Lisa’s in school!

Lisa — Eager and Ready to Learn.

It was February 2015, on my second sojourn to Maasailand in Kenya when I decided to sponsor annual school fees for a girl student. Along with the two other committee members of the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project (MCEP) our ten day itinerary also included an evening meal at the family home of John Sakuda. John had been a valued facilitator at our scheduled MCEP visits in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 while he lived in America. He returned to Kenya shortly thereafter.

When we arranged our 2015 fact finding trip we were looking forward to seeing him again. As it happened, we were thrilled to discover that John would be our guide during our sojourn to the village. The day before flying back to America, we drove to John’s home  where I met Lisa–one of his daughters–and decided to sponsor her education. Lisa is now in “Grade Two” and like other Maasai children, thrives on attending school. Each December I donate the required $150.00 annual tuition that also pays for her mandatory school uniform.

Recently I emailed John asking for a picture of Lisa and how she was progressing at school.

John writes that she is almost 3 feet tall and 45 pounds. He adds, “… Lisa’s favorite toy is her cat, a real cat … she loves this cat the most. Whenever she comes from school she has to feed it. Sometimes the cat goes in the neighborhood but Lisa makes sure she brings him back to her home. Lisa is afraid of cows. She says they are wild animals and they have horns that can harm people. Yet Lisa has no fear of goats.”

John continues, “I used to have goats at home. Lisa liked them and she could milk them and give her Mum Susan the milk for the family’s chai (black tea with sugar and milk).” The Maasai diet of chapatti (similar to a flour tortilla), meat, Sukuma (chopped kale or collards in oil)  or variations of Sukuma are favorites in Lisa’s diet. “She helps at home, sweeping the house…washing dishes and taking responsibility for washing her socks and school uniform.” John writes that Lisa never fails to tell him how much “… she loves me…”. And finally he writes …”always Lisa asks me to remind her … to do her homework.” 

Lisa is one child in John’s large family that includes a son in university and two other sons in high school, all benefiting from some amount of MCEP donations. Another daughter is under the sponsorship of a church.

There are children–mostly girl children–in developing countries across the planet where some cultures do not allow girls to attend school. Fortunately, the NGO that  MCEP partners with encourages girls to get an education.

The other morning while listening to BBC/NPR–they reported on Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl  who in 2012 at age 15, nearly died after an assassination attempt on her life because of her public advocacy for girls’ education. Now graduated and 20 years old Malala visits and interacts with girls in developing countries who are  denied an education. MCEP is familiar with Malala because one of our Maasai woman was featured in my April 19, 2015 post (Leah Loto: Also known as Mama Leah). For a brief time Leah was employed by ‘Free The Children’ the Canadian organization that Malala is affiliated with.

In 1999 during my first sojourn to the African country of Ghana, a young girl walked up to me and asked for my address. Annabelle Elliamo was in her mid-teens and living with her widowed father. A few weeks into our correspondence she asked me to help her with tuition fees so she could finish her education. Annabelle is now a teacher in her Ghanaian village.

Typical school grounds and building for Maasai students

It’s Lisa’s journey to learn now and I’ve no doubt she will follow in the path of the other Maasai  students who’ve been sponsored by MCEP I’ve no doubt that she too will become a major contributor to her community.

A Maasai school classroom

 

 

Honoring American Women Warriors

Vietnam Women’s Memorial, Washington DC

In early 1980, Dan Fraley, a Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania United States Marine veteran who served in Vietnam during the war, initiated a campaign to place a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bucks County to honor military service members who died or went “Missing In Action”. My curiosity led me to wonder if there were any female military personnel who might be part of the Bucks County Memorial.

No Bucks County female would be on that list but I discovered there were eight military nurses who died in Vietnam during that war. It became my mission to find out who they were, where they lived, where they served and how they died. At that time I was married to a combat Veteran who had served in Vietnam during 1968. I became a voracious follower of any coverage of the war yet never recalled any news about women who served or died in Vietnam. Considering the unpopularity of the war, coverage of military women serving in-country rarely hit the news.

My goal then was to honor these eight women with brief biographies in a book titled “There are eight of them …”. Interviews began with family, friends and veterans. But I bumped up against a wall after completing first drafts of three nurses.

Women have been warriors in conflicts beginning with the Revolutionary War up through our present day. What disheartens me most are recent media reports describing the continued disrespect against women in uniform, much of it coming from their Brothers in Arms.

Since WWI the role of women in uniform and their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), limited them to tasks behind battle lines. When the MOS expanded with our Nation’s conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, opportunities for these women brought them close to or in some incidences, onto the battlefield.

The Afghanistan-Iraq wars took 139 American women warriors who served their country. Six of those women warriors died while performing duties on the battlefield. 800 additional women warriors were wounded, many still struggling with physical and/or emotional injuries.

During the Vietnam War, one statistic numbers 7,484 women as having served in-country. 6,250 of that total were in the Nurse Corps, a majority of them female nurses. The eight women I researched, all shared the common objective to join the military to serve their country. When I interviewed other women veterans, they too had clung to that motivation to Serve their country.

This Memorial Day I will place flowers at the foot of the Bucks County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Honor of the Eight:

2nd Lt. Carol Ann Drazba

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 2nd Lieutenant Carol Ann Drazba (December 11, 1945 – February 18, 1966). Home state Pennsylvania. Died in a helicopter crash outside of Saigon.

2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Ann Jones  (September 12, 1943 – February 18, 1966. Home state South Carolina. Died in a helicopter crash outside of Saigon.

1st Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 1st Lieutenant Hedwig Diane Orlowski (April 13, 1944 – November 30, 1967). Became American citizen; home state Michigan. Died in airplane crash on TDY (Temporary Duty)

Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander

U.S. Army Nurse Corps Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander (9 September 18, 1940 – November 30, 1967). Home state New Jersey. Died in airplane crash on TDY (Temporary Duty).

2nd Lt. Pamela Dorothy Donovan

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 2nd Lieutenant Pamela Dorothy Donovan (March 25, 1942 – July 8, 1968). Became American citizen; Home state Massachusetts. Died from in-country illness.

Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham

U.S. Army Nurse Corps Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham (November 7, 1916 – August 14, 1968). Home state North Carolina, Colonel Graham served in 3 wars. Death was from natural causes.

1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane

U.S. Army Nurse Corps 1st Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane (July 7 1942 – June 8, 1965).  Home state Ohio. Died from enemy attack on hospital.

Capt. Mary Therese Klinker

U.S. Air Force Nurse Captain Mary Therese Klinker (October 3, 1947 – April 9, 1975). Home state Indiana. Died in plane crash.

I can’t leave this post before including women who’d served in Vietnam with the Red Cross and other civilian and religious capacities. Some still Missing.

The Bucks County Vietnam Memorial was dedicated on June 16, 1984, now one of hundreds of other Vietnam WarMemorials that have been sited across America. This Memorial Day please remember to include in your thoughts the Women Warriors who gave their lives and those who continue to serve our country.

Gunshots on a Street called Democracy

cnn.com photo

This campaign statement uttered by candidate Donald Trump bragged that no matter what he did, his supporters would always stay with him. Yet some have begun to fall away.

I keep hoping Congress will get the clue and impeach this foolish-erratic-childish person. It’s obscene how Trump supporters continue to cheer his decisions–from signing Executive Orders guaranteed to reverse environmental protections for Americans, to dismantling civil rights, to appointing Cabinet Members  bent on ignoring their federal mandates, to hoarding his taxes, to including his family into powerful government positions, to disregarding the Emoluments Clause, to disrespecting the press and his inconsistent statements of support or rejection for any policy, or nation or leader.

I’m a long-time political activist and one of millions of citizens who volunteered to elect Hillary Clinton. When, on October 28 2016, FBI Director James Comey notified the Senate Judiciary Committee about emails discovered on a laptop owned by Anthony Weiner–husband to Clinton Advisor Huma Abedin–it was a punch to my gut.

Even if you liked or disliked Comey, Trump’s Tuesday, May 9, 2017 firing of him was a cold, calculated and humiliating action slapped on a dedicated public servant.

While Trump chips away at our Constitution, legislators in Washington DC prefer to protect their butts. They’ve forgotten the purpose of the elected responsibility to their constituents.

Bullets continue to spray from White House windows onto the Street Called Democracy. His greedy actions disrespect the other branches of our government–some at American tax-payer expense:

Trump’s week-end tax-payer travels to Florida or other sites disrupt citizens who live and work around his numerous cash cow properties. The funds expended could keep a small developing country out of the red.

The Secret Service  is also emptying our tax coffers for the 24-7 safety of Trump’s wife and child at his New York golden decorated Tower. Let’s keep hoping his wife and child will move into the White House this summer. They Are The First Family, They Should Be in Washington.

Then there are the tax-payer funds for the Secret Service to protect Trump’s grown children, spouses and others each time they travel to places near and far around the globe promoting Daddy or their own Trump-connected products. My eyes hurt scrolling through numbers published by media outlets.

The firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates along with the removal of U.S. Attorneys across America from their posts was an abhorrent action.

The recall of senior State Department staff from their international stations has created a void of Good Will.

The Wall. So obsessed is he about building this thing that would separate Americans from one of our friendliest neighbors.

Russia. Putin. Hacking. And the shills who weaseled their way into his campaign.

Be wise be woke be knowing.  If Trump’s unbalanced behavior escalates, holes could turn our Constitution into a piece of lace. Our Fourth Estate–the Media–must continue their energy to surgically remove the infection crawling inside our Democracy.

“Luck”

(Photos by Doreen Stratton)

Five Maasai men walked on to the platform at the Hamilton, New Jersey Train Station. Instinctively, Phyllis Eckelmeyer walked over to them, because her daughter was leaving the next week to spend a year teaching in Kenya. She reached out her hand and said,  “Hello, do you speak English?” The Maasai were traveling to New York City to participate in the 2004 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. They were an indigenous tribe of hundreds from across the globe traveling to the UN for this Forum.

The Forum as described in the UN’s 2005 archives’ focus was to “… deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.”

Sharing the train to New York with the Maasai, Eckelmeyer heard how their lives were negatively impacted due to diseased-laden water. They said their two-minute speech before the UN would speak to the need for potable disease-free  water. After her return to Bucks County Eckelmeyer vowed– “I want to raise $30,000 to drill a well that’ll bring water to this Maasai village.”

She formed a non-profit: Maasai Cultural Exchange Project (MCEP). MCEP then came under the umbrella of Frog Pond Productions, an educational (501)(c)(3) organization in Point Pleasant Bucks County. A partnership was formed with an NGO in Kenya–Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO), so that American donations could enhance SIMOO’s programs. Shortly thereafter, local media coverage brought a $30,000 anonymous donation to MCEP’s mailbox.

(MCEP Archive photo:  The drilling of “Christy’s Well”)

To document the drilling of this first well, in December 2005 Frog Pond and MCEP traveled to Kenya with a film crew. The well was named “Christy’s Well” after the anonymous donor. A Philadelphia film company–Shooters Post and Transfer–volunteered the crew and editing talents that ultimately produced a half-hour documentary titled QUENCH. The initial screening of QUENCH would take place in October 2014 at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Since 2005 and every year afterwards, at least two Maasai have traveled to Bucks County. They spoke in thousands of schools, houses of worship and professional organizations about their culture and heritage. Their message resulted in annual sponsorships to over 100 Maasai children in primary or secondary schools and colleges. More  importantly  donations came in for water projects. There are now seven wells sited across this village that encompasses an area the size of Bucks County.

“… three more wells.”

Maasai herders and women pay a small fee of a few shillings for the water they draw from the wells. Designated Maasai men are responsible for maintaining the wells, collecting fees, and ensuring that diesel fuel is available to keep the pumps operational. Pipelines snake away from the wells to strategically placed cisterns so that women walk less than two miles to fetch potable disease-free water. MCEP’s primary goal is for ten wells to be sited across their village. We are determined to secure funding for the final three wells.

Since 2005 women have also come into their own. Last March and April 2015, I posted  six blogs about Maasai women and their journey toward lives as independent business owners. Two are pictured below with Phyllis, taken when in 2015 I traveled to Kenya with Phyllis and Education Coordinator Alice Sparks. We toured well sites, schools and spent enjoyable hours with our Maasai friends, delighting over the positive changes since our visits a few years ago.

Sarah Senewa and Grace Suyianta Salau with Phyllis Eckelmeyer

These changes are also bringing progress (some good, some not so good) to the Maasai village. A safe house is sheltering and educating over 100 young girls who had fled from early arranged marriages or female genital mutilation (FGM is banned in Kenya). The Kenyan government is constructing a vocational school where village boys and girls can enroll to gain income earning skills. Giant transmission towers are planted across Maasailand as they march from Nairobi toward Mombasa on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Oil has been discovered offshore from Mombasa and this infrastructure will bring a cultural crises to the Maasai community.

Water is Important.

The wells have brought land speculators to Olosho oibor who wave small amounts of cash in front of landowners in attempts to persuade them to sell their land. SIMOO is pushing back against the speculators by cautioning their tribal members the consequences of selling their land: How it would lead to the extinction of their ancient culture and heritage. Although we noticed  contemporary homes under construction we also spotted hand-painted signs declaring properties Not For Sale.

Land speculators invading Maasailand. One of several  “no sale” signs we saw during our tour.

“A drought is decimating the Maasai community … “

Climate change has created a drought that is decimating the Maasai community as well as many other parts of Africa. I wrote about it’s effect on the Maasai in my February 17, 2017 post, “Climate Change is real”. Shortages of food are so prevalent that the Massai have forsaken their valued herds in favor to feed their most vulnerable: the elderly and the young. MCEP recently wired funds so SIMOO could set up a food security program.

The Maasai word for “Luck” is Namunyak (Na-men-YAK). “Luck” can sometimes move beyond one positive gesture. The Maasai decreed that Eckelmeyer be given the name “Namunyak” to honor how a handshake between strangers transformed their village. I get goosebumps looking back at the many gifts that have come to the Maasai since her 2004 greeting on that Hamilton New Jersey train platform. The gift I cherish the most is the empathy and curious energy always expressed by youngsters in classrooms and assemblies after listening to our Maasai friends.

On Friday April 7, Phyllis Eckelmeyer will receive the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award for her Humanitarian efforts.

Congratulations Namunyak!

Phyllis, John Sakuda and Alice Sparks taken at our 2015 Fact Finding Tour. John was our rock star on visits to schools in 2011 and 2012 while living in America. He is now back in Kenya caring for his family and cattle.

 

International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day. And it’s A Day Without A Woman, a Day that blossomed out of the January 21, 2017 marches that took place around the planet.  Today I won’t be buying anything and will wear red. I’m retired so am home writing this post that reviews the book– “Remembering The Ladies: From Patriots In Petticoats To Presidential Candidates”.

Amazing American Women

“Remembering The Ladies … ” by Carol Simon Levin celebrates 63 strong women who  made differences in our nation. Who, when you pick up this book, will be your favorites from these heroines? The women are featured in sections denoting their legacies.

Founding Mothers; Abolitionists and Suffragists; Advocates for Worker, Immigrants, Women’s and Civil Rights; Women who served in either the House-Senate-Supreme Court-The State Department or Tribal Government. The final section lists those pioneer-women who traveled on the bumpy Road to the White House.

In single page mini-biographies, every one of these women’s accomplishments tell how they impacted the lives of others. 35 female artists created illustrations for each  narrative. Marketed as “… a coloring book”, you’re welcome to spend leisure hours with colored pencils or crayons to satisfy your artistic delights. Each biography includes recommendations for additional reading or historical sites to visit.

As one who presents stories to audiences about slavery and the flights to freedom, my interest was reading about seven women who are featured in the section–Abolitionists and Suffragists.   Although Harriet Tubman, Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth were known to me, what a pleasant surprise to read about four additional women!

Phillis Wheatley 1753-1784

In 1761 when a six-year old African girl arrived in Boston on the slave ship ‘Phillis’, John Wheatley and his wife Susannah named her Phillis Wheatley.  John was a merchant, tailor and progressive thinker. He and Susannah realized that Phillis was a bright child and directed their daughter to oversee Phillis’ education. Later, their son introduced Phillis to Latin. Phillis wrote her first poem at the age of 14. At the time of her death at age 31 she became recognized as the first published African-American woman.

Sarah and Angelina Grimke were siblings–born thirteen years apart. Raised in South Carolina they soon turned to abolitionism, after moving north. They became friends with William Lloyd Garrison–Abolitionist and publisher of The Liberator. The sisters went on the speaking circuit and organized “parlor talks” for other women, one way for women to become part of a movement dominated by men. Women were not visible on the speaking circuit but these two caused a backlash each time they spoke in public. They also wrote letters to ladies in the south, imploring them to free their slaves. As suffragists they became outspoken on behalf of women’s rights. Sarah authored a declaration questioning property laws and other repressive laws that favored husbands.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born free in 1825. With her ability to read and write she too was a poet, and a novelist, an abolitionist and an advocate for women’s rights. At 20 her first book of poetry was published, followed by a second book in 1854. She was outspoken about education of the “colored race.” Alongside William Still a Philadelphia abolitionist, she helped fugitive slave on the Underground Railroad that led them into Canada. Frances helped found the National Association of Colored Women in 1894, serving in that capacity until her death in 1911.

These are just bits from each of a few bios that Levin collected for this book. For teachers it’s an excellent resource for your classes. For parents I recommend this as one additional book on your children’s bedside stand for story-time.

Never during my youth were there inspirations to learn about any of the women gracing the 160 pages of Carol Simon Levin’s book. If I had one prayer to take flight on this Day Without A Woman, it would be for society to open their eyes, hearts and minds.  Women hold up half the sky, right along with Men.

Climate Change is real

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Since 2005 I’ve been a committee volunteer with the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project (MCEP), a non-profit group under the umbrella of Frog Pond Productions, a  501(c)(3) educational organization in Point Pleasant, Bucks County. We advocate for a Maasai tribe located in Kenya, East Africa. They receive support from Americans in Bucks County and surrounding areas who sponsor children’s education and donate funds for water well projects. This success is due to MCEP’s partnership with an NGO in Kenya: The Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO).

In February 2015 I traveled to Kenya with two other volunteers for a fact-finding tour. One of the sites on our itinerary was a trip to the Oloshobor Dam, shown above. Every day herders brought their livestock to drink the water. On this particular day we sat along the bank above the dam. With the sound of livestock splashing in the water, we cherished this time watching herders as they took turns leading their goats and cows to quench their thirst.

The Maasai is an indigenous tribe that from one generation to the next passes down  awareness of their environment. They live with a “Dry season” and a “Rainy season”. In conversations with them they are most concerned about the fluctuations that have occurred to these two seasons. The “Dry” season is extending by months; the “Rainy” season has almost ceased to happen.

Two weeks ago we received an email describing the dire situations brought about from this extended drought. In this newspaper article from February 2017 this parched land on which they are gathered is a similar dam to the one I photographed in 2015. Both of these dams are now dry.maasai-on-dry-dam-soilFortunately MCEP’s seven wells sited across their village, have quenched the thirst of 5,000 people and their livestock. Funds from donors also helped to install pipelines at the wells that snake across the terrain to cisterns located throughout the village. As the land dries from the drought, these seven wells with potable, disease-free are saving lives.

The Maasai attribute these extended droughts to climate change. Water has become so precious that an emergency decision was put in place. Water for the most vulnerable is the priority. As important as livestock is to the Maasai, they’ve made the decision that the elderly and the youngest will have priority for water.

Many areas of the African continent have already morphed into desert-like landscapes because  weather patterns are no longer “normal” to what many of these countries experienced in the past.  Populations in other parts of Africa are dying because there is a lack of potable water. In Kenya’s Rift Valley the people are eating poisonous plants and their livestock are dying.

This severe change in Africa’s weather cycle is happening around the globe, even here in America. As I write this the United States Senate is debating whether or not to place Scott Pruitt as Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt does not believe in climate change.

Earlier this week Doylestown citizens packed the regular meeting of the Central Bucks School Board after learning the board was considering adjustments to text books regarding “climate change”. I am a product of the Central Bucks school system from Grade One through Twelve. I thrived in an atmosphere that encouraged the pursuit of knowledge. I’m disappointed that the  Central Bucks School Board may have members elected to that body who dismiss science and/or climate change from the curriculum.

The tinkering of  climate change is not exclusive to the Central Bucks district. Across America elected school board members approve text books with suppressed or altered facts related to science, culture, history, geography and others. School boards have the power to shape our children’s minds. Yet when election cycles for school board candidates are scheduled, the voter is MIA at the polls. Who is running for school board in your community?

Climate Change is real.

Happy Conception Day!

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins more and more everyday” —— Remarks by Vice-president Mike Pence at the 44th March for Life held January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC

On February 2 of this year, Pennsylvania Senator Michele Brooks (50th SD) introduced SB3, a bill to amend the Abortion Control Act. This Bill reads:

An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues, in abortion, further providing for definitions, for medical consultation and judgment and for the offense of abortion on unborn child of 24 or more weeks gestational age, providing for dismemberment abortion ban and further providing for reporting.

Italics mine. I got an alert about this anti-abortion bill in early February. It was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. The bill comes under a  Crimes and Offenses statute, suggesting criminal prosecution against an “… unborn child”.  In her Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda dated December 22, 2016, Senator Brooks wrote of the bill:  ” … the legislation would prohibit the practice of tearing a fetus apart by its limbs, also called dismemberment abortion.” Brooks proposes to reduce the maximum gestational age to 20 weeks. (Italics mine).

Since getting the alert on SB3, on February  8 the PA Senate passed it 32-18. It now goes to the General Assembly where during last year’s session  a similar Bill was approved. The General Assembly will not hold public hearings. Now a compromise bill will be voted on, probably approved and sent to Governor Tom Wolf.

Currently 15 states are legislating similar reduction of the gestation procedure to 20 weeks. Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) on December 16 of last year signed into law such a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

With this latest anti-choice bill, legislators opposed to abortion are creeping toward a law that could ultimately change the term “fetus” to “human being”.  Thanks to Science–a word not recognized by extreme conservatives–“Life” as championed by V-P Pence at that March for Life rally might encourage some lawmaker to introduce a bill that a Human is conceived when a wiggly sperm joins with a ready egg.

This unexpected divine praise pairing Conception and Science by anti-choicers brings me to contemplate these additional thoughts.

Conception Legislation can determine (with nearly 100% accuracy) the date when “… life begins …”.

Conception Legislation can also–early in a pregnancy–determine the gender of a fetus.

Conception Legislation would then require a Certificate naming the “Human”.

Additionally, Conception Legislation would require a Social Security number be assigned to the “Human”.

This “Human” would be a legal dependent, therefore bringing all legal benefits to the parents. (And become one more person in census counts!)

Conception Legislation would further allow coverage of medical insurance for the “Human” (think in-utero surgery).

Last week I called my State Senator, Chuck McIhinney (R-10th SD) to express my concern about no hearings. I applaud Senator McIlhinney for voting NO on SB3.  The other Senators representing parts of Bucks County voted YES: Robert M. Tomlinson (R – 6th SD); Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-12th SD); and Bob Mensch (R-24th SD).

Taking advantage of my call to Senator McIlhinney’s office, I decided to add hypothetical questions regarding my displeasure for all the nonsense about slapping laws on women’s bodies. I asked the staff member, “How would any male react knowing he must jump through hoops before receiving a Viagra prescription? How would any male react to being physically probed? Or required to complete a lengthy questionnaire about his personal behavior?  How would any male react knowing he could receive a prescription for Viagra only for family planning?”

Reader–please ponder: At future celebratory parties could families and friends be singing “Happy Conception Day” instead of “Happy Birthday”? Will parents now share that moment of conception instead of those heartwarming and sometimes dramatic birthing stories?

I remember both times when my son and then my daughter slipped out of my body, sucked a mouthful of air into their lungs and became living human beings.

Can’t remember those two times when a wiggly sperm met a ready egg.

Bring back ‘Teach-Ins’

Teach-Ins were all the rage during the 60s to educate citizens about the Viet Nam War. Last I can recall Teach-Ins happening was during New York City’s Occupy Wall Street. But as millions of us continue to grieve the presidential election results, now’s the time to bring back the teach-in.

In the early 1980s a couple dozen of us anti-nuke “pinkos” succeeded in raising the consciousness within our community. We were the Central Bucks Clean Energy Collective with a message to stop a pumping station at Point Pleasant Pennsylvania from sucking water out of the Delaware River for diversion to a nuclear power plant under construction in Limerick, Montgomery County Pennsylvania. We marched in protests, attended public hearings, wrote letters to newspapers and even managed local television media coverage. But most importantly we knocked on the doors of our elected local-state-and federal officials. We actively supported other environmental groups that filed lawsuits to Stop the Pump. There was even a brief appearance in Bucks County by the late Abbie Hoffman.

Awareness of the dangers of nuclear power spread when on March 28, 1979, a near meltdown occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The time was ripe for a Teach-In

We decided to poll our activist-colleagues and found individuals who volunteered to share their energy or alternative energy knowledge at 20-minute workshops. Also invited to our Teach-In were local entrepreneurs and non-profits to exhibit energy-saving products and messages. We succeeded in bringing in a Keynote Speaker–former Massachusetts U.S. Congressman Ed Markey who is now a Senator along with Elizabeth Warren.

After January 20, 2017:  Bring  Back Teach-Ins

What are those issues that drive your colleagues to bring about better change–locally or globally?

I’m confident that among your like-minded brother and sister activists, are individuals who will–backed by confidence and knowledge–share their passions with your community. Who are your Jewels of Knowledge who can educate citizens about Climate Change; or the Rights of either Workers-Women-Humans-Voting ; or Racism; or Veterans; or Immigration; or Social Security/Medicare; or Health Care; or Redistricting; or Religious Tolerance; or Public Education; or Citizen Lobbying; or Criminal Justice; or the Power of Voting?

What’ve I left out? What’s on your Issue List for a one day Teach-In? This can happen in your community.

Venues are out there–churches or large spaces that will welcome your message. Lobby that high-profile supporter in your group who can persuade a powerful person to become the Keynote Speaker at your Teach-In. We lobbied and for a minimal fee, brought in former Congressman Markey.

Knowledge IS Power. Our Up-start Clean Energy Collective activists may not have stopped Limerick. But how many nuclear power plants have been built since Three Mile Island?

clean-energy-collective

Do It! The Time Is Now. Need direction? Search http://www.IndivisibleGuide.com

BE THERE: Women’s March on January 21 in Washington, DC.

Just In Time

A Review of the film, “Loving”

loving-film-posterIn June 2011, joined by my two nieces, we traveled to  Caroline County, Virginia hoping to locate the grave of Great Grandmother, Ellen Allen. We learned that Ellen is buried in a cemetery in the small Virginia town of Milford.  We searched  several cemeteries, traveling many of the lazy roads where occasionally the landscape of fields and farms has rarely changed over the last hundred years. We failed to find her grave but vowed to return.

We knew little of Ellen’s life  except that she may have been an indentured slave. She bore two children–my grandmother Marissa and her brother, Uncle Willy. The birth of Ellen’s two children continue to be part of our family’s ancestral lore: Their strong Caucasian features verify that Ellen was probably impregnated by a white man.

Then a few months after our sojourn to Virginia, Caroline County came back into my life when in early 2012 HBO broadcast a documentary called “The Loving Story”. Directed by Nancy Buirski it would become the basis of a new film released in 2016 simply called “Loving” currently showing at the County Theater in Doylestown. By strong coincidence the couple in the documentary, Richard–a Caucasian and Mildred Loving–African American/Native American and Caucasian also lived in Caroline County. Caroline County has a significant population of this tri-racial mix.

This past Sunday December 4, there was a special showing of “Loving” at the County, followed by a Q&A with one of the actors in the film: Christopher Mann who plays the role of Theoliver Jeter, Mildred’s father. The film depicts Mildred Jeter and her marriage to Richard Loving in 1958. It brings to the screen a dramatic interpretation of their struggle that resulted in the June 27, 1967 Supreme Court decision overturning Virginia’s law that banned interracial marriage. The actor Ruth Negga slips into the soul of Mildred, bringing to the screen a quiet woman who shortly after their illegal marriage is briefly jailed, causing both of them to move to Washington, DC. It is the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1964 that opens the way for their legal challenge that ultimately reaches the Supreme  Court. Played by actor Joel Edgerton, Richard holds on to a tempered demeanor that never waivers as he sticks to Mildred like glue.

The Loving family

The Loving family

Mildred and Richard bore three children. The Life magazine photographer, Grey Villet (played by Michael Shannon). Villet visits the family and his photographs that ultimately appear in the magazine portray exceptional images of a family that is surviving even as their lives are cascading around them. Bernard S. Cohen, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the first on board the lawsuit later joined in the case by Philip J. Hirschkop. Don’t expect a lot of court room drama. This is a subdued interpretation of an event where I felt as if I was right there with the Lovings. Filmed in Caroline County, the scenes brought back memories to me of rolling through this part of Virginia where rustic clapboard houses are dotted among newly planted fields.

Chris Mann, who plays Theoliver Jeter, is a local actor whose home is Chester Pennsylvania.

Chris Mann

Chris Mann

His film history includes stints in The Wire, Michael Clayton and our own The North Star written and directed by Doylestownian Philip Thomas. When Mann was asked how he grasped the role of Theoliver Jeter–Mildred’s father–he spoke about his family that was originally from North Carolina where he often visited. This gave him a foundation to play that steady patriarch Theoliver. He shared that while on the set of “Loving” he often listened to a four-hour tape recording of his grandmother who described her life as a North Carolinian African-American. It helped him “… get into character.”

Another questioner asked him to offer his reflections on the timing of “Loving” considering the current divisive political climate. Mann was born in 1964 just as the Civil Rights movement was taking place but knew of its importance from what he heard growing up. “My focus was to play the father” adding that it should not be discounted that there is relevancy “… with the film’s release” at this time.

Both Lovings are dead but the legacy they left remains: In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled allowing same sex marriage.

“Loving” is scheduled at the County until this Thursday. It has hit the big screen Just In Time.

 

A love song to America

"The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it ... History is literally present in all that we do."

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it … History is literally present in all that we do.”  James Baldwin — 8/2/1924 to 12/1/1987

It’s after 7 a.m. on Saturday May 23 when my sister Judith and I travel with my niece Leigh, from her home in Olney, Maryland. We are on our way to witness the celebratory opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), that documents my ancestors’ struggle to Freedom. The words of James Baldwin, one of our most prolific Black writers of the 20th Century are engraved inside the museum, capturing the essence of the African American experience. His words and those of other men and women Black writers are spoken by Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith during a poetry slam that thrilled everyone of us.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

David Adyaye of Ghanain-British heritage, is the 50 year-old architect and lead designer of the museum.

Three depictions of Yoruba crowns

Three depictions of Yoruba crowns

In an interview published in the September 26, 2016 edition of “The Last Magazine”, he describes his   concept ” … to express history that began with enslavement and moved, slowly towards freedom.” It was a Yoruba sculpture that embraced  his vision  of “… a two-tiered, crown-like structure … open to the sky, riddled with sunlight.”

Sketches of African Americans--male and female--whose Black lives once mattered, now gone.

Sketches of African Americans–male and female–whose Black lives once mattered, now gone.

It’s near 8:30 when we arrive in DC and walk the several blocks along 17th Street before entering into the public viewing area. Hawkers are setting up on the sidewalks to sell their wares of T-shirts, buttons, caps and even sketches of Black Lives lost, from Trayvon Martin to Terence Crutcher. Now inside the Mall’s expansive grounds we scope out a spot, plant our feet and for the next 4 hours don’t move until its over. The crowds of mostly African Americans also include Caucasians and Asians. Numerous people are wearing African garb while elsewhere Black Lives Matter T-shirts and logos from colleges and universities near and far cover the backs of others.

The FREEDOM SOUNDS program of music and poetry share the day with remarks from Smithsonian Museum representatives including founding director Lonnie G. Bunch III, Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, prominent entertainers and former President George W. Bush who signed the legislation to build this museum. When President Obama reaches the podium everybody stands and shouts and cell phone cameras rise in the air. Lots of love is given to the most popular President in decades.

Our President. I will sure miss him. His remarks were a love song for Americans.

Our President. I will miss him. His remarks were a love song for America

“This is the place to understand how protest and love of country don’t merely coexist but inform each other…hopefully this museum can help us talk to each other … listen to each other … see each other. Black and White and Latino and Native American and Asian America.” from remarks by President Barack Obama

"... on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand feet ..."

“… on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand feet …” President Obama

In the belly of the museum, 70 feet below ground is the somber chronicle that begins in the 15th Century when Europeans invade the Motherland. Then the diaspora across the sea from Africa to countries around the globe. The Colonial America experience of the plantation with beatings and family separations are enhanced by a collection of valuable artifacts in displays of photographs, yellowed letters and shackles authenticating the treatment of human beings as if they were livestock.

As we journey upward through the different levels we see the rising of the African American: The Civil rights Act–the movement toward the push for equality. We are treated to the accomplishments of Blacks in the arts, entertainment, athletics, government and education.

John Carlos and Tommy Edwards on the medal stand at the 1964 Olympic Games

John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the medal stand at the 1964 Olympic Games

dsc_2908At its highest level, the vision of David Adyaye is realized. Light flows throughout rooms where paintings and sculptures by African American artists fill each of the galleries.

It is a powerful experience and I encourage every race, color or creed, the young and old, and the rich and poor to visit this museum. Timed entries to the museum are booked through January 2017 but there may still  be  some available open slots. Go to their website at NMAAHC.SI.EDU.

I’m returning next year for a second visit. One visit is not enough.