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Monday, August 9, 2010

Are Our Hands Clean?

Yesterday, I had one of those a-ha moments when something I hadn’t quite understood in the past became crystal clear. There’s a Sweet Honey in the Rock song called Are My Hands Clean. My mother on several occasions tried to get me to really listen to this song and understand it. Yesterday, I went to a women’s film festival sponsored by the Leeway Foundation and some other organizations. I saw several films, but the one that made the meaning of Are My Hands Clean so clear was the film Made in LA. I have a lot to share about this film and information when you can see it as well. I will review it tomorrow. For now read the lyrics to Are My Hands Clean and listen to the song as well.

Are My Hands Clean?
Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Songtalk Publishing Co. 1985
Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Live at Carnegie Hall

I wear garments touched by hands from all over the world
35% cotton, 65% polyester, the journey begins in Central America
In the cotton fields of El Salvador
In a province soaked in blood,
Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun
Pulling cotton for two dollars a day.

Then we move on up to another rung—Cargill
A top-forty trading conglomerate, takes the cotton through the Panama Canal
Up the Eastern seaboard, coming to the US of A for the first time
In South Carolina
At the Burlington mills
Joins a shipment of polyester filament courtesy of the New Jersey petro-chemical mills of

Dupont strands of filament begin in the South American country of Venezuela Where oil
riggers bring up oil from the earth for six dollars a day
Then Exxon, largest oil company in the world,
Upgrades the product in the country of Trinidad and Tobago
Then back into the Caribbean and Atlantic Seas
To the factories of Dupont
On the way to the Burlington mills
In South Carolina
To meet the cotton from the blood-soaked fields of El Salvador

In South Carolina
Burlington factories hum with the business of weaving oil and cotton into miles of fabric
for Sears
Who takes this bounty back into the Caribbean Sea
Headed for Haiti this time—May she be one day soon free—
Far from the Port-au-Prince palace
Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications
For three dollars a day my sisters make my blouse

It leaves the third world for the last time
Coming back into the sea to be sealed in plastic for me
This third world sister
And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse
On sale for 20% discount
Are my hands clean?

Click the link below to listen to this song.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

US-Afghan Students Photo Exhibition at National Constitution Center

There’s a poem by Nikki Giovanni called Nikki Rosa that I like a whole lot. It’s a poem about stereotypes and how people make assumptions about other people based on superficial things. It’s about how we seldom imagine people seemingly different from us as having the same basic expectations of life. I thought of this poem last week when I visited the National Constitution Center and saw the most amazing photography exhibition called Being "We the People"; Afghanistan, America and the Minority Imprint.

This exhibitions features the photographs of students from Marefat High School in Kabul, Afghanistan and students from Constitution High School right here in Philadelphia. The following information, provided by the National Constitution Center, explains this unique and moving collaboration:

Equipped with digital cameras, the 21 students – many of whom had never held a camera before – learned how to conduct documentary photography and ventured into their communities to capture images of freedom, religious expression, protest, and other civic themes. Their photographs, portraying everything from weddings to parades and prayer services to political demonstrations, explore how minorities in different democracies perceive themselves as citizens and how they define citizenship.

Beginning in July 2009, students from both schools shared their work and ideas online at In March 2010, the Afghan students traveled to the United States and met face-to-face with their American counterparts to curate the exhibition. Together, the students scoured through over 500 photographs in order to select pairs – one image from each country – that showcase both the striking differences and startling similarities between Afghanistan and the United States. They also wrote accompanying captions, explaining the circumstances under which the photographs were taken.

"The camera taught me how to capture moments,” said Fatima Jafari, 16, of Marefat High School. “It is inspiring to be able to deal with living moments in a still frame. I have a tough future ahead, but I am determined not to surrender to the harsh realities of my community and my time. I want to be instrumental for a better change in my fate, and one of the ways I can accomplish this is through photography. There is a lot that can be said through the camera; it is a miracle.”

“This has been one of the single greatest and most poignant projects I've been involved in,” said Ian McShea, a senior at Constitution High School, who taught himself Dari in preparation for the Afghan students’ visit to the United States. “Meeting the Afghan students has taught me volumes of things that I didn't know about Afghanistan, Islam, and the Muslim world in general. I have regained faith, not only in humanity, but especially in my own generation, my global brothers and sisters.”

“This enriching cultural exchange has sparked an important conversation about the meaning of citizenship, and the students are shining examples of active citizens,” said David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center. “The exhibition will have a profound effect on visitors, who will be fascinated and shocked by the parallels in the photographs, the products of a visual dialogue between young people in two vastly different democracies.”

Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to join in the dialogue. A total of 70 photographs will be on display, but additional images will be accessible at electronic touch-screens, where guests of both the National Constitution Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan can peruse photo pairings and recommend those that resonate with them most. Through internet connectivity, users in both countries will see how their recommendations compare with those made by other visitors to the Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan.

This exhibition will be open until the end of September.

For more information about this exhibition visit the Constitution Center’s website-

National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street, Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106
T (215) 409-6693 (215) 409-6693
F (215) 409-6650

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

President’s Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders August 3-5, 2010

“This is a new moment of great promise. Only this time, we’ve learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future… It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.”
– President Barack Obama

Yesterday, President Obama met with 120 young African leaders, who gathered in Washington, D.C. for three-day forum. I like the focus the President in putting on young people and people who are not in government. The old ways of dealing with the old heads is hopefully over. Click on the link below to learn more about this forum, who some of these leaders are and what their plans are for their own countries. Remember, Africa is a continent.

*Photos- Associated Press