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1. Interview with a Librarian for Incarcerated Youth

Amy CheneyAmy Cheney is a librarian and advocate who currently runs the Write to Read Juvenile Hall Literacy Program in Alameda County, CA. She has over 20 years experience with outreach, program design, and creation to serve the underserved, including middle school non-readers, adult literacy students, adult inmates in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color.

Cheney was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal, has won two National awards for her work, the I Love My Librarian award from the Carnegie Institution and New York Times, and was honored at the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Her six word memoir: Navigator of insanity, instigator of enlightenment. Her theme song is Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake. 

Thank you for being with us, Amy! Let’s start with the basics: how would you describe your job, for someone who has no idea what you do?

Entrepreneur, innovator and relationship builder. But my overall job title would be Schlepper.

How did you become a librarian for incarcerated youth? Was it something you always knew you wanted to focus on, or did you begin your career with a different focus?

When I was a teen, a neighbor was friends with Maya Angelou, and they invited me to hear her speak in a church basement.  I remember clearly not wanting to be there, and then as Maya Angelou spoke with such passion and intensity, I felt the hard armor around my heart begin to crack. I remember the struggle to hold onto what I thought was me, or at least my I am constantly trying to advocate and educate for the library to be a right, and not a privilege that can be taken away.protection: the rage, indifference and sullenness. I recognized that if I was struggling with it, then I wasn’t a fundamentally hateful person. That was life changing for me.  I felt such a deep connection with her as a result of this inner experience, I read every book she wrote as it was published.

It took me a long time to realize that this experience is the basis of my passion for bringing in speakers and activities to stimulate the minds and hearts of those incarcerated. From Shakespeare to Cupcake Brown to Ishmael Beah to MK Asante (wonderfully, one of Maya Angelou’s protege’s), I see kids feel encouraged, enthusiastic and interested in a place that tends to dampen all of that.

In the 80’s I was a part of the anti-nuclear protests – when my friends were released from jail I was horrified to hear there were no books where they had been housed. I immediately started a book drive for the jail and that ultimately led to employment at the library serving those incarcerated in Alameda County.

What does your average day look like? Do you even have an “average day”?

Almost every day involves advocacy. Today one of the staff told me that going to the library was like a field trip, all the kids love it. But, she said, the girls had not “earned” a visit, so they couldn’t come. This didn’t make sense to me. I am constantly trying to advocate and educate for the library to be a right, and not a privilege that can be taken away. I am advocating for youth to be able to come here, as well as in general, advocacy for the youth, library, etc.

What kind of relationship with books do your students have? What kind of role do books play in their lives?

I think initially, many of them have a negative relationship with books and reading, and others have a non-existent relationship with them. Some students do have a positive relationship with reading before they come here, but there is a huge percentage—probably the majority—that start reading here and get excited about it and read more than they ever have in their life.

Regardless of their relationship to books and reading the library is a desired destination and activity. They are fully respected and acknowledged here. And the atmosphere is remarkably different from the rest of the facility. There are plants in here! And windows! And outside the window you can see trees and clouds and birds and grass! Real furniture and comfortable chairs! We play a game (Taboo) and laugh almost every library visit.

there is a huge percentage—probably the majority—that start reading here and get excited about it and read more than they ever have in their lifeThe majority of the kids here ultimately develop a positive relationship with books and reading. Books are a de-stressor, they are a life saver. In fact, the staff that call me the most, that request that I come down and talk to a kid or bring a kid a book, are the therapeutic staff. They also advocate with me for kids on suicide watch, etc. to be able to have a book. Today I went out and talked to a kid that has been under a blanket for hours if not days. He actually sat up and showed some life when I brought him some books.

Are there any books that your students are scrambling for? What flies off your shelves?

The bottom line is a. anything with action, and b. something they can personally relate to. And c, it makes huge difference if the cover is dynamic. My job is to find those books that have the right combination of the above. It’s a constant part of my job. While there are a few authors
MIDNIGHT, Sister Souljahwhose books I can’t keep on the shelf no matter what  (Sister Souljah, Cupcake Brown, Tookie Williams, Coe Booth, Alison Van Diepen, Alan Sitomer), there are others whose books I work hard to bring to light.  Right now as I look around I don’t see any of MK Asante’s Buck, for example. That’s an accomplishment: a cover with only words and no visuals isn’t something that in general attracts them. He visited here and so his book has taken off. He also stimulated the youth to read about their history, the history of rap music and books about the educational system in the US. Yah Hoo!

What kinds of books are allowed in a juvenile detention center? What kinds of books are not allowed?

In general, what is NOT allowed is anything that’s graphically sexual or violent or that outlines how to make a weapon or alcohol—something that would be a direct threat to the security of the institution.

What is “allowed” is a huge issue, and is one reason that we wanted to create a listserve, web page Library Services for Youth in Custody, and now the In the Margins book award. My hope is that the book award will lend legitimacy to our titles and hopefully enable more facilities to carry them. I am working with a facility right now that says, “Books must be limited in violence, sexually explicit material, promotion of drug or alcohol abuse and vampire stories.”  It’s just bizarre the things people come up with to exclude and how they word and interpret it.

In my facility, I’ve made the choice not to advocate for “street lit” mainly because I think that There is definitely a group of kids - maybe 5% - I am unable to engage in reading due to my choice to not advocate for street lit.battle is too big to fight since I’m fighting for kids to get to the library. In addition, I spend a huge portion of my life finding books that I believe will work with both the authorities and the kids. Street Lit titles often do have a lot of violence and sex in them which is why I’ve chosen not to advocate for them – but it’s a hard choice every day, and one full of contradictions. There is definitely a group of kids – maybe 5% – I am unable to engage in reading due to my choice to not advocate for street lit.

What do you wish people knew or understood about incarcerated youth?

They are super resourceful. They are caught in a trap not of their own making—poverty—and are punished for many of the things that I, and honestly, most of us did when teenagers. I am constantly amazed the privilege afforded the white middle class and what people of color and/or those from the poverty and working classes have to work extra hard for.

A recent example: Kareem, who is a college educated African American wrote me an email and then recalled it because of the typos.  Meanwhile I wrote an email to the head of a very lucrative organization. My email was typed in lower case, and even had the phrase, “gratitude for all you do, dude.” I mean, not exactly thoughtful. Would anyone question that I was college educated? I doubt it. Kareem, and his beautiful, eloquent email with a few typos—he felt the need to correct it in order to present himself in the best possible light. It’s exhausting to constantly have to do that. And that is a *minor* incident.

There is so much policing and criminalization of poor youth and youth of color, I don’t think the majority of white middle class people really understand the depths of the inequity and the daily assaults. The juvenile hall (criminal justice system) is the crucible of race and class inequity in America.

Being in a detention facility, what unique limitations are you working with that a public or traditional school librarian might not be dealing with? 

You know the supposed foundation of our country, that we are all innocent until proven guilty? For the most part, that’s not in operation here. There are a lot of unspoken power dynamics and struggles. When I’m in the living units I’m on the staff’s terms to a certain extent. When they are in the library, it’s more on my terms, but they always have the power to override me. It is definitely a dance.

There is so much policing and criminalization of poor youth and youth of color, I don’t think the majority of white middle class people really understand the depths of the inequity and the daily assaults.There is a completely different culture in a facility and if you don’t learn what the norms are you can’t be effective. There are unspoken rules and meanings. For example, kids walking down the hallway with their hands behind their backs are living there—on their way to court or medical. Kids walking with their hands by their sides are on their way out of the institution. There is a spoken language that is not used “on the outs” with phrases like, “the tone is high,” “live scan,” “pods,” “talking is dead,” and “prepare for transition.”

The biggest limitation is “security” issues. Those can run the gamut from restricted access to the internet or books on tape to candy, pencils, and envelopes, or even to students being prohibited from getting out of their chair on their own volition.  Things that you would never imagine are security issues can be seen that way from a certain perspective (that I actually have come to understand on some level). These limitations force a creative response.

Are there any common misconceptions you’d like to correct about what you do?

I think the biggest misconception is that the kids are hard to work with. And I’m not saying they aren’t hard to work with. I’m also not saying we don’t have seriously disturbed and disturbing kids. But in actuality, it’s the entire toxic system of mass incarceration that’s hardest to work with.  Finding your correct place in that toxicity is challenging, ever evolving, yet doable. The kids are the least of the problems.


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings, The Diversity Gap Tagged: interview, justice system, juvenile justice, libraries, social justice, Why I Love Librarians

5 Comments on Interview with a Librarian for Incarcerated Youth, last added: 4/7/2014
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2. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation, by Tommy Greenwald

I figured this was fitting to post today as I am sending my own 10 year old off to sleep away camp today!

Resident non-reader Charlie Joe may just have gotten himself in over his head this time.  In a moment of temporary craziness and trying to please his parents, Charlie Joe agreed to 3 weeks at a camp for smarty pants kids.  Camp Ritubukkee.  Pronounced Read-a-Bookie.  For real.  Now that the time has come, he is pretty much in shock about the whole thing.  At least his bud Katie Friedman will be there, and Nareem from school will be there too.

The camp schedule is filled with "workshops", which Charlie Joe knows is just code for classwork.  He cannot believe that kids actually acquiesce to go to what is essentially summer school.  Charlie Joe is also a bit bummed because he had just started hanging around with Zoe, and if he had the summer off like a normal kid, that might just have gone somewhere.

Charlie Joe doesn't exactly get off the a stellar start at camp.  At school kids know him and know that he wields his sense of humor like a finely sharpened sword.  Here, his anti-reading stance and his sarcasm aren't appreciated.  Charlie Joe decides that it's going to be in everybody's best interests for him to try to de-dorkify these kids...get them to relax a little bit and enjoy the summer.

What Charlie Joe doesn't expect is to get sucked into the world of reading (just a bit), to use his devious brain for the greater good, and to genuinely like some of these campers.

Tommy Greenwald has created a reluctant reader character who is incredibly authentic.  Charlie Joe doesn't have trouble reading, he just can't be bothered.  I know several kids like this.  By putting Charlie Joe in a camp with kids who pretty much adore learning, there is super wide appeal to this title.  The writing is tight, the voice is authentic and I love the fact that unlike other series that aim for this audience, Charlie Joe isn't mean.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at ALA in Chicago this summer, and was super pleased to relate the story of my own real life reluctant reader really taking to this series.  When kids want a step up from the Wimpy Kid titles, send them over to Charlie Joe!

1 Comments on Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation, by Tommy Greenwald, last added: 8/11/2013
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3. Choices and rights, children and murder

By Leigh Ann Wheeler

Demonstration protesting anti-abortion candidate Ellen McCormack at the Democratic National Convention, New York City. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 14 July 1976. Source: Library of Congress.

“Abortion is a Personal Decision, Not a Legal Debate!”
“My Body, My Choice!”
“Abortion Rights, Social Justice, Reproductive Freedom!”

Such are today’s arguments for upholding Roe v. Wade, whose fortieth birthday many of us are celebrating.

Others are mourning.

“It’s a child, not a choice!”
“Abortion kills children!”
“Stop killing babies!”

How did we arrive at this stunningly polarized place in our discussion — our national shouting match — over women’s reproductive rights?

Certainly it wasn’t always this way. Indeed, consensus and moderation on the issue of abortion has been the rule until recently.

Even if we go back to biblical times, the brutal and otherwise misogynist law of the Old Testament made no mention of abortion, despite popular use of herbal abortifacients at the time. Moreover, it did not treat a person who caused a miscarriage as a murderer. Fast-forward several thousand years to North American indigenous societies where women regularly aborted unwanted pregnancies. Even Christian Europeans who settled in their midst did not prohibit abortion, especially before “quickening,” or the appearance of fetal movement. Support for restrictions on abortion emerged only in the 1800s, a time when physicians seeking to gain professional status sought control over the procedure. Not until the twentieth century did legislation forbidding all abortions begin to blanket the land.

What happened during those decades to women with unwanted pregnancies is well documented. For a middle-class woman, a nine-month “vacation” with distant relatives, a quietly performed abortion by a reputable physician, or, for those without adequate support, a “back-alley” job; for a working-class woman, nine months at a home for unwed mothers, a visit to a back-alley butcher, or maybe another mouth to feed. Women made do, sometimes by giving their lives, one way or another.

But not until the 1950s did serious challenges to laws against abortion emerge. They began to gain a constitutional foothold in the 1960s, when the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) persuaded the US Supreme Court to declare state laws that prohibited contraceptives in violation of a newly articulated right to privacy. By the 1970s, the notion of a right to privacy actually cut many ways, but on January 23, 1973, it cut straight through state criminal laws against abortion. In Roe, the Supreme Court adopted the ACLU’s claim that the right to privacy must “encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” But the Court also permitted intrusion on that privacy according to a trimester timetable that linked a woman’s rights to the stage of her pregnancy and a physician’s advice; as the pregnancy progressed, the Court allowed the state’s interest in preserving the woman’s health or the life of the fetus to take over.

Roe actually returned the country to an abortion law regime not so terribly different from the one that had reigned for centuries if not millennia before the nineteenth century. The first trimester of a pregnancy, or the months before “quickening,” remained largely under the woman’s control, though not completely, given the new role of the medical profession. The other innovation was that women’s control now derived from a constitutional right to privacy — a right made meaningful only by the availability and affordability of physicians willing to perform abortions.

With these exceptions, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe did little more than return us to an older status quo.  So why has it left us screaming at each other over choices and children, rights and murder?

There are many answers to this question, but a major one involves partisan politics.

On the eve of Roe, to be a Catholic was practically tantamount to being a Democrat. Moreover, feminists were as plentiful in the Republican Party as they were in the Democratic Party. Not so today, on the eve of Roe’s fortieth birthday. Why?

As the Catholic Church cemented its position against abortion and feminists embraced abortion rights as central to a women’s rights agenda, politicians saw an opportunity to poach on their opponent’s constituency and activists saw an opportunity to hitch their fortunes to one of the two major parties. In the 1970s, Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who coined the phrase “moral majority,” urged Republicans to adopt a pro-life platform in order to woo Catholic Democrats. More recently, the 2012 election showed us Republican candidates who would prohibit all abortions — at all stages of a pregnancy and even in cases of rape and incest — and a proudly, loudly pro-choice Democratic Party.

In the past forty years, abortion has played a major role in realigning our major political parties, associating one with conservative Christianity and the other with women’s rights — a phenomenon that has contributed to the emergence of a twenty-point gender gap, the largest in US history. Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that we are screaming at each other.

Leigh Ann Wheeler is Associate Professor of History at Binghamton University. She is co-editor of the Journal of Women’s History and the author of How Sex Became a Civil Liberty and Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935.

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4. Tuesday Tidbits

Happy Tuesday!

Back in January, I mentioned that rather than make a traditional New Year’s resolution, I’d take the word ‘tenderness’ and wrestle with it, embrace it and more fully incorporate it in my life. To simply read about it and to make the work my new “word’ (i.e.,’ that’s so tender’; ‘how tender’ ) would have been a big step for me, but somehow it wasn’t working. Thanks to dear Oprah, I realized I had to work on gratitude first; had to truly appreciate everything in my life before tenderness was even possible.

It’s June, how’s your resolution coming?

I don’t always reveal a lot about myself here, but I do see that I leave enough of a trail to measure personal and professional growth, and to wince at pitfalls along the way! I guess that’s one reason why I like blogging.

Another reason is the librarian in me! I like sharing information!

Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, 2012, United Kingdom

2012 South Asia Book Award~ submissions accepted until Dec 31

SingTel Asian Picture Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, 1012, Singapore

(originally posted on PaperTigers)

Second Story Press has developed a site call Social Justice Stories which inspires young people to think critically, build responsible citizenship, and light the spark to take action against injustice in their classroom, their community, and the world. Current book series are on Kid Power; First Nation Stories and Holocaust Remembrance for young readers.

Bridging Cultures: An NEH Bridging Cultures Bookshelf

The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf is a collection of 15-20 books selected to help public audiences in the United States become more familiar with the people, places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims around the world, including those within the U.S. The Bookshelf will be awarded to 1,000 public, community college and academic libraries across the country in December 2012, for use in presenting public programs in 2013. Advisors to the project include distinguished scholars knowledgeable about Muslim worlds, librarians, and other cultural programming experts.  A companion website will expand the resources available for reading, understanding, discussing, and going beyond the limited scope of the books. Book titles will be announced in June 2012.


Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: book award submissions, Francis Lincoln Book Award, NEH Bridging Culture Bookshelf, Singtel Asian Picture Book Award, social justice, South Asia Book Award, tenderness
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5. Writers Against Racism: TWICE AS GOOD by Rich Michelson

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6. Diane Wolkstein – Connecting with Audiences, Other Cultures and Ourselves

Press Play to hear Diane Wolkstein and Connecting with Audiences, Other Cultures and Ourselves on the Art of Storytelling with Brother Wolf. Bio… Diane Wolkstein is one of the world’s most preminent storytellers and the award-winning author of more than 30 books, CDs, and DVDs. From amusing children’s tales to epic adventures for adults, Wolkstein has performed [...]

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7. Interview #113 Octavia Sexton – The Jack Story a Traditional Tale for Everyone.


Press Play to hear Octavia Sexton talk about Jack Story and how his  Traditional Tale belongs to everyone. on the Art of Storytelling with Brother Wolf.

Press Play to hear Octavia Sexton talk about Jack Story and how his Traditional Tale belongs to everyone. on the Art of Storytelling with Brother Wolf.

Octavia Sexton 2010

Octavia Sexton writes…
I think most people probably know that a Jack Tale is a trickster story and Jack. They’ve been around for over 800 years – originating in the British Isles. The stories came to North America via European settlers. The stories told in the Appalachian Mountains began to change through the years to reflect the environment and cultural traditions that emerged among the mountain people.

I grew up in a storytelling tradition and stories were a part of life. I heard a variety of stories not only through kinfolk but also at school. I went to a one-room school and the only thing to do at recess was sing songs, tell stories and play games that did not require ‘stuff.’ We didn’t have any ‘stuff’ to play with because we were all just a bunch of poor country kids. I think I established myself very early as a storyteller. I remember being 5 years old and standing on a big rock in the yard of one of my uncles’ houses and telling tales to my cousins, aunts and uncles who gathered on the big front porch. We had all kinds of stories, but I never knew what a Jack Tale was until I went to college.

After eighth grade, Mommy asked me if I wanted to get married or go on to high school.
I went on to high school! Five months after graduating high school, I was married, pregnant and working for minimum wage in a factory. We lived in a two-room house, got water from a spring and used an outhouse. Poverty is like a great black hole that keeps sucking you in deeper – almost impossible to get out. Hoping to break the grip of poverty for my family, I went to college full time. While in college the professors discovered I was a storyteller. I was asked if I knew any Jack Tales and I said no. Then I found out what they were and I realized I had heard Jack Tales all my life but the character wasn’t always called Jack. He could be named after anybody or just be called ‘a feller.’ Anyway, it was college that put me on the track to becoming a professional storyteller. I took a storytelling class in college and right off knew I couldn’t tell one like the professor said we should. I kept my mouth shut through that class and that is hard for me to do. Then on the last day, each student had to stand up and tell a story. I thought to myself, “Oh Lord, now everybody will know I can’t tell stories the right way.” I got up there and just told one like Grandpa because I couldn’t do it any different. When I finished everybody was real quiet and staring at me. Then the professor said I was the best storyteller he had ever heard. Talk about getting the ‘big head’ – you couldn’t shut my mouth after that. I started telling in other classes, at faculty meetings and just everywhere.

I think Jack Tales are great stories for anyone to tell and create because he is just like you and me wherever we are. You don’t have to be in Appalachia to tell a Jack Tale any more than we had to stay in Englan

1 Comments on Interview #113 Octavia Sexton – The Jack Story a Traditional Tale for Everyone., last added: 12/1/2010
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8. Limor Shiponi – Striding towards Storytelling Mastery


ress Play to hear Brother Wolf speak with Limor Shiponi  on striding towards storytelling mastery on the Art of Storytelling Show.

Press Play to hear Brother Wolf speak with Limor Shiponi on striding towards storytelling mastery on the Art of Storytelling Show.

Limor Shiponi

Limor Shiponi writes…

Mastery is an ambiguous word raising the impulse of ownership and recognition, resonating something standing apart while representing a form of wholeness.

What is it about mastery and mastery in storytelling that keeps me at this issue for so long?

For me, mastery is about inspiration, a northern-star I can dream about and act upon. I want to help my audiences, including myself, touch our stars for the sake of joy in life. I believe mastery leads that way and therefore I seek it, investigate it, I want to understand.

This is what I know: mastery lives in the physical world and it has an age; It lives in people. Mastery is not a degree or a title but rather a state of being, formulated by the work of a person who turnes his search and art into his walk in life without even knowing he is on the path to mastery; until one day, it arrives.

How do you know? You feel one with story, with listener and nothing stands in the way anymore.
Time gives-in to your ability to craft it with each word, gesture or sound you make while traveling through a story told so many times before – told once again with the special group of people sitting in front of you. When you seek mastery, they are your companions sharing the path you are unraveling underneath their feet.

When mastery is present the story transcends its documentation, set free into full life. I see mastery in storytelling as magic – a performing art that entertains by creating suspension of disbelief in front of what is seemingly impossible or supernatural, using purely natural means like skill, knowledge, wisdom and love.

Since very young age I’ve been trying to understand how it is that people are fascinated from what seems to be there while it is not, trying to pass through the curtains and reach the back-stage of imagination. Eventually I found myself standing there and I can tell you what I know: mastery lives in the real world in the form of your own kindness, enchantment and glint in the eye. You get there if you are willing to acquire the skill and knowledge, walk the path and share the magic of life.

Limor Shiponi

Bio

To make a long story short…

I tend to tell powerful stories that kick you out of balance and then help you land in safety. I execute my work through performances, workshops, talks, consulting and writing for various formats. I’m constantly and deliberately pushing toward excellence in storytelling and receiving the recognition it deserves. Why? Because I think there is not enough amazing storytelling to go around. I believe humanity deserves its soul back, the permission to do our best and help each other speak the truth. I’m also deeply interested in the connection between high science, storytelling and politics. That’s on the blade side. To the Chalice: I love people and love listening to people. The amo

2 Comments on Limor Shiponi – Striding towards Storytelling Mastery, last added: 6/8/2010
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9. 2010 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards announced

Press Release:

Jane Addams Awards - booksealApril 28, 2010- Winners of the 2010 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association.

Nasreen’s Secret School:  A True Story from Afghanistan

, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category.

Marching for Freedom:  Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge, Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, is the winner in the Books for Older Children Category.

In Nasreen’s Secret School:  A True Story from Afghanistan Nasreen’s parents are gone, her father taken one night by soldiers, her mother lost on her search to find him.  Now living with only her grandmother, Nasreen stays inside herself, silent with trauma.  Whispers about a forbidden school reach her grandmother who, with stealth, bravery and hope, brings Nasreen to the secret school hidden in the home of an equally-brave woman, a teacher of girls. Framed stylized paintings in hues that symbolically reflect the path of Nasreen’s healing extend the story told in the plain, heartfelt voice of her grandmother. The power of education and resistance stand out in this all-too-true contemporary tale of the human toll exacted by war and the oppression of women.

Marching for Freedom:  Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary is a breathtaking tribute to the courageous, passionate African-American children who demanded voting rights through nonviolent action in the historic 1963 March from Selma to Montgomery. Riveting chronology, stunning photographs, and telling details from oral history interviews recreate the children’s anger, terror, solidarity and purpose moment-by-moment. This palpable sense of immediacy crystallizes the commitment of young people who acted on behalf of human rights when they were most frightened and “the end” was unclear and out of sight. Vital and forceful, this testament to the power of youth and collective nonviolent action inspires activism by delving deeply into the heart of a pivotal moment in the history of youth and civil rights in the United States.

Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Younger Children Category:

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun Books, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children.  Born a slave in upstate New York, Sojourner Truth, an iconic figure in the abolitionist and woman’s suffrage movements, was “Meant for speaking.  Meant for preaching.  Meant for teaching about freedom.”  Told with punch and vigor, this energetic picture book biography marches along with Truth as she frees herself from bondage and ultimately delivers her legendary women’s rights speech to a church filled with white men in 1851. Short storyteller-style sentences punctuated with exclamation points and meaningful capitalizations evoke Truth’s spirit and force. Illustrations in a palette of yellows alive with whirling lines keep the momentum, energy, sorrow, seriousness and fervor of Sojourner Truth’s unwavering quest for social justice front

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10. Support the Toronto tax proposal

With Toronto’s financial woes are continuing on unabated, and the provincial government merely using the opportunity for some pre-election politicking, Torontonians are taking matters into their own hands at a local level.

While citizen and lobby groups in Toronto are

lobbying hard on both sides, LA is here to provide information on saving TPL and other essential community services from the chopping block.

A website has been launched by the city to provide more information on the proposed tax. Here are a few highlights from the fairtaxes.ca.

Every major city in the world has fair taxes that grow with the economy — except Toronto

For every dollar of taxes Torontonians pay (income, sales, property taxes and other taxes), only 6 cents goes to your municipal government

Toronto recently ranked fifth as the world’s most livable city (1)

The average Toronto household buys and sells a home once every 15 to 20 years (or five to seven per cent of the population at any given time) (2)

Toronto’s housing market is at an all time high, with record sales and homes selling in record time (3)

The City of Toronto has the lowest municipal property tax rates in the Greater Toronto Area (2)

Municipal property taxes provide 24-hour, 7-day services like police, fire, ambulance, road repair and parks as well as libraries, recreation programs, and community centres, at a cost of about $180 a month for the average Toronto household. (2) That same household may spend $200 a month for car insurance and $150 a month for phone, Internet and television services

Sources:
1. The Economist Magazine (August, 2007)
2. City of Toronto
3. Toronto Real Estate Board press release (August 17, 2007)

Just to recap, after Mayor Miller’s proposed land transfer and vehicle registration taxes were deferred for further consideration at the first vote, libraries were the first to be hit up for service cuts which went into effect this month. TPL has posted this on their website regarding the services cuts. The ‘high priority’ neighbourhoods will continue to open on Sundays .

These TPL cuts are just the tip of the iceberg compared to what may be coming, as community centres closed on Monday earlier this week. And let’s not forget about the smaller, less-likely-to-grab-a-headline players in the arts and culture communities. The Toronto Arts Coalition - a new organization whose mission is to raise the profile of the role and importance of the arts in Toronto - while not explicitly supporting the new taxes, is providing some advocacy tools to lobby the various levels of government to support the arts. Is it just me, or does is not make your life a bit easier when folks like this give you a helping hand with your advocacy tasks?

So what you can do:

If you’re in favour of supporting the new taxes at the October 22nd council vote, here’s who you want to drop an email to:

clerk AT toronto DOT ca

In the subject line write:
Yes to land transfer tax. Please copy to Mayor and City Councillors (arts and libraries)

cc’d to:
dmcguinty.mpp.co AT liberal.ola.org
hhampton-qp AT ndp.on.ca
john.tory AT pc.ola.org

Include a paragraph (such as this one) into the body of the email (or make up your own):

“Dear Mayor Miller and City Councillors:

My Toronto includes:

the arts
libraries
community centres
recreation programs
public health services
museums
and the TTC

To protect my city, I support the land transfer tax as an immediate solution to Toronto’s financial crisis.

your name
address
postal code

Even MORE quick and dirty is the email form provided through Miller’s recently launched website, fairtaxes.ca. There is still room for your comments, like how community services are the bread and butter of social inclusion and a liveable, vibrant, cosmopolitan city. The form is nothing to sneeze at - I received an email (albeit a form email) in response to my submission from Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc.

thanks, Siue Moffat for forwarding the draft email and arts links

-PC-

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11. Vancouver Public Library: Strike Update, Petition!

The Vancouver Public Library staff have now been on strike for 1 month, 20+ days.

You can lend your support by signing this petition requesting the city of Vancouver to return to the negotiating table. Vancouver Public Library strike petition (thanks, Toni Samek!)

Also check out this article in the Tyee that speaks to one of the main bargaining issues - pay equity. Men earn $6 more per hour than women at VPL. (I’m sorry, which century are we in again …?)

Finally, the CUPE 391 hardship rund received a generous donation from this benefit concert.
To make a donation, please contact the CUPE 391 Hardship Committee.

-PC-

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12. ‘Shameless’ fans of the public library

So Shameless is the feminist magazine and blog for teens that I wish had been around when I was a wee feminist myself. I’d be dating myself if I told you how old I was when Sassy finally rescued me from magazine hell, so I won’t.

Not only are the contributors of Shameless smart, feminist, and yes - sassy - they also know how where the good activist resources are and how to find them. I quote from a recent Shameless blog entry from Tuval, one of their contributors:

Last night I watched an old film I’ve been meaning to see for a long time. And I got it from my favourite movie store, the public library.

That’s right - the public library. (Where you can also find a print copy of Shameless at a healthy selection of library branches.)

And the film in question is Not a Love Story, by Bonnie Sherr Klein, mother of activist Naomi Klein. Coincidentally, I viewed this film about the same time I was reading Sassy.

Do check out (no pun intended:) both of Sherr Klein’s films, Not a Love Story and the more recent, Shameless: the Art of Disability.

-PC-

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13. Friday Fun Link - Free Rice (Nov 2, 2007)

Play a fun word game and donate rice to help end world hunger with every correct answer at FreeRice.com.

Or, if you don’t feel like playing the game, why not just visit HungerSite.ccom?

(Thanks to Gillian W. for the tip)

- JH

0 Comments on Friday Fun Link - Free Rice (Nov 2, 2007) as of 11/2/2007 8:07:00 PM
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14. Last chance for copyright action

Here’s an immediate action opportunity, and no you don’t have to be a Calgary resident to take part:

Cory Doctorow points to an event being organized on Facebook to meet with Industry Minister Jim Prentice at his open house in Calgary on Saturday. If you are in Calgary, the open house runs from 1:00 to 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 8th at 1318 Centre Street NE, Suite 105. If you can’t attend, Cory has a great idea:

Not in Calgary? NO PROBLEM! Plan on calling the Minister tomorrow or on dropping him an email, expressing your regrets that you can’t attend the open house, but letting him know how you feel. Here are the numbers:

Ottawa office - (613) 992-4275
Calgary office - (403) 216-7777
Minister office - (613) 995-9001

His email address is: Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca. Once you send an email, print it out and mail it (no stamp needed!) to:

Jim Prentice
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

After you send Jim a note, there’s also these sources from Geist’s blog:

Geist’s 30 things you can do blog post.

Geist’s 30 things you can do wiki.


and what would a social activism push be without a corresponding Facebook group?
Facebookers can look for the Fair Copyright for Canada group.

-PC-

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15. new for your blog roll, and technical difficulties

Social Justice Librarian is newish and We read banned books, and other stuff too a not as newish member of the Canadian library blog scene. these blogs are great their richness in content and snappy delivery. (I’m especially excited to see the intelligent, critical discussion about the links between policy and health information on Social Justice Librarian.)

as for the LA technical difficulties. these blogs would already be on the LA blog roll (and the library buttons on the top right which are way past-their-due-date would also be gonzo) but our need for a platform update has still not been met with the equal amount of free time and attention that it needs.

-PC-

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16. Amnesty International “Write For Rights” Day - December 10

I am writing on behalf of Amnesty International Canada to invite the
you to promote and join “Write for Rights” - Amnesty International’s exciting global write-a-thon on Human Rights Day on December 10. During “Write for Rights” participants write short letters to bring attention to human rights violations or to offer support to human rights leaders at risk of harm in other countries. Of particular interest this year, one of the actions will address the harassment and arrest of union leaders in Viet Nam.

In 2006, 150,000 letters were written by “Write for Rights” participants in 40 countries to address a variety of local and international human rights concerns. This year we are asking supporters throughout Canada to promote “Write for Rights” to others who may be interested.

It’s free, easy and fun to host a “Write for Rights” event and the letters generated can make a profound difference in someone’s life. To register your event or find additional information
about “Write for Rights,” please visit http://www.amnesty.ca/writeathon/.

If you require further information please feel free to contact Amnesty Canada at writeathon@amnesty.ca or 1-800-AMNESTY.

Thanks,

Mandy Ashton
Amnesty International Canada

[via my mom :) ]

- JH

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17. petition against Harper’s ‘ludicrous’ environmental policy

(from avaaz.org via Siue Moffat)

Right now, a major UN summit in Bali has just a few days left to hammer out an agreement on stopping catastrophic climate change. But instead of helping out, Canada is actually sabotaging the talks! On Saturday, experts gave us the global “fossil” award for being the worst country in the world on climate change.

There’s still a few days left to save Canada’s reputation — and the climate — but we need a massive democratic roar to remind our Prime Minister what Canada is all about, and stop him from blocking the world at Bali. Click below to sign the petition, which will be advertized with the number of signatures in an ad campaign across Canada this week. The goal is to get 25,000 people to sign in the next 3 days — before the ads run. After you sign, forward this email to all your friends and family right away: Link

Prime Minister Harper’s short-sighted, undemocratic and big oil-driven policy on climate change is damaging the world and destroying our image as a good country. We’re supposed to be the nice guys, who try to do the right thing in the world.

The vast majority of Canadians are hopping mad on this issue — we can win this. We just need to show Harper how serious we are that he change course. Sign up now and forward this email to everyone you know - we’ve got just 3 days to hit 25,000 signatures!

Thanks for you help!

PS - Here are links to some more info on this:

David Suzuki (the Nature of Things) calls the government’s spin on climate change “humiliating” and “ludicrous”:
Toronto Star article

The former editor-in-chief of CBC news discusses the damage done by Canada’s climate policy to our international reputation: CBC article

-PC-

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18. Archives Stonewalled?

Please read this article that speaks to how the appropriation of voice can sanitize the history of marginalized. It is written by Geoffrey Reaume - historian, Associate Professor and Acting Directory of the Critical Disabilities Program at York University, co-founder of the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto.

Stonewalling Survivors .

-PC-

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19. Review: Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins

I've lived in Greensboro, North Carolina for almost 30 years and believe it to be one of the finest and prettiest places I have ever been in the U.S. Greensboro still has many of the charms of a gracious southern city and it much honors its past on a regular basis.

The city's bicentennial celebration has just begun and there are countless meaningful and fun activities planned for the upcoming year. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was a famous revolutionary battle that is celebrated through re-enactments on a routine basis. Religious tolerance dates to large settlements of Quakers and Moravians in the 1700s and the founding of the only Quaker college in the southeast when Guilford College was founded in 1837.

But for all its religious tolerance, Greensboro was always a social product of its time and segregation was the law of the land for generations until 1960 when the actions of four brave African-American college students from NC Agricultural and Technical College sat down at the Woolworth's counter in downtown Greensboro and created an act of civil disobedience that literally changed the course of history. How that action changed the city of Greensboro and also set off a chain of similar actions that resulted in the repeal of the Jim Crow laws throughout the south is one of our city's finest moments.

In Freedom on the Menu, Carole Boston Weatherford tells this story from the perspective of a young girl and her family who were allowed to shop at Woolworth's but never allowed service at the lunch counter. Jerome Laggarigue's dark, impressionistic paintings are both emotionally evocative and suggest the time capsule nature of those historic days.

The author has posted a lesson plan on her website for grades 3-5 that will help educators and students explore the history of the Jim Crow laws and the social calls to action of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King that emboldened those four young men to sit at the lunch counter and ask for a seat at the table of social justice.

Not only is this an important chapter of Greensboro, North Carolina, but it is an important chapter in the history of our country. Although it has taken another 48 years for the United States to evolve to a place where an African-American has a real shot at being elected President, it is a long awaited and important indication that our citizens truly believe in our U.S. Declaration of Indpendence from the British written in 1776 which states: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...

0 Comments on Review: Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins as of 3/30/2008 10:49:00 PM
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20. Economic inequality, social exclusion, and libraries

For those of you not on the CLA listserv, there was an announcement of the publication of “The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit” (pdf), put together through a project called the “Working Together Project” led by four public libraries (Vancouver, Regina, Toronto, and Halifax). The toolkit:

offers eight Tools for use by library staff as they work out in community spaces with socially excluded individuals. The Toolkit is based in the Project’s real-life experiences and the lessons shared are based on some of our challenges and successes.

Also published recently are two new reports (here and here) by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the growing economic inequalities in Canada.

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21. Wangari's Trees of Peace

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

by Jeanette Winter
Harcourt, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher







Carol said it well:  
"I want my sons and the kids I teach to understand that heroes aren't necessarily people who ride in limousines, or make lots of money, or have been gifted with athletic ability. Instead, I want them to understand that heroes are ordinary people who show extraordinary courage and character in the face of difficult situations."
Jeanette Winter, who also wrote THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA, teaches us about another determined woman who changes her corner of the world, one tree at a time, in her new book, WANGARI'S TREES OF PEACE.

Wangari Maathai grows up in a green, forested Kenya. When she returns to Kenya after being in America for six years of studies, "Wangari sees women bent from hauling firewood miles and miles from home. She sees barren land where no crops grow." First she begins planting and tending baby trees, then she starts a tree farm. Next she involves village women in the planting efforts. The word spreads. "The government men laugh." The women ignore them and keep planting. Wangari is jailed for protesting the destruction of old trees. The women keep planting.

Between 1977 and 2004, "thirty million trees had been planted, six thousand nurseries existed in Kenya, the income of eighty thousand people had been increased, and the movement had spread to thirty African countries--and beyond."

In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jeanette Winter, please bring us more stories of hope and heroes like Wangari and the librarian of Basra.



other reviews:
The New York Times (along with PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA by Claire A. Nivola, FSG, 2008 -- another picture book about the same woman)

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22. The Truth Matters!

My students published their research-based essays on the Holocaust this morning, which was not a small feat! I was so incredibly proud of their diligence and desire to produce a quality piece of writing during the final month of the school year.  After their celebration, they went to recess and lunch.  When they returned, [...]

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23. Prisoners’ right to read

The Library Service to Prisoners Forum (part of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) has posted on the ALA website a Prisoner’ Right to Read Statement, for which they are seeking comments. The document is a vibrant plea against censorship and for the right to access information. It concludes with the following statement:

We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society and destroys the hopes of those segregated from society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours. When free people segregate some of their own, they acquire the responsibility to provide the tools required to bring the prodigal home. Chief among those tools is a right to read.

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24. College librarian recognised for work to encourage respect and tolerance on campus

Lisa Spieker, a librarian at Rasmussen College, won a Pathfinder Award a couple of weeks ago for her work on the college’s Diversity Committe, and her work to educate staff and students on campus via panels and open discussions about diversity.

The local newspaper in Minnesota, where the award was presented, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Board members as saying that “Lisa sets an air and expectation of tolerance and respect from staff and students [....] (She) has created a culture where people can ask questions, respect and be respected, and learn from each other.”

Awarded in Mankato, Minnesota, the Pathfinder Awards are intended to recognise people who or organisations that “exemplify the ideas of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

(Via).

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25. A Teen's Take On Web-Powered Activism

Today's Ypulse Youth Advisory Board post comes from Amanda Aziz who kicks off the first in our next themed series of YAB posts on youth, activism and the brands that help bring the two together. In our first installment Amanda picks up on some of... Read the rest of this post

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