Friday, April 27, 2012

Little Jasmine Reads Her Story

Why are our senior storytellers extra happy today? Amazing Jasmine, who is 10, pays a visit and tells us a story about the best day of her life!

‪Little Jasmine's Got a Few Questions!‬

It's Take Your Child to Work Day... and 10-year-old Jasmine plays Benita's Teacher Assistant in our class!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Carol (Hello, It's Me)

“Last week homeless, this week the proud renter of my very own room.” 

Hooray for today.
Hooray for yesterday.
Hooray for tomorrow.
And most of all, hooray for Carol.

Carol Dailey
Hello, It’s Me

The best day of my life so far is perhaps today, and then there was yesterday that led to today. But let me digress a moment to say that I’ve had many spectacular days in the past. (I can digress when writing as I am able to refer back to the topic; when speaking, it is often “gone with the wind.”)

Anyway, this will introduce you to the current me. I’m homeless and in a shelter where I’ve had the best night sleep in 10 or more years. Sad. I’m moving in with a fellow “inmate’s” parents. Taskia and I met in Charles Fairmount Behavioral and Addictions Hospital. She calls me the “crazy lady”. I call her all sorts of things, including my baby. When we were in school, they would separate us.

I’m in constant pain, but yesterday, with all my BAGGAGE (both kinds are heavy) I made it to OSAA-DMV and got my license address changed. I now have a Phila photo ID! With my ID, I got my room and maybe a family. That room allowed me the freedom to come here today, Thursday.

Hooray for today.

Carol Dailey
The Saga of Carol D

Here I am, continuing the saga of Sea Daily.  Last week homeless, this week the proud renter of my very own room.  I’m back in Germantown, just several blocks from my old original address.  Here the house is laid out the same way as my other place and I have the same small room here as I did there.

There’s even a dog!  I’m renting from my dear friend’s parents, and if I don’t talk them to death it should be a very sweet deal.  She says, “Oh, I forgot about the dog”.  How she could forget, I don’t know!  He’s a butterscotch-colored pitbull and just a Q.T.  He pushes his teeth against my nose and “nibbles”.  I’m in love.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hazel (Dorm Drama)

Segregation breaking point. I have thought a lot about these words ever since Hazel told this story over a year ago. At first glance they lean heavy. But in the right context, they are a breath of fresh air. Like a cup half empty, cup half full kind of question.

Personally, I’d like to think this story shows us how far we’ve come - segregation happened and racial equality is still a dream, but look on the bright side, let’s be glad segregation ended, you know?

This project is called The Best Day of My Life (So Far) afterall - I am a relentlessly cup half full kind of gal.

Hazel Nurse
Dorm Drama

During the 1940s at college, there were two girls’ dormitories.  Each one was divided into four sections.  About twenty-five students were housed in each of the parts.

However, for my first two years, the Black pupils lived in “Oak Hall Section Four.”  After continuous complaints and recommendations from activists, we occupied alternate floors, one Black and one White in both Oak and Haurel Halls during my third year.

This was the segregation breaking point after our wonderful Dean spied a huge sign.  It was located at the head of the stairs on my floor, written in perfect manuscript writing.  It read, “Black Floor, No Whites Allowed.”  She was livid.  After questioning each occupant, no one owned up to printing the poster.

My last and senior year, students were allowed to live freely in both dormitories. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Robert (People and Color)

Another beautiful take on diversity.

Robert Mitchell
People and Color

Why is color such a major, major problem in this country – why, why, why.  As a person first and always, here is such a journey that I have been down;

In the 1940’s we were called Colored People

In the 1950’s we were called Negros

In the 1960’s we were called Black People

In the 1970’s we were called the Brothers and Sisters

In the 1980’s we were called African-American, till this day.

However, in the 1990’s music flipped the script to say now that we can be called Nigga – with an “A” instead of the “ER”.  But that’s OK, cause there is a difference.  One means racial and the other means friendship ,Home Mee, My Dawg, etc.

After all these years of being labeled, as a human being, so many things, I will always use the terminology of being identified as an African-American. Cause the only true race of people born in this country is just with:  influence, money, power, and political values.  I respect a person as a human being first, a person second, and respecting who they are (man or woman) third.  And I respect them if they give the same feeling towards me fourth.

And last and foremost, I see no color cause love sees no color.

Note: Can we all get along…?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Beatrice (What If)

When Beatrice read this poem out loud, it brought me right back to what her twin Bernice had said a while back, “God made us different like flowers – if we were all the same, there would be nothing nice to look at.” Click Here to reread Bernice's story again. Our sassy twins have a way of making sense of our crazy world, don’t they?

Beatrice Newkirk
What If

What if everyone was the same?
Would the world be a better place?
What if everyone spoke the same language?
Would there be a problem?
What if it was all one race?
Would there be wars?
What if we kept the president in office for eight years instead of four?
Would it make a difference?  You can’t get too much done in four years.
Because they are just getting started on the job and if another president comes in he changes everything and doesn’t agree on what the previous president has said and done.
What IF?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Norman (Pre-Judgment)

For those of you who have read yesterday’s blog post, awesome! For those of you who haven’t yet, no prob, you can click Here to check it out. I just think it would help to give weight to what Norman is saying.

Ready? Then here we go! Flash back to 2010 to our first teen visits, and yup, this was when our class was still starting out and was camping out in the basement office of a senior center staffmember...

Norman Cain

I was initially attracted to the senior center because of its computer lab, which is located in its basement.  I would literally spend hour upon hour in the lab pursuing my passion: writing stories.  Eventually I began to notice that a group called “The Best Day of My Life So Far”, a story telling and writing group that met weekly in the conference room at the end of the hall once a week.  Because I had been engaged in writing stories, one would assume that I would have jumped at the opportunity to join the group; however, that was not the case, for I allowed prejudgment to sway me.  I had become leery of young people.

I clandestinely investigated the group 3 times by peeping through the window in the door.  I saw, not only seniors but young people as well.  They were actually running the group.  Odd.  They seemed to be in their late teens and early twenties.  I assume that the young folk were college students fulfilling a course requirement.  Experience with such groups (juvenile incarceration, Philadelphia Senior Center) generally found me becoming alarmed at the “greater than thou” attitude that many of the interns exhibited.

One day in the computer lab, a gentleman, Ted, told me that in light of my writing interest I should join the group.  He definitely thought it would be worthwhile for me to do so.  He also spoke of a storytelling presentation at the main branch library.  I had no idea that the presentation in question was also hosted by “The Best  Day of My Life So Far”.  Several months went by and in the winter there was a well advertised campaign for a week long storytelling festival at approximately ten venues in Phila.  Maybe there was something to this storytelling stuff.  My interest heightened, but there was one more incident involving a young person that I would not allow deter from my prejudgmental path:  A young lady, a fine poet who stated that it was irrelevant for black poets to write about the black experience.  Young people.

Finally I went to visit the “The Best Day of My Life So Far”.  During my first session with the group, I was immediately in a comfort zone and found the founder, Benita Cooper, although young, a wise leader.  She is mature, showed compassion, organization capabilities and dedication.  I could feel the camaraderie that encased the room and delighted in the stories being told by a multi-racial group.  And it was then that old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” struck me in my brain.  Thinking that prejudgment could have prevented me from not being a part of “The Best Day of My Life So Far” I have assumed myself to always give multiple looks to that which I may have questions.

I have been a part of the group for several months and have recently visited the website, a well organized endeavor that has enlightened my on the various aspects of the writing group.  Through the website, I have been made to realize that the “The Best Day of My Life So Far” is a multi-generational group.  I am eagerly looking forward to meeting its younger participants when they visit again.  They will help me to not prejudge.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pre-Judgment - A Preface

As promised, up next, Norman’s story about Pre-Judgment. It has to do with the way he used to judge younger generations. And how our class changed that. It’s a serious story. I really hope you guys would check back and read it.

But first, some context.

When our project started gaining traction in its first half a year as well as interest from the public, in my gut I knew that teens are a special part of our readership that we needed to nurture and lift up into role models for other readers. And so, the first summer of our project’s existence, we opened our doors to local teens. At first one teen - yes, only one - showed up, then Tyreek brought friends, who brought more friends.

This was during summer vacation when they could be hanging out in the park or at the mall, and they made the choice to do the typically uncool thing – to go week after week to the senior center and sit and write. Some of these teens were from suburban schools who traveled by train because they saw the value of community service; some of these teems were from tougher parts in the city and many belong to a foster care agency, meaning they didn’t grow up in a typical family structure.

These teens, who normally would never be seen at the same cafeteria table, were huddled next to each other, as well as with seniors, who themselves are also from all different backgrounds. When administrators of the foster care agency saw the stories and responses to seniors’ stories that these teens wrote, they were shocked – they told me some of these teens used to always refuse to write, even when they were forced to do so in English classes.

I said, I didn’t even tell them to write. I told them to relax and listen to the seniors, and they were they ones who asked for pen and paper too, and began writing.

And they opened up off the page too. I usually ask the seniors how their week is going at the beginning of every class, and one day while the teens were there, I asked the question. A teen, seventeen-year-old Khary – a bigger guy – raised his hand. I thought he was going to tell us about a party or a show he went to. He told us that three days ago his girlfriend had their baby. I can still remember the nervousness in his voice. I was too shocked to speak. The seniors said the perfect things. I remember that Arthur (my very close senior bud who passed away last year) told him, “Well, you’ve got a handful to take care of now.” Just the right amount of authority and humor.

Khary wrote in his story that day, that the seniors are his second family. This was the very first time he had stepped foot in our classroom. He came back the next week with his best friend, Nieke.

AARP, our country’s most prominent national organization, heard about our work in connecting generations, and reached out to me to become partners. A year and a half into our existence, with AARP's support, we launched our first official satellite class and blog. We picked an age-neutral time (summer vacation), an age-neutral venue (Free Library of Philadelphia's most prominent Central Branch) and opened up the class to both seniors and teens.

But enough from me. I should let you read about all this in our teens’ own words.

This is a blog that our 2010 teens initiated and kept, all by themselves, to compile their responses to our seniors' stories.

And This is a blog that our super teen intern Madi narrated, all by herself, to trace the path of our 2011 satellite.

This is a post that Madi wrote as she stepped up from a visitor to our intern. And yes, Madi continues to do great things for our project behind the scenes. She and I have Skype meetings every month. Which I think is so awesome.

Like Us on Facebook, Follow Us on Twitter, and Join our Mailing List to see what we're brewing to bring you even more senior-teen programming.

And - check back soon for Norman’s story. Really, please do.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Birthday from All of Us to Tanya!

Just got out of class and want to post something important! A birthday video message from our seniors to our Copy Editing Coordinator, Tanya, to thank her for all that she does. Every single week, Tanya takes the scans of our seniors' handwritings (btw - how cool is it that Norman one of our seniors now scan all the handwritings after class for us? Stay tuned for a moving story by him called "Pre Judgement"), catalogs the scans, distributes them to our Copy Editors worldwide, then catologs the typed texts, then send them all to me, so I get to do the fun part, which is to connect all of our seniors' and volunteers' hard work with you guys. If you'd like to join our seniors in thanking Tanya for her dedication and wishing her a Happy Birthday, click Here to hop on to Facebook and give her a shoutout! Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

P.S. Henrietta (That Life 2010)

You know what, let's dial it back some more. I was thinking about what I posted earlier and started rereading more of Henrietta's stories in blog archive. Check out This blog post from January 2010, back when Henrietta first joined the class. From a life of trauma to a life so good it's gotta be illegal. I still remember the first time I met Henrietta, she clutched her binder in front of her chest and all I could get out of her was a "yes" or "no". And now, 2 years later, hear her roar.

Click Here to reread this morning's blog post.

Henrietta (This Life 2012)

Click Here for Henrietta then; this here is Henrietta now.
Any transformation this good … let’s hear it … “has got to be illegal!”

Henrietta Faust
This Life 2012

Anything this good has got to be illegal!
Feeling like owner-of-all I’ve surveyed!
Knowing the secret of life and the SECRET.
Able to handle correctly cruel and evil bold confident predators.
Access to ALL Power and Authority 2012.
Words can’t explain this euphoria, utopia, ambrosia, ecstasy, agape.
Happy happiness satisfied.
Anything this good has got to be illegal. Ha!
Gone are the cankerworm years!
Now the absolute Power and Authority.
This life 2012
Got to be illegal!
Anything this good!
Tighten your seatbelts, it’s a bumpy ride!
Stress can be good/bad.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hazel and Brenda (A Wonderful Sister)

This post is dedicated to my very cool and wonderful sis (hi Jada – it was fun FaceTiming last night!!) whom I am so excited to see in Seattle in a few weeks, and who is also a copy editor for our project - she joined our team after her last visit here to Philly and to our class.

A couple weeks ago Hazel’s sister, Brenda, visited our class from NYC, and you can feel their bond just by looking at the way they walked together or gave a nod or smile to each other. Like they understood each other without needing to trade words. And so, I guess that’s what was so surprising to me, and probably to them, when they each dedicated their story to the other person. Brenda knew how much the class means to Hazel and wrote about that. Hazel wrote about how proud she has always been of Brenda, ever since she was born. None of us knew what they had written until they took turns reading out loud. Out of all the smiles around the table, guess which two were the biggest?

Brenda Jones

So many avid pens giving shape to new thoughts.
Something of what is inside, exposed for others to ponder.

Hazel Nurse
A Wonderful Sister

Many years ago, during my high school days, our family was blessed with a loveable baby girl, Brenda.  My mother was fortunate to have my teen-aged sister and I too often share in caring for her.

Through the years, she excelled in biology as well as in journalism.  She not only raised her own family but retired as managing editor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Her itinerary continues to baffle me.  Having recently returned from a trip to southern India, she will soon be flying to Florence, Italy and sharing e-mails, photos, and stories of her exciting experiences with all.