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Hope Must Endure

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

“Easter Sunday bomb blasts kill more than 200 in Sri Lanka”

Not the hopeful message (or headline) I expected to awaken to on Resurrection Sunday.

Easter — the season of hope — and April – the month of hope — is a time when I want to focus on the positive. One of the last things I wanted to hear was: “The worst violence in a decade has struck the heart of a nation – bombers target churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.”

Then I began to pray and search for answers that would bring me to a place of hope, optimism, and promise.

As I reflected, I recognized that I was in that moment – when all seems to be lost, when evil seems to have won, the resurrection happens. When we experience situations of suffering and injustice, we also experience love and hope, typically through other people who awaken us to the risen Lord in our midst.

While there are still more questions than answers, the attacks (in a place that is home to multiple ethnicities and religions, with the Buddhist majority living alongside sizable Hindu, Muslim, and Christian minorities) are a reminder that injustice, hate, and evil can manifest themselves anywhere.

But, so too can love, faith and hope. There is hope in the shared message of unity from leaders and people across the globe. There is hope in the solidarity shown by all Sri Lankans, irrespective of ethnicity and religion. There is hope in the acts of people who have stepped forward to donate blood and provide other aid.

The atrocity in Sri Lanka can serve to awaken us to the need for hope to endure — particularly in times of devastation, suffering, grief, injustice, and fear.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Young People – Our Hope in the Fight for Justice

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Remember Flint?

Yes, that city in Michigan where lead-poisoned water began flowing into homes in 2014, after officials switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure.

Well, nearly five years later – despite the Michigan governor’s declaration in April 2018 that water in Flint is safe to drink and the bottled water program was discontinued — the public-health crisis still exists.

A news report published last week revealed that there are roughly 2,500 lead pipes that still need to be replaced in the city. The projection for completing the work to ensure clean water for all Flint residents is sometime in 2020.

But the lasting effects of the lead poisoning are expected to be ongoing (developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, premature births, mood disorders, difficulties with memory and concentration, etc.).

Amid this distressing news are reasons for hope, including an 11-year-old girl named Mari Copeny, aka Little Miss Flint. Three years ago, the young activist wrote a letter to President Obama, prompting him to visit Flint to get a first-hand look at the life-threatening water crisis. Subsequent to his visit, President Obama signed off on $100 million in funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system.

Since then, Mari has raised more than $350,000 to help empower children (in Flint and beyond) to know that they can make a difference. Mari is proof that you are never too young to advocate for change.

In addition to founding the Dear Flint Kids Project, which asks people from across the globe to send letters of encouragement to children in Flint; distributing backpacks and school supplies to Flint students; and bringing clean water to the people of Flint, Mari is fighting to overcome education inequalities, including the unequal distribution of academic resources.

It is apropos to highlight this young activist today (April 15) – the day that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born in 1960 at Shaw University in North Carolina to challenge segregation. SNCC (pronounced “snick”) furthered the goals of the civil rights movement by empowering and organizing young people to challenge injustice on their own terms.

SNCC, which organized sit-ins and freedom rides, demonstrated that young people, like Mari, have the power to further the fight for justice.

The fight is not over – Remember Flint.

Posted in Associate Blog

HEROES ARE ORDINARY PEOPLE CONCERNED WITH THE WELL-BEING OF OTHERS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Camden Myers is a reminder that you don’t need to wear a cape or possess a superpower to make the world a better place.

He is an everyday hero who shows us that heroism is not exemplified through perfection, but is actually rooted in human imperfection – that heroes are made by striving to overcome mistakes, failures, and life’s disadvantages and that the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need.

You see, Cam (who suffers from a Traumatic Brain Injury which causes both cognitive and physical delays) became an entrepreneur at the age of nine, creating employment opportunities specifically for people with intellectual and physical disabilities in the Winston-Salem, NC, area.

Since its opening in 2017, Cam’s Coffee Co. has hired about a dozen employees. The thriving business started as a pop-up style coffee stand. Cam’s family set up the stand to help him elevate his self-esteem and to empower him to know “that he is a person of value who adds value to everyone with whom he interacts.”

What a statement!

Say it with me: I am a person of value who adds value to everyone with whom I interact.

Now, every time you see another person, think to yourself (or be bold and say it out loud): You are a person of value who adds value to everyone with whom you interact.

Try it. The world may start to look differently. It just might start looking like a better place.

Remember: Heroism is not exemplified through perfection. As humans, we are naturally imperfect; but we can perform heroic deeds or acts that offer hope for a better world.

Each of us can be an everyday hero by making the world a better place for someone in need.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Brighten the lives of others with hope …

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I was looking at the list of “notable month-long observances” and on the April calendar is National Month of Hope.

Hope – the power to believe that anything can happen; the thing that keeps us going when we want to give up; the very thing that Ralph Waldo Emerson said we get by giving.

Hmmm … Can we really get hope by giving hope?

Some scientists, religious leaders and advocates of various causes say that we can. And my life experience tells me that we can. Whenever I have lifted the spirits of someone, I have found that it fuels my own resilience – imparting hope to others actually gives me hope.

Every day, each of us is presented with hope-giving opportunities (whether we recognize them or not). Today, I am encouraging you to take advantage of those opportunities to bring a ray of hope to the world by contributing your wisdom, time, kindness, and resources.

Here are a few ways to brighten the days of others:

  • Volunteer at a shelter, mission, or food kitchen.
  • Have a meaningful and healthy conversation with family, friends, or co-workers.
  • Donate to a charity.
  • Post words of hope on social media.
  • Take the time to share your story of overcoming with someone who is going through hard times.
  • Volunteer to read to children.
  • Help clean up and beautify neighborhoods and parks.
  • Encourage someone to keep going or working toward a goal.
  • Spend time with someone who is lonely.
  • Praise someone for the good you see in them.

April is typically a time when buds come into full bloom and brighten our days.  It can also be a time when we commit to lending a hand in lifting the spirits of others – giving hope that will sustain us throughout the year.

Posted in Associate Blog

SHEDDING LIGHT ON MISSING and MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN and GIRLS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Thirty-five red dresses give voice to thousands of our Indigenous sisters – women and girls – who have been murdered or who have gone missing.

The collection of dresses, called the REDress Project, is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in our nation’s capital. Jaime Black, the artist who created the project, describes it as an expression of her grief for thousands of murdered and missing Native victims.

A recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights states that Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered and four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the national average.

And a study released last year by the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, showed that while the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing persons’ database officially recorded only 116 missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, there were actually 5,712 reported missing.

Well, that’s a discrepancy, if I ever saw one. But it is no surprise to me. And it is no surprise to me that my Indigenous sisters haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.

(I don’t even want to talk about the research that shows the racial disparity in dedicating resources and conversation to missing women of color, revealing the unacceptable fact that white female bodies are viewed as more valuable than the bodies of women of color by the mainstream media in America – and dare I say, law enforcement).

It is shameful that a group of women who have been the target of violence since the colonization of America are treated with indifference and that our government doesn’t seem to be able to coordinate law enforcement agencies to account for the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women (let alone solve their cases).

Unfortunately, the REDress Project’s month-long installation at the Smithsonian ends on March 31, as it is displayed to commemorate Women’s History Month.  If you can’t get to Washington D.C. by then, you can continue to raise your awareness about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement. And you can break the silence around the issue by raising your voice.

Posted in Associate Blog, News