While I searched for appropriate quotes to highlight some of the influential voices that we lost in 2020, I noticed that most of them had lived their lives, unapologetically, on their terms. They knew what interested them, the thing they loved, what made them truly happy, and did it.
Then I started wondering how these folks discovered their purpose in the first place. What motivated them? What allowed them to succeed?
We could easily chalk their achievements up to their birthright (whiteness, supportive families, good schools, etc.), or even luck. In some cases, yes, it may have been the privilege they were born into, others not so much. When you look closely at their biographies, some folks had humble origins.
For instance, Georgia Rep. John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers in Alabama and attended segregated schools. His parents actively discouraged him from challenging the inequities of the Jim Crow laws in the south. However, he was profoundly influenced by Rosa Parks and MLK Jr, who inspired him to follow in their footsteps.
Joanna Cole, the author of the Magic School Bus series of children's books, grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of a house painter and homemaker. She was fascinated with science as a young girl, and her teacher allowed her to borrow science books each week. She stated, "I thought that reading science books for pleasure was an ordinary thing." Her favorite book as a child was titled Bugs, Insects, and Such, which was a gift from her aunt.
Chadwick Boseman was born in South Carolina. He was the son of a nurse, and a textile factory worker, who also managed an upholstery business. Chadwick wrote and staged a play at his high school after a classmate was shot and killed. He then went to Howard University, where he met his mentor, Phylicia Rashad. She helped raise funds, most notably from Denzel Washington, which allowed him to attend the Oxford Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.
Katherine Johnson, the brilliant mind behind the calculations, which were essential for manned space exploration, was born Creola Katherine Coleman in 1918, the youngest of four children in West Virginia. Her mother was a teacher, and her father was a lumberman, farmer, and handyman, and worked in a hotel. Her hometown did not offer high school to black children. Because they understood that their daughter had extraordinary potential, her parents enrolled all of their children in a high school on the West Virginia State College campus.
Every single person that I researched had one thing in common - they took risks and followed their curiosity to find their passion, despite what may have seemed like insurmountable odds, at times. Some were actively discouraged, but others had unconditional support - at least one mentor who had their backs, who offered them resources and encouraged them to continue to explore their interests.
All young people deserve this kind of unqualified support. Instead of questioning and judging the number of hours they have spent on what appears to be frivolous activities and redirecting their attention to what may be considered "worthwhile" pursuits, just stop. Then take a moment to contemplate what their interest and focus are potentially worth to them or even the world.
If every young person had the opportunity to pursue their curiosities and passion, to focus on what is important to them at the moment, not only would we raise more artists, scientists, writers, social activists, and problem-solvers, I firmly believe there would be happier and more compassionate beings in our midst.
Social media posts from this past week, honoring a few of the voices we lost in 2020.
Best wishes for a bright, curiosity filled New Year from the entire DRC Crew! Take some risks! Get messy! And, have fun!
"Pay forward all the goodness in life to everyone you meet. Be kind, be loving, share music and joy, take care of each other, and Mother Earth." This a direct quote and final message from Noel, who, among numerous and diverse accomplishments, was one of the first female percussionists at Crane, a teacher, a librarian, a self-described word-smith, and someone who adored life. She is just one of the many extraordinary voices that we lost in 2020. The distinguishing feature of this particular wise being is that I had the great privilege of calling her a friend for over a decade. And, because she was one month older than my mother (another WWII baby), at times, I referred to her as my second mother.
Noel was diagnosed with dementia several years ago and was on the downhill side of that diagnosis. However, it was COVID that stole her from the cruelty of that particular fate amid her 77th year, in May. She lived life with an "attitude of gratitude," and those are the specific words she gifted to me. Whenever I feel like the world is holding a grudge against me, I think of my dear friend Noel and scrounge in the depths of my funk for at least one thing of which to be grateful.
The list of people we lost this past year is long - folks like Noel, whose life directly impacted the beings with whom she spent her days. And others who lived on a much larger stage, influencing the lives of many.
For the remainder of this year, we will pay homage on the Deep Root Center social media pages by sharing individual quotes from just a few of the unique, insightful, and fiercely passionate voices whom we miss, without measure. Goodbye, and thank you for your work, your words, and your spirit.
*Follow and stay tuned to the DRC Facebook and Instagram pages for the daily remembrances. Below are the posts from this past Friday and Saturday.
Happy Solstice, Blessed Yule, and Merry Christmas from the Entire DRC Crew. May you meet others with kindness and share the gifts of insight and gratitude throughout the year.
What can DRC offer our student members during a global pandemic? Back in March, I struggled with this question mightily. We have always provided a physical space filled with resources and materials, where spontaneity and creativity ruled our daily itinerary, as well as an open environment free of coercion and compulsory activities. We never had a formal schedule of classes that everyone adhered to, let alone shared on a video chat.
And, to be honest, in the middle of March, when we shut down the first time, despite trying to offer an alternative way to "do DRC" on Discord or Google Meet, our kids straight-up refused. They were happy to check in every few weeks to report on what they were working on, so we could write their homeschool progress reports together, but they honestly didn't need DRC.
Fast forward through the Summer when I spent my days preparing to be, in-person, at both Centers, with as many safety precautions in place as humanly possible, in September. One of those built-in safety features came directly from the St. Lawrence University Community Based Learning Program who sends us student volunteers each semester. They had decided to have their students participate in the program following a completely remote model. This fall, they assigned us, seven students, for two hours a week, each.
That was the impetus we needed to create a weekly slate of virtual sessions based entirely on what our student members requested, as well as the talents and knowledge that the SLU students wanted to share with our kids. We supplemented what they were offering with sessions filled with hands-on activities facilitated by the DRC staff.
The other driving force behind this first-ever formal schedule was our newly designed distance learning program. Without a daily itinerary, the distance learning peeps would not know when to connect with us virtually.
I am happy to say that, in Canton, it worked! Well, with a few technical glitches that are part of learning a new system, as well as hourly reminders that classes were starting. It worked so well that we began offering the hands-on sessions that the staff was facilitating as virtual options, too. And, when kids stayed at home because of illness or anxiety about COVID, they continued to connect to their sessions remotely.
I should mention that during the fall, the Lawrenceville (DRC- East) Peeps didn't participate in the virtual schedule. They were happily engaged with their hands-on, completely spontaneous immersion in whatever "lit their fire" on any particular day.
Fast forward, again, to mid-November, when COVID numbers began rising in St. Lawrence County, and a good number of our families were keeping their children home. Our daily numbers at the Canton Center dropped to three to five kids. We decided, once again, to close. At that point, the SLU students had one more week of their sessions before they finished the semester. After our experience during the Spring, I was nervous. Would our kids want to, or even remember to, sign in to their virtual classes? For the most part, they did!
That confirmation was all we needed to set-up a new schedule of remote sessions facilitated by the staff and DRC kids following Thanksgiving week. Again, these are classes and activities that our student members specifically requested. Many are carry-overs from the previous schedule with a new facilitator, and a few are new.
We are now two weeks into this new itinerary, and I am thrilled to report that most of our kids signed up for a good number of sessions (including the Lawrenceville Peeps), and they are showing up. Not only that, but we are noticing that they hang out after their sessions are technically over, sometimes for hours.
What have we learned through all this? Firstly, we have proven, again, that, as an organization, we are unbelievably flexible. We are adept at providing for all the needs of our student members within the confines of any given situation, even if we have to create something, quite literally, on the fly.
Secondly, we have confirmed (once again) that our non-coercive methods work. These kids are actively engaged and are making connections to their community, the people they have grown to trust, and, yes, love - even when there are additional hoops to jump through. (No one is sitting next to them, telling them to turn on their computers and sign-in.)
And lastly, as we already know, human beings, are naturally designed to grow and learn, which means we will intrinsically adapt and, yes, even thrive when given the opportunity.
* P.S. - Gratitude to Elian, who is facilitating the majority of these virtual sessions, as well as Chase and Ryan for showing up for our kids every day.
DRC is open to any child who is struggling and unhappy with their virtual or hybrid school experience. Contact us today to learn more about our Distance Learning Programs.
We are sending out a shout of gratitude to the Canton Community Fund Board of directors. They approved our grant asking for five Chromebooks. Thanks to them, our Canton students have, all-important, access to their community.
We are still seeking contributions to our Fall Funding Appeal. You can donate here, or you can send a check directly to DRC at 48 Riverside Dr., Canton, NY 13617. Thank you!
Define normal. In the past, when presented with this challenge, I proclaimed, proudly (and loudly) - "there is no normal." This morning I came to the abrupt (and stupefying) realization that normal, most definitely, does exist. The definition is, quite simply, that to which we become accustomed.
The past few years hold substantial evidence directing us to that fact. Bat shit crazy and felonious behavior are now everyday occurrences that we can expect, if not predict.
Back in March, when the first stay-at-home orders came down, despite understanding and supporting them, I chafed at the restrictions (well after I recovered from the flu). Now, after only a couple of months of in-person programming, we are back home following a virtual schedule, and it feels ordinary to set up schedules, facilitate remote classes, and meet for mentoring sessions through a screen.
When masking rules went into effect, I loathed the feeling of confinement and foggy glasses (those with claustrophobia understand). Now, it is second nature to wear my mask on a lanyard that I can pull up over my face (mouth and nose) whenever I am around other people. Sometimes, I even have moments of anxiety if I am not sure whether I have an extra mask attached to my backpack, for, just in case.
Families have begrudgingly settled into their "new normal" of hybrid and virtual school - the adjusted and interrupted work schedules and the resulting dullness and boredom (busywork) of virtual classes. Despite the many stresses, frustrations, and their kid's unhappiness, they remain steadfast to the societal norm of school.
Within all this, I am deeply puzzled by why we, as a society, can accept uncomfortable, frustrating, and irritating stuff (not to mention downright immoral and illegal behaviors) - fairly quickly. But we cannot seem to normalize (on a large scale) those concepts (universal healthcare, fair wages, immigration policies, social justice, funding community and social services, non-coercive education, etc.) that could have hugely positive consequences for everyone.
Do we find the adopted inconveniences easier to digest because we consider them temporary or stopgap measures? And we believe those that could have affirmative significance would constitute real and forever change? I truly want to know. As an anthropologist and student of human behavior, I find the concepts held within those questions, in alternating measures, fascinating and utterly frustrating.
In any case, Deep Root Center is here when families feel ready to embrace a new, new normal. We are a place where kids can explore their interests, follow their innate curiosity, gain back their confidence and intrinsic motivation, and delight in diving deeply into whatever makes their heart sing. Happy kids are a seriously underrated commodity.
The Deep Root Center Distance Learning Program has open enrollment. Any child who wants to join us - can. Learn more here.
2020 Funding Appeal - the digital version of our newsletter went out his past week. We are awaiting delivery of the paper copies, which will go out as soon as we receive them.
If you are able, please consider a contribution. Thank you!
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