Category: The “Other” Category (page 2 of 3)

Get to Know the Custodian

I am following my longest post of all time with my shortest post ever. This one is a simple request:

Get to know the custodian…

of your child’s school, of your office, of your university, of the library or community center, of the gym,,…

Look around you. Say hello.

You might see my dad. He does this work.

He also greets the kids in the morning and helps them out of their cars. He will quietly go over and open up a Lunchable® packet when he sees an embarrassed kid struggling. He will play games, repaint the gym and remove scuff marks, fix what needs to me fixed, deliver the mail, set up for an event, coordinate schedules, sign timesheets, engineer a better bathroom stall door, dress up as an elf, and clean up vomit. He will give a couple kids a few dollars if their pockets are empty on the day of the holiday gift shop or book fair. He wants to make sure the school is a place where kids want to be, a school they feel they want to help keep clean, a school that is as well-maintained as possible but still alive and active. He amazes me and I’m proud to be his daughter.

Get to Know the Custodian

 

Talking About a Revolution Won’t Make You Liberal

Before you read this blog post, stand up and turn around yourself once. See what you can see, experience any change, and then come back around in a new or similar state.

Perform a single revolution. You can even do it seated if you are in a swivel chair.

I am serious and will wait for you. It is good for the body to move anyways. Really. Go ahead.

A revolution is

  1. a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system. (rebellion, seizure of power, insurgency)
  2. an instance of revolving. (single turn rotation, spin)

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A revolution is a disruption and asks you to delay how you intended to operate online today: scroll, click link, scan and maybe read. A rotation is a vulnerable act in that you must turn your back to some things and focus on other things. It demands time. It can have anxiety in the need to come back around to facing the front, and an openness that maybe you will find a new front. There is the potential that after a revolution you will be facing a new enemy… or a familiar or morphed one.

In September, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, a think tank connected to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, listed Egypt as the 4th country at greatest risk of state-led mass killings, ranking the threat above the violently divided states of Central African Republic and Yemen. TheSimon-Skjodt Center with Dartmouth on the Early Warning Project, a tool to alert policymakers and the public to places where the risk for mass atrocities is greatest.

And yes, celebrated and beautiful Masr (Egypt) simmers 4th on that list. The country where I hold a piece of my heart and a side of my family.

I care.

As a collective, we as the United States care for people and places very selectively and seemingly randomly. We cared about Paris. We cared about Rwanda, Northern Ireland and Bosnia (each eventually and briefly). We cared about Egypt intensely on January 25, 2011 and the 18 days following. This was five years ago tomorrow.

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Something sprung that few could define, and the following five years have been a desperate and fumbling attempt to find and feed those sprouts. The activists have been revolving,

As you read the following timeline, maybe take a single rotation yourself.

  • Mubarak regime has been in power since 1981 with a strong hand. Egyptians haven’t truly voted or demonstrated or grown an opposition party for generations. Lower-achieving students are told to study law. The Egyptian military runs hotels and gas stations and manufactures refrigerators and controls at least 40% of the economy. Corruption is fierce. Muslim Brotherhood is illegal and members are tortured; they conduct mass charity and operations underground.
  • U.S. led or backed devastating wars in the region
  • President Obama’s Speech at Cairo University in 2009 – Hope and change for the people of both Egypt and the U.S. “…tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.  The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.  All this has bred more fear and more mistrust…. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” 
  • Arab Spring sparks from Tunisia in December 2010
  • Egyptian Revolution in January-February 2011 – The People join together to demand bread, freedom and social justice. Toppling of Mubarak after decades of rule.
  • Arab Spring takes different forms and scale in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. U.S./UN Military intervention in Libya in March 2011
  • #July8 2011  A re-taking of the square after demands were not met and the revolution was unfulfilled. This, I was there for.

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  • Maspero television station massacre in October 2011 – Miltary versus protestors (mostly Coptic Christians and allies)
  • Mohamed Mahmoud St. battle in November 2011 – Military versus protestors, many of which were youth or artists labeled as thugs and vandals (approximately 50 killed and dozens maimed or blinded by ‘eye snipers’)
  • First Democratic elections in May-June 2012 – Mubarak’s prime minister versus Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Morsi. Many revolutionaries refuse to cast a valid vote and the U.S. supports the winner, Morsi. Egyptians unite in giving Morsi a chance.
  • The situation in Syria spirals into something beyond comprehension.
  • I move to Cairo as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
  • Anti-American demonstrations and storming of the embassy in September 2012 – Different than Benghazi but related in frustrations and perceptions of U.S. betrayal or lack of follow-through since Obama’s 2009 speech. Perhaps it was just over a video. There has been no creative changes to our diplomatic approaches or response to the Arab Spring.
  • Concrete walls go up around Tahrir Square and the surrounding area in Fall 2012 making pedestrian and auto traffic difficult. Logistically more difficult to gather.
  • Anti-Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) demonstrations  in Tahrir Square in November 2012 – Progressives and opposition parties taking to the square after Morsi’s overreaching decrees. Lots of tear gas and some clashes
  • Presidential palace clashes in December 2012 – Paid thugs and security forces versus progressive and opposition protestors
  • Tamarod (revolt) grassroots campaign in Spring 2013 – Collects 22 million signatures in a petition for Morsi’s ouster
Tamarod petitioners

Tamarod campaigners

  • U.S. suspends and then cancels the Fulbright program in Egypt.
  • Arts and Culture uprising in April/May 2013 – Morsi’s administration replaces the Minister of Culture and more than a dozen staff with MB members who have little to no background in the arts. A law is proposed to ban ballet. The cast of Aida goes on strike. Artists occupy the Ministry building for 33 days, with a street performance each and every night.

Talking About a Revolution Won't Make You Liberal

  • Largest political demonstration in modern history according to Google on #June30 2013 – The People demand Morsi’s ouster.
  • ElSisi announces The People’s triumph and the plan for a diverse, bold transition government – ElSisi says there is no way he would run for president. People see that as inconceivable.
  • Muslim Brotherhood members are demonized and the organization is labeled as terrorist.
  • The headline on all state-run television is “Egypt is Fighting Terrorism.”
  • Rabaa massacre in August 2013 – Security forces versus Muslim Brotherhood protestors who were labeled as terrorists (817-1000 killed and there is no public mourning)
  • Supporting or empathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood members in any way is seen as a traitorous and illegal act.
  • Protest Law (Act 107) in November 2013 – The law requires three days notification and permit before protesting (often requiring that all protestors be pre-named and listed with home addresses); in addition, the Ministry of Interior has the right to “cancel, postpone or move” any protest.
  • Constitutional Referendum in January 2014 – Where citizens were giving the choice between yes (nam) and yes (nam) to ratifying the new constitution. Dissent is discouraged and seen as disloyalty or troublesome.
  • Law and order, investment, security and beautification are in season.
  • ElSisi is generally seen as a populist savior, a hero, and his picture can be seen everywhere.
  • Presidential election in June 2014 – Voter turnout is incredibly low and ElSisi wins with 93% of the vote. Turnout is so low that an additional day and a national holiday are added.
  • I demand the end of Blackface on Cairo stages but the petition is seen as an act of protest. I draw back. Rumors spread that I am racist and pro-MB.
  • Deadly attacks on police and military from Summer 2014 to present
  • Opening of a New Suez Canal with much nationalistic fanfare, continued investment of USAID (second highest in the world for the U.S., second only to Israel), artistic collaboration and exchange with Chinese artists, announcement of a new capital city that would rival Dubai in its advancement, economic forum in Egypt draws world leaders including Kerry, revitalized public park and underground parking for Tahrir Square, wifi on buses, billboards announcing a New Egypt go up in Times Square, new national museum in construction, Cairo Opera Ballet performs for Vladamir Putin, Islamic State terrorism in the Sinai and beyond, deadly crash of a passenger plane, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh is shot in broad daylight, visible reminders of the revolution are whitewashed or torn down, individuals and companies invest in education and the next generation of leadership, new subsidies and economic stimulus plans are introduced, as well as mass trials and mass death sentences, home searches without warrant, disappearances, and tens of thousands of political prisoners including journalists…
  • Hope, pride, disgust and anger mix in my belly, even as an in-law to Egyptian-ism.
A single revolution. Turning around yourself. Coming back to the front a different person, facing a new or morphed or familiar enemy. You are not the same person as when you started your turn. Even the fact that you decided to start turning says so much. You keep turning.
Here are four reads I suggest at this juncture:
1. “Egypt’s revolution has been misunderstood, and a great deal of that misunderstanding had been deliberate. An upheaval that began on 25 January 2011, and will continue for years to come, has been framed deceptively by elites both within Egypt’s borders and beyond. Their aim has been to sanitize the revolution and divest it of its radical potential. The Guardian‘s hope

2. Creative Time Report scathing in the face of the Obama administration for standing with Sisi.

3. I was terribly wrong. Journalists’ stories.

4. President Elsisi’s speech to the Egyptian people on the eve of the 5-year anniversary of the revolution – condemning the attacks on the police and military, and offering public support to the victims “I requested authorization to fight possible violence and terrorism in July [2013], you thought it would be easy. But you have seen the numbers of the martyrs who have fallen.”

 

Some Americans won’t care about this. They probably stopped reading long ago. But there is much to learn and inspiration to gain. We all have a radical potential and some times demand it. I believe this is one of those times.

Last week, our neighbor said this in conversation, “Talking about sex won’t get you pregnant. Talking about death won’t kill you.” Same holds true for revolution. We need to find the social courage to talk, no matter how uncomfortable the ignorance, or divide. As the rhetoric gets more violent in America, we need to find nonbelligerent ways of discussion. Talking about a revolution (of some definition) is something conservatives and liberals can do together. We have the same fire in our bellies and we share a system of decision-making.

The typical American adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother, according to a comprehensive survey. Over the last few decades, Americans have become less mobile, and most adults do not live far from their hometowns. We are a country of close-knit families, leaning on one another for financial and practical support. 61-64% of Americans do not have passports.

According to Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consistent conservatives and about half (49%) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their views; conservatives are likely to attach importance to living in a place where many people share their religious faith (Pew Research Center 2014). “Ideological silos are now common on both the left and right. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families” (Pew Research Center 2014). I feel that this divide is intensifying during this politicized year in the United States and could reach a dangerous level of distrust and segregation if not addressed.

It can start with outrage, but we need a revolution of…

Body (in space and in and of itself, in relation to other bodies and the environment, the living body)

Mind (knowledge of heritage, history, questioning those narratives, critical thinking, self-awareness)

Spirit (belief, faith, hope, kindness, empathy, love, peace, joy, in touch with both positive and negative feelings)

 

Okay, time for a cheesy but lovely break. Thanks for reading. Take a minute to watch Tim McGraw’s video for Humble and Kind, based on Oprah’s Belief series.

 

 

My 2016 Resources for Social Practice Artists

In the next two weeks, I will be speaking publicly, and I wanted to invite you all to those events, but I also offer you a few of my current resources for this work.

First, you are cordially invited to Hope College and SUNY Purchase. Both events are free and open to the public.

PicMonkey Collage

Hope College 1/14 and SUNY Purchase 1/20

 

Hope College in Holland, MI

“Art in the Real World” A Conversation with Shawn Renee Lent

Thursday, January 14, 2016 / 3:00pm-4:30pm, Jack Miller Recital Hall

From a childhood cancer hospital to the scene of a shooting, from post-war Bosnia to revolutionary Egypt, hear real stories of the power of the performing arts in our world. Shawn Lent will share her experiences on the ground and bring you inspiration and resources for doing this work. Sponsored by: The Departments of Dance, Art & Art History, Music, Theatre, & the Dean of Arts & Humanities

Slides available here.

 

State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase, NY

MOVEMENT/MOVEMENTS

Wednesday, January 20, 2016  / 2:30 – 6 pm, Dance Theatre Lab, Dance Building

The School of Arts at Purchase College is thrilled to present a one-day collaborative workshop, conversation, and performance program that deals with the intersection of dance, movement, social justice, and psychology. This project, funded by SUNY’s Network of Excellence, introduces work by a variety of artists, practitioners, researchers and theorists across various SUNY campuses and abroad. MOVEMENT/MOVEMENTS will feature examples and inquiries on how engagement in body-based arts can positively impact peace, conflict resolution and prevention, and diplomacy. Throughout the session students from the School of the Arts will provide a real-time visualization of the language and concepts introduced by the speakers.  Featuring: Doug Varone, Shawn Lent, Jonathan Hollander,  Chris Robbins, Roman Baca, Andrew Fitz Gibbon, Rachel Owens, Christina Merilees, and Melanie Gambino.

 

Now on to the promised resources. I will stick to what is most useful and inspiring to me currently. You will note that I am most interested in social practice and community-engaged dance, with a focus in intercultural, inter-group and international work. This is an acknowledged departure from teaching artistry in both the arts integration and community-based arts worlds. I also do not consider my practice dance therapy and do not offer resources in those areas, but what I do offer will hopefully be helpful to some of you out there. It is not comprehensive but is a follow-up to a previous post. Please feel free to add additional links and resources in the reply section below.  I will offer resources in the following categories:

  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs
  • Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies
  • Groups, Initiatives and Organizations
  • Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

Lastly, if you are interested in joining a Facebook group to share opportunities and resources in social practice dance, let me know.

 

Undergraduate Programs

Performing Arts & Social Justice with a Dance Concentration at University of San Fransisco

Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) interdisciplinary minor at Brandeis University

Community Arts BFA Major at California College of the Arts

Contextual Practice BFA Major at Carnegie Mellon University

 

Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Community Arts at Lesley University

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching Artistry at Wayne State University (3 years, part-time, low-residency)

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Arts for Social Change at Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art, Education, and Community Practice at NYU Steinhart

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) at University of Maryland cultivating teaching artists.

M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Social Practice and Public Forms at California College of the Arts

Master of Arts Management (M.A.M.) in Community Arts Management at University of Oregon

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Socially Engaged Art at NCAD in Dublin, Ireland

Socially Engaged Practice Certificate at Arizona State University

Social Emotional Arts (SEA) Certificate at UCLA

Dancing to Connect Institute (June 15-26 in NYC)

Luna Dance Summer Institute (July 22-29 in Oakland, CA)

Look out for programs at Arizona State University with Liz Lerman now there looking at the arts and the environment, arts and equity.

 

Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies

Next Level, Seeking Hip-Hop Artist-Educators to participate in an international exchange program.

Daniels Spectrum Artist-inResidency for community-engaged professional artists.

A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art

Imagining America Page Fellowship for graduate students

Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) volunteer opportunities

On-the-Move cultural mobility network’s list of residencies.

International Peace & Collaborative Development Network forum listings of jobs, conferences, grants and more.

Idealist volunteer opportunities and job postings.

Design-Your-Own Volunteer Opportunities at your local children’s hospital, veterans’ affairs group, refugee center, homeless shelter, juvenile detention facility, or public or private religious school (insular or divided communities).

Creative Time jobs, internships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities.

Artslink international grants and fellowships.

Move This World position as a U.S. Trainer

Mladi Info with lists of scholarships, fellowships, conferences etc. mostly in Europe.

Alliance of Artists Communities case study residencies in social practice.

Surdna Foundation grants for artists engaging in social change (not currently open).

U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program (for artists, faculty, researchers or staff) DUE August 3 – This is the program I did. Let me know if you have questions or want my help reviewing your application!

U.S. Fulbright Student Program (for current masters and PhD students, recent grads, and young professionals in the arts and other fields) DUE Mid-October

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities

 

Groups, Initiatives and Organizations

MindLeaps dance – vocational training – youth advancement programming in Rwanda, Guinea, and Bosnia-Herzegovina

(SPAN) Social Practice Artist Network

The International Centre of Art for Social Change

ASC! (Art for Social Change) 

DanceMotion USA

Dancing on the Edge

 

Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

1/20 Social Justice Funders webinar by Americans for the Arts

Bibliography listings and Glossary for the 2015 Duke MOOC on Public Art

Americans for the Arts’ On-Demand Webinars including Arts Deployed and Current Trends in Public Art & Social Practice

1/18 Creative Capital: Values-Based Goal Setting

4 Questions for Artists Working in Social Justice

On Social Practice and Performance by Andy Horwitz.

Who Gets to Perform? The Ethics and Aesthetics of Social Practice by Simon Dove

Arts-based Conflict Resolution, an interview with Michelle le Baron.

Acting Together documentary and toolkit (peacebuilding and theatre)

Dancing to Connect’s Cultural Diplomacy Toolkit

Imagining America publications, case studies, research, blog and Public journal

Dancer Citizen online scholarly journal.

ASC! (Art for Social Change) resource articles and publications.

50 Titles, 50 Perspectives: A Reader’s Guide to Art + Social Practice by Broken City Lab.

Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion by Naomi Jackson.

Movement as Cultural Diplomacy at Battery Dance

Arts in the Public Interest Archives.

Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture (New York Times) by Randy Kennedy.

How the Art of Social Practice is Changing the World, One Row House at a Time by Carolina A. Miranda.

Alliance of Artists Communities resource list.

Free PDF Books on Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class and Culture

Education is Performance Art

Am I a Dancer Who Gave Up? by Shawn Lent (Huffington Post).

How to Get a Life in 2016

I imagine the world turning, one big celebratory spin today. With each increment in the rotation, an hourly slice of humanity launches fireworks off the face of the earth. Reaching out to the sky. Wide eyed. Reaching for someone to kiss, something to drink. Some other people decide to reach inward, towards their own center, their family. Some perform rituals. Some ignore them.

The world turns, and each section of the planet takes its first collective breath of our next collective tour around the sun. We will do this journey together. Animals, friends, loved ones will expectedly or unexpectedly leave us this new year. Babies will join us. Politicians will be elected. Others will topple. Devastating things will happen. Brillant things will happen. We as 2016 human beings may have decided to classify ourselves by ever-changing definitions of race, divide ourselves by religion-based teams, wall-up ourselves for peace, arm ourselves and attack others for the sake of safety, exhaust ourselves on 1st world and 3rd world problems… none-the-less, we will go around the sun together.

And today the unhealthy planet that we have treated so poorly is treating us to something special by physically tilting each of us into this new year in our own time.

Today, I got up for a 10 am haircut and blowout for NYE. I had an appointment with my longtime buddy Jason at Robert Jeffrey Hair Studio, Lakeview. I walked to the bus stop. The sun rays were out strong, offering their services to the earth, but the Chicago concrete seemed to be refusing it. This got me thinking about the concept of offering, acknowledging and receiving. Taking in the goodness of what the world offers.

A slight breeze was briskly chill on my cheeks. I tucked in my poorly-gloved hands like a wintery Mary Katherine Gallagher. It wasn’t too bad. Bright and calm. And it was the last morning of 2015, and now that morning has passed. Wow, time goes fast.

On the walk home, as the last noontime of the year settled in, I looked down and something caught my attention. A bunch of blue glitter in some day-old snow, glistening blue on glistening white. You should have seen it. A broken jar of blue glitter spilt and scattered. I stood there for a moment, soaking in this simple sight. As I pushed the button on my iPhone camera app, the phone shut down from lack of battery. So I stood there longer taking a mental picture.

A few days ago, when I posted online about my long struggle to end the use of Blackface and racist caricature at the Cairo Opera, a Facebook friend who often has opposing views left a comment instructing me to “Get a life.” I am pretty sure he meant it insultingly.

But getting a life is actually a great intention for 2016. Being active in the getting, receiving.

3..2..1.. and a here we go! Another collective journey around the sun. Get it!

Why 2016 is Already More Amazing Than 2015

 

2 Winter Solstices Ago, I Married a Muslim

On December 21, 2013, after a year and a half of the most naturally-developing romantic and companionate relationship in my life, the fella and I performed the rituals of marriage in our own way. We exchanged rings and made original vows in private. Then I put on a white dress I had found at Zara for $40. And when I stepped out into the living room, his face lit up in love.

IWill

He wore dark jeans and t-shirt that we had “I will” printed on the sleeve. We gathered with friends at a local Cairo club to pronounce and celebrate this love, joy and commitment. He pretended to go off to the restroom while a mutual friend pulled me onto the dancefloor. The music stopped as the crowd mysteriously parted. And there stood my new husband smiling. Our buddy, DJ Freedo, nodded and put a needle on “our song.” We danced our first dance. A few weeks later on 1/1/2014 we went to the Foreign Ministry building to officially sign up to our life together, after months on bi-national bureaucracy. The new adventure began.

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Then a few months ago, in Cairo, the small diamond fell out of the tiny Depression-era ring I wear which belonged to my late grandmother. I never found that diamond and haven’t been able to afford a replacement. But I say the hole left is filled with love.

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Last year on our first anniversary (which is paper), we were visiting my family in Michigan and my parents toilet-papered our hallway. They are a funny duo. Back on June 21, 1978, I was born as the only child of that funny duo. In terms of daylight, I should thank my parents because I have the longest birthday in the calendar, the most hours to celebrate, more hours for cake.

Solstices are good. Change is good. All I want from my life is love and the unexpected. I adore seasons, as they bring change throughout each year. I dearly missed the four seasons while living in Egypt. In Cairo, the length of daylight in a day varied little while here in Chicago, the variance is stark. Winter days here are very dark days.  December 21st signifies that only more light is to come.

Solstices are also a moment to pause, to stand still. “The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the sun stands still in declination; that is, the seasonal movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction.” (Wikipedia)

On December 21, 1990, a friend started a Chicago tradition. Michael Zerang, along with Hamid Drake, decided to put on a 6:00 AM percussion concert welcoming the winter solstice, the shift, the standing still. For 25 years, the Winter Solstice Concerts have been a Chi-town tradition.

Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake

Photo by Links Hall / Constellation

 

I know of no better way to celebrate the fella and I’s 2nd anniversary. And I urge you to get your tickets if you are in town! This year, Michael and Hamid have an expanded program due to their silver anniversary.

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This year, the fella and I are celebrating our own cotton anniversary. And it is amidst an environment of anti-Islamic rhetoric and acts in the United States of America, whose founders decided that the very first part of the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights would be freedom of religion. It is only in this 2015 political backdrop do I use the term Muslim for my husband. He is profoundly more. It actually made me a little sick to my stomach to write the title for this post.

It is only amongst this ugly swirl right now do I even think an ounce about my husband’s religion being different from my own. I married a Middle-Eastern Muslim man, yes, and we pray to the same God. Even if we didn’t, we hold dear to one another and do our best in the world. The cultural and religious Muslims in our shared planet (from Detroit to Jakarta) offer so much. Our Arab and Middle-Eastern neighbors are closer than some of us might think in a number of ways, and they are of a multitude of faiths and they are dear. So much talent and heart. I often find myself ashamed of my fellow Americans lately. I am embarrassed and saddened by the divisiveness. We share a world and cannot continue to build walls for defense or walls for peace. These walls are constructed with ignorance and vengeance. For example, refugees (from Syria or elsewhere) had nothing to do with the terrorism in Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Charleston, Isla Vista, Newton, Brookfield, Minneapolis, Oak Creek, Aurora, Oakland, Seal Beach, Tucson, Manchester, Bighamton, San Bernadino, Columbine…. Ugh. I cannot go down into such darkness.

Thank God there is a coming solstice on Monday, a standing still, more light. And then for the first time in a long time, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Lord Jesus Christ/Prophet Isa will share birthdays. With a full moon! Let us celebrate Christmas and Mawlid-al-Nabi together and lean toward the joy, inviting cultural and practicing Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Jains, Baha’is, Agnostics, Atheists, Non-realists, and Non-religious friends to the party. Let us open our ears to one another and learn before we preach. Create trust before we collect arsenals to protect our families. We must simultaneously be of faith and beyond faith.

Later this year or next, the fella and I hope to have a full wedding here in the U.S. and bring my family and his together for the first time for the ceremony. I sure hope they can get visas.

“I Am Who You Have Been Waiting For.”

The official average nowadays for a job search in the United States is 6 months. Some far shorter, some far longer. A friend in the IT field found a new position in a week. I am on Month 5.

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I have found a number of exciting opportunities, even developing dance programs for children with life-threatening illness, but most want me to work in a volunteer capacity.

My friends, family and followers have been by my side on this journey. Deeply grateful for that, but I know we are all getting exhausted. Health insurance seems to keep running further and further ahead like a dream I can’t catch…. as are paying off student loans and other debts.

Wondering if any of you have been in the position or are there with me now?

Well, there is good news. The exhaustion on my end was replaced with vigor this week by participating in two activities:

  1. Joining a gym less than a block away with yoga classes, a whirlpool, and free cable TV on the cardio machines. My husband and I negotiated a great deal with them and we can cancel if needed. Being physically active each day has changed my outlook and enthusiasm. A job search can become an unhealthy cycle of activities. Get a body moving, and the world opens up.
  2. Attending a $10 resume writing workshop with YNPN Chicago (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network). I realized two things during this workshop: I can no longer present myself as simply a non-profit professional and I am not young. Much of the information in this workshop was not new, but it was an amazing catalyst. I realized that it might be time to go for a less-readable and dense 2-page resume that has more meat and expresses my successes. In rewriting my resume until 2am and working with a few quality Fiverr proofreaders, I could step back and say Wow.

The job search has a new momentum. Thank God and the universe for that.

Today I am presenting myself boldly and joyfully. On my feet. Mantra is “I am who you have been waiting for.”

I Am Who You Have Been Waiting For

If you can help in any way, I am looking for either a full-time position, or two part-time / contractual positions in Cultural Diplomacy | Art & Culture Management especially Community Engagement or City-wide/Regional/National Scope | International Education or Exchange | Workshop Facilitation. Looking to find something in Chicago or remote/virtual work. Not particularly looking to be an executive director or development officer, more leaning toward programming with intercultural, international or cross-sectoral content. Check out or forward the new resume. Bio and other links are available here.

 

 

 

Best Kitty Ever: A Tale of CH, Western/Middle Eastern Identity, and Determination

My husband spotted him under the tire of an abandoned car. He was stick-thin tiny, big eyes, distraught, tremoring and covered in street filth and his own feces. I thought he was a Middle Eastern rodent. We bent down, got closer and saw he was a wide-eyed kitty. Completely malnourished. At death’s door after only 1-2 weeks in this mighty world. Barely visible in the shadow of a car tire.

It was in the hot July heat of Cairo, Egypt during Ramadan. All the stores were closing for Iftar. There’s no way we could have left him there. We called a vet and begged him to stay open until we could get there so that he could put an end to this kitty’s misery. So we gently, gently slid him onto a piece of cardboard, using a rolled-up newspaper, and got into a cab. He lay still during the ride except for a pronounced tremor. His legs were unbending. I didn’t want him to die without a name, so we named him Lamar after the juice brand advertised on the billboard outside the taxi window.

At the vet, they gave him a bath and discovered the kitty was white and a Lamara, not a Lamar. An x-ray determined that nothing was wrong with her structurally. The vet said she probably had nerve damage from a strong kick or long fall. She didn’t appear to be a breed of street cat, so a human with no heart had probably threw her out. The vet said that with good care  and a few prescriptions, she would be walking in 2-4 weeks. We agreed to take her home and get her to the point of walking so that she could find an owner or shelter. After 4 weeks, she was healthier but no success on the walking front. She still had to be held to drink and eat (which she does ferociously), and lied down to go potty (which can get extraordinarily messy for a long-haired kitty).

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A friend kitty-sat for us and took her to the international vet who gave the official diagnosis. Turns out Lamara was born with Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), which is similar to ataxic cerebral palsy in humans and looks like Parkinsons. Cats with CH have a normal life expectancy and are usually not in any pain, other than from falls. Many wear helmets. We considered it, but she hates things on her. Kitty diapers and “wheelchairs” were also a no-go.

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My husband spoke to her in Arabic, and I learned the basics of the language. Her breed seems to be Siamese / Persian / Himalayan mix, but she is an Egyptian gal to the core. She may or may not be Arab, but she is Middle Eastern.

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And she is making her life.

She says no to nothing.

With her moderately severe CH case, they said she wouldn’t ever really walk. At four months old, she took her first consecutive steps.

Then she taught herself to drink sitting up. My husband coaching her through every sip.

Then she taught herself to climb, all the way out of her crate.

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Then, we thought it would all have to come to an end. We became so busy with battering life in Egypt, barely able to take care of all her special needs. She was not taking to any lesson on being house-trained. We tried everything and our flatmates had become fed up. It broke my heart just thinking of alternatives to her not being there. We persevered and looked at life one week at a time.

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At 11 months old, we caught her in the other room practicing trying to stand on all four legs. Balancing lessons. She had taught herself to sit when she was about to fall, rather than fall to the ground.  In addition, she decided to teach herself how to scratch her ear with her back paw. No luck. But she kept trying and trying for months. We would assist her by guiding her foot or holding her head up for her.

She enjoyed her first birthday in the intense Cairo summer heat of the El Sisi adminstration.

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Then she decided she would immigrate to the U.S. This must have been her decision, because I cannot remember my husband and I ever discussing it. This was a given.

She got her vaccinations, passport, paid her fees, and got into a carrier for eighteen+ hours including a layover in Paris.

She came to America and breathed the fresh Michigan air.

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She saw grass for the first time.

She saw birds, frogs, bugs and went on her own version of an uncoordinated backyard stealth attack. Her vertical leap grew to an impressive 2 feet and she “stuck” the landing often with her face. My dad generously constructed her a wheelchair, feeder to help hold her up, and steps to get on the couch. She never decided to use any of these devices the way they were meant to help. But he did teach her to use litter inside a boot tray!

She was making quite a mess of the back room, so we made her a special walled zone in the basement. Well, in the morning, we found her sitting at the top of the stairs. We all thought one of the humans in the house must be a prankster because it was impossible for her to scale a wall and climb an entire flight of stairs.

So she demonstrated once more…

I am one determined kitty. I made it up

Posted October 10, 2015

 

Recently, the three of us moved from small town Mid-Michigan to Chicago. Back to the big city life for our gal. But when the temps reached 66, she gave me a demanding look towards the door.  So Lamara took on the public park.

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Definitely the only cat people had seen in this setting. No fear, and having a blast “chasing” squirrels and diving in the leaves. I stayed near her, on dog and bike patrol, and she had happy exercise and fresh air for 40 minutes with soft grass to fall on. Getting stronger and more coordinated.

She is not the dog we discussed and were planning for, but Lamara has changed our lives. She does the unexpected, every time. She is borderless, bilingual, and won’t be defined. My love. With every butt wipe and every death-defying leap off the couch, she inspires me. And this is only the first 1.5 years of Lamara’s story. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Still Trying to Diversify in the Arts

I am currently looking for a job. And for many, if not all, the job postings I read, I would lean towards hiring a candidate of color if I were hiring. That’s my truth. We need more racial diversity in arts management and leadership. No question. Even with my experience, skills and ideas, I would shy from hiring myself if I could help it. I would racially diversify my team.

Now, I very much understand that race is complicated. Arab people are technically White, Latino & Hispanic mean different things, and Black & White can be difficult to distinguish.

I am aware of my whiteness. When I was most aware was not while volunteering overseas, it was when I shaved my head for childhood cancer research in 2012. I could see my scars and my scalp. I am not sure why, maybe it was the hint of a skinhead connotation, but I can honestly say I felt my whiteness.

 

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“The White-Savior Industrial Complex” is of great concern for those of us white community artists, teaching artists and social practice artists. Much of our work is in communities of color. Part of our duty is to remain collaborators and learners, no matter the context. It is paramount.

In the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled that affirmative action was Constitutional if part of a holistic, race-conscious admissions process and not based on a quota system. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the ruling that the University of Michigan Law School had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity, deciding that Admissions may favor “underrepresented minority groups,” that also took into account many other factors in evaluating every applicant.

Skin shades and facial features always tell an incomplete story.

The Gender Gap is another problem. Shockingly, there are altogether fewer women running big companies than men named John.  In arts education, dance, and other fields women over number men to a great degree, but men lead most of the companies and organizations. You can read more at WomenArts.org among other resources.

Religion is less a part of the conversation because we value our secular society and privacy, but I say it is becoming increasingly important in America that we find ways to bring together conservatives and liberals. The Christian Right, Orthodox/Hasidic Jews, Mormons, and other faith communities are becoming more insular, more intense in their fundamentalism; allowing this alienation is increasing the divisions in our country. The arts can mend these sutures. Those of Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Shinto faith should feel welcome to apply to our staff teams and boards.

Then there are the socio-economics at play in our work. Prominent universities give out the most valuable degrees in our industry and cost students the most. Free programs do not always do always have the desired effect, as the level of education and awareness, lack of transportation and child care, and interest in other activities also have an impact.

A young ballerina’s family must make huge financial sacrifices to help their daughter become competitive, but it is rarely enough; Michaela Deprince, Irlan Santos da Silva, and Misty Copeland are not the norm. Much of our arts outreach to poorer communities is focused on widely-distributed access, cross-sectoral values, and transferable skills, not the high-level training in management or performance required for professional work. George Heymont’s article, “What Happens to the Gifted Child Who is Poor?” and Jeff Guo’s piece, “These Kids Were Geniuses” touch loosely on the subject. Can the arts do both? Arts for everyone AND free training for the gifted  from underrepresented minority groups? More programs means more jobs, and more future artists and arts goers, which leads to more programs, and more jobs.

Diversity in the arts is an old conversation becoming more relevant in my life as I proceed through my job search. I am white, straight, married, Mid-Western, female, lower middle-class, childless, Lutheran/Agnostic, and the only child of an elementary school custodian and a secretary who are so much more than those titles suggest. My extended family (1st cousins and their husbands/wives) are of racial diversity with Hispanic, Asian, Arab, Black, Mixed-Race and White all being represented. I am the only one among them to attend a 4-year college.  I feel guilty about that. Not really white guilt, but a certain guilt.

Old/Young, Urban/Suburban/Rural, Male/Female/Trans/Intersex, Gay/Straight/Queer, Conservative/Liberal, Dark/Light, Sikh/Jew/Baptist/Agnostic, Curly Hair/Straight Hair/Bald…. I can tell you that arts organizations need a diversity of story in our staff teams, casts, and senior leadership. Promoting diversity and using a race-conscious selection process are needed in the arts on both the professional and training/education levels. This demands workforce development in the arts so that there continues to be work for people of all different makeups. For myself. For my peers.

 

Before the World Turns Pink Tomorrow

My mother had cancer in both her breasts. Her sister faced breast cancer. So did her other sister.

My mother had both breasts and a dozen lymph nodes removed.

My mother has been cancer free for a year and a half.

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My mother now deals with severe neuropathy. She takes six pills a day, is trying hair growth treatments, and has to wear a compression sleeve on the arm that has nearly doubled in size. Last year, she couldn’t feel the shoes fall off her feet when she was walking. Even with a bath before bed, her leg pain keeps her up at night, every night. Every six months, she faces scans and results, and her eyes grow wider with the breath-catching fears she is trying to suppress.

Breast cancer continues to be a beast.

Last year, my mother (a woman who didn’t exercise for over 30 years) completed a 5K walk in a pink boa. She has a pink phone cover, pajamas and house slippers. My father now owns a pink shirt. My mother was never a fan of pink, but now it is her color. When she sees it, she is reminded of her own strength. When friends and family see her wearing pink, we are reminded of what she went through and how she is persevering. When strangers see her in pink, they can instantly recognize her battle. She often hums, “This is my fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song…”

The debate about pinkwashing is not new. Think Before You Pink is doing great work. People question how corporations can sell pink products with carcinogens, promising to donate a small percentage of the profits to the cure. People question the finances of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its practice of suing small charities over the “For the Cure” copyright.

Cause marketing may be highly questionable at times, but I can tell you for certain that October is the month my mother stands taller. The month of the year she rallies. It is a month of pride and energy for her. I am thankful for that.

But that starts tomorrow. Today, you see, is the last day of September, a month dedicated to another community, children with cancer and their families.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The color is gold.

Cancer has invaded my family strong. My mom and two aunts, dad, grandmother, great uncles, cousin, and others have faced that beast of cancer in one form or another. Yet, my devotion is to childhood cancer due to the severe lack of funding and research. Childhood cancers (4% of national research funding) are on the opposite side of the funding spectrum as breast cancer. To have their awareness months back-to-back is almost a shock in disparity.

We have one more day before the world goes pink, in both beautifully important and unethical ways, and I ask you to spend it in gold. I ask you to read some of the children’s stories of the September Series by Mary Tyler Mom. Every day this month, she has featured a different guest blogger who shared his/her personal experience with childhood cancer. As my friend says, “Stories are always more potent than statistics. The hope is that by learning about children with cancer, readers will be more invested in turning their awareness into action.”

Cancer is not to be condensed to months or competition, but we should be wise in our awareness and in our understanding. We need to be knowledgeable about the details of treatments and side effects. All cancer patients deserve the hope found in funded research (at a more equitable level) and a month for rallying.

 

Statistics as posted by the American Childhood Cancer Organization:

Federal funding for childhood cancer research is predominantly allocated through the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Funds are distributed to Principle Investigators (scientists) working at labs which are often located at Children’s hospitals across the country (extramural research); to the Children’s Oncology Group to fund clinical trials (extramural research); and to labs within the NCI (intramural research.) Each year, Congress approves the amount of money that the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland will receive for research initiatives. Cancer will be funded in 2009 at a level of approximately $5.6 Billion. In 2007, the NCI reported that the combined extramural and intramural funding for childhood cancer research was approximately $180 million. However, this estimate could be regarded as liberal as some of the associated research might not be perceived as directly benefiting childhood cancer. Other more conservative estimates, put childhood cancer research funding as low as $30 million annually.

To put this figure in perspective, the NCI allocated $572.4 million on breast cancer research in 2007. Other NIH Institutes funded breast cancer research at a level of $132.6 million in the same year; and the Department of Defense, which also supports breast cancer research, allocated an additional $138 million. As a comparison, breast cancer with its overall 5 year survival rate of close to 90% received $843 million in Federal research funding in 2007. This was in addition to the funds raised by breast cancer organizations through their pink ribbon campaigns and private donations. It is estimated that the success of those initiatives raises approximately $256 million in the combined assets of the top four breast cancer organizations. The success of the pink ribbon campaign and its resulting funding for breast cancer research has resulted in an increase in the five year survival rate of that patient population. Their strength as advocates has resulted in a strong position for both federal and private research funding.

As individuals and organizations supporting our nation’s children and adolescents with cancer we too can take a strong stance for our cause with both federal and private research funding. Breast cancer is the sixth most common cause of death by disease of women in America (behind heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disease and Alzheimer’s). In comparison, cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of America’s children. In terms of person years life lost (PYLL), the average age at diagnosis of breast cancer is 61, with a calculated 16 PYLL. In contrast, the average age that a child is diagnosed with cancer is 10. This calculates to 67 PYLL. Sixty seven years of life lost when a child dies from cancer.

Our call to action is to increase the awareness of the incidence and devastation of this disease on America’s children. By raising awareness of the fact that childhood cancer remains the number one disease killer of America’s children, we can raise the awareness of the need for greater research funding. Like breast cancer, childhood cancer has an international symbol “the gold ribbon. The gold ribbon was created by parents of children with cancer and former CCCF board member Gigi Thorsen. Its first production as a lapel pin was funded by CCCF in 1997. Working together, we too can become successful cancer advocates through the promotion of the gold ribbon for childhood cancer, so that we too can build research funding and much needed cures for America’s littlest cancer patients.

 

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