When you make a major move, things go missing. You have to expect it. In my case it was random items--two cutting boards, all of my socks, my mom's scissors (I went into a panic but after days of searching, I found them) and the bottle of Spray 'n Wash. I went to Wal-mart to stock on on cleaners and was picking this off the shelf when I heard a voice from behind me.
"Does this smell bad to you?"
I gotta say, I closed my eyes and winced. It's been my experience that if someone asks that question, you both already know the answer. I was wrong.
She held a bottle of fabric refreshener and wrinkle remover and she tilted it in my direction. It smelled pretty good.
"Some of them smell awful." She waved her arm toward the shelves and then explained. "Not everyone has the luxury of washing their clothes whenever they like. I like to use this in between so that my clothes smell fresh."
She didn't have the luxury of getting her hair professionally done either. I could see remnants of the hair dye she'd used earlier that day on her temples.
She didn't ask for money. She was earnestly trying to find the right product. I've been to a laundromat, and it can be quite expensive to wash and dry your clothes, but I'd forgotten that until she reminded me.
I guess this was God's reminder to me of how fortunate I am. All of my appliances work. I stay warm when it's cold, the dishes are clean when I take them out of the dishwasher and I'm able to wash and dry my clothes any time that I want. I may grumble when I have to make another trip to the grocery store, but I can afford the food.
Outside of the all the material things, I have a wonderful family and incredible friends. Chances are, if you're reading this, you fall into one of those lists.
Thanks for being in my life.
It’s been 98 years since the race riots in Tulsa. (You can read about them in my last blog here)
What has changed?
In 1996, the Greenwood Cultural Center was opened. Their goal is to recreate, renovate and revitalize the Greenwood district that was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (called the Black Wall street by author Booker T Washington). The website refers to the event as a massacre instead of the more common title of “riot”. The goal of the center is the education of Oklahomans and Americans—remembering both the victims and the survivors.
In 2016, an article in Tulsa World (95 years later), said there was still room for improvement. Marq Lewis (head of We the People Oklahoma) said the “historic African-American areas are desolate. They need economic improvement, more school improvement, more grocery stores... “ He concluded by saying “Tulsa is a city divided by races that do not commingle.”
In 2018, for the first time, Tulsa schools added education about the event to their curriculum.
Now, let me tell you about a guy.
George Kaiser, according to Wiki, is the Chairman of BOK Financial and one of 100 richest people in the world. His parents left Germany due to the Nazi occupation and they settled in Tulsa and started Kaiser Frances Oil together with other Jewish refugees. Along with being one of the richest men in the world, Kaiser has a reputation for being a philanthropist on the level of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. He’s committed to giving half of his money away in a “Giving Pledge”. His special interest is childhood poverty and education, but what I wanted to tell you about is a playground.
The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a 66 acre park with playgrounds, parks, skateparks, concert venues and restaurants. It’s ADA compliant and it has desensitization areas for people who have autism and get overwhelmed.
And it’s all free.
The park was Kaiser’s idea. He wanted to turn the waterfront area into a site where Tulsans could get together. His dream turned into the largest private gift to a public park in the US history. The Gathering Place provides safe areas for children to play, adults to meet for coffee, and families to enjoy music or fireworks.
But perhaps the best part of all is the diversity of people that gather together to enjoy the new park. Maybe healing doesn’t begin with talk…maybe it begins with play.
Do you remember Tiananmen Square?
Let me remind you of the 1989 incident. Chinese students became frustrated by inflation, corruption and political restrictions so they started protesting and conducting a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.
In response, the government declared martial law. They sent the military to Beijing—soldiers with machine guns and assault rifles. They attempted to clear the crowds, but protesters responded with shouts and projectiles. Violence from both sides escalated until the army opened fire and began killing both protestors and bystanders.
The government expelled foreign journalists and sought to control coverage of the event in domestic newspapers. As a result the true death count is unknown, but according to estimates from various sources, the figure could be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand.
I remember when it happened and my first thought was that something like that could never happen here.
But it did.
Last Monday, scientists and forensic anthropologist started searching for mass graves in Tulsa, a result of a race riot that occurred almost 100 years ago. I didn’t remember learning about this episode in US history, so I did some reading.
According to Wikipedia, it happened like this…
Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting a 17 year old white elevator operator. No written account of her statement has been found. She did not press charges and the police did not feel it was an actual assault. However…
A local sensationalist newspaper released a story titled “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator” and they implied that Rowland may be lynched (killed, usually by hanging).
White people showed up at the courthouse. The sheriff organized his staff and took steps to keep Rowland safe. Three white men entered the courthouse and demanded that the police turn over Rowland. The sheriff refused.
The black community were worried about Rowland’s safety. They took up rifles and shotguns and also went to the courthouse. Seeing the armed black people, more whites went home for their weapons. The police and local ministers tried to de-escalate the crowd but they failed. A gunfight took place killing several white and black men.
Gunfights continued through the night. Fires were set in the Greenwood district, also known as “Black Wall Street”. Privately owned aircraft, possibly carrying law enforcement, dropped firebombs on buildings and fleeing residents.
The National Guard declared martial law and were successful in stopping the violence.
Here’s where the details get fuzzy. Newspapers covering the event had wildly different accounts of the casualties. Typically both whites and black deaths were listed between 10-25. The Red Cross mentioned up to 300 dead but some now believe thousands of blacks died.
Also lost were almost 200 businesses, several churches, and over a thousand houses which left 10,000 black people homeless.
Six thousand black people were arrested but no whites were prosecuted for their actions during the riot and decades went by with no acknowledgement of the incident. As late as 1970’s, local newspapers were still refusing to publish articles regarding the riots.
Maybe that’s why I’d never heard of this before....
You can watch a short clip about it here.
The Avett Brother's said it well...
I've been to every state and seen shore to shore
The still open wounds of the Civil War
Watched blind hatred bounce back and forth
Seen vile prejudice both in the south and the north
And accountability is hard to impose
On ghosts of ancestors haunting the halls of our conscience
But the path of grace and goodwill is still here
For those of us who may be considered among the living
from the Avett Brother’s album: “Closer Than Together”
Ragnar is an artist whose work is installed in the Dallas Museum of Art. His last name is patronymic. (I didn’t know what that meant either) A patronym is when you incorporate a portion of your father’s name into your own name. Like Johnson, for “son of John”. So I think the second portion of his name means “son of Kjartan”. According to Wikipedia, it’s not actually his family name. Interesting.
Wikipedia says he does video installations and “collective emotion is a hallmark of his practice.”
Nine screens are suspended in a dark hallway in the DMA. Each screen is shot within a different location of the same house. A musician may be sitting at a piano in an elaborate living room or strumming on a guitar in a masculine study filled with books with similar colored spines. A group is gathered on the porch in another video, singing behind a disinterested man beneath an umbrella.
It’s easy to get distracted by the scenes that unfolds in front of you.
I wondered if the man playing a guitar partially submerged in his bubble bath would ruin the instrument. I questioned why some rooms appeared extravagant and in others, the paint was chipping. And what was that man doing in front of the porch…was he symbolic of something?
It takes a moment to realize that each musician is wearing headphones and is creating the music I am listening to. Without seeing each other, or even being in the same area, the melody rises up, drifts back down again, in perfect unison.
It’s beautiful. Haunting.
You should definitely go see it.
What’s the lesson? In the beginning, I was caught up in the visuals. The superficials. I worried about insignificant details and didn’t recognize what was happening.
Ragnar allows you to be a part of the emotional experience of the music. It’s a sensory experience unlike anything I’ve ever done.
You should definitely go see it. (It’s free!)
I've been busy. Not just a little busy. More like hustling to keep my task list from pouring down over me like a tsunami. Slaving to pull myself out of this swamp of duties. You get the idea.
So I've backed off of the blog. Sorry about that!
But what I haven't stopped doing is writing about a new story centered in India. This tale has been swirling in my head for some time and it has more than a fair bit of monsters, mythology and magic. It goes without saying, there will be unicorns, too.
It won't be just one book. Nope. Pack your bags. We might be gone for awhile and I can already tell that India won't be our only destination...
As penance for my lapse in blogs, I'm giving you a taste of what's coming next:
Augustus Hithersby adjusted his notes and looked over his reading glasses at the audience before him. “The Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, Pliny the Elder was probably actually describing a rhinoceros when he said that the unicorn had ‘the feet of an elephant’ and ‘the tail of a boar.’ He described the horn as black, instead of the more common white color demonstrated in most art works. Pliny, you’ll remember, wrote the Naturalis Historia, the model for later encyclopedias. He was an investigator of botany, zoology, astronomy, and geology, so his writing has credibility. But while Pliny and the rest of the Romans reference unicorns in their literature, it’s not likely the same creature we think of in modern times.”
Augustus clicked the remote and a slide appeared overhead with a rhinoceros on the left and a unicorn on the right.
“What about the Greeks? Multiple accounts of the animal were found in their study of natural history. Do you know where they believe the unicorns originated from? I’ll give you a hint…It’s the final stop on my speaking tour.” Augustus smiled when a young woman in the second row called out the answer. “India! That’s right. India was regarded as a land of magic and the unicorn was considered a mysterious creature that commanded respect.”
Augustus took a sip of water and winked at his wife in the front row. She’d always been constant fixture in his lectures, sometimes the only occupied seat in the auditorium. Octavia smiled back at him with a sparkle in her eyes. Her face might have a few more lines and her hair might have a hint of silver—wisdom locks she’d informed her husband—but she was the best wife and research assistant that a man could hope for.
“Does anyone know what makes unicorns different from any other mythological creature? Anyone?” He paused theatrically, adding suspense, he hoped, to his presentation.
“There’s no myth associated with the unicorns. None. There are stories about centaurs and winged horses, minotaurs and Medussas, but no stories centered around unicorns. Just like there are no myths about rhinoceros or elephants. Various cultures around the world describe the unicorn as if they’re describing any other animal that walked the earth. It’s clear, they considered the unicorn a real beast.”
“But a beast with an important difference. In all civilizations, and all time periods, the unicorn was both revered and respected. A symbol of purity and goodness.” Augustus raised one brow and tapped his finger on the podium for added emphasis. “So the questions remain…Were they real? Could they have actually existed?”
“I’ll take a few questions and then I’ll have to go.”
A man in the back stood up, but Augustus was quick to stop the man when he started talking. Putting a cupped hand by his ear he said, “Louder, please. My wife claims that I forget what she says, but I suspect that I don’t always hear the dear woman.”
Augustus scratched his beard as the man posed his question and then he sorted through computer files until he found what he was looking for.
“Ah, yes. There is a theory that those pictorial representations only show one horn because we’re seeing a side profile. That the closer horn obscures the second horn. Let’s take a look at an example of that.”
A plaster relief of a unicorn appeared on the wall.
“Here,” he demonstrated with a pointer. “Look at the detail of the billowing mane on this Roman etching. Two front legs. One horn.” He squinted, studying his own slide for a second, before clicking to the next image.
“French tapestry from around 1500 AD. We can see the profile of the body, but the head…see how it’s turned to look at the viewer. One horn.The craft of both of these pieces goes against the argument that the artist did not incorporate a second horn.These have dimension, they are not simply flat pieces of art. Presumably, like the legs in the first example, the artist could have included a second horn if one existed.”
He acknowledged the woman with the note pad when she stood up next. “Thank you, madam, for speaking up so that I could hear you.” He flashed a mock stern expression at his wife. “Do you see how well that works when a person speaks loud enough so that they can be heard?”
“The argument about the unicorn being a composite of other animals is a common theory, but it’s got one rather large flaw.” Augustus caught himself staring over the rows of faces, still finding it hard to believe so many people were interested in his research. The sound of his wife clearing her throat brought him back to his subject.
“There were no horses or camels in the Indus Valley so what could that composite be based on? By the way, the Indus valley is what we now refer to as the modern countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and a large part of India. Excavations of the Indus Valley have been primarily in Harappa, a small town in the Punjab province of India. The site is thought to be 8,000 years old—older than the Egyptian sites that we’ve uncovered thus far.”
“What did they find there? Great question. Fascinating stuff.” Augustus brought up another slide. “This. It’s a unicorn seal that’s currently in the museum in Karachi.”
He switched to another image, his voice growing more and more animated. “Here’s another…and another. Harappa is the hot spot for unicorn research right now.
When he switched his attention away from his own slides and back to his audience, he saw that his wife was waving to get his attention.
“Ah, it looks like my time is up. My wife is pointing at her watch and giving me that universal ‘look’ that all husbands around the world recognize. I’m a smart man and I’m going to prove it by stopping now. If you’re interested you can read ‘The Harrappan Unicorn in Eurasian and South Asian Perspectives’. You can find the article in Current studies of Indus Civilization. Should be easy to find. Thank you again for your kind attention.”
“Do you have your bag? This might take a bit of time.” Augustus patiently stood by the door of their hotel room waiting for his wife to gather her things. “You can always go shopping if you’d like instead. I know this must be dreadfully boring. It’s just important for me to be prepared before the last big lecture.”
Octavia pointed to the bag already hanging from her shoulder and then finished fastening her earring. “You know I like to pick my seat in advance.” she teased. “I’m going to have to start fighting off your groupies if I want to be anywhere near you.”
“There’s not much in here.” Augustus peered in her bag before slinging it over his own shoulder. “You sure you have everything?”
“I don’t need much. Water bottle. A few books to read. Yarn.”
Augustus rolled his eyes. Knitting was his wife’s latest preoccupation. Fortunately, her failure was so spectacular that she’d yet to finish an entire row. So he’d didn’t have to worry about disappointing her by not wearing the sweater she’d planned. In the meantime, he’d been jabbed more than a few times by the needles she’d left laying around the house. “I’m not sure we’re going to have that much time…maybe you want to leave the yarn here?”
He shook his head this time. She’d recently been on a chat room for knitters and discovered that a non-knitter was referred to as a muggle. She thought the term outrageously funny and had been referring to him like that ever since. Please let this obsession end soon.
She pushed the elevator button before he had a chance. “Do you have your list?”
He waited while she walked through the open doors. “Don’t need it.” The door closed and the elevator started its descent. “By now, I’ve got everything memorized.”
“Podium. Screen. Electricity…”
“I remember. My laptop is fully charged but we’ll check and see where the nearest plug is too. Just in case.”
“And let’s make sure that someone can help in case…”
“We have a temperature problem in the auditorium. He put his hand on her back and guided her out to the lobby. “You almost froze in Italy. What was that thermostat on anyway? By the time I finished by lecture, I could swear that everyone’s lips were blue.”
“That reminds me. I’ll pack a sweater in my bag for tomorrow. Just in case.”
“The National Museum, please.” Augustus waited till his wife got into the car and then slid in next to her.
“Visiting, Sir?” the driver asked.
“Preparing for a lecture tomorrow,” his wife answered. “He’s been invited as a special guest speaker.”
Augustus hid his smile at the obvious pride in her voice. It was only recently that unicorns had become a serious topic of interest and not simply a child’s toy.
“Very good. I’ll have you there in no time.”
It wasn’t long before the car pulled up in front of a curved tan building with gold letters announcing the National Museum. Red steps, divided by round columns, led to the front doors. Augustus helped his wife out of the car before pulling out his wallet to pay the driver, but the man waved the money away and slid back into the car.
Augustus still held the money in his hands as the driver pulled away.
“Did you notice his eyes?” Octavia asked.
“What? Wonder why he didn’t take any money. Eyes? Now that you mention it…”
“Startling blue, weren’t they?” Octavia turned when his hand directed her toward the steps.
They’d only climbed a few when Augustus heard his name.
He thought about ignoring the voice. He had an agenda this morning and it was important to make sure everything ran smoothly tomorrow. But his wife didn’t seem to agree.
“Augustus, that man is trying to get your attention.”
The stranger came to a stop beside them. “I was right? You are Professor Hithersby?”
“That’s correct. What can I help you with? I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time.” From the looks of the man, he was likely another wanna-be archeology student. He was younger than one would think of a university student, wore a faded tee-shirt over jeans, and spoke with an accent that implied he was a local.
“A thousand pardons, but I wonder if I might disturb you for a moment to examine a few photographs? I’ve been sent this by my brother and I’d like your opinion. He found this at a market and purchased it and we both think that it’s possibly from the region of…”
The photograph was of a golden deer and the workmanship was exceptional. There were several different view points, some close-ups of the detail of the twin horns that flowed over the length of the animal’s body.
“Where did you say your brother found this?” The artifact was stunning, but also familiar. Something tugged at the back his mind.
“A market outside the city.”
Augustus held the photograph a little further away and then used his opposite hand to search his pockets for his glasses. He glanced to the left, where his wife stood a moment ago, but she was gone. She usually carried his spare pair in her purse and he squinted at the photograph trying to make out the details. So familiar. His fingers touched the familiar lens of his glasses just as he was about to call out his wife’s name.
Must be exploring the statuary on the sides of the building. It wasn’t unusual for Augustus to get called away from his wife’s side and she’d gotten quite good entertaining herself.
The image came into sharp focus once his glasses were in place. “This isn’t from India.” He tapped the photograph with his finger. “I’ve seen this somewhere….” This time he spun and called out for his wife. “Octavia, come look at this photograph, would you?” It was when he looked down again at the golden deer that he knew. “The golden deer of Zhalauly, that’s what this is,” he said with satisfaction. “Zhalauly is in Kazakhstan.”
When he looked up, he expected the man to look disappointed, but instead he was looking somewhere past Augustus. And he looked pleased.
“Interesting story. A bunch of children found a felt sack lying on the side of the road, presumably brought in by snowmelt waters. Inside…golden treasures like this.” He was in the act of returning the photograph when something dawned on him. He held the photograph up again and examined it closer. This was no random photo taken by someone who had an interesting find at a market. This was a professional shot. The black background, the reflection of the light on the gold, it looked like Oleg’s work.
In the corner of the shot, it looked like the characteristic…
“Look here, sweetheart, doesn’t this look like Oleg’s work?” He called out louder since she didn’t hear him last time, but she still didn’t appear. It was closer to the time when the museum would open and more and more people were milling around the stairs, waiting to enter the building. He spun around, feeling a tightness in his chest.
“Octavia!” he called out, anxiety making his voice a little higher in pitch. “Did you happened to see where my wife…” When he turned around, he only caught a glimpse of the young man’s back as he faded into the crowd.
Augustus Hithersby was alone and his wife was no where to be found.
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Not long ago, I read about Maurice the Rooster.
He lives in Saint Pierre D’Oleron in France and he’s caused quite the uproar. Vacationers, renting a home near Maurice, were disturbed by his morning vocalizations and wanted it stopped. So they took him to court.
Stopping a rooster from crowing is not an easy task to accomplish as it turns out. Researchers in Nagoya University of Japan discovered that roosters don’t need light cues to start making noise. They kept the roosters in dim light and despite the lack of changing brightness—roosters still crowed on 23.8 hour cycles. (Current Biology March 18). Putting Clarice in an unlit shed wouldn’t do the trick.
Aside from an understanding of the circadian rhythms of roosters, it brought up the problem of intolerance. Which, by definition is, an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs or behaviors different from your own. Picking the countryside to vacation and being intolerant of the very creatures that define a countryside is a problem to me. It took two years in the courtroom, but Maurice eventually won the right to crow.
There’s more to intolerance than I realized. Apparently Intolerance is also 1916 Silent Film directed by DW Griffen and it’s regarded as one of the great masterpieces of that era. It follows four story lines (Babylonian, Judean, Renaissance and Modern) and it demonstrates man’s persistent intolerance through time. A leading film critic of the time, Theodore Huff, called it the only motion picture worthy of standing beside great works of art like Beethoven’s 5th or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 97%.
It sounds like something I should check out, but I’m not really fond of silent films. Hmm, does that make me intolerant?
Sometimes it feels like there’s no escape from all the drama, unhappiness, and intolerance…but then I read this.
In Bhutan, between India and Tibet, they’ve come up with a concept called the “Gross National Happiness Index”. As the article points out:
"When we say Gross National Happiness, it is not the celebrative 'Ha ha -- Ho ho' kind of happiness that we look for in life," Lotay explained. "It only means contentment, control of your mind, control of wants in your life. Don't be jealous with others, be happy with what you have, be compassionate, be a society where you can be more than happy to share.
In Bhutan, they measure happiness.
It sounds a bit crazy right? They do regular surveys that pay attention to health, education, governance, ecology, time use, community vitality, living standards and psychological well-being. And they developed a clear plan to approach what they saw as deficiencies.
Is it working?
It sounds like it is. They produced a politically and economically stable environment, increased the life expectancy of the their residents, protected wild-life, banned tobacco and plastic bags and increased access to both healthcare and education.
That’s certainly something to crow about.
Did you enjoy Labor Day?
You can thank an Egyptian goddess. Ma’at is the goddess of justice, harmony and balance. She is depicted as a winged woman with an ostrich feather on her head. The white feather, also known as “the feather of truth” was used in a ceremony in the afterlife. Osiris, Lord of the underworld and Judge of the dead, would put the "heart of the soul" on a golden scale balanced against the feather of Ma’at. If the soul’s heart was lighter, they had the chance to enter paradise. If the soul’s heart was heavier, it was thrown on the ground where it was devoured by the monster Ammut. Rich or poor, pharaoh or common worker…all were measured.
Compared to other goddesses, Ma’at had no temple or clergy. She was regarded more as a concept than an entity. Ma’at became a belief that one should stay in tune with concepts of justice and harmony to keep the universe in order and maintain a cosmic balance. Ma’at became the foundation of the Egyptian society.
Rulers would ask her help maintaining balance and if a king was not successful in promoting harmony, it was considered a clear sign that he should not rule. This wasn’t always easy.
The first labor strike occurred during the New Kingdom period in Egypt (1570-1069 BC) under the rule of Ramses III. His rule started out well, he navigated relations with foreign rulers and restored temples and monuments. But when the Sea People invaded (I did not make this up), defending the country strained the land’s resources. While they successfully dealt with the invaders, the loss of lives associated with the battle meant less labor in the fields and fewer merchants to sell goods. The economy suffered.
Trouble started when the wages to tomb builders and artisans were more than a month late. Instead of looking at what was happening to these payments, officials continued in their preparation for a festival honoring Ramses. When the payments were late again, workers laid down their tools and marched to the city shouting “We are hungry!”
This had never happened before, and the officials didn’t know how to handle the situation. They ordered pastries for the workers (which reminded me of Marie Antoinette’s famous line “Let them eat cake” when she was told that the peasants had no bread). They hoped that the whole situation would blow over. It didn’t.
Workers were given their back pay, but when they discovered that their next payment wouldn’t be coming, the strikers blocked access to the Valley of the Dead where priests and family members offered food to dead. This was a big deal.
The workers were angry, not just because they had not been paid, but because they saw this as a violation of the ma’at. The king and his officials were supposed to take care of the people and he was failing.
The success of the strike inspired others to do the same and eventually laborers were recognized for the collective good that they provided to society. Now we have a holiday commemorating workers--Labor Day.
What ever happened to Ramses? An article in History. com titled “Multiple Assassins involved in the brutal death of Egyptian Pharaoh” tells the end of his story….
“In this tumultuous political climate, Ramses’ secondary wife Tiye hatched an assassination plot with over a dozen fellow members of the pharaoh’s harem, along with the head of the treasury, a military captain, a butler and the chief royal chamberlain. According to ancient papyri detailing the court trial that followed, the conspirators planned on employing wax figurines and other magic to get past the royal guards, while simultaneously fomenting a rebellion throughout the kingdom.”
Obviously, they were successful with that wax and magic stuff….
“…researchers using a high-powered CT scanner on Ramses’ mummy discovered a severe throat gash, covered up by an amulet thought to possess healing powers.”
Do you feel guilty every time you hear about a charity and you don’t give money? Does it feel like you’re bombarded by requests for help? Flooding disasters. Tornados. Abused animals. Drought.
It’s called Donor Fatigue. It’s defined as “the lessening of the public’s willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals resulting from the frequency of the appeals.”
I want to tell you a story.
In the 1830’s, there were 125,000 Native Americans living in what is now Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. George Washington decided that this culture needed to be more civilized, converted to Christianity and taught to speak English. Five tribes- the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee, were referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” when they began to adopt the attributes of the new colonists.
Despite the Native American’s willingness to blend cultures, farmers wanted, and then demanded, the rich land they inhabited. Andrew Jackson was happy to accommodate. He created the Indian Removal Act that allowed the government to exchange Native American held lands in the east for land in the west (what is now Oklahoma).
The Choctaw nation was the first tribe to be moved. It was a disaster. Traveling Native Americans faced the worst snowstorm in the Mississippi Valley’s history and they were not prepared with adequate blankets, shoes or winter clothing. Heavy rains washed out trails and the slower travel meant that food supplies were depleted. Cholera and other infectious diseases struck. Thousands died.
One hundred thousand Native Americans were moved, fifteen thousand (some articles report significantly higher numbers) died on what was later called “The Trail of Tears.”
Seventeen years later, another tragedy occurred in a country far away. The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845 when a fungus infected and ruined up to one-half of the potato crop. Within the next seven years, up to 3/4 of the crop was affected. One million people died of starvation and the Irish were forced to leave their homes to find food for their families.
Word of the “Great Hunger” reached the Choctaw tribe in 1847. They were still grieving their dead, still trying to create a new home in a new land, and they had little to give. Perhaps it was empathy for the loss of lives and the forced removal from their homes. Whatever the reason, the Choctaw tribe gathered money and they sent it to Ireland, creating a bond with the Irish that continues to this day.
In 1990, Choctaw leaders went to Ireland to recreate the famine walk of locals leaving their homes. In 1992, Irish leaders helped commemorate the Trail of Tears. Both groups wanted to remember the past—but also raise money for famine sufferers in Africa.
Here’s why I’m not worried about Donor Fatigue. I can’t give to every charity. I can’t work every fundraiser. But there will always be one that tugs your heart strings. The Children’s Advocacy Center is mine. Children should not be abused. Period.
When it comes along, you’ll know it. You’ll feel it. Give generously to whatever feels right to you…and make this world a better place.
The image is a photo by Gavin Sheridan of a statue in Midleton, County Cork memorializing the Choctaw’s donation to the Irish. Feathers are reminiscent of those used in Choctaw ceremonies and the arrangement in a circle represents an empty bowl of food.
At one time scientists thought that only humans could respond to music. Animals, including cats, dogs and even monkeys, could hear music, but any response they might seem to have was not in rhythm with the music. Music might soothe the savage beast, but he wasn’t able to boogie to it.
But then a scientist, Aniruddh Patel, saw a Youtube video of a cockatoo called Snowball. And it looked like Snowball was reacting to a BackStreet Boys song. The bird changed his pace, his kicks and beak dipping, in response to the music.
It was a fascinating observation that led to the understanding that vocal learners, like dolphins and song birds, changed their body’s response based on the speed of the music. It also helped understanding how our brain coordinates movement in response to music.
You know what I’m taking about don’t you. That’s right. Dancing.
Dancing is more complex than you’d think. The motor cortex of the frontal lobe plans and executes voluntary movements. The basal ganglia, deeper in the brain, helps coordinate movements and the cerebellum allows us to keep a beat, maintain a rhythm.
That’s the part we understand, there’s a lot we don’t understand.
Like why patients with Parkinson’s may show some improvement with dance. In a study in Northwestern University, individuals who attended a dance class for 10 weeks reported a reduction in their disability. The study was small but it was thought that dance activated areas of the brain that helped them improve.
Other studies have shown benefits in stress, anxiety and even dementia. Dancing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our body.
Peter Lovatt is known as Doctor Dance. He studies psychology as it is applied in dance. He believes that how we move our body can have an impact on how we learn and think. He was a professional dancer, but in 2008 he combined his love of dance with the study of psychology. He’s a pretty interesting guy and you can hear his TED talks on his website.
How did I discover these interesting facts?
I often visit my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. We call her the Dancing Queen. I’d never seen my mother dance until she was diagnosed with dementia. I don’t know if the disease removed her inhibitions or if music appeals to her in a different way now. What I know is that she LOVES to dance. So I researched why that might be true and I think it's because it makes her feel better.
Here’s the cool thing.
I can’t help her. I can’t make her sleep better or understand what is happening. I can’t always be there to encourage her to drink more or comfort her when she’s scared. There’s so much that I can’t do that it makes me feel helpless and frustrated. But there is something I can do with her…
I can dance.
I am not Mahatma Gandhi.
Most people recognize his name. He was an Indian lawyer who became world famous for his non-violent resistance during India’s campaign to free themselves from British Rule. At a time of increasing riots, Gandhi proposed fasting and boycotts. He went as far as spinning the yarn to make fabric for his own clothes instead of buying foreign made goods. In one episode of disobedience, Gandhi started a walk to the Arabian Sea coast, a distance of 240 miles. The goal was to retrieve salt from the ocean. According to British law, starting in 1882, Indians were forced to buy their salt from the British and they were taxed heavily during the process. He started with a few dozen people and ended his walk with tens of thousands.
On arrival, Gandhi was arrested immediately and then taken away. His followers had a different fate, they were viciously executed, clubbed by police until some of them fell unconscious or dead.
So what does that have to do with me?
I recently read an article by a doctor that proposed that we need to up our game to combat the rise in vaccine refusals. He suggested following Gandhi’s footsteps and he had a plan. He outlined the steps we’ve taken thus far (explaining and educating) and what we should consider doing (boycotting businesses of non-vaccinators and even hunger strikes).
I am not Mahatma Gandhi and truthfully, I don’t think a hunger strike will turn this around.
Let me hit pause for a moment and tell you about something unrelated, but important.
The MASK movement. Established in 2015, the MASK movement stands for Mothers Against Senseless Killings. They don’t have a complex agenda. Their goal is to keep “eyes on the street, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends.”
Tamar Manasseh is the leader of the “army of moms”. On the first day of the MASK gathering, five moms served hot dogs and chips on a street corner. They still sit on the same street corner in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods of Chicago and they just talk. But there’s a lot more of them talking now.
In articles, Manasseh says she doesn’t want to be considered an anti-gun activist. What she wants is to create a safe spot, to stop the senseless killings. So they eat, chat, dance and talk on the street corner. They make friends, teach their children to be friends and they’ve lowered the rate of violence in their neighborhood. It’s simple right?
Tamar says on her website:
I used to think my greatest accomplishment was raising two happy, healthy children in Chicago, where so many other mothers are denied that right. Then I sat in a lawn chair on a street corner and extended the love I have for my kids to someone else’s. I have been enriched and deeply fulfilled by all of my children. I hope that one day you get to experience the same level of purpose that I have. See you on the block.
Tamar Manasseh is not Mahatma Gandhi either. Instead of hunger strikes, she’s feeding the kids in her neighborhood for free. Instead of long treks to retrieve salt and promote civic disobedience, Tamar is hanging around a corner in her own neighborhood engaging other mothers to help her change the environment they all live in.
But there are two ways that Tamar is like Gandhi.
She uses love to fight hate and her followers have been viciously executed.
Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire , moms in MASK, lost their lives on July 26, 2019. They were shot down on the very corner where the group of mothers routinely meet. It was painful to read about and they haven't caught the shooter yet. But the moms are still going back to that corner. Because, no matter what happens, love must win.
You can read about Tamar and her mission here: On the Block.