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Posts Tagged ‘north carolina’

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Photo: Victoria Bouloubasis/The World
The Al-Khasrachi family lived on the Guilford College campus in North Carolina for months after arriving in the US as refugees. The father had received threats while working for a US military contractor in Iraq.

I know from my own experience as a volunteer in a refugee resettlement agency that there are few refugees coming through today although the need is greater than ever. Some agencies, like the amazing Alight (formerly the American Refugee Committee) have chosen to “do the doable” at refugee camps abroad. Other agencies and individuals give extra love to the few families still arriving — at the same time reaching out to other immigrants who live here. Today I have a story about people who welcome others with open hearts.

Victoria Bouloubasis reports for The World at at Public Radio International [PRI], “Growing up in Burundi, Blaise Pascal was fascinated with R&B music from the United States. … According to Pascal, studying those lyrics helped him become fluent in English with no formal training.

“Pascal, 31, never forgot this teen pastime. When he arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina, in February 2019, music helped him ease into his new life. It also helped that he was part of the Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) program, an organization that provides housing and utilities for refugee families and individuals like Pascal. The organization was founded in 2015 at Guilford College and later spread to six other college campuses across the country. …

“Pascal also took advantage of the resources at his disposal at Guilford College, like the music room and soccer field. He met fellow musical minds, professors and students with whom he hosts regular jam sessions. He would also send videos of himself singing and playing guitar with his new friends to his older sister in Burundi over WhatsApp. …

“His sister raised him after their Congolese parents died when Pascal was still a young child. The siblings survived the civil war that their parents did not. Both have applied for refugee status; Pascal was resettled to the US while his sister waits. … Pascal [says] without his sister, it has left a ‘big, big darkness before me.’ …

“ ‘To go to zero is an enormous blow to the refugee resettlement program,’ says Diya Abdo, the English professor at Guilford College who created ECAR. …

“It’s also forcing resettlement agencies and supporting organizations like ECAR to rethink the future. Further cuts would be devastating to these organization, but there would be opportunities too, says Abdo — to re-focus efforts on refugee communities already in the US and finding ways to support them. …

“On a global level, the number of people seeking refuge and asylum is at 70.8 million — an all-time high — according to the UN Refugee Agency. But a mere 7% of those seeking refuge have been resettled. …

“ ‘This is about supporting human beings who are seeking security,’ [Abdo] says. ‘This should be framed always as hospitality and empathy, and it’s a way to diversify and enrich our communities.’ …

“In 2015, she asked Guilford’s president Jane Fernandes for permission to use a house on campus, framing the project against the backdrop of the college’s Quaker history.

The campus historically served much like a parish in supporting one another and the college was a site of refuge during the Underground Railroad. …

“Marwa Al-Khasrachi, her husband Ali and their three boys arrived in Greensboro from Baghdad on March 8, 2017. … The Al-Khasrachis were placed in the Guilford College house and given more than the allotted three months, since no one else was arriving. …

“The kids found immediate playmates within the community (which includes nearby housing for students who are also parents) that helped ease them into life in the US. …

“Marwa Al-Khasrachi and Abdo developed a friendship that has now withstood almost two years, one ECAR house and two apartments. Sharing an Arab heritage and rambunctious children close to the same age — Marwa is mom to three and Abdo to two — the mothers quickly became friends. … Marwa says she didn’t have continuity in friendships in Iraq, and they felt more circumstantial than cultivated.

” ‘I didn’t believe in friendship, but now I do,’ says Marwa, with Abdo translating for her. …

“The relationships built and shared experiences with Abdo give the Al-Khasrachis a sense of normalcy as they overcome the hurdle of survival and learning to flourish in a new place. Both Church World Service [CWS} Greensboro and ECAR will continue their work despite what the government may decide — by focusing on supporting communities already here.

“ ‘We have so many community members who support our work,’ says [Megan Shepard, director of Church World Service Greensboro]. ‘It couldn’t seem further than what that rhetoric is on a national level.’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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Photo: Michael Falero
Seventh graders Daelyn Brown and Elaina Grady with their teacher, Justin Parmenter, at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, NC. After a traumatizing shooting at a nearby school, Parmenter launched an activity called Undercover Agents of Kindness. The results speak for themselves.

Like you and me, the folks of WNYC radio have noticed a certain lack of emphasis on kindness in the public sphere. Recognizing that there are always people reaching out to others somewhere, they decided to track down those obscure acts of kindness and feature them on the air. The station’s series taps the knowledge of listeners, who provide leads.

From WNYC: “We expect schools to prepare students by teaching them math and science and reading and writing. But what about teaching kindness?

“Justin Parmenter, who teaches Language Arts to seventh graders at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, decided to try. After a deadly school shooting at a nearby high school rocked the campus, he launched Undercover Agents of Kindness, an activity designed to gets his students out of their social bubbles and doing good deeds for each other.”

He writes at his blog: “I’d already been thinking a lot about the decline in positive interactions in our society and how we might more effectively teach character in our schools. … An adult simply talking about character or modelling positive behavior does not often lead to the changes we want to see in our children. There had to be a more impactful approach. …

“To increase interaction between students who did not normally talk to each other, I had students draw a random classmate’s name from a bowl.  After they drew names, I was shocked to hear some of them had no idea who the other person was –- even after being in class together for two months and in many cases attending the same school for years. Students had two weeks to perform an unexpected act of kindness for the other person and complete a written ‘mission report’ detailing what they did and how it went.

“Soon I began to see encouraging sticky notes on lockers in the hallway. Batches of homemade cupcakes and bags of leftover Halloween candy made their way onto desks in my classroom, as did origami, inspirational quotes, and hand-drawn portraits.  I heard compliments exchanged about all kinds of things. Students I’d never seen together started offering to carry each other’s books and musical instruments to the next class.  As the mission reports started trickling in, I read accounts of children studying together, inviting others to sit together at lunch, helping others put football equipment on at practice.

“However, it was my students’ reflections on the kindness activity that revealed its impact most.

Again and again they acknowledged that it was difficult and felt awkward to approach someone they didn’t know well and do something for them.  But almost every time they added that they were proud of themselves for doing it anyway and felt the power in brightening someone else’s day.”

WNYC interviewed the teacher with two of those students.

” ‘I always thought that people would just reject me if I ever started talking to them, but the truth is if you branch out, you’d be surprised at how nice people can be,’ Waddell student Daelyn Brown, 12, says of the kindness activity.

” ‘When someone does something kind for you or you do something kind for a person, it’s just like wow, I can do this so much and I can make so many friends and everybody would be so happy,’ adds fellow classmate Elaina Grady, 13.”

Listen to the radio report here. And please treat yourself to the wonderful student notes at the teacher’s blog, here.

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Photo: Patrik Jonsson/Christian Science Monitor
At Swan Quarter, North Carolina, shrimp boats cluster on the shore ahead of hurricane Florence in September. The town’s protective dike represents cooperation among practical people, who put aside politics to solve a serious problem.

Even when people believe global warming is only a cyclical blip, they can find common cause with others to solve a problem that affects everyone. Residents of a small town in North Carolina did just that after years of dangerous floods.

From the Christian Science Monitor: “As staff writer Patrik Jonsson began traveling the Carolinas after hurricane Florence, he came across a town that put aside its differences over politics and global warming to find a solution to chronic flooding. …

“Neighbors J.W. Raburn and Henry Williams are political polar opposites. … But the two lifelong friends – along with about 300 or so other North Carolinians who call Swan Quarter home – stood united [in September] against hurricane Florence.

“Nearby Oriental, New Bern, and large parts of central North Carolina were devastated when up to 40 inches of rain fell. … Tens of thousands of residents were displaced, and at least 23 people died.

” ‘There is no doubt that dike has saved us. It gives us a little bit of hope,’ says Raburn. His friend nods.

“The dike, completed in 2010, is a piece of political pragmatism that has gained stature as it held up well against during hurricanes Irene and Matthew, superstorm Sandy. …

“There is also growing evidence that mounting property losses, declines in property values, and threatened historical landmarks are wearing away resistance to preparedness. That common purpose might sometimes be hard to see on the national stage. But locally, people are putting aside politics in favor of practical solutions.

” ‘Working in Swan Quarter, flooding is not an ideological issue there. It is a way of life. Same with sea level rise. People have watched it happen within that lived environment. If you watch forests turn to marshland and the roads flood, the politics fade away,’ says Jason Evans, an environmentalist from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., who worked on the dike project.

“Raburn and Williams, former bandmates, show the human side of the debate. Raburn believes that finding solutions to manmade climate change is vital. Williams, a farmer and volunteer firefighter, does not believe that humans are altering the temperature of the planet, calling it ‘a phase we are going through.’ But he is the one who cares for and maintains the dike – a job he takes very seriously. …

“In Swan Quarter, local taxes are likely to go up. The county needs to purchase pumps to help clear water that seeps through the dike. Across the sound on Ocracoke Island, county leaders are working on bolstering dunes. …

“At the same time, the dike played a role in the county investing millions in a new courthouse and fire station. The state credit union has felt confident enough in the dike to build a new branch. A critical ferry service runs from the docks to the Ocracoke Island. Inside the local gas station, a line drawn at head level shows the height of Isabel’s surge. Thus far, Florence has left no mark at all.

“The size of the town and the lean budgets mean, ‘the kind of interventions that can be done there and how we think about it is much different than thinking about New York City or Miami,’ says Evans. ‘Hyde County is a hardscrabble place trying to build a dike. Nothing solves anything forever. … But it clearly has helped with certain floods. I wouldn’t want to be in Swan Quarter during a big hurricane event without that dike being there. …

‘Whatever legislators want to do, whatever presidents want to do, it’s in the end not relevant in terms of trying to work through the facts. We have scientific understanding that can apply to all these places,’ says Evans. ‘But I have also seen over and over again – whether in the Florida Keys or in Swan Quarter – that within areas facing substantial problems, all the political stuff that we all get drawn into fades away.’ ”

Speaking of political stuff fading away, I want to do a post sometime on the fact that the divisions among us may make lively and urgent headlines but aren’t always replicated on the ground. Don’t we all interact regularly with people whose politics we know differ from ours? Would love to hear your examples to add to my own.

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: North Carolina Arboretum
Plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy extracts seeds from black cohosh collected in western North Carolina.

A plant physiologist, worried about the future effects of global warming on biodiversity in Appalachia, is not only preserving seeds but working to attract preservation-based economic development. It would be almost like getting a sponsor for one of the plants there, a plant whose roots are used in popular herbal remedies.

At Yale Environment 360, Nancy Averett writes, “When she can spare the time — away from the grant applications, journal articles, and economic reports strewn across her desk — plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy laces up her hiking boots and heads to the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.

“Dodging copperheads and black bears, she winds her way deep into the forest, her eyes scanning the lush understory for black cohosh, a native plant whose roots have been used in herbal remedies for centuries, primarily to treat symptoms related to menopause. When she spots her quarry, McCoy gently pulls the plant’s seed pods — tiny brown orbs that rattle when shaken — off the stem and slips them into a paper envelope.

“The seeds inside those pods — which will be cleaned, vacuum-packed, and then stored in a freezer at -20 degrees Fahrenheit — give McCoy hope. As the director of the North Carolina Arboretum’s Germplasm Repository, her job is to preserve native seeds in this highly biodiverse area in southern Appalachia before climate change makes it impossible for some native vegetation to survive there.

“But the black cohosh holds another promise, as well. The plant’s roots are used in top-selling herbal remedies, and, if someone could succeed in growing black cohosh as a crop and manufacturing supplements here [it] could help drive economic development in this job-scarce region. …

“North Carolina [is] special in terms of biodiversity. Studies have documented more than 4,000 species of plants, 2,000 species of fungi, and 500 species of mosses and lichens in the region. Unlike much of the U.S. East Coast, during the last three ice ages the ground in this region did not freeze, which means the plants here have a much longer genetic history and more diversity than in other areas.

‘If I had to pick one place in the entire U.S. for this project,’ McCoy says, ‘it would be here. This is the ultimate spot.’ …

“When she first came to the arboretum, she focused on black cohosh and creating a robust seed collection from the plant’s entire geographic range — she has 22 different strains — and then growing plants from each strain so she would have enough seeds to back up her collection in three different repositories. These include two federal storage sites — in Ames, Iowa and Fort Collins, Colo. — plus the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.”

After cataloging the seeds, McCoy turns her attention to the economic possibilities. Read here about her work with investors. The Yale article also describes her ginseng efforts and her assistance to Cherokees who value plants used in traditional medicine.

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To me it’s tragic that languages are disappearing and, with them, unique cultures.

Small, determined efforts can bring attention to the problem, as I noted this morning when the filmmaker behind Marie’s Dictionary retweeted this from North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain Elementary School (@pilotMtnElem).

Third grade students are learning about Marie’s Dictionary and endangered languages. @goproject #scsed #pmespirates @UNESCO

Excellent. Third graders are sure to spread the word.

Recently, I came across an article on another threatened language, Hawaii Sign Language.

“In 2013, at a conference on endangered languages, a retired teacher named Linda Lambrecht announced the extraordinary discovery of a previously unknown language. Lambrecht – who is Chinese-Hawaiian, 71 years old, warm but no-nonsense – called it Hawaii Sign Language, or HSL.

“In front of a room full of linguists, she demonstrated that its core vocabulary – words such as ‘mother,’ ‘pig’ and ‘small’ – was distinct from that of other sign languages. …

“The last-minute arrival of recognition and support for HSL was a powerful, almost surreal vindication for Lambrecht, whose first language is HSL. For decades, it was stigmatised or ignored; now the language has acquired an agreed-upon name, an official ‘language code’ from the International Organization for Standardization, the attention of linguists around the world, and a three-year grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. …

“An initial estimate of up to 280 surviving HSL signers was soon revised down to 40, then down to just 10 or so old-timers still likely to be competent in HSL. ASL had made deep inroads even among these signers, but there was evidence, especially from Lambrecht’s signs, that HSL was distinct, and lay close enough to the surface to be recovered. Spoken languages such as Basque, Welsh, and Hawaiian have come back from the brink of extinction – could HSL be the first sign language to do it?”

The article is from the Guardian by way of the blog Arts Journal. Read it here.

Photo: Eugene Tanner Photography, LLC
Linda Lambrecht, left, teaches Hawaii Sign Language.

 

 

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Until January 24, you can see at the ICA in Boston an exhibition on the artistic legacy of one of the most interesting colleges ever. It couldn’t last, but while it did, it burned with a bright flame.

Let me drop a few names of people who worked and studied there: Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, Cy Twombly, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Koonig (painters); Buckminster Fuller (architect); Merce Cunningham (choreographer); John Cage (music); and Robert Creeley (poetry). I am leaving out too many, including the women, whose names are not as well known.

I went on my lunch hour and so swept through the exhibition too fast. I confess I am not crazy about much of the art from this period. My favorites here are Motherwell, Lawrence, Cunningham, and Creeley. But how amazing that they all gathered North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, energizing one another across disciplines and making the school their life for a while, even pitching in with the chores.

Surprisingly, the things I took away with me were two ideas I’d like to apply to art with grandchildren.

I’ve done photographic paper before (you put objects like leaves or shells on the paper, leave it in the sun a few minutes, then run in the house and rinse it in water), but someone in the show did a full body. I might try a hand or a face. I also loved the textures of one piece of art I saw. Not quite a collage, it used string and bumpy surfaces in imaginative ways that reminded me of a project I watched Earl Gordon do when I was a child. He sliced the seed pod of a flower and used it as a stamp. Got to try more of that.

You can read about the school and the exhibit here.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe
I liked “Female Figure” on sun-exposed photographic paper, by Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg, left.

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On Sunday, I got to the Peabody Essex Museum early and decided to walk around Salem before going in to see the Thomas Hart Bentons. I thought I might take a look at the hotel where I stayed when DeAnna and Mairtin got married.

I hadn’t gone very far when what should I spy but some very strange constructions made of sticks. Turns out the sculptures, by Patrick Dougherty, were also a PEM exhibition: “Stickwork.”

From Dougherty’s website: “Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and an M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. Later, he returned to the University of North Carolina to study art history and sculpture.

“Combining his carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick began to learn more about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. In 1982 his first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the following year, he had his first one-person show entitled, ‘Waitin’ It Out,’ in Maple at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“His work quickly evolved from single pieces on conventional pedestals to monumental scale environmental works, which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 250 of these works, and become internationally acclaimed. His sculpture has been seen worldwide—from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.” More at http://www.stickwork.net.

Aren’t artists something? They just follow where it leads. Nobody gets them into windowless rooms to discuss strategy, goals, subgoals, benchmarks, measures, or evaluation.

Although, I suppose, if Dougherty started out in hospital management, he was subjected to lots of that sort of thing.

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