March 22

Sesame Street supports diversity and inclusion with the introduction of Julia, a muppet with Autism

Last week, 60 minutes reported on Sesame Streets newest muppet, Julia.

Excerpts:

“Sesame Street” has always based its characters and content on extensive research.  They regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. In the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.

It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism. There is an expression that goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” says writer Christine Ferraro.

And of course every Muppet needs a puppeteer.  But not every puppeteer has the connection Stacey Gordon does to the role. Gordon is the mother of a son with autism.

Stacey Gordon: Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.

March 14

Biracial twins are a beautiful embodiment to challenge the labeling of individuals based on the color of their skin

In this blog post by Elisabeth Parker, beautiful photos of bi-racial twins are highlighted.

From the article:

The odds of having a set of biracial twins with different skin colors is around one in 350 to one in 400, and the odds that any pair of twins will have different skin colors is one in 500. In the U.S. — as of 2013 — twins accounted for around three out of 100 births. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: As pointed out by many readers, “race” itself is an artificial construct that has no basis in science. While visual markers may tell us something about our ancestry, the genes that determine our appearance are just .01 percent of our total genetic makeup.]

Back in 2015, the internet was all abuzz over Lucy and Maria Aylmer, a lovely pair of biracial twins from across the pond in the U.K. They say no one believes they’re sisters, and we can certainly see why. Their dad Vince is white and their mom Donna is black. But instead of looking like a blend of both races — as many mixed race children do — Lucy has fair skin and cinnamon hair while Maria has a café au lait complexion and abundant black curls.

February 25

Exploring Our Mixed Race Identity through Ceramics and Photography

“We need to set aside the obvious assumptions of visual identity that is merely skin deep,” says writer and ceramics artist Heidi McKenzie in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly.

These assumptions do not enable us to appreciate the complexity of our true and complete selves.

Click here to read her complete article,  Paradox: Identity and Belonging where she highlights the work of several mixed race ceramic artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of additional note on the topic is photographer Martin Schoeller. In 2013 his series The Changing Face of America was featured in National Geographic.  This series of photographs explores the visual power of mixed race individuals and highlights a comparison of self-identification with Census check boxes.

February 5

“Catch These Hands” AP Language Project – by Teena Thomas

Inspired by Angelica Dass, creator of Humanae, and in hope to spread togetherness and promote acceptance of diversity at Clarkstown High School North, I took on this photographic human hand mosaic.
The motivation to start such a project originated from Ms. Phalen’s AP Language class during our “Race & Otherness” unit as we explored & presented various texts found on social media, etc. in order to construct our own claims on the issues.

-my claim-

Color is a concept so familiar, simple & pure. We, as humans, believe we KNOW what color is and means. We hold STRONG OPINIONS and preconceived notions about color.
With “color”, there is no difference of which is better than the other; they are simply just colors. But when it comes to “skin color”, there is unfortunately a whole level of labeling, a sense of prejudice of one race/group over another.
But by reframing or redefining the term “color”, we can make the comfortable, uncomfortable.Through the use of defamiliarization, or the “the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar”, we can deconstruct this mentality of superiority. We can take color apart, and reconstruct the wheel with a new perspective, a new thought.

I chose hands because hands hold a second level, deeper meaning, symbolizing unity in itself. “The holding of hands” per say is unifying, accepting. So by using hands as a marker for each individual makes sense.

Along with the hands, I decided to have the caption be a word of identification, not a PANTONE color name. So each person along with a photograph chose a word they felt they identified as, i.e., musician, athlete, cheery, etc.

Artistic Process:
There were several moments I wasn’t quite sure what to do. So much ambition and excitement to tackle a project for a girl who had little to no experience on photoshop and also did not think through the details at the start. I just jumped right in! And it’s funny because I usually don’t do that; I like to plan out meticulously for anything I do to. It was a change in approach but it was well worth it.

During an Art Honors Meeting, with your help, I was able to collect the names of kids who were interested in participating.
With just a stool, a white sheet of paper, and my iPhone camera, I shot 67 hands of students & staff over the course of two days after school.
That weekend I began editing. 7 straight hours in my room without a break I cranked at it on Saturday. Then Sunday morning back at it, I spent the rest of my day editing until I got through 45 hands, all set & ready to go.
My editing consisted of taking a pixel of color from the center of the middle knuckle (as opposed to the center of the nose as Dass had done) and filling the background. I then selected a font, font size, and rectangular box height & width for the font to go on. Attached is a time lapse video of an example, Mr. Covert as “leader”.

 

I want to thank you, Mrs. Diamond for providing support and the resources to get my ideas a reality and Denise, the woman at the main office who out of genuine interest persuaded almost 30 students to stop & be a part of my project. Again thank you! This turned out so much more than I ever imagined. 🙂

 

January 19

Dream Unfinished

Thanks to our band teacher for sharing this great resource! Mr. Andert has been working on integrating diversity into band program. Through his training and work with “The Dream Unfinished,” he is working to present more music from diverse composers in the music classroom.

AN ACTIVIST ORCHESTRA

The Dream Unfinished is an activist orchestra which supports NYC-based civil rights and community organizations through concerts and presentations.

MISSION

To use classical music as a platform to engage audiences with issues related to social and racial justice. Since its founding in 2014, TDU has staged over a dozen performances throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and partnered with organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, Black Women’s Blueprint, Justice League NYC, African American Policy Forum, and others. In 2015, The Dream Unfinished’s inaugural season honored the one year of Eric Garner’s passing. Its 2016 season, entitled Sing Her Name, culminated on the one-year anniversary of Sandra Bland’s passing. Future seasons of The Dream Unfinished will focus on the school to prison pipeline, solitary confinement, and gentrification.