Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Community: Make a Change

By Karen Faass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
The Respect Quilt idea was brought to Cromwell Middle School to make an awareness of how some people are treated and that all individuals want to be accepted. This was a “hands-on” activity involving every 8th grade student. It was the intent from the beginning to make this project student-driven. We wanted all students to feel important and special in creating a piece of art that brought a very serious message…respecting others. The students needed to see that out of nothing (a blank quilt) so much can be accomplished if everyone works together. Much beauty can occur and positive changes can happen ... they are the leaders and ... they can “make a change."

This very concept was used as a medium in promoting another project entitled Olweus. This program is designed to stop bullying and to bring an awareness of the devastating effect it has on individuals. Implementing this program is a continuation of the solidarity in our school community to “make a change."

The programs do not stop there…conversations are taking place to have students make a video with regard to the Respect Quilt and “bullying” program.

Everyone is a part of this school community and, when working together, it becomes healthier, stronger and cohesive for all. We can “make a change."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Commentary: Contribution to 'We Are the 99 Percent'

By Matt Kilbourn
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
9 November 2011


We are lucky!
We have a healthy family.
I have a good union job and my wife works part-time.
We have benefits.
We are both educated.
We have shelter.
Layoffs?
Future?
Retirement?
We are the 99%. Thank you for all the Occupy Movements happening around the world! You are being heard.

Community as People

By Matt Kilbourn
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When you looked tired, we stepped in
   We gave you warmth
   You showered
   You ran laundry

When you were without, we stepped in
   You charged your devices
   You checked e-mails
   You checked the news

When you needed help, we stepped in
   We shared our heat
   We shared our showers
   We shared our laundry

When we need help, you lent your hand
   You helped with yard clean up
   We removed fallen branches
   We drove away the debris

We opened our home, Our home was your home
   Our shared home made you feel human again

We are friends, we are community

- November 2, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Community as a Collaborative Home

By Rachel Holden
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Community as Shelter

By Thomas Norman
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Community as ...

Shelter. When I think of community it provides me with an image of shelter. A safe haven for those who dwell within the community and call it home. We are all familiar with the definition of home and most can relate to the reality of owning a home or have lived within one. However, there is a greater home that exist outside the comforts of our living rooms and bedrooms. We all dwell in some sort of community. Rather rural, suburban, or urban, or it can be a collection of individuals who share a common interest or some sort of goal. No matter the definition, one can relate a community to a having a family. Typically with family there is level of trust and commitment to the development and nurturing of the family. This concept also exist within the constructs of a community.

A community should embody the same concepts as family based on the premise that a community is a gathering of those who share a common lifestyle. When I think of the ideal community I envision a strong and solid structure capable of protecting its citizens, especially in those times of hardships. Shelter is something we all need to protect us from the natural elements of life. Rather from the rain or the coldness of winter, shelter is a necessity to ensure the safety of the occupants. Within communities there are occupants who are less fortunate than others and those who face difficult life situations. It is during these times that one should be able to lean on the pillars of the shelter that is the community. A community should embody the concept of shared sacrifice and shared responsibility. If one is without, the community should step in to ensure its occupant is provided with what he/she needs. This is what sustains a community and keeps a community viable and strong.  A community must provide a trusting shelter to those who live within it. If one cannot depend on its shelter, he or she will find another and abandon the weakened shelter that was unfit to provide a safe dwelling.

There are many weak communities within our society. We have communities that are falling apart due to the lack of trust in that community. If someone does not believe in the community that they live in, why expect them to stay? If someone is living in a home in which they cannot trust the integrity of the roofing, then why would they stay to witness the roof collapse upon them? The same concept is relatable to communities. If one does not believe in the integrity of their community and does not trust the inhabits, then why should they continue to live and support the community in which they have no trust? Should they wait until the roof collapses on them as well? Should someone dwell within an area that they feel is unsafe and unfit for their children to be raised in? The community must be a shelter. Strong in structure and trusting in integrity. With a trusting shelter, a community can thrive and be a safe and lasting home for generations. I see a community as a roof and the residents as the families that dwell beneath it.

A community can provide many forms of support as long as the residents within the community embody the concept of shared responsibility. Each member of a community must contribute to the durability and strengthening of the community. If someone within the community becomes a weak link in the chain, the very next link must strengthen its hold so the links that follow will not lose integrity. There is strength in numbers and the more families we have dedicated to a community the better chance a community has at sustaining its relevance. Each member of a community must contribute to the strengthening of the shelter. Rather its brick by brick, meaning each member must take the time to develop relationships within the community, that way a genuine trust is develop.

With this trust development comes love. Love for one another is the shelter’s insurance policy. When and if the shelter begins to lose integrity, there will be something tangible that exist to keep the shelter together in the midst of the most troubling of times.  Love is what keeps communities thriving for years and years. Once love is removed, the shelter is no longer insured to its inhabitants. Hatred and negativity will engulf the community and cause those who live within it to leave and seek new shelter within different communities. This is a theme all too familiar with many communities throughout our society. We have to rediscover a love for one another which will translate into our communities, and all those who have lost faith in our communities to return and invest in them.

Community as the Gift We Give Each Other

By Juliet Kapsis
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

You give but little when you give your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
- Kahlil Gibran

Community as ...
Poetry
Grace
Meditation
Co-mingling
Coming Together
Synthesis
Connection
Communicating
Passion
Finding Common Ground
Listening
Sharing
GROWING
EVOLVING
Being of the people, by the people, for the people
Public
Shared by all
Fellowship
Common Ownership
Taking responsibility
THE GIFT WE GIVE EACH OTHER

Inside the Hooker Day Parade in Hartford on 10/22/11, marching w/BeatCityHoops

Community: The origin of the word community comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other.”(1)

Community as the Gift We Give Each Other

Rose from Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT July 2011 by Juliet Kapsis

We have come into a whole new time and place as humans. This is a time and place where we are waking up to our true selves and what our purpose is on this planet. I can only speak for myself when I write that to contribute and feel connected are major goals of mine. Yes, there is much joy to experience in who I am and what it is I am doing. Yes, there is even more joy in sharing that with others, in sharing myself with others. Many readings that have been a part of this class thus far have also mentioned the joys that are shared when one has a sense of belonging with people and place.

In "Warrior Angel," Lily Yeh makes note of what it is to be “filled with a sense of community harmony, pride, and a genuine concern for others,” that this full feeling is what leads to connection, involvement and growth.(2) This is the kind of fullness we are hungry for. This growth is not just for the person involved, but for the city itself. While I was marching with the Beat City Hoop girls at the Hooker Day Parade this past Saturday, I exclaimed out loud that we were witnessing the beginnings of a city falling in love with itself (and my fellow marchers agreed!). This came out spontaneously and then I remembered that awesome Pier Giorgio Di Cicco who poured his little heart out about being creative and taking ownership for that act in one’s living space. “What does love have to do with it?” asks Di Cicco, and he answers that love has everything to do with a city being a living, breathing entity.(3)

What is it that you love about your city? Di Cicco argues that your quality of life depends on the quality of your love. We have many unique opportunities at this point in human evolution and one of these opportunities is ask what is it that we can do to create more harmony and more joy on this planet. What is it that I can do to contribute to my community? Asking questions and taking action is what it’s about. This action can be as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood and appreciating what it is you are witnessing. I live on the same street as the motivational speaker, Dave O’Brien, from WorkChoice Solutions. Dave has a great way for us to call attention to being in the present moment by asking, what frequency am I on? AM or FM? FM stands for fear mode and AM is for Appreciation Mode. The power of appreciation is enough to uplift yourself and others around you. Contributing to your community is as easy as smiling to others, picking up litter on the side of the road, donating coats in coat drives. Contributing is frequenting local businesses, such as rockin’ out at the tea house Tisane that hosts funky dance nights on Wednesdays.

This idea of community as the gift that we give each other is one that is a celebration and recognition of contribution. We all have limitless gifts to contribute – there’s no need to hold back anymore. The reason why this idea of community matters is that it’s simple. There are no rules to learn and memorize, you don’t have to spend hours finding minimal pairs in Swedish or putting together a chart of the IPA characters for Polish. You don’t have to go any further than whatever it is that makes you, You. It’s awesome to read the tweets of a Waterbury-based music-promoter, DWI aka Dartz Wit Intellect, as well as those from other Nutmeggers promoting what they are passionate about. It’s fabulous to have a cup of java at JoJo’s on Pratt Street, while contemplating a visit to the Wadsworth or Real Art Ways. Or bring a friend and share rides on 97 year old carousel horses in Bushnell Park. All you have to do is be you and do what you like to do. It just gets bigger from there, because once we get a taste of what it feels like to be in an area that is loved by its citizens, we’ll desire more and more of that feeling of connection and contribution. It’s a gift we get to give to each other.

Calder’s Stegosaurus outside of Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT, by Juliet Kapsis

(1) http://www.seek2know.net/word.html
(2) http://www.barefootartists.org/Lilys_Warrior_Angel_11_2.pdf
(3) Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco

Community as Nurture

By Eileen Ahlquist
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When I think of community, a metaphor that comes to my mind is “nurture." Maybe it was my being part of a crazy, dysfunctional family that led me seeking community to connect with as a growing child and seeking spirit. Perhaps it is the bonds with people or places that have fulfilled my various needs at different times in my life when my own self is not enough. To survive as a human, we need nurturing  ... for our physical bodies, our developing minds and our spirited souls. Within community, there lies a foster-mother as a source of nurture for those facets of existence.

Nurture can be defined as: to feed and protect; to support and encourage; to bring up, train, educate. First, consider: to feed. It is our first and most basic need for survival. While we initially get this need met from our mothers or parents, “feeding” and eating becomes primary in many community aspects. Sometimes it becomes a social event or sometimes it is someone in need receiving food. It could be dining at an event or celebration, baking cookies for the neighbor, “breaking-bread” with a gathering of friends, cooking for someone(s) in distress, or the helping to provide food through donations to food banks or serving in a soup kitchen. Food and feeding is probably the most common shared community experience, no matter what culture you live in. It is a central theme of connection and providing.

While “feed” may immediately relate to food, there are other important ways we need to be fed. We are all in need of being fed love - whether it is attention, affection, words or touch. Any developing human needs this as much as food and we receive love throughout life from all over our community. Aside of our family, love can come from neighbors, daycare providers, teachers, friends, lovers, strangers, churches & leaders. Again, regardless of what culture you are from, love is another strand of food for a developing human.

Protection could be considered the literal shelter we need from elements. If someone(s) is lacking this basic need, there are often places in the community to get help. Even if one is self-providing, there is reliance on trades-people to create this for us. Protection comes as another form of nurture in community as we confide in and trust our friends, form our neighborhood watches and have emergency services like the police and ambulances to keep us safe.

When we look at the rest of what nurture means - to support and encourage; bring up, train, educate, it is so evident how much nurturing we receive from community. The primary institutions that help “grow” us, guide us, teach us, love us. Schools and churches are full of people and ideas that shape and inspire us as we develop. As we extend beyond institutions, there are clubs such as boy/girl scouts, mentors, elders, teachers, friends, gyms, associations, therapists, and 12-step groups ... just to skim the surface.

When we think of nurture, it is natural to just think about your parents and family or your partner or spouse. But, the reality is that we receive nurturing everywhere. I don’t think we would label it as that, but consider how much (more) of life has been nurtured by community. It makes me realize, even more, how connected we are. It is a natural thread between us all to feel compassion and help or give to someone who doesn’t have basic need for surviving. When we see someone suffer, we suffer. It is instinctual to guide and help younger people. For some people who either don’t have family or are not close to family, community becomes their kin and source of nurturing. I know when I was growing up, the whole neighborhood looked out for each other’s kids.

While community may not be as immediate as it once was, we still have sources of nurture within it. Nowadays, people in some neighborhoods are less social and sometimes barely know each other. In addition, internet technology has replaced a lot of human interaction, but conversely, can make communication quicker and many more people available easier and faster. However, even with these changes, community will always be a nurturer. Whether a basic need is at risk, if we want to learn something, we are joining a religion or just looking for a group to share a hobby, we know community is there for us. (Even when we don’t know this, there is community that can link us to community!) It could be that family is not an option or a need could extend beyond what our family can offer. However we need, community can often help us or do for us what we sometimes cannot do for ourselves.

Creativity as ...

By jen pradhan
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Creativity as one.
Creativity as me.
Creativity as curiosity.
Creativity as imagination.
Creativity as wonder.
Creativity as failing.
Creativity as succeeding.
Creativity as love.
Creativity as action.
Creativity as thinking.
Creativity as never giving up.
Creativity as always going.
Creativity as whole.
Creativity as a child.
Creativity as a teenager.
Creativity as you.
Creativity as positive.
Creativity as learning.
Creativity as rest.
Creativity as unique.
Creativity as believing.
Creativity as patience.
Creativity as beauty.
Creativity as not so pretty.
Creativity as amazement.
Creativity as innocence.
Creativity as an adult.
Creativity as the truth.
Creativity as possibility of the impossible.
Creativity as magic.
Creativity as out of the ordinary.
Creativity as six billion.

I didn’t know where to start to write about creativity and about my reflection because I don’t think I would ever be able to stop. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t describe it and now I cannot stop talking about it. And I couldn’t pick one of the metaphors so I decided to create my own.

When I think of creativity and this class, I think of it as an on going process .... Creativity comes easy to us when we are seven because we let our imagination run wild .... That can still happen if we stay connected with one another and engage in our communities. No one really loses touch with their inner child; I believe some just choose not to acknowledge it. Creativity is inevitable. It doesn’t and cannot stop. We just seem to be out of touch with creativity, but don’t realize what we are capable of when it comes to creativity. Creativity keeps us going, young or old, small or big, good or bad, from the beginning, to the middle, all the way to the end. We wouldn’t be where we are without creativity. We have evolved into the people we are today because of creativity and creativity can only keep going because of people.

I started off the “Creativity as …” metaphor with "Creativity as one." When we come into this world, we are connected to nature as one ... and then we separate ourselves as individuals. And through creativity, imagination, thinking, learning, failing, trying again, succeeding, never giving up, believing in the impossible and making those things happen, stepping out of the box, and connecting with one another, we have become over SIX BILLION people in the world and we’re going stronger than ever. We make ends meet and have survived this long because of creativity. It’s pretty magical. 

Community as Contributing to the Social Playground

By Eileen K. Boisseau
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
 
I imagine my community as shared space where people can gather. We an use this playground in lots of various ways.

Thinking about community from my 7-year-old self perspective, my community includes my friends and me out on the playground having fun. We share in playing lots of different games, but one of our favorites is softball. We each get a chance to get up at bat and sometimes we hit a home run, or just a single, and may not get a hit at all, but we cheer each other on nonetheless. And we have fun! When we play in the outfield, each of our positions is different and we see the game being played from different perspectives. We chatter it up out on the field cheering each other on. To play the best game, we communicate our intentions and goals. Every once in awhile the coach advises us on a better strategy, and we brainstorm our ideas as well. We are a team and share in contributing our best efforts, and celebrating each others individual styles which all come together in creating a productive, happy softball community. But even if we are on the playground and not playing a team sport, there is still a lot of social interaction, and a lot of spontaneity and energy abounding.

This idea of community is all-inclusive and celebrates diversity. Through allowing and encouraging a friend or team member or a member of our social community to pitch in their ideas from whatever angle their perspective derives from just adds to the colorful mix of creating new ideas.

What I have learned is that reserving judgment about one’s style can serve to complement the group. So no matter what the social arena is the idea of community matters in providing the space for the germination of ideas and sharing in the fertilizing and the shaping of something with more robust and colorful results.

If we adopted the idea of equal playing time and equitable contribution in the community playground at hand – whether it be social policy changes such as affordable access to healthcare and housing, or coming together to help restore a neighbor’s house, or spending time creating a mural, the more voices that are heard and the more diverse the hands that shape it, the more of an impact we can make in enhancing our communities. The best part of all is that I think the social playground would be a lot more fun.

Community is ...

By Nicole Milne
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut


I chose this tree to depict "Community is ..." because it shows that there are many things that hold a community together that are below the surface. For me, I really enjoy where we have chosen to raise our family. We have a great neighborhood that is always there to lend a hand, and help out whatever family needs it. With that kind of togetherness we end up flourishing in our lives together. We all work together for the greater good and that is what I feel my community is.

Crowdsourcing Art (and Food) at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut

Potluck Slideshow
Wed. Nov. 16 | 6:30 pm
Hartford, Connecticut
An evening of community, food & art. Potluck Slideshow is a crowd-sourced slideshow of artworks by visual artists, graphic designers, fashion designers, performance, conceptual and multi-media artists, garden designers and more, presented along with a communal potluck meal.

All artists are invited to submit to the slideshow and a prospectus may be obtained by contacting: Janice@billingsforgeworks.org. The Potluck meal and Slideshow presentation are open to all guests. General admission to the event is a dish that serves four people or $2.00 at the door without a dish.
Deadline for submissions: Fri. Nov. 11

Billings Forge Community Works:

Community as Progress

By Charlene Folston
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I feel that progress is extremely important in a community. It is needed in order to move forward and advance in life. With progression you can build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. First, it is important that you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. I think that every community should have goals and objectives set in place so they are continuously working towards the outcomes. Each person in the community should have the same goals in mind. If there is no progress in a community there will not be any happiness because everyone would just be settling with what they have and not working towards making their current situations any better. You have to always strive to move forward in life. I would love to live in a community where everyone helped each other progress in life and worked to together to improve the look of the environments they live in. I do not like when there are negative views about a certain community and I see that no one is trying to make improvements.

I have learned that communities need strong foundation to build on in order to progress. Each person in the community is the foundation so it is up to them to make sure that it is a strong one. There are so many different issues in every community. I have also learned that the people in these communities do want a change; however, most of them do not know how to take the necessary steps towards progression. All they need is someone to help them and show them that they do have the resources that they are looking for. Education also plays an important role when it comes to progression. Learn about new ideas and ways that you can change your situation. You should know the process of progression and the steps that you need to take in order to achieve your goal.  It is important that you understand what you are fighting for. I feel that each person should make progress a priority of their own. It is everyone’s responsibility to contribute and help facilitate. We all can make a difference by using our own skills and various connections.

When you have a team of people that work together for the greater good for everyone as a whole it makes all the difference. It takes a strong group of devoted and dedicated people to change a community. You can’t just want a change for yourself. Your success depends on the people around you. It is impossible to progress on your own. The only way you can progress is when everyone is on one accord and has the same goals. If there is division in a community it will make it harder to advance and live a more comfortable life. You can tell when a community is progressing just by the people you see. I believe that progress has a domino effect, and once you begin to notice improvements in one area it will then transfer to next goal that need to be achieved.  Why not make the world a better place for everyone, instead of a better place for you?

Community as Agriculture

By Michelle Hypolite
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I grew up watching my mother garden for most of my life which has given me an appreciation for the labor put into the process of creating something that yields much, something that all people can enjoy, and an activity that brings us closer to nature. My mom would spend hours tending her garden, toiling, planting, fertilizing, weeding and rearranging. I never realized the effort it took to keep her garden so beautiful until I moved out and wished to create a garden of my own.

I started from nothing. When I first dug into the earth I had no idea that beneath the grass lied rocks, broken glass, and all sorts of trash that would first needed to be removed before I was able to even think about planting. After the soil was cleared I realized that I could not just plant any which way, I would have to plan, create and design so that my garden would make sense for me, both atheistically and practically. Some plants needed more sun, while others should be placed in the front because they could be overshadowed by taller ones. There was a lot of effort placed in prepping before I could actually put one plant in the ground. Somewhere along the way I understood that it takes a lot of work to enjoy the benefits of a garden. I was tired, dirty, and hot, but I knew that the end product would be worth it. A project that I thought would take a day turned into over a week. By the time the last bush was in the ground I was exhausted. But the work wasn't over yet. I had my garden but something was missing. I needed stones and accents and all sorts of other additions to make the garden into something special.

I feel like if we look at society as agriculture, and we are its tenders, then we can create something extraordinary, too. But first we must prep as I prepped my little garden. Prepare our society by first cleansing of waste and trash (both literally and figuratively). We must start with something fresh and plan its design, then begin to sow into our society, while still allowing it to grow organically. This is the foundation. Things like a good education for all children, regardless of socio-economic status. Good health care as well. We need to plan for the future of our society to flourish  and give back to us as we put into it. Then we can add our accents with the arts and music to make it beautiful, creating something wonderful. And of course, like in any garden we must work diligently to maintain it through weeding and daily maintenance. It is hard work, but the results are magnificent and we will all take ownership and love the fruits of our labor.

Community as Creating Together

By Kathy Glass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

In my neighborhood there is a group of children ranging from the ages of 4 to 10 years old. My husband and I call them the posse – a gang of “wild” kids. They’re never accompanied by adults or their parents. The group is composed of 8 to 9 members on any given day, and they’re always together. On many occasions they congregate in my backyard whether it’s to play, to create, to learn, to talk, to visit my dog. They come for a variety of reasons, but they always come together. Their presence is one of the things that makes the neighborhood unique – it’s a community of children – and their voices fill the streets day after day. I am so lucky to be a part of their community, even if I’m just the lady who lets them play in her backyard.

This group has taught me that community is defined by its members and their individual gifts, talents, quirks, uniqueness. The members of this community include:
  • The leader, age 10, (sometimes she’s considered a little bossy, but boy does she keep everyone on task!) and the performer. She sings, she dances, and she’s amazingly talented at wiffle ball. She wants to throw the Frisbee constantly and she’s loud and full of life, brimming you might say. She is a leader in the sense that she leads the group in their discussions, activities, play and time spent in the yard.
  • The nurturer and best friend to Fester (my dog), age 5. She was afraid of Fester, a 15-pound Chihuahua mix, when she was younger. She would stand on one side of the yard where Fester couldn’t reach her and scream every time he looked her way. This lasted for about a year until she finally worked up the courage to come from the other side of the yard to pet his tail: “Can I hold his tail?” she’d ask. After months of tail holding, she and Fester bonded. She decided that Fester was no threat and that he would listen to her if she wanted him to. This blossomed into a friendship and now when the kids come over to play, she spends her time holding Fester’s lead and petting him. One of the little boys in the group is afraid of Fester so she has taken it upon herself to help make him feel comfortable when in his presence. Just the other day, she said to me, “It’s okay if he is scared of Fester now. I was when I was his age, so when he grows up like me, he won’t be afraid anymore.”
  • The mother-figure and caregiver to the little ones, age 10. She always has the youngest member of the group in her arms. She is attentive and tapped into their needs. She has a brilliant memory and cares deeply about her peers. At times she is quiet and reserved, not interacting but observing. She seems to internalize everything.
  • The free spirit and artist, age 7. She is always in her own head. She connects with the group when they are part of her vision, whatever that may be. Her interests include eating herbs from my garden and learning about what they are, how they’re used, why you can eat them and not other plants, and she also enjoys watering all of my plants daily. She regularly leads the group in the garden about what you can and cannot eat and what each item is. Many times she branches off from the group to do her own thing. She often begins talking and then in the middle of a phrase she’ll trail off and begin to mumble, lost in her head. She becomes frustrated easily when the other members of the group do not understand her, or are not connecting with her. A picture of her art is below.

  • The daughters of our new neighbor, ages 6 and 8. The family just moved in this summer so I’m not sure of the girls’ names, but they too are a part of the community. The youngest is outgoing and tenacious. She demands to be heard and is quick to bring her own contributions to the group. The oldest is enthusiastic about almost everything. If there is something happening, she’s a part of it. She enjoys being engaged and with the rest of the group.
    The baby, age 4. The youngest member of the group, he is terrified of Fester. He is constantly in the arms of another member and enjoys being the baby.
  • The inquisitive thinker, age 9, asking questions constantly. She moved just over two months ago, so the community has lost a member. She loved helping us plant our garden. We planted peppers, tomatoes and bean plants over the summer together. She was fascinated by the process of growth, monitoring the plants’ progress along the way. Nature seemed to excite her. She once made a neighborhood of houses out of white computer paper for the ants near my garden and called them ant houses. It rained the day after she made the ant houses (little tents of paper), but when she came over the next day to check on them, wouldn’t you know there were ants under the paper.
There is never any parent supervision when the kids come to play in my yard. The only adults present are either me or my husband. In the uninhibited play I’ve witnessed and been a part of, I’ve learned so much. It’s taught me that to maintain a strong community the members must ...

Care about each other.
Explore together.
Experience together.
Play together.
Help each other overcome our fears.
Grow together.
Teach each other and learn from one another.
Dream together.
Scream together.
Eat together.
Laugh together, and often.
Consider all possibilities.
Celebrate individual expression.
Move together.

This community has taught me that we must continue to adapt, engage, wonder and, most importantly, laugh. They have taught me that community is most importantly a group of people creating something together, whether a shared goal or experience. That it breathes based on the passions of its members and that it can do great things for the individuals it is composed of. Community helps us to grow as only we can with the help from each other. It teaches us an honest true sense of belonging.

Community as a Form of Expression

By Will Carnes
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I came up with community as a form of expression because I thought this metaphor was really important. A community is a group of people living in one place, by definition. To me that definition is plain and paints a picture of just people living their own lives, not interacting with each other. I believe every community should get together at least once a month to interact and express themselves whether its through music, dance, story telling or a party. Coming up with community-based projects is a great way to build connections and interact. It also builds a sense of accomplishment, the community gets a feeling that they accomplished something good. I believe this builds confidence in being able to take on even more challenging tasks in life.

In order for a community to be able to express themselves they need to make a change. A community that is plain and ordinary is one where neighbors do not interact, merely just live their lives in their homes and go about their own business. Change needs to be made and a leader needs to emerge so he/she can engage the community. The leader should be enthusiastic so community members get hyped up and excited to make a change and be proactive.

Once the community is engaged to make a change they can begin to communicate with each other about ideas to be creative in the community. Setting up town gatherings is a good way to voice ideas. It doesn’t have to be formal it could be a block party where community members can come socialize while sharing ideas of what they could improve in the community.

After setting up ideas of how to change the community for the better, its time to take action. A goal is hopefully going to be reached and members of the community are working together to get to that goal. Relationships are being built during the process and trust is being formed. These are essential tools to form a productive, creative, and expressive community. Before you know it the community that was once plain and distant from each other now consider each other family.

Working together as one unit or a family to create positive projects in your community will create a sense of self worth and happiness. Helping people always makes me feel good because I made a positive difference. The people really appreciate it and remember that you helped them. Someday they will help you when you are in need. Everyone can start by helping people in their community and then branch out and help other communities.
I also wanted to share a video that I think is pure creativity. I found this video about a year and half ago and it's a couple of guys on the streets of Oakland dancing in the rain. What struck me as incredible was they were freestyle dancing on the street for fun. They weren't doing in front of a crowd for attention or on a stage. They were just trying to express their creativity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. They have pretty incredible moves! I talk about expressing yourself in your community, I thought this was a good example.

Community as Entertainment

By Marco Vernacatola
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

I feel that a fitting metaphor for community would be community as entertainment. When people are looking to unwind after a grueling day of work or school, the first thing that this person is likely to do is turn on the TV. The television, for many, is the easiest and most efficient place to go to for entertainment; if you want laughs, music, political talk, or sports, it’s all at your fingertips. The problem with this is that what’s going on in the television isn’t actually there.

This is why the community is an important alternate, and some would say more fulfilling, way to find your entertainment. Everyone in the community has some sort of talent to offer; this can be a good sense of humor and wit, skill with an instrument, or a heated passion for politics. This is all something that can be found on the television, but when this is on the television, it becomes distorted because of its impersonal nature. And the viewers who watch this can only ever be a viewer and never a participant.

As someone who plays an instrument moderately well, there is nothing more exciting than making noise with a group of equally inept musicians in my community, with no aspirations of recording anything or performing live. I’ve seen many bands live, big and small, and jamming with a few friends, making the most horrible noise one can imagine, is still more than exciting than seeing a giant live show or watching music videos and live performances on TV.

The greatest triumph of the community, however, is the fact that it is not an expensive proposition. To see Roger Water’s The Wall live in 2010, I paid $180 to see performers that resembled ants playing a band’s “greatest hits”. On the other hand, it didn’t cost me anything to get together with a few friends for an improvisational jam. The same can be said of art; why spend all your life enjoying only the artists deemed important by the mainstream when there are hundreds of artists in the community who can make meaningful and important pieces of art, regardless of the artist’s popularity?

The sad thing that happens to the community is that people are so focused on celebrities and nationally important figures, that the talents of those around them are ignored in order to continue the hero worship of some person they may never even meet. However, the people in the community are capable of becoming celebrities in their own little circle if the people of the community come together to share and embrace each other’s talents.

A friend of mine, a very talented art student, regularly needs to free up space in his art room, requiring him to get rid of his older paintings he feels are primitive at this point, which I quickly offer to take. As someone who is by no means an art expert, I am as moved by his paintings as I am a van Gogh. And good luck buying an original van Gogh.

In my mind, my friend is as important an artist as anyone in the art world, past or present, and he lives five minutes away from me. This is what makes the community important; it offers what everything else offers, except it is unique in the sense that you can easily become a participant in all the shenanigans.

Community as a Family

By Elizabeth Matte
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

When I think of a community I think of a group of people living in the same area as one. I especially think of this when I think of communities in the city. When people live in close proximity under poor conditions I think it can bring people closer together. They can unite and become a family. This is important because if people are living in harsh conditions then need as much support as they can. They need to have positive people in their lives that inspire them. If people in a community unite as a family and can inspire one another than they could provide hope and courage for people that are in extremely bad situations. Their inspirations can help someone get out of a dangerous situation or just help them move forward in general.

I have learned that when people live in a large city with thousands of people, it is harder for them to make lasting relationships. A lot of people that live in a city often find themselves alone. This can lead to irrational behavior or thoughts and often results in suicide. I think it’s important for a person, not just in a city, to have a few close friends that live somewhat close by. The support of others plays a huge role in our lives and can be beneficial for a person.

If people treat their community as a home and the people in it as a family then they will respect it more. They will take care of their environment more and treat others with respect. They might volunteer in the community and organize local events for people in the area. This will also allow people to interact and develop their relationships with one another. It could strengthen relationships and create new ones. This would be especially good for children in the area. It is important for adults to be involved as well but I think children have a lot more free time than adults especially in the summer. If a group of people organized an event for children in the summer it may help keep them off the streets. This could be extremely beneficial for their future and the future of the community. If bonds are created at a young age and taking care of one’s community is stressed, then children will grow to work with and appreciate one another. They will have something to cherish when they are older. These lessons will also help them in other areas of their lives.

Establishing the thought that community is like a family will be really beneficial for all communities. If you think of others as your family you will create a deeper bond. I think it could help if you encounter problems with another person, because you couldn’t just walk away from them if you get into a fight. It might make you work harder at your relationship and can create a lasting relationship. I have come across many people so far in my life. I think if we all had the idea that we were family I would have had longer relationships with certain people. I think everyone needs support and every community needs love. I think there aren’t enough safe places in the world especially in the inner city.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street set to "Lawless" by Andy Palmer

From Eileen Boisseau
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

This is my son Andrew's (Andy Palmer and Grub Street Writer, a progressive folk rock band) latest artwork. I thought it was pretty amazing (of course) and that our class would appreciate this timely, creative message.



Occupy Wall Street montage with musical support by Andy Palmer (“Lawless,” from Palmer’s Sometime Around). Grub Street Writer performed at Occupy Denver on Saturday, October 22nd, in an effort to support the movement’s core message of fundamental change to the regulation of our financial industry being critical.

Lyrics:

They have no idea
No clue
What we're gonna do
There's been a breach
Down by Broad Street
And it's a hackneyed coup

Stay silent
Be quiet
Little man little man
You're a proxy mind in a
Proxy time in a
Proxy land

And they move the world how they want to move
Lawlessly move how they want to

Are we cursed?
Or just the first
Ones to wonder
Who's been played the fool?
Not you, aw, yeah you
And all the others

The huckster steals
Golden years
And nails them all to the Wall
Merchant men,
Storm the den
And Borough through the Hall

To move the world how you want to move
Lawlessly move how you want to

Got an idea?
Got a clue?
What you're capable of
Rise up
You're done
With little man matters

And you'll move the world how you want to move
Lawlessly move how you want to

What percent are you?

From Matt Kilburn
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut

Hi All ... I found this link while looking at OccupyWallStreet stuff. You can put in your salary and see where you fall in the 99%. Interesting and scary at the same time.

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/10/19/what-percent-are-you/

Commentary: On We Are the 99 Percent


By Charlene Folston
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
10 October 2011

After visiting the "We are the 99 Percent" website, I have a new found respect for all of the people that are involved in this great movement. I applaud them for taking a stand on behalf of all of us and demanding that changes need to be made very soon. While reading all of the testimonials i felt the sense of urgency and how people desperately need help for them and their families. I fully support everyone that is occupying Wall Street now. I am also glad that it is a growing movement that continues to spread throughout the country. This is something that is overdue and I do believe that it will bring a positive change. I guess it is because i do not pay very much attention to the news unless it effects me directly, but I never realized that there were so many out there like me that are suffering and struggling to make ends meet. I know that there is something that the government can do to help all of us. They need to step in and make some drastic changes. There are too many in need and they cannot continue to sit back and not take responsibility. That is why I think it is important for as many people to get involved as possible.

This article has also been an eye opener for me personally. I have not realized how often I take the life and the things that I have for granted. I am always focused on the next thing I am getting for myself when I should be trying to help someone that is in need. I never really paid much attention to the jobs crisis because I have a job but I realized that all of the things that people are going through now can just as easily happen to me when i least expect it. Most people cannot save because they are living paycheck to paycheck and I am constantly spending money on frivolous things that I do not need. This site really make you take a look at your own life and think of ways that you can help make a difference.

Commentary: On Occupy Wall Street, Ron Paul and Federal Bailout Money

By Thomas Norman
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
10 October 2011

Commentary on "Ron Paul and Occupy Wall Street Should Jointly Call for Full Public Disclosure of All Fed Bailout Money," The Hill's Pundits Blog, October 10, 2011

The ongoing protest on Wall Street and other towns in America seems to be rooted with a frustration and a desire for “change”. After reading the article regarding full public disclosure of fed bailout money, I was overcome with anger and frustration. How was it possible that we could be fooled so easily and led astray from our God-given common sense.  Congressman Ron Paul has been a strong advocate of full disclosure of where and who the monies were allocated to. The fact that we still are unaware of “ALL” banking institutions and corporations that received funds, only adds fuel to a burning fire that has heated the hearts and collective minds of so many frustrated American citizens. I clearly recall the fall of 2008 and the fear mongering that existed, and how so many Americans were afraid to lose their homes, their job, and retirement funds due to the crisis. The media did a great job of perpetrating these fears on the public  through daily newscasts and newspaper publications of the economic crisis. Each day we were glued to the TV to see just how far the stock market had plunged that day, and with each dip in value, so did our confidence and trust in the system began to dip as well. I remember former President George Bush coming on live TV to address the nation and to basically inform the American people that if their elected officials did not pass the proposed TARP bill, we would see an economic collapse more devastating that the Great Depression. His solemn, yet affective tone seduced and convinced many Americans and congressman to get aboard with what the administration was trying to push through congress. He was also rumored to have had a closed meeting with top senators and threatened marshal law if the bill was not passed. Sounds like a dictator to me. Sounds like a government operating as an imperialistic regime who was willing to do anything to achieve its aims.

I remember shortly after the bill had passed, many congressman wanted a full disclosure of where the monies were sent and to whom. I remember the former chairman of the fed explaining to a panel of senators and curious elected official that the fed was above reproach, meaning they did not have to disclose any information regarding where the monies were allocated. It was at that moment that I realized something was not right and we were being duped as a society. How in the face of a national emergency, and basically the taxation of the public to pay for a bailout that was not created by the public, should the public not know where their money had gone? How is that answer even possible within a democratic structure of government? The answer is its possible because we as a people for so long have empowered certain elected officials to manage our lives and make decisions that at some given point and time cost our collective society.

However, what the government did not take into account was the perseverance, courage, and intelligence of its people. We are  now witnessing a growing movement of persons who are not willing to throw away a future. They are not willing to throw away a dream. A dream that has existed in their hearts and minds. A dream that they are ready to see manifested into a reality.  They no longer want to be enslaved in a system to only benefit’s the 1% of wealthy Americans. They want their slice of the American pie that seems to be getting smaller by the day. This American pie is being consumed by the few privileged Americans who believe the pie solely belongs to them and whatever crumbs are left over, should be giving to us, and that we should be appreciative for these for crumbs. The protests that are taking place was only a matter of destiny. From the Arab Spring movement that shattered the will of so many middle eastern regimes, to the European Union protests that invaded London and Ireland, to the shore of the mighty American empire, we are seeing the developed of a movement of people unafraid to voice their frustrations with the powers that be. We are witnessing a movement that will forever stamp this period of time and define the very near future. I hope the movement continues to grow and that more Americans will find the time to join the energy that is being fed at these certain points of the earth. If one could stand atop of the world and look down upon these protests, they should be moved to action with a relentless passion and desire to bring about change. What’s more realistic and convenient is that we can witness the movement in our cities. We have an world wide web of information to obtain. Its what we are willing to do with this information. Our fellow citizens are risking their lives in a way to bring about a change for each of us. Its starts with one and ends with all. I want to be apart of the collective all to show the elite that this land and all its resources belongs to us too. The days of feeding off us will soon come to an end. I truly believe a change will transpire from these protests. I’m just not sure if the change will benefit the people, or give those who have the power, more power.

Commentary: On We Are the 99 Percent


By Elizabeth Matte
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

After reading the “we are the 99 percent” article my heart sunk into my stomach. I felt saddened and disgusted for these people. But I also didn’t feel alone anymore. I feel like I can relate to a lot of these people. I haven’t really opened up to much in this class but I think I may now.

I recently had a baby and I’m now a single mother. I was working a good job making good money. Then I got pregnant after being told I would never have children. I was a nanny for three children but the family didn’t want me bringing my child to work with me. So my boyfriend (at the time) and I decided I would stay home with the baby. Daycare, well in our area, is basically his whole pay check. So it would be pointless to put my child in daycare and I really didn’t want to do that when I was watching someone else’s children. About a month after my son was born my boyfriend and I broke up. There were a lot of reasons why but I know one reason was because he was so stressed out about having to provide for all of us. So now I am out of a job, living back home and alone. I have an associate’s degree but after coming to UConn I will have student loans I will eventually have to pay off. So I will join that group of students that are in debt.  I honestly didn’t realize how bad things were until after I broke up with my son’s father. I don’t know if it was because I was working a great job, making good money and was pregnant, but I had no idea. I had no idea that there were like no jobs out there because I didn’t have a need to look for a job. Now that I need money I’m finding that the only jobs out there are low paying. (This is a kick in the stomach after being paid so well) And if I got a low paying job all my money would go to daycare, so what’s the point? I’m fortunate enough to having parents that can help me out, but my father was planning on retiring in a few years and I don’t know if he can. I feel horrible because I have a son t take care of and my family has to help me out. I don’t feel like it’s their duty to help support him but that’s how it has to be. My son’s father isn’t really around and barley helps support him. I told my parents I’d rather not go to school so I could work (a second or third shift job) but my family is pushing me to go. I’m worried that, like most people out there, I will have all these college degrees, no job with thousands of dollar loans to pay off.

One of the stories that really struck me was one of a girl that said she had some degrees and was out of work. I guess she was trying to get a job and they told her she was over qualified and inexperienced. I found this really interesting. My mother had the same problem. She retired from an insurance company after working there for like 20 years. She took an early retirement because her boss was basically harassing her and the company didn’t do anything about it. She really couldn’t afford to retire so she tried getting another job at another insurance company but they wouldn’t hire her for a position she wanted, because she was over qualified! I had never heard anything like that and thought it was an excuse. But after see that girl’s story it made it real. I didn’t know you could be overqualified for a job. Wouldn’t that make a person more applicable?

I definitely agree with the people are courageous enough to go stand up to the people on wall-street. But I also feel like it’s not enough. I’m trying to be hopeful and positive for everyone and myself. But I feel like the government and corporations’ have dug such a deep hole that they won’t be able to get us out of it. I don’t know how it could be fixed. I think it’s easy to say “oh just cut back corporate costs, or cut the bosses pay”, but that is really unrealistic. The people that are in charge are simply that, they are in charge. I think they feel that if you don’t like what you’re getting paid they will find someone else. I feel like everyone is made out to be replaceable. And these bosses and companies don’t care about their workers. This same situation happened at my father’s job. He works at Pratt and Whitney and they recently (a few months ago) had big layoffs. They had to lay hundreds off because the CEO’s and people in charge didn’t want to take a pay cut. It was so sad to hear when my dad told me. My dad didn’t lose his job but people he knew did. There were people that had a family that had worked for the company for over 10 years. I’m sure they will be over qualified for the jobs they apply for.

As I was typing this paper, I started chatting with my dad about this article. He was explaining tome and telling me his opinion on it and I also agree with him. He said that the people that are occupying wall-street should be at the White House and protest their policies because it’s their issues and they can do more about it. My dad was saying that Kudlow (who I can’t stand) talk’s about it on his show. I guess he has been covering it a little every night and will continue to cover the story.

Commentary: On We Are the 99 Percent


By Eileen Kennedy Boisseau
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

It was difficult to read the old English and interpret clearly what Benjamin Franklin was talking about. I believe that he was saying that those who are in power should use that power wisely and justly in their dealings with fellow citizens. But as Mr. Franklin says, there are also those forms of government that would turn things into a “tyranny”, and I think one in which the current government might becoming guilty of. In order to correct this, the general population should be entitled to education and therefore more wisely and fairly be involved in running our own country.

I am stunned to hear of the hardships facing so many. It was even more difficult to read these stories about my fellow citizens who want nothing more than a job and to provide for themselves and their families, and is being denied this opportunity. It is appalling that so many in this powerful democratic nation of the United States are struggling just to get by. I am stunned to read the words of my neighbors and their hardships. I am heartily saddened to know of friends and neighbors either living paycheck to paycheck or standing in lines months on end looking for that elusive job.

These are not people who are bemoaning that they are owed something. These are responsible individuals who would be happy if only they have the opportunity to have a job or have that job back and pay their own way. It is a fair expectation in a country as fair as ours – at least it used to be. People’s dreams have been shattered and people’s good faith efforts been stifled by lack of or outright denial of opportunity and lack of the government caring for their citizens. Losing homes, jobs, retirement savings and paying exorbitant prices for an education are not acceptable.

One gentleman defined the America of today as “corporatocracy” – an apt description if we interpret this to mean an America representative of and driven by corporate greed and denying the workers any share of profits. This description sounds tragically correct.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Commentary: Occupying My Mind

By Julie Bauereis
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
18 October 2011

Commentary on OccupyWallStreet.org

I find the Occupy Wall Street movement fascinating! Obviously, it is completely inappropriate that the banks have such enormous political and economical control over the country as they do. This movement has been a long time coming; and I feel that more and more people are coming on board with it. Americans are angry to be losing their homes, their jobs, healthcare, benefits, retirement, etc. Though, when looking at most countries throughout the world, even with the economical situation as it is in the US, we are still living pretty well. Our culture believes, and I agree, that all that is being taken away from us, is our right. It is not for the 1% to take away. In our front yard we have a sign posted amongst our Halloween decorations that says "We Are The 99%: The Middle Class Is Too Big To Fail." I believe that if Americans unite, and stay peaceful and level-headed, we can accomplish what we want for a country. As a liberal from Texas, I have been frustrated for years about partisan separation that seems to be nothing more than absolute anger and hatred for one another. I lived in a small town and worked at the only Planned Parenthood within a 300 mile radius, and had to vote against Bush in a Pentecostal church. I literally had people walk by me as I stood in line that whispered "Sinner!" in my ear as they passed. I LOVE the fact that we can ALL stand together and fight for an issue united. It's not about religious morals or taxation; this is about American livelihood.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artist Lily Yeh on Using Art to Transform and Build Community

This week for the Fall 2011 Creativity + Social Change class, we read "Warrior Angel: The Work of Lily Yeh" by Bill Moskin and Jill Jackson, a paper on hartist/activist/educator Lily Yeh's methodology of using art to transform and build community. Below is a presentation by Lily Yeh at the Bioneers conference, where she spoke about and shared examples and pictures of her work. She has a new book out, as well, called Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms, which documents her methodology as implemented at the Dandelion School in Beijing, China, a school for the children of migrant workers. I am honored to be interviewing Lily on Creativity in Play at 12 p.m. EDT on Thursday, November 10. Listen live or download the podcast after it airs.

Video streaming by Ustream

From Collage to What Next

Patterns, images, metaphors and connections from the Fall 2011 Creativity + Social Change class, responding to the collective collage they created in response to "What if we ...?" and "Wouldn't it be nice if ...?" questions about how to link their personal creativity beyond themselves to the community and society. We used the collage as a planning process tool a few weeks ago. The following Wordle was created from ideas they shared as they talked about the images they contributed to the collage.

Wordle: Creativity + Social Change

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Commentary: On #OccupyWallStreet Anger

By Eileen Kennedy Boisseau
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "Occupy Wall Street: What Are They So Angry About?" Huff Post, October 9, 2011

That’s a good question and it seems it has been taking a little while to define the answers, but if we sit back and listen, we can hear the message.  I liked the opening statement that clearly defines the frustration level that those Occupying Wall Street are at: “they are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”.  In fact as the article brings out, a great many of us are disgusted with the economic challenges most of us – yes, I’d have to say 99 percent of us are experiencing.

I think Occupiers on Wall Street is providing visibility and effectively speaking out  against  the outrageous greed of many of the Wall Street banks and big businesses.  According to this article and a quote from Clinton, there are “20 million people officially out of work”, not including the unofficial number which brings it even higher, and that is staggering.  As Ben Bernanke states, this would qualify as a “national crisis”.  This would also explain the outraged numbers of people squatting at Wall Street and the countless more nationwide.

I appreciated both the short and longer histories that Monika Mitchell included in this article to remind us in understanding or reminding us how we got here.   After the 2008 Wall Street crash, the government provided the Toxic Asset Relief Program in the hopes of saving the banks and infusing them with the funding to turn around and provide reasonable loans to the American people. Instead, they held onto those funds and by doing so, further crippled the economy.  And it’s taking a long time to find accountability; if we ever can accomplish that fully.

So, the government is broke and wants to now draw off the hard-working people futures by underfunding Social Security.  It gets more and more outrageous and intolerable.

The longer history recalls the American people’s democratic spirit and resolve to create the land of equal opportunity culminating in the American Revolution over 200 years ago. I liked Ms. Mitchell’s quote related to that: “desperate people do desperate things”, and another from Janis Joplin “freedom’s just another work for nothing left to lose." The activists of OWS are basically saying just that, because they have no jobs to lose.

There was some defense in this article about Wall Street not being entirely at fault.  The mortgage securities market is blamed; but I contend that had the bankers or government securities regulation been monitoring them, this recession could have been avoided.  So now as the leaders of the “private equity firms and hedge funds” recognize, due to the lack of “capital and credit…”, “everyone is sitting on cash”.   So funds are apparently stuck at the top and simply put, need to get unstuck.

Discussions need to happen soon and I think the “Occupying Wall Street” movement is the “in your face, I’m not going anywhere until that happens” catalyst that just might be bring that to fruition. We need to bridge the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. We can reshape democracy and make it more equitable.  We can be imaginative and create more workable solutions if we keep an open mind, and keep in mind that we all need to take more responsibility for each other in this local and in the national community.

Commentary: On Deepak Chopra’s Message to #OccupyWallStreet

By Juliet Kapsis
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
12 October 2011

Commentary on "Deepak Chopra’s Message to Occupy Wall Street and Beyond," Washington Times, October 10, 2011

As Deepak said in the shared group meditation at #OccupyWallSt, “Go beyond anger as that comes from fear. Go towards compassion…. Ask yourself, how can I be the change that I want to see in the world?”

Humans have been creating concepts of greater beings for thousands of years.  The Greeks imbued their gods and goddesses with human traits such as anger, jealousy, and desire.  I thought of what I’ve read of the Trojan War, how when things were just about to fizzle out and the fighting stop, the gods and goddesses were able to get things going again.  They did this by inciting the emotions of the human chess pieces that were playing out the chess game on the battlefield, in the city strong-hold, and everywhere else.  Anthony Robbins, the motivational speaker, has said that if you can get yourself to experience the right emotion, you can get yourself to do anything.  And what if you – or a god/goddess or your parents or an advertisement – can make you feel the “wrong” emotion?  An emotion that brings up fear, anxiety, judgment or uneasiness is what I am referring to with the label of “wrong."

Managing our emotions is essential to remaining conscious, calm and aware.  This is a gift we give to ourselves and others.  It is not simply a small thing we do – because this practice imbues us with the strength, clarity and desire to tap into our full potential and discover what it is we were meant to do here in physical form.  Our emotions can be manipulated by societal memes as tradition, where we are told this is how things have always been done and that we are obligated to carry on.  These are not our bags to hold anymore.  If something is heavy, it is not meant to be brought forward.  Rikka Zimmerman, a transformational life coach, says that the truth will always make you feel light and a lie will always make you feel heavy.  Check in with yourself and see where your truth lays – one that is part of the recognition that we are all connected.

What we are experiencing here is not simply an economic revolution – this is only what is happening now.  We have been experiencing a spiritual revolution.  Here in the West, with the gifts of meditation, yoga, and other philosophies, we are blessed to receive these gifts.  Noam Chomsky, in a talk he gave to academics at Princeton University earlier this year, spoke of the responsibility that intellectuals have to humanity – to speak the truth.  I see that this speaking the truth is a responsibility of us all, specifically those in the West.  Speaking the truth is part of this spiritual revolution.  Susan Campbell, Ph.D. and self-transformation author wrote:  “Once we face our own true feelings and beliefs, we can start to act on them, bringing our behavior, relationships and professional lives into alignment.”

Take action in your own life by loving, accepting and forgiving yourself.  Practice waking up in the morning and saying, “Today is a judgment-free day”.  How free will that allow you to feel, to be judgment-free for just one day?  That experience will trickle over into another day and another – until you are filled with a knowing that you are loved, just as you are here and now.  The practice of releasing self-judgment allows you to see and be yourself with others in your life.  Facing your fears inspires them to face theirs – when we are not choosing fear, but love, we move towards healing and new frontiers. 
Question yourself and your thoughts.  Rikka Zimmerman recommends a three-day thought cleansing where for three days you ask yourself “Who does this thought belong to?” after each of your thoughts.  It is miraculously light feeling to realize that most of your thoughts do not belong to you, they were given.  Ask your friends what is new and good?  What is making them smile today?  Ask people what makes them deliciously happy?  What thrills them to their very core?  We can fall into a place of focusing on what is not going right – there’s always something to talk about in this realm.  And just as there’s never any lack of the negative stuff, as we are in an all-abundant Universe, there’s equally never a lack of the positive stuff.  Of this fact, I am positively positive about!

Thank you for sharing the meditation from Deepak!

Commentary: On #OccupyWallStreet as Mob

By Karen Faass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "Don’t Confuse “Occupy Wall Street” as a Protest, It’s a Mob," Mail Online, October 12, 2011

I chose this article to bring another perspective into the mix of “Occupy Wall Street.” I do agree that people have the right to speak up about what is happening in our economy and the impact it is having on all Americans, especially college-age students.  There is no denying, after reading many articles this week, people are struggling and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

However, now that “Occupy Wall Street” has made a stance and has been noticed around the country in many major cities, they now must be careful this “occupation” does not turn into a “mob scene” where the true meaning of the occupation is lost.   Making this “personal” by marching up the individuals’ homes, I don’t believe, was a wise choice.  “Occupy Wall Street” is definitely “personal”, as it affects the well-being of so many individuals.  The movements’ statement that the economical affairs of our country are in need of repair and needs to be addressed is the focus.  Crossing the line of a peaceful statement and showing up on the property of individuals’ homes outside the boundary of the demonstration could have a negative outcome and the cause could lose its momentum.

This might be the time to organize thoughts and ideas as to where this occupation is heading…to now have a goal of how to proceed.  It seems part of the crowd is turning into a “Woodstock”…camping out…walking around dirty…areas of the park becoming filthy…I feel this will greatly impact any serious discussion of why they came to Wall Street in the first place.

The article brings up a point that “Occupy Wall Street” aligns themselves with the Tea Party.  This group is a movement for the people.  While the groups do share concerns that are similar, the Tea Party movement is organized and does work within the democratic system.  One difference between these groups indicated in the article was that “Occupy Wall Street” does not want to work within the political system and there is no or little organization within the group.  The Tea Party has had organized rallies where the area in which they gathered was left cleaner when they left. 
Unions have backed the occupation and some say this is no different than the union strikes of the seventies.  President Obama has said nothing regarding this event, not even asking the people to leave.

No one knows where this will end.  Now that they have the attention of many, can they now begin to focus on where to go from here and begin a new chapter in working for a better America?

Commentary: On #OccupyWallStreet Policy

By Marco Vernacatola
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "Occupy Wall Street Shifts From Protest to Policy Phase," Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2011

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement, up until recently, has been dismissed by, well, almost everyone.  The protesters, often described as hippie-like, appear to have no goal in mind, no end game for how this whole movement will turn out.  However, as the movement picks up steam, more and more intellectuals and organizers are attaching themselves to the group, turning what was once a disorganized group of outcasts into a force to be reckoned with.

As this article describes, "Occupy Wall Street" is ready to move on to it's next phase, which is the policy-making phase.  The media and establishment reaction to the growth of this movement is starting to show hope for actual change in how the financial aspect of this country is handled.  A point this article makes is that "Occupy Wall Street" is a distinctly progressive movement, which before now, was not represented in the media in very many shapes or forms.  This movement, in the words of the author of the article, "will help give concrete form to a political narrative that so far has remained abstract in the public mind: That the financial industry has so far gotten a pass on its responsibility for the 2008 crash and escaped sufficiently stringent regulation, while government assistance to banks and Wall Street firms has left consumers in the dust." (1)

The idea that the financial system is being exploited by the major players who participate in it is something that is often voiced when two people discuss our nation's financial problems.  The ironic thing about it though, is that at a time when our nation needs financial reform the most, movements like the Tea Party spring up instead, wanting less regulation and reform.  For progressives, "Occupy Wall Street" is the cavalry that almost arrived too late.  As they enter the stage in their development where actual policy making may become the end result, it offers a beacon of hope for people desperately searching for an answer that doesn't consist of simply replacing everyone currently in office.

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement is also bringing to the forefront the inequality between the rich and the poor.  According to the article, "in 1980, the average income of the top 1% was about 30 times that of the lowest 20% of households; in 2006 it was more than 100 times that of the lowest quintile." (1)  While these figures aren't new, "Occupy Wall Street" is broadcasting them to the world in a big way.

I feel "Occupy Wall Street" may become much bigger than its detractors expect, or want, it to get.  It has become one of the few voices for the disappointed and discontent, and has gone from just a group of "lazy hippies" to a movement of like-minded people of all backgrounds wanting to make some sort of difference, even if it means taking on this nation's giants.

Commentary: On Wall Street March to Millionaires' Homes

By Michelle Hypolite
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "Wall Street Protesters Plan 'Millionaires March' to Tycoons' New York City Homes," Fox News, October 11, 2011

I decided to go to Fox News to seek out an article to see how the "other side" was reporting about the protest and the individuals involved. Many members of the Republican Party have called the protesters un-American, radical, and even criminals so I was pleasantly surprised to see that this article was unbiased and didn't paint the negative picture that has attempted to undermined the protest. The article talks about the protesters plan to march from the Wall Street Headquarters to the homes of some of the wealthiest New York residents who live on the Upper East Side. The march is to draw attention to the tax breaks that wealthy citizens receive in comparison to the average resident of New York State.  The article also states that celebrities are coming down to Wall Street to show their support. Russell Simmons and Kanye West made an appearance and tweeted about their visit, drawing more attention to the protesters and the cause.

I'm completely elated about the protest and the support that it is receiving. For awhile I was concerned that the media was not giving it coverage but the protesters refused to be ignored. I had a feeling that certain media outlets and politicians would do their best to discredit the participants and use methods of propaganda to make the protesters seem radical. It's refreshing to see the Democratic Party embrace the protesters and defend them publicly. It's easy to go off the record and say how you feel, but when I hear people like Nancy Pelosi and Robby Mook (director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) encourage Americans to stand up to billionaires and speak against their individual and corporate greed.

This movement is right on time. I was involved in the grassroots movement in the Hartford area one summer signing up residents to vote with Connecticut Working Families. We went to the poor-working class areas in New Britain and even held a protest rally at Nancy Johnson's office. This was the same election year that she was defeated by Chris Murphy and lost her seat in office that she held for about 18 years.  It was a pivotal moment for me and it was my first taste of making a big difference by doing simple things like going door to door and reminding everyday people that they can make a difference by coming out to vote. I had the same experience for the 2008 presidential election and though I'm not a fan of politics or politicians, I have an understanding that it is better to be at the table that in a corner complaining about how everything is wrong. The occupy wall street movement has refueled my fire and I'm ready to dive on in! In my woman's studies class our group project is to have an Occupy Uconn event and I'm so excited. The time for change is now and it is an ever evolving concept that we can never allow to lose steam and go cold.

Commentary: On New Haven's Occupy Movement

By Kathy Glass
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "New Haven's 'Occupation' Takes Shape," New Haven Independent, October 11, 2011
The article about New Haven's Occupation highlights some interesting facts about how such a movement is being fulled and shared within communities.  It seems that the organizers and occupiers are using various tactics to "get the word out," namely door-to-door canvasing and speaking at churches and stores.  In addition, the "Rock-upy New Haven" effort has been conceived to include local bands in the movement and to help spread the message.  Most recently, a member of the group created a website specifically for the New Haven movement (http://www.free-haven.org/).  All of these various forms of communication seem to spur the movement and spread the message to the people.  It's clear that this Occupy movement, like many others, is not only about the political, social and economic positions it presents, but also about uniting a community of citizens and opening up the lines of communication that may have been closed or inaccessible before.  If nothing else, this movement is giving people a platform for communication and change rooted in community.

Commentary: Occupy Wall Street and Insurance Companies

By Will Carnes
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
11 October 2011

Commentary on "Next Occupy - Wall Street-Run Health Insurance Companies," HuffPost, October 11, 2011

I found this article pretty interesting because health insurance companies such as Aetna and Cigna were brought up in the discussion. I live in Farmington, Conn., and these companies are a ten minute drive away. I have actually done an internship at Aetna a couple of summers ago and met with the former CEO Ronald Williams. After reading this article I had a completely different outlook on the company that I spent a summer working for.

I was unaware that Aetna and other health insurance companies were “profit machines” for Wall Street. I didn’t know rates were going up and less care was being provided. In my intern program I was under the impression that programs for more health care coverage were in the making. I don’t think I was being lied to but I had no idea that the CEO’s of these companies were pocketing an abundant amount of money for themselves and Wall Street. It’s hard for me to pay attention to these facts because I am still under my parents insurance, so I don’t actually pay anything. After watching some of the videos from Occupy Wall Street website, I remember one woman being interviewed in particular. She was saying most Americans are for the movement but as long as they are living comfortably in their homes they are not actually going to come down and protest, they are going to let someone else do it. She went on to say that the people who don’t have health insurance, or a job, and are in financial trouble are the people that have to stand up to Wall Street and make a change. When I think about the future it’s scary because one day I will have to pay for my own insurance. “We've got 9% unemployment, falling wages and a declining standard of living, and these guys are taking raises that stagger the imagination.”(Ethan Rome)

I think its going to be hard to break this corporate greed. I’m all for what the protestors are doing but what if they were put in the positions of theses greedy CEOs. Would they give away their bonuses to help the poor and middle class gain health insurance? In the article it mentioned CEOs received 1 billion in compensation in a 10 year period. Does anyone really need that much money? So the question is ..If these CEOs were to donate the billions of dollars they make, how would it be distributed out? Who would the money go to first? That’s the one issue I have with this movement on Wall Street. Things are not going to change in one day. At what point do the protestors know when they win? Will bills be passed right away and the economy taken out of recession? My opinion is no.

The important idea is maybe one day things will change because all these people protested. Maybe one day we will have a true democracy where the people who keep this country running have a voice in what decisions are made. Maybe one day we will sniff out the greed and keep it out. All we can do is try and hope for the best.

Commentary: On The 99%

By Jen Pradhan
Creativity + Social Change
University of Connecticut
12 October 2011

When I went on to the website for We Are The 99%, I was mesmerized (for lack of a better word) at everything that people had put up about themselves to take a stand. I was very moved and intrigued all at the same time to keep going. I almost felt morbid, but the sad truth is that its so real. I was flipping through the channels last night and Chelsea Lately (10/11/2011),touched upon how the media was focusing in on the young adults that are out there for sex and food rather than on the bigger picture. Why are they focused on the negative and hiding behind what’s really going on? Instead of standing by and supporting and making a change, the newscast picked the most unnecessary thing they could to report on.

What’s truly sad is that there are millions out there who are only going by what the news is telling them. I was one of those people that took the situation at face value, wondering to myself… “why are you complaining since you choose the job and the career you wanted. You made your bed and you have to lay in it.” I wasn’t thinking about all the other factors such as having a family to support, kids to feed, health deteriorating, debts and foreclosures that are going on with these individuals.

Reading and seeing the pictures of each one of the individuals was a reality check. Not everything is merry and not everybody has control of what they are doing… even if they do have a nice paying job or think they are getting  by. One thing I am learning from all this is you think you are ok now but tomorrow you can get into a car accident that can take you from your “comfortable” world (with enough in the bank for a rainy day) that you live in to one that’s going to have you feeling helpless and lost.  It’s depressing.

One thing that astonished me was an article that I came across on facebook. When I read it at first, I was agreeing and telling myself …”oh well, this individual should’ve known better. Its sad, but pick something better. It’s a land of opportunity.” But today I went back to read some of the comments that were left by the people that agree with the article just as I had. And I was shocked and disappointed to revisit the article.

The comment below saddened me the most:
obamas1goodyear: 10/08/11 18:13
A few years ago, I attended an open house at a fairly prestigious, and very expensive, university with my daughter who was evaluating various colleges. One of the programs we attended was a panel discussion featuring four or five of the students who were attending the school. During the student introductions, one girl on the panel proudly announced that she was majoring in Women's Studies. After the program adjourned I asked my daughter what she thought that particular girl was going to do with a degree in Women's Studies. She said, "Probably live with her parents." My guess is that she is one of the Wall Street protestors.
The problem is not student loans. It is what students do with the loans. If you are going to borrow and invest $200,000 in a college education, you better learn something useful. 
It made me wonder if the mother thought of America like we all or once did –“ the land of opportunity.” Its people like the young individual that was going to major in women studies… that once stood up for women’s rights a while ago when no one believed in us (females) to be equals. Its because of individuals who went for what they believed in to make a change that Obamas1goodyear is able to voice her opinion at all.

I am glad I chose to go over this website ... it’s the tragic truth that I believe everyone should hear and know. Because each one of us can relate and should be proud to be part of the 99% and stand up for our rights.