Tag Archives: diversity

Textures

Carol A. Hand

As a child I sensed the world and universe in motion
singing in textures and colors I couldn’t name
The trees, the flowers, the tadpole pond, the rippling stream
called to my spirit and lit my heart with a glowing flame
So many called me a foolish deluded dreamer,
Wake up,” they’d say, “You need to play life’s game
The world is black and white, or sometimes shades of gray
Being different will make you mad so choose to be the same”

*

Memorize, theorize, categorize and put on a facade
I tried to sing in conventional scales and color between the lines
but with spirit numbed I was only another empty fraud

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Senior Year High School Photo – 1965

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Singing with a rain-filled voice I found a healing grace
and accepted the gift of sensing textured colors anew
releasing the bonds of conformity in a liberating space
learning, though falteringly, to sing through what I choose to do

***

Commune Life – 1973

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Dealing with Change

Carol A. Hand

Banyan Tree, Lahaina, Hawaii – Photo by Melikamp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, 15 November 2009 (Wikipedia)

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Greeting the morning contemplating Lahaina’s Banyan Tree
removed from its homeland, an involuntary out-of-place refugee
planted on an island far away commemorating colonial supremacy

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Banyan Tree Plaque, Lahaina, Hawaii – Photo by Nvvchar, 19 October 2014 (Wikipedia)

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Once I stood beneath its massive protective canopy
unaware of its suffering and symbolic history
grateful for its beauty and the cooling shade it accorded me

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Banyan Tree – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii – 1998

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Now I ponder colonial displacement from different frames
considering both the grievous irredeemable losses and potential gains

 

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What does it mean to stand alone in a land that’s not one’s own?
removed from the environment one’s species has always called home?
unable to return to be among protective kindred, thus resigned?
to serve, without a choice, the frivolous hubris of mankind?

***

In changing times Lahaina’s Banyan Tree symbolizes resilience and adaptability
surviving storms and droughts in a foreign land for more than a century
touching hearts throughout the years, inspiring kindness and creativity
giving others who are also displaced a sense of home, community
beneath an ever-expanding crown of a now deep-rooted beloved tree

 

Note:

This poem was inspired by a class I am revising for the upcoming semester. I have been thinking about ecosystems, communities of living organisms nested within specific environments forming an interactive network with the elements (earth, air, and waters) available in their surroundings. The myriad of living interactive systems around the globe have had to adapt to ever-changing conditions throughout history. Some plant and animal species have become extinct in this ongoing process.

Often, these changes are viewed and portrayed primarily by what has been lost, perhaps forever. Much as I sometimes romantically imagine that we can return to earlier ways, I know we can’t go back. The world has changed. But there are things that we can learn from our ancestors and from the trees that help sustain the health of the world.

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Banyan Tree – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii – 1998

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I remember the Banyan tree that so amazed me when I visited Maui and Oahu with my daughter in 1998. The plaque pictured above tells a little bit about the tree’s history and symbolism. It was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina. What I found most heartening in the brief historical accounts I read is the growing awareness among people about the need to take better care of the Banyan.

Note the changes visible in the photos from 1998 and 2009. The tile pavers have been removed, allowing the earth to breathe, although more work may be needed to assure adequate moisture and nourishment.

”The tree has been subject to severe stress due to drought conditions, soil compaction from foot and vehicle traffic in the park, and also due to developmental activities in the vicinity. As a result, restrictions have been imposed … Its sustenance has been ensured by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation by installing an irrigation system in the park” (Wikipedia).

I don’t believe we can turn back time, but we can learn how to welcome and care for those who are displaced like the Banyan by forces outside of their control. This is one of the key lessons I hope to pass on to my students next semester.

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Sometimes

Carol A. Hand

Sometimes
I feel like a sprite
Invisible
And it’s really okay
especially among so many strangers
riding the city bus today

There are times I prefer
to be quiet
when surrounded by so much loud rambling chatter

There are times I prefer
to fade out of sight
when so many need attention to feel that they matter

There are times I prefer
to take up less space
when others need to take more than their share

There are times I simply prefer
to be a peaceful presence
unremarkable, unnoticed but acutely aware
of others who just need someone to listen,
to see them,
to care

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Downtown Duluth looking out towards north shore and Lake Superior, taken in 2012 by Joey1niner. (Wikipedia)

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Encircled by beauty
on a lovely August day
So many too busy to notice
as we each go our own way

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My Father’s Father

Carol A. Hand

My Anglo-American grandfather lived in a goathouse
Perhaps it was my father’s father’s way of resisting classism
flipping the bird to his gated-community neighbors
The descendant of the youngest son of British aristocracy
who emigrated to make his own way because of primogeniture

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Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built -  New Jersey, 1953
Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built –
New Jersey, 1953

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My grandfather became a master plumber for NYC highrises
but built his own home without working indoor toilets
The hand-pump in the kitchen the only indoor source of water
It’s where his oldest son lived with his family
easy targets of derision from the privileged classes nextdoor
He preferred his two story shack out back
with goats in the basement and scores of canaries flying free upstairs

His wealthy neighbors offered him fortunes to sell his farm
But my grandfather steadfastly refused
Sometimes I wonder if he stayed there just to spite them

Despite the foul smell emanating from of his goathouse
and his dour, unwelcoming and cold demeanor
I respected his eccentric, independent spirit

***

Grandfather Wes - 1977
Grandfather Wes – 1977

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Celebrating the Peace-Makers

Carol A. Hand

This morning I awoke early, feeling the urgency to finish writing something I began before going to sleep in the wee hours. It was a rambling incoherent reflection that explained my absence from WordPress this week.

There are days when “real world” responsibilities keep me away from blogging – preparing courses, working on a book manuscript, paying bills, chipping ice from my sidewalk and driveway, buying groceries, and weaving new social networks. Other times, I need to retreat and re-energize, taking time to balance and reflect. Especially now. The fear, anger, and divisiveness are palpable, even virulent at times. It’s a delicate balancing act to remain hopeful and objective in tumultuous times.

This evening when it was movie time for my parakeet, Queenie, I opted to explore dramas based on real life on Netflix. Queenie prefers movies with music. So the first choice, toward the end of a long list, was the movie “The Idol,” the story of Palestinian singer Muhammed Assaf. The second was among the recommended videos when our first movie ended, “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem.” The movie chronicles David Broza’s initiative to bring Israeli, Palestinian, and American musicians together to produce an album. Both were hopeful examples of artists using their gifts to spread a message of peace and human connections.

Today, while the USA erupts into divisiveness, it seems fitting to celebrate the artists and peacemakers among us who focus on reaching across borders to unite people in our shared humanity.

The Idol” by writer-director Hany Abu-Aassad tells the story of Muhammed Assaf whose talent as a gifted singer gained worldwide recognition despite the oppressive reality of life in Gaza that he was able to escape.  Through his art, Assaf raises awareness about oppression and possibilities.

Following is a video that highlights Assaf’s work.

East Jerusalem West Jerusalem,” directed by Henrique Cymerman and Erez Miller, follows David Broza’s work bringing artists together across cultural divides (Israeli, Palestinian, and American) to collaborate on an album in a recording studio in Arab (East) Jerusalem. “Over eight days, the artists build cultural bridges, finding common ground through their music and their commitment to peace.” (Skirball.org)

Following is a video of David Broza’s account of the process.

The video and lyrics from one of the songs on the album, Jerusalem by Steve Earle, underscore the contributing artists’ shared commitment to peace and unity.

“Jerusalem”
By Steve Earle

I woke up this mornin’ and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin’ ‘cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin’ anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I’m only dreamin’ and maybe I’m just a fool
But I don’t remember learnin’ how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin’ in
And I can’t lay me down
And the drums are drummin’ again
And I can’t stand the sound

But I believe there’ll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there’ll be no barricades then
There’ll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

It’s easy to divide people. The divisiveness will continue to be trumpeted and fomented by mainstream and social media today and for months to come. However, I wish to celebrate another possibility today by honoring the peace-makers who grace the world. I realize there are many ways to deal with these times.

While some are celebrating the US presidential inauguration and others are protesting, I’ll be at home chipping the ice that still covers my sidewalk and driveway if weather permits and working on a PowerPoint for the first meeting of the social justice course I’m co-teaching tomorrow. I’m grateful to artists like Muhammed Assaf and David Broza who use their talents to promote peace and unity.

How can one remain uninspired by their examples? I do question if it’s possible for us to find common ground. For the sake of my grandchildren, I know I have to continue trying. And I know I’m not alone.

Imagine World Peace
Imagine World Peace

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Travels through Trump Territory

Carol A. Hand

On Sunday, I traveled north and west with my family to sparsely populated north-central Minnesota.

We passed through vistas of lakes and forests

travels-october-2016-1

and wide open wetlands along a sometimes desolate highway

travels-october-2016-2

past a few widely dispersed small towns

travels-october-2016-4travels-october-2016-5

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and homesteads that have may have seen better times.

travels-october-2016-7

The most notable feature was often the yard signs for President, hoping for a better life in places that are on the margins.

The vista sometimes showed the hopefulness of transitions.

travels-october-2016-8

travels-october-2016-9

 

 

 

 

 

We will know soon enough what changes may be in store for us.

It’s up to all of us to continue to work toward the best we can imagine for the future in any case, and to remember to take time to find beauty and hope everywhere we travel.

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All photos were taken my my daughter, Jnana Hand, as we continued traveling northwest.

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Reflections – People on the Bus

Carol A. Hand

Yes, I know I look old dressed in funky well-worn clothing
Perhaps you’ll ignore my presence or view me with loathing
But be careful not to judge others too quickly as one thing or another
The substance of people and life holds many miracles to discover

I met a man at the bus stop a few days ago who proved this lesson so clearly
A younger man, down and out, who talked conservative politics nonstop for eternity
Yet I watched him on the bus as he looked down at the child he obviously loved dearly
A powerful man, still he held his son in a gentle embrace for anyone who cared to see

We’re not that different, he and I, although our political views are diametrically opposed
The superficial traits that separate us – age, gender, ancestry, education – only matter
when we can’t see the essence of others because our hearts and minds are closed.

father-and-son-2

Drawing/Photo – Carol A. Hand

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Reflections and a Reblog – “Why Are You So Different?”

Why Are You So Different?
Posted on November 6, 2013
Carol A. Hand

Years ago, I accepted a position at a university as an assistant professor. I did not know at the time that I was only the second Native American faculty member the department of social work had ever hired for a tenure track position. The first left 30 years before I came because of the anti-Native discrimination she experienced, a perception that the state district court affirmed in a decision that awarded damages. The anti-Native bias was still palpable and unrelenting during the 3 years I spent there. Unlike my predecessor, I chose not to pursue legal action. Doing so would have locked me in an angry, ugly battle for years. Instead, I turned to writing, grateful that I could escape from a toxic environment with such unhappy people. The following essay is drawn from the series of stories I wrote about my experiences and reflections during those years.

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Why are you so different?,” my colleague asked. I suspect that, in part, my response to this question contributed to being ostracized and pathologized by faculty who were unable to hear the many ways this question could be asked and the many possible, legitimate, responses.

As I read this neutral question on a written page, there are so many possible meanings. There are so many ways tone of voice, spoken inflections, facial expression, and body language suggest intent. Meaning or intent is also nested within context. The individual histories of the person who asks and the person who is asked frame the meaning, the way the question is interpreted. The history of relationship between the asker and responder matters, as do differences in history and degree of belonging within the system where the question was asked. Power differentials, both in terms of hierarchical status and long-term relationships with the system, matter as well. And equally important is the congruence between how the question is asked and the publicly stated mission of the agency in which it is asked.

As a child, I asked this question many times. As I pondered the amazing diversity of the six-pointed shapes of snowflakes that fell on my dark mittens on a winter day, I asked, “Why are you so different?,” with a sense of wonder and awe. As a child who grew up between two cultures yet not fitting neatly in either, I asked myself, “Why are you so different?,” with a sense of genuine puzzlement. Embracing that sense of difference actually led me to engage in authentic efforts to learn to understand the world from as many diverse perspectives as possible. My favorite children’s story was about the Churkendoose, a little bird that was a mixture of a chicken, turkey, duck, and goose (Ben Ross Berenberg, 1946). “Difference” in this story was simply that – difference. Ultimately, there were no values assigned to being one creature or another, and no interpretations of being superior or inferior as a result of difference.

IMG_0609

As a teenager, the question was more emotion-laden. I wondered why I could not simply be a part of the cliques that reached out to include me, but not others whose difference was more visible and seen as inferior. (Those who were excluded were the most interesting to me.) Difference that meant inclusion or exclusion was based on family socioeconomics, religion, appearance, perceived intelligence (either too much or too little), or being “cool,” whatever that meant. I respected peers who did not seem to care about their exclusion. Instead of joining cliques, I reached out to those who were excluded, not in an attempt to forge an anti-clique, but to understand the position of difference as a somewhat consciously chosen stance of resistance. I admired the courage of those who were willing to carry the responsibility of thinking critically, who were willing to challenge norms and social expectations in visible, creative ways.

As a young person searching for a place to belong, for a role and career that had meaning, difference had new connotations. It was time to believe in the message of the Churkendoose, a time to explore as wide a range of diversity as possible. I spent time in the hills of Appalachia and on Indian reservations, and worked in the inner city of Chicago while I attended an exclusive Catholic women’s college. I survived the streets of Hollywood, and experienced the possibilities and disappointments by being part of a New Age commune. Among my friends, I have counted priests and prostitutes, artists and legislators, people who were poor and rich, blue collar workers and university professors. Difference enriches my life and my understanding of the world. Like the snowflakes on my mitten as a child, it is a source of never-ending wonder and engenders curiosity.

I did not hear this sense of wonder and curiosity in my colleague’s question. It was intoned in a way that sounded more like an indictment. For more than a year, the indictment remained her preferred way of relating to me. It is at least honest to ask, accusatory or not, “Why are you so different?” “Perhaps,” I wondered, “is there a possibility of building deeper understandings across our differing perspectives?” Unfortunately, it was not possible with this colleague or others in positions of power at this particular university.

I was reminded of a passage from Hyemeyohsts Storm’s work, Seven Arrows (1972). If we place people in a circle, facing inward toward a multifaceted object in the center, each will see only one side, and each view will be incomplete. If each person can share their perspective with others in the circle, a fuller picture will be possible for all. Afraid of difference, we will see only what falls within our limited gaze. How can we teach this partial frame as the one truth? Why would one want to insist that this is the only true reality? And why would anyone be willing to believe such a ridiculous assertion? Difference is the rule, not the exception, and a wondrous gift promising the possibility of wider, deeper vision and understanding. The alternative is to live trapped in a small prison, much like the hell Sartre (1976) describes in Huis Clos (No Exit), surrounded only by people with whom we feel no affinity, consigned to a life that has little possibility for exploring the wonder that surrounds us every day.

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Photo Credit: Free Images on Pixabay 

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Works Cited:

Berenberg, B. R. (1946). What am I? New York, NY: Wonder Books.

Sartre,J.-P. (1989). No exit and three other plays. New York, NY: Vintage International.

Storm, H. (1972) Seven arrows. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

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Reflections – Friday, July 29, 2016

Carol A. Hand

crows in tree

Image: Tree and Crows – Microsoft WORD Clip Art (Public Domain Pictures)

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A crowd of crows convenes to caw out a warning,
“The hungry feral black cat is hunting in the tall grass!
Beware little birds if you want to live to see another sunny morning.
But take pity on a starving cat
who’s only doing what he must.
Alone, abandoned he fends for himself
to live in a world that sometimes seems unjust.”

***

cat clip art

Image: Black Cat – Microsoft WORD Clip Art

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Note: I chose to use the phrase “crowd of crows” even though a group of crows is technically referred to as “a murder of crows.” The context and my feelings about crows called for a more fitting description.

It’s important to add that like some of my neighbors, I bought cat food to feed him and his tiger-striped companion. They turn up their noses after sniffing the food, but the crows find it delightful…

***

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carol A. Hand

In my last university faculty position, I taught an undergraduate practice class – interviewing lab. As one of the few faculty who was not an expert in clinical practice, I found it a rather odd assignment. And then I realized that it was a topic I had used in a variety of cross-cultural settings. Ethnographic research does involve many opportunities to “practice” this skill.

Working on a chapter of my book today, I was reminded of some of the more challenging learning opportunities I have had. Crossing cultures and disciplines is uncomfortable, but in this case, it was crucial. I wanted to understand what was happening in the educational system. Schools were the primary source of referrals for child protective services for both Native and Euro-American children. More importantly, few Ojibwe youth graduated from the local high school.

Many Ojibwe people in the community had raised serious issues about their education. Like Native youth on many reservations, they attended public school in the town outside of the reservation. These “border towns” are typically controlled by the dominant Euro-American setter population, and anti-Native prejudice is sometimes particularly virulent.

At the end of August, 2002, I set off for an interview with a teacher in the border town high school. Following is an excerpt from my interview with Mr. Hanson (not his real name), a teacher who had been teaching at the high school for more than 30 years.

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Research Field Notes Wednesday, August 28, 2002

I headed back to the border town for my interview with Mr. Hanson. When I entered his classroom, I introduced myself.

He replied. “To be honest, Agnes, I left my schedule at home today and had forgotten when we scheduled the interview.”

We shook hands, and sat at the two corner desks closest to the door. Before we began, he asked if I was Indian, and I told him I was and where I was enrolled. Then, I handed him a copy of the paper I had written about my research for the U.S. Children’s Bureau. He briefly leafed through it.

I could tell from his nonverbal cues that he was uncomfortable and I tried to put him more at ease.

“I realize you’re concerned about confidentiality Mr. Hanson, and how any information you share might be used. The consent form and project overview spell that out, but the paper demonstrates how the information will be used. I’ve been meeting with people to make sure they approve of my interpretations of what they shared. As you can see from the paper I’ve written, there are no personal identifiers or place names in order to protect identity.”

He still seemed reluctant, but he read through the consent form and signed it, admitting that he was still reluctant.

“It is a small community and word does get out. And I don’t know anything about the child welfare system, so I’m not sure how helpful I can be.”

I told him that was okay – he did know a lot about kids. And since schools were a major referral source to child welfare, it was important for me to learn what I could.

….

Again carefully choosing his words, he responded. “Bias is not obvious in the class. It is present in the hallways, but it is hidden within the student culture from which I am excluded. It’s there.”

At this point in the conversation, he wanted his comments to be off the record, so I stopped taking notes and just listened. It’s a challenge to reconstruct the conversation, since I was often the one being interviewed.

….

It was hard to keep him talking, and his reluctance remained obvious so I packed up my briefcase and stood up as I thanked him. All of a sudden, he became more animated and started telling me what he teaches his students in the Native American class. He was excited as he talked about his class, and he grabbed a piece of yellow chalk and went to the blackboard to illustrate his points. He said that he draws four circles on the board to illustrate Native American culture, which he illustrated:

Mr. Hanson interview

“If you want to destroy a culture, you take the youth and put them in boarding schools – they don’t pass on the culture when they become adults and elders. It isn’t true that Europeans didn’t understand Native American culture – they understood it very well. Taking youth shows how well they understood.

Carlisle_pupils

Photo: Carlisle …

“The government located settlers on the borders of peaceful, well-functioning Native societies, knowing full well what the settlers were like given where they came from. It was Jefferson who sent out Lewis and Clark to survey Indian Territory and planned how to create indebtedness among Natives so their land would become forfeit.”

He was excited about his Native American class, so I asked him if he involved local community members.

“I used to,” he replied, “but now it’s taught through distance learning. It was meant to be much more hands-on, but it still seems to work. I developed it when I first came to the school and have been teaching it ever since. “

He also listed a number of projects tribes have asked him to participate in, including language preservation and the creation of a museum.

Even though this was a tough interview with someone who clearly was not willing to give many specifics, it was a good beginning. I noticed that he was skillful at dancing around my questions. But he seems to be a good teacher who encourages critical thinking and presents a balanced and very well-informed view of culture and history.

As I left, I told him that I thought the high school was lucky to have him there.

***

I’m grateful for the chance to revisit this uncomfortable interview more than a decade later. And I’m grateful to Mr. Hanson for sharing his gifts as a teacher in a challenging context. Yet I was left with deep concerns. He noted that things have improved for Native American youth. One to two Ojibwe students from each class in recent years have stayed in school long enough to graduate.

Taken by itself, this should be cause for alarm. Other interviews added crucial context. County child welfare staff reported that 45 percent of their juvenile justice caseload were Ojibwe youth. The tribal staff person who worked with child welfare voiced her concerns about Ojibwe youth, described in an earlier post.

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“The youth now are being taken by the criminal justice system.” (Tribal Staff Person 1, June 26, 2002)

I asked her what might help. “What activities might help provide a positive focus for youth? Were there adults in the community who might be interested in working with the youth?”

She had positive responses to both questions. Kids wanted the tribe to build a skateboard park, and she was willing to work with them as were several other community members, but the tribe wasn’t interested. And then, a possible resource appeared.

Early on, my study drew the attention of some national child welfare researchers. I was invited to submit an abstract of my study to be considered for possible development as a commissioned research paper that would be presented at a US. Children’s Bureau conference on racial disparities in the child welfare system (Hand, 2002). My study was selected as one of eight in the country, with a cash award for the commissioned paper I was asked to write and present to an invitation-only audience of child welfare experts in the country. (An edited version was later published in 2006.)

When my fieldwork ended and I was officially finished with my research, I contacted the tribal staff person and asked if she thought it would be helpful for her to have some funding to work with the teens on a skateboard project. I offered some of the money I received for the commissioned paper. (The rest went to offset the costs of a study funded only by my university salary.) My offer came with some conditions. First, if she agreed, I would send her a personal check, but I didn’t want anyone to know where the money came from. She could use the money to help support youth, but the youth would have to agree to some structure. Together, we developed some guidelines.

  1. The youth would need to find at least one adult to volunteer to work with them on the project.
  2. They would need to invite all youth in the community to participate.
  3. Using internet and library resources, they would need to conduct research on skateboard park designs and select one that was feasible.
  4. As a group, they would need to prepare a formal proposal for the tribal council to ask for additional financial support. And,
  5. They would need to present their request during a council meeting.

I was surprised when she called to let me know that the teens were excited and eagerly agreed to all of the conditions. But they were mystified that somebody was willing to provide some money to help them. They were deeply touched that “Somebody cares about us!”

Four months later, the tribal staff person called to let me know that there had been no new juvenile justice cases since the youth started working on the project. They had found a community mentor and even included youth from the surrounding Euro-American community. They had presented their proposal to the tribe, and the prospects for help looked promising.

***

As I reread these old interview summaries and fieldnotes, I descend once again into the discomfort and self-doubt I felt long ago. I question why this study is worth writing about. And then I remember why it’s important to ask questions and care about the answers.

Perhaps the most important thing to emphasize when we teach interviewing skills is to be clear about our purpose. When we interview others about their lives, we carry a responsibility to listen deeply and care enough about the people who share their lives with us to give back in whatever ways we can.

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.