Category Archives: multicultural

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).

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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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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? 

From England to Princeton to Saint Louis: William Morris

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“Mrs. Siddons from the series ‘The Economy of Grace'” and detail image of Blackthorn-inspired wallpaper Photographs by Monica Bowen.

Since I learned that the design for Princeton United Methodist Church, built in 1909, has its roots in William Morris’s Arts and Crafts Movement, I have been trying to learn more about it,  And my friend, Mary Pat Robertson, enlivens my research by posting Instagram pictures from England.

Now I find that Barack Obama’s portrait artist, Kehinda Wiley, is also influenced by William Morris, as described here by critic Monica Bowen, courtesy Nancy Marshall’s post on the Arts and Crafts Movement Facebook page.  

Wiley came to the streets of Saint Louis and Ferguson and painted 11 original portraits of people that he met. From the website of the Saint Louis Art Museum:  Kehinde Wiley creates large-scale oil paintings of contemporary African American subjects in poses that recall grand traditions of European and American portraiture. His models—real people dressed in their own clothing—assume poses adapted from historic paintings. Wiley’s portraits often feature ornate and decorative backgrounds, elements of which surround and sometimes weave around his subjects. His works address the politics of race and power in art, drawing attention to the pervasive lack of representation of people of color in the art world. The exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum continues through February 19, 2018 and admission is free.

So two of my passions – Princeton UMC’s architecture and stained glass windows and the study of African American culture, based on experiences with Not in Our Town Princeton –– now intersect.

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Carvings on the oak pews; At Princeton United Methodist Church, with roots in the Arts and Crafts Movement, attention was paid to every detail.

Calling White Evangelicals to Stand Against Racism

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Ten days before the national observance of the Stand Against Racism day, a leader of evangelical Christians sent a wakeup call to conservative Christians everywhere: Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary addressed  leaders gathered at Wheaton College (Illinois). In multi-faceted, far-reaching remarks, he defined white supremacy and attributed it to Christian leaders past and current.  

To get details on YWCA Princeton’s plans for Stand Against Racism day, click here. 

To read his address, “Political Dealing, the Crisis of Evangelicalism,”  click here.  Main points: 

This is not a crisis imposed from outside the household of faith, but from within.

This is not a crisis taking place at the level of language.

This is not a crisis unfolding at the level of group allegiance, denomination, or affiliation.

This is not a recent crisis but a historic one. . .”Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves. . .

First is the issue of power.  …”The apparent evangelical alignment with the use of power that seeks dominance, control, supremacy, and victory over compassion and justice associates Jesus with the strategies of Caesar, not with the good news of the gospel.,,

Second is the issue of race. …”White history narrates the story of America’s heroes, and white evangelical history views those “good guys” as the providence of a good and faithful God.  When some white evangelicals triumphantly pronounce that we now have “the best president the religious right ever had,” the crisis it underscores to millions of people of color is not an indictment of our President as much as it is an indictment of white evangelicalism and a racist gospel…

Third is the issue of nationalism. …”For white evangelicals to embrace a platform and advocacy that promotes, prioritizes, and defends America above all and over all is to embrace an idolatry that has only ever proven disastrous…

Fourth is the issue of economics.  …”When white evangelicals in prominent and wealthy places speak about what is fair and beneficial for society, but then pass laws and tax changes that create more national indebtedness and elevate the top 1% even higher—while cutting services and provisions for children, the disabled, and the poor that are castigated as disgusting “entitlements”—one has to ask how this is reconciled with being followers of Jesus…

Labberton hopes that evangelicals can change their racist views and cites Matthew 28, the account of the Great Commission. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Labberton points out that Jesus gave the Great Commission even to those who doubted, those who might have been considered unworthy. “So perhaps he can also still use American evangelicals as well.”

Though I  personally focus on trying to help the people of this world come to know their God better — and some say that is evangelizing — I oppose the rigid beliefs of evangelical theology. Nevertheless I applaud Labberton’s urging the conservative Christian community to study its responsibility for white supremacy, definable as “a system which manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.”

The organization I support, Not in Our Town Princeton, aims to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems which have enabled white supremacy to flourish. We are trying to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all.  

As NIOT Princeton’s website says, “listen to your heart, figure out whether you can contribute time, talent, tithe, or some combination of all three, and then STEP UP! And tell all your friends how your commitment to racial justice is reflected in your calendar, your checkbook, and your conversations. The website offers resources, one place to begin. 

Or come to the rally this Friday. 

 

 

 

 

Suspension? or Restorative Justice

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Guest post by Eileen Sinett for the website Not in Our Town Princeton. 

On April 12, 2018, at John Witherspoon Middle School, Dr. Anne Gregory of Rutgers University shared her research on restorative justice.  Restorative justice is an alternative method of treating students who are perceived to be defiant, disrespectful, and insubordinate. Instead of punishment in the form of suspension, restorative justice focuses on social and emotional learning as an attempt to improve and correct student behavior.  Rather than “exiling” a student through suspension, restorative justice helps students understand their thoughts and behavior, the harm it may cost others, and the healing that’s necessary to remain in school and to learn. The students confront their mistakes, are held accountable and are more likely to remain in school to graduate.

Dr. Gregory shared data showing that students with repeated suspensions are 20% less likely to graduate from high school or go to college and 3 times more likely to get in trouble with the police. Traditional disciplinary methods involving suspension and other punitive measures tend to support the “school to prison pipeline.”

The two groups most at risk for repeated school suspension are Black males and students with disabilities, both male and female.  In one study, teachers were asked to observe a video of a preschool class and determine which children were more likely become troublemakers.  The teachers wore glasses with eye-tracking software, allowing researchers to track eye movements.  The study showed that the observers tracked Black children more than White children, even though no disruptive behavior was demonstrated by any of the children. The experiment revealed implicit racial bias on the part of the teacher/observers.

There is evidence that restorative justice programs are helping students stay in school and become more active and engaged learners.  Developing social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, self-awareness (including implicit bias), and self-management (regulating emotions) for both staff and students are keys to the success of restorative justice.

Interventions involve Community Building Circles, where students and staff share vulnerabilities and have their voice heard. More intensive interventions involve restorative dialogue and re-entry circles. The goals are similar, to build trust and community, be supported emotionally and socially, make informed decisions, stay in the school system, and become better students.

Like all new initiatives, restorative justice programs have their problems. However, having committed leadership, staff training and prioritizing relationships over rules, and self-management over suspension are critical to success.

Reported by Eileen Sinett for the website Not in Our Town Princeton.