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Photo: Tim Clyne
Genesis Blu calls herself a “raptivist” — a mix of rapper and activist. She also works as a psychotherapist.

I heard Genesis Blu interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) one day when I was driving and thought you might be interested. She is a rapper, an activist, and a psycotherapist.

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviewed her at SugarHill Recording Studios, where Genesis Blu recorded the tracks for her EP, “Bluming Season.”

“Genesis Blu calls herself a ‘raptivist,’ mixing hip-hop with advocacy. She says she dedicates time to ‘facilitating change in her community.’ The dual passions for politics and music started at a young age.

” ‘I would be like 12 years old, going to a nightclub, where people are smoking and drinking. I was always a different type of kid, so my songs would be about the struggle, the political climate — even that young. And they would be like, “Where is this little girl coming from with this stuff?” ‘

“But when she got older, she put the music career on hold and focused on school — a lot of school. She got a bachelor’s, a master’s and started her doctorate. Until she had an epiphany one day — she wanted to be back in the community, writing music. She was in the middle of her dissertation.

” ‘I literally stopped that day, put down that pen and picked up another pen and a notepad and began to write music,’ she says. ‘And I’ve been doing that since.’

“Well, it’s not quite all of what she’s been doing since. She’s also a full-time psychotherapist. Blu works with children and families and teens ‘who are removed from their home due to abuse of some sort or due to their emotional disturbances,’ she says.

” ‘People ask me to choose [between music and therapy] and I cannot, I love them equally,’ she says. ‘Because you’re able to change lives both ways.’ ”

Here are some highlights of the interview.

” ‘I don’t want my people left behind. So, what’s happening [in Houston] right now is gentrification, in the worst way. They are pushing these people out. And there’s not many other options [of places] to go, because we don’t have a great public transportation system …

” ‘It’s upsetting a lot of us who have been in this community and are working in this community. And so even though I’m very happy about the diversity, what it also is doing is allowing people to come in with a bunch of money, throw money at some things, tear some things down, buy it out — and then leave the people who have been here stranded.’ …

” ‘My history is that my grandmother grew up in another neighborhood in Houston as well called Acres Homes. So living between Greenspoint and Acres Homes, which were rivals at the time when I was a kid by the way. So I would have to go to my grandmother’s house after school if my mother couldn’t be home from work.

” ‘And that was interesting because I was bullied — a lot. Because I’m too proper for the black kids and I’m not white enough for the white children, so I’m in a very awkward place. But still loving the culture of where I come from.

” ‘But my grandmother was also an activist. She was very influential in the war on drugs here in Houston. So … she would have me marching with her. So I get that from her.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

You probably don’t need to be told this, but bathing yourself in nature can help you calm down, reduce stress. When I was a child, I lived near forest and could take a walk in the woods almost anytime. Not everyone can do that, which is why it’s so important to bring nature into cities and towns as much as possible. Even listening to recordings of nature can be soothing.

Anjali Nayar at Motherboard writes, “When Cale Holmes moved from Virginia to New York City for grad school, he started to have trouble sleeping. All night long the trains thundered past his building, garbage trucks groaned, and police sirens wailed. …

“One night, Holmes recalled how calm he used to feel whenever he visited a beach. He went to YouTube and ran a search for ocean sounds. Innumerable recordings of ocean waves popped up, some as long as 12 or 14 hours. He selected a nighttime version and let his room fill with the sound of the crashing of waves. …

“The next thing he knew, warm sunlight was filtering in through the curtains. When he checked his laptop, he saw that the recording had paused at just after four minutes when the laptop had powered off. … How had the recording helped him so much? …

“Jake Benfield, soundscape researcher and professor of Environmental Psychology at Penn State University, has been studying nature sounds for over a decade. … In 2014, Benfield led a research study to examine whether natural sounds had any impact on participants’ moods. The researchers first evaluated the volunteers’ moods and then deliberately spoiled their moods by showing them disturbing medical videos of hand surgeries. ‘As we would expect,’ Benfield said, ‘watching medical videos makes people disgusted, negative, and generally in a bad mood.’

“The researchers then randomly assigned the volunteers to three groups and made them listen to different soundscapes. One group was made to listen to city sounds and traffic. Members of this group reported that their moods became worse. Another group listened to mixed environments containing nature and city sounds, and this group reported no significant mood changes.

“The third group, however, listened to purely natural sounds — like the sound of the wind rustling through trees or the chirping of birds. Participants in this group reported a complete mood recovery.”

In another study, Benfield told Motherboard, “Researchers at University of Gavle, Sweden [designed] an ambiguous, fuzzy sound, which wasn’t entirely discernible, and hence open to interpretation. The researchers then enlisted participants and told half of them that the sound was that of a waterfall while telling the others that it was from an industrial source.

“What they discovered was that the first group, the one that had thought that the sound was that of running water, showed remarkable mood recovery. On the other hand, the second group that had assumed the sound was unnatural, reported no mood recovery.”

Several related studies are described at Motherboard, here. Enjoy!

Quilters in Liberia

A quilt in Liberia’s executive mansion. Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a great booster of Liberia’s quilting tradition.

Here’s a tidbit for the quilters who visit this blog.

According to Cholo Brooks at Global News Network Liberia, the African nation founded by former US slaves has a proud quilting tradition that includes a story about Queen Victoria.

Brooks writes that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, until recently president of Liberia, got together with Liberian quilters last fall to reaffirm her support. She praised “the Associations of Liberian Women who produced quilts for national and international use – urging them to work together and be strong in lifting Liberia: ‘Let me commend you for what you have been doing.’ …

“President Sirleaf made the statement on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia when she received in audience over 23 female quilters from different communities in Monrovia and parts adjacent. …

“At a forum aimed at promoting Liberian women in business, President Sirleaf … pledged her continued support and thanked them for their contribution to Liberia, including keeping the peace Liberia now enjoys. …

“The women appealed to President Sirleaf for additional support in promoting quilts both nationally and internationally, especially by securing a place for them to operate their businesses.” More at Global News Network Liberia, here.

See also this BBC article about Martha Ricks, the Liberian who made a Coffee Tree quilt for Queen Victoria — and delivered it to her.

Photo: Penny Dale
Quageh quilting group in Caldwell, Liberia, recreated the Coffee Tree quilt that Martha Ricks gave to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1892.

Photo: Kathryn Scott Osler/Denver Post via Getty Images
Black-footed ferrets are the most endangered mammal in North America. Scientists in Montana are trying to save the ferrets by saving their main food source, prairie dogs.

Never doubt the power of a research report written in elementary school. Maybe I would have become interested in conservation anyway (my mother headed up a local conservation group for years), but a report I wrote in 6th grade about the devastation to birds caused by fancy hats pre-WWI made me pay particular attention to birds. John, an environmentalist today, really got into the cause of endangered black-footed ferrets when he wrote a report on them in elementary school.

Although once-threatened birds like the snowy egret and the great egret have been saved, the black-footed ferret, alas, is still endangered. At National Public Radio, Nate Hegyi reports on how scientists are addressing the problem today.

“In central Montana, drones are dropping peanut butter pellets on prairie dog colonies. It’s part of an effort by biologists to save North America’s most endangered mammal — the black-footed ferret (or as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls it, the BFF).

“Prairie dogs make up the vast majority of a BFF’s diet. Save the food and you save the ferret, biologists wager. …

“Kristy Bly, a senior biologist with the World Wildlife Fund, [said] there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

” ‘Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,’ Bly said.

“But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

“So Bly, [Fish and Wildlife biologist Randy Matchett] and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

“Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague. …

“By the end of [one] day, they hope to expose more than 4,000 prairie dogs to the vaccine. Past field trials have shown that prairie dogs living in vaccinated areas survive waves of the plague.

” ‘Without [the ferret], do we really have a complete ecosystem?’ Bly asked. ‘You start taking those pieces apart, it’s like a domino effect. When we have ferrets on the landscape the piece of the puzzle that is the American prairie all fits.’ ” More here.

I like the idea of using drones this way. Makes me wonder if the technique could be adapted to handle the overabundance of deer in areas suffering from tick-borne disease. Couldn’t a deer contraceptive in salt pellets be scattered by drones? Just asking.

Stock Market Poem

Today’s bonus is a wonderful poem by Alexa Selph that appeared on the Poetry Foundation website. Asakiyume sent it to me.

Market Forecast
By Alexa Selph

“Adjectives continue
“their downward spiral,
“with adverbs likely to follow.

“Wisdom, grace, and beauty
“can be had three for a dollar,
“as they head for a recession.

“Diaphanous, filigree,
pearlescent, and love
“are now available
“at wholesale prices.

“Verbs are still blue-chip investments,
“but not many are willing to sell. …”

Please read the whole, delicious thing here.

“Alexa Selph, a freelance editor in Atlanta,” says the Poetry Foundation website, “teaches a class called ‘The Pleasure of Reading Poetry’ as part of the adult education program at Emory University. She has contributed poems to Georgia State University Review, Habersham Review, and Blue Mesa.”

alexa-selph


Photo: New Zealand Herald
Royal New Zealand Ballet dance educator Pagan Dorgan said a dance initiative with women prisoners aims to build confidence and cooperation.

I like reading about programs designed to help individuals in prison grow in positive ways. I also like the idea of arts groups that, in addition to giving their art to the world, develop other ways to benefit society.

Consider this Royal New Zealand Ballet pilot for women prisoners. Meghan Lawrence at the New Zealand Herald has the story.

“Pirouettes and pliés are being used to break boundaries in a new initiative run by the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) Company.

“Best known for its dynamic dancers and eclectic repertoire of dance moves, RNZB has chosen to put accessibility and inclusion at the forefront of its latest project run in partnership with the Department of Corrections.

“Three of RNZB’s artistic staff have decided to put aside the national and international stages for [six weeks starting in November 2017] and spend their time teaching prisoners at Arohata Women’s Prison in Wellington. …

“Community manager Pascale Parenteau … said the initiative fits perfectly with the company’s primary goal of making dance accessible to all New Zealanders.

” ‘It was actually very timely because for some time the education team for RNZB have been working on developing an Accessibility Commitment Policy,’ she said.

“As part of that policy the company have run three other projects; the first sign-language interpreted guided tour of the St James Theatre, a sensory-friendly performance for children and adults with autism and special needs, and NZ’s first audio-described ballet performance for visually impaired children and adults. …

“[Parenteau] said the project aims to enhance prisoners’ confidence, communications skills and ability to work with others. …

” ‘When I was setting the programme up I was told that a lot of the women come from broken or disheartening homes and backgrounds, which means they would have never experienced participating in a high-profile training environment, so this is a bit of a boost for them.

” ‘I think they have been very courageous to put their hand up and have a go, but I think the freedom of expression that it allows them is going to be very beneficial.’

“Dance educator Pagan Dorgan was excited to take on the challenge, having previously run a similar initiative with male prisoners in the UK. …

“Dorgan said the project is run in two phases; six weeks of workshops leading up to the Christmas production, and then further sessions [in 2018] to learn specific RNZB repertoire.

“[The first session] was a little bit of everyone getting to know each other and we also did an aerobics or gym type warm-up’ she said. ‘We then went through some basic dance movements that were a mixture of jazz, contemporary and Latin.’ … There was no resistance at all and there was a nice, positive atmosphere.’

“Participants in the project said the experience gave them hope and inspiration, provided a chance to grow as individuals, and made them appreciate life outside of prison walls. …

“Parenteau said the project was set up as a one-off but she is hoping to get further funding to expand the classes.”

More at the New Zealand Herald, here. And Radio New Zealand has audio, here.

Photo: Radio New Zealand
A dance class in a prison.


Photo: Auscape/Getty Images/Universal Images Group
Scientists hope to restore damaged coral on the Great Barrier Reef with a technique that has seen success in the Philippines.

As I was preparing this post on an effort to save the Great Barrier Reef, I stumbled upon the news that the 37-year-old ocean warrior behind the climate-change movie Revolution, Rob Stewart, died a year ago in a dive off Key Largo.

That gives a whole different cast to my thoughts. I was going to say something about how happy he must be about the new coral-breeding program that offers a “glimmer of hope” to the Great Barrier Reef. Now it’s “how happy he would have been.” The world can ill-afford to lose an energetic ocean crusader like Stewart.

As the Guardian reports, the coral-breeding project has seen success in the Philippines and is now being tried in Australia.

“Scientists have stepped in as environmental matchmakers by breeding baby coral on the Great Barrier Reef in a move that could have worldwide significance.

“Coral eggs and sperm were collected from Heron Island’s reef during [the November 2016] coral spawning to produce more than a million larvae. The larvae were returned to the wild and placed on to reef patches in underwater mesh tents, with 100 surviving and growing successfully.

“The lead project researcher and Southern Cross University professor Peter Harrison, who discovered mass coral spawning in the 1980s, says the ‘results are very promising.’ …

“The project has the ability to restore damaged coral populations and has seen similar success in the Philippines where blast fishing using explosives to kill schools of fish has destroyed coral.

“The Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director, Anna Marsden, said the research is an important step for the reef, but one that should not lessen the strong action needed against climate change.”

That’s because, as I learned watching Stewart’s movie, it’s the CO2 resulting from climate change that is the big danger.

More at the Guardian, here. See also my review of the movie Revolution, here.