Tag Archives: democracy

This is what democracy looks like

Mother and daughter who participated in an Oct. 15 Occupy Wall Street march in NYC

It’s a chant commonly heard during “Occupy Wall Street” marches, which have been branching out from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to other parts of NYC.

My daughter Lizabeth ran into them Saturday night after catching a subway from her university near Ground Zero to Times Square in the heart of NYC’s theater district.

That morning, I’d walked alongside several marchers as they made their first stop of the day — to a Chase bank in the Wall Street financial district. At one point, I turned to see four college-age women chanting “This is what democracy looks like!”

One, a student named Taylor from Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts, told me they were protesting to show that “young people have a voice.” I don’t disagree, but I’m guessing that some of the folks who are marching have yet to exercise another fundamental right — voting. I hope they aren’t overlooking the one in their zeal to embrace the other.

I also chatted with a man originally from Australia, who now calls Canada home. I asked Joel about the role art seemed to be playing in the movement, noting that I’d seen several protest-inspired paintings and sculptures during my many visits to Zuccotti Park.

We agreed that art and social justice are often “intertwined,” but Joel took the observation a step further. “In a military dictatorship,” he told me, “art is one of the first things crushed” — noting when I pressed him further that although America has a strong military presence in the world, it’s not a military dictatorship.

Still, he’s concerned about the country’s future — and America’s youth. He’s pleased to see parents bringing their children to “Occupy Wall Street” events, hoping it’ll raise youth awareness about freedom of speech and critical thinking. Too often, he told me, children simply do what they’re told without considering the consequences — even when they disagree.

Joel hopes that even parents who disagree with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement will spend some time with the families at Zuccotti Park, showing their children what exercising freedom of speech and citizen activism looks like. My own children, now grown, have attended plenty of rallies for issues we care about right here in the Valley.

Farther along in the march, I asked a woman named Penny to stop and talk for a few minutes about why she’d chosen to participate. Turns out Penny is a professor of labor studies at a New York university. We spent several minutes standing on the corner of a street together, and she told me about her two children, ages two and five.

Penny says her daughter has “come to a lot of rallies,” convinced that they foster “learning the importance of working together with other people.” She’s also eager for her daughter to experience the “collective joy of standing together.” The woman’s own joy was evident as we spoke. “I hope that she feels connected to other people,” Penny added.

Soon Penny was on her way, passing out flyers encouring people to consider using local credit unions rather than giant banks like those affiliated with Wall Street. So I turned to three women and a young girl talking nearby, and asked if they’d share their reasons for making that morning’s march.

A third grader from New York, who shared that her mom is unemployed, didn’t hestitate in offering an explanation. “Me and my mom are here to change the world,” she told me. “We’re here to occupy Wall Street.” At the time they were just a few blocks away from literally doing so.

“If one person doesn’t like something,” Sofia told me, “then it doesn’t matter.” Seems she’s wise beyond her years about finding strength in numbers and solidarity with fellow citizens. So I asked what she’d say to other children who might be thinking about getting involved.

“They should come out,” Sofia told me. “It’s fun, it’s freedom — and you never know what is going to happen.” Later that evening, of course, protestors numbering 6,000 according to reports by ABC News, took to Times Square, and a small number were arrested.

She’s right about the unpredictability of such things — but I’m hoping everyone involved will remember the children standing alongside them as the movement marches on. They’re watching, listening and learning. And they deserve peace — on not only a global level, but in their everyday lives as well.

— Lynn

Note: “Parents for Occupy Wall Street” is holding a “Family Sleep Over” at Zuccotti Park Oct. 21-22 (4pm-11am). Click here to learn more.

Coming up: NYChildren exhibit featuring photographs by Danny Goldfield, A graphic biography on the life of Anne Frank, “The Big Draw” at NYC’s National Museum of the American Indian

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Art meets protest

Signs, flags and artwork are popping up all over Zuccotti Park in New York City

Protester concerns include jobs, economic justice, ongoing wars and more

Some want true democracy back, while others think democracy is the problem

You don’t need to be a protester to embrace some of their messages

Some protesters are painting to express themselves and help get the word out

This is one of the few pieces of art that stays in one place over time

Some may wonder whether protesters feel they exist in order to resist

A common theme among protesters is the need to treat people as individuals

Art is being created on balloons, canvas, cardboard and everyday objects

Many protester signs and bits of artwork reflect themes of human kindness

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read an article in The New York Times about art-related OWS protests.

Coming up: This is what democracy looks like, More from NYC — museums, libraries and Broadway shows

Update: Apparently the art of Occupy Wall Street has come a long way — check out this article by Michele Elam for CNN. Click here to enjoy a post called “The Art of Occupation” from one of the blogs I read each day.

Fuzzy math

Wickenburg Public Library in Arizona

I got an “SOS” of sorts from a friend on Monday morning — alerting me to talk of closing Wickenburg’s one public library due to lack of funding.

I was reminded of George W. Bush hurling the term “fuzzy math” at Al Gore during a presidential election — and the many times since that both sides have seemed a bit fuzzy in their thinking.

There’s been plenty of doom and gloom commentary coming out of news sources who seem more bent on proferring ideology than providing information — much of it focused on events in distant lands.

I don’t doubt that global events impact our country, and our communities — but today my concerns are closer to home.

Democracy, quite frankly, is ours to lose. And if we want to hasten the process, we’ll start by lowering already abyssmal literacy rates among our own citizens.

We’ll restrict access to books and online information for those who can’t afford laptops or reading materials of their own.

We’ll assure that community resources like libraries — which offer low- and no-cost arts and cultural programming — close their doors.

We’ll make sure that kids head to empty houses or convenience store parking lots after school instead of taking part in library programs that foster cognitive, emotional and social skills.

When we, as Americans, can find no better solution to fiscal challenges than closing public libraries — we might as well close the book on our own dwindling democracy.

— Lynn

Note: My 19-year-old daughter Jennifer (an ASU student) offered a trio of library tidbits after reading this post. First, a quote she found on www.libraryquotes.org: Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation (Walter Cronkite). Second, a resource for fellow library lovers: www.ilovelibraries.org. And third, a video contest titled “Why I Need My Library” from www.ala.org (for teens 13-16/runs through April 18). Click here to learn more about the Arizona Library Association.

Coming up: Teens taking direction, Building bridges with music

Art books seek good homes

Plenty of new books made their way into our home last year — most related to art, history or philosophy.

My favorite titles included When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy (Roger Kennedy), Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet (Jennifer Homans), and Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes (Stephen Sondheim).

Also The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution (Denis Dutton) and Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (Mark Twain). Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics (1974-2007) (Suzanne Lacy) will likely be the next book I tackle.

Of course, I’ll have to make room on my bookshelves for these newer acquisitions, which has prompted me to start hauling out some old still-packed boxes labeled “books” in search of titles that might be better off in a new home — so more folks can enjoy them.

I figure that once our third and youngest child heads off to college in the fall, we really won’t need all those picture books and early readers. Of course, we’ll save the classics (like Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon) — and the favorites (like Rainbow Fish and I Love You Forever).

But the rest will be going to a good cause, or several of them. In case you’re feeling similarly inspired, I’m happy to share my list of places that need donations of gently-used books — though you should always call ahead to confirm specific needs, donation procedures and such.

The Volunteer Non-Profit Service Association (VNSA) will hold its 55th annual “VNSA Used Book Sale” Sat, Feb 12, and Sun, Feb 13 — at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

The sale includes rare and unusual books and foreign language titles, and many general titles will be half-off on Sunday. The event is free, though the fairgrounds do charge for parking.

Proceeds from the VNSA book sale “benefit Valley human service agencies.” To date, “more than $6,000,000” has been donated to local charities. This year’s beneficiaries include the “Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation” and “Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County.”

The VNSA website provides details on two options for those wishing to donate gently-used books — at-home pick up or drop box locations throughout the Valley.

The Heard Museum will present its “15th Annual Heard Museum Guild Library Book Sale” Sat, Jan 29, and Sun, Jan 30 — at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. The sale includes “30,000 books in every genre.”

The Heard Museum will also have other items for sale, including “American Indian and vintage jewelry, katsina dolls, prints, pottery and ceramic vessels.” Sounds like a great way to jump start your Valentine’s Day shopping.

Proceeds from the book sale benefit the “Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives” of the Heard Museum, “one of the country’s most comprehensive research facilities about indigenous art and culture from around the world.” The event has raised more than $250,000 in its 14-year history.

Special features of the sale include a silent auction of “high-end items and rare-edition books,” a Sunday sale, a special children’s area featuring children’s books and other items, and early bird member shopping (on Friday).

The Heard Museum website offers details on each day’s schedule and activities — and how you can donate books to the cause. Although admission to the book sale is free, there is an admission charge for those who also wish to explore the museum’s exhibits.

The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library organization holds book sales throughout the year, which include special shopping opportunities for “Friends” members.  The next sale is Sat, Feb 12, and Sun, Feb, 13 (members can shop Fri, Feb 11).

All sales take place at the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library warehouse in Phoenix. Those wishing to donate gently-used books have two options — requesting pick-up of books or taking books to one of several drop box locations.

Visit the Phoenix Public Library website to learn more about donation procedures, or to request a donation of books to your local non-profit organization. The site also offers tips on hosting a book drive to benefit the Friends organization.

With week one of the “New Year” — and all those well meaning resolutions — nearly behind us, this is the perfect time to declutter your home while enriching the literary lives of others.

— Lynn

Note: You may also wish to check with local schools, day care centers, pediatric medical facilities and children’s charities about their book needs. If your organization accepts donations of gently-used books to benefit local non-profits, please comment below to briefly let our readers know.

Coming up: Cupid meets curator, Art of “Sacred Places,” Film tackles bullying

World peace and local politics

My favorite arts experiences combine art as escapism with art as engagement.

Take my recent trip with Jennifer to hear Mark Johnson, creator and director of “Playing for Change,” speak about musicians coming together around the globe to promote peace through music.

It was a free event held the day “Playing for Change” performed an evening concert at the Musical Instrument Museum as part of their 2010-2011 theatre and film season.

We first heard “Playing for Change” when they performed at the Mesa Arts Center last season — and once is never enough.

As a small group of “Playing for Change” musicians performed — two vocalists, plus two on guitar and two on drums — I felt swept away from the day, yet fully in the moment.

But afterwards, my escapism shifted to engagement. Now I’m a mom in a movement. Cool.

Music is a fundamental means of self-discovery and self-expression. And a way to discover and explore the people and places all around us — both far and near.

In America, we enjoy another fundamental opportunity to express ourselves while working together for a collective good. It’s voting. And sure as we all tap our toes or hum a tune, we need to do it. The right to vote is something our fellow citizens have fought for and something we must never take for granted.

Would that all people had even a fraction of our freedoms. Sure, you’re free to stay home from the polls. But don’t assume those polls will always be there if people stop paying attention and participating.

Democracy isn’t a finished product, like a painting on the wall. It’s a piece of clay whose shape we continue to mold. It’s an art in many ways. And we’re all sculptors.

Perhaps that’s the appeal of political satire. It reminds us that democracy can be fragile, even fleeting.

Consider one of the Valley’s many Thanksgiving weekend traditions. It’s all the power, conflict, scandal and mayhem you can handle — set to your favorite tunes.

It’s “The Capitol Steps,” a Washington, D.C.-based group performing next month at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

But why celebrate mayhem or scandal? Because we can. Because we have freedom of speech, freedom of the press and more.

Because in America people of all ilks can sit side by side and enjoy songs like “Liberal Shop of Horrors” together.

I suspect “liberals” may laugh the loudest, as they’re one group of many to be musically mocked by this traveling troupe of singing political comedians.

“The Capitol Steps” performs Nov 26 & 27 — featuring works from their current repertoire of timely tidbits. There’s no telling what will be on the front burner by that point. But I’m eager to see what they’ll do with it.

— Lynn

Note: I learned while reading a recent issue of the Arizona Capitol Times that Arizona News Service will present “Rock the Capitol” Dec 8 from 4:30-6:30pm at the Wyndham Phoenix. It’s your opportunity to meet the freshmen of the Arizona state legislature. For information, contact veronica.mier@azcapitoltimes or call 602-889-7137.

Coming up: Stage Mom meets slide show — featuring photos taken by a lovely couple I met while enjoying “Playing for Change” at the MIM.