No School, No Lunch

From NPR: When cold snaps and blizzards shutter schools, kids miss more than their daily lessons. Some miss out on the day’s nutritious meal as well.

Blue and I talked about this when the metro area shut down two weeks ago. Some folks were home when horrendous traffic and inclement weather collided in Atlanta, but thousands of others ended up stuck in the worst jam they’ve ever experienced.

People slept in their cars or abandoned them and hoofed it to nearby friends, restaurants and stores. But there were hundreds of students who had no such options – instead, they ended up at school over night when their buses were unable to maneuver the slick hills home.

For many parents, this may have been a nightmare. Many, but perhaps not all. For a few, knowing their child is at school with access to heat, running water and food, might be a comfort.

Over half of Georgia’s students live in poverty. I was a classroom teacher in what was then a middle class section of metro Atlanta. Even so, there were students who couldn’t always bathe at home and used makeshift facilities at the school, students who would’ve been cold without the socks, blankets and coats donated, or who were hungry but for free breakfast and lunch. We were never quite sure about their dinner. This was in the early 2000s and the poverty rate has increased since then.

So here we are, a mere two weeks away from the last winter storm, and kids are once again out for several days in a row. Parents with the resources to stockpile groceries did so, as evidenced by the numerous pictures tweeted from throughout the metro area earlier in the week. But still we wondered: What about parents who can’t afford take off work and are still expected to go? What about those who can’t stock up on food?

Summer Lunch
Hunger isn’t relegated to winter. When school is out for the summer, many students go hungry without community support. Growing up, I spent a good portion of my summer break in Savannah. In the afternoons, a truck would pull up to the park across from my grandmother’s house, and a throng of kids would crowd around. What are they doing? I remember asking once. Getting lunch, she explained. Grandma didn’t elaborate aside from explaining it was a special program and we already had lunch here. But given what I now know about some of the demographics of the area, I wonder if it was a free lunch program.

As The Washington Post has reported, one program in Tennessee retrofitted a bus carrying sack lunches and delivered free meals to kids in impoverished areas.

With Georgia’s slick, hilly roads, and kids who simply don’t have the wardrobe to brave the elements, we understand why schools and businesses close. But those in other quarters do wonder if keeping schools open isn’t the better response:

When schools close because of extreme cold, especially in areas where many families struggle to pay for heat as well, Alexander wonders whether closing schools is the best way to go.

“It seems to me the best place to be is in school,” she says. “At least we can get the kids a hot meal.”

Read the NPR article here.

Show me the money

Today I received the following email from Florida A&M University:

FAMU Board of Trustees Schedules Emergency Called Meeting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees has scheduled an emergency called meeting for Thursday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. The general subject matter of the meeting is to consider the employment contract of President-select Dr. Elmira Mangum.

The public may access the meeting by dialing (877) 884-1929. The conference ID number is 23698072.

For more information, call (850) 599-3413 or visit,

http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?BOT&AgendasandMinutes

A similarly worded release was issued on January 30, 2014 for a called meeting the next day. Earlier this year, FAMU announced its selection for university President:

Contract negotiations are ongoing, yet despite her robust qualifications, the Board of Trustees has had difficulty agreeing on the details of her contract. Mangum was initially offered a base salary of $425,000. Tallahassee.com reports this is $100,000 more than James H. Ammons’ initial salary in 2007.

Her base salary would, “put her in the upper third of Florida’s 12 state university presidents, according to analysis by Florida Trend magazine. However, her total compensation will likely put her more in the middle or lower end of the pack,” says the Tampa Bay Times.

But some members of the Board wanted to cut the offer to $385,000. A divided Board did agree to some tweaks in compensation, but ultimately voted against the base salary reduction 7-5. One of the suggested changes included the removal of a $1000 per month car allowance.

Any changes in the contract are reviewed by Mangum and require the Board meet again as negotiations continue. She has placed a counter-offer for a university sponsored vehicle. The Board will continue their review on Thursday.

If negotiations are successful, Mangum’s three-year tenure begins April 1, 2014, with an option to renew.

Go big or go home

Diana Nyad’s triumph serves as perhaps one of the most inspirational victories of 2013. I wrote about her story earlier this year:

It took Nyad five attempts  – five – over the course of more than 30 years. This tells as much about physical skill and endurance as it does about patience and perseverance.

Do you have the stamina to dream big and go after what you want? That’s what I’ve been working on this year and will continue to do so as we welcome the new year.

Diana recently gave a TEDTalk about her record-setting swim. I’ve embedded it below. Enjoy!

Freedom Fighters

Freedom fighting, creation and imagination my favorite topics to mull. Last night I was  awake past my bedtime, and a trip down the rabbit hole known as the Internet led me to this great find.

It’s a podcast in two main parts. The first features Angela Davis and Grace Lee Boggs speaking at the Empowering Women of Color Conference. The second features an excerpt from Daniel Rasmussen’s book, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt.

The cast is from 2012, but conversations about freedom are always timely.

Shout out to Renina Jarmon for the recommendation.

At dusk, I’m thinking

It’s Wednesday and the sun is setting. I’m enduring a rare headache. It has not drowned in water nor drifted away in sleep, despite my best efforts. I guess it’s here to stay a bit. I’m due to stay up this evening and watch American Horror Story. I’m not normally a night owl, but I’m doing it this one time in solidarity with Sojo and Ms. Smart so we can do one of these. Just this one time though…

I’m thinking about compassionate capitalism. I imagine such a thing exists. I want you to imagine it, too. I aim to find it, and write about it, as to expand our understanding about what’s possible in a loving society. 

I’m thinking about practitioners of restorative justice, especially those in Georgia or in the south. I want to know more about what they do and what impact it has in their respective communities. I want to interview them and document their stories. 

I’m thinking about abolitionists. Those who would abolish the death penalty as well as those who would dismantle the prison-industrial complex. Although some states still murder prisoners, others are slowing and/or stopping the practice.  Meanwhile, budget cuts are forcing states to question caging as the default response to nonconforming behavior. In many states it costs more per year than college tuition. With no restoration and no education. Just revenge. I want less revenge. More evolution. More solutions. More healing. More love.

I’m pondering the ways these elements are interwoven. And the fact that any discussion of these ideas must eventually include public schooling… from the zero tolerance policies leading to the school to prison pipeline, to the capitalist ideals underpinning school policy and curriculum.

Things I’m thinking about this Wednesday evening. What’s on your mind?

Other ways to serve

Prompt from BlogHer NaBloPoMo:

Would you ever want to run for public office? Why or why not?

No, I don’t have interest in holding public office, much less going through the stress of running. That being said, I am interested in politics and I would consider being more involved in the political process if the opportunity arose. It’s been on my mind a lot lately:

My tweets mention local politics in particular, but I believe smart, progressive women need a voice at all levels.  You can’t get to those larger platforms without standing on smaller stages first, and quite a lot of important decisions are made at the state and local level.

As for my involvement, there are a few things I would consider, albeit behind-the-scenes.  To begin with, I would compile research for key issues, conduct briefings, or write speeches within my areas of expertise.  I also think it’s important to contribute to the broader discourse on complex societal issues. To that end, I would like to work for a think tank, or design and/or conduct research. I want to understand and amplify stories that are often marginalized, and help those who would most benefit from forward thinking, heart-centered policies.

Although I have no intentions of throwing my hat in any rings, I will look for ways I can help create a more loving society.

NaBloPoMo September 2013

Feeling

[To feel is] as vital as breath. Without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock ticking.

~Equilibrium

Yesterday I cried.

Today I am still sad. I do not know what I will feel tomorrow, or what actions or activism will result from my feelings. But yesterday, today and tomorrow, I send love.