Category Archives: Faith and Social Justice

items from Not in Our Town Princeton (http://niotprinceton.org) and Princeton United Methodist Church (http://princetonumc.org)

‘Don’t let the failure of your imagination limit your ability to serve your customers’

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My friend Hugo Campos, writes Susannah Fox, is originally from Brazil and taught me a lovely phrase in Portuguese about someone who holds all the cards, who seems to have all that they need to create change: “Está com a faca e o queijo na mão.” It means: He holds the cheese and the knife. This person has what they need to execute their vision. You want to be that person.

Details here. 

Image credit:
<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food photo created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt;

 

Dear Abby: elders need to share family history

dear abbyDear Abby:

In your column today, “Not Interested” kvetches about his mother, “obsessed with family history and preserving attachments to relatives…her house is stuffed with furniture, books, legal documents, photos, and the like. Each has a story that goes with it.”

Instantly I identify with both of them, the young person who yearns to accomplish goals in the future, and the old person who wants to pass down her heritage (memories, objects, collections, pick one) to her descendants. I was that young person, dealing with a memory-preserving mother, and at age 79 I still share the lofty goal of :making a difference’  with the time I have left to me.  I am that old person, yearning rather desperately to leave ‘something of me’ behind.

Abby, your advice was practical but insufficient. You tell the son to find other relatives who might want the collection. You tell him not to make any promises he does not intend to keep.

As a former print journalist, I honor your word limitation. But you failed to acknowledge the deep almost desperate desire of elders to preserve their heritage. Perhaps later you can suggest ways for young people to help us do that. Videotape us telling our stories. Photograph our objects and make a book for us to keep. Set up storytelling sessions with our grandchildren. At the very least, be lovingly polite about our desperate need – as we face the end of our lives — to pass along a bit of ourselves.

And on the other side, we elders need someone to help us face the River Styx. Someone to remind us that, regardless of the objects that anyone keeps or does not keep, whatever we said or did in the past is what they will remember.

PS. Here’s a shout out to my sister, RosalieAnn Figge Beasley, and family genealogists everywhere. Those of us who don’t want to do that work now — we are likely to be grateful later.

 

 

 

Artist as Serene Warrior: Makoto Fujimura

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Makoto Fujimura. Photo by Andrew Kim

“Art helps you put your guard down. Artists are amazing warriors, says Kate Shin, owner of Waterfall Mansion and Gallery, in a video about Makoto Fujimura, an artist and an evangelical Christian who has a studio in Princeton. “The Holy Spirit was speaking through this painting.”

I was alerted to his work — why had I not heard of it before? — by an article in Pasadena Now that previewed a talk by Fujimura in a church setting. It had special meaning because June is when the Christian Church celebrates the Holy Spirit with Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. It’s exciting to me that a Japanese artist links the message of Christ to a many-layered art form, Nihonga.

Nihonga involves pulverizing minerals to turn them into pigments, used in many layers, each taking a long time to dry. It is a slow process, and a spiritual one. In this inspiring video, Fujimura says:  “All of us are pulverized in some way as we are made beautiful…in experiences that challenge us. Beauty through brokenness that is captured in the surface of Nihonga.

Fujimura’s book, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Lifeissues “a call to cultural stewardship, in which we become generative and feed our culture’s soul with beauty, creativity, and generosity.” In 2017 he illustrated the Four Holy Gospels, honoring the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Follow him on Facebook here. Read excerpts from his book Silence and Beauty here.

David Brooks, in a New York Times column, compares Nihonga to Kairos time, qualitative rather than quantitative. “When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time — slowly, serenely but thickly.” Slow and serene? That’s not how I am, it’s how I yearn to be.

 

Waking up to racism at reunions

 

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Beyond the beer bracelets and the colorful jackets, the organizers of Princeton Alumni Reunions have included some displays and events that explain the history of white supremacy — the political, economic, and cultural system that manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

On view today at the Frist Campus Center is the photographic story of James Johnson.  This is a somewhat positive story about a formerly enslaved man who worked at the university, in various capacities including as an entrepreneur selling snacks, from 1843 to 1902. A Princeton woman paid to keep from having him returned to his former owner. (He repaid the debt).

PTI

Until 5 p.m. today, on the south lawn of East Pyne Hall,  experience a solitary confinement cell in an exhibit organized by the New Jim Crow of Trenton and Princeton. This exhibit, also, has a positive spin. It is co-sponsored by the Class of 1994 and the admirable Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).  PTI offers a panel on Friday, May 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andlinger Center. 

PUAMOSE_30941In the Art Museum, now and until July 7, resonate with the problems of immigrants at the border in an exhibit: Miracles at the Border, 

 

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You may have noticed odd stones in the sidewalk on campus. They are part of the (In)Visible Princeton Walking Tours, five self-guided tours on your cell phone covering the experience of minorities (African-Americans, Women, and Asian-Americans) as well as standard Tiger traditions. Download and take any tour anytime.

Back by popular demand are the “performance theater” Race and Protest tours. When I took one last year there was some confusion, among those who signed up, about the format. The theater artists tell location-based stories. If you read this TODAY, May 31, meet at the Art Museum for an hour-long tour at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. It’s well worth going. Or read about my experience here. 

And – if you are a townie – join Not in Our Town Princeton at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. for Continuing Conversations on Racism. At these monthly sessions you can learn about – through discussion with others — what white supremacy really means.

 

Equity in Princeton? Find out Wednesday

ppsA public forum to assess progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2018 Equity Audit Report for the Princeton Public Schools will be held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 4 pm in the John Witherspoon Middle School (217 Walnut Lane, Princeton), in the All-Purpose Room (ACC).

The event is organized by the Youth Advisers of Not in Our Town Princeton, the local anti-racism organization, in partnership with the Princeton Public Schools. With the participation of school administrators, teachers from the schools’ equity teams, members of the Civil Rights Commission, and Board of Education, the forum aims to assess progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Equity Audit Report issued in 2018 and will include both pre-submitted questions from students and questions from the audience.

“We really wanted students and community members to hear about the progress that the district has made around equity from the people who have been doing the hands-on work to try to move the schools forward. They are the ones who can truly speak to where the district has grown in terms of working on equity and where it still needs to improve,” said Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz, one of the forum organizers. “We have really appreciated the commitment and willingness of the district to helping us coordinate this discussion.”

Introducing the report by Marceline DuBose, the educational equity consultant who conducted the audit during the 2017-18 school year, Superintendent Steve Cochrane wrote, “Equity is the most essential goal of the Princeton Public School District. . . . The work ahead of us to diversify our curriculum, diversify our staff, overcome bias, and foster inclusion is not easy or quick.”  How far the district has come in one year is what the forum organizers hope to determine.

Says Rubin-Stankiewicz: This event is free to the public so please come out and share your thoughts on the one-year progress of educational equity at PPS !

 

“God will be there for you”

arms up IMG_2546 - edited steveMy current delight is the children’s musical directed (and co-authored) by Tom Shelton and “preached” to Princeton United Methodist Church on February 24. The musical theme is God will be there for you,” and to hear it from these young voices is very meaningful to me.

A couple of these children have significant talent, and all of them are expertly trained by a real expert. They are a joy to see and hear. Here is a picture album for “Lost Then Found” by Camilla Pruitt and Tom Shelton.

Here is the video from when the children reprised  the musical on Monday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Bristol Chapel on the Westminster Choir College campus.

Part 1 https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fprincetonumc%2Fvideos%2F2350427265172381%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>

The second part The https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fprincetonumc%2Fvideos%2F2607272262633589%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Third part.

Then they take it to Stonebridge at Montgomery on Wednesday, March 16 at 4:30. Anyone is welcome to come to either.  Like a groupie, I’ll be there both times!

Black History Month: Bermuda

Cobbs Hill Methodist Church: 

“This one room place of worship was built block by block by the slaves and the free blacks, and completed in 1827 after two years of rigorous work. Bermuda stones were used from the local quarries to build the church. Most of the work was done during their free time at night. “

In contrast

At St. Peter’s Church

Free or enslaved blacks COULD worship with the Episcopalians (they drove the carriages of their owners?) but were in the balcony at the oldest continually used Anglican church in the western hemisphere: 

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At St. Peter’s church, blacks could worship in the gallery where the organ now is. Photo provided by the church.

 Both are on the African Diaspora Heritage Trail  

Both will be filled with worshippers this Sunday. 

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In lieu of a card

 

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My Christmas Card: before dawn, Rochester New York

I probably won’t get around to answering your cards this year, again. Sometimes I have sent New Year’s cards. Or Valentines. Or St. Patrick’s Day cards. 

Instead, here is a list of resources that are helping me face 2019.

At Princeton United Methodist Church, we have embarked on a series called Relationships and Faith, based in part on materials from the Arbinger Institute. to  learn the difference between an Inward Mindset and an Outward Mindset. Pastor Jenny Smith Walz is undertaking the important and difficult task — to talk about difficult questions of gender and race within the church. Her challenging sermon series, titled “The Beloved Community,”  begins this month, focusing on “What God wants for God’s people.”  The ongoing study has workbooks available in the church office. Also here is a link to one of the Arbinger books,

I am also led to discover, and embrace, the work of Julia Cameron. Known for founding  The Artist’s Way, Cameron recommends — nay, requires — those pursuing creativity to write “Morning Pages,” three pages written in the morning, first thing, to clear the addlement from one’s brain. I found my first Cameron book in one of those “free libraries” on the street in DC in October, and it has taken me this long to convince myself it might work.

For the evening, I am trying to use a journaling system called Vertellis Chapters,  This “mix of mindfulness and stoicism practices” is a Netherlands-based journaling system (the Dutch are so smart!) and I found it at my favorite shopping spot – online.

Then, my old favorite, is the Upper Room Disciplines. a book of daily devotions based on the lectionary — the Bible passages read throughout the Christian church. So often, that commentary, that scripture, speaks to a current sadness or gladness of the day. My small group at PrincetonUMC, the Monday Morning Group, uses these readings for informal study.

Am I reading these, writing these, studying these consistently every day? No. 

George was a habit-driven person and I am the exact opposite. He did exercises daily without fail. When it comes to doing exercises daily, I mostly fail. 

But I am trying to create these habits. And I feel led to share them with whoever is out there, just as Jenny, Ginny, Gerri, Aimee, Anthony, Ineke, Judi, Mary Lib, Pat, Deborah, Susannah and so so many more have shared their inspirations with me.  

 

 

 

Executive male or black teen?

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Graph of MIT survey courtesy of NZHerald

Princeton engineering professor Alain Kornhauser might seem to dominate discussions of driverless cars; he’s making them and leading the dialogue on their controversies.

Now Princeton prof and Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman has been linked to the ethics of how driverless cars make their decisions about who to hit – cats or people? pregnant women or old man? In this article, Kahneman is cited re his experiment on the psychology of health decisions that extrapolates to the choices that driverless cars will make.

Quoting the Washington Post and NZ Herald (note the British spellings!)

The way questions are framed can often have an impact on the final decision that’s made. The behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman illustrated this through a thought experiment in which the outbreak of an unusual disease was expected to kill 600 people.

Respondents, in this case, were offered two potential health programmes. In programme A, subjects were told they had a 100 per cent chance of saving 200 lives. Programme B offered a one-third chance of saving 600 lives and two-thirds possibility of saving no lives.

In this scenario, most people went for programme A – the guarantee of saving 200 lives.

However, when Kahneman switched the scenario to lives lost rather than lives saved, the choice respondents made was completely different.

When they were asked to choose between the 100 per cent chance of the death of 400 people or programme B (which remained unchanged), most respondents opted for the latter despite the fact that programme A was unchanged in both scenarios.

What Kahneman illustrated was that moral decisions can be swayed by the way in which the questioning is phrased.

Kahneman doesn’t decide. He illustrates the complexity of the decision. What I am asking? Will driverless cars “see” race? 

Princeton Cop: in Dallas, Doing WHAT?

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Photo by Carli Geraci, Dallas Morning News

You could take this as another example of how the whimsical statues of Seward Johnson can amuse passersby all over the world.

The work of the 88-year-old sculptor, J&J heir, and founder of Grounds for Sculpture is scattered all over Princeton. At Princeton hospital, the figures of the caregiver tending the little old lady always give me a start, no matter how many times I’ve encountered them.

In 1983, using a Princeton police officer as a model, Johnson fashioned a statue of a nearly six-foot cop writing a parking ticket. Titled “Time’s Up,” it is one of seven castings, and it was installed at a Dallas shopping center, Central Market, by Lincoln Property Company.

How cute, you might say, especially since another whimsical touch, the eggplant, is nearby.

But since social justice is one of my concerns, I think there could be another motive. If you were an undocumented person — down there in Texas country — how would you react?

Is this just an update of Confederate statues meant to intimidate?

Thanks to Brendan Meyer for the light-hearted reporting, and the amusing details are here. The paranoid insinuations are mine.

(Aside to Princeton residents, don’t worry about current cops issuing parking tickets until after Christmas or even January. According to my ‘reliable sources,’ because of the confusing new system,’ the meter cops are issuing only warnings. But don’t tell the tourists — we need the revenue.)