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Friday, March 27, 2015

Class assignment for Tuesday, March 31

Post a thoughtful response to Natasha Begin's assignment before coming to class at 3:00 pm.

11 comments:

  1. Although this is not a particular person, but a group of people and organizations who have come together in order to create a place, it is something I believe in and it definitely resonates with me. This place is the arboretum. The arboretum, in 1991 was first a joint effort from the University of Kentucky and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and then became named “Official State Botanical Garden for the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” in 2000. The reason I love the movement and values of this place is because it brings together so many different types of people. The arboretum does not limit the types of people you could see based on race, socio-economic status, or gender. Although handicap people are less likely to go there, there are plenty of benches and seating area where people can sit and take in the beautiful, live museum. I call it a museum because it the initiatives of the arboretum are towards the idea of “walking across Kentucky.” This means that as you walk across the two-mile, paved path you will see and be amongst foliage and plant life from all over Kentucky. Although this is a mission of the arboretum, that is not what most of the community sees it for. Most people see it as a place to meet someone to have an important conversation, or get exercise. Those are great things and I have used the arboretum for those things, but the goal is to appreciate and further educate yourself about the nature and the plant life around you. Their efforts are not quite matched up with the public view of the place because most people walk around the path everyday without even the slightest idea of what the plant life is around them and how valuable it is. Another way their efforts are slightly failing is through their children’s garden. They want to make the place extra friendly for children so that families can come and allow their children to play and enjoy their own playful environment. The arboretum wants to create a place for children to not just play but “discover plants and the environment.” This initiative is at a stand still because there are not enough funds to keep it going at the moment. It is just so unfortunate that the passions of the arboretum do not meet up with the people that walk through it everyday; people walk the path without helping or even knowing the passions of the place.

    Info from: http://arboretum.ca.uky.edu/home

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  2. When we received this assignment, I immediately thought of this essay that circulated Facebook early last year that completely changed the way I viewed international mission trips. The essay is titled, “The Problem with Little White Girls (and Boys): Why I Stopped Being a Voluntourist”. I have never been on a mission trip, ever, let alone to one out of the country, so I couldn’t connect with it based on personal experience. The connection more came from the voicing of issues that I hadn’t realized I agreed with until I read them.

    The author, Pippa Biddle, describes a trip she took in high school to Tanzania. It cost $3000 to go on the trip, and they were tasked with building a library. She later discovered that after each day of them building, the local men would go to the site and undo their work only to rebuild it correctly and soundly. The students, all female, were not told at the time that this was happening.

    This made her realize how much more effective it would have been to just use that money to hire the locals to do the work in the first place. She compares this experience to another she had in the Dominican Republic. The language barrier distanced her from the staff and the amount of help she could actually provide was limited.

    A quote, “Now, 6 years later, I am much better at spanish and am still highly involved with the camp programing, fundraising, and leadership. However, I have stopped attending having finally accepting that my presence is not the godsend I was coached by non-profits, documentaries, and service programs to believe it would be.”

    She talks about how she is good at a lot of things, but not the right things. “I am not a teacher, a doctor, a carpenter, a scientist, an engineer, or any other professional that could provide concrete support and long-term solutions to communities in developing countries.” People might say you don’t need to be those things to help in developing countries. You can be a source of inspiration for the people there based on your will to do good. Ms. Biddle counters this by saying, “I don’t want a little girl in Ghana, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia to think of me when she wakes up each morning. I don’t want her to thank me for her education or medical care or new clothes. Even if I am providing the funds to get the ball rolling, I want her to think about her teacher, community leader, or mother. I want her to have a hero who she can relate to – who looks like her, is part of her culture, speaks her language, and who she might bump into on the way to school one morning.”

    She ends the essay with a warning to really consider your international aid trips, especially if your skills sets do not match with the ones necessary to be successful. She says that misguided trips are not harmless and in fact harm the society you go into by preventing positive growth and by perpetuating the white savior complex.

    Pippa Biddle still works administration for international aid programs. This is the best way for her to continue to help using her available skills. I think she teaches a really important lesson about being aware of the help you can actually give. It is necessary to know what spaces you can go into and not be viewed as an intruder, what spaces you can go into that will actually benefit that space and not just your own view of self. Ms. Biddle has found the avenue that works best for her and those who wish to provide service need to be aware of themselves doing the same.

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  3. So, this may not be exactly the assignment, but it’s the first thing I thought of after reading the prompt. Last fall, I was introduced to the work of Thomas Merton, a trappist monk who lived for years at the Abbey of Gethsemani just outside of Bardstown, KY. While I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on his work, and there is still much that I have to read, I do find many of his themes to be relevant. His years as a monk were spent studying religion, writing poetry, and being a social activist. When I read Natasha’s prompt, I thought of Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist.

    Merton warns his reader not to be concerned with results in social work. Result are quantitatively limiting and not a true measure of the value of the work being done. Instead, he says activists should focus on the inherent good of the work itself. Further, he says the saving grace of social work is the development of personal relationships.

    None of this is to say that I don’t think social work has the potential to produce good results. Good is being done whenever you pack lunches or bake brownies for the poor, or whenever you clean up the trash in a neighborhood. But having results be the only goal when it comes to social work will always be underwhelming. Despite your individual best efforts, you will never pack enough lunches or bake enough brownies to end world hunger. There will still be dirty neighborhoods. So like Merton said, it is the work itself and the relationships that form as a result where the greatest good of social work can be found.

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    1. Fair if I add on to this? (Yesterday was like Merton Monday for me and he was the only thing I was reading up on)!

      When it comes to experiencing failure/troubles, Thomas Merton was no stranger. Although he is seen as a paragon of peace and interfaith dialogue, Merton experienced a lot of criticism from the Catholic Church, especially from his Trappist superiors at Gethsemani. Merton preferred a life of political activism and beaming in the sunlight of humankind, all of this which would be considering unbecoming of a Trappist Monk that is sworn to live a solitary and silent life. Although he never really resolved this issue besides walking on a tightrope (Gethsemani could not be too upset since he was/is one of the reasons for the Abby's claim to fame/ profits), Merton was a very 'human' activist and his faults have not been erased by history which I personally admire.

      Going off of Kevin's passage, I would also like to add a quote from his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

      'There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.'

      Going back to activism, this quote has resonated to me a lot, especially in the college setting. I feel like some individuals get lost in the traffic of activism and either want to do everything because they want to or to do everything since it will make them look good to employers. Both of these acts are detrimental to oneself and to one's cause. Personally, I have been trying to narrow down on what matters to me and why and allocate myself to causes I care about and to not spread myself thin.

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  4. I’ve decided that Bob Dylan is an activists. He wasn’t an activists in the same way that martin Luther king, JFK, Malcolm X or the countless other activists were in the 60s, but rather he functioned on the outskirts becoming arguably the most influential musician in the 60s and becoming the epitome of politically driven folk. Called the “Voice of a Generation,” the generation that was on the front lines of the civil rights movement his music became a fire underneath the American public. He spurned up the participators and the people with his eloquent writing of blue-collar life, unions, race relations and countless stories etched with his uncanny ability to take situations of American life and color them into our minds. With the 1963 album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan and 1964s The Times They are a Changing he gave us classics like “Masters of War,” critical of the political powers that create wars for young men to fight. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” accounts the tragic murder of Hattie Carroll and the subsequent trial that highlighted the injustices of the court in convicting the murderer of assault and jail time of 6 months. The song highlighted his talent of being able to understand social injustices and portray them in a way that his audience could connect to.

    Bob Dylan however had a down turn in his music critically and commercially. This shift coexisted with the changing social atmosphere and corporate music industry after the Kent State Massacre on May 4, 1970. The Kent State Massacre marked the end of the 60s political movements as students slowly realized that they could be killed on all fronts. They could be drafted to fight a war that they did not feel connected to and could be killed by the government for protesting just that. The early 1970s marked a specific time in Dylan’s career where he made music that did not connect to his audience and he became withdrawn and individualistic. He lost the scope of his political music of the 60s and his music became dull and in flux. However with every misstep that Dylan may have taken in his career he always tended to bounce back. He bounced back with my personal favorite record Blood On The Tracks, this record mimicked the emotions of the 70s one of shellshock and emotional distrust, lyrically the record deals with love and depression carrying back to his acoustic roots painted with new sonic clarity due to the amazing production. The album sits atop of his greatest, it represented the depression of America in the 70s it didn’t rile people up but rather exuded comfort that a man as deep and introspective as Bob Dylan understood the nature of human depression. Dylans activism is different, he’s a musician and a poet he’s a one and seven billion individual never to be seen again, his activism was through his expression changing with the tides of American culture. Who knows how many activists he inspired how many musicians looked up to him and inspired others? His activism is as far-reaching as any through a medium as human as any.

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  5. Scillia Elworthy is an extraordinary woman. She holds a PhD, was a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize. She has devoted her life to making this world a more harmonious and peaceful place. In one of favorite lectures of her’s she speaks about how to fight extreme violence and eliminate corruption through nonviolence. She started her training as a activist at the age of thirteen and now as an older woman she knows that, “fighting violence with violence does not work.” I believe this wholeheartedly. She shares that the path to ending the violence of others hinges on yourself and the way you manage your fear. Her times of defeat were when she let her “fear grows fat on the energy,” she fead it. The way she has been able to make such an impact in this world was to conquer her own fear. Elworthy does this through mediation and increasing self awareness and not being afraid to face her fears. I love this lesson she gives because it reminds us all of the power of the individual. If you really want to see change in others, change who you are, how you feel and consequently how you react to those around you. We are constant streams of influence and change by just simply existing and when we can become aware of that, that is how we change our worlds.

    Please, please watch her TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/scilla_elworthy_fighting_with_non_violence?language=en#t-192766

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  6. In working with Felice Salmon I have been struck by the power of mentorship and internal motivation – by the small ways in which individuals can make a lasting impact on the lives of those they gather around them. We’ve already heard about Felice’s “radical homemaking” philosophy and several of us have worked closely with her girls’ groups over the past months, but more recently I have come to admire Felice for what her work means for all of us in our post-CETA lives. Educated both academically and experientially in outreach and advocacy, the birth of her first child pulled Felice out of the non-profit sphere and prompted her to consider what could still be done in the community from her own home. On one of my recent visits with the Honeys, I listened as Felice tried to explain why what we were doing – the Home project, the oral histories, everything – even mattered. To the young girl questioning the meaning of expending creativity and effort in a neighborhood she no longer felt safe in, Felice described each act of kindness and compassion as a light working together to illuminate the darkness – she said we were all connected. Like the girl, I was comforted by the thought that what did might matter to people outside of that kitchen, that resisting the darkness and creating light could connect us to others in some sort of celestial network of do-gooders. I admire that Felice and so many of the other community leaders we’ve talked to in this course have reached this conclusion on their own, I admire that they do not need a college course to give them the frame work for being a good person – I hope that I can find space to do the same once this semester is over.

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  7. Though she might label herself as an activist, Serena Williams does campaign for social changes. She believes in empowering women and equality among races, most notably in tennis. In 2001 at Indian Wells (a big tennis tournament), Serena and Venus were set to play each other in the semifinals, a highly anticipated match which the fans were looking forward to. Venus had to withdraw before the match even started because of an injury, people booed and speculated that their father decided who would win by having one of them withdraw. In the final as Serena entered the court, she was booed and racial slurs were shouted. She won in an environment which seemed like the world was against her; she vowed to never return to Indian Wells for they did not deserve her anyway. This year she buried the hatchet and return to the tournament as a way to overcome fear and effect the tournament had on her so many years ago. At the Australian Open this year, Eugenie Bouchard was asked to twirl after a match to show off her outfit; Serena reacted by saying something along the lines of, “Never, would Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal be asked to twirl to show off their outfit. We, women, are more than what we wear.”

    Because I do follow her so closely am I am able to celebrate her victories but also face the consequences of her losses/tantrums. In 2009 at the US Open Final Serena was up against Kim Clijster; she was called for a foot fault on a very crucial point. Serena reacted by threatening to shove a ball down the throat of the line judge, because of this she lost the point and match. I honestly was kind of embarrassed because this person I basically worship did something I would never encourage or do; and after the fact Serena apologized and now laughs about how crazy she acting.

    So, I was sad that she lost, embarrassed by her actions, and started to question everything (not really but kind of). I followed Serena and still do, even though sometimes she does things that I do not necessarily agree with (vice versa), I like what she stands for.

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  8. One group that sticks with me is the Peace Corp. I feel like it is kind of a cliche, but recently I have been doing research into it out of personal interest. When people talk about the Peace Corp, I feel as though they either think it is a wonderful organization, or it is awful, and many of the people that are making these judgement just know what they hear from television, or the media. When looking at the website, they have an area that has the mission of the organization:
    To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
    To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
    To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
    To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
    In some ways, I think this is similar to what we are trying to do with this class, at least the last one. We are trying to send Transy students out into the community to become more informed of the area around us, and to become less scared. I think what people tend to fear is the unknown, and it isn’t like the neighboring areas are a third world country, but to many Transy students it feels similar. They don’t know anything about the area except what they hear, and may briefly see, so they are afraid. I have looked over many blogs by members of the Peace Corp, both on the Peace Corp website, and individuals own blogs which tend to share more of the negative things that occur, but in both of these, it seems as though the most challenging thing is actually becoming involved. As humans, we cling to our own groups of people and when “outsiders”, such as a peace corps member (or a Transy student) come in, there is a distrust of them. I worked at Felice’s house, and the children we worked with never really seemed to want us around, they just wanted the stuff that we would bring with us, and the activities we enabled. I think that this is a major problem when it comes to community building, whether it be in the North Limestone area, or internationally. When people come in that are not part of the community that already exists, people become weary of the change that they think might occur, and this fear is very real. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to gain a communities trust, and once that trust is formed, that is when real change can occur, with the people listening to each other mutually. I still don’t know how I feel about the Peace Corp as an organization, (I have similar feelings that Katie has about international service organizations,) but from what I have read the peace corps member is eventually embraced by the community, which to me implies that they have to be doing at least some good.

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  9. This prompt made me think immediately of Bruce Burris, an artist, activist, inventor of social service agencies, inventor of windmills designed specifically for him to tilt against publicly, PR genius, and friend. Prior to my arrival in Lexington, I made art that was informed primarily by internal musings and designed for an audience of people trained in the same ways that I was, as academic artists. All of this changed when I met Bruce and talked to him (or more accurately, stood still while he shouted at me) about his work, about how it illustrated what he saw as one of Kentucky’s largest problems, and about how he imagined by telling others about the problem (with his work and with his shouting, both) he would be a part of the change that was needed.

    The problem that Bruce’s work addressed at that time was one of Kentucky being its own most aggressive enemy. The idea that any state would profiteer (in tourist stores and roadside gas stations) off an image of its own backwardness and ignorance was incredibly offensive to him, as a Kentuckian. And like all of the complex issues that Bruce dealt with, it was also, at times, a source of frustrated humor. His artwork addressed this tension of humor and frustration and before I arrived in Kentucky, he received a large NEA grant to create a traveling cycle of art exhibitions (that he would curate) featuring other Kentucky artists who made work to address this problem Kentucky had with self-marketing.

    He got the grant but could never find enough artists to make work that was critical of the problems he hoped to address. There are a host of reasons for this but by most measures; it was a failed effort, a rare failed effort for Bruce. Over the next 12 years, I watched Bruce fight this same issue (along with many others) with the same kind of passion that drove him to apply for an NEA grant in the first place. I learned, from him, that sometimes it is not a single issue that compels someone to become an activist. Sometimes people just want to find ways to improve the place they call home, because they see flaws and they see themselves as part of the solution, even when there are very few other people who see the problem.

    I hope to be like Bruce in many ways. I am sorry to say that he moved from Lexington to Oregon and I know that Lexington misses his yelling voice.

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  10. I am not sure if any of you are familiar with the DVF Awards but, in a sentence, the DVF Awards and the accompanying ceremony are held every year by fashion mogul Diane von Furstenberg to “honor and support extraordinary women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire.” There are four categories of awards and though not everyone can be a winner, the awards ceremony is a chance to highlight the great work done by amazing women and their organizations around the world.
    I mention these awards because in most cases they are the one chance to glorify the female activists that battled to have their cause known. And it is this very award that brought to my attention to Maya Nussbaum.
    Maya Nussbaum is in fact one of the four nominees for the DVF 2015 The People's Voice Award. Maya Nussbaum’s non-profit organization, Girls Write Now, is being recognized because it is New York's first and only writing and mentoring organization for at-risk girls in public high schools. As part of their service Girls Write Now offers a mentoring program “matches young women from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in writing with professional women writers”.
    While you would think Nussbaum and her cause in New York would not matter to a privileged young white girl from Kentucky but Girls Write Now is such a cause worth keeping an eye on because rather than just throwing money at an education problem, the program takes these young women who might have never had the opportunity to move past her disadvantages, they are instead taught a craft and a skill worth marketing. These young women get the tools to go to a good school, make contacts, find a good job, and surround themselves with thoughtful people.
    There is not much around the web to why Maya Nussbaum started Girls Write Now from a afterschool program seventeen years ago. But I am finding that is not such a great thing. I know that certainly Nussbaum must have had more than a few struggles gaining support but mostly she now talks about the girls she mentors. If I learned anything from the research I did here it is that sometimes keeping your daily struggles personal can make the momentum of your cause less potent. I am not sure had I not heard of her from DVF that I would have ever heard of her program.
    Cont.

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