Small Stones Interview: A Civil Rights Lawyer

“I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was…”

c1c819be0f2948b99b76fbef09035842-780x470
Image via The Seattle Times

Our third Small Stones interviewee has requested anonymity. She is a civil rights lawyer actively working on what we non-legal minds like to call The Legal Resistance (hey, it sounds cool). We hope this interview will be just her first foray into educating laypeople about what’s going on in government and the implications it may have for our lives.

As you might expect, she’s experienced some pushback, and therefore we’ll be keeping her identity under wraps. Though we can’t tell you who she is, we’re happy to be able to publish our conversation in full below. Read on to find out what keeps her heading into work each morning, despite some very real misgivings about where the system is headed.

Small Stones (SS): How would you define what you do? I’ve been poking around your firm’s site, and it seems like you deal with a lot of good things!

A Lawyer (AL): I say I’m a civil rights lawyer, but I also do workers’ rights and consumer protection. I do a lot of “this looks important and interesting and like I could be useful. I’ll do that for a while.”

SS: That’s actually an excellent segue to my most pressing question. How are things different for you all, day to day, under this administration?

AL: A few ways, I think.
 First, when everyone thought Hillary would be elected, we had all of these plans about how we would push forward and make the world better, and we still have those, and some of them are still viable. But a lot more of what we do now is trying to protect the status quo.

With Scalia’s death and the new appointment, we were gearing up to try to get a bunch of things before the Supreme Court
, and now we’re on the defensive. And that’s true with everything.

SS: As a layperson, it’s been a bit disheartening to see how many governmental norms are really dependent on everyone agreeing that they are norms.

AL: Yeah, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was—and just how quickly it could change when everyone decides to just stop agreeing.

Continue reading “Small Stones Interview: A Civil Rights Lawyer”

The Voices Behind Studs Terkel’s “Working”

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.38.06 PM

If you’re like we are and you find oral histories fascinating, you’ve probably encountered Studs Terkel’s WorkingIf not, you have a major treat in store. Terkel went around the country in the early 1970s, interviewing people about what they did all day. The result was an incredible collection, one that gave insight into the lives of a wide range of ordinary people. We can attest that it’s excellent for high school or college classroom use, whether in full or as excerpts.

Radio Diaries, in partnership with Project&, has now done one better and made some of Terkel’s audio tapes (via  available for online listening. Check them out if you’ve ever been interested in hearing the voices that Terkel preserved so well.

You can find the feature, Working: Then & Now, at Radio Diaries.

Oral History Resources: Voice of Witness

the-microphone

Over here at Small Stones, we are busy with our own oral history project (come talk to us!), and one place we love to go for resources is Voice of Witness. Today, here’s a look at what they offer for educators.

First up: a webinar series on conducting oral history projects with students. Registration is required, but resources are available to check out now. We particularly like the resource guide “Listen Up: How to Plan Your Oral History Project.” At the top of the PDF is a list of excellent examples of other projects, notably some from high school students.

Also available, as a free download (or for purchase as a physical book): a teacher’s guide, The Power of the Story. You’ll find curricular material that can be used with Voice of Witness’s oral history collections, material that stands alone, and guides to creating your own oral history project.

From the foreword, written by William Ayers and Richard Ayers:

Oral history can be a truly revolutionary pedagogy. Because the work is propelled by questions instead of answers, it liberates students from the dull routines of passively receiving predigested in- formation. Instead, they become actors in constructing history and contributing substantively to the trajectory of the curriculum. They invent and experience the method of science, proposing explana- tions of the world, and then investigate to test the truth or to modify their explanations.

Students can approach the work as artists, filled with creativity and inventiveness, generative mistakes and sparkling epiphanies. Teachers can learn to take an attentive and supportive backseat, after sufficient preparation, and watch democratic education emerge from projects that the students themselves have learned to own. Through these projects, the stories that have been hidden, sup- pressed, and ignored begin to take center stage, and the real dimensions of one’s community and its struggles burst forth and grab the mic. This is why oral history, in form and content, can become a central project of social justice in our classrooms.

Finally, if you’d like your training in person, and you are able to be in San Francisco, consider VOW’s Annual Summer Oral History Training. We certainly are.

 

Weekend Reading: The Aspirational List

books-from-book-sale

So your weekend reading editor is currently doing battle with a nasty cold–not hers, but the rest of her family’s. What we are presenting, therefore, is a list not of things we’ve read, but of things that we would love to read, just as soon as the taking temperatures/getting orange juice/running out for popsicles eases up a bit.

If you haven’t yet encountered Brain Pickings, we will assume you haven’t been hanging out on the internet much. Go on over and check out her recent post on Ursula K. LeGuin’s thoughts on aging and beauty.

Beauty always has rules. It’s a game. I resent the beauty game when I see it controlled by people who grab fortunes from it and don’t care who they hurt. I hate it when I see it making people so self-dissatisfied that they starve and deform and poison themselves. Most of the time I just play the game myself in a very small way, buying a new lipstick, feeling happy about a pretty new silk shirt.

Essence covers a story that’s getting attention long-past due: missing black women and girls in Washington, D.C.

According to the latest FBI data, as of February 2017, there are a total of 13,591 active missing person records for African American women stored in its National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Of that total, 8,042 were of the ages of 18 and under; 1,419 were between the ages of 19 to 21.

The numbers trouble Natalie Wilson, 47, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., (BAM FI), a nonprofit she launched with her sister-in-law, Derrica Wilson, 38, back in 2008.

“Black women and girls are going missing and it’s not just in Washington D.C. It’s happening in Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban areas around the country,” she said.

We missed this one when it was first published–if you did, too, make up for lost time and take a look. Over at Black Perspectives, there’s a great interview with Erica Armstrong Dunbar about her new book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital, after a brief stay in New York. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Happy reading, and here’s to a quick end to cold and flu season!

 

Immigration and Race: White and Undocumented

ie

File this under “things we didn’t know we didn’t know”: there’s a fairly large population of undocumented Irish nationals living in the US.

What set us Googling was a series of Tweets referencing Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly’s visit with Donald Trump yesterday, in which the PM brought up the status of the 50,000 or so undocumented Irish immigrants currently in the US. Kelly said to Trump,

“This is what I said to your predecessor [Barack Obama] on a number of occasions – we would like this to be sorted,” he told the president at a lunch event. “It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say: ‘Now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can.'”

Some additional searching brought up regular news stories about undocumented Irish immigrants, from a 2015 NPR report

Gerry is one of an estimated 50,000 Irish who are not authorized to be in the U.S., according to the Irish embassy in Washington, D.C. Most of have stayed too long on their visas, and most live in the large Irish populations of New York City, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

— to a New York Times story from 1989 detailing similar issues.

The interesting through line in the articles is the fact that Irish people generally look white — though in the 19th century, they were often viewed as an inferior “kind” of white — and therefore aren’t subject to the same profiling as people of color.

A 2007 LA Times article points out that being a white illegal immigrant can be useful:

Irish immigrant advocates are acutely aware that the American public doesn’t identify the Irish as alien, let alone illegal, and they consciously leverage this positive prejudice to their advantage. “The fact that they’re white Europeans agitating for immigration reform is helpful,” said Niall O’Dowd, chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper. “Bottom line is that every ethnic group brings their own strength to the debate. We can’t put a million people in the street, but we have positive political identification and a lot of access to Democrats and Republicans.”

Still, a CNN article this week notes that undocumented Irish are feeling scared under the Trump administration, too.

All in all, it’s food for thought about the relationship between skin color and anti-immigrant feeling, and a reminder that assumptions about who’s foreign have changed a lot over the decades.

Teaching Civics: Resource List from American Enterprise Institute

There’s bipartisan agreement that civics education matters. This isn’t to deny that people disagree about which topics should receive emphasis, but it’s worth remembering we still have big areas of cross-party agreement. For example, it’s not controversial to say that American kids should learn about our government institutions, how to participate in them, and so forth.

One of our points of personal interest is how to amplify the issues on which there’s broad agreement amongst Americans. In that spirit, he’s a civics teaching resource list created by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank.

It includes lists of social studies blogs, government sites aimed at educators, civics lesson plans for all ages, presidential libraries online, games and entertainment, and more. Check it out!

(Featured image from AEI, Lincoln and the Constitution)

Sanctuary, Then and Now

Here are an article and video that speak to immigration and deportation and shed some light on the history of sanctuaries (past) and sanctuary cities (present).

Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America” looks back to the arrival of Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees during Reagan’s administration — and to the role of churches and other religious communities in sheltering them and opposing federal deportation orders. The story then considers policy under the Obama administration and the possible actions of the Trump administration.

We like the embedded video for adding the stories of a present-day father of three sheltering in a church, the pastor whose church he inhabits, and a Guatemalan woman who was sheltered by a church in the 1980s. Viewing today’s searing events through the lens of previous ones gives hope that we can find a kinder way.

The article and video are part of a New York Times series called Retro Report: Essays and Documentary Videos that Re-examine the Leading Stories of Decades Past.

(Photo of Reagan by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press from the NYT article referenced below.)


♣The Resource♣

Haberman, Clyde. (2017, 5 March). Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/column/retro-report.