Mindy Fried:  “New Chapters”…

Francesca Ramsey, De-Coded
Francesca Ramsey, De-Coded

This is the second year that Feminist Reflection editors have tried to write something about Thanksgiving. I say “tried” because for something that seems simple, we have found that it’s not an easy charge. Here is a holiday that calls upon people to feel thankful for what we have, but we can’t ignore the fact that the holiday is framed around a distortion of American history that is, in actuality, about genocide. So I will start out by saying that I’m grateful for a very funny, but informative, web video, De-Coded, created by actress/comedian Francesca Ramsey, where she sets her family straight about Thanksgiving.

As guests admire a child’s drawing showing Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a meal, one person reads the picture’s text: “After the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter in America, the Puritans invited them to share the first Thanksgiving dinner.” Guests pass the child’s drawing around the table, with approving oohs and ahh’s until it gets to Francesca, who holds up the child’s picture and says slowly, “These are adorably…WRONG!” She rips the drawing in two, to their shock, and then provides her family with the real history lesson about the genocide of the Native Americans by the Pilgrims, using humor as her weapon. By the time she has deconstructed the real meaning of the holiday, family members start questioning the meaning of everything, even the cranberry sauce! Lesson learned; humor prevails.

crazy worldWhen we at FR think about what to write, we’re initially up against our despair, not only about the lies about this holiday, but about what a mess our world is in:  rampant Islamaphobia following the Paris attacks, pervasive racism throughout our communities and on our college campuses, the all-out attack on women’s reproductive rights and so much more…  At the same time, we feel lucky that we can enjoy the pleasure of our families, our friends, our teaching and research, and our communities. That’s a privilege that not everyone has…

So we write this Thanksgiving post with the understanding that so much is wrong with the world, but that we have an opportunity to notice what is good; to put down our cell phones and (momentarily) walk away from our computers and maybe even other technology, to enjoy a minute, an hour, a day where we can be grateful for what we have. Because regardless of the holiday’s history, it is important in these difficult times to appreciate one another and our loved ones, to appreciate the food we share, to be joyful, to sing and dance in ways that move our hearts, to take joy in the people around us, including young and old, to recognize our accomplishments along with our struggles, to feel our connectedness along with our isolation. And certainly, to recognize the opportunity we have to make this world a better place, in whatever way we can.

Athieno Band; Photo Credit: Olivia Deng
Athieno Band; Photo Credit: Olivia Deng

What am I grateful for this year? Over the past two years, I have taken a leap and started producing music and art festivals with a dear friend. It began with the organizing of Jamaica Plain Porchfest, a decentralized music/arts festival in which people perform on porches throughout the community. Previously, my work kept me tethered to my computer, a meeting room, and sometimes a classroom. This work has grown into producing other community-based events throughout the City of Boston where I live. I am deeply grateful to be living this new chapter in my life, one that allows me to work with artists, other producers, and inspiring community activists who also see the value in using the arts to grow social movements.

And now on to my wonderful colleagues, for whom I am very grateful!

Kristen Barber: “Motherhood”

These days I am more thankful than ever. Having welcomed our daughter into our lives, my spouse and I now find the mundane more thrilling (albeit more exhausting). I am also reminded of my privilege more often than before. When I feed Bea a bottle of formula, change her soiled diaper, or buy her a new winter coat, I think of those parents who cannot afford to do the same for their children.

Other women who are not as privileged as I am remind me that I can feed my child without having to bear the evaluative eye of a state service worker rationing out formula and that I am buying premium formula. Moreover, I don’t have to scrape the waste from Bea’s diaper in an effort to make it last longer, I can feed her every time she cries in hunger, and I can pay my heating bill to keep her warm.

Below are some child welfare organizations helping to provide needy families with those items—like food, diapers, and coats—that babies and children need to stay healthy and warm year round. Go ahead and click on the below links for more information and, in the spirit of thanksgiving, consider supporting these organizations (and by extension struggling parents and their children), if you can.

  • National Diaper Bank Network: Directory to find a diaper bank that distributes diapers to families in your area. Disposable diapers cost $70 to $80 per month per baby and 1 in 3 American families report experiencing diaper need.
  • Feeding America: Largest nationwide network of food banks providing struggling families with healthy foods.
  • No Kid Hungry: Helps to close the food need gap given that the average monthly SNAP benefit is only $1.46 per meal.
  • Operation Warm: Provides new winter coats to children of families in need.
  • United Nations Children Fund: 90% of every dollar spent goes directly to help children around the world by providing food, clean water, and healthcare, including vaccines.

Trina Smith: “Social Justice & Compassion ”

In this world we current live in:

  • There are “cultural wars” based on visions of morality and often tied into religion.
  • We deal with terrorism and often react with fear as a citizens of a country rather than global citizens.
  • Racism is still prevalent, people fear for their lives, and young men of color of being killed.
  • Racing to the top is more and being the “best” trumps mentoring and compassion for others.
  • Folks who identify as LGBTQ, and particularly trans, experience hate, bullying, and death.

And the list could go on.

Sometimes, it’s hard to be grateful when you see this. When you witness this. When people live through it. But on this day, that has admittedly has its own “colonizing” history, I will be thankful.

I am thankful for:

  • People who take a stand for social justice.
  • For those willing to engage in civic dialogue about the issues.
  • To those are willing to talk to and teach their children, our next generation, about what the hate, violence, misunderstandings mean, including deadly consequences.
  • My students who persevere though hard times.
  • For the idea of compassion.

We all do not have believe the same thing to love or have compassion.

I hope we can continue to have civil dialogues, call attention the matters, and care for humanity based on compassion and not fear and hate.

Tristan Bridges: “Teaching values about sharing through warthogs…”

In our house, we read a short children’s book to my children by David Ezra Stein entitled The Nice Book. It’s a short rhyming book that teaches children about rhymes, and the basics of what it means to be kind and to interact with others in ways you’d like to be interacted with. So, there are lessons about recognizing your own limits, not hitting, talking through our feelings, not staring at others, taking care of those in need, and the like. And each page is accompanied by a cute painting of a pair of animals acting out the kind behavior. On one page is a warthog with a huge ice cream sundae. On the next page the warthog is sharing the sundae with a mouse. It’s accompanied by the text, “If you have more than you need, SHARE.” It’s a basic lesson. And it’s one we expect our children to learn at an early age. Both of mine are still struggling with this particular lesson. And if I’m being honest, it’s one I’m still working on, too. But, like most of the lessons in The Nice Book, they’re not just for kids—these are ideals toward which we can all work harder to achieve. Happy Thanksgiving!

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