Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The change YOU will make

The Stowe Center is undergoing the process of reinterpretation, the exciting re-imagining of the visitor experience in the Stowe House. While prototyping some ideas and experiences yesterday, we asked a group of teenagers to consider: "What kind of change would you like to make in the world?" We asked them to write or draw their responses on a table in Stowe's kitchen, while reflecting on her impact and their experience in the house. One 14-year-old boy from Hartford said:

And so we ask you: "What kind of change would you like to make in the world?" We hope you will share your plans for change below!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The rising criminalization of #homelessness

What if it was illegal to sit down?

This poignant question was posed by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in the 11th iteration of “No Safe Place,” the advocacy group’s report on the criminalization of homelessness. The report found that in cities across the United States homeless individuals are criminally punished for being in public even when they have no other alternatives.

At a time when nearly 160,000 individuals experience homelessness on a given night, U.S. cities have increasingly created laws that ban sleeping in public, loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in vehicles, effectively making it illegal to be homeless. For example, over the past three years, bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased 119%, while laws against begging have increased 25%, and laws against camping in public have increased 60%. At the same time, resources for individuals who are homeless appear to be decreasing: affordable housing resources have decreased about 13% over the past three years. These policies have steadily crept up in cities and rural areas all across the U.S. In February, we published a blog post on Osceola County in Florida, who spent roughly $5 million dollars arresting homeless individuals over the past nine years.   

These laws sharply juxtapose recent housing initiatives in Vancouver, where local organization RainCity Housing has created pop-up roofs to add to benches for homeless individuals to use on rainy nights (check out our recent blog post on this topic).

Why do you think cities propose these types of laws? Why isn’t there more political will to create policies and adjudicate resources to alleviate poverty? What laws would be better alternatives?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What message do #Barbie dolls send to young girls?

Toy manufacturing company Mattel reported that sales of the iconic Barbie doll plummeted 15% worldwide in the last quarter, reflecting the trend of dropping sales in 8 of the last 10 quarters. Mattel has tried to use various publicity campaigns to increase sales, including creating a LinkedIn account for "Entrepreneur Barbie," listing her career as “Dream Incubator...[helping girls] play out their imagination, try on different careers, and explore the world around them."

Earlier this year, Oregon State University announced that research showed "that girls who play with Barbie dolls see fewer career options for themselves than for boys." The research echoed a 2006 report by the University of Sussex which found girls exposed to Barbie from a young age had a desire for a thinner body and a lower self-esteem. Rebbecca Burn-Callander of The Telegraph recently proposed in "Note to Barbie: Sorry doll, it's a feminist world and not even Ken can save you" that these findings undermine Mattel's effort to change the image of the decades-old toy.

What message do you think Barbie sends to young girls today? Do you think Barbie's ideal body causes lower self-esteem in young girls? Share your reactions and thoughts in the comments section below!

Note to Barbie: Sorry doll, it's a feminist world and not even Ken can save you

Monday, July 28, 2014

Making use of what we already use - #affordablehousing for the #homeless

This Billboard Serves as a Homeless Shelter—and Pays for Itself

How many street benches or billboards do you walk or drive past a day? What if these places could provide inexpensive shelter for the homeless?

In Vancouver, local organization RainCity Housing is adding “pop-up roofs” to benches to provide temporary shelter from the often-rainy city’s nights. Architecture firm Design Develop in Banksá Bystrica, Slovakia is converting the typically two-dimensional advertising billboards into small living quarters, fitted with electricity and large enough to hold a bed, kitchen, desk, and bathroom. Better yet, the space will pay for itself, once companies rent the advertisements, and can be adapted to suit most cities. In Madison, Wisconsin, some private land-owners are offering their space and organizing fundraisers to build “tiny houses” for the homeless. These 99-square-foot homes are like the billboard living quarters: they have a sink and composting toilet, use propane tanks for heat, and solar panels provide electricity. Unlike the bench roofs and billboard houses, though, tiny houses are clustered together and create a community among formerly homeless people.

Would any of these options work in your city as easy, inexpensive means of providing affordable housing? Do you know of other innovative programs working to provide shelter to the homeless? 


Friday, July 25, 2014

CT Food Justice Youth Corps teens #takingaction and discussing #foodjustice issues on July 29 at Institute for Community Research

Next Tuesday, July 29, the Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps will present a forum of teens discussing "food justice issues in their world." The program will feature teens participating in food accessibility efforts through Grow Hartford, YMCA and FRESH New London and will be held at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford. To reserve your seat, RSVP Kathy.engle-dulac@icrweb.org.

For more on food justice issues, check out the event recap and notes from our 2013 Cultivating Food Justice Salon.

The Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps (CTFJYC) is a team of five AmeriCorps VISTA’s increasing the collaboration and coherence of non-profits working the field of Food Justice. The strength of this collaboration begins and ends with an understanding of what each of these separate organizations seek to create: a community movement, driven by youth, to improve the access and affordability of healthy food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, or citizenship. These organizations have the common desire to give communities a voice that speaks to their own food needs and to ensure that this voice is loud enough to be heard.

Generally targeting middle and high school age students, individual organizations under the FJYC umbrella are developing a common curricula for use or adaptation at any school, a curricula that seeks to educate and empower. The youth that emerge as leaders, role models and activists are then given the tools to craft a movement of their own design, based on an assessment of community needs through their own eyes. It is the VISTA’s position to support the youth at each juncture, with the aid of community and college volunteers. Along the way youth groups will meet with partner organizations at food policy meetings, summits, and convening’s; the capstone being a youth driven convening for all of the partner organizations to attend, as well as speakers and advocates in the field of food justice. Youth groups will present their projects, the successes and the failures, and learn from one another just how powerful a group of young minds can be in changing the way their community looks at food.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

September 16 #humantrafficking workshop presented by @CTWAC

Join the World Affairs Council of Connecticut, Love 146, the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies, and the Stowe Center for A Look at Modern Day Slavery on September 16, 2014. The workshop will feature a screening of the documentary Not My Life and a session for local teachers lead by educator, abolitionist, and Stowe Center Teacher Advisor Wendy Nelson Kauffman.

See details below and click HERE to make your reservation!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Shoot Me Dead" by #StudentStowePrize runner up

In June, the Stowe Center presented the 2014 Student Stowe Prize for writing by high school and college students that motivates social justice. The runner up in the high school category was Yesica Solano of Mount Vernon, WA for her poem Shoot Me Dead. Yesica wrote the poem, below, in 2009 when she was only 12 years old, and published it in DreamFields: An Anthology by Mount Vernon Migrant Youth & Their Allies. For more on the book, and to purchase a copy, please visit dreamfieldsbook.wordpress.com.

Shoot Me Dead
by Yesica Solano

My pencil is writing but they're meaningless words 
Looking at the teacher but not attentive to what occurs 
My thinking somewhere else but here
Thoughts after school are relaxing on beer.

One more friend now vanished and gone
Crossing the border,three shots hit the ground, he was done 
Just before his loss, a painful climb
Uncle Peewee shot down, tased four times 
His eyes now closed with no second chance
With him now gone, no air to breathe, no song to dance 
His eyes now closed, left two kids behind
Border patrol tarred his life, I wish it was mine
Want to plead forgiveness on part of border patrol
Want to help my family and friends overcome anger and take control 
Want to retaliate back at border patrol for all the illegals killed
Want to let them know they're creating empty spaces that once were filled 
Families got no choice but to fill them up with pictures of the past
Many now realize what they have can be gone with just three shots or a flash
People risking lives just for their family's need
Innocents dying while there are others creating havoc, smoking weed 
The laws just making up lies that create our reputation
Thought this was a free country, not an anti-Mexican nation.

Wanna take a moment of this world's time 
To remember all the illegals that have died
I know I'm just twelve and you think I don't understand 
Question for border patrol
"How does it feel watching an innocent die with a gun in hand?" 
Can they sleep at night knowing there are families dying with tears? 
Kids getting angry, ready for revenge, converting into their worst fears
Why kill an illegal when you can just send them back? 
What's the point just killing and faking illegals attacked?
When in reality border patrol had fun chasing and shooting them down 
But soon their time will come because what goes around comes around 
So many innocents blacking out, hitting the cold ground
So many illegals now dead with stories to be found
Point is border patrol likes shooting Mexicans
Can't deny it because it's true
So if I ran with no sign of attack, would you shoot me too? 
If you caught me running helpless, what would you do?
Would you fake my attack and shoot me too?
So many harmless people killed, families spread apart
My country is Mexico, border patrol can shoot me, aiming for my heart 
People going back to their country still end up shot in the head
I'm not an illegal but if you see me crossing the border 
Go ahead
Shoot Shoot me dead.

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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#Malala's birthday wish: #BringBackOurGirls

ABC News' Amy Robach interviewed activist Malala Yousafzai on her 17th birthday (July 12). What was her big birthday wish? For Boko Haram to release the Nigerian girls they have been holding captive since April (see our blog post on #BringBackOurGirls). The Twitter account for the Malala Fund - the organization led by Malala focused on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education - is also advocating for the release of the girls in Nigeria.

What will you do to help #BringBackOurGirls? How will you take action to make Malala's birthday wish - and the wish of many others across the world - come true?

ABC News | ABC Sports News

Monday, July 21, 2014

The meaning of #bodyimage in the media

Last week, singer Colbie Caillat released a new music video for her song "Try" in which she takes aim at extensive media alterations in photo-shopping, by appearing make-up free. As the video progresses, Caillat unclips her extensions and takes off her makeup as a chorus of “You don’t have to try so hard; You don’t have to change a single thing” plays on in the background.

Caillat’s video comes at a time where issues of body representation are becoming increasingly focused upon in the media. Earlier this year, ‘aerie’, a lingerie brand aimed at the 15-21 demographic, launched aerie Real, a campaign featuring all un-airbrushed models. Meanwhile, the JCPenney store in the Manhattan Mall is displaying five diversely sized mannequins modeled after everyday people. These projects attempt to create more inclusive advertising in which all people feel represented.

Despite the media attention directed at these campaigns, they are not without controversy. As all the campaigns are rooted in commercial pursuits, either in entertainment or clothing, it begets the question of whether they are motivated by inclusion or merely media attention and thus profit. Though Caillat’s video and JCPenney include diverse body types and backgrounds in their campaigns, aerie appears to only being using models. In these campaigns who is allowed to appear “un-photoshopped”? Who isn’t? Why do most body image projects focus on women only? Are there body image campaigns that include men?

Do you think these campaigns are a constructive way to improve body-positivity? Will you make a conscience decision to purchase products that are advertised in inclusive ways?

aerie 2This month, as part of their "When It Fits, You Feel It" campaign, the JCPenney store in the Manhattan Mall near Harold Square is displaying five mannequins that were modeled after real people.

Miss last Thursday's "Coming Home After Prison" #SalonsAtStowe? Watch it @CTNetworkTV and join the conversation!

Thanks to our friends at Connecticut Network, you can watch a recording of last Thursday's Coming Home After Prison: A New Reality Salon below and HERE.

You can also read the notes, recap, resource sheet, and Inspiration to Action list HERE. Comment on the post to join the conversation!

Friday, July 18, 2014

#SalonsAtStowe Event Recap: "Coming Home After Prison: A New Reality" (7.17.14 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. 

Salons at Stowe
Coming Home After Prison: A New Reality
July 17, 2014

According to the National Institute of Justice, in 2011, 688,384 men and women — approximately 1,885 individuals a day — were released from state or federal custody in the U.S. Returning to the community from jail or prison is a complex transition for most offenders, as well as for their families and communities. Upon reentering society, former offenders are likely to struggle with substance abuse, lack of adequate education and job skills, limited housing options, and mental health issues.

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Jeff Grant is the Minister/Director of the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project in Greenwich, providing religious and spiritual support to people affected by incarceration - before, during and upon reentry from prison. "the first ministry in the US created to support people accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes and their families."

Jeff has a JD from New York Law School and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary. He sits on a number of boards serving ex-offender communities, including Community Partners in Action in Greater Hartford
He has received the Elizabeth Bush Award for Volunteerism and the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative Advocate of the Year and has been featured in national media from Forbesto New York Magazine

LaResse Harvey, Director of Strategic Relations, A Better Way Foundation
LaResse Harvey came to A Better Way Foundation nearly a decade ago as a formerly incarcerated person. As ABWF’s Lead Community Organizer, she organized neighborhoods for public safety and staffed ABWF’s advocacy group Alliance Connecticut on pardons reform and against “3 Strikes” out.

She has overhauled ABWF public education and outreach strategies. and led statewide campaigns that
  • Removed the “have you been convicted of a felony?” question from local and state public job applications;
  • Decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and brought a Palliative Marijuana program to Connecticut;
  • Established Good Samaritan 911 protections and expanded access to Narcan for people who could prevent an overdose;
  • Brought back Earned Early Release Credits for non-violent prisoners;
  • Improved protocol for reported sexual assault in prison facilities.

Rev. Jeff Grant
Jeff served 14 months in federal prison in Pennsylvania for white collar crime. He is friends with LaResse and although they come from different backgrounds, they come together on their stories of reentry. They are both advocates and involved with reentry programs. They have been tweeting and discussing tonight’s program with Michelle Alexander, Piper Kerman, Maureen Price-Boreland, and other previous Stowe Center speakers.

Jeff and LaResse were both invited to a meeting at a coffee shop in New Haven, and at the end of the meeting Jeff had to take a train from New Haven to Greenwich, and LaResse offered to take him to the station. They made a stop for hot chocolate and when it was served, Jeff put a lid and sleeve on her cup, and LaResse cried, commenting that she could not remember the last time someone did an act of kindness for her. When you go to prison, are forced into situations like using the bathroom in front of others, etc. – but when you get home, you realize you have been institutionalized; how you relate to others has changed. Found it hard to be around family and others, and relate to things, after prison. He had to go to the Mobil station to use the bathroom for the institutional feeling.

The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream is a book being released this fall, and was assembled by an editorial committee of criminal justice leaders in Connecticut.

Everyone goes through a process of re-assimilation and reentry – it moved slowly, like a merry-go-round, where the world kept going. He had a law degree and other resources, but many do not have resources after prison and are dumped on the street. It becomes hard to believe that you lived one life, and are now trying to find acceptance in a new way of life. Many of the people he works with cannot find jobs, houses, services, or even sobriety, so they return to their coping mechanism prior to prison (often drugs) and recidivate. He himself was full of shame and remorse and disbelief in what his life had become, and for almost six months could not look people in the face. He and LaResse try to hold themselves up as examples as of what is possible in reentering society. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous as someone who is 12 years sober, and can sit at a meeting next to someone who has the same experience, support, and motivation, but he is sober and the one next to him has recidivated and is back in prison. For him, there is no clear explanation except for his belief in prayer and God.

Now that there is a focus on the prison system with The New Jim Crow, Orange is the New Black, and US Attorney General Eric Holder’s policies, it is time to consider the system and reentry.

LaResse Harvey
Just because someone has reentered into society and has a job doesn’t mean they have successfully reentered; she is still trying to recuperate from her incarceration and sentence. Most people only see her as a masculine, powerful advocate, not as a woman who is very feminine, emotional, and loving. Was very wounded – spiritually and emotionally – after being abused by men and women in prison. When Jeff put the lid and sleeve on her hot chocolate, she realized that others were there for her – she started to see the humanism of reentry, not just the policy and advocacy. Reentry is about real people, everyday, who are leaving the prison system.

It was hard to return to an active lifestyle after prison. After returning home to New Britain, her family wanted her to rest and readjust, but she had the impulse to be active and productive (clean, straighten up the house). When she was in prison, she was involved with her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, the organization Phenomenal Women, which established her relationship with her children. She has been out of prison for almost 15 years, however because her son’s husband did not support her, she has not talked to her son in 2 years (he is now 20); she talks to her daughter (now 26) on a regular basis.

She feels she is a rebel by nature and always for the underdog. Mass incarceration and hyper-incarceration have created incarcerated neighborhoods in urban areas, and she now works to help and raise awareness about incarcerated neighborhoods. She has found that in certain neighborhoods like the north end of Hartford, all adults and teenagers have prison records, and the kids have criminal records through the school system. Going to prison is traumatic, as is coming home from prison – people always call out your past crimes and your record. She has PTSD and calls herself and other formerly incarcerated people “veterans” – prison is war, she herself was raped by another woman and abused while in prison. She tells her story because she believes she is in her position to advocate for those who cannot talk. When she talks she gives substance and shares real stories.

Why do we have tanks in communities like New Britain with only 73,000 people? Some feel it is ok but it is not – New Britain is an incarcerated community. We need to stop being ashamed. The Public Wellness Campaign helps communities heal from the trauma of hyper-incarceration. Hiring people with criminal records helps increase tax base and lower taxes. She started as a client of Community Partners in Action and returned to serve on their board, along with Rev. Jeff Grant.

Audience question: Can you explain the pardon process?
  • LaResse: In Connecticut, you can get a pardon while you are still incarcerated, as well as after you’ve been home. A pardon erases your criminal record, but does not erase DMV record unless you request it separately.
  • Jeff: CT is one of the only states with a separate pardons board not overseen by the Governor. There are a few pardons organizations in the state.

Audience comment: As a representative from Reentry Survivors, believes that one of the problems is that people are “ex- this and ex- that” – his organization tries to call those who are released “reentry survivors.” They are now collecting stories of those who have reentered and survived, to be published on websites and blogs.

Audience comment: Purpose of The Justice Imperative book is to educate citizens in non-technical and non-legal language about how serious and devastating the problem of over-incarceration is in our society. He hopes that people will be sufficiently moved that they will develop a constituency that will take positions on legislation (ie. To change public policy in Connecticut), organize themselves, learn about the legislative process, show up and testify at hearings, buttonholing legislators. It is a public education effort designed at action. Public policy will not change on its own and requires involvement and support from citizens. There is bi-partisan support of prison system reform because of the cost to support the system. In other states, the efforts to reduce the incarcerated population have taken root and found success. The goal of the book is to reduce the prison population in Connecticut by 50%. The rate of incarceration is higher in the United States than any other country, including dictatorships.
  • LaResse: Everyone should join Civic Trust Public Lobbying for civic engagement training. Program started in 2010 because we need to change the tendency of looking at the charges on formerly incarcerated peoples’ records; they do not tell the whole story, especially that they may have made a mistake when young and very well may have grown and matured. Recovery is a process – you do not stop recovery and are always fighting not to relapse.
Audience question: In the pardon process, if you committed a crime and are pardoned, do you still have to “check that box”? What do you have to do to get pardoned?

  • LaResse: The process is a long application that requires your name, education and employment background, three references (including one family member), $65 for fingerprinting, listing all of your crimes and the story/situation behind the crime, and an explanation of why you are a good candidate for a pardon (if you are illiterate, you do not have a good chance for a pardon). You then wait for the Board of Pardons and Paroles (a board appointed by the Governor) to respond, which can either say you have been denied, you have been accepted (an administrative pardon), or that you have to attend a Board of Pardons and Paroles hearing (questioning by three from the Board ). Many need to find lawyers, obtain and make copies of all documentation, and certificates, and provide copies for the Board. If you are pardoned, your record is cleared from all databases and records – however that does not clear you from discrimination by others and living with having been incarcerated.
  • Jeff: A pardon is an expungement from all State and Federal crimes. Most go through pardons for economic reasons. Even if you are pardoned, you carry the “emotional baggage” and shame of at one point not having been able to be near children, be a coach for your kids’ teams, etc. You still have to deal with the internalization of having committed the crime. Connecticut has the opportunity to be a leader in pardons and expungement. We have a system that is unique, but we are not giving it its due.
  • LaResse: To take action, you can advocate that those who have misdemeanors for marijuana possession should be pardoned; reduce drug-free zones.
  • Audience comment: As Executive Director of Community Partners in Action, recognizes that we need to underscore that this system is not designed to avoid the victims of the situation. The concern, however, is that our system is structured in such a way that we continue to punish someone for a behavior, prevents them from “pulling themselves up by the boot straps,” and do not help them become contributing citizens. If we do not allow them to reenter society and contribute in a meaningful way, they cannot successfully reenter and become productive citizens. In Hartford, because of the number of schools and “drug-free zones,” everywhere that you sell drugs you are committing a felony. Selling drugs in a drug-free zone adds to the period of incarceration. We are stuck in a place of punishing them, not focusing on logic and helping them reenter.
Audience question: Was there a probation or parole board to help you reenter? How do those who do not have support find jobs, new lives, etc? Are there reentry centers?
  • LaResse: When she was released she had a parole officer helping her, but others are left at the train station to figure out how to survive; they are left homeless. There should be reentry centers in major cities.
  • Jeff: In the federal system, had 3 years of federal probation and his officer helped him transition. In Connecticut, parole and probation are separate and different budgets: parole is paid for by the Department of Corrections, and a returning offender usually goes on to probation which is paid for the judicial branch. Communication between parole and services before prison, and probation, need to be improved because otherwise the services do not help the offender.
Audience comment: Spent almost 25 years behind bars. Is the Executive Director of Phoenix Association, comprised exclusively of ex-offenders who have successfully reentered. They work to facilitate reentry. Several years ago, there were many who could not get to the second round of parole even if the infraction was years prior, they had participated in programs, etc. The process may have changed, but civic engagement is important in giving ex-offenders a chance to complete their sentences and grant pardons to those who are deserving; this will not happen unless there is a large movement. We need everyone to try and effect paradigm shift.

Audience comment: Not only does the US incarcerate a large percentage of its people, we also incarcerate them in some of the worst conditions, worse than western Europe and Canada. In Canada, prisons have full time Chaplains rather than those who come in periodically; they are part of the prison administration. The system is founded on the basis of restorative justice: the purpose of incarceration is to reintegrate people backi into society as fast as possible. The Chaplain system, at the expense of the prison system, is a community chaplaincy and serves as a reentry system that helps offenders reestablish themselves. Community Partners in Action is a great organization doing outstanding work, but there are many services that they cannot offer that community chaplaincy programs could. The John Howard Society has a 200-year history of supporting the humanization of the justice system and reentry. The Society helps recovering offenders by sending them back into the prisons to share their stories with imprisoned people.
  • LaResse: A Better Way Foundation is working to organize people around issues and implement harm-reduction models that have proven to work effectively in urban, rural, and suburban communities so that it does not look as threatening to rural and suburban communities.
Audience comment: Earlier this month was watching a press conference at the While House sharing results from various Department of Labor programs working to get ex-offenders employed. They had small and national eployers talking about hiring former offenders, and one said that while many employers will given offenders a chanc, they are worried about the safety risk. How do we get employers to think more openly?
Audience comment: Her son is in jail and she is very frustrated with the system. She is a social worker and has been advocating for clients her entire lfie, but cannot advocate for her son. He is about to reenter society but the system is such a mess that she has been powerless in helping. He was told that he was approved for Transitional Supervision and entry to a halfway house, but after spending days and days searching for programs, she found that many do not contact you or respond. It shouldn’t be her responsibility to make the arrangements, it should be the responsibility of the prison, but she has no way of communicating with the system or services. She has been cut off from her son, could not add money to his account because his name was misspelled, and does not know what to do.
  • Jeff: The best way to work with the system is contact the warden.
  • LaResse: Communication needs to be improved. Some families contact A Better Way saying that their mail is not being received by their famiy who is incarcerated; that is not right. Family support needs to be encouraged and supported through the system. Reentry councilors are responsible for taking care of those returning to society.
Audience comment: The issue is large and complicated, but one issue we have not talked about is that the engine that drives huge numbers of people incarcerated in Connecticut and many states is urban poverty. Connecticut is the richest state, but we have three or four of the poorest cities in the country. If we do not address the issue in a new, goal-directed way, we cannot solve the 15% poverty rate in the United States; that statistic is far lower in other countries.

Audience comment: is an advocate for Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project . For her, like with Harriet Beecher Stowe, it is really a human issue – just like Jeff and LaResse’s friendship, and what she felt when her husband Jeff was in prison. When Jeff was in prison, she and her daughter were in poverty and were grief stricken. Those who look at her and think she has never faced poverty are wrong. When she listens to LaResse she cannot express the pain she feels inside. No girl or woman should have to experience what she did, being raped by another inmate. “We are all bound by our brokenness, and the sooner we gather together and focus on these issues,” the sooner we can make change – it is about souls, and grace, and mercy, and people, and taking people by the hands. This is what we need to bring our children up with. She wants everyone to leave the Salon and reach out to someone – "we are bound."

Audience comment: As an ex-offender, is humbled that so many people came to share in the conversation. Was incarcerated fr 25 years and served 17.5 years. His heart goes out to the victims of his crime and does not forget about them. When factories left Connecticut and left unemployment, crime and poverty increased. Resources are not funneled into the cities and where they monney is needed. He is a third generation incarceration and works to help with successful reentry. Lack of resources, lack of quality education in the community, and laws are problems – but the underlying issue is racism. We see laws like cost of incarceration, which can continue to take money from you after reentry for the cost incurred by the government during your incarceration for up to 20 years after release. This keeps certain groups of people in a perpetual state of poverty and disenfranchisement. Much of this happened under the Rowland administration, and these issues still need to be addressed. This conversation reminds him of when William Lloyd garrison tried to get people to understand the importance of abolition and horrors of slavery, but he did not find success until he brought on Frederick Douglass. “We are here tonight with the Frederick Douglass’.”
  • LaResse: Cost of incarceration should be unconstitutional. We also need to eradicate holding cells/rooms in schools which are incarcerating students.
Jeff: There is something psychological about seeing someone commit a crime that looks like you – a white person has a hard time seeing someone who looks like them commit a crime and admit that crime happens in their communities and effects everyone.

  • Read The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream (fall 2014).
  • Hire someone with a criminal record.
  • Revise the pardon process which is not equal in sex, race, ethnicity, or crime.
  •  Encourage people to submit their stories as “re-entry survivors” to help change public policy (submit to reentrysurvivors@gmail.com)
  • Participate in public hearings, lend your voice to change public policy.
  • Join Civic Trust Public Lobbying. 
  • Learn about decriminalization of marijuana and expungement of misdemeanors.
  •  Establish reentry centers in major cities and towns.
  • Connect parole and probation and improve communication between departments.
  • Take action and organize grassroots groups in your community to bring awareness and create change on issues:
    • Call legislators
    • Write letters
    • Attend hearings
    • Learn more about the Phoenix Association
  • Learn more about the John Howard Society as a model community chaplaincy program (Canada, England, Norway, Denmark).
  • Explore A Better Way Foundation (ABWF) resources. 
  • Allow prisoners to vote.
  • Improve family reunification process – families need to speak up and build support.
  • We’re all bound by our brokenness – this is a human issue – do something!
  • Re-examine the laws around cost of incarceration.
  • Address the underlying issue of racism.
  • Eradicate holding cells in schools.

What your reactions and takeaways from the Salon? What questions do you still have? What will you do to take action? Share your ideas, reactions, and plans for action in the "Comments" section below. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Campaign to #EndChildMarriage in Ethiopia

A former child bride from Ethiopia has started “Campaign Against Child Marriage in Ethiopia” an organization that uses former child brides to bring awareness to the issue of child marriage as well as offer support for those exiting forced marriages. The advocacy and justice group was founded by Alemtsahye Gebrekidan, a former child bride in Ethiopia, who upon exiting her marriage and immigrating to the U.K., completed a university education and utilized her resources to help others. 


“Campaign Against Child Marriage in Ethiopia” is not the only organization working to combat child marriage and increase agency for women worldwide. This summer in London, policy makers, ministers, and human rights organizations will meet to hold the first ever “Girls Summit” to advocate for an end to female genital mutilation and child marriage.  

What do you think of the summit? As issues such as female genital mutilation and child marriage do not frequently occur in the U.S., what are ways in which Americans can be galvanized to support these causes? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Coming Home After Prison: A New Reality" #SalonsAtStowe this Thursday, July 17 at 5PM

According to the National Institute of Justice, in 2011, 688,384 men and women — approximately 1,885 individuals a day — were released from state or federal custody in the United States.

Returning to the community from jail or prison is a complex transition for most offenders, as well as for their families and communities. Upon reentering society, former offenders are likely to struggle with substance abuse, lack of adequate education and job skills, limited housing options, and mental health issues.

Join the conversation at Salons at Stowe when we discuss Coming Home After Prison: A New Reality with featured guests Rev. Jeff Grant, Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse Project and LaResse Harvey, A Better Way Foundation. Come learn more about reentering society after prison and how you can create change on this issue, and have your voice heard! 


The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required but are strongly encouraged: Info@StoweCenter.org or 860-522-9258, ext. 317

Salon admission is FREE thanks to our members, donors and CT Department of Economic & Community Development; The Elizabeth Carse Foundation; City of Hartford Arts & Heritage Jobs Grants Program, Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor; Greater Hartford Arts Council; Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation; NewAlliance Foundation and Travelers Foundation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Make being an #activist easier - subscribe to our #SalonsAtStowe blog today!

We've added a new subscription feature to our Salons at Stowe blog! Now with just a few clicks you can officially subscribe to this blog and receive email notifications when a new post is added.

Simply type your email address in the field below and click "Subscribe," or do the same using the "Subscribe to Salons at Stowe by email!" feature in the information bar to the right. You will then receive a verification email with a link - click the link to confirm your address and you will be subscribed.

Don't miss the chance to receive updates from our Salon blog and keep up-to-date on our postings, articles news, events, and more. Subscribe today!

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Questions? Email Brian at bcofrancesco@stowecenter.org.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Verizon's #InspireHerMind commercial

Verizon's recent "Inspire Her Mind" commercial showcases how young girls are often dissuaded from pursuing science, technology, and being hands on. The commercial aims to inspire girls - and the parents who encourage them - to "change the world."

The cast of Good Morning America reflected on this ad and the recent movement in feminist TV advertising. 

ABC News | ABC Sports News

How do you react to this commercial and the conversation around it? Is this an effective strategy to motivating girls to change the world and pursue careers in science and technology? How else can we encourage young girls to be themselves and be inspired?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Take action on #genderequality and #equalpay at #Rally4Equality2014

Looking to take action on gender equality and equal pay? Join The Women's Watch and We Are Woman, ERA Action & PDA for the #Rally4Equality2014 in Washington, D.C. on September 12th and 13th. Don't miss youth suffragette Madison Kimrey speak on Sunday at the We Are Woman Constitution Day Rally.

Photo: We want YOU to join us for the #Rally4Equality2014 in Washington DC on 9/13/14! And for our Congressional Day of Action on 9/12/14! Check out the details:<br />

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New #juvenilejustice legislation introduced in Congress

On June 25th, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation directed at improving juvenile justice programs around the country. The bill, entitled “Better Options for Kids Act,” incentivizes states to replace ineffective and overly-harsh juvenile court punishments, with bipartisan, evidence-based solutions that improve youth outcomes, strengthen public safety, and save money.

The bill incentivizes states that specifically follow these evidence-supported solutions:
• Limiting court referrals for non-criminal offenses
• Establishing clear guidelines regarding the role of school resource officers
• Providing training for school districts on non-exclusionary discipline
• Adopting a reentry policy for youth leaving correctional facilities

Along this same theme, 2014 Student Stow Prize winner Madeline Sachs wrote about juvenile justice in her piece “Juvenile Life Without Parole.”

Issues of justice for youth are not particularly focused upon- making this legislation rare and impactful. Why do you think that juvenile justice is overlooked in the context of larger conversations about crime and crime reduction? Do you think this legislation will pass? Will it make a difference?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

#Americanah Nook Farm Book Talk on July 10 and #TEDTalk by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book CoverStories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
Tomorrow evening, the Stowe Center and Twain House will host our monthly Nook Farm Book Talk discussion, this month featuring the book  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The program will be from 5:00-6:30pm in the Stowe Visitor Center. Reservations are highly encouraged at Info@StoweCenter.org or 860-522-9258 ext. 317.

In preparation for the discussion, we encourage you to listen to “The danger of the single story,” a 2009 TED Talk by Adichie, a Nigerian novelist. In it, she mentions the root of stereotypes and, by extension, inequalities between race, class, and gender, come mainly from what she called the “single story.” The “single story” only evaluates a character or an issue from one “single” side, eliminating any potential to sympathize with experiences different from our own and leaves more opportunities to misunderstand others. You can listen to the TED Talk HERE.

Mid-way through the talk, Adichie says:
It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is "nkali." It's a noun that loosely translates to "to be greater than another."Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

Maybe more importantly, she raises the question of agency and who should be allowed to write "whose story." She continues that:
What if my roommate knew about my Nigerian publisher, Mukta Bakaray, a remarkable man who left his job in a bank to follow his dream and start a publishing house? Now, the conventional wisdom was that Nigerians don't read literature. He disagreed. He felt that people who could read, would read, if you made literature affordable and available to them...Shortly after he published my first novel I went to a TV station in Lagos to do an interview, and a woman who worked there as a messenger came up to me and said, "I really liked your novel. I didn't like the ending. Now you must write a sequel, and this is what will happen ..." (Laughter) And she went on to tell me what to write in the sequel. I was not only charmed, I was very moved. Here was a woman, part of the ordinary masses of Nigerians, who were not supposed to be readers. She had not only read the book, but she had taken ownership of it and felt justified in telling me what to write in the sequel.
What is the role of story telling in our society? Whose stories do we tell and whose stories do we remember? Please share your thoughts below, and join us tomorrow evening for an engaging discussion on Americanah and author Adichie!

Please note that Adichie will not be at this program.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Actors and atheletes urge action after Nigerian kidnappings through @USAID's #LetGirlsLearn movement

Following the April kidnapping of several hundred Nigerian girls, and the subsequent kidnappings by Boko Haram in June, USAID launched the Let Girls Learn campaign "to provide the public with meaningful ways to help all girls to get a quality education." Their website, www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn, provides tangible ways for Americans to take action on the issue of education for girls, from providing meals to young girls through World Food program, to buying books and school materials through Save the Children, to supporting gender equity through the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies. They encourage followers to Act, Learn and Share.

In the video below, famous actors and sports stars call attention to the issue of education for girls and make a direct call to action: YOU can make a difference...act now and you will see the impact. 

How will you heed the call to action of the many voices in the video? Of the action ideas listed on the Let Girls Learn website, which will you do? What inspires you to take action on this issue? We hope you will share your action and inspiration below. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Disparity in #HobbyLobby coverage of men's and women's contraceptives

Last week, the Huffington Post reported that the craft store chain Hobby Lobby - granted the right to drop health care coverage for women's contraceptives because of its owners' religion, in a Supreme Court ruling - still covers vasectomies and Viagra. Many are speaking out on the injustice behind the disparity and willingness to cover men's contraceptives and treatments for erectile dysfunction, but not women's contraceptives.
Evangelical Christians have long argued that life begins at conception, and therefore that medical procedures that disrupt the first stages of pregnancy amount to murder. In the case of Hobby Lobby, this extends to a woman taking pills such as Plan B, Next Choice or Ella, any of which would prevent her ovaries from releasing an egg that could be fertilized after unprotected sex. Perhaps taking a note from Catholic Church's opposition to sterilization, Hobby Lobby also objected to long-term birth control methods such as IUDs, which can cost women up to $1,000. But that does not explain why Hobby Lobby doesn't object to covering the cost of its male employees' vasectomies.

Should Hobby Lobby have been granted the right by the Supreme Court to drop coverage of women's contraceptives? What is your reaction to the disparity in their coverage of men's and women's contraceptives? This is an important issue facing our country, we hope you will weigh in below!

Friday, July 4, 2014

"What to the Slave is the #4thofJuly?" - the meaning of #FrederickDouglass' words in 2014

On July 2, 1852, at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, self-emancipated slave and notable orator Frederick Douglass delivered "The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro" in Rochester, NY. In his now famous speech, Douglass reflected on the meaning of Independence Day for enslaved and free blacks who were in fact not equal and not privy to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As he asked his audience: What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?

Douglass's words may be 162 years old and reflect an era when our government had not legally abolished the institution of slavery, but they ring true today. In a country that strives for equality, and despite Constitutional amendments and ever-changing legislation, modern day slavery and human trafficking persist and effect millions of people across American and our world. Although we may think we observe slavery, and many believe it has been "abolished," there are more people enslaved today than at any point in history.

So what do Douglass' words mean on Independence Day in 2014? What to the contemporary slave is the 4th of July? What work can we each do to ensure that on future Independence Days we have increased liberty and justice for all? We encourage you to share your thoughts below. 

You can read the full text of Douglass' speech HERE, and watch Morgan Freeman read powerful excerpts below. 


What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Can legislation prevent #humantrafficking?

Though many consumers are interested in purchasing products made from ethical sources, information on production is not always readily available. The lack of information for consumers is posed to change with a new bill introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (Democrat) of New York. The bill requires all companies with over $100 million in global gross revenue to publicly disclose measures they have taken to prevent human trafficking and slave labor as part of the annual Security and Exchange Commission report.

Do you think legislation like this could make a difference? If people have more information on products, will it result in more conscious consumption?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The 50th anniversary of #CivilRightsAct1964 #CRAat50

July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964. The legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, or sex and formally ended segregation in public institutions and facilities.

Of the act President Johnson noted: “This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts, to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country. So tonight I urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and professional man, every working man, every housewife — I urge every American — to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people, and to bring peace to our land.”

In what ways has the country progressed since 1964? Have we regressed? What are actions we can take, like President Johnson suggests, to improve racial and social justice in our own communities?

For more on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, follow the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library's recreation of the signing of the Act on Twitter @LBJLibraryNow, and #CRAat50 on Twitter (and below).

Rush Limbaugh's references to "Black #UncleTom Voters" in Mississippi

As primary season for the 2014 midterm elections continues, much attention has been paid to particularly contentious and close campaign races. One such race is that of the GOP primary for Senate in Mississippi. Current incumbent Thad Cochran was challenged by Tea-Party representative Chris McDaniel in a campaign that included name-calling, threats, and arrests. The election came to a head on June 24th, when Cochran defeated challenger McDaniel. Not everyone was pleased with the outcome. Ultra-conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was among those not so happy, and even brandished the dubiously rooted racial-slur “Uncle Tom” as a result.

Limbaugh called African American voters who voted for Cochran “Uncle Toms”, referencing the racial stereotype that emerged from the play and minstrel show adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s acclaimed anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The term, often levied at African Americans, refers to individuals who are “traitors” to their identity, or are weak or subservient to dominant identity groups. Stowe’s depiction of the character Uncle Tom was quite different, suggesting that Limbaugh - among many others - has probably not read the text.

The use of “Uncle Tom” is prevalent in not just politics, but in entertainment, sports and news-media. Yet, all instances represent a failed interpretation of Stowe’s novel. What are ways we can mitigate the use of this racial slur? How can we inform and educate those who have not read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? If you have read the novel, what do you think of the use of “Uncle Tom” today? Have you ever witnessed the term being used? What did you do about it? Share below!

For more on the character Uncle Tom, visit the Stowe Center for our free exhibit Who Is Uncle Tom?, which examines the evolution of Stowe’s title character from a strong, Christ-like figure to a racial slur.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Honoring the anniversary of Harriet Beecher Stowe's passing

Mrs. Stowe lived all her active life in high thoughts and in high companionship. Her sympathies were always with the oppressed, she was always the champion of intellectual and religious freedom. Whatever rank she will finally assume in the world of letters, it is evident that history must hold her one of the great influencers in her generation. 
- Hartford Courant, July 2, 1896

On July 1, 1896, at around 12 o'clock noon, Harriet Beecher Stowe passed away in her Hartford home on Forest Street. Her death sparked the publication of obituaries and editorials across the country which reflected on her life and work and paid tribute to her lasting impact on the world.

As we honor the anniversary of Stowe's passing, we'd like to know how you emulate her commitment to improving the world. What is the issue that will push or has pushed you to take action? We encourage you to share an issue you care about below, and how you will honor Stowe's memory and create positive change today. What will you do? 

No wonder that she touched the human heart. No wonder she moved a nation's conscience. So do a few brief words show the power with which Harriet Beecher Stowe roused the conscience of a nation and made ready the way for the great deliverance. We may not have her gift of nature...we may not have her genius, but we can all have that which was greatest of all in her - a love that sees and plans, a love to reaches out to every loving soul, a love that counts not its life dear...but gladly lays down life for those it loves.
- Hartford Courant, July 23, 1896

Want to get in shape and fight #humantrafficking this summer? Check out @Love146's #treadontrafficking

Are you an activist looking to both take action and get in shape this summer? If so, check out Love146's Tread on Trafficking campaign which encourages you to put the active in activism. As a result of the campaign, people across the world are using their "workout for something greater by running, swimming, biking or jogging in the name of abolition." One such activist is Laura Hagen of California who is leading a group of 4 moms who will run 146 miles in 46 days. You can read her story and those of others below and on the Love146 blog.

Is there an exercise routine you could use to raise money to fight human trafficking? How can you use your summer workout to create positive change around modern day slavery?