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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

"Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future"

"There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering."
- Lonnie G. Bunch

On this last day of National African American History Month, we share a speech by our colleague Lonnie Bunch, author, historian, lecturer, and director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Titled "Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future - The Continuing Importance of Black History Month," it considers the importance of African American history in looking to the future.

Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future

The Continuing Importance of Black History Month

Carter Woodson, father of Black History Month, was commemorated by the United States Postal Service with a stamp in his image on February 1, 1984.
Carter Woodson, father of Black History Month, in his private library. Woodson recognized that knowing and understanding our past was the foundation to our future.
No one has played a greater role in helping all Americans know the black past than Carter G. Woodson, the individual who created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in February 1926. Woodson was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard—following W.E.B. DuBois by a few years. To Woodson, the black experience was too important simply to be left to a small group of academics. Woodson believed that his role was to use black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplift. By 1916, Woodson had moved to DC and established the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and Culture,” an organization whose goal was to make black history accessible to a wider audience. Woodson was a strange and driven man whose only passion was history, and he expected everyone to share his passion.
This impatience led Woodson to create Negro History Week in 1926, to ensure that school children be exposed to black history. Woodson chose the second week of February in order to celebrate the birthday of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is important to realize that Negro History Week was not born in a vacuum. The 1920s saw the rise in interest in African American culture that was represented by the Harlem Renaissance where writers likeLangston Hughes, Georgia Douglass Johnson, Claude McKay—wrote about the joys and sorrows of blackness, and musicians like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Jimmy Lunceford captured the new rhythms of the cities created in part by the thousands of southern blacks who migrated to urban centers like Chicago. And artists like Aaron Douglass, Richard Barthe, and Lois Jones created images that celebrated blackness and provided more positive images of the African American experience.
Woodson hoped to build upon this creativity and further stimulate interest through Negro History Week. Woodson had two goals. One was to use history to prove to white America that blacks had played important roles in the creation of America and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens. In essence, Woodson—by celebrating heroic black figures—be they inventors, entertainers, or soldiers—hoped to prove our worth, and by proving our worth—he believed that equality would soon follow. His other goal was to increase the visibility of black life and history, at a time when few newspapers, books, and universities took notice of the black community, except to dwell upon the negative. Ultimately Woodson believed Negro History Week—which became Black History Month in 1976—would be a vehicle for racial transformation forever.
The question that faces us today is whether or not Black History Month is still relevant? Is it still a vehicle for change? Or has it simply become one more school assignment that has limited meaning for children. Has Black History Month become a time when television and the media stack their black material? Or is it a useful concept whose goals have been achieved? After all, few—except the most ardent rednecks - could deny the presence and importance of African Americans to American society or as my then-14 year old daughter Sarah put it, “I see Colin Powell everyday on TV, all my friends—black and white—are immersed in black culture through music and television. And America has changed dramatically since 1926—Is not it time to retire Black History Month as we have eliminated white and colored signs on drinking fountains?” I will spare you the three hour lesson I gave her.
I would like to suggest that despite the profound change in race relations that has occurred in our lives, Carter G. Woodson’s vision for black history as a means of transformation and change is still quite relevant and quite useful.African American history month, with a bit of tweaking, is still a beacon of change and hope that is still surely needed in this world. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but lo, how far there is to go.
While there are many reasons and examples that I could point towards, let me raise five concerns or challenges that African Americans — in fact — all Americans — face that black history can help address:
  1. The Challenge of Forgetting: You can tell a great deal about a country and a people by what they deem important enough to remember, to create moments for — what they put in their museum and what they celebrate. In Scandinavia — there are monuments to the Vikings as a symbol of freedom and the spirit of exploration. In Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis celebrated their supposed Aryan supremacy through monument and song. While America traditionally revels in either Civil War battles or founding fathers. Yet I would suggest that we learn even more about a country by what it chooses to forget — its mistakes, its disappointments, and its embarrassments. In some ways, African American History month is a clarion call to remember. Yet it is a call that is often unheeded. 

    Let’s take the example of one of the great unmentionable in American history — slavery. For nearly 250 years slavery not only existed but it was one of the dominant forces in American life. Political clout and economic fortune depended on the labor of slaves. And the presence of this peculiar institution generated an array of books, publications, and stories that demonstrate how deeply it touched America. And while we can discuss basic information such as the fact that in 1860 — 4 million blacks were enslaved, and that a prime field hand cost $1,000, while a female, with her childbearing capability, brought $1,500, we find few moments to discuss the impact, legacy, and contemporary meaning of slavery. 

    In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution, about to open an exhibition that included slavery, decided to survey 10,000 Americans. The results were fascinating — 92% of white respondents felt slavery had little meaning to them — these respondents often said “my family did not arrive until after the end of slavery.” Even more disturbing was the fact that 79% of African Americans expressed no interest or some embarrassment about slavery. It is my hope that with greater focus and collaboration Black History Month can stimulate discussion about a subject that both divides and embarrasses. 

    As a historian, I have always felt that slavery is an African American success story because we found ways to survive, to preserve our culture and our families. Slavery is also ripe with heroes, such as slaves who ran away or rebelled, like Harriet Tubman or Denmark Vessey, but equally important are the forgotten slave fathers and mothers who raised families and kept a people alive. I am not embarrassed by my slave ancestors; I am in awe of their strength and their humanity. I would love to see the African American community rethink its connection to our slave past. I also think of something told to me by a Mr. Johnson, who was a former sharecropper I interviewed in Georgetown, SC: “That though the slaves were bought they were also brave. Though they were sold, they were also strong.”
  2. The Challenge of Confrontation and Perseverance: American revels in its greatness but often fails to confront or come to grips with the darker moments of American history. Exploring African American history could allow America to lance the boil of the past and move towards healing: Take the example of the mistreatment and brutalization of the African American male over the last 120 years. Despite rhetoric that celebrates the docile, childlike quality of black males, white America has always been afraid of them. Tom Jefferson once said the presence of African American males is like having a wolf by the ears, sooner or later it will get you. From 1881 until 1917, nearly 100 black men annually were lynched for crimes real or imagined. And generations of black men found themselves on chain gangs or in prisons. 

    Carter G Woodson Postage Stamp
    Carter Woodson, father of Black History Month, was commemorated by the United States Postal Service with a stamp in his image on February 1, 1984
    Yet, the story is not simply negative but also one of perseverance against all odds. The story of the number of black men able to obtain an education, contribute to society, maintain families, and overcome, is an extremely important element of the American past. While America often celebrates the Horatio Alger Myth someone who overcomes the odds rarely are those figures African American. Yet, who better to teach the American story of perseverance and achievement than African Americans. I’d like to see Chicago embrace the story of Emmitt Till. What a treasure is his mother, Mamie Mobley.
  3. The Challenge of Preserving a People’s Culture: While the African American community is no longer invisible, I am unsure that as a community we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure the preservation of African American cultural patrimony in appropriate institutions. Whether we like it or not, museums, archives, and libraries not only preserves culture they legitimize it. Therefore, it is incumbent of African Americans to work with cultural institutions to preserve their family photography, documents, and objects. While African Americans have few traditions of giving material to museums, it is crucial that more of the black past make it into American cultural repositories.

    A good example is the Smithsonian, when the National Museum of American History wanted to mount an exhibition on slavery, it found it did not have any objects that described slavery. That is partially a response to a lack of giving by the African American Community. This lack of involvement also affects the preservation of black historic sites. Though there has been more attention paid to these sites, too much of our history has been paved over, gone through urban renewal, gentrified, or unidentified, or un-acknowledged. Hopefully a renewed Black History Month can focus attention on the importance of preserving African American culture.
  4. There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.
  5. The Challenge of Maintaining a Community: As the African American Community diversifies and splinters, it is crucial to find mechanisms and opportunities to maintain our sense of community. As some families lose the connection with their southern roots, it is imperative that we understand our common heritage and history. The communal nature of black life has provided substance, guidance, and comfort for generations. And though our communities are quite diverse, it is our common heritage that continues to hold us together.
  6. The Power of Inspiration: One thing has not changed. That is the need to draw inspiration and guidance from the past. And through that inspiration, people will find tools and paths that will help them live their lives. Who could not help but be inspired by Martin Luther King’s oratory, commitment to racial justice, and his ultimate sacrifice. Or by the arguments of William and Ellen Craft or Henry “Box” Brown who used great guile to escape from slavery. Who could not draw substance from the creativity of Madame CJ Walker or the audacity and courage of prize fighter Jack Johnson. Or who could not continue to struggle after listening to the mother of Emmitt Till share her story of sadness and perseverance. I know that when life is tough, I take solace in the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, or Gwendolyn Brooks. And I find comfort in the rhythms of Louie Armstrong, Sam Cooke or Dinah Washington. And I draw inspiration from the anonymous slave who persevered so that the culture could continue.
Let me conclude by re-emphasizing that Black History Month continues to serve us well. In part because Woodson’s creation is as much about today as it is about the past. Experiencing Black History Month every year reminds us that history is not dead or distant from our lives.
Lonnie G. Bunch
Lonnie G. Bunch
Rather, I see the African American past in the way my daughter’s laugh reminds me of my grandmother. I experience the African American past when I think of my grandfather choosing to leave the South rather than continue to experience share cropping and segregation. Or when I remember sitting in the back yard listening to old men tell stories. Ultimately, African American History — and its celebration throughout February — is just as vibrant today as it was when Woodson created it 85 years ago. Because it helps us to remember there is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Carter G. Woodson and this history of National African American History Month

National African American History Month, or Black History Month, was established in 1976 as the result of the life's work of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, son of former slaves, spent his life rewriting black history "back into the history books" and calling attention to the significance of African Americans in our nation's story.

The video below, courtesy of The History Channel, provides an overview of the "Origins of Black History Month."

Though we have an entire month dedicated to the celebration of black history, there is still more that must be done to preserve, commemorate and learn from the contributions of African Americans, and reach for equality in our society. Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post about "The Continuing Importance of Black History Month." 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February is African American History Month

February is African American History Month and the Stowe Center joins "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 in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society." See below for information about African American History Month's history and importance, courtesy of The Library of Congress. Visit www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov for more information about the month, African Americans who have impacted our country, exhibitions, audio/video, classroom curriculum, and more.

As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.

By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

(Excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Take action today for Museums Advocacy Day!

Today is Museums Advocacy Day! We hope you will (re)read our blog post from last week, Museums Advocacy Day 2014, about the importance of museums and our hope that you, as a friend of the Stowe Center, will encourage your Congressional leaders to support museums as as historic and cultural sites, institutions of learning, program centers, and community anchors.

Below are statistics about museums as well as ways you can take action today and show your support of museums! (courtesy of the American Alliance of Museums)

Did You Know?
Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education; the typical museum devotes three-quarters of its education budget to K-12 students.
  • Museums directly contribute $21 billion to the U.S. economy each year. They generate billions more through indirect spending by their visitors.
  • The nonprofit arts and culture industry annually generates over $135 billion in economic activity, supports more than 4.1 million full-time jobs and returns over $22 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. 
  • Governments that support the arts see an average return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.
  • 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities. These travelers—including visitors to museums—spend 63% more on average than other leisure travelers.
  • At least 22% of museums are located in rural areas and engage in programs to bring education and access to their materials to their communities in a variety of ways.
While many working in the museum field know that museums play a key role in education, job creation, tourism, economic development and more, elected officials are not fully aware of our enormous impact. Help us spread the word about the importance of museums on this, our sixth Museums Advocacy Day.

What You Can Do: Advocate from Anywhere
This year, wherever you are, you can use our updated tools and materials to join the nationwide effort to make the case for museums.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The lasting effects of bullying

Did you know that bullying can have long-term effects on the health and well-being of children...even after the bullying stops? Learn more about the effects from the American Academy of Pediatrics' tweet below.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Publicly standing up to bullies

Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor with WKBT out of La Crosse, WI, received the following email from a viewer:

Hi Jennifer,
It's unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years. Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Rather than sit back and ignore this message, she chose to speak out and stand up to her bully...on public television!

Watch Jennifer's response below or at Upworthy.com.

...I will never be able to thank you enough for your words of support, and for taking a stand against this bully. We are better than that email. We are better than the bullies that will try to take us down. And I leave you with this: to all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience, that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many."
Have you ever been bullied? How have you found the courage to be an "upstander" and confront your bullies? We encourage you to share your stories below. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014-15 Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Fellowship at The Gilder Lehrman Center

GLC Logo
2014-15 Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Fellowship

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (GLC), part of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, invites applications for a residential fellowship from scholars and public intellectuals to study the fundamental origins and circumstances surrounding debt bondage, forced labor, human trafficking, and other forms of modern day slavery. Traditional academics as well as writers/researchers without academic institutional affiliation are encouraged to apply. The Center is offering one fellowship in 2014-15.

This is an interdisciplinary fellowship program, based in history and the social sciences, which aims to promote innovative research on the origins and conditions that lead to contemporary slavery. In recent years many NGOs and other activists have worked very hard to provide data, to engage in intervention, and to raise public and governmental awareness on this international problem. At the GLC and at Yale, and other cooperating institutions such as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati we believe the issues of modern slavery would benefit from a more robust research base rooted in, but not necessarily limited to, historical analysis and interpretation. In this aim and spirit we offer this annual fellowship.

The Fellow will be expected to be in full-time residence during the academic year beginning September 1, 2014. An earned doctorate in a relevant field or alternatively equivalent qualifications for research and teaching are expected for the successful candidate. In addition to working on his/her own research project, the Fellow is expected to teach one course related to his/her research and hold related office hours for students, and offer one public lecture or conduct a workshop either at Yale or at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The Fellow is also expected to interact with students and faculty, contribute to the intellectual life of the Center, and participate in its collective activities and development. Ideally, the fellow will also complete a significant publication during his/her residency.

Under the direction of Professor David W. Blight, the Center fosters an intellectual community at Yale through the interaction of students, faculty, and visiting scholars interested in the understanding of all aspects of the institution of slavery from the earliest times to the present. The Center organizes various activities, including lectures, speaker series, workshops, and conferences. For more information, visit www.yale.edu/glc.

On the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, is the Civil War still going on?

“There are some, apparently, who consider this to be a lengthy truce and believe that the war is still going on.”
- Charles Custer

On February 20, 1864, Union forces approached 5,000 Confederate soldiers waiting near Olustee Station, Florida. The bloodiest Civil War battle on Florida soil, the Battle of Olustee resulted in a Confederate victory and the death, wounding or disappearance of 2,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate soldiers.

Today, the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park features three monuments to Confederate soldiers but no commemoration of the Union lives lost. As a result of visitors to the site asking time after time about a monument to Union soldiers, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War last year requested permission from the state parks department to place an obelisk in honor of Union soldiers on the battlefield. What ensured was "an online call to arms...issued by the national Confederate group’s leader to oppose the “Darth Vader-esque obscene obsidian obelisk” in what the group’s members see as the Second Battle of Olustee."

In The New York Times' "Blue and Gray Still in Conflict at a Battle Site," Lizette Alvarez tells the story of this "Second Battle of Olustee" as descendants of both Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as other Florida residents, debate whether the Union should be memorialized on the site of a Confederate victory. In the words of John W. Adams, a member and former division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans: “Old grudges die hard...And feelings run deep.”

What are your reactions to this article and story? Are we still a nation divided over a war fought 150 years ago?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FBI reports on human trafficking at the Super Bowl

Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain) called the Super Bowl "the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet," and we shared news surrounding modern day slavery at the annual sporting event in our post "What does Freedom Day mean in 2014?" Earlier this month, the FBI reported on the 16 juveniles rescued from prostitution and trafficking during the two weeks before and just after the Super Bowl. Read more about the victims and realities of trafficking in "Kids forced into prostitution for Super Bowl: FBI."

U.S. Army helicopters from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade fly over Metlife Stadium ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos on February 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.: U.S. Army helicopters fly over Metlife Stadium ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos on February 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

How will you take action to ensure freedom for all people? We encourage you to share your reactions and comments below. 

Museums Advocacy Day 2014

As followers and supporters of the Stowe Center, you recognize the importance of museums as historic and cultural sites, institutions of learning, program centers, and community anchors. Next week, February 24-25, supporters like you will travel to Washington, D.C. to team up with museum professionals and advocate for federal support of museums as part of Museums Advocacy Day 2014. Read below for more information about the American Alliance of Museums' Museums Advocacy Day and how you can get involved. Even if you cannot travel to D.C., we hope you will post on Facebook, send a tweet, or share with friends the value you see in museums. We also encourage you to contact your legislators to express your support of institutions like the Stowe Center!

Museums Advocacy Day 2014 Support and Benefits
On Feb. 24–25, museum supporters from around the country will gather in Washington, DC, to bring a unified message to Congress about why museums are essential and how federal policies affect museums. Museums Advocacy Day is made possible through the support and participation of museum service organizations, graduate programs, museums, individuals and corporate supporters.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Call for Papers: Women in the Film Industry at 2014 Film & History Conference


 Managing the Scene: Women in the Film Industry
An area of multiple panels for the
2014 Film & History Conference
Golden Ages: Styles and Personalities, Genres and Histories

DEADLINE for abstracts: June 1, 2014

Has there been a “golden age” for women working behind the camera—as writers or directors, for example, or as producers, editors, choreographers, costume designers, or set decorators? Women represented only 18% of the primary film management of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012, and directed only 4% of the fiction films slated for release in 2014. Just four women have been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Director of a fiction film, and only one (Kathryn Bigelow in 2009) took home the trophy. Is the golden age of women as principal film managers gone, in a flicker? Or it is upon us? What traits characterize a film “managed”—directed, produced, edited, written, choreographed, or even critiqued—by a woman? And why might those traits be golden?

This area invites abstracts that trace—or perhaps anticipate—the histories of women operating behind the cameras, as directors, producers, assistants, scholars, and critics. Proposals might address topics such as

- career paths and strategies adopted by women in the film industry
- critical histories and controversies explored by feminist film scholarship
- the participation of women in national cinemas
- women filmmakers' roles in shaping the "women’s film" and other genres aimed at female audiences (family melodrama, romantic comedy)
- women's involvement in traditionally male-oriented film genres, from the action film to science fiction
- creative innovation in feminist documentary, animation, and new media
- gendered venues such as Women Make Movies and Lifetime Network
- women as active audience members, fans, and remixers

Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (www.filmandhistory.org).

Please e-mail your 200-word proposal by 1 June 2014 to the area co-chairs:

Debra White-Stanley
Keene State College

Karen A. Ritzenhoff
Central Connecticut State University

Monday, February 17, 2014

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day!

When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, she did not expect to change peoples' opinions worldwide and the of history - she simply wanted to shed light on the injustice of slavery. Among the many things her work and impact demonstrate is that we all have the ability to make a difference with our actions, no matter how big or small.
Today, February 17, is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. What will you do to help someone in need? How will you take action on an issue important to you? Share your ideas and acts of kindness in the comments section below to demonstrate how we are making the world a better place!
For more on acts of random kindness, last week's Random Acts of Kindness Week, and kindness ideas, visit www.RandomActsofKindness.org.
In the words of Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell in the 2007 movie Evan Almighty: "How do we change the world? One act of random kindness at a time."

Friday, February 14, 2014

V Day 2014: One Billion Rising for Justice

Eve Ensler, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues, started One Billion Rising in 2012 as part of her V-Day movement to call attention to violence against women. Read below for more on One Billion Rising and how you can join the movement today!

On 14 February 2013, one billion people in 207 countries rose and danced to demand an end to violence against women and girls.

On 14 February 2014*, we are escalating our efforts, calling on women and men everywhere to RISE, RELEASE, DANCE, and demand JUSTICE!

ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice – courthouses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not. It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.

Our stories have been buried, denied, erased, altered, and minimized by patriarchal systems that allow impunity to reign. Justice begins when we speak, release, and acknowledge the truth in solidarity and community. ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is an invitation to break free from confinement, obligation, shame, guilt, grief, pain, humiliation, rage, and bondage.

The campaign is a recognition that we cannot end violence against women without looking at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Impunity lives at the heart of these interlocking forces.

It is a call to bring on revolutionary justice.

Begin to imagine what Rising for Justice looks like for you, your community, your city, your country.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Summer of Solutions Hartford's 2014 Urban Farming Internship

Last April, we welcomed co-founder of Summer Solutions Hartford Jennifer Roach for our "Cultivating Food Justice" Salon. Summer of Solutions is a youth leadership development and food justice summer program in Hartford that engages young people in building community and school gardens. Summer of Solutions is now seeking 12 interns for a 7-month internship in urban agriculture. Visit their blog or click HERE to apply!

We are looking for 12 young people (ages 14-30) to intern with our program this year. The internship commitment is 10 hours/week from April 1st-October 31st. Interns will work in one of our community or school gardens for 8 hours/week. Their time will be spent building and maintaining growing spaces, organizing community events, teaching gardening to children, and harvesting with our neighbors.

For 2 hours/week the whole group will come together to participate in a workshop series on leadership development and environmental justice.

Each intern will receive a $2,500 stipend for successful participation in the program. Some travel assistance is also available based on need.

The application closes on March 1st, and applicants will be notified over email if they are accepted by March 10th.

Tonight's "Invisible No More" Salon POSTPONED

Due to the snowstorm, tonight's "Invisible No More: Youth Homelessness in Connecticut" Salon has been postponed. Please join us for the rescheduled event on May 15.

Our next Salon will be "Crisis on Campus: Speaking Out to End the Violence" on March 13 with featured guests Mary De Lucia (Sexual Assault Crisis Center, YWCA New Britain) and Claire Capozzi (Women for Change, University of Hartford). Check back for more details and resources before the Salon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln!

Today marks the 205th birthday of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is known, among other things, for serving as President during the American Civil War and for authoring the Emancipation Proclamation.
Family lore tells that when Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, he called her "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war," crediting Uncle Tom's Cabin as a motivator for the outbreak of the Civil War. Stowe visited Lincoln at the White House to encourage him to sign his September 1862 draft of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
For more on Lincoln, visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library website. 

Statue of Harriet Beecher Stowe meeting Abraham Lincoln in December 1862
Hartford, CT Riverfront

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jailing homeless people

Yesterday we shared the inspiring story of 100,000 Homes, an organization "working together to find permanent homes for 100,000 chronic and medically vulnerable homeless Americans by July 2014" in 175 communities across the country. Particularly moving is that so far they have housed 83,194 people!

Countering this positive story, however, is an article in the Huffington Post which shares that "A Florida County Spent Over $5 Million Jailing Homeless People. It Could've Spent Less On Shelter." According to reporter Eleanor Goldberg, Osceola County has spent $5 million over the past nine years arresting and jailing 37 of the 300 homeless people in the county; those 37 people have been arrested 1,250 times since 2004. Many of the homeless in Osceola, including those arrested, have physical disabilities, mental illness, and/or are veterans. In nearby Tampa, homelessness was criminalized in July 2013 which has resulted in 356 homeless people in jail, a staggering number which could cost the city $6 million per year.

Goldberg argues that finding housing for the homeless (rather than arresting them) would cost both Osceola and Tampa less money while proving to be more effective in solving the problem of homelessness, citing a successful campaign in Phoenix, AZ.

Want to learn more about this story and housing the homeless? Read Goldberg's article HERE or visit Impact Homelessness, a group working to fight homelessness in Central Florida.

How does homelessness impact you and your life? Is homelessness an important issue to you? Share your insights and the actions you're taking in the comments section below.

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And for more on the issue of homelessness, don't miss our first Salon of the winter season, "Invisible No More: Youth Homelessness in Connecticut," this Thursday, February 13 at 5pm in the Stowe Center's Katharine Seymour Day House. Keep an eye on www.harrietbeecherstowe.org and www.facebook.com/HarrietBeecherStowe for updates and a possible snow date.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Housing the homeless can save money?

Did you know that providing housing to the homeless can save money? According to the 100,000 Homes Campaign and the more than 175 nationwide communities "working together to find permanent homes for 100,000 chronic and medically vulnerable homeless Americans by July 2014," taxpayer dollars can be saved by providing apartments to those who live on the streets. Watch Anderson Cooper's 60 Minutes segment below or HERE for more about the campaign.

And for more on the issue of homelessness, don't miss our first Salon of the winter season, "Invisible No More: Youth Homelessness in Connecticut," this Thursday, February 13 at 5pm in the Stowe Center's Katharine Seymour Day House. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

An inspiring story of teenage empathy

We hope this CBS Evening News story of empathy and anti-bullying inspires you this weekend!

"On the Road: Middle school football players execute life-changing play"

As part of our continuing series "On the Road," Steve Hartman meets the Olivet Eagles, a middle school football team who took a fledgling player under their wing and executed what may be the most successful play of all time.

February 13: Our first Salon of the season!

Next Thursday, February 13, we kick off our winter Salons at Stowe series with "Invisible No More: Youth Homelessness in Connecticut." Join us for a conversation featuring Alicia Woodsby (Partnership for Strong Communities), Lisa Tepper Bates (Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness) and Stacey Violante Cote (Center for Children's Advocacy), moderated by Susan Campbell (Partnership for Strong Communities). The program will be from 5-7pm in the Katharine Seymour Day House. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made via Info@StoweCenter.org or 860-522-9258, ext. 317.

Looking to learn more about youth homelessness in Connecticut prior to the Salon? We recommend:

"INVISIBLE no more: Creating opportunities for youth who are homeless"
The Consultation Center, Yale University School of Medicine
Derrick M. Gordon, Ph.D. and Bronwyn A. Hunter, Ph.D.

"'There Are A Whole Lot Of Dreams Here In Skid Row': Homeless People Share Their Hopes In Poignant Video"
Huffington Post
by Eleanor Goldberg

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What do you have zero tolerance for?

What do you have zero tolerance for? What is the issue so close to your heart that you would speak out to raise awareness and inspire others to action? Today is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and many, including 2011 Stowe Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, are encouraging their followers to call an end to FGM.

Join us in calling for an end to female genital mutilation this Zero Tolerance Day! Together we can #endFGM. http://t.co/mQHHOlkV7s

For more on Zero Tolerance Day and female genital mutilation , check out the UK Department for International Development and the United Nations' pages on this issue.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"America the Beautiful"?


If you watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday, you may have seen Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful" commercial featuring scenes from American life paired with a multi-language version of "America the Beautiful." While some saw the commercial as a powerful celebration of American diversity, others took offense to the advertisement. In "Coca-Cola's "America the Beautiful" Super Bowl Commercial Sparks Outrage on Twitter," E! Online reported that following the ad #SpeakAmerican instantly began trending on Twitter. Many angry comments flooded social media in the ensuing hours, some attacking the commercial, others attacking the attackers.

Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast also reacted to the commercial, specifically the hateful criticisms. In "Coca-Cola Critics Have Never Heard of ‘E Pluribus Unum’," he commented:

But here’s the thing: America was intended to be a multicultural nation. The philosophy of our nation’s Founding Fathers is etched upon the Great Seal of The United States adopted by Congress in 1782. There it is written: “E pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, one.”

It could not be more clear that the very people who created our country intended it be a place where people of different backgrounds could live together and become one as Americans. That’s exactly why my mother’s parents emigrated from Sicily, and my Palestinian father came to this country. It was the promise of nation where different backgrounds would not only be tolerated but thrive together.

And to be honest, the notion of “E pluribus Unum” is more relevant today than it was in 1782 because of our nation’s evolving demographics. Currently, racial and ethnic minorities represent approximately half of the children under age five in the U.S. And estimates are that by 2043
the white majority in the U.S. will be over. America will soon be even more diverse and multicultural.

Here’s the simple message that those who were outraged over the Coke commercial must accept: America will change with or without you.

How did you react to the "America the Beautiful" commercial? What did the commercial represent for you? Share your reactions below.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Our Stories" writing workshops for girls

This March and April, Connecticut Humanities will present "Our Stories," a series of Saturday writing workshops for girls between the ages of 14 and 18. These free programs will provide "an opportunity to sharpen your skills, share your experiences and have fun with other young women from across the state." We are excited to announce the the April 5 workshops, Writing to Inspire Action, will be co-presented with and held at the Stowe Center! Participants will learn about Stowe's life and impact and how they can use their writing to also create positive change.

Do you know a young woman who might be interested in these workshops? Share the flier below or visit www.cthumanities.org for more information.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beyonce: "Gender Equality Is a Myth!"

http://shriverreport.org/special-report/a-womans-nation-pushes-back-from-the-brink/Through her website The Shriver Report: Reporting From the Front Lines of Our Changing Lives, Maria Shriver has partnered with the Center for American Progress to launch A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. The study and full report "will examine the rates of financial insecurity among American women and the children who depend on them, investigate the impact of it on our nation’s institutions and economic future, and promote modern solutions to help women strengthen their financial status." The website and report feature commentaries and essays by various celebrities, including one powerful piece "Gender Equality Is a Myth!" by BeyoncĂ© Knowles-Carter. Read Beyonce's piece below or HERE, and see a brief introduction to A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink.

Gender Equality Is a Myth!
By Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.

Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.

We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Women are more than 50 percent of the population and more than 50 percent of voters. We must demand that we all receive 100 percent of the opportunities.

This is an excerpt from The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, in partnership with the Center for American Progress. Download the full report here for FREE from January 12th – January 15th.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What does Freedom Day mean in 2014?

Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed a joint resolution by the House and Senate which outlawed slavery; the resolution was later ratified as the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. Since 1942, February 1 has been observed as National Freedom Day, a day celebrating the freedoms of America.

But what does National Freedom Day mean in 2014? While institutionalized slavery has been abolished since 1865, there are more people enslaved today than at any other point in human history. Human trafficking, debt slavery, and labor exploitation - among other forms of slavery - enslave an estimated 29.8 million people worldwide, according to the Global Slavery Index 2013.

It is rather timely that this year's National Freedom Day fell on the day before the Super Bowl, an event often associated with sexual exploitation. In the recent Washington Post article "N.J. works to curb sex trafficking before Super Bowl," reporters Katie Zezima and Samantha Henry investigated the ongoing problem of trafficking at Super Bowls, citing Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain) as calling the event "the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet." The suspicions of such exploitation have already been confirmed, one mother admitting on Friday that she brought her 15-year-old daughter from Florida to New York to "pimp her out to Super Bowl fans," as reported by the Daily Beast. Such stories speak to both the tragedy of modern day slavery as well as child trafficking and exploitation.

What is being done and what can be done to combat trafficking? The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking has been active in the past weeks to raise awareness on trafficking during the Super Bowl and has assembled a Super Bowl 2014 information page. The US Fund for UNICEF runs the End Child Trafficking Campaign which shares the signs of child trafficking and toolkits to take action. Many other organizations like The Polaris Project, Walk Free Foundation, and Love146 are also active in preventing and ending trafficking, and you can find their resources and others featured in our January 2014 blog posts recognizing National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

So in reflecting on the realities of modern day slavery, especially during the Super Bowl, what does Freedom Day mean in 2014? How will you take action to ensure freedom for all people? We encourage you to share your reactions and comments below.