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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Standing Our Ground: Civil Rights, Justice, and the Law" on July 2, 2014 at @MAAHMuseum (Boston)

If you are planning to be in the Boston area this week, don't miss "Standing Our Ground: Civil Rights, Justice, and the Law" at the Museum of African American History's African Meeting House on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 6:00pm. This Millennium Conversation program will honor the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and also feature conversation on the "Stand Your Ground" laws. Moderated by Professor Charles Ogletree (moderator), the panel will feature Michael Curry, Avi Green, and Mariama White-Hammond. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

MTV's @LookDifferent Implicit Bias quiz

MTV recently launched a new project entitled “Look Different” aimed at addressing and reducing implicit racist, sexual, and gender biases. The project includes an interactive online platform coupled with original television and media programming. Upon launch, the project issued an Implicit Bias quiz developed in conjunction with the Harvard based non-profit Project Implicit to detail the ways in which unconscious biases influence daily perceptions and interactions.

The project, which kicked-off in April, will run for the next several years. Each year will focus on a different issue of identity politics, beginning with racial identities.

Check out the site, take the quiz, and let us know what you think! Do you think a project like this can make a difference?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Boko Haram kidnappings continue

Kidnapped Nigerian girlsNearly two months after Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 270 school girls, the militants group is now suspected to have abducted at least 91 more individuals - 60 women and girls and 31 boys. After Boko Haram’s initial kidnapping the internet erupted into calls for action including the viral #BringBackOurGirls. Despite the calls for action, little progress has been made in terms of rescuing the abducted individuals and the attention towards the issue has dissipated from the public sphere. The case is of particular time sensitivity as Boko Haram leaders have not only continued violent raids and abductions, but have also threatened to sell the kidnapped girls into slavery.

Though the girls have yet to be rescued, why do you think public attention has waned? What are ways in which we can take action on this issue right here in the U.S.? How can we move beyond “internet activism” and enact real change on these issues?   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recap of the Key Issues Forum and a call to action

Community members joined together in discussion Tuesday evening for a Key Issues Forum on race politics in the contemporary U.S. Panelists included Dr. Lois Brown (Chair of African American Studies at Wesleyan University), William Howe (State Dept. of Education, multicultural education, gender equity and civil rights), Orlando Rodriguez (Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission), and Adrienne W. Cochrane (CEO, Urban League of Greater Hartford).  The event was held in conjunction with The Hartford Courant and was moderated by Laurie Perez of FoxCT.

With a packed crowd of all ages and backgrounds in attendance, discussion ranged from education equity, to housing, to jobs and racial stereotypes. At the end of the forum, panelists were posed with instructing the audience of one thing everyone can do to improve issues of race relations and progress our communities forward. Answers included reading texts from a diverse range of authors to having conversations with those of different races and backgrounds. The panelists stressed that moving the U.S. to a post-racial and post-racist society will take daily effort and dedication to address the biases and systemic racism that plague public policies and social institutions. If you missed the program, you can watch it On Demand through the Connecticut Network (see below). 

We would like to encourage the continuation of this important conversation! What are steps you will take to address racial inequities? What are some challenges we all might face? How do we overcome these challenges? Let us know!      

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Key Issues Forum on "Are We in a Post-Racial Era?" tonight at 6pm

Where is Connecticut on race equity in the 21st century? How far have we come in the 250 years since the Hartford Courant was first published? What needs to be done to achieve a color-blind society?

Tonight, the community will come together for a Key Issues Forum on "Are We in a Post-Racial Era?" at 6:00pm at the Conference of Churches (224 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT). This panel discussion will feature Lois Brown (Chair of African American Studies at Wesleyan University), William Howe (State Dept. of Education, multicultural education, gender equity and civil rights), Orlando Rodriguez (Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission), and Adrienne W. Cochrane (CEO, Urban League of Greater Hartford). It will be moderated by Laurie Perez of Fox CT.

Though reservations have exceeded the capacity of the space, we encourage you to visit FoxCT.com for live coverage of the program.

This free program is presented by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center with The Hartford Courant, FOX CT and The Conference of Churches

Decrease in #recidivism rates in Connecticut

Last year, many Stowe Center programs focused on mass incarceration in the United States, drawing inspiration from 2013 Stowe Prize Winner Michelle Alexander's landmark book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness. Salons and other programs around this topic also included discussion on recidivism rates, or the likelihood of relapsing into criminal behavior.

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) recently released Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results which highlights "statewide recidivism data for adults released in 2007 and 2010 with a three-year follow-up period, offering a current snapshot of criminal justice outcomes in these states." The report, which features work done by Mike Lawlor, CT Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy & Planning and panelist for the 2013 Stowe Prize program with Michelle Alexander, reveals that Connecticut is one of only eight states nationally that have reduced recidivism rates. Clearly, there is still work to be done and the featured strategies must be applied in more states.

What do recidivism rates mean for the future of our society and the prison system? How can we change criminal behaviors and continue to reduce recidivism rates? How will you advocate for continue criminal justice reform in your state?

Be sure to explore the Reducing Recidivism report and watch the Increasing Public Safety, Reducing Recidivism, and Cutting Corrections Spending presentation below.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homeless LGBTQ youth

At our May 15, 2014 "Invisible No More" Salon, we heard heart-wrenching stories and staggering statistics about youth homelessness in Connecticut. In particular, we learned that many homeless youth identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).

Polaris Project, an organization which leads in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, shared the image below via Twitter last week, recognizing that homeless LGBTQ youth are vulnerable to trafficking.

Why do you think so many homeless youth are LGBTQ? What services are needed to help these often discriminated children? How do we work to minimize the number of homeless youth who are trafficked? 

Follow @Polaris_Project for more on human trafficking, homelessness and taking action, and visit our "Invisible No More" event recap for more on youth homelessness in Connecticut.

Friday, June 20, 2014


The UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women and UN Women have collaborated to reach out to young men and boys to raise awareness on gender-based violence. The organizations have teamed up to create a humorous video entitled “#BroThatsNotOk” to alert young men and boys that violence in any form is unacceptable. You can watch the video and read the #BroThatsNotOk live Twitter feed below.

What do you think of the campaign? Is video an effective means to get the message across? What about the video’s use of humor?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Action is the antidote to apathy and cynicism and despair"

Graduation from high school or college is a turning point in the lives of many. Whether going into the work force, entering the armed forces, or pursuing higher education, graduation symbolizes a new beginning. So what message should we share with graduates of the class of 2014 as they start their new journeys? At a time when the United States economy is struggling, college is becoming increasingly expensive, the military continues to fight overseas, and jobs can be hard to find, how do you motivate graduates?

Fran Thompson, Principal of Jonathan Law High School in Milford, CT, chose to inspire with a message of taking action. He challenged graduating seniors to combat apathy, cynicism and despair, particularly in light of the tragedy at the school earlier this spring, and recognize that each of us can make a difference. Below is an excerpt from his speech which we hope will inspire you and today's graduates to take action.

We all know that this spring Jonathan Law experienced a tragedy on an unimaginable scale. The sense of loss and disbelief coupled with the feeling of violation to our school is still very palpable. 
But it has been due to the collective strength of this class, the leaders and tone setters of our school, that from this tragedy we have found some sense to the senselessness. This class posed the question, "What would Maren want us to do? How would she want us to act?" 
And from these questions began a campaign of kindness, compassion and a rally cry to pay it forward; to help others just because it’s the right thing to do.
And so while preaching advice is not my thing, here are a few thoughts (adapted from Bradley Whitford), for you to consider...Take action. Every story you've ever connected with, every leader you've ever admired, every puny little thing that you've ever accomplished is the result of taking action. You have a choice. You can either be a passive victim of circumstance or you can be the active hero of your own life. Action is the antidote to apathy and cynicism and despair. You will inevitably make mistakes. Learn what you can and move on. At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not by your stumble.

We challenge you, our followers, as change agents yourselves, to help spread this call to take action. Who do you know that might benefit from Principal Thompson's empowering speech?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

@wherewelive to broadcast the #StudentStowePrize public program this Friday

Thanks to WNPR and our friend John Dankosky, the June 5th Student Stowe Prize Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change panel discussion will play on Where We Live this Friday, June 20th at 9am and 7pm. So if you missed the program, or want to be inspired again, tune in on the radio, "Listen Live" online, or visit the WNPR podcast page!

Child Prostitution at the FIFA World Cup

With the beginning of the FIFA World Cup last Friday in Brazil, it seems as if more attention has been paid to the controversies surrounding the event than the actual games. Beyond the protests over working conditions or the costly new stadiums, a new issue has been brought to the surface: that of child prostitution during the games. With an influx of nearly 600,000 arriving in Brazil to attend the games, the demand for prostitution will be large and young people - often from impoverished economic backgrounds - utilize the event as a money-making opportunity. Large sporting events, like the Super Bowl, are perfect breeding grounds to exploit vulnerable populations, like victims of human trafficking or impoverished children as they often are characterized by the arrival of massive amounts of people, particularly men.

Can large sporting events like the World Cup and Super Bowl ever be conducted in ethical ways? What can we do as observers and fans?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Online "Compassion Course" by Thom Bond

For our followers interested in programming around nonviolence and empathy, check out Compassion Course Online 2014, a course which "imparts concepts, stories and practices that empower us to be more compassionate." The Compassion Course includes more than 2,200 participants from 55 countries and engages its worldwide audience through weekly messages of concepts, stories, and lessons, as well as conference calls and an online community. You can learn more about the course HERE and in the introductory video below.

We learned about The Compassion Course through our friends at We, The World and if you select their name when asked "How did you find out about The Compassion Course?" during registration, they will receive a portion of your registration.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stowe Center featured @FoxCT and @hartfordcourant "Hidden History" series

In honor of its 250th anniversary, The Hartford Courant is sponsoring "Hidden History," a Fox News series that highlights various aspects of Connecticut history. The Stowe Center was featured in a recent episode as part of June's theme of race and equality, topics that define Stowe's advocacy and what the Center raises awareness on today.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Slave labor in Thailand's shrimp industry

The U.S. is threatening to impose economic sanctions on the country of Thailand after British newspaper, The Guardian, issued an investigative report detailing the country’s use of slave labor in the shrimp industry. The six-month investigation revealed 20-hour work days, brutal conditions, beatings, and execution style killings. The U.S., of which Thai shrimp is sold in national supermarket chains, such as Walmart and Costco, is now assessing the situation and determining potential strategies to respond. One such response is to reflect The Guardian’s discoveries in the Trafficking in Persons report.    

The U.S. state department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, largely considered the gold standard on issues of human trafficking, ranks countries in tiers based on their performance in regards to prevention of slavery within its borders. Thailand currently is graded a tier-2 country, but is in danger of being downgraded to a trier-3 as per U.S. standards. A tier-3 ranking could result in economic sanctions, reduced government aid, and restricted access to global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.  

What do you think of The Guardian’s findings? Of whose responsibility is it to prevent trafficking? Does it fall on countries and individual industries- or on consumers? What roles can we all play to prevent and reduce slave labor around the globe?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Did "12 Years a Slave" motivate action?

The Academy Award winning film 12 Years A Slave (McQueen 2014), moved audience to tears and sympathy but did it motivate action? In director and executive producer Steve McQueen’s Oscar acceptance speech, he called for the end of modern day slavery, noting the existence of 21 million current enslaved individuals. McQueen’s speech and film had potential to be the foundation for an international recognition and mobilization effort towards anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking initiatives, but instead only proved to marginally increase awareness.

In his article “Not a single chain smashed by 12 Years a Slave,” Cosmo Landesman of London’s The Sunday Times notes that Antis-slavery International, a leading organization committed to the end of human trafficking, only increased monthly visitation by about 146 after the film’s premier. 

Why do you think the film failed to elicit action towards the issue of modern day slavery? What are the limitations of film and media as sources of activism?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Breaking the Silence

Political and culture website The Huffington Post recently released a new page entitled “Breaking the Silence: Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus” as part of their Huffington Post College section. The page features articles on pending cases of assault and Title IX violations at various institutions as well as tips for those looking to address the rampant issues of gender based violence that plague higher-education. With both personal narratives and political analysis, this site has the potential to make a profound difference in the fight to reduce violence on college campuses.

Breaking the Silence  

What do you think of the site? Will it make a difference? How can it be improved? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Miss the #StudentStowePrize? Watch it on demand on @CTNetworkTV

Thanks to our friends at the Connecticut Network, last Thursday's Student Stowe Prize program Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change, is now available on demand on the CT-N website and below. If you missed the program, or would like to re-experience the impact and inspiration, be sure to tune in! We encourage you to share your reactions and thoughts below.

Friday, June 6, 2014

US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro's message to #StudentStowePrize winners and other young activists

Though she could not join us for last night's #StudentStowePrize, Big Tent Jubilee Honorary Chairperson Rosa DeLauro sent the following inspiring message to winners Donya Nasser and Madeline Sach, Guest Speaker Teresa Younger, and other young activists.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Get social with the #StudentStowePrize!

Be sure to follow our "live coverage" of today's Student Stowe Prize public program (3:00pm-5:30pm) and Big Tent Jubilee (6:00pm-9:00pm) via social media!

Visit facebook.com/HarrietBeecherStowe and follow our @HBStoweCenter Twitter feed for direct quotes, ideas, and calls to action (feed embedded below). You can also follow #StudentStowePrize (feed below) and be sure to use it if you yourself are tweeting at the event!

It's finally here: the 2014 Student Stowe Prize!

Today is the day! After months of eager anticipation, the Stowe Center will present the 2014 Student Stowe Prize to Madeline Sachs from Chicago, Illinois for her speech, “Juvenile Life Without Parole,” and to Donya Nasser from Orlando, Florida for her essay "Women in Leadership for Today and Tomorrow." Both young women are using their words and writing to create positive change on important contemporary social issues.

Looking for ways to get involved in your community? Come meet and hear from activists and Student Stowe Prize winners Donya Nasser and Madeline Sachs at Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change. The program will be held at Immanuel Congregational Church starting at 3:00 PM and is free and open to all.
The panel will feature Madeline and Donya, as well as JoAnn H.Price of Fairview Capital and Patricia Russo of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. The conversation will be moderated by WNPR's John Dankosky.

RSVPs are strongly encouraged and can be made by emailing Info@StoweCenter.org or calling 860-522-9258, ext. 317. Don't miss this outstanding Stowe Center program!

Inspiration to Action Fair (3:00PM) Participating Organizations 
African American Affairs Commission
American Civil Liberties Union of CT
Amistad Center for Art & Culture
Aurora Foundation
Center for Children's Advocacy
Community Partners in Action
CT Center for Nonviolence
CT Girlcott
CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women
CT River Academy
CT Women's Education and Legal Fund
CT Youth Forum
Everyday Democracy
First Congressional Youth Cabinet
Habitat for Humanity
HartBeat Ensemble
Hartford/Ocotal Sister City Project
Hartford Public Library
Immanuel Congregational Church Social Justice Group
Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy
National Conference for Community and Justice
Nick Karangekis, World Affairs Council Student Global Engagement Award Winner
Peace in CT
Permanent Commission on the Status of Women
Release - Central Connecticut State University Journalists
True Colors
Women for Change
Women’s Campaign School at Yale
World Affairs Council
Youth Journalism International
YWCA Hartford Region

See you there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Though only 2014, we are preparing for our 2016 Student Stowe Prize!

The Student Stowe Prize is awarded bi-annually to one high-school and one college student for excellence in writing for social justice...and we're already looking ahead to 2016! Entries for the next Student Stowe Prize are due January 15th, 2016 and guidelines will be posted to our website soon.

In the spirit of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose groundbreaking novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin galvanized communities and a nation to address slavery, the Student Stowe Prize honors writing that motivates positive, tangible action and change.  

Looking for inspiration for a 2016 entry? Stop by the 2014 Student Stowe Prize TOMORROW, Thursday, June 5. A free public program, Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change, will be held at Immanuel Congregational Church from 3:00-5:30PM. The public program will feature the Inspiration to Action fair and panel discussion with 2014 Stowe Prize winners and local activists, prior to the Big Tent Jubilee from 6:00-9:00PM on the grounds of the Stowe Center. Visit the Stowe Center website for further details!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Meet the panelists for "Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change" on Thursday, June 5 at 4pm

The community and student activists are invited to join the Stowe Center for Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change, a free public program at Immanuel Congregational Church preceding the Big Tent Jubilee this Thursday, June 5, 2014. The program will include an Inspiration to Action Fair with Hartford-area activists and organizations from 3:00-4:00pm, and a panel discussion from 4:00-5:30pm. The panel will feature a dialogue with Student Stowe Prize winners Madeline Sachs and Donya Nasser, as well as JoAnn H.Price of Fairview Capital and Patricia Russo of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. 

The conversation will be moderated by WNPR's John Dankosky.You can learn more about Madeline and Donya in last week's blog posts, and about Ms. Price, Ms. Russo and Mr. Dankosky below. RSVPs are strongly encouraged and can be made by emailing Info@StoweCenter.org or calling 860-522-9258, ext. 317. Don't miss this outstanding Stowe Center program!

JoAnn Price is the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, a leading private equity investment management firm in Hartford. Her professional career has pioneered significant change in the way institutional investors approach diversity in hiring and the availability of capital to underrepresented groups. Her activism as a community leader is similarly change-making, formed in part by her education at Howard University in Washington DC, then the epicenter of black intellectual thought on social issues. As a business leader and mentor, Price leads by example, encouraging her colleagues to apply their talents to the community through board memberships and voluntarism with a wide variety of non-profit organizations.Price is admired for her leadership and well-known for her energy, her enthusiasm and her generosity.

She serves on the boards of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Hartford Communities That Care and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame and is a member of the Howard University Board of Visitors and Vice Chairman of the Apollo Theater Foundation in New York City. Price is active with Goodworks, an organization that provides business attire for women making the transition back into the community from incarceration. She is also an ordained Deacon.

Patricia Russo is a nationally respected leader focused on improving the quality of life for women in Connecticut and the United States. For over twenty five years she has held numerous leadership positions in public, private and not for profit organizations centered on women’s rights and has also held leadership positions on federal, state and local political campaigns. 

Russo is the Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, a nonpartisan, issue neutral political campaign training program for women interested in running for public office, and for women interested in campaign management. She is also a member of the Council of Women’s Health Research at Yale University and chairs its Philanthropy and Communications Committee. 

She is a member of the national leadership team of Political Parity, a bi partisan initiative dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office and served twenty three years as a member of Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), including eight years as its Chair. She is an honorary member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Russo is the founder of the Connecticut Women’s Agenda, co-founder of the Women’s Business Development Council of Connecticut and co-founder of the Connecticut NARAL Foundation. She has received numerous awards and citations for her leadership in the area of women’s rights.

John Dankosky is News Director of WNPR and Host of Where We Live. He started working in radio at WDUQ Pittsburgh in 1988, and has spent most of his career in public media.

Since coming to Connecticut in 1994, he’s helped to build WNPR’s award-winning newsroom - cultivating one of the most talented news staffs in public radio. He has reported for NPR on politics, economic redevelopment, drug crime, assisted suicide, tribal recognition, immigration and a surprising number of stories about sports. He’s also worked as an editor at NPR in Washington, and as a fill-in host for NPR’s Science Friday in New York.

John has won national and local awards for his reporting, and Where We Live has twice been honored by PRNDI as public radio’s “Best Call-In” Show. He’s also won awards for editing nationally distributed documentaries on care for the chronically ill, the evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11, and the mental health of children. 

In 2010, John accepted an appointment as the Robert C. Vance Endowed Chair in Journalism and Mass Communication at Central Connecticut State University, having previously served as an adjunct journalism professor at Quinnipiac University. He has hosted countless political debates, along with live panel discussions for The Connecticut Forum, the Mark Twain House and Museum and The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

John is a native of Pittsburgh who tells anyone he meets about the Steelers, the Pirates, the Penguins, The Andy Warhol Museum and Primanti Brothers sandwiches. He lives in Winsted with his wife Jennifer, and cat, Dirk.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Where are they now?: Tess Domb Sadof, 2012 Student Stowe Prize High School Winner

In today's post, Tess Domb Sadof, recipient of the 2012 Student Stowe Prize high school award, reflects on winning the Student Stowe Prize and how it has inspired her to continue her passion for social justice. Now a student at Columbia University in New York, she is an activist on a variety of issues including mass incarceration, workers’ justice, health disparities, housing inequality, and food and transportation access. You can read Tess' 2012 winning entry HERE.

In my junior year of high school, after months of frustration with the direction of local and statewide conversations on student bullying, I wrote an article for my local newspaper, urging my town and school to consider the power of the witness when developing intervention-based policies. Having conducted interviews with classmates the year before in the wake of student Phoebe Prince’s suicide, I was concerned with how policy conversations seemed to dismiss the experiences of ill-equipped, but well-intentioned student witnesses. Moreover, I was disappointed by the complete absence of any kind of discussion on how to empower student witnesses to transform their schools into safe, accountable, caring, and responsive spaces. 

My article on the importance of active student responders helped to raise awareness in both my school and my community about the contributions students can and should make to stand up to bullying. I decided to utilize community support for student intervention to create a student-directed coalition focused on standing up against bullying and discrimination-related injustices. Through a number of dialogue-driven projects, we helped to facilitate community-wide reflection on how students can assume individual and collective responsibility to address and respond to injustice. 

I am so grateful and honored to have been awarded the Student Stowe Prize for my article, and the impact my article had on inciting change in my high school and town. Since receiving the Student Stowe Prize in 2012, I’ve attended Columbia University in New York City. Here in New York, I’ve expanded my focus to the city-level, looking at how policy influences the access vulnerable communities have to fair and just social, political, and economic resources and services in urban areas. I am now particularly interested in issues of mass incarceration, workers’ justice, health disparities, housing inequality, and food and transportation access. 

After reading 2013 Stowe Prize recipient Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow during my first year at Columbia University, I was compelled to take action and learn more about how mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex fracture and weaken low-income communities of color. As a member of Columbia’s social justice living-learning community, I’ve helped to coordinate discussions on the intersections between sexual violence and healing in the age of mass incarceration. This year, I joined a student campaign urging Columbia University to divest the at-least $11 million it has invested in the domestic and international private prison industry. In April, we organized a week of engagement, which consisted of teach-ins, discussions, film screenings, art installations, and other events designed to build campus awareness and solidarity around our cause. As a student-led coalition, we are committed to informing our community and gathering support against Columbia’s current financial profit from the increased policing, criminalization, incarceration, and detention of low-income people of color and immigrant communities.  

As I’ve concentrated more on the conditions marginalized urban communities experience, I’ve witnessed how writing can propel meaningful conversations, and provoke necessary action. Last year, I worked as a legislative aide in New York City Council Member Gale Brewer’s office, where I was able to engage in a number of special projects. Nearly all of the service and advocacy I participated in was rooted in written work. My tasks included writing letters on behalf of constituents, drafting government testimony on citywide issues, like public housing and transit access, and analyzing a survey I conducted on the state of the New York Police Department’s language translation services. In all of these projects, I was able to trace the tangible changes implemented as a result of sharing the daily demands and concerns of those so often silenced by government officials. This summer, I’m very excited to continue to work for Gale Brewer, who now serves as Manhattan Borough President, and take on more projects that will foster citywide conversations about the pressing obstacles many low-income, nonwhite, and immigrant New Yorkers face.

Receiving the Student Stowe Prize in 2012 has made me realize and deeply appreciate the power of writing about issues you care about, and the importance of listening to and amplifying the experiences of communities who deserve to be heard. As writers and activists, we have a responsibility not to speak for others, but instead to fully process and relay individuals’ stories, as they’d like them to be articulated. I am so thankful for the Stowe Center for supporting me in 2012, and for consistently promoting writing rooted in listening and in activism. I am also very excited to continue to produce work in line with the principles of the Center, and to hear and learn from the writing, conversations, and change generated by Stowe Prize winners to come. Thank you, Stowe Center!