Marcia G. Yerman

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Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence – A New Exhibit Tells the True Story

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence – A New Exhibit Tells the True Story

As we move toward 2020 and a presidential election, what better time to look back at the fight it took for women to gain the right to vote — and how sectors of the American female population were overlooked, despite their contributions to the struggle. The show is structured by chronology and themes:

  • Radical Women: 1832-1869
  • Women Activists: 1870-1892
  • The New Woman: 1893-1912
  • Compelling Tactics: 1913-1916
  • Militancy in the American Suffragist Movement 1917-1919
  • The Nineteenth Amendment and Its Legacy

Read the full story at …

September 24, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

“Hope Gap” — A Marriage Crumbles

“Hope Gap” — A Marriage Crumbles

The narrative is “inspired” by writer and director William Nicholson’s experience with the end of his parents’ marriage.

May 30, 2020 | No comment | Read More »

On the Ground at Netroots Nation 2019

On the Ground at Netroots Nation 2019

“This administration is working overtime to bring us back to medieval times. We’re not just spinning our wheels. We’re showing people what we want to do. Let’s go out and change this country!

July 23, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Covid-19 Takes Extreme Toll on Latinx Community

Covid-19 Takes Extreme Toll on Latinx Community

“How do we build an America that’s ready for the next pandemic? Frontline communities have always known about the lack of access to healthcare and housing. We’ve tried to raise the alarm about these challenges. The response has not been acceptable.”

May 28, 2020 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

“Hope Gap” — A Marriage Crumbles

When Annette Bening and Bill Nighy are featured in a film examining the dissolution of a marriage, expectations are high. In “Hope Gap,” there are truths presented, questions to be parsed, and beautiful seascapes featuring white cliffs. Yet, something remains off.

The opening interior scenes feel like a filmed play. Conversation and actions have the quality of being typically British (Bening adopts an English accent), but before long, this viewer got the feeling that I’d been dropped into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

It’s clear early on that the characters of Grace and Edward are operating on different wave lengths. Despite the outwardly comfortable scene of two adults at their respective computers, with one making tea for the other — the dialogue reveals Grace’s dissatisfaction and Edward’s resignation to the ongoing routine. Grace works on her anthology of poems; Edward diligently edits and re-edits Wikipedia entries — an activity that Grace casually dismisses.

Grace presents as acerbic, to the point of bullying her husband. Trying to elicit some form of enthusiasm from Edward about planning a dinner celebration for their impending twenty-ninth anniversary, the interaction quickly devolves from passive aggression to pure aggression on the part of Grace.

It is revealed that Grace has always been trying to get Edward to be more emotionally available. Resorting to outrageous and physical behavior in an attempt to extract some evidence of feeling from him (“I want a real reaction.”), she is met with an infuriating low-key response from Edward. He states matter-of-factly, “You want something I haven’t got.”

The narrative is “inspired” by writer and director William Nicholson’s experience with the end of his parents’ marriage. (The script was adapted from Nicholson’s play.) Their son, Jamie, (Josh O’Connor, who will be recognized by PBS fans) is a twenty-something who lives alone in London, with relationship issues of his own.

Jamie is used as a go-between by both Grace and Edward. The difference in their world views and attitudes is reflected in how they relate to their son. Grace longs for regular weekend visits; Edward is somewhat detached, stating flatly, “He has a life of his own.”

Williamson said that in developing the text, he wanted to delve into the psychological impact of a divorce on an adult child. He said, “If you’re grown up and your parents split up, it makes you rethink the basics of your childhood.”

We see a flashback through Jamie’s memory. He is a very young child at the family’s favorite beach spot, the cove of Hope Gap. He is happily swinging between each parent, holding their hands.

However, the signs of an imperfect match have been in place for a long while. When Edward explains to his son the circumstances of how he met Grace, he reflects on the marriage as a probable mistake from the beginning.

There is another woman, and has been for a year. She is the mother of a student that Edward had been giving additional instruction to. It’s not something that he went looking for, or a crazy midlife fling. Rather, it’s the comfort and refugee in a partner who is willing and able to accept him for exactly who he is.

Edward invites Jamie home for a Saturday, with the express purpose of having him there when he announces his departure to Grace. A  bag is packed and he’s ready to leave. Echoing the history lesson Edward had retreat from Moscow: “The weak had to be abandoned so that the strong could survive.”

Jamie tries to act as a support to his two parents, who both use him   callously. Yet, the upheaval is also a wake-up call for him. He begins to examine how elements of his mother’s and father’s behavior have set him up to potentially repeat negative emotional patterns.

Beyond being an analysis of a marital breakup, there is a clear focus on how children are influenced and impacted by the life choices that their parents make.

In the beginning of the movie, it appears that Grace is the realist in the marital equation. She knows something is missing, but really doesn’t have a clue. For her, the “marriage isn’t dead.” Bening plays her role without vanity, as she navigates the emotional breakdown of the partner who had previously appeared fully in charge.

As Edward transitions into a new relationship, Grace and Jamie are forced to move forward, until they arrive at the other side. Along the way they recognize, in their own respective fashions, that letting go isn’t easy.

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May 30, 2020 | No comment | Read More »

Covid-19 Takes Extreme Toll on Latinx Community

As the world and the United States reel from the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that specific communities are suffering more than others.

In America, there are discussions about how we can “get back to normal.” This sidesteps the question of how as a country, we should be turning toward bold and visionary initiatives to engage the intrinsic connection between structural racism, our healthcare system, immigration policy, and the environment.

Although environmental justice has been amplified with precision by actors like Dr. Robert Bullard and Mustafa Ali (who worked at the EPA for twenty-four years), the pandemic is now making it beyond evident how deeply intertwined numerous factors are.

A recent study, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in the U. S” drills down on the reality of life for this demographic, both with stats and personal stories. Compiled by the Mijente Support Committee and the Labor Council for Latin America Advancement, it draws a road map of how the elements of social and economic inequities — from a lack of accessible healthcare, poverty, low-paying jobs, food insecurity, and instability resulting from immigration status — have combined to put Latinx individuals at the uppermost rates for Americans dying from COVID-19.

April national unemployment rate figures showed the Latinx sector at 18.9 percent, 4.7 percent over whites. Latinx are 16 percent of the total American workforce. They also comprise the majority of workers in low paying jobs, many in the “essential workers sector. These encompass harvesting crops on farms, taking care of the elderly, keeping grocery store check-out lines moving, retail and service positions. Yet, only 38.2 percent of this labor force receives healthcare.

Before the pandemic, Latinx were already fighting disproportionate economic challenges. The 2017 U.S. census showed that 2.5 percent of Latinx families live below the poverty line — twice the national poverty rate.

Underlying and preexisting health issues is another reason for Latinx having a higher rate of COVID-19 mortalities. These include diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and hypertension. The last two illnesses are directly impacted by air pollution.

Harvard University compiled a national study looking at the connection between long-term exposure to air pollution and fine particulate matter, and the “increased risk” from COVID-19. The findings showed a relationship between even tiny increases in ongoing exposure, resulting in a “large increase” in the virus death rate.

In my state of New York, Department of Health figures updated on May 11, reported fatalities by ethnicity as follows: Latinx were at the top with 14 percent, despite being 12 percent of the population. In all the boroughs of New York City, Latinx led fatalities at 34 percent, despite making up only 29 percent of the population.

Then there is the glaring reality of immigration detention facilities. Before COVID-19 hit, holding spaces were being called out for a shocking lack of hygienic resources, as basic as soap and toothbrushes.

In 2017, there were 10.5 million undocumented people in America. 9 million were Latinx. Two-thirds of those people had lived in the United States for over a decade — with no health coverage and no government assistance, despite paying taxes.

I reached out to Cecil Corbin-Mark, the Deputy Director of WE ACT, to ask him what he saw ahead. My top questions were:

  • Would communities of color be left behind in getting COVID-19 healthcare, if the levels of infection impacting white people dropped off?
  • If a vaccine is uniformly available to all people — should it be at no cost?

Corbin-Mark responded, “Yes. There’s no reason not to have the vaccine free for all people.” His primary concern was that people would “return to business as usual.”  He said, “How do we build an America that’s ready for the next pandemic? Frontline communities have always known about the lack of access to healthcare and housing. We’ve tried to raise the alarm about these challenges. The response has not been acceptable.”

Reflecting on the communities he organizes in, Corbin-Mark emphasized, “Our inability to recognize ICE facilities or prisons as hot-spots, the needs of the homeless and unsheltered, the people who are working in meatpacking factories — we have to focus our attention on them. Otherwise, we are sentencing them to death.”

He added, “In a country as rich as ours, we have to figure this out. As a society, we also have to have compassion. If we don’t, we do so at our own risk.”

This is where the potential power of Latinx voters comes in. In three decades, Latinx people will make up 30 percent of the American population.

A Pew Research Center report projected “that the 2020 election will mark the first time that Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate, accounting for just over 13 percent of eligible voters.”

The Hill did an analysis in June 2019, pinpointing newly enrolled Latinx voters, finding “that 90 percent of those registrations were concentrated in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, many of which will be critical swing states in the 2020 presidential election.”

Vote like all our children’s lives depend on it. Because it does.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Moms Clean Air Force website.

 

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May 28, 2020 | No comment | Read More »

The Mindfulness Movement: Promoting Social Change

Just in time for the exacerbated stress and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, a new documentary, The Mindfulness Movement (originally slated for theater release) is available to stream online or buy.

The 100-minute film, co-produced by Deepak Chopra and the musician Jewel, gives an introduction to using the breath as an anchor to redirect thought patterns by “focusing on the present moment in a non-judgmental way.”

Director Rob Beemer anchors his look with four personal narratives, which are combined with interviews from pioneers in the field. Beemer has emphasized his goal as bringing “secular mindfulness” to a larger audience. He wants to lessen “misconceptions” about the subject and illustrate the body of scientific research that has evolved and underscores the efficacy of a mindfulness practice.

It is striking that numerous people in the scientific and medical arenas gravitated to the same path of inquiry during the 1970s, despite discouragement from colleagues that their choices would be a career killer.

Daniel Goleman, a science writer for The New York Times and author of Emotional Intelligence, is on-screen to discuss “neural circuitry” and how tests demonstrate the difference in the brain after a subject does the continued “weight lifting” of an ongoing meditation practice. Goleman rejected the traditional route of clinical psychology. He wanted to examine the “upside of human potential” employing scientific evidence. He recognized how mindfulness enabled people to be triggered less and recover more quickly. Goleman also identified how it slowed brain aging.

In 2017, Goleman teamed up with Richard Davidson to write Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.

Davidson had met the Dali Lama in 1992, and it changed his personal and
work trajectory. The Dali Lama suggested to Davidson the concept of using the systems and approaches of neuroscience to study “compassion and kindness” and to “bring those practices into the laboratory.” They developed an enduring friendship. Davidson is the Founder and Director of the Research Center for Healthy Minds. (Read his thoughts on “COVID-19 and Our Common Humanity.”)

When Jon Kabat-Zinn was on-site in a hospital, he wanted to integrate the research he was doing with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and share his findings with the medical staff. Given the opportunity to work with patients, he said, “In eight weeks you could see people transform.” Kabat-Zinn went on to found the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

He qualifies mindfulness as: “The actuality of things as they are; not as I would want them to be.” He has defined it as “an ethical practice.”

Starting his career as a medical doctor, Deepak Chopra became chief of medicine at New England Memorial Hospital. However, his dissatisfaction with the institution and protocols of Western medicine pushed him to move into the area of mind. His interest was in discovering how people could maintain an internal “equilibrium despite external factors.”

The original prism of traditional medicine felt lacking to these practitioners. They all ended up on parallel paths, investigating and accessing how a consistent practice of mindfulness meditation rewired and restructured the brain. The key was to reorienting awareness by “directing attention back to the breath.”

Different elements of society have already gravitated toward using the modality to shift consciousness. Beemer digs into examples from inner city school kids to police officers and veterans.

In West Baltimore, children are learning “positive life skills” and are encouraged to leave the classroom and go to the “mindfulness moment room” if they need to reorganize themselves. It’s a huge difference from a trip to the principal’s office. The Holistic Life Foundation, originators of the concept, now works with 7,000 students at forty Baltimore schools. The philosophy is, “It has to start from within, and then move out to the larger community.”

The premise has been adopted by law enforcement, prisons, and with veterans. For police, it’s about “building skills that cultivate a whole new way of being.” For those who are incarcerated, it’s being given an opportunity to evaluate who they want to be when they get out.

Gail Sofer, founder of the Mindful Veteran Project, developed her initiatives when she learned that fifteen to twenty-two veterans were committing suicide per day. It’s about “hacking the system and the ingrained behaviors,” she said.

Meditation tools are also used to break apart the gridlock of emotional and stress eating, and to tackle smoking cessation. In the same vein, self-compassion is taught to cancer patients.

The individual stories related give depth to the science and the stats. Jewel, who speaks about her experiences and the emotional “inheritance of an abusive family life,” now works with at-risk teens. Having suffered from panic attacks and homelessness, her evolution is grounded in lived experience.

George Mumford, author of The Mindful Athlete, recounts how his basketball career became derailed after an injury. The use of painkillers soon morphed to the use of alcohol and harder drugs. Then he became involved in navigating the mind/body process, and studied with Kabat-Zinn. He used his insights to work with sports teams, including coach Phil Jackson and his players. Mumford’s mantra was: “Mindfulness makes you flow ready.” He continues to advise individual athletes and lineups to manage the moment while “doing the thing for in and of itself.”

Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Sharon Salzberg, also came from a history of family dysfunction and trauma. She traveled to India in 1971 after taking a philosophy course that included Buddhism. She describes the Sharon of those years as being “extremely judgmental.” Her journey of discovery had her question herself about what she was feeling. Learning to have self-compassion led to understanding the need to extend compassion to others. Metta, or loving kindness, became a cornerstone of her teaching about friendship — toward oneself and to others. She states, “Everybody counts and everybody matters.” (Check out her Election Season meditation.)

Considering the politically fractured state of America, as well as the larger world, it was encouraging to learn that Congressman Tim Ryan (and former presidential candidate) not only follows a contemplative practice, but is also a believer that it may be a way out of the current hyperpartisan conundrum challenging America. He wrote about his ideas in A Mindful Nation.

As Americans and the world face a major health crisis, a new reality is presenting the opportunity to examine the choices we have made — on both a personal and global scale.

Many of the speakers in the film suggest that five to ten minutes per day of mindfulness meditation can create the “next big public health revolution.” Are enough people interested in cultivating compassion and building awareness about how their beliefs can add to activating a social change shift?

As Oprah Winfrey suggests, “It’s an entry point.”

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Apr 18, 2020 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »