Archive | January, 2015

Call The Midwife

23 Jan

Call the MidwifeAbout six months ago, my dear friend Janet Putnam recommended the BBC series Call The Midwife, explaining that I would love it because it demonstrates really good social work.  I must confess that I was rather hesitant and was not sure I would share her interest in the show, given it is about a bunch of nuns.  My interest was piqued some because it is also about the beginning of National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. Coincidentally, this past Christmas, my friend Brad sent me the first season of Call the Midwife. It seemed I would have to cave in and watch at least one episode. Wow! My husband and I have officially become addicted to this brilliant series.  The story was taken from midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and is based on her experiences working in London’s East End in the late 1950s. It truly is a documentary of the start of NHS and of splendid social work — walking alongside people, being present on their journey and offering help.  I love that the real progressive voices often come not from the “modern” nurses; instead the Anglican nuns provide  the progressive narrative. The stellar cast work together in such harmony, they compel one to continue watching.  A social justice icon, Vanessa Redgrave, narrates our story, as the mature Nurse Jenny Lee. Pam Ferris, from Rosemary and Thyme, is the feisty, stern, yet lovable Sister Evangelina.  The amazingly talented and funny Miranda Hart stars as the exceedingly endearing Chummy.  Judy Parfitt, many of you will remember from her Oscar worthy performance in Delores Claiborne as Vera Donovan, plays the lovely and absent-minded Sister Monica Joan.

Tea(r) Towel

Tea(r) Towel

This ensemble cast provide not only a narration of birth, they also give us a didactic story of health care, social work, feminism, and social justice. Each episode is like a gift — a remarkable story that is utterly compelling. I must confess that I cry so much I have to have a tear towel at my side. If you have not had a chance to watch this amazing series, I encourage you to watch at least one episode, for I know you will become addicted to this very sweet and sad story of humanity from birth to death.

Happy Birthday, Betty White

17 Jan

Betty_White_2010Happy Birthday, Betty White.  White, a National Treasure, turns 93 today.  In addition to her animal rights activism and her long successful career in film and television, she is also a proponent of equal rights for the LGBT community. White  was quoted: “Gays love old ladies. I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time—and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones—I think it’s fine if they want to get married.”  Her character of Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker, on Mary Tyler Moore was one of my favorite roles of White’s.  And what gay man did not watch White in the Golden Girls? Currently, I am enjoying watching Betty White as Elke Ostrovsky on Hot In Cleveland.

Of course, I love White’s fight against misogyny with her comment:

Why do people say “Grow some balls?”  Balls are weak and sensitive!  If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina! Those things take a pounding!

Brava, to our much beloved Betty White. Of course, for me she will always be the ever charming Sue Ann Nivens. Here is our Sue Ann as a “Tawny Beast.”

Kúkátónón: Social Justice and Dance

7 Jan

Kukatonon 2015 Gala Save the Date 11_19.inddOver the past few years, one of my favorite regular events has been the Annual Gala of the Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe. This amazing organization, founded by the amazing Rolia Manyongai-Jones, blends heritage, social justice, health, and teamwork into a dazzling tapestry of motion and music.

The mission of Kúkátónón is “to inspire confidence, commitment and vitality among the children in the dance troupe; and to broaden awareness of African and African American cultural traditions throughout Oregon.” To these ends, the Troupe teaches children traditional dance and music, engaging them in cultural awareness. An awareness much appreciated by alumni and now present board member Lionel Clegg who reflects upon his time in the troupe: “there were no groups out there that celebrated African culture or taught us about our heritage.”

Currently, all of the troupe members are African, African American or multi-racial; all the dancers and most of the drummers are girls. Approximately 80% of the members are from low-income families. Kúkátónón is dedicated to addressing the needs of black youth in Portland and altering racial disparities through a holistic approach: dance, drumming, culture, art, and identity.

As an exciting, dynamic program, Kúkátónón also meets many needs of its participants. Afterschool programs are essential to keep kids safe, engage children in enriching activities, and give peace of mind to parents during the out-of-school hours. They also help improve students’ academic performance, school attendance, behavior and health, and support working families. More than fifteen years of research points to how youth who participate in after-school – and summer – programs demonstrate increased academic achievement, better school attendance, and have fewer disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion. Programs such as Kúkátónón also address improved social and emotional outcomes such as decreased depression and anxiety, reduction in risky behaviors, and improved health and wellness. I must confess, I so appreciate looking at Kúkátónón as a health equity venture. My hope is we will open larger discussions around racial disparities and health inequities and how we as a community can do more to support our youth of color.

Sixty-one percent of African-American parents say they would enroll their children if programs were available compared to 38 %of parents in general; 28% of African-American children have no adult supervision after school and are responsible for taking care of themselves during the afternoon hours. Kúkátónón fulfills a critical social justice mission in our community by helping meet these needs.

The need is especially acute for African-American girls. As noted in the Unlocking Opportunity Report,  these girls face significant barriers to educational attainment, including lack of access to quality educational opportunities; pervasive racial and gender stereotypes that affect the decision-making of school leaders and educators; discriminatory discipline practices that disproportionately push them out of school; high rates of exposure to sexual harassment and violence; juvenile justice system involvement; and lack of support for those who are pregnant or parenting while still in school. These systemic educational barriers and challenges produce life-long economic obstacles, such as limited job opportunities, lower earnings, and disproportionate representation among those in poverty. As a result, African American girls are uniquely vulnerable to a “School-to-Poverty Pathway.” By building skills in teamwork and collaboration while building self-esteem and confidence, Kúkátónón gives its students a stronger chance to overcome these obstacles.

The benefits of arts learning are both immediate and long-term. Students are engaged, animated, thinking and working together as they learn about art through art. Young people who are highly engaged in the arts are also more likely to thrive later on, earn higher grades, graduate from high school and college, volunteer, vote, and participate in politics at school and in their community. An investment in Kúkátónón’s arts learning program is an investment in the health and well-being of our children, and a unique cultural resource.

How can we help? I’m so glad you asked. It is really quite easy. Click here to donate and to look at Kúkátónón’s website. While you’re there,  don’t forget to buy your tickets now for this year’s Gala on Saturday, February 14.

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