how do certain communities become impoverished- how do they get that way? If you live in these communities, over time you think you are not good enough-this idea becomes ingrained in you. I started reading American Apartheid, a book that explains how cities became segregated and how the problems still persist today.

Audience comment:
A lot of these comments we've heard before, we just don’t see enough outrage. I absolutely don't think it's just teachers, parents fault. In most developed countries, children are protected by constitution. Now we have to protect our children, nurture our children, and protect them in our constitution.

The second action item, the sentencing commission recommendation, addresses parts of children's rights. Several years ago, the Supreme Court decided children should not be given life without parole without a second look.

88% of these people behind bars who are doing sentences of 10 years or more that were sentenced are people of color-we can’t take race out of the equation.

This has been a really Debbie Downer conversation, but we have done a lot. In 2006 we had much bigger juvenile justice system then we do now. We have worked really hard to not automatically go to arrest for students. We have looked at diversion. Young people in the system now they are 16 or 17, not 13 or 14.

We need to have a multi systemic approach. So we can help the kid understand what they did wrong and how they can do things differently next time. CT is actually held up nationally as a state that has made reforms.

And over the question of when to use race, when not to-Of course it's about race, but when do you lead with that or when do you not?

We brought The Color of Justice [short film]on PBS around the state and talked to over 2000 people about things like implicit bias. We did workshops, trainings where we were talking about race.

It would be a lot easier, if there was a guy behind a curtain making racist decisions, but there isn’t. So how do we raise awareness about implicit bias, about things that are built into our systems?

Rep. Walker:
We need to show up when the bill is up for debate to share personal stories. One person cannot keep a bill in a committee- it is not true. It's about telling stories. If you have the political will to pass a bill you can do it. It only takes a few calls. It is about voices; you have to speak up.

Inspiration to Action 
-Promote Memorandum of Understanding Legislation 
-Be specific about what you are advocating for. Know where your money goes- targeted dollars 
-Work to help better train teachers on classroom management 
-Think differently-drama classes for teachers, no desks, be with the kids 
-Educate yourself on the school to prison pipeline 
-Talk about segregation- read “American Apartheid” 
-Get outraged, make change 
-Work to change legislation on recommended sentencing for children 
-Talk to your legislators-tell them you want change on specific issues 
-Volunteer with CT Juvenile Justice Alliance as an advocate 
-Speak up! Call you legislators 

What are your thoughts on the current state of juvenile justice? What can be done to create a more just system? How do we mobilize people to take action? Sound off in the comments! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Salons at Stowe Children Behind Bars: #Juvenile Justice?

Tomorrow, November 13th, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center will be hosting a Salon entitled Children Behind Bars: Juvenile Justice? The Salon will feature Sandra Staub, Legislative Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, and State Representative Toni Walker.

The topic of juvenile justice calls on issues of human rights, education, economic equality, and equal representation under the law. This issue has been one of recent political relevance, and one of our 2014 Student Stowe Prize Winners, Madeline Sachs, wrote on this very topic in a piece entitled "Juvenile Life without Parole."

The Salon will include introductions to the topic by both features guests, as well as an opportunity for audience participation and questions. Our conversation will serve as a launching point for creative and concentrated action on the issue of juvenile justice-we hope to see you there!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The latest from 2011 Stowe Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity  has just been released - check out Paul Collier's review in the New York Times: Collier on A Path Appears.

What is your take on Kristof and WuDunn's latest work?  Will reading it transform your life?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Workshop tonight with Dr. Bill Howe: Understanding Racial Micro-agressions

Do you know how others hear what you say?  Have you ever felt stereotyped and/or put down by a colleague or friend's remarks? 

Do you want to understand better how others hear what you say  and  learn how to communicate without bias?

Join us tonight for a Salon at Stowe workshop with Dr. Bill Howe. Howe's programs at Stowe have been popular - so, to accommodate more people, we will meet across the street at Immanuel Congregational Fellows (10 Woodland Street in Hartford) from 5 to 7:30 PM.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Amnesty International #MyBodyMyRights Campaign

Amnesty International has launched "My Body, My Rights," a global campaign predicated on ensuring that everyone has access to fundamental sexual and reproductive rights. The agency to make conscious choices regarding one's body, sexuality, and reproductive life are critical components of basic human rights.

Amnesty International maintains that everyone has the right too:
-Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life, and identity without fear of coercion or criminalization
-Seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception
-Decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have
-Choose your intimate partner and whether and when to marry
-Decide what type of family to create
-Access family planning; contraception; safe and accessible post-abortion care; access to abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault or incest, and pregnancy that poses a risk to the life or to physical or mental health; and, where legal, access to safe abortion services
-Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, including rape and other sexual violence,  female genital mutilation, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced    marriage.

What do you think of the campaign? What types of policy initiatives can be enacted to improve access to reproductive and sexual rights? In what ways can members of the developed world help ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of those in developing nations?  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Haunting Human Trafficking PSA Hopes to Motivate Action

Filmmaker Jonathan Quigg recently released a short, one-minute Public Service Announcement that details the realities of victims of human trafficking. Poetic and engaging, the video reveals the often invisible existence of victims of trafficking and the ways in which this institution operates in everyday communities around the globe.

Quigg hopes the PSA will spark dialogue and awareness on the issue of modern day slavery and human trafficking. From an interveiw with The Huffington Post Quigg writes, "The main message of this video is quite simply that this is an issue that actually happens...It might not be obvious, but it truly is happening both internationally and within the cities that we live."

What do you think of the PSA? Is it a way to motivate action around the issue of human trafficking? After viewing this video, what are appropriate next steps? Is spreading awareness on the issue of modern day slavery enough to create lasting change?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

World Affairs Council and Stowe Center Host Workshop on Human Trafficking

This afternoon, the World Affairs Council of CT in conjunction with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, held a screening of Not My Life followed by a workshop of ways to address the issue of human trafficking in classrooms and communities. Not My Life, directed by Robert Bilheimer and narrated by Glenn Close, examines the brutal practices of modern slavery and the ways in which human trafficking exists on a global scale. The workshop, lead by social studies teacher Wendy Nelson-Kauffman of the Metropolitan Learning Center and representatives from Love146, an organization combating child trafficking, guided participants through techniques and best practices to approach the often challenging and intense nature of human trafficking.

The workshop and film nearly filled to capacity, with students, community members, and local social activists in attendance.

This event is part of a larger initiative within the national World Affairs Councils of America to bring more awareness and knowledge to the issue of human trafficking.

What do you know about human trafficking?  Have you seen Not My Life? What are ways you will spread the word on the issue of human trafficking?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#Ferguson kids call out racism in viral video

A video featuring young residents of Ferguson, MO discussing racism and its current implications, has gone viral. The short video is produced by a socially-conscious t-shirt company and includes young people, aged 6 to 13, delivering statements towards white America on the insidious reality of contemporary racism and the effects of the killing of Michael Brown. Funny and provocative, the video includes lines like “Just because BeyoncĂ© is on your playlist and you voted for Obama doesn’t mean that our generation has seen the end of racist drama.”   Watch below:

What do you think of the video? Do you think it is an honest attempt to spark dialogue about race relations in America? Or just an attempt to sell t-shirts? What do you think of the pairing of activism and commercialism? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Retail Brand Hornbach Creates Ad for Acceptance

German retail brand Hornbach, has released a new advertisement with a moral message. The ad details the daily life of a teenage girl and the funny and surprising lengths her father goes to to make her feel accepted. Watch below! 

What do you think of corporate brands integrating positive social messages in their advertising? Does it work? Or is it just another avenue to gain customers and revenue? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Combating Racial #Biases

In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, much attention has been paid to the way race and racism operate in police forces, communities, and the media.  In "I am Racist, And So Are You," writer Rachel Shadoan argues that implicit racial biases are so pervasive that it is seemingly impossible to not hold some racial prejudices. Implicit biases refer to stereotypical judgments and pretenses that operate on an often subconscious level and are learned through family, peers, or the media. While often subtle, these biases reinforce an unequal racial hierarchy that privileges some individuals, and discriminates against others.  

Protests in Ferguson, MO after the killing of Michael Brown 

In an earlier blog post we wrote about a new project from MTV that aims to combat everyday biases in race, gender, and sexuality.

What do you think? Does everyone hold some biases? Is everyone racist? Can a member of a privileged identity group, whether in race, gender, or sexuality, not be biased? How? What are ways we can combat bias in schools, communities, and in our police forces? Let us know in the comments!   

Monday, September 8, 2014

We are Woman #Rally

In partnership with Equal Rights Amendment Now and Progressive Democrats of America, "We Are Woman," a group of committed activists working to bring issues of gender equality to national consciousness, is organizing a rally in Washington D.C. on September 13th. The intention of the rally is to support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women. The event will follow a Congressional Day of Action on September 12th, where We Are Woman will meet with members of Congress.


Rallies and protests represent one way individuals can fight to have their voices heard. Do you think rallies and protests are effective means of action?  Do you think this rally will be successful? Can rallies and protests encourage political expediency on certain issues, like equal rights for women?  How will you take action on gender equality? Let us know in the comments!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Check out @NatUrbanLeague's website

The National Urban League, "a powerhouse for helping people secure economic empowerment," has a bold and interactive website featuring a new "I AM EMPOWERED" campaign in recognition of its centennial. The campaign seeks to instill messages of hope and individual empowerment in order to make a lasting difference around the issues of education, employment, housing, and healthcare. Visitors are to the site are encouraged to take action and sign a pledge committing their "time and talents to ensure that the nation is empowered to achieve the following goals by 2025:.
  • Every American child is ready for college, work and life.
  • Every American has access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits.
  • Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms.
  • Every American has access to quality and affordable health care solutions."
Get Empowered by Taking the Pledge

How can organizations like the Urban League use such pledges to motivate followers to take action? Do you think campaigns like "I AM EMPOWERED" are successful in inspiring change? Will you take the Pledge?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Are you thinking about #humantrafficking on this #LaborDay?

As Americans celebrate Labor Day and recognize "the social and economic achievements of American workers,"  there are millions across the world who are victims of labor trafficking.  As McKenzie Cantrell, attorney with Kentucky Equal Justice Center, expressed in The Courier-Journal's "Labor of trafficked workers,"
This Labor Day, I'm thinking about workers. Not the workers who are enjoying the holiday at home with their families but the ones who are forced to work 12 hours or more a day and up to seven days a week. These workers are victims of human trafficking, specifically labor trafficking.

In her editorial, Cantrell talks about the realities of human trafficking but also identifies ways for readers to take action. She recommends:
• Learn more:Can you leave your job if you want to? Are you in debt to your employer? Is your employer paying you? The answers to these questions could reveal that a worker is subject to forced labor. Learn more "red flags" from a national group like Polaris Project. If you believe someone has been forced or coerced to work, call or text the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
• Take action: Your church or community group can host a forum, fundraiser, or community service project to raise awareness about forced labor. For example, advocates distribute chapsticks with the national hotline number at human trafficking hotspots across the state, which your group can help assemble. Victims' services groups like Catholic Charities in Louisville need basic items (furniture, gift cards, baby products) to help victims with short term housing.
• Spend conscientiously: Voting with your dollar is the most powerful thing you can do. Some everyday products like chocolate and coffee are tainted with child labor or forced labor. Research fair trade products and incorporate a couple of them into your regular shopping list.

On this Labor Day, what will you do to raise awareness of human and labor trafficking? How will you take action to end slavery, an injustice which Harriet Beecher Stowe herself fought to end through her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin and subsequent activism?

Images courtesy of The Polaris Project.