Thursday, March 30, 2017

High School Journalists Publish Real News

Hello Everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, and that you've found some inspiration in others' actions recently, as I have.  Keeping in mind that many people in all places are working on practical, useful, and helpful projects is a great boost to me. 

A recent item on the Village Voice, a long-running news source in New York, wrote about the work of  high school journalists writing for the Classic, at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, New York.  (New York is D. Trump's state, so the story was particularly inspiring).

The students were reporting information about their interim high school principal, including allegations that at her former school she had “berated individual teachers [and] ignored students with disabilities”, and had mishandled an Islamiphobic incident at your Townsend Harris HS.

The school district is looking for a permanent principal at THHS, so reporters stationed themselves to interview candidates.

As the Village Voice article (link below) reported, “According to a letter written by State Assembly Members David Weprin and Nily Rozic, at a recent District Leadership meeting a [Department of Education] representative called the Classic ‘fake news’ while defending” the current interim principal.

The student journalists' response is to become even better journalists, to find out information, and publish.

Townsend Harris is a top-ranking high school, and its students come from many different backgrounds.   

Thank you student journalists at Townsend Harris High!  Your work - your efforts to report truth - is traveling far beyond your age group and your state.  And reading about your work sure helped my day!

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

For full article: Village Voice, March 21/2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Aleppo Syria - the 1.5mm seed connection


I hope this note finds you well. 

Yesterday was Seedy Saturday in London, Ontario.  Lots of conversations with lots of gardeners.  Displays and talks about gardening.  Seeds for sale.

I bought seeds from Kim Delaney of Hawthorn Farm (  Kim is brilliant and practical, understands the importance of good seed and healthy soil.  I bought Aleppo hot pepper seeds ... casually, because Aleppo and Syria are in the news and I thought growing those peppers would keep me mindful of  that county’s difficulties.

Well, today I looked up the Aleppo pepper – which is a common enough pepper to have its own Wikipedia entry  – and got popular beyond its origin border in the mid 1990s.  It was good to know that when it’s properly ripe it’ll be burgundy ... growing tips are good.  And it’s not a really, really hot pepper ... so the pepper-sensitive in our household will be o.k. with it.

And then I looked at some of the other entries that popped out of Google search ... and came upon a National Geographic article from May 16, 2014, which was about two weeks after “either one side or the other destroyed the city’s water supply.”  The city being referred to is Aleppo.  And the war situation referred to is, of course, the war in Syria ... which is destroying lives, buildings, infrastructure, and agriculture ... including the growing and trade in spices ... including the Aleppo pepper. 

As author Maryn McKenna wrote in 2014, “With 100,000 dead and grave diseases such as polio spreading in the turmoil, the loss of a spice might seem a small matter. But the peppers of northern Syria are not just a flavor; they are a heritage.”

A heritage in food culture and family.   To the Syrian growers and cooks, it won’t matter that across the border farmers in Turkey grow the same pepper – the Aleppo pepper – and give it a different name, Maras, after the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras.

Aleppo seeds are those kept by growers, smallholders, householders, men and women in Syria. And those seeds in Syria have a lifespan.  What’s the lifespan of pepper seeds?  Four or five years?   Who is saving the Syrian Aleppo pepper seeds - who is able to grow out the seeds to have more seeds - amidst bombs and terror and loss and drought? 

My little Aleppo pepper seeds are probably great, great, great grandchildren seeds of peppers that came from Syria 20 years ago ... getting over to Southwestern Ontario by whatever route it was.  I didn’t realize the responsibility I took on yesterday when I bought my seeds.  

Food connects.  Seeds connect.  The practicality, the reality, of such small things is huge and pushes at my heart and mind.

Be well,

Why's Woman

 How the Syrian Conflict Affects Your Spice Rack.  by Maryn McKenna, National Geographic, May 16, 2014

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Refuse to remain silent ...Mendler's counterfascism tools

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well and that your Sunday activities weren't dreary to match the weather.

This morning, an email arrived.  Its writer commented on the “resistance ... coalescing” around Donald Trump’s actions, and that right now is a time when we can act and connect with others on issues that we care about.  She noted that when people are angry or afraid they are also receptive ... implying that now is a time that good can be done, together.  An important thing to say, I thought.

And not an hour later I got an email from the Toronto chapter of Voice of Women for Peace (, saying that Quaker peace activist and writer, Skip Mendler, was going to be speaking at the Friends House in Toronto on the topic of  ”A handy guide for preventing fascism”.  Well ... here I am in London, Ontario, ... so I did what any other research geek would do and went online.

Mendler sounds like quite a guy!  He talks about groups like Emergency Circus and Clowns Without Borders, which help children in refugee camps.  Who knew there were such groups?!

and one of his opinion pieces for an (online?) publication called OpEdNews is titled “If You Can Keep It” ... Preventing American Fascism.  (here)

In this November 2015 piece, he outlines what fascism is - an enforced unification of institutions - and that such situations have to be imposed because people differ in so many ways that the structure and strictures of fascist (or corporatist) regimes don’t happen when people are able to express themselves.

He says we need to think of fascism in the same ways as we think of a disease ... like herpes ... so we can figure out how it’s caught, and how to reduce the factors – stresses – that cause a flare up. 

He says that people are susceptible to this imposed fascism when they become fearful, suspicious, lacking in empathy, obedient, nationalistic and rely on force.  He also commented – a year before the U.S. election - that “It is far more likely that fascist power will be established in the USA through apparently “free and fair” elections than through some kind of armed rebellion ... also far more likely to come from the grassroots up, rather than being imposed from above.”

Well ... the Trump certainly knew how to do the rhetoric that stirred up people, so maybe that’s a grassroots change.  His team is a bunch of ...

Better get back to Mendler’s ideas!

The Counterfascist Toolbox

- Turn the terms so we aren’t susceptible to fascism: be compassionate, kind, creative, imaginative, vigilant, informed, and thinking.

- Vigilance - pay attention to what's happening in the news, in your neighbourhood, city, province, country, other countries.  Yes, it can be a lot!  So "pick your battles"... the topics you really pay attention to and will/can act on.  Expanding Mendler ... the more you pay attention the better you'll be at Anticipation which helps you be pro-active: call the city clerk and ask if s/he's been told something's been given reserved time on an agenda a month hence... then call your group to be get the documents in a row, ready to write and counter the points you expect.

Centeredness – being able to maintain “calm, rational equanimity in the face of ... provocation – counters the tendency to panic, or take rash, impulsive, and ultimately counterproductive action.”

- And “centeredness supports couragewhether speaking up to a comment at work or carrying a sign along main street.

- We also have to reach out and make communities of many types: in our neighbourhood, of people with shared interests, and at all levels of government.

- “And most of all: whatever happens – refuse to remain silent.”

I'd love to have heard Skip Mendler speak in person ... and to have spent my evening with the wonderful community that would have been at a VOW event.  I'm happy to have run across his writings today tho' and thank him for being out there - being imaginative, centered and courageous, in communities quite a ways from his home in the U.S.  I think I can say I'm already on top of his last piece of advice ... and I promise to work on the others.  Thanks Skip!

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman 

Friday, February 3, 2017

So Much of the World is Inside America

             “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America”
Ronald Reagan

Hello Everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, and finding ways to work in your community on projects that bring people together.

Never did I think I’d write down words spoken by late U.S. president Ronald Reagan!

Angelina Jolie uses them in her New York Times opinion piece,  Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts Not Fear (here) Jolie is a special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a film maker and actor.    

This post is a riff on her comments ... and I’ll do my best to put quotations marks or credit to Jolie when I paraphrase her.

Jolie writes that “refugees are men, women and children caught in the fury of war ...often the victims of terrorism themselves.”  And that of the 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, less than 1 percent of those are settled anywhere around the world during any one year.  So, 650,000 worldwide. 

Jolie points out that refugees into the United States are screened over several months through interviews, and “security checks carried out by the F.B.I., the National Counter-terrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.”

The United States and other countries worldwide – including Canada – have agreed to take in refugees as an aspect of their participation in United Nations Conventions, international laws against discrimination on the grounds of faith. 

If I understand the situation, nations see such conventions in a practical way:  doing the good of taking in refugees, and seeing people as equal, are good for nations’ security.  What a funny blend of ethics and politics, but if it works, that's good. 

Jolie speaks passionately in her article about how openness and compassion towards others will bring those things home to ourselves and our country.  Her comments are worth reading and heeding. (here)

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From far and wide ... O Canada

Hello everyone,
I hope today finds you well. With something interesting happening to you today.  Something good.

It felt spontaneous, even tho’ someone must have started it.

Yesterday, about 300 people gathered at the London, Ontario mosque to tell its members and the Muslim community that we care about them and will never accept the hatred and prejudice that led to a murder of six men at a mosque in Qu├ębec City (with many other men wounded).

People spoke from the heart ... all clear about Canada as an inclusive place ... that our neighbourhood, our city, our country respects and needs everyone.

Someone began to sing O Canada, our national anthem.  And people joined in and sang out.  Me ... I couldn’t get my voice to work.  I mouthed the words.  I’ve never before really felt the emotion behind the words.  I felt it then. 

From far and wide ... O Canada.

Be well,

 Why's Woman

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's find the ways to make the win

Hi all,

Hope this note finds you well.

Just read an article about a minor hockey president's anti-woman comments* (referring to the January 21 march) ... comments on his own blog ... but he's held positions of responsibility where young people are for many years.  I don't buy his comment that the words were taken out of "Context" (especially since he's posted other things over the years).  Sexism and powertripping language are sexism and powertripping language, and examples over time just paint the picture of the speaker.  It's good for people to read the words, feel the attitude.  We need to know this stuff is out there. 

To quote from a recent, much publicized Golden Globe winner: "this instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in the public platform ... filters down into everybody's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.  Disrespect invites disrespect.  Violence incites violence.  When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

We all need to listen, heed the sign that says "Tomorrow, there'll be more of us" ... marching, and paying attention to political goings on, and working to not just keep things that are good but to make more things better. We're going to find the ways to make the win.

Hastily expressed ... and with all best regards,

Why's Woman


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Beautiful Healthy Terrace Garden Has Big Effects


I hope this note finds you well.

My great interest is urban agriculture ... and I always follow stories on a Canadian website City Farmer.  City Farmer gathers articles from all over the world, and shows that there are many innovative, entrepreneurial, active, positive things happening world wide. Food is the way to bring people together!

I've just taken a look at the flourishing urban, vegetable garden tended by Anusuya Sharma, on her terrace in Bengaluru India.

She’s taken courses on vegetable gardening, and says that over twenty years ago she “learnt that terrace gardening could be a full-fledged way of cultivating crops for sustainable living. Since then, my passion for it only grew and I have never looked back”

She catches and uses rainwater, and recycles.  And says that “fresh chemical-free vegetables grown at home reduces my family’s carbon foot print, a core issue in global warming,”

It helps my heart to read about someone who understands her own and her home’s place in such bigger cycles.

See the article at its original source here:

Best regards to all!

Why's Woman