Posts Tagged ‘international’


Photo: Gordon Parks
Paul Robeson — American actor, athlete, bass-baritone concert singer, writer, and civil rights activist — is the voice behind a forgotten international brotherhood song called “The Four Rivers.”

For a big chunk of last summer, I was reading War and Peace and trying to understand where various battles were fought by studying a couple maps my husband dug up. He is a good source not only of maps but of random historical trivia, including a tidbit about one of the rivers Tolstoy mentions, the Don.

It seems that during World War II, the Popular Front put out a song about four rivers representing the biggest countries fighting fascism — Great Britain (the Thames), China (the Yangtze), the United States (the Mississippi), and the Soviet Union (the Don).

Singers, if you ever do a set on international peace, you might want to include “the Thames, the Yangtze, the Mississippi, and the Don” theme.

I was disappointed that the internet has so little information about “The Four Rivers,” even in the biographies of its most famous singer, Paul Robeson. So in the end I decided to post a recording of the music and part of the Robeson Wikipedia entry.

You may know Robeson for “Old Man River” and standing up to McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Activities Committee. This Wikipedia excerpt shows that his exceptional mind was obvious from a young age.

“In late 1915, Robeson became the third African-American student ever enrolled at Rutgers, and the only one at the time. He tried out for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team, and his resolve to make the squad was tested as his teammates engaged in excessive play, during which his nose was broken and his shoulder dislocated. The coach, Foster Sanford, decided he had overcome the provocation and announced that he had made the team.

“Robeson joined the debating team and sang off-campus for spending money, and on-campus with the Glee Club informally, as membership required attending all-white mixers. …

“He was recognized in The Crisis [the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)] for his athletic, academic, and singing talents. At this time, his father fell grievously ill. Robeson took the sole responsibility in caring for him, shuttling between Rutgers and Somerville, [NJ]….

“At Rutgers, Robeson expounded on the incongruity of African Americans fighting to protect America in World War I but, contemporaneously, being without the same opportunities in the United States as whites.

“He finished university with four annual oratorical triumphs and varsity letters in multiple sports. … Walter Camp [“Father of American Football”] considered him the greatest end ever. Academically, he was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa and Cap and Skull. His classmates recognized him by electing him class valedictorian. … In his valedictory speech, he exhorted his classmates to work for equality for all Americans.”

More at Wikipedia, here, where you also can investigate all the footnotes I removed for simplicity’s sake.

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Some schools are taking the current push for STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) a step further and putting kids on project teams with students from around the world. While you are learning science, you are getting to know what life is like somewhere else.

Dugan Arnett writes at the Boston Globe, “In just a few weeks’ time, the students in Kathy Wright’s Richard J. Murphy K-8 School STEM class have developed a keen grasp of Costa Rican culture.

“ ‘They don’t get snow there,’ said Jayd’n Washington, a 12-year-old seventh grader at the Dorchester school. Added fellow 12-year-old Fabian Riascos, ‘They have their own currency.’

“Their burgeoning interest in the Central American country stems not from a recent geography lesson plan — it’s the result, instead, of a program called Design Squad Global, which pairs American middle-school classes with students from other countries in a kind of virtual pen-pal relationship.

“Created by WGBH Boston as a spinoff of the old PBS television series ‘Design Squad,’ the program serves, at its core, as a way to introduce young students across the globe to the importance of engineering-related projects.

“But another goal — and one that organizers seem to value as much as anything — is the program’s ability to connect children from various locations, backgrounds, and cultures. …

“The DSG program connects kids ages 10-13. Currently, it operates in 25 American cities — including Boston, Chicago, and New York — and eight countries, from Brazil to Jordan to South Africa.

“At the start of the program, which can run either six or 12 weeks, two classes from different countries are paired together. In online correspondence, they tick off their names, nicknames, and interests — and as they tackle a collection of weekly projects, a virtual relationship blossoms. …

“The focus is on real-world problem-solving. Participants are charged with designing and constructing scaled-down versions of a number of projects: a structure that can withstand an earthquake, an emergency shelter, an adaptive device for someone with disabilities.

“ ‘Middle school kids can come up with some amazing solutions,’ said Mary Haggerty, who oversees educational outreach at WGBH. ‘It makes you feel very hopeful for the future.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff
Jhondell Smith-Young tested his STEM project for a Dorchester class that assigns him to an international team.

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A certain community organization that believes in the importance of affordable housing also believes in the importance of community. That is why it fosters numerous community-building initiatives, including the new Sankofa farm and market.

Leigh Vincola at ecoRI reports from Providence.

“If you have traveled around the city’s West End this winter, you may have noticed a number of buildings going up rather quickly. Wondering what they are and who they belong to?

“The answer is Sankofa, a Ghanaian word meaning to go back, get what is yours and make positive progress in the future. The Sankofa Initiative of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) is doing just this.

“The initiative was born in 2011, when the WEHDC completed an extensive survey of West End residents that determined their primary concerns centered around health and food. In a predominately low-income neighborhood — 32.5 percent of households live below the poverty level — the survey determined that for many the West End is a food-insecure neighborhood. There isn’t enough access to fresh food, and particularly food that is culturally relevant to the immigrant populations that make up the community, primarily Central American, West African and Southeast Asian. …

“Sankofa is a response to these needs, and has three main elements: an affordable housing development, a large-scale community garden and a weekly World Market. The $15 million project is funded by Rhode Island Housing and work is underway on all aspects.” Read up on the amazing range of positive efforts here.

According to the market’s Facebook page, things will get going for spring with a “pop-up market May 7th, from 12pm to 4pm at Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Ave. There will be art, bath and hair products, handmade jewelry, homemade candles, fresh food, FREE seeds, henna, giant bubbles and much more.”

Photo: Sankofa Initiative
The Sankofa World Market is a local farmers market with international flavor.

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Gotta love MIT. There is always something crazy going on over there. And when MIT and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) ideas come together, watch out.

At WBUR radio, Fred Thys explains about a new, multidiscipline design program.

Matt “Kressy has put MIT’s first-ever integrated design and management (IDM) students in a kind of boot camp. He wanted to immerse the engineers, designers and business school students in a project where they would have to work in concert. …

“The task: build instruments from found materials. And boy did the students find materials. Mechanical engineer Maria Tafur, from Bogota, made a clarinet from a carrot. Engineer Tammy Shen, from Taipei, has made an instrument that includes glass bottles. …

“Kressy was teaching a course at the Rhode Island School of Design when he got the idea for the new IDM master’s program. He was also teaching engineers and business students at MIT — but it was the design students from RISD that caught Kressy’s attention by asking a critical question:

‘How does this product enhance our lives?’ …

“Kressy says it took 13 years for his idea for a design program to get traction at MIT. When it did, he was able to pick 18 students with completely different criteria from what MIT typically uses.

“ ‘And that rubric had crazy metrics, such as the metric love,’ Kressy says. ‘And the love metric was basically: Does this candidate have a large capacity for love and compassion? …

“ ‘When I showed the rubric to my colleagues here, let’s just say it got mixed responses,’ he says, laughing.”

To get at the love-and-compassion metric, he asked applicants to submit a portfolio indicating their efforts to make the world a better place.

You can read here about the impressive portfolios, struggles to get to MIT from poor countries, and inventive ideas for the future.”

Photo: Jesse Costa/WBUR
MIT integrated design graduate students Maria Tafur and Masakazu Nagata play their homemade instruments along with Brave Sharab, 7, on Main Street in Cambridge.

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I love the staircases from around the world that are posted at Catraca Livre. Wish I could remember where I got this link. Andrew Sullivan? Twitter? This Is Colossal? It’s been a while since I saw it.

I picked the staircase with the koi fish to show you, but there are 16 other amazing staircases at the site. The website is based in Brazil and run by Gilberto Dimenstein. I can’t read the Portuguese. If you can, let me know what it says?

“Muitas pessoas fazem o possível para fugir do esforço de subir alguns degraus. Mas para alguns artistas de rua, elas são fontes de inspiração para suas criações. O site BoredPanda listou 17 escadas ao redor do mundo que são verdadeiras obras de artes a céu aberto.”

OK. I guess the pictures originated at Bored Panda, a site we blogged about once before. You should check that, too.

More staircases here.

Photo: http://queminova.catracalivre.com

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Gaelic McTigue, at All Things Bright and Beautiful in Waitsfield, Vermont, fills orders from around the world to create painted wooden ornaments. Here she is in her shop. Below is a bear ornament that she signed for two of our grandkids. (We got a Swedish elf ornament for our Swedish-American grandson’s tree.)

I’ve included a couple other seasonal photos: the Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, tree at Macy’s, the brass band starting to warm up at the craft market.

For a nice Advent carol, check out composer Jeff Fuhrer’s “What Are We Waiting For?” on http://www.soundcloud.com. I tried to upload the MP3 he sent but couldn’t figure out how. Catchy tune.





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The Manhattan Paris Saint-Germain soccer team is made up of both rich and poor boys from many cultures. Coach Wilson Egidio thinks the team’s diversity is part of its success.

Vivian Yee has the story at the New York Times. She writes that Amara, for example, “joined the team after an eagle-eyed former player for Mr. Egidio spotted him playing on a Bronx playground. [He] wound up scoring the goal that made Paris Saint-German the first Manhattan youth club to reach the national playoffs.

“For the players, their coaches and parents, the team’s diversity is a source of success as well as pride. Their international styles, they say, add fluidity and creativity to their game.

“Combined with Mr. Egidio’s Brazilian approach — he grew up in Brazil and played professional soccer there — that could be key in the national tournament.”

Click here to read about this week’s competition and the backgrounds of the players.

Photograph: Christopher Gregory, New York Times

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