Revisiting the .:Seeds:. Literary Arts Journal Spring 2012 Issue

Just reflecting on past work… Work contained herein is credited to a group of truly phenomenal folks that I had the great fortune of working with. The time it took to pull together a design for this body of work, was well worth it. I can only hope that you have as much joy perusing this journal as I had helping to create it.

.:Seeds:. Literary Arts Journal Spring 2012 Issue.

A Gay in the Life: Carla Therese Bruni

CarlaTBruni-JLWatkins2014Carla Therese Bruni is the type of woman who wants to “make the rest of the world fall completely in love with, and become stewards of, vintage architecture, intangible histories and sustainable places.” She strives diligently towards that goal in everything she does.

Bruni often takes the time to learn about the histories of our local area, gaining a greater understanding of the ways we live today. “I love history,” said Bruni, “understanding where I’m from. It’s a way of understanding the world.”

Bruni was born and raised in the Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the middle of three children. After moving to the city, she became disheartened watching building after building being torn down, materials destroyed. She decided that she wanted to do something about it.

Bruni learned more about how she could do something creative and constructive surrounding the destruction of buildings in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute Chicago ( SAIC ), where she received her masters in historic preservation. Now, she uses those skills to teach, restore and run a community repair clinic in the Edgewater neighborhood.

“Through Community Glue Workshop, we run these clinics where people can fix stuff for free,” said Bruni. By ‘stuff’, Bruni means items ranging from lamps to toasters and clothing. “I work with craftsmen and groups who need a few tools to do some really cool stuff. You can start a deconstruction company with a few hundred dollars in tools,” she said. And, she helps to make that happen.ERW doorknobs photo

Her deconstruction work also creates jobs, like where she works part time with Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse. The salvage warehouse is a place even artists go to repurpose materials for use. “Hands-on work is good for the soul,” said Bruni. Aside from her hands-on approach, she also teaches within organizations like SAIC from time-to-time, Neighborhood Housing Services and the Bungalow Initiative.

Bruni’s work not only satisfies her need to rebuild, teach, learn and explore histories through historic preservation; there’s a job creation component as well. “If you demolish a building, you’re using one guy, the wrecking ball guy,” Bruni said. “Whereas, if you’re deconstructing a building, you employ about six to eight more people, and up to 12 people for historic preservation.”

Bruni is not the sort of lesbian who is all work and no play. She lets her hair down on road trips to the Deep South, poetry writing, listening to jazz and brass bands and through sculpting. Her ideal outing would be learning to swing dance or weld. She could also make herself comfortable in a writing on her blog, or kicking back to watch dramatic thrillers, folkstreams.net or old Kung Fu movies.

erw2-Pic-CourtesyBruniWhen she’s not helping with reconstruction efforts in New Orleans or restoration projects in Idaho and Washington, Bruni’s writes about all things sustainable and restorative. Her musings can be found on her blog at http://www.toolmade.org .

THE STATS

Age: 37

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Hobbies: Theater, Origami, sculpture, dive bars, biking with friends

Favorite movies: To Kill A Mockingbird, Mommie Dearest, Poltergeist, French and Saunders, The Color Purple and the 1973 version of Jesus Christ, Superstar

Kids with Mental Illness to Get Help

PDF infographic created by the CDC, which details statistics of children with mental health issues across the U.S.
PDF infographic created by the CDC, which details statistics of children with mental health illnesses across the U.S.

Illinois Parents Facing Relinquishment of Kids with Mental Illness to Get Help

My ex-partner and I had to face this tough decision for one of our sons. It’ll be wonderful if parents can get the information on how to access help without having to comb through thousands of websites to reach the buried treasure! Now that our son is 18, we just missed out on this — but please spread the word so other parents can get assistance when they need it. Check out this article by dbaille on TASC Blog which breaks down House Bill 5598.

TASC BLOG

(Chicago) – A shrunken public safety net in Illinois due to budget cuts has forced numerous parents into an anguished-filled dilemma: whether to relinquish custody of their children with serious mental or emotional problems in order to get them care.

As of January 1, 2015, a new Illinois law will help avert this agonizing choice for parents.

House Bill 5598, sponsored by State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on August 1.

The new law addresses scenarios in which parents resort to relinquishing custody, making their children wards of the state, in order to gain access to urgently needed treatment through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Wards of the state are entitled to care for these serious conditions.

“Over the past few years, children with mental illnesses have faced diminishing programs and services…

View original post 244 more words

The Other Paris…

Parisian break dancer flexes his skills. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)
Parisian break dancer flexes his skills. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

Many visitors to the City of Love make time to see such famed sites as Cimetere du Pere Lachaise, Le Louvre and Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few. But rarely, if ever, do everyday tourists visit those gems hidden in the hearts of Parisian  arrondissements.

Le Centquatre (Photo courtesty of http://www.104.fr)

One such place is La Centquatre, in the 19th arrondissement. This spacious, nearly 242,000 sq ft, public cultural center houses visual  artisans, dancers, actors and performance artists for showings, practice or just to hang out.

The space is equipped with a bookstore, galleries, performance studios and practice areas, even a quaint cafe/deli is onsite. One other great location convenience is that it offers close proximity to the Canal de La Villette section of River Seine.

Stepping through the courtyard of this historic monument, you’re submerged in a wave of sights and sounds. Sounds like soul thumping, house music blaring from one set of doors; Vivaldi oozing from behind another. The sights are of small clusters of various types of people littered about the giant space.

Dancers practice out in the open. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

For your best La Centquatre experience, you should check out their offerings ahead of time. You’ll search their programming (translator will help) and happen upon many expositions of notable artists. From artists of the recent past, like Keith Haring, to one of their 200 artists in residence — they display fascinating exhibitions with the help of the French government and notable art houses, like Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Chicago visitor does yoga under the Keith Haring exposition. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

On occasion, you can catch the Hip Hop Dance Expo, sponsored by area resident  Sidy Seye. In this expo, you can watch some of the best break dancers display their craft to onlookers. For over ten years, Seye has taught break dancing, DJing and English to young Parisians. In collaboration with local area businesses, Sidy is able to offer after-school and weekend lessons to area youth for little to no money.

This is just one of the many gems in and around Parisian arrondissements. Be sure to make this community cultural center a mandatory stop on your next trip to Paris.

Panel addresses education for LGBTQ youth

Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Janean L. Watkins

11-24-2014

Tim’m West Photo by Ross Forman

Teach for America ( TFA ) hosted a Chicago National Conversation Series Event “The State of Education in LGBTQ America” Nov. 12 at the Center on Halsted. Tim’m West, managing director of TFA’s LGBTQ Initiative, hosted the program.

TFA works in partnership with communities and stakeholders to expand educational opportunities for impoverished children. They are one of many organizations invested in ensuring education equity for LGBTQ youth in schools.

Special guest to the panel, Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer, the LGBT liaison for U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, discussed the need for more LGBTQ and allied educators shaping and promoting an affirming school culture for LGBTQ youth.

Also in attendance were Avi Bowie, LMSW and director of youth programs at Center on Halsted, and Carla “C.C.” Carter, Ph.D. and teacher trainer in the areas of brain-based learning, multiple intelligences and teaching to diverse learners.

Others in attendance were former CPS student Terry Dudley who is at third year psychology major, LGBT counselor and activist Dr. Claudia Mosier, and educational consultant for Edney Educational Consultant, LLC., Bryan Edney.

On Nov. 13, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN ) released data from its National School Climate Survey, which studied the experiences of middle and high school LGBTQ youth across the country. The findings showcase experiences that are deserving of a second look and solutions.

One major area of note was hostile school environments for LGBTQ students, which they have found are having a direct affect on students’ mental health and academic success.

“We believe that an equal and excellent education means that schools embrace and support all students with the dignity and respect they deserve, including those who identify as LGBTQ,” said West.

A TFA press release detailed why they are working with groups like GLSEN and The Trevor Project: “TFA believes that great teachers come from all backgrounds, but teachers who share the backgrounds and experiences of students can have an additional impact in and outside the classroom … according to a 2013 survey, more than 850 corps members self-identified as LGBTQ.”

Dr. Joseph G. Kosciw, GLSEN’s Chief Research & Strategy Officer said, “Our research tells us that policymakers and education leaders in these 29 states must do more to create safer and more affirming schools for LGBT students.”

According to GLSEN’s Illinois snapshot, “Students also heard anti-LGBT language from school staff. 25 percent regularly heard staff make negative remarks about someone’s gender expression, and 17 percent regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks.”

After the discussion at Center on Halsted, West, the panelists and working groups of community members created recommendations for improvements to school and community climate, which fell into five categories.

In addressing the seven in 10 students who were verbally harassed for their sexual orientation, the first set of recommendations fell under Culture and Climate. These included points like developing a comprehensive list of unacceptable language, accountability and restorative justice for student violators, as well as the promotion of judgment-free zones across school culture.

Next, they proposed Direct Student Support, which suggests workshops for parents, alumni mentorship and a change in the language used to classify LGBT youth. This change could be as simple as moving into the use of the terms Rainbow Children or Indigo Kids.

The group made suggestions for Family and Community, as well, which included reaching out to religious leaders.

Finally, the group tackled recommendations under Teacher Preparation and Policy and Advocacy, which endorses mandatory courses on LGBTQ history and LGBTQ-inclusive mandatory training on dealing with bullying and suicide prevention. They also advocate for the creation of accountability measures to lessen the chances that policies created in Chicago are not only rhetorical, but produce safety and equity in schools.

“There are no broad-sweeping directives from TFA, understanding that we are just one player, among many, seeking to ensure educational equity conversations are LGBTQ-inclusive,” said West. “The point isn’t to go into communities with answers and directives, but with questions that enable and empower diverse players to decide how they might work together to create change.”

Disease-Fighting Condoms to the Rescue

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

By Janean L. Watkins, for Rant Lifestyle

Recognizing the global rise of HIV, genital herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV), Australian based biotech firm Starpharma has developed an anti-microbial agent to be applied to an array of sexual health products including coated condoms, treatment of bacterial vaginosis and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Not to be confused with VIVAgel sterilization fluid created by Optimal Holding Co., Ltd. VivaGel is the only product that will stand as a treatment for bacterial vaginosis (BV) and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections simultaneously.

VivaGel, otherwise known as astrodrimer sodium, has been shown to impede infection of HIV, HPV and genital herpes in lab-based disease models.

Recently, Starpharma released news stating they have received the Australian Conformity Assessment Certification, equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s certification for manufacturing. They hope the TGA certification can support regulatory processes in other markets and have plans to market the product along with their partners, Australian based sexual protection producers Ansell, in the near future.

“Ansell looks forward to forward to rolling out its marketing and sales campaign to support the launch of LifeStyles Dual Protect over the coming months with the first product expected to be available on shelves soon,” said Ansell President and General Manager of Sexual Wellness Global Business Unit, Peter Carroll.

“The VivaGel condom…is the only condom of its type, providing barrier protection and incorporating a proprietary antiviral compound in the lubricant,” reads the Starpharma website. Tests have shown that VivaGel is 99.9 percent effective in the deactivation of HIV, HPV and herpes, and is currently in phase three of FDA clinical trials.

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITES

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITES

Hey FB Fam, I need your help!! I’ve got to choose five (5) photos to print for the upcoming exhibit – ONLY 5! Help me out by commenting on the photo you would choose for your home or business. “Like” any, but ONLY COMMENT ON THE ONES YOU CHOOSE! Remember, folks, we can only choose 5! Thanks for the help!

Sneak Peek: The Naysayers

 Excerpt of “The Naysayers” by Janean L. Watkins

Here’s a FLASH of a snippet from a forthcoming novel… does it reel you in?

~:Part 1:~

The impact of the asteroid rainstorm on Earth was nothing compared to the storm’s effect on citizens around the globe. I was one of them. The asteroid rain brought fear, death, prayer, and in some cases, transformative capabilities. A number of people underwent a metamorphosis; one that increased the abilities humans already held and helped us to develop new ones.

In the Spring of 1998, experts predicted a Doomsday asteroid would make impact on the Earth. Before the five-mile wide missile reached the surface, it broke apart as it traveled through the atmosphere. It showered down, predominately on the Central America, the U.S., Northern and Central Africa. The day it happened was chaotic. Central Africa was hit with the largest chunks, but neither land nor sea was immune to the fallout. About two months after it happened, Americans began to riot, demanding help from their government.

No one expected there to be a shower of large, fiery rocks that burned brighter than stars. No one knew what the asteroids brought with them. For some people, the abilities didn’t crop up for years. But, for others, the results were immediate and extraordinary – if not frightening.

Scientists later discovered that the asteroid was a mixture of some undiscovered properties and the rare minerals amethyst, malachite, mercury and moon quartz. These stones were known for causing metaphysical changes in people according to the Crystal Masters.  Many people thought the makeup of the asteroids is the reason for the extra abilities. Around the world people displayed new skills that were beyond astonishing. How often do you meet someone who can walk through solid steel? Or jump as high as a light post? Or run faster than a train?

See what I mean? This was one of the things that frightened the people in power. Their power stemmed from having their citizens under control. But, with these types of abilities, people were less likely to be controlled. Hence, the need to save this world from itself.

It was up to the three of us to right the wrongs. Many, for which, I take some responsibility. Some of the injustices are the fault of misguided humans, and some atrocities were caused by “ambitious” world leaders. Whoever gets the lion’s share of the blame, we all did our part. But, I’m skipping too far ahead. You need a bit more information.

Media Does Matter

Many people may not think about it often, but it is the media that shapes the world in which we live. When people automatically look to a certain demographic with specific stereotypes in mind, it’s usually because they read or hear statements in the media that perpetuate those stereotypes.

It isn’t often that the gatekeepers of news step out of their role as reporters to view how the report will be digested. The framing of news stories tends to lean towards: get-info, disseminate-info – next story please. Instead of taking into consideration the nuances of the effect of the information that is distributed.

The Society of Professional Journalist, better known as SPJ has a code of ethics that all journalists, regardless of their membership in the organization, are supposed to adhere to. It isn’t written somewhere that we must; it’s sort of the unspoken rule. The rule that is most relevant to this piece is: ‘Minimize Harm’. Under that header, one point states that journalists should, “show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage”.

Now, let’s think. How often do we see or read news stories that completely bypass that code? Let’s also ask ourselves, when we hear or read the terms, “South Side”, “inner-city”, “urban”, “illegal immigrant”, “Black”, “Latino”, “Asian” – what do we associate these terms with? Why?

Likely, it is the news media, or social construction, that has told you what to think. In modern times, families aren’t raising their children to be homophobic, racist, or sexist – society determines a lot of what children grow up thinking. But it is up to us to figure out if what we all think causes societal discord.

Take for example the cases of Jon Benet Ramsey and the Bradley girls. The young girls were either victims of violence or were never recovered – but it is the Ramsey case that we still hear about 16 years later. This is what some news analysts, and even news outfits themselves call, ‘missing white girl syndrome’. It is justified by the fact that news gatekeepers don’t think there is much interest in the case of the Bradley girls as there is in the Ramsey case.

Is one missing child more important than two? Is it true that the public cares more about one case than they do another? Maybe so – but because our news tells us which case is more important by its coverage and framing of the story, we may never truly know.

Then there’s also the frightening story of the 4-year-old Black boy who was interviewed by a CBS affiliate in a South Side community after a murder. The local news aired the little boys response to the crime as “I’m gonna get me a gun,”. The anchors discussed how sad it was that a boy his age wanted a gun, and that this was the basis of the problems that the community faced.

Later, we find that the little boy’s statement had been edited. The un-aired portion was the remainder of his comment which was, “…cuz I wanna be the police.” This incident was disparaged by the Maynard Institute for Media Studies, Dr. Boyce Watkins, and Ben Jealous of the NAACP, as being completely unethical. But unfortunately, similar incidents are a regular occurrence.

So, back to what this editorial is all about – the race factor and how, at times, ‘Black males’ from ‘urban communities’ are automatically targeted by news outfits to be criminals. This type of coverage creates a false sense of security in communities where the population of men of color is low or absent. It also creates a heightened sense of fear when those same men enter into ‘non-urban’ communities.

This cultivates a climate where it’s okay to make comments that denote where a person of color ‘belongs’. It is also the catalyst for a rift in the possibility of exploration of various cultures – a rift caused by fear. This is a disservice to us all.

So, the next time you read an article by a writer and you find that there are points in it that may not sit well with you, hold the writer accountable. In your comments, ask them if they think they are adhering to SPJ’s code. If everyone does this – every time – over time it will change the delivery of news as we know it. This, in the end, could make our world a better place.

Support the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act!

Check out this handy little graphic that I found which explains the steps and benefits of marriage and religious freedom for all Illinoisans! Make sure to contact your legislator to let them know that you support them in voting YES to the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

Equality Federation

Want to show someone why it’s important for all Illinoisans to have freedom? Tell them to check out our Open Letter to All Illinoisans!

Illinois Plaintiffs’ Open Letter

You can continue to click the graphic to make it larger