Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alaska Steve

This is my dog Rex. He reminds me of Alaska Steve's dog, Chico.
This is a tribute to Alaska Steve--although I have never met him. He lives in Unalaska and is a friend of my friends, Jane and Rich. The first time I stumbled on his blog after reading Jane's, I fell in love with his dog, Chico. The side bar on Steve's blog indicated to me something about the kind of person I thought he was: "just a middle-aged guy trying to challenge myself daily and earn the respect of my dog." You see, I think there is something about people who value dogs--as members of the family and with whom you have a relationship, not something to tie up in the yard and feed once a day--that says a lot about the character and caring of such people.

Over the time I have now been reading Steve's blog, I have come to think of him as a pretty unique human being. He is apparently a man of few words, but the ones he shares are important and meaningful. He comes across a the kind of person who is kind--to people as well as dogs. He is insightful, sometimes funny, extremely talented with photography and words. He can paint a picture with words that are as beautiful as his photographs.

Steve has been blogging about his commitment to a fundraiser--St. Baldrick's (you can see his latest post here, and go directly to his donation page here). The sweet baby you see on his donation page is the newest granddaughter of my friend Jane. Today, when I read Steve's latest post, I was quietly struck once again with his humility. What I get a sense of with Steve is that his efforts to raise money for this issue which clearly is important to him is about his commitment to ending cancer; it is not about him, or how much money people may have donated to see him shave his head, or about a competition to raise the most money, or gain any attention for himself. In asking readers once again to contribute he added, "but you can't go wrong donating to any of the shavees; they are an amazing bunch."

It reminded me of someone a long time ago who said to me, "Find something bigger than yourself."

Please join me in donating to the St. Baldrick's fund "on Steve's head" by clicking here. Pass it on.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Service Fair

The Chancellor, Dr. Jones, and Mrs. Jones stopped by to discuss the Riverside program and the new Delta project. It was my first opportunity to meet him. In his opening remarks this morning, he said, "The University of Mississippi is a great American public university...but we must remember we are a great university in the poorest state in the nation." He challenged us to continue our service in transforming our community, our state, and our region, and the importance of the work we do here at home.
My colleague and friend, Debra, and I listened as he talked about our plans for work in the Delta. He gave us a tip on a book we needed to read!

The predicted throngs did materialize. We went out there today with little more than the sign announcing the name of the project and a sign up sheet. By the end of the fair, we had a sheet full of names, mostly people who are from the Delta themselves and excited to see someone beginning work there. I made 4 new professional contacts--3 from the university--and discussed ways to partner with 3 of the programs who are interested in our plans.

What a great day--and all without benefit of fancy posters, lap tops with power points and slide shows and movies. We had a little 8x10 sign that said "Want to work on a service project in the Delta?" We have a variety of majors from journalism to sociology, from 5 different towns in the Delta who signed up, along with some social work majors. The work is ON!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Appreciating students and preparing for the service learning fair

Things for which I was grateful today:
  • The temperature was only 84...since we had no air conditioning at the university,
  • I awoke happy to be going to class even if I had to be there at 8, because I was teaching group skills and I love groups
  • Two graduate students thanked me for giving them feedback to improve their skills and told me how much they valued my help, even though I was "hard"
  • I channeled Lucius Walker in the undergraduate group class, and thanked them for bringing issues to light so that we could talk about them...and I found I really meant it. I saw amazing things happen with the students today
  • Gas was only $2.79 a gallon as I filled up on my way to Southaven for the night class
  • All the students made an A on the exam tonight!!!!!
Tomorrow is the Service Learning Fair, to showcase the work of those of us involved in service learning projects or service learning classes. I have my slide shows ready, the movie ready, the handouts ready, and the sign up sheets ready--for the throng of volunteers who will want to work in the Mississippi Delta this summer. I know this is going to happen, because the grad students today said they would love to have some of our summer class work in the Delta, and it fits right in with the class purpose. That is a whole lot better than sitting in a classroom for 8 hours on a Saturday.

I know the importance of text book learning, and research, and assignments, and application of knowledge--I do not minimize that or make light of it. But I also know that the doing in a real setting, and then reflecting on that, can teach us much. That is the whole objective of service learning: to be of service to a community, whilst at the same time, allowing the student to learn.

It's funny, but when I got the email late tonight that said we would be outside tomorrow, without electricity, I was momentarily concerned--oh, no, how long will the battery on my lap top last? Then I remembered all those times I engaged strangers, and communities, with no lap tops, no pictures, no fancy posters, nothing but my knowledge, skills, and values, and yet, accomplished the purpose. Suddenly, I was GRATEFUL for the opportunity to depend on myself and my social work knowledge and skill base, supplemented only slightly (and for as long as the battery lasts) for this 5 hour gig tomorrow. If I cannot convince someone of the importance of this work by what I share about it, and our vision for the community, I doubt that a fancy poster or power point presentation will do that either.

Vive no electricity!

Click here for update on the Poor People's Economic and Human Rights March kickoff in NOLA.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Things for Which to be Grateful

I have become way too critical these days; just yesterday I noted how I complained about more than I had joy about. Today, I decided to remedy that. The only way to get my joy back is to act like I have joy in my life. I vowed to spend more time expressing my appreciation and showing compassion. As I have realized before, no one has appointed me policewoman of the universe. Sometimes, I just need to be reminded.

So today, I am grateful that the Poor People's Economic and Human Rights Campaign is carrying on the work for social and economic justice in the US. Today, 42 years after the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis as he stood with the men who eked out a living cleaning up after the rest of us, PPEHRC begins the Poor People's March and Caravan in New Orleans, where the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still is visible. Learn about the route and how to become involved here.

I will be updating on the march throughout, and joining them in Glendora, Mississippi. It's more than a march or a demonstration, though it is that, too. It's publicizing the movement to unite those of us working for economic and social justice, and strategizing about how to make that happen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Marilyn Boydstun Clement

I was perusing through my McMurry University (Abilene, TX) alumni magazine when I ran across this name in the obituaries. The first line of the obit called her a "noted social activist" and she had graduated McM in 1956. In particular, what caught my eye was her working for the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization in New York. I became familiar with IFCO's work through my association with Pastors for Peace and Lucius Walker--all introduced to me by my friend Jane (aka Gigi in some circles).

That information led me to an Internet search. Ms. Clement, from Tulia, TX, was the daughter of share croppers, and originally intended to become a missionary following her completion at McM. Instead, she ended up in Atlanta, working with Dr. King in the civil rights movement. She moved to IFCO following Dr. King's assassination. After leaving IFCO, she was ED of the Center for Constitutional Rights and was involved with legal action against the Ku Klux Klan, among other issues.

She did a stint at the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in Philadelphia, and helped organize the Peace Train which ended in Bejing. I recalled the Women's Conference in Bejing in the mid to late 90s, and my friend Jane and I going to see part of a traveling exhibit on peace, and being videotaped about our work and how it related to the work of women through out the world. The organizers would end their exhibit in Bejing, where the video-tapes would be shown to women from around the world--connecting us women-to-women in our work and our desires for a peaceful and harmonious world.

She had also gone back to Tulia to assist in the work of bringing justice to the black community unfairly and viciously targeted by an overambitious prosecutor and his politically and racially motivated allies in the infamous Tulia Drug Sting.

Ms. Clement's most recent work had been in the arena of universal health care, and she had been active in trying to pass such legislation up until her death at the age of 74. She said she knew she would not see it, but that she believed it would come.

While I thought it odd that in all my years of work, I had never once heard her name, I found it inspiring to read about her accomplishments and her efforts to make life better for those who have been marginalized and cut off from opportunity. It was inspiring to read about her passion for her work--she said she could not have imagined a better life than being a community organizer. That is a love for people that transcends all the talking heads in the news today.