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Blog by Associate Colette Parker

So, let me get this straight – four elementary school teachers, flashing beaming smiles, pose with a noose and their principal reportedly snaps a photo?

I wonder who thought that was a good idea?

Just how insensitive or uncivil (or ignorant or, dare I say, racist) do you have to be to think that is okay?

And, as if taking the photo wasn’t brazen enough, one of them apparently had the audacity to circulate it online.

What is it that these educators didn’t understand about a noose symbolizing racial terrorism? (or were they fully aware and just didn’t care?).

Some parents, who were outraged and disgusted by the actions of the educators, pulled their children from the school.

The teachers in the photo and the principal have been placed on paid leave.

The superintendent was quoted as saying “I am appalled that this incident occurred … I am committed to the (school district’s) values of equity, integrity, and multiculturalism … We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our district’s pledge to do right by our community.”

While I commend the superintendent for that fine crisis management statement, I understand that the student body at the elementary school (where the suspended educators work) is about two-thirds black and Latino and that the teaching staff does not reflect the population being served. So, I’m thinking some cultural competency measures need to be put into place, as a way of making good on the district’s commitment to “equity, integrity, and multiculturalism” and the promise “to do right by (the) community.”

For me, this is yet another example of the growing number of reports of hate and bias in schools that mainly target black, Latino, Jewish and Muslim students. It is also evidence of the broader climate of incivility and hatred in our nation.

And it is one of the most recent reasons we cannot continue to ignore (or minimize the size of) the elephant in the room – racism.

It might be uncomfortable for some, who don’t want to acknowledge and come to terms with its ugliness. I say to you: until we can ALL feel unthreatened, welcome, and safe in our daily lives, the conversation about racial equity and equality is not over.

To those who are targets of its ugliness, I say to you: don’t grow weary; hold fast to your hope for better days; and continue to be part of the conversation that keeps us on the path toward racial justice.

As for the noose in the photo, let’s call it what it is: a symbol of a repugnant ideology of human hierarchy that denotes domination of one group of people over the other, namely whites over blacks.

What do you think we should call the educators in the photo?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Being a Nurse is Who I was Meant to Be

I have been a nurse for nearly 40 years. Most of my experience has been working in the city of Detroit in hospitals, home health, and hospice care.

Leslie Johnston, OPA
Dominican Sisters of Peace Associate

I believed initially that my career path would lead me to academics and research, but my first job – in a hospital burn unit – set me on a different path.

One of my first patients was a soft-spoken man named Frankie who had been set on fire by a group of other men because he dressed as a woman. The horror of what was done to him and his ability to maintain his dignity through all the painful treatment still brings me to tears all these years later. Working with Frankie (and other patients in the burn unit) helped me to discover that nursing, for me, is more than a profession, it is my life calling.

I eventually became an oncology nurse specialist and then an advanced practice nurse, after earning my master’s degree, but the sense of mission never left me. I joined an organization that was unique at the time for offering special services to cancer patients in their homes and I chose to continue working in the city, where I encountered other people who were also on a mission of service to others.
I was blessed to meet the owner of a small car wash who allowed a homeless person to reside in the building temporarily so our agency could safely give him chemotherapy. I also met a group of nurse practitioners who worked in a sports injury clinic by day and then took a van out at night to offer free health care services to women working as prostitutes.

In all my years as a nurse, I have received more from every patient, family member and caregiver I have been with than they received from me.

Working with people in their own homes, on the streets, and in shelters has given me a perspective that impacts every part of my life. I have come to the realization that all spaces are sacred to those who occupy them. And because all of us are sacred beings, I recognize that nursing requires a servant’s heart.

Currently, I serve as a clinical manager for a busy home health agency. I rarely visit patients anymore, but I am still ministering — to the nursing, therapy and home health aide staff who provide the services. I try to be more of a mentor than a manager. I respect their input and I try to be as thankful as possible for the various gifts they bring to our agency and our clients.

Health care regulations are constantly changing and access for all to quality healthcare is still an issue in our country. It can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and overwhelming to be a health care provider.
Focusing on the needs of the person you are trying to help whether it is your patient, or a co-worker can be difficult in many circumstances, but joining together with them to do what is most needed in that moment is one more barrier down and one more step toward healing ourselves.

I expected to be challenged in my nursing career, and I have. But I didn’t anticipate it would become my life purpose.

Posted in Associate Blog

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


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