May 2022

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Photograph of Ketanji Brown Jackson deliving her r Supreme Court confirmation acceptance speech surrounded by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala HarrisOn April 7, 2022 I watched Ketanji Brown Jackson deliver her Supreme Court confirmation acceptance speech surrounded by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.  In addition to being inspired by Justice Jackson’s words about her life story and the path she and her family navigated, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that neither Justice Jackson nor Vice President Harris would have had the opportunity to stand as they did on April 7th based on the rights spelled out when the U. S. Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.  It has been because of the hard worn efforts of many, many people striving to bring about positive change since that date, that we have seen legislation and policies put in place to address the exclusion of people of color and women from social, political and economic segments of American life.

In a varying vein, as I watch the horrific attacks on Ukraine, I am thinking about the current threats to the once-hopeful world order that had emerged out of the horrors of World War I and II.  Since 1945, we have all benefited from the tremendous international efforts of many, many people that went into establishing the United Nations and adopting as an international agreement, the aspirational framework articulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and all the international laws that have sprung from its principles.

Tie die background with music notes and the phrase "if you get confused, just listen to the music play" from Franklin's Tower the Grateful DeadIn early 2018 we published this Newsletter to offer encouragement and strategies to forge through the challenges we were facing at that time.  I used one of my favorite Grateful Dead refrains – If You Get Confused, Listen to the Music Play – as context for regrouping for positive action even amid disturbing and fearful challenges.  While the circumstances we’re currently in are different than those we were dealing with in 2018, the one constant that remains is the power of our individual and collective determination and persistence to right wrongs, even against strong headwinds of divisive narratives and scary circumstances.

Since that Newsletter was published we’ve generated sets of Resources we hope you’ll review and utilize, especially by connecting with others – friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.  While always an essential part of our human element, now, more than ever, connecting with kindred and even not-so-kindred humans is vital to nourishing our sense of belonging and strengthening our will to help others and our community as a whole.

Please share these Resources with other and let us know what you find most helpful.

With appreciation and best regards,

Sandy Sohcot, Director

Using the UDHR to Guide Positve Action

If You Get Confused,
Listen to the Music Play 🎶

From the archive: 2018

TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot writes: With the constant barrage of disturbing news, I have found myself calling upon the familiar Grateful Dead refrain “If you get confused, listen to the music play,” finding it all the more relevant and inspiring today!

Summer Insitute 2017 participants group photoLast week, after reading this NPR article about increased stress levels among high school students across the country, I spoke to Ellen Sebastian Chang, TWAICB’s Creative Director (behind me in this group photo of our Summer Institute participants) since our program’s 2006 inception. I wanted to explore with Ellen how our UDHR work could help address not only the issues causing so much youth anxiety, but also the increasingly confusing social-political environment we’re in, and the floating anxiety it generates.

Ellen noted, “Many of us are emotionally wound up.  We’re challenged by the questioning of truth, how to fully understand the history that has led us to where we are, and how to remain steady when it feels like everything is breaking apart.”  

We agreed that this is the time to focus on connecting, face-to-face, and consider the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, spoken in a 1958 speech delivered on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR:

Eleanor Roosevelt with UDHRWhere, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.  Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.  

Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.  Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

To this end, Ellen and I are planning a 1-day public convening for March 2018, where we’ll bring members of the community together to consider how to apply UDHR principles “in small places close to home.”

As this is getting organized, we would like to suggest to you – as teachers, students, organization leaders, friends, collaborators and supporters – some ways to put aside the confusion and take in the “music” of personal, face-to-face connection to help focus on where we can make a difference. We hope these ideas lead to some helpful discussions.

Though we are in tumultuous times right now, Ellen and I believe it is vital that we maintain a spirit of persistence to work toward achievement of the world envisioned by the UDHR, with strength and empathy, and commitment to personal connection, in line with Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”™