Refugees, Sesame Street, and Friday Music

Courtesy of NPR, an excellent article on the newest visitors to refugee children: the Sesame Street Muppets.

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image via NPR

We are fascinated by the research process that Sesame Workshop is up to here.

In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Sesame producers and early-childhood experts are soliciting guidance and feedback from relief organizations, trauma experts, academics and others who have worked with refugees. They’ll also be making research visits to refugee camps in Jordan.

According to the IRC, of the 65 million people displaced from their homes worldwide, more than half are children.

As American readers, steeped in multiculturalism (not to mention as Bay Area readers, used to a high level of diversity), what stood out the most to us, though, was what children might not be taught.

Cairo Arafat, who oversees production of the Arabic language Sesame Street from Abu Dhabi, urged her colleagues not to make assumptions that refugees will share their values such as inclusivity.

“In many of these populations,” she said, “children are still taught, ‘No. Be wary of the people who don’t talk like you, don’t look like you or come from a different sect.’ ” With the special conditions facing refugees — including security issues — Arafat advised careful thinking about what they would like to teach.

Continue reading “Refugees, Sesame Street, and Friday Music”

Friday Music: Precious Friends

I listen to a lot of kids’ music these days. So here’s one of my favorites, in two versions. First, the cover, from the wonderful Canadian trio, Sharon, Lois, and Bram. And below the lyrics.

Just when I thought
All was lost, you changed my mind.
You gave me hope, (not just the old soft soap)
You showed that we could learn to share in time.
(You and me and Rockefeller)
I’ll keep pluggin’ on,
Your face will shine through all our tears.
And when we sing another little victory song,
Precious friend, you will be there,
Singing in harmony,
Precious friend, you will be there.

But if you know this song, you know its origins: the great Pete Seeger. This is the version I found myself listening to late at night, just after the election last year, for a bit of consolation. Easy to sing along, hopeful without being saccharine, and a lot of fun to dance to. Enjoy!

Blog note: Maybe the only silver lining to Eva heading out into the great wide open for a few weeks, at least from my perspective (because hey, she’s on vacation!), is that I get to take over Friday Music posts for a little while. So get ready for some toddler-friendly music with an emphasis on banjo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Storytelling

We’ve been musing about the direction Small Stones should take and one avenue we’re pursuing and deepening is storytelling. By that, we mean first-person narratives with a focus on the topics and themes we’ve been blogging about: discrimination, bias, racism, prejudice, and also the tools available to confront these.

Frequent readers will remember some of our oral history posts, including Oral History: An Introduction and Oral History: A Community College Assignment.

As we start developing interviews, we’ll share some resources pertaining to the storytelling process.

Today’s are from The Moth, a storytelling program that’s one of our favorite podcasts. First, three values The Moth promotes, which we offer in the spirit of “food for thought”.

  • We believe that processing experience through narrative can provide insight and agency
  • We believe that listening to stories can widen our perspective and help us realize what we have in common.
  • We believe that a community is strengthened when its members share stories with one another.

And next, some concrete tips for storytelling from The Moth. Keep in mind that The Moth is interested in oral story telling with a particular format, so some of the tips are specific to the genre.

“What to do

“Have some stakes: Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage.
Start in the action.

“Have a great first line that sets up the stakes and grabs attention: No: “So I was thinking about climbing this mountain. But then I watched a little TV and made a snack and took a nap and my mom called and vented about her psoriasis then I did a little laundry (a whites load) (I lost another sock, darn it!) and then I thought about it again and decided I’d climb the mountain the next morning.” Yes: “The mountain loomed before me. I had my hunting knife, some trail mix and snow boots. I had to make it to the little cabin and start a fire before sundown or freeze to death for sure.”

“Know your story well enough so you can have fun!: Watching you panic to think of the next memorized line is harrowing for the audience. Make an outline, memorize your bullet points and play with the details. Enjoy yourself. Imagine you are at a dinner party, not a deposition.”

“…and what not to do

“Steer clear of meandering endings: They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. Yes, bring the audience along with you as you contemplate what transpires in your story, but remember, you are driving the story, and must know the final destination. Keep your hands on the wheel!

“No standup routines please: The Moth loves funny people but requires that all funny people tell funny stories.

“No rants: Take up this anger issue with your therapist, or skip therapy and shape your anger into a story with some sort of resolution. (Stories = therapy!)

“No essays: Your eloquent musings are beautiful and look pretty on the page but unless you can make them gripping and set up stakes, they won’t work on stage.

“About that (fake) accent: If your story doesn’t work in your own voice, or that of your people of origin, please consider another story. In our experience, imitating accents from another culture or race rarely works and often offends.”

By way of a bonus, here’s a recent broadcast from The Moth: Pam Burrell’s “My Unlikely Brothers“. Click the story name to re-direct to the story, which doesn’t have embed capability.

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(P. Burrell image by Jessica Taves courtesy of The Moth; featured moth image from“[Planches enluminées d’histoire naturelle” (1765) via Flickr.)

Friday Music: Matisyahu’s Reservoir

In honor of Passover, a song with allusions to the Exodus by Matisyahu, the American musician. Emphasis is on his voice and the lyrics.

You can read a review of the Akeda album, from which Reservoir is taken, here. (Akeda is Hebrew and refers to the binding of Isaac).

“Reservoir” (lyrics courtesy of A-Z Lyrics)

I just wanna talk to You now
This is for the One
You kept me alive
And so I thank You

Moses is on his way down town Continue reading “Friday Music: Matisyahu’s Reservoir”

Real Warm Fuzzies: Tiny Paper Wins Pulitzer

It’s as good a day as any for a straight-up, feel-good (re)post.

From Poynter.org, here’s a backgrounder and interview with a small-town newspaper editorialist, Art Cullen, who just won a Pulitzer prize. Tiny, family-run newspaper wins Pulitzer Prize for taking on big business.

First, the background:

If you know Art Cullen, it’s not exactly a surprise to learn his initial words upon watching the livestream of the Pulitzer announcements and learning he’d won for editorial writing.

“Holy shit,” he yelled out to his brother, John, the publisher of the family-run, 10-person Storm Lake (Iowa) Times.

The only surprise was that there wasn’t a longer string of un-family-like adjectives or adverbs.   …

[Cullen] won for editorials that confronted the state’s most powerful agricultural interests, which include the Koch Brothers, Cargill and Monsanto, and their secret funding of the government defense of a big environmental lawsuit. His “tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing” were quite self-evident if you’ve seen his labor (which actually spanned two years, though he won for last year’s efforts).

The paper in question is The Storm Lake Times, described in the Pulitzer citation as “a 3,000-circulation twice-weekly newspaper in Storm Lake, Iowa, pop. 10,000, in rural Northwest Iowa.” Click here to link to the editorials for which the prize was awarded.

Here’s an excerpt of Poynter’s interview with Cullen, by James Warren. The take-away? Local journalism matters. It’s not a novel take, but the Pulitzer payoff drives it home. We hope it reminds you and your students that story-telling and journalism are worthwhile.

What would you like to think are the most important points you made in the editorials?

It’s all about transparency in the funding of the environmental lawsuit (defense). We took on the state’s biggest agricultural players and said their donations should be made public. The biggest players: the Koch brothers, Cargill, Monsanto were all conspiring to fund the defense of the (Buena Vista) county.

We found out they (elected officials) had met with Monsanto executives and Koch executives. My son, Tom, did most of the reporting. And he tracked down how the Agribusiness Association of Iowa was working with the Iowa Farm Bureau to funnel the secret donations to the country.

We cried foul and worked with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. They wrote several letters saying these were public records under Iowa law. They wouldn’t release them, but they shut down the fund. It’s all a matter of transparency in government financing.

How has being in a small place fueled your passion? Is it easier or harder when arguably there’s greater accountability since, well, you may run into people whom you write about on the street?

I lost some friends, but some people don’t understand us, why we would badger county supervisors so that their sugar daddy went away. I said, “Because it wasn’t right.” We felt the public deserved to know who’s paying our bills. We did a lot of groundbreaking news reporting and my son (who’s 24) did most of the heavy lifting.

We’ve spoken before about your work on immigration, especially right after President Trump’s controversial executive order. Is the confusion and fear that we’ve talked about in the Storm Lake area when it comes to immigration still the same?

Things have calmed down. The police chief (Mark Prosser) has calmed things down. He arrives in his police uniform at public forums and says, “We’re not arresting you just because you are undocumented.”      …

What, at first blush, does this recognition say about the people like you, laboring in more isolated environs, busting their asses to survive and believing as you do in journalism?

Journalism really matters, and good journalism is being done all across the country.

Any final thoughts?

Yes. Put in a plug for the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. They are broke and have little support.

(Lady Liberty image courtesy of Pulitzer.org website)

Friday Music: Wyclef’s Lady Haiti

As we have before, we’re reposting content from Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society or AAIHS. It’s a brief article-interview by Darryl Robertson, an undergrad (we’re impressed), entitled Wyclef Jean on Black History, Haiti, and His New Album.

Robertson interviewed Wyclef Jean about a new “extended play” or mini collection, from which Wyclef just released the song “Lady Haiti”. In the interview, Wyclef says, “The key here is that it’s important to know where you come from in order to know where you’re going. Haitians have a very important history. Haitian history is tied to all black history.”

Enjoy!

Friday Music: Second Line Blues

Fridays are music day. Here’s Sweet Honey in the Rock paying tribute to lives taken by violence in Second Line Blues.

From Sweet Honey’s webpage:

The “Second Line Blues” song reflects the current state of gun violence, the senseless loss of life, mass murders, and police brutality in our communities. It pays homage to many who are known and unknown including Emmett Till, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Susie Jackson, Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Eric Garner, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons, and the mass killings in Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and many more. It is written and performed by founding member, Louise Robinson. It is inspired by the New Orleans tradition of funeral procession. The first line of the band is the procession and the second line of the procession consists of the mourners.

And a classic by Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come”. More about its history here from the New Yorker.

Weekend Reading, 3/12

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It’s been a busy week for us here (please take our survey!), so it’s time to grab a drink, some reading material, and relax. Here are a few things we’ve been reading, though fair warning, unlike surveys, they’re not all conducive to relaxation.

First, watch this space! The Academic Expat is creating a Get Out Syllabus, centered around the incredibly acclaimed (both by critics and viewers) movie by the same name. Right now you’ll find the beginning of this work by Crystal Boson, PhD, here. If you’re not familiar with the film, this is material probably best suited for high school, college, and adult learners. Here’s her introduction:

The “Get Out” Syllabus focuses intently on the conversations surrounding White violence, the consumption of Black Bodies, and the erasure of Black Women that the movie elicits. The syllabus is divided into two parts; the first  closely examines the historical and cultural violences that made the movie possible. The second section examines the absences and erasures that make sections of the film explicitly more horrifying. My “Get Out” syllabus is in no way meant to be exhaustive or complete. Rather, it is an entry to point to key conversations that must be continued after the movie falls from theatres and our current popular culture attention span.

Rolling Stone has a deep dive into Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, and how her religious and cultural background may impact her agenda in this position.

Neither Betsy DeVos, who is 59, nor any of her children have ever attended a public school; her Cabinet post also marks her first full-time job in the education system. Even before her nomination, she was a controversial figure in education circles, a leading advocate of “school choice” through student vouchers, which give parents public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools. During her Senate confirmation hearing in January, DeVos struggled to grasp some of the most basic fundamentals of education terminology, student-loan policy and federal provisions mandating public schools provide free and appropriate education to people with disabilities. At one point, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the families of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, asked DeVos if she believed schools should be gun-free zones. She responded that in states like Wyoming “there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

If you are interested in learning more about the broader vision DeVos and those she’s worked with share, this is an article well worth your time.

For the English teachers, here’s Margaret Atwood in The New York Times opining on what everyone else has been talking about: the parallels between our current reality and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life.

And finally, some humor that we sincerely hope stays funny:

On the Origins of the Civil War: “Refusing to recognize the rights of Southern small business owners to help the documented immigrants in their care obtain their dreams, Dishonest Abe Lincoln, who never had a birth certificate, waged an illegal war using the machinery of big government.”

On the Massacre at Wounded Knee: “Not to be confused with actual massacres like the one at Bowling Green over a century later, this so-called tragedy in 1890 was nothing more than the feds taking out some bad hombres and undocumented natives hiding out from authorities in South Dakota.”

See you next week–and share our survey!

Friday Music: Mercy Now

A quiet song for the end of the week: Mercy Now, by Mary Gauthier.

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now

We came to this song via a blog post by Parker Palmer at On Being.