Education is very important in the United States. Many people are concerned about the quality of education that students are receiving in the United States. Providing equal educational opportunities to all students, regardless of their backgrounds, socioeconomic status, or geographic location, is fundamental to ensuring a just and fair society. However, the current state of equitable education in the US reveals persistent disparities and challenges that need to be addressed.
In order to ensure equitable education, it is critical to ensure that schools have adequate funding and resources. Many schools in low-income communities lack adequate funding and resources, resulting in overcrowded classrooms, outdated textbooks, limited access to technology, and insufficient support services. This resource gap widens the educational divide between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers, impeding their academic progress and limiting their future opportunities.
Moreover, there are significant disparities in educational outcomes based on race and ethnicity. Students from historically marginalized groups, such as Black, Latinx, and Native American students, face disproportionate barriers to quality education. They often encounter systemic biases, such as deficit perspectives on their languages and ways of learning, curriculum which does not reflect their cultural knowledge, racial discrimination, and limited access to advanced courses, all of which hinders their academic achievement and reduces their chances of pursuing higher education.
Another critical aspect of equitable education is the opportunity gap. Students in underserved communities often lack access to quality early childhood education, which is crucial for their cognitive and social development. In addition, disparities in access to extracurricular activities, advanced courses, and college counseling prevent many students from achieving their full potential. These disparities create an ongoing cycle of inequality, constraining students' potential and perpetuating social and economic gaps.
Addressing the challenges of equitable education requires a comprehensive approach. Policy interventions that prioritize equitable funding formulas, ensuring adequate resources for schools serving disadvantaged communities, are crucial. Increased investment in early childhood education and targeted programs to support at-risk students can help close the opportunity gap and provide a strong foundation for learning.
Furthermore, efforts should focus on creating inclusive and culturally responsive learning environments. Culturally relevant curricula, diverse teaching staff, and the incorporation of students' diverse backgrounds and experiences into the learning process can foster a sense of belonging and enhance educational outcomes for all students.
To bridge the digital divide, it is essential to expand access to technology and high-speed internet in underserved areas. This idea will enable students to leverage online resources, participate in virtual learning, and develop digital literacy skills, which are increasingly critical in today's interconnected world.
Lastly, it is crucial to provide educators with ongoing training and support on equity, diversity, and inclusion to create inclusive and culturally aware classrooms. Equipping educators with the necessary tools and knowledge to identify and address implicit biases can contribute to fair treatment and better outcomes for all students.
While progress has been made in advancing equitable education in the US, there is still much work to be done. It requires a collective effort from policymakers, educators, communities, and stakeholders to dismantle systemic barriers and create an educational system that indeed provides equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their background or circumstances. By prioritizing equitable education, the US can strive towards a society where every child has the chance to thrive and succeed.
The Power of Mothers
Mother's Day is a special occasion celebrated worldwide to honor and appreciate the incredible contributions of mothers and women in our lives. It is a day when we take a moment to recognize the unconditional love, selflessness, and dedication that mothers embody. This annual tribute allows us to express our gratitude for the immeasurable impact they have on our personal growth, happiness, and overall well-being.
Mothers play a remarkable role in shaping our lives from the very beginning. From the moment we are conceived, they provide us with warmth, nourishment, and protection within their own bodies. As we grow and develop, they continue to offer unwavering support, serving as our first teachers and guiding us through life's triumphs and challenges. They are the ones who cheer for us on the sidelines, wipe away our tears, and believe in our dreams, even when we doubt ourselves.
Appreciating mothers is not limited to biological ties alone. There are countless women in our lives who embody the spirit of motherhood. Whether they are grandmothers, aunts, sisters, or close family friends, these women often step in and fill the role of a nurturing figure, providing love and care when we need it most. Their presence is a constant reminder of the strength and resilience that women possess.
On this day, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices mothers make. They put their own needs and desires aside to ensure the well-being and happiness of their children. Their unconditional love knows no bounds, as they dedicate their time, energy, and resources to create a nurturing environment. They become our personal cheerleaders, celebrating our successes and comforting us in times of failure. Their words of wisdom and encouragement resonate with us throughout our lives, shaping our character and inspiring us to become the best versions of ourselves.
Mother's Day reminds us to express our gratitude and affection towards these extraordinary women. We can show appreciation through simple gestures like writing heartfelt cards, preparing their favorite meals, or surprising them with thoughtful gifts. However, it is equally important to remember that appreciation for mothers and women should extend beyond a single day. We must honor their contributions throughout the year, recognizing their strength, intellect, and achievements in all aspects of life.
In addition to our own mothers and mother figures, let us also celebrate the accomplishments of women around the world. Women have played pivotal roles in history, breaking barriers and challenging societal norms to pave the way for future generations. Their resilience, determination, and compassion continue to shape our world in remarkable ways.
Mother's Day serves as a reminder to appreciate not only the mothers in our lives but also the countless women who have made a difference. Let us cherish their unwavering support, applaud their achievements, and stand beside them as they continue to break boundaries and inspire future generations. Today and every day, let us celebrate the strength, love, and immeasurable contributions of mothers and women.
Publication: Psychology Today
New York Times
Mark Mwandoro & Sarah Hobson
The history of Black people is a rich and complex tapestry of experiences and contributions that have shaped the course of world events and societies throughout history. Despite facing systemic racism, discrimination, and inequality, Black communities have always found ways to resist, to create, and to lead. This spirit of resilience and perseverance has had a profound impact on the world, fueling innovation and inspiring solutions to some of our most pressing societal challenges.
One of the most notable examples of Black innovation and leadership can be seen in the field of science and technology. Despite facing significant barriers and obstacles, Black scientists and inventors have made countless contributions to our understanding of the world and to the development of new technologies. For example, George Washington Carver, a prominent Black scientist and inventor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, made important contributions to the field of agriculture and developed new methods for growing crops that helped to improve the lives of farmers in the southern United States. Another notable Black inventor, Granville T. Woods, was a prolific inventor and engineer who patented a number of important innovations in the field of transportation and communication, including an early version of the induction telegraph and a system for transmitting messages between moving trains.
Black innovation and leadership can also be seen in the arts and culture. Throughout history, Black artists and musicians have used their talents to challenge injustice, inspire change, and bring people together. For example, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was a cultural movement that brought together Black artists, writers, and musicians from across the United States and helped to lay the foundations for modern Black art and culture. Similarly, Black musicians have created some of the most iconic and influential music of the 20th century, including jazz, blues, and hip hop, and have used their music as a platform to address social and political issues and to inspire change.
Finally, Black activism and leadership have been a driving force for change throughout history. From the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, Black leaders and activists have fought tirelessly for civil rights, equality, and justice, leading movements that have changed the course of history. For example, figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela are widely recognized for their contributions to the struggle for civil rights and social justice, and their efforts have inspired countless others to continue the fight for a more just and equitable world.
Black women have been a core component of the civil rights movement. Some notable Black female figures include Harriet Tubman, a former slave and abolitionist who became one of the most well-known "conductors" on the Underground Railroad; Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist, women's rights activist, and former slave who delivered one of the most famous speeches of the 19th century, "Ain't I a Woman?"; Maya Angelou, a writer, poet, performer, and civil rights activist who used her art to speak out against injustice and oppression; Ella Baker, a civil rights leader and organizer who worked behind the scenes to support the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other organizations during the Civil Rights Movement; and Ida B. Wells, a journalist, suffragist, and early civil rights leader who used her writing to expose the horrors of lynching and to advocate for the rights of Black people. Among a broad array of pressing community needs, Black women across the United States have consistently come together to raise awareness about unequal health care conditions, environmental hazards, public housing injustices and exploitative work conditions and wages. Their collective action, legislation, and leadership has influenced national policies and has held government, business, and school institutions accountable to improving the life opportunities for many across the country.
In conclusion, the history of Black people is a story of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, a story of innovation and leadership, and a story of the human spirit's ability to create positive change in the world. By embracing this history and understanding its significance, we can learn how to join Black leaders in advancing much-needed change.
1. Carver, George Washington. (n.d.). George Washington Carver. National Park Service. Retrieved February 11, 2023,
2. Granville T. Woods. (2021). The Henry Ford. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-resources/black-history/granville-t-woods/
3. The Harlem Renaissance. (2021). National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/featured-project/the-harlem-renaissance
4. King, M. L. (1963). Letter from Birmingham Jail. The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/letter-birmingham-jail
5. Nelson Mandela. (2021). Nelson Mandela Foundation. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.nelsonmandela.org/
6. Sojourner Truth. (2021). National Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/sojourner-truth/
7. Tubman, Harriet. (n.d.). Harriet Tubman. National Park Service. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.nps.gov/hatu/learn/historyculture/index.htm
8. Maya Angelou. (2021). Poetry Foundation. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/maya-angelou
9. Ella Baker. (2021). The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://ellabakercenter.org/ella-baker/
10. Ida B. Wells. (2021). Ida B. Wells Foundation. Retrieved February 11, 2023, from https://www.idabwells.org/
11. Ervin, Keona, K. (2017). Gateway to Equality: Black women and the struggle for economic justice in St. Louis Civil Rights and the struggle for Black equality in the twentieth century. The University Press of Kentucky.
Redlining and Curbing Gun Violence
Gun violence in the United States is an epidemic that affects all communities.
There are many in and outside of churches in our country who feel called in every way to be a protector of women, children, and communities and who are carefully trained in operating guns safely and with mastery to do just that.
Many churches and Christians believe that it has been God's will to ensure that each American has the right to bear arms and to defend themselves if necessary and to hold a federal or local government in check.
"The link between guns and faith is inescapable; People want a feeling of existential security and religions have historically provided that in very powerful ways. For many Americans, firearms do the same" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
Whatever a church’s or a person’s stance on the right to bear arms, "religious communities play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence, including by advocating for commonsense gun reforms using a variety of tools driven by both a sense of ethical obligation and concern for the safety of their communities" (Mark Mwandoro, Marketing Director).
We all need to come together to bring what we know in the service of preventing the cultural influences that are perpetuating gun violence, especially in communities still facing redlining in homeownership, employment, access to healthcare, transportation, clean air and water, and reliable police protection. Redlining means black, brown, and white people living in redlined communities have literally been denied access to each of these resources – through our laws and our practices.
As a result of redlining, in the 2020 Census, the homeownership rate for Black Americans was 43.4%, for Latinx it was 51.5%, and for White Americans it was 72.1%. In 2020 in MO, 72% of white families owned homes; 40% of Black families owned homes. The national rate of increase in homeownership for Black families (1.4%) in 2020 was lower than it was in 2010. Black families are the only racial group to go down in the rate at which they are pursuing homeownership over the past 10 years. (2022 National Association of Realtors, Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America).
“In the United States, the average Black and Hispanic or Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth.” (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Oct. 22, 2021) What this means is that Black, non-Latinx families have an average net wealth of around 150K compared to white families whose average net worth is about 900K.
Our national history of segregation and redlining has not only meant white middle to upper class communities have always received the best in homeownership and property taxes that fuel resourced education, transportation, and employment opportunities, but also, white families have been able to invest in housing, business, education and every resource they need to grow wealth they can pass on to their children.
Redlined communities (not only urban but also rural and some suburban) not only face the removal of these sustainable resources. Redlined people live with community members who have lost faith in our American society which favors those from communities who have always benefitted from stabilizing resources (the best housing, education, employment, and access to years of economic capital which continues to accrue). They long to see the rest of America do everything in its power to ensure they have equal opportunity for employment, housing and other sustainable resources.
They face the ramifications of living in vulnerable destabilized communities where non-law abiding employment options bring drugs, alcohol and weapons right into the center of their lives. Here, our young people grow up with way too much fear of being gunned down and have stories that never end related to the layers of trauma they are daily carrying from the gun violence impacting them and their families. They and their families are navigating histories of trauma and daily traumas they are carrying while they navigate minimum wage jobs and societal cultural barriers that still make moving into safer and more stabilized communities challenging.
Those inside and outside of churches who support the right to bear arms and who know guns well and have a heart to protect are so needed in the efforts to curb redlining and other violence that permeates our country. There is so much that is not taught in schools that we have to pursue together by learning our different experiences of this country, especially the history of violence black and brown communities are still experiencing as it was written into federal housing histories and as it permeates to today.
These housing histories ensured black and brown families would not access stabilizing resources such as homeownership and business capital. These housing histories are joined by land zoning laws and policing legislation that permitted black and brown people to be contained to small, under resourced neighborhoods (Gordon, 2008). These zoning and policing laws also permitted white communities to use single-family zoning and police to prevent black and brown people from living in or coming into their communities (Gordon, 2008).
These histories contributed to the prevention of equal legal protections and equal opportunities and support for employment and access to all needed sustainable resources. These housing histories are exacerbated by cultural biases that lean towards white people and Euro-centric privileging of standard English that cast deficit perspectives on many.
We as a society need to hear what our littlest black, brown, and many white children are living with each and every day. We as a society need to learn what our black, brown and many white teens know about how guns are impacting them and their families and neighborhoods.
When we have the courage to step outside of the narratives our political parties and medias feed us and our religious institutions into the actual lives and stories of our young people, we also learn how to be the best protectors we can be of all of our youth, families and communities.
We are meant to be one America. Not an America of Americans who seek to protect their own races, classes, and ethnicities and neighborhoods at the expense of others, but an America that does the heart work needed to learn the value in every single person because of their race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We have so much to share with one another from the riches of our cultural identities. We all want to see our youth, families, and communities thriving.
We are meant to come together to undo histories of segregation and forces that love to pit us against one another – these forces silence conversation and we all end up becoming victimized into keeping the gun violence we all are experiencing in place.
In any conversation on gun laws, when instead of starting with mandating our own many rights and freedoms, we instead orient towards what our rights and freedoms in the context of histories of redlining actually mean for the most vulnerable in our nation, we have taken the first step into the real solutions waiting for us. We have taken the first step towards the kind of community building across all of our perspectives and experiences that helps us become learners together who can look at all of the data together, including our stories and forge new logical, balanced, common sense, and innovative possibilities for all of our communities.
To learn more about this history in powerful trainings that help us come together to solve these and other pressing problems in and through our companies, schools, universities, non-profits and governments, see our Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ trainings.
Gordon, C. (2008). Mapping decline: St. Louis and the fate of the American city. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Feds Notes (Oct. 22, 2021). Wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap. (Retrieved from Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/wealth-inequality-and-the-racial-wealth-gap-20211022.htm)
National Association of Realtors (Feb. 2022). Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America. (Retrieved from https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-snapshot-of-race-and-home-buying-in-the-us-04-26-2022.pdf)
What's Next for America?
When will it ever stop?
The shootings, the violence, the deaths?
“Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop a mass shooting in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t ‘too soon.’ It’s much too late.” - Ezra Klein (Harvey, 2022).
Over the past few years, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Time and time again, news of another mass shooting hits our headlines. Part of our healing must be the conviction that we will do everything in our power to keep these tragedies from happening in a nation that continues to face a pandemic of gun violence (Fleshman, 2022). We must work to prevent the daily death by guns as well as the mass shootings that claim so may lives of Americans.
A shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, left seven dead and at least 47 injured. Well, here is the thing, the authorities in Philadelphia are unsure of whether the bullets were fired in malicious attack or in jubilation of the July 4thcelebrations (Richardson, 2022). The results of the shooting are the same as all others: Americans dead, some wounded and the perpetual fear of the risk of being killed in a shootout. Upturned folding chairs, miniature flags flapping in the breeze and the still visible police barricades are what was left of patriotic fervor that quickly turned into abject panic.
In Orlando, the authorities state that there were no shots fired, but when the people at the celebrations heard what they thought could be gunshots, they began to scream and scatter in a stampede.
The trauma of gun violence doesn’t end when the shooting stops; gun violence has lasting emotional, physical, legal, and financial impacts on survivors as well as their communities. America’s gun death rate, which is 13 times higher than that of other high-income countries, makes us a global outlier. Every year, more than 40,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence, and approximately 85,000 more are shot and wounded. That is the equivalent of over 110 people shot and killed each day in the United States, with more than 200 others shot and wounded (Everytown Research & Policy, 2022).
On Wednesday, the House endorsed some of the most aggressive gun-control measures taken up on Capitol Hill in years. It has taken several decades, but at least there is some hope of change regarding gun control in America. There are proposals to raise the minimum age for the purchase of most semiautomatic rifles to 21 and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines in a bid to curb the recent high-profile mass shootings (DeBonis, 2022). Five Republicans joined most Democrats in backing the legislation and two Democrats voted no. This was necessary to show Americans that more can be done to prevent not only mass-casualty incidents such as the killings last month in Buffalo and Uvalde, but the hundreds of less deadly mass shootings and everyday incidents of gun violence that have long scourged America.
The Senate is also exploring means of encouraging states to create red-flag systems, a modest expansion of background checks to incorporate juvenile records, as well as funding for mental health programs and school security improvements.
DeBonis, M. (2022, June 8). House passes tough new gun measures hours after wrenching testimony. Retrieved from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/08/house-gun-legislation/
Everytown Research & Policy. (2022, February 3). When the Shooting Stops. Retrieved from Everytown Research & Policy: https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-impact-of-gun-violence-on-survivors-in-america/
Fleshman, M. (2022). Gun Violence Must Stop. Here's What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths. Retrieved from Prevention Institute: https://www.preventioninstitute.org/focus-areas/preventing-violence-and-reducing-injury/preventing-violence-advocacy
Harvey, B. (2022, May 26). 28 Quotes About Gun Violence To Inspire Change. Retrieved from Goodgoodgood: https://www.goodgoodgood.co/articles/gun-violence-quotes
Patrick Jonsson, N. R. (2022, June 6). Has the gun become a sacred object in America? Retrieved from The Christian Science Monitor: https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2022/0606/Has-the-gun-become-a-sacred-object-in-America
Perry, S. L. (2022, MAY 25). School Shootings Confirm That Guns Are the Religion of the Right. Retrieved from Time: https://time.com/6181342/school-shootings-christian-right-guns/
Richardson, M. (2022, July 5). The Fourth of July 2022, a day of violence and fear in America. Retrieved from Grid: https://www.grid.news/story/global/2022/07/05/the-fourth-of-july-2022-a-day-of-violence-and-fear-in-america/
4th of July Story
Happy Independence Day, USA!
It's that time of year again — the time when we all look up to the skies and watch a spectacular display of fireworks with a feeling of pride over our country, The United States of America.
The 4th of July is an all-important American holiday that dates back to July 4, 1776.
So, what do we really celebrate on this day? Well, this wasn’t the day that independence was declared nor the day that the Declaration was officially signed.
The 4th of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies (Almanac, 2022). The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence and that is when we celebrate the birth of the United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule. The document was originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with fellow committee members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and William Livingston. The Congress had voted in favor of independence from Great Britain on July 2 but did not complete the process of revising the Declaration of Independence (Waldstreicher, 2022).
This national holiday is marked by patriotic displays similar to other summer-themed events. Celebrations often take place outdoors with many politicians making it a point to appear at public events to praise the nation's heritage, laws, history, society, and people. Traditionally, Independence Day is observed with parades, concerts, outdoor food, and fireworks. Fireworks have been part and parcel of U.S. Independence Day celebrations since its first celebration in July 1777.
In celebration of the 40th Fair Saint Louis and in recognition of the St. Louis region’s collaborative efforts to overcome the pandemic, Fair Saint Louis 2022 will hold a three-day extravaganza that will feature action-packed entertainment that includes family-friendly attractions, numerous concerts, concessions, and a special mainstage Salute to the Troops and Folds of Honor ceremony (Explore St. Louis, 2022). The Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular will be framed by the iconic Gateway Arch and dazzle over the Mississippi River which will be the largest fireworks show Fair Saint Louis has ever produced.
Almanac. (2022, June 27). Happy Independence Day, America! Retrieved from ALMANAC: https://www.almanac.com/content/independence-day-fourth-of-july
Explore St. Louis. (2022, June 8). Fourth of July in St. Louis. Retrieved from explore St Louis: Fourth of July in St. Louis
Waldstreicher, D. (2022). Independence Day. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Independence-Day-United-States-holiday
Why are the ties that bind American gun owners to their firearms so deep?
Does America love its guns more than its people?
Guns are deeply ingrained in American society and the nation’s political debates. Americans are fascinated by weapons and the US is awash with guns. Guns have always been a symbol of power for Americans. They go back to when the white settlers used them to subdue the native Americans and to keep the African Americans as slaves. The National Rifles Association (NRA), is the strongest pro-gun political lobby in the US with an annual budget of $250 billion (Outlook, 2022).
American attitudes on gun ownership date back to the American Revolutionary War, traditions of hunting, militias, and frontier living. The American hunting or sporting passion comes from a time when shooting skills and survival among rural American men were a necessity and were considered a rite of passage for those entering manhood. Today, modern-day Americans take hunting as a component of gun culture to control animal populations across the country. For early Americans, survival against foreign armies and hostile Native Americans was dependent on one's ability to use a weapon, most often a firearm. Today, many Americans believe that owning a gun is a necessity for self-protection. America has had a long-standing history with guns that still stands strong to date.
The US is leading with the highest number of privately owned guns in the entire world and gun ownership is constitutionally protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution; with the ratio standing at 120.5 guns per 100 residents (Times of India, 2022). Well, it is clear from that ratio that there are more guns than people. The gun culture of the United States can be described as unique among developed countries in terms of the large number of firearms owned by civilians, generally permissive regulations, and the high levels of gun violence.
Americans don't just have more guns than anyone else; they also have the highest gun ownership per capita rate in the world; twice as many guns per person as do Yemenis, who live in a conflict-torn Arab nation still dealing with poverty, political unrest, a separatist Shia insurgency, and the aftereffects of a 1994 civil war (Fisher, 2012).
An unbearable sight in Texas led to a discussion about gun laws nationwide. An 18-year-old fatally shot nineteen students and two teachers and wounded seventeen other people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, United States. There have been dozens of shootings and other attacks in the US schools and colleges over the years, but until the massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, the number of the deceased victims tended to be in the single digits (Outlook, 2022).
“We are so sure we know what freedom is in America that we cannot imagine a world in which true freedom might come after the sacrifice of personal rights. Freedom is sending your kids to school with confidence that they will come home at the end of the day.” — Taylor Schumann, author of When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough (Harvey, 2022).
In Missouri, the state repealed legislation that required background checks when purchasing handguns. In 2016, the General Assembly reversed another law allowing open carry, and the state doesn’t have a minimum age requirement for buying a firearm (Manley, 2022). Minors can own handguns and long guns but under federal law, a person must be 18 or older to possess a handgun and be 21 to buy one. The city of St. Louis has ordinances that prohibit open carry within their city limits, even though the city still operates under Missouri state law, which permits open carry. The city tends to be less gun-friendly and increasingly restrictive in its interpretation of state statutes.
This legislation has made it easier for young people who come from families that have experienced steady and systematic redlining in the form of reduction of access to mortgages, small business loans, transportation, employment, and other wealth-building and stabilizing measures (eminent domain take-overs of their homes is a steady reality; trauma is a daily reality) to get their hands on guns at too young an age.
Gun violence is killing an increasing number of American children, from toddlers caught in crossfires to teenagers gunned down in turf wars, drug squabbles, or social media squabbles. Children and teens continue to become victims of gun violence in the City of St. Louis. Nearly 90% of the 262 homicides in St Louis in 2020 were committed with a gun, and the homicide rate was 16 times higher than the national average.
In 2019, the city alone accounted for 30% of Missouri’s total homicides, despite having 5% of the state’s total population (Gillfords, 2022). St. Louis has led America in per-capita child murders by county, since 2012; this means that Americans under the age of eighteen are eight times more likely to be killed in St. Louis than in the rest of the country. In 2019, the city witnessed thirteen child homicides, the most in a decade (Tucker, 2021).
Mass shootings that have become commonplace in the US frequently lead to public outrage and mass protests with calls for serious background checks on gun sales, which are repeatedly shut down by strong republican led opposition. Firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents (Times of India, 2022). Other developed countries are perplexed by the lax gun laws in America and believe that the American public should push for harsher gun control measures in the face of mass shootings.
“Gun violence feels too big, too powerful to stop. But it’s not too big for you to take some real, meaningful actions. You control what you decide you can live with, and what you can't. You can choose whether you do something, or do nothing. You are not powerless,” Jennifer Rosen Heinz (Harvey, 2022).
Fisher, M. (2012, December 15). What makes America’s gun culture totally unique in the world, in four charts. From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2012/12/15/what-makes-americas-gun-culture-totally-unique-in-the-world-as-demonstrated-in-four-charts/
Gillfords. (2022, February 17). Addressing Community Violence in the City of St. Louis. From Gillfords:
Harvey, B. (2022, May 26). 28 Quotes About Gun Violence To Inspire Change. From GOODGOODGOOD: https://www.goodgoodgood.co/articles/gun-violence-quotes
Manley, E. (2022, May 25). What are the gun laws in Missouri? From Fox2Now: https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/what-are-the-guns-laws-in-missouri/#:~:text=In%20Missouri%2C%20minors%20can%20own,and%20no%20training%20is%20required.
Outlook. (2022, May 27). Explained: How Americans Have Learnt To Live With The Gun Culture. From Outlook: https://www.outlookindia.com/international/how-americans-have-learned-to-live-with-the-gun-culture--news-198788
Tucker, J. H. (2021, March 10). St. Louis Leads America in Child Murders — and It's Getting Worse. From RFT: https://www.riverfronttimes.com/news/st-louis-leads-america-in-child-murders-and-its-getting-worse-35132871
Times of India. (2022, May 25). Why America loves its guns more than its people. From The Times of India: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/why-america-loves-its-guns-more-than-its-people/articleshow/91794748.cms
Director of Marketing
"A father is someone you look up to no matter how tall you grow" (Robinson, 2022). Finding the right words or crafting up the perfect message for the fathers and other men who have stepped into the role of a father, in our lives is not always easy as words may not sufficiently express how dear they are to us. The third Sunday of June is a special day dedicated to our heroes to make them feel acknowledged and to let them know their impact on our lives is appreciated.
Anyone can father a child, but being a dad takes a lifetime. Fathers play a role in every child’s life that cannot be filled by others. This role can have a large impact on a child and help shape him or her into the person they become. People mostly talk about how being a mother is hard many a time, but fatherhood can be just as difficult and a crucial part of family life, especially in influencing the way they grow up. The modern stereotype is that dads are either clumsy or outright inadequate at being part of a child’s life, but the media never really portrayed that well.
Fathers are pillars in the development of a child’s emotional well-being. Children look to their fathers for guidance, instruction, security, and inspiration. Notice how most children want to make their fathers proud? Studies have shown that when fathers are affectionate and supportive, it greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development, and instills an overall sense of well-being and self-confidence (PediatricAssociates, 2022). The patterns a father sets in the relationships with his children will dictate how his children relate with other people.
Father’s day coming up may simply seem like the equivalent of Mother’s Day for dads, but the two holidays have very different origins. The holiday can be traced back to 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd, inspired by how her father, a widower, rose to the challenge of raising her and her five siblings alone, thought there should be a special day to recognize dads (Lowe, 2022). To honor her father, she petitioned local government officials, churches, and other local organizations to celebrate Father’s day on 5th June, the anniversary of her father's death, in her native Spokane, Wash (LivingstoneNews, 2022).
Slowly, the holiday spread, and multiple presidents adopted it including Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge. It wasn’t until 1970 that Congress passed a joint resolution that would authorize the president to designate the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
Many men continue to disdain the holiday, citing attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself (History, 2022). During the 1920s and 1930s, there was a widespread campaign to replace mother’s day and father’s day with a single holiday, Parent’s day. It was felt that both parents should be celebrated together to show equal love and respect for them. In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last (History, 2022). Government officials were to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on such day, inviting the governments of the States and communities and the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate pomp.
Presently, Father’s Day has been commercialized with the sending of greeting cards and the giving of gifts. Some observe the custom of wearing a red rose to indicate that one’s father is living or a white rose to indicate that he is deceased. Children give gifts and greeting cards to their fathers and spend the day with them. Many people send or give cards or traditionally masculine gifts such as sports items or clothing, electronic gadgets, outdoor cooking supplies, and tools for household maintenance.
Father’s Day looks different for everyone and can bring up a range of emotions, especially for those who have experienced loss and are still grieving. There’s no reason you can’t still honor someone who has passed unless you don’t want to. This can be a day of reminiscing, doing things that make you feel closer to your father, and honoring their memory. Do things that invite peace and tranquility.
It is a day that commemorates fatherhood and appreciates all fathers and father figures (including grandfathers, great-grandfathers, stepfathers, and foster fathers) as well as their contribution to society.
History. (2022, June 13). Fathers Day 2022. Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/fathers-day
LivingstoneNews. (2022, June 17). A Brief History of Fathers Day. Retrieved from Livingstone County News: https://www.thelcn.com/lifestyles/a-brief-history-of-father-s-day/article_11ceca34-0140-5b14-8f72-7c54f0a10158.html#:~:text=In%201909%2C%20while%20attending%20a,in%20her%20native%20Spokane%2C%20Wash.
Lowe, L. (2022, June 16). What’s the History of Father’s Day, and When Is Father’s Day 2022. Retrieved from Parade: https://parade.com/1035521/lindsaylowe/fathers-day-2022/
PediatricAssociates. (2022). THE IMPORTANCE OF A FATHER IN A CHILD’S LIFE. Retrieved from Pediatric Associates of Franklin: https://www.pediatricsoffranklin.com/resources-and-education/pediatric-care/the-importance-of-a-father-in-a-childs-life/#:~:text=Fathers%2C%20like%20mothers%2C%20are%20pillars,security%2C%20both%20physical%20and%20emotional.
Robinson, K. (2022, June 7). Because sometimes "Happy Father's Day" just isn't enough. Retrieved from Town&Country: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/g10027429/fathers-day-quotes/
The History of Juneteenth
“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.” — Barack Obama (Romper, 2022).
Juneteenth is commemorated annually to mark the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War and has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s (Taylor, 2022). The holiday falls each year on June 19, in honor of an event that occurred in 1865. On June 19th, Major General Gordon Granger and his Union Army troops rode into Galveston, Texas, on horseback and told those who were still enslaved there that they were finally free from the shackles of slavery.
On 22nd September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln declared that as of 1st January 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free. (History, 2020)” The document applied only to enslaved people in the Confederacy, and not to those in the border states that remained loyal to the Union. This document is known as the Emancipation Proclamation.
Following Juneteenth, slavery was officially abolished with the 13th amendment, which was ratified in December 1865. The amendment reads (National Geographic Society, 2020), “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The 13th Amendment was necessary because the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery entirely. In addition to banning slavery, the amendment outlawed the practice of involuntary servitude and peonage.
President Biden signed legislation that made Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2019. The renewed interest in the day was due to the nationwide protests that followed the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement.
Early on, Juneteenth celebrations often involved helping newly freed Black folks learn about their voting rights, rodeos, and horseback riding. Now, Juneteenth celebrations commonly involve cookouts, parades, church services, musical performances, and other public events. It is a time to attend a parade, buy from Black-owned businesses, and read books about Juneteenth.
In St. Louis, Mo, there are events throughout the region to mark the holiday. This year marks St. Louis’ first city-sponsored Juneteenth event. Williams’ b. Marcell Enterprises in partnership with the Missouri Division of Tourism started a program focused on serving young Black girls from marginalized communities through mentorship, education, training, and social activism. The Missouri Botanical Garden will be offering free admission for all in honor of Juneteenth with an interpretive guide to guide the visitors through African Americans' significant contributions to botanical science.
“Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom.” — Jamelle Bouie (Romper, 2022).
History. (2020, January 6). Emancipation Proclamation. Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/emancipation-proclamation
National Geographic Society. (2020). The 13th Amendment To The United States Constitution. Retrieved from National Geographic Society: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/13th-amendment-united-states-constitution
Romper. (2022, June 16). Juneteenth. Retrieved from Romper: https://www.romper.com/life/juneteenth-quotes
Taylor, D. B. (2022, June 20). Juneteenth: The History of a Holiday. Retrieved from The NewYork Times: https://www.nytimes.com/article/juneteenth-day-celebration.html
Sowing to Silence
I don’t know if you are like me, but when COViD hit, I started daily tuning into the gift of my lungs. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I would check in to make sure I could still breathe. I never got COVID but I still feel incredibly blessed that my lungs are still with me.
For anyone who needs to be reminded to stop and breathe, to stop doing, to sow into a silence that wants to remind you of how powerful and special you are, here is my personal and Community Allies COVID story.
Years ago, a dear friend of mine, who was both a chiropractor and a physical therapist, taught me about the power available to my body, mind, and spirit when I took time to do deep breathing. I was on a 2-year hiatus from my life as a high school English, Humanities, and French teacher, living in St. Louis with my family, working as a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness, plugging into exciting St. Louis non-profits, and researching graduate programs. I was relieved to not be working with 125 + people a day and just to be able to focus on one person at a time, on my family, and on my own life, one breath at a time.
15 years later, COVID came at the perfect time for another needed hiatus. I had hit a wall I could not penetrate on my own and was needing to remember how to breath even more intentionally one breath at a time.
The mission of Community Allies is to help businesses, schools, and governments do their part together to restore a village of sectors who work well together for all of our youth and families, especially those overcoming generations of exclusion from our many sectors, a systematic racial exclusion rooted in federal government housing policies. The work of Community Allies is to support businesses, schools and governments in advancing community-centered development by learning with their constituents the solutions their constituents are advancing to ongoing barriers and obstacles they are facing amidst ongoing inequalities and how we can each do our part to be of service in replenishing the specific, requested, needed, and most valuable resources and supports.
This kind of learning posture is key because depending on our race, ethnicity, and class, we have a history of different kinds of access to physical resources (funded schools, transportation, housing, health care, technology, etc.). We also have different kinds of access to voice. For example, in a world that has steadily privileged white people with access to homes, employment, and wealth-building processes, it is not uncommon for their languages and cultures, books, and versions of history and leadership to take up more space and to be the basis for decision-making.
Thus, when we enter into change-making spaces together, we first and foremost need communication practices that help us find one another, that help us de-center people and cultures who are used to having the most voice. The method of change-making we bring, Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ draws on ethnodrama, community development, and literacy to support us in navigating the reality of these challenges together, one intentional and reflective step at a time.
It comes from years of designing, running, and studying youth ethnodrama programs through which youth take up real-world issues, interview people in their communities and in non-profits, government and business, turn their interviews into films, dramas, power points, poems, and whatever we can do in the time we have, and use their art to facilitate dialogue with businesses, schools, and governments about current and needed change-making within and across sectors.
I am so grateful to the many in St. Louis who are advancing change, and when I founded Community Allies in 2015 and returned to St. Louis in 2016, I began plugging into coalitions who are advancing community development in the form of affordable housing and education. The more I learned about community and business organizations, coalitions, and conferences, the better informed I felt about how to bring youth from schools and non-profits who hosted our Community Allies ethnodrama programs to those meetings in ways where youth would be able to follow the conversations and contribute.
These meetings became tremendous learning ground for youth and for me. Sometimes, enough ground had been laid ahead of time by me and others supporting our programming for youth to present their ethnodramas, power points, poems, or whatever time permitted them to present and for them to facilitate power-packed conversations – everyone learning together what different organizations and sectors were doing and where we could lock arms in more ways. When all the right pieces were in place, during youth presentations and facilitation of conversations, much immediate healing took place for everyone, adults especially.
Other times, I am still learning the needed context for the organization, the conference, or industry and the expectations of both the adults and the youth to build the kind of bridge ahead of time both parties need. These presentations and conversations are more challenging and often don't flow as easily, but youth still have enough preparation to navigate tensions in the room about the sensitive issues we are raising and to process with me afterwards their experiences, unpacking each layer of the preparation we have done, and where else we have needed to build bridges, either among us or with our business and community partners and audiences. In the process, we all grow in our relationship-building skills and in our understandings of how to build cross-race bridges to one another and to our audiences.
There is much blessing in inviting the public into our classroom even as we go to them to present youth research. We all experience much-needed healing. The greater the challenge in building a bridge, the greater the learning for all of us in our bridge building to one another and to the public.
The challenge in constantly bringing the world into our classroom is all of the preconceived notions about people of any given race that might at any time percolate our conversations. Our programs contribute to feeding a spirit of humility, honesty, transparency, and discussion about hard realities we all are living and the many places in us and in others where change is needed.
Through ethnodrama and the Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ change-making process, youth and I learn together over time how to keep cultivating that culture of being as real as we can with one another about where we are connecting well and where we are missing one another, while taking a believing stance in one another.
When we go public, the first need is for us to quickly cultivate that kind of learning and transformative culture with adults who are steeped in a divisive shame and blame culture that leads them to quickly judge me, the youth or one another. Our message has always been about coming together to make change. For that message to be engaged, we first need to disarm the impact on our audiences of the realities of St. Louis histories that have perpetuated trauma and prejudice. This trauma and prejudice can get re-inscribed through communication patterns.
The ethnodramatic Honoring Stories and Integrating Curriculum™ approach provides community-building honest and transparent grace-based tools, resources, and processes to help us come together on behalf of youth. By the end of a program, youth have looked at an issue from so many angles that they exercise tremendous creativity as they handle the toughest conversations. They also are so steeped in the work of ethnodrama that they are able to head off some of our deepest divisions quickly.
Still, I have learned that to keep going, I need to take breaks. The traumas youth carry are ongoing and heavy. Youth need us to come together now and quickly to give them room to come up for air. Audiences are in all different places of understanding their own hurt, trauma, and preconceived notions, and they can quickly ascribe stereotypes to anything we say or do and detach from investing in learning what we are bringing in the form of communication tools and resources that help us work towards unity.
When COVID hit, I took 2 months to breathe. I went back to what my friend had taught me – breathing in through my nose from my belly and filling it with air. Breathing out through my mouth, pushing that air out until every drop of air was gone. And as I breathed, I tuned into my creator and a spiritual realm that is closer than close. I left the world alone and began to lean into my own heart and an expansive spirit that has never put me or anyone I know into any kind of box.
I listened carefully to myself, my voice, my needs, my life journey, and I tuned into places in my life that needed refilling, refueling, and healing. I played worship music or sat in silence and let myself feel deep wells of grief in me that align with the grief around me. I started a running conversation with God, locking eyes with Him and talking everything that came to me out with him, capturing it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget.
Over that 2 months of sowing to silence, to listening, to leaning into an expansive and generous spirit, I experienced a palpable spiritual anointing. I began to understand what it means not only to sow to silence, but to sow to a spiritual relationship that is always waiting for me to stop and look up. I could hear my creator saying to me every morning – Sarah, don’t do another thing. Let me do for you. Let me love you. Just be with me. Just spend time with me.
2 months later, I began an 8-week youth program that did not require public presenting, and I found myself living from a much deeper place, in step with what I experience as a resurrection force that could now flow through me, that wasn’t getting stuck in places of any hesitation in me. I had gained a rootedness and an ability to trust myself and my ever present spiritual partner, no matter what the challenge before me.
Yes, that rootedness and self-trust have always been there. I just sometimes forget to invest in sowing to silence so that I make adequate time to do life in step with myself and my creator, to really be with myself and to listen for what my path is and what my creator is waiting to teach me and show me.
What was different about my faith life during these COVID months was I put my creator first in every moment of my life, leaning into a renewed sense of my creator's love for me, before anyone or anything else. I set aside ample time for Him to speak into my life and to lead me and to be my healer.
That time with Him changed everything. It set me on a path of drinking deeply from His presence, of being able to receive His carefully chosen blessings for me, and of growing my capacity to follow His lead and to really hear where and what my daily assignment is – how through the gifts my creator entrusts to me that we together cultivate, I get to be a part of His specifically fashioned and hand-delivered blessing for someone.
Since then, I have entered into a 2-year busy season that has required a new set of learning curves, and the lessons of that 2-month COVID window have helped me believe in the goodness unfolding and to press into it with everything I have.
For any who resonate with my need to stop and sow to silence, I wonder – for you, in your story and your journey,
Here is what I know. The silence isn’t as scary as you might think. You may not have 2 months to soak it in, but I know if you take time to breathe deeply each day and to listen to and to honor the powerful person and voice in you, it will begin to change everything for you one step at a time.
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.