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Southern Girl Storytelling, Black Teachers, and Queen Sugar

September 12, 2016

Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region. 

1. In the Six Months After 9/11, Arab Women Were More Likely to Have Poor Birth Outcomes
“For the 2006 study, Diane S. Lauderdale, a professor in the department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago, compared the birth outcomes for Arabic-named women in California in the six months before and after 9/11. Her results were published in the journal Demography, where she found a ‘significantly elevated relative risk of poor birth outcomes’ for this group, and no increase in risk for any other women. Arabic-named women were 34 percent more likely to deliver low-birthweight children in the six months after 9/11 than in the six months before. Research shows links between the experience of discrimination and a heightened risk of preterm labor and low infant birth weight. Stressful experiences can cause an increase in hormones that can initiate labor. If labor is begun too soon developmental problems can continue throughout their lifetime. Most academic research into the link between discrimination and health relies on surveys that ask people to describe their experiences with discrimination. Lauderdale’s study stands out because she compared health outcomes before and after a major event when there was a heightened level of discrimination toward a particular group.”

2. We’re Losing Tens of Thousands of Black Teachers, Here’s Why That Matters
Kristina Rizga for Mother Jones: “Back when Lomax was a student in Philadelphia in the 1970s, local, state, and federal governments poured extra resources into these racially isolated schools—grand, elegant buildings that might look like palaces or city halls—to compensate for a long history of segregation. And they invested in the staff inside those schools, pushing to expand the teaching workforce and bring in more black and Latino teachers with roots in the community. Teaching was an essential path into the middle class, especially for African American women; it was also a nexus of organizing. But today, as buildings like Germantown High stand shuttered, these changes are slowly being rolled back. In Philadelphia and across the country, scores of schools have been closed, radically restructured, or replaced by charter schools. And in the process, the face of the teaching workforce has changed. In one of the most far-reaching consequences of the past decade’s wave of education reform, the nation has lost tens of thousands of experienced black teachers and principals. According to the Albert Shanker Institute, the number of black educators has declined sharply in some of the largest urban school districts in the nation. In Philadelphia, the number of black teachers declined by 18.5 percent between 2001 and 2012. In Chicago, the black teacher population dropped by nearly 40 percent. And in New Orleans, there was a 62 percent drop in the number of black teachers.” Many of these departures came as part of mass layoffs and closings in schools with low test scores, a policy promoted with federal and state dollars since 2002.”

3. Ava’s World
Melissa Harris-Perry for The Undefeated: “Like the South itself, DeVernay’s Queen Sugar never allows us to view the present without visual cues of the past. We watch a proud black man and his son walk through rows of sugarcane on land they own. As the camera pulls away, the rows extend behind them, forcing us to consider the past. We are called to remember the history of the U.S. South, the Caribbean, and the African coast — generations of black bodies stolen and broken for sugar and its profits. The beauty of the Southern terrain is always juxtaposed against the violence of its history. Southern trees bear strange fruit and the melody of our anthem will never be in tune if it isn’t played in the key of this historical truth. In Ava’s world, we do not forget our history, because every glance at her achingly beautiful world reminds us of our pain, our progress, and our possibility. I want to live in Ava’s world, where black people are fully human — all of them. Men have a full range of emotions and children are not just props; they have ideas and feelings, humor and heartache. In Ava’s world, black people are exquisitely gorgeous.”

4. How To Tell Southern Girls’ Unique Stories
Sherri Williams for All Digitocracy: “The stereotypes that people have about Southern girls are boundless. But how do Southern girls define themselves? A group of women journalists living and working in the South wanted to find out so they startedThe Southern Girls Project, a multiplatform, multimedia journalism initiative spearheaded by journalists at al.com and nola.com that taps Southern girls as the experts and sources for authentic storytelling about the reality of their lives and the issues they face.”

5. Lakota Activist Debra White Plume from Pine Ridge: Why I am a Water Protector at Standing Rock
Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviews Pine Ridge resident and activist Deborah White Plume: “I’m just a regular human being. I’m a mother and a grandmother, a great-grandmother. I’m Lakota. I’m a woman. And it’s—water is the domain of the women in our nation. And so, it’s our privilege and our obligation to protect water. So, you know, if somebody wants to label me, I guess it would be water protector. The insertion of the pipeline means that we are pushed further over the tipping point of not only fossil fuel extraction, but the desecration of Mother Earth and the exploitation of Native peoples in the area, as well as the threat to drinking water. Right now, there are people who have no access to clean drinking water. If the pipeline is put in, it’s going to leak or spill or burst or explode, and that oil is going to get into the water. And Dakota Access pipeline says they’re going to bury it 30 feet under, and they’re assuring everybody that it’s going to be safe. But I think Western science doesn’t really know everything it thinks it knows. And we need to make our decisions based on what’s best for Mother Earth and our coming generations. And that includes protecting our water.”

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