Archive for September, 2011
Line Dancing Our Way to Wellness
Last week was National Wellness Week, which encouraged people to incorporate one of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness into their lives to fight heart disease. Each of the Eight Dimensions – whether it be occupational, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, physical, intellectual, or environmental – help people address the physical health behaviors that can put them at a higher risk for heart disease and its complications.
At Vanguard, we celebrated wellness through line dancing. Last Friday, we gathered as a staff in our office building’s gym and danced the Macarena, the Electric Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and Homey Twist.
I remember the first time I saw a line dance. I was at a wedding reception. A crowd had gathered in the front of the reception hall in front of the DJ booth and I inched my way through to see what was going on. Two sisters were doing a dance routine – both in step and sync with the music – with each one adding a personal flare to the dance. As the music continued, spectators joined in as they learned the basic dance moves. Eventually, the dance floor was filled with older folks and young adults, all standing spaced out and side by side, doing the same step in beat to the music. Everyone – regardless of age or physical ability – was line dancing. As we danced, all were beaming with joy in celebration of the occasion, but also because of the bond formed between the new couple and their families, friends and associates through our dance activity.
Line dancing, regardless of the dance you choose, is a fun activity that increases the heart rate and brings people of all ages, races, ethnicities and gender together for a common purpose. In the case of Vanguardians last week, it was an activity to improve our mental and physical wellness.
Ultimately, line dancing is a celebration of wellness, people, connection and life. We put our hearts into the dancing. The best part was that if you messed up one of the dance moves, fellow line dancers would not judge you or make you feel silly. Instead, we helped guide each other to the right step and encouraged each other as we danced for wellness.
Farm Aid’s Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Matthews Urge DOJ and USDA to Enforce Fair Competition in Nation’s Agricultural Markets
Family Farmers Impacted by Corporate Concentration Demand Immediate Action to Level Agricultural Playing Field
CAMBRIDGE, MA—Today, Farm Aid Board of Directors Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack encouraging them to take swift action to ensure fairness and competition in the agricultural sector. Ensuring fair markets in agriculture will create jobs and drastically change the landscape of our country and our food system for the benefit of not just farmers, but everyone who eats.
“Since Farm Aid started in 1985, our hotline has answered calls from farmers and ranchers struggling to stay on their land due to the growth of corporate concentration. Each day that goes by without antitrust enforcement results in the increased loss of America’s greatest asset — family farmers,” said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. “Family farmers are the backbone of our nation’s economy and are crucial to rebuilding it, but to do so they need fair markets.”
Last year, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made history by holding a series of landmark workshops dedicated to exploring issues of corporate concentration, antitrust violations and competition in agriculture. From Ankeny, Iowa, to Washington, D.C., Farm Aid was present at each of the six workshops and heard firsthand the experiences of America’s producers who are struggling to compete in agricultural markets dominated by corporate power.
American agriculture is extremely concentrated, giving just a handful of corporations control over U.S. food production and consumption. As a result, crop farmers have been persistently confronted with limited options for seed and increasingly high production costs; livestock producers have struggled with low prices and too few buyers; and poultry farmers face intimidation and unfair contracts. This lack of fairness has resulted in hundreds of thousands of independent family farmers being forced off the land, with negative impacts on rural economies, public health and our environment.
“Competition must be reintroduced into our agricultural markets to reverse the devastating effects that corporate concentration has caused,” said Nelson. “Thousands of farmers and ranchers put their livelihoods on the line to share their concerns and experiences at the DOJ and USDA workshops; action is long overdue. Farmer livelihoods and the integrity of our food system depend on immediate action.”
The USDA could take action right now by finalizing their proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule, which would enact protections and ensure fair markets for livestock farmers and ranchers. The rule, proposed in 2010, has been blocked for over a year by the lobbying efforts of the largest, most powerful corporations in the meatpacking industry.
To read the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sent by Farm Aid Board of Directors Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews, please visit http://farmaid.org/DOJUSDA.
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews host the annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised more than $39 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture, and promote food from family farms. For more information, visit www.farmaid.org.
9/11 A Decade Later: Where Are You Now?
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation came together to mourn, to bargain, and to heal. Though we struggled through the stages of grief together, the experience impacted each of us differently. Many of Vanguard’s current employees were here with us on that day, and others were still in school or in other parts of the world. This week, we’ve decided to devote our InSites posts to our team’s personal stories of resilience and hope.
Crystal Borde — Remembering 9/11: The Healing Power of Uplifting Storytelling
Brenda Foster — My September 11 Resolution
Jane Tobler — Washington, D.C.—This Is My Town
Brandi Horton — Living With Change
LeAnne DeFrancesco — DC: The District of Community
Remembering 9/11: The Healing Power of Uplifting Storytelling
LOS ANGELES — Ten years ago, I was living in Los Angeles when I watched the World Trade Center attacked live on television. Hour after hour, I was glued to television news, desperate for any positive updates about rescues or reunions. In the early days, those stories were hard to find as retelling of the attacks and reports about nation’s security became the top priorities.
While many sad stories have lingered in my memory, I’ve tried to focus on the uplifting news stories about acts of heroism, compassion and sacrifice as the 10th anniversary approaches.
During their coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC News aired a special with Tom Brokaw about the role that a tiny town in Nova Scotia played in the days following the attacks. It is one of the most moving news reports I have ever watched and symbolizes the power of great inspiring storytelling. Since its airing, I’ve shared it with so many others who have also been touched by its retelling of generosity and resilience of the human spirit. If you watch any 9/11 special this year, don’t miss watching the video below.
We live in a world where “if it bleeds, it leads.” However, are those the stories that help us become better people? Are those the stories that inspire us to create social change to prevent future terrorism attacks from occurring? I doubt it. I’m hoping that in the last 10 years we’ve learned the importance of telling (and sharing) better stories, so in the end, we can evolve into better people too.
My September 11 Resolution
WASHINGTON — When I think of my own experience on Sept. 11, 2001, I’m reminded of the key scene in Dr. Seuss’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Grinch has spent the night packing up trees, destroying roast beast dinners and stealing children’s toys–all in the name of ruining the holiday for the Whos in Whoville. When the sun rises, the Grinch expects to see broken, desperate families who can no longer celebrate Christmas. Instead, the Whos meet at the town square as always, jubilantly singing to mark the holiday.
I was in Washington, D.C. at Vanguard’s office that morning, having just dropped my three-year-old daughter across the street for day care. Once we realized that the Pentagon had been attacked, I rushed back outside to grab her, as all of the other parents streamed out of nearby buildings to pluck their children from harm’s way.
I had a minivan at the time–large enough to carry quite a few people back to Virginia. We headed out through Arlington, stunned at the smoke pouring from the Pentagon roof. We were careful to stay tuned to radio updates, while still trying to protect my preschooler from terrifying news. Those of you who were in D.C. that day know that every rumor was reported — a bomb blew up by the State Department, a plane was headed to the White House. Amidst all of these reports there was an announcement that a plane full of passengers had crashed in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, not far from my hometown.
For some reason, I think that particular news broke me. It made some sense that New York and Washington were vulnerable, but I couldn’t believe that everyone I cared about was at risk. My local family — husband, parents, sister, daughter — converged on my home that night to hug each other and numbly follow the developments on the news. I went to bed knowing that I would never again go back to work–certainly not in Washington, D.C.
At 5 a.m., I woke up with new determination–as though someone had injected me with adrenaline. There was no way I was broken. I was stronger than ever, and I was going to the office to prove to myself and my young daughter that no one but me will decide how and where I will live my life. As I entered the office–child in tow–I expected to be there alone. Then, as though on cue, my colleagues began entering the building. I could hear the music in my mind:
Welcome, welcome! Fah who rahmus!
Welcome, welcome! Dah who dahmus!
Christmas Day is in our grasp!
So long as we have hands to clasp!
We spent the day consoling each other, sharing our hopes and fears. My little one stayed right beside me, taking naps on her favorite blanket.
In addition to the intern and an office guest who rode home with me on Sept. 11, two other colleagues joined me and my daughter for the long ride home. I’m proud to say that we’re all still here together, with even stronger resolve toward social change. And though my daughter is now an eighth grader, she still finds comfort in taking the occasional nap by my desk.
Washington, D.C. — This Is My Town
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 I got up with the sun and went walking across my beloved Capitol Hill with two of my dear friends as we did most mornings. We would solve the problems of the world during our walks — or at least the problems of the week. My friends are hearty walkers from out West — rain and snow would not deter them from walking — and neither did the events that occurred later that morning.
On September 12, a bright blue beautiful sky welcomed us and we walked and we talked. Of course we were upset, but we were together and we would continue with our ‘normal’ routine as much as we could. And so we walked the next day and the next.
In a few months I had plans to get married at my church, which is located one block from the U.S. Capitol. People asked if I would push back the wedding or change the location — no one knew when or even if planes would be allowed to fly again to D.C. and most of our family and friends had planned to fly out for the event.
I love Washington, D.C. and a bunch of yahoo terrorists weren’t going to take it from me. This is my town and I would not cower, not move to a “safer” place and not change my life. A few guests were nervous about coming and crossed out their earlier affirmative RSVP cards from “I can’t wait,” and instead checked, “I’ll be with you in spirit.” I understood.
We got married as planned — and 10 great years and two fabulous sons later, I do not regret my decision to wed — or to go walking and talking with dear friends in the best city I know on one of the saddest days of my life.
This is my town.
Living with Change
WESTFIELD, Mass. — On Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up and got ready for class as usual. I was a junior at Westfield State College with the future ahead of me, challenging the status quo and making big plans for how I was going to change the world.
My roommate and I arrived on campus after the first plane struck the towers and watched in shock as the second plane struck. We immediately returned to our dorm rooms and apartments: classes were canceled for the day. Rumors spread across campus. “Boston was next.” “Call your families, make sure everyone is safe.” “Did you hear, the planes departed from Logan.” Despite the rumors — some which proved true in the end — I wasn’t sure how the events of those terror attacks would change my life. We lived in Massachusetts, and while we lost many in the planes that crashed, our small state seemed safe. I didn’t know how the resulting wars would become a part of my generation’s story.
My parents’ generation had Vietnam. We have the war on terror.
Over the past ten years, I have bid farewell and been lucky to welcome home many soldiers. I have waited patiently for news while my brother-in-law served his third deployment to the Middle East. I have celebrated when two of my cousins returned from war unscathed from two separate deployments. I have missed the many friends who have proudly served our country in the name of freedom. And I have watched while the traumatic effects of this war have chipped away at the mental health of our soldiers.
Now, as I settle into a career in cause communications , I realize I am lucky to be right where I’d hoped to be before hate took a shot at our country. With rose-colored glasses I had dreamed of making a difference, but today I work on the very projects and the very clients that are making our world a better place. The war on terror may be part of the fabric of my generation’s story, but I hope every day to be a part of the solution through my work. I raise awareness about the need for mental health services for our soldiers, for ourselves, and for our families. I educate about social inclusion, and encourage acceptance. I celebrate the things that make this world a better place with the hope that doing so will inspire others to become a part of a movement for good.
DC: The District of Community
WASHINGTON — The thing I most remember is the silence that filled Washington. People on the Metro didn’t speak, even if they were sitting beside someone they knew. Many of them had red eyes and deflated body language that clearly suggested grief and mourning. You couldn’t help but wonder: Did they lose someone in New York? At the Pentagon? In Pennsylvania? The once-bustling National Airport was completely deserted. People downtown looked up mostly to avoid the armed guards patrolling the Golden Triangle district.
Then we began to understand what happened and life in the city returned somewhat to normal — the period of healing was under way. I remember feeling patriotic, of all things, when I purchased an airline ticket for the holidays. I remember craving to hear laughter as I walked to my office on K Street in the morning or in sandwich shops at lunchtime and eventually, the laughter came back. I also remember feeling perpetually linked to and protective of D.C. Perhaps after 7 years living in the area, it was finally my new hometown.
When outsiders gripe about the terrible Washington traffic or inefficient Congress, I am quick to stick up for this place, because I’ve seen what the community can do and has done in the face of hate and violence. I remember watching a report on the local news that people hoping to donate blood to support the victims at the Pentagon had to be turned away because of the outpouring of volunteers.
That’s a place I’m proud to call home.
Carlos Bulosan: Freedom Fighter
“The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all.”
― Carlos Bulosan
Carlos Bulosan was a Filipino-American novelist and poet who gave a much-needed voice to Asian Americans during the labor movements of the early 20th century.
Born in the early 1900s, Bulosan grew up on a farm in the Filipino countryside during an economic depression. The hard times of his youth became one of the main themes of his writing. He immigrated to America to seek new opportunities, but when he arrived in Seattle, he was met with racial hostility and low-paying job prospects. After surviving years of discrimination, starvation and sickness, Bulosan underwent surgery for tuberculosis. During his recovery, he taught himself to write and began describing the economic and racial struggles facing Filipinos in his homeland and in America.
His childhood experiences served as the starting point for his most celebrated work, the semi-autobiographical novel, America Is in the Heart. Published in 1946, the novel describes the collective experience of Filipino Americans, introducing their cultural experiences to a new audience while making a plea for acceptance among Americans. Bulosan died on Sept. 13, 1956, but his work will forever be credited for serving as a civil and labor rights platform that motivated activism among Asian Americans.