Category Archives: Make a Difference

Projects that are making a difference, improving lives, and building communities.

Equity in Education Podcast

ADR PODCAST
BLACK-JEWISH DIALOGUE

Hear the conversation about equity IN education from these experts  based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This podcast is part of the ADR Black-Jewish Dialogues.

of education

Ardena Garth Hicks: Education Activist 

Ardena is a Hamilton County native and practicing attorney who is the 2020 Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. She is a member of the Hamilton County Partnership Network Board of Directors, appointed by TN Education Commissioner Candace McQueen. The Partnership’s charge is to “review the progress of the five schools in the Partnership Network- which have been deemed priority schools by the state…and make recommendations to the Hamilton County Board of Education and Network leadership to support students’ growth and development.”
She is President of Chattanooga Endeavors, Inc., a non-profit organization which advocates for the interests of citizens repatriating from incarceration. Ardena previously was Special Prosecutor for Child Abuse cases with the Hamilton County District Attorney’s office. She served as Hamilton County’s first elected District Public Defender from 1990 to 2014 (3 successive 8-year terms), having been appointed to the newly-created position by Gov. Ned McWherter in 1989. Ardena graduated as a Ooltewah HS valedictorian, earned her bachelor’s degree at Middle TN State U. and earned her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the U. of Kansas.

of educationDr. Jill Keegan Levine: Education Administrator 

Jill is the Chief of Innovation and Choice for Tennessee’s Hamilton County Schools, a district of over 45,000 students. Prior to this role, she served as the Chief of the Opportunity Zone, a learning community focused on turnaround of the twelve highest needs schools in the district, as well as serving previously as the Chief Academic Officer of the school district.
After graduating from Wellesley College with a double major in Music and History, Jill began her career teaching 3rd grade and directing musical theater productions in the New Orleans Public Schools. She was the principal of Normal Park Museum Magnet, a Chattanooga Pre-K through 8th grade school, for 14 years. She led the transformation of two low performing schools into award winning, innovative, exciting and challenging places of learning. In 2012, Jill was recognized as the National Magnet Schools Principals of the Year. From 2013-2015, she served in the Obama administration as the first full time Principal Ambassador Fellow at the US Department of Education. In that capacity, she worked closely with Secretary Arne Duncan to increase the department’s focus on the importance of school leadership.

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Also hear: BLACK-JEWISH DIALOGUE PODCAST: POETS SPEAK

Dialogue Partners:
American Diversity Report,  Chattanooga News Chronicle, Mizpah Congregation, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (
C.U.R.B. )

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Arts in Health Inspire Women – by Nicole Brown and Chyela Rowe

Arts in Health Program

Why create an Arts in Health program for Mother’s Day? According to the CDC, women caregivers have a greater risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety. Mothers have held such heavy weights this last year: from grieving losses to taking on more responsibilities such as managing work from home, additional hours for childcare, homeschooling, at-home nursing, coaching, offering tech support and much more. The presence of art and music in healthcare enhances the overall experience. It allows us to remove ourselves from whatever we’re battling to be motivated and inspired. 

Diverse partners joined together in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to inspire and support women and female artists for Mother’s Day and, most importantly, promote health and well-being through the Arts. The program included artwork by Alex Paul Loza, music by Shane Morrow and a presentation of new work from poet Erika Roberts in partnership with multiple organizations that will resonate with communities across the country.

Continue reading Arts in Health Inspire Women – by Nicole Brown and Chyela Rowe

The Impact of Images – by Kenyada Posey

Cultural expressions, icons, and the arts have played a major role in how we’ve seen ourselves and others in the past, and can play a major part in bringing us together in the future. Before social media, newspapers and black and white television exposed us to the lives of others, arts, and society. Whether it be negatively or positively, music, TV, and movies and the imagery they evoke will continue to impact our society and the way we view community.

As a Black woman, the images shown in movies, TV, and mentioned in music has had a major impact on me and my self image.  Cultural expressions have seemingly been more negative than positive and date back to the runaway slave flyers posted around America a century or two ago. The image of the Black woman and Black man were usually exaggerated with a huge nose and a goofy-like look to depict ignorance. We have also seen the image of the angry Black woman plastered everywhere.
Continue reading The Impact of Images – by Kenyada Posey

Diversity and Speech Part 21: Predicting the Future of Cultural Expression – by Carlos E. Cortés

Carlos Cortes
ADR Advisor Dr. Carlos Cortes

  Historians devote their lives to predicting the past.  So when called upon to predict the future of cultural expression, as the editor did for this issue, I had to distance myself from my disciplinary comfort zone.

Not for the first time.  Two decades ago I had to do this when completing  my book, The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach about Diversity (Teachers College Press, 2000).  In that book I focused on the traditional mass media: magazines; newspapers; film; television; and radio.  It was the first book (and maybe still only) to examine how the media have treated the theme of diversity, not the depiction of specific diverse groups.  In other words, how have media provided an informal public multicultural education, for better and for worse?

Continue reading Diversity and Speech Part 21: Predicting the Future of Cultural Expression – by Carlos E. Cortés

Black-Jewish Podcast: Poets Speak

MAY 2021 BLACK-JEWISH DIALOGUE

Marilyn Kallet

Marilyn Kallet recently served two terms as Knoxville Poet Laureate, 2018-2020. She has published 18 books, including How Our Bodies Learned, The Love That Moves Me and Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press. She translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems and Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game.

Dr. Kallet is Professor Emerita at the University of Tennessee. From 2009-2020, she mentored poetry groups for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, in Auvillar, France. Her poetry has appeared recently in Plume and American Diversity Report.

Black-Jewish

Maria James-Thiaw is a poet, performer and an educator from Central PA. She has written three poetry collections and her poetry has been published by Cutthroat Journal of the Arts, Love Your Rebellion and other journals. Her choreopoem, Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project debuted in Summerdale, PA in 2018 to 6 sold out audiences. She won the Art of Protest Poetry Prize from Penn State for works from that production. In 2020 she created a Zoom version entitled RMT 2.0. This performance poet attended Marilyn Kallet’s workshops in France in 2011 and 2015. Maria is a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and she is the Program Coordinator of Creative Writing for CASA, Capital Area School for the Arts in Harrisburg, PA.

Dialogue Partners:
American Diversity Report,  Chattanooga News Chronicle, Mizpah Congregation, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, C.U.R.B. – Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.

See October 2020 Black-Jewish Dialogue

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Try Heart Based Solutions – by Keith Thornton

As we acknowledge our oftentimes dismissal of our societal commonalities, the human lineage possess generations of historical struggle in attempts to stem conflict born out of various differences and disputes.  The earliest inhabitants of our planet have always found clan like strength to endure as a species in spite of never ceasing conflict.  Fast forward to present day and on cue, we perpetuate all that has been done before us with seemingly the same results, unaware we have options to greatly change our human narrative.  As an alternative approach, to today’s hesitance to engage each other in a candid manner for solutions, we should consider to the merits of creative heart-based solution making as way to overcome social barriers.

Continue reading Try Heart Based Solutions – by Keith Thornton

The Wound that Will Not Heal – by Dianne Irvine Fleet

I am a 72-year-old well-educated, sad, tired and angry Black woman.  Let me tell you why I am so sad, tired and angry.

I am writing this in April, 2021, at the end of the prosecution’s case in the Chauvin trial.  For most Black Americans, the killing of George Floyd was like opening an old wound and picking at a scab again and again so that the wound never quite has a chance to heal.  The Chauvin trial has caused us to relive that terrible day and to realize that the wound has not yet healed.  You may not read this until the trial is over and the verdict is in, but, no matter the outcome, the wound will still be there.

Continue reading The Wound that Will Not Heal – by Dianne Irvine Fleet

How I’m Trying to Make a Positive Difference – by Marc Brenman

Advisory Board - Marc Brenman
ADR Advisor Marc Brenman

I’m trying to make a positive difference in American political life by investigating whether and how it’s possible to draw some Trump voters toward the political center. In November 2020, about 48% of American voters voted for Trump. Voting for Trump is a proxy measure for rightwing feelings and beliefs. Many of these beliefs are extreme. None contribute to the American Dream of fairness, equity, opportunity, equality, and compassion, or the Good Society. Do we want to live in a permanently ideologically divided country, with the risk of civil war?
Continue reading How I’m Trying to Make a Positive Difference – by Marc Brenman

How Will You Toast The 2020s? – by Martin Kimeldorf

Cocktail party discussions in the rambunctious boom years of the 1960s often ended in dark pronouncements for the next century. Upward trending population growth graphs collided with downward bar charts displaying resource depletion. A few brave souls uttered dark prophecies for the 2020s. They whispered about a world landscape filled with economic and environmental collapse. They claimed this would create a breeding ground for pandemics that would challenge our very survival.

America loves to terrorize and confine itself with a bipolar view of the world.  The Ozzie-and-Harriet voices in our heads droned on with happy-talk. In George Jetson cartoons, we imagined escaping traffic gridlock in our flying cars.  At the same time a Civil Defense doomsday voice commanded us to “duck and cover” beneath atomic mushroom clouds. Eventually Twilight Zone voices questioned these comedic survival tactics.
Continue reading How Will You Toast The 2020s? – by Martin Kimeldorf

Black-Jewish Dialogue April 2021

 COMMUNITY ADVOCACY

Candy JohnsonCandy Johnson:  Before becoming President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga in January of 2021, she served as a senior advisor to Chattanooga Mayor Berke.  She led community-focused initiatives to create sustainable partnerships and external investments to advance the administration’s economic, racial and social equity agenda with the goal of improving community quality of life. Johnson also led the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Alliance in partnership with Bloomberg Associates and co-created the Styles L. Hutchins Black College Student Fellowship. A native of Clarksville, Tennessee, Johnson was the youngest member ever elected to public office for the Clarksville City Council.

DzikMichael Dzik: Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga since 2001.  Much of Michael’s work focuses on community relations, bringing together people of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds to find common ground and understanding while building strong connections and friendships.  Through programs such as the Jewish Film Series, exhibits, speakers, and multi-faith panels, the Jewish Federation works to connect all of our Chattanooga community.

CLICK for APRIL BLACK-JEWISH DIALOGUE

CLICK for Urban League Racial Equity Workshops

CLICK for  “Why Black-Jewish Dialogue Now” & Links to previous dialogue sessions

Dialogue Partners:
American Diversity Report,  Chattanooga News Chronicle, Mizpah Congregation, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, C.U.R.B. – Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.