Do Books Spark Activism in You? Anny’s first panel…

Sorry I’ve been MIA—been prepping for conferences.

I was lucky enough to be asked to speak on a panel at C2E2, Chicago’s Comic Con, about how to use books to spark activism in our kids, our friends, our community, and ourselves.

‘Twas my first time speaking on a panel as a writer. Nervous I was, especially because the moderator declined to give us any talking points or questions in advance, so we had to wing it. Definitely one of those trial by fire experiences.

It had a happy ending. We had a full house, which is rare for the educational panels at the con, and to my utter surprise one of my comments garnered applause.  A short clip of my answer is up on my YouTube channel.

This was the applause getting comment to the above question: Books provide insight into ‘another.’ They let us travel the world so that we can see into others’ hearts—feel their struggles, their joys. They expose us to their beliefs. Through more understanding, we can practice what I call the platinum rule. Help others the way THEY want to be helped, not the way YOU want to be helped. (Throwing money at certain African nations, instead of empowering them on the ground comes to mind as an example.)

I first learned the inaccuracy of the press when I went to China as a kid, before it was westernized at all. It was a traditional Communist country, and therefore something to fear if you believed our government and their press. We were also something they were told to fear, the white devils of democracy.

We weren’t allowed to travel on our own, but instead were escorted by a Communist guide. Mrs. Yung was generous, kind, warm and took excellent care of us. We were mobbed like rock stars everywhere we went because most Chinese had never seen foreigners, let alone American kids. But it was curiosity, not fear, that met us as we traveled around the country. The language barrier prevented much conversation, but their gestures conveyed warmth and friendliness.

What that trip taught me, and hopefully those who met us, was that people are not their government. They are not the propaganda. We have so much more in common than the powers that be want us to believe.

I returned from that trip wishing I could give American students a scholarship to go to China to see for themselves what I’d seen. I was sure it would lead to more unity between our countries. (I felt the same way 3 years later when I went to the Russia.)

But since I can’t send everyone to China, Russia etc., books are the next best thing.

Here’s a short list of graphic novels that shed light on folks you may not know much about. (Because it was a comic con I focused on the graphic format.)

March
Persepolis
American Born Chinese
TomBoy
Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, No Normal, Vol 1
Hereville

This list is just a starting point. I’d love to add to this list.

Please send me book titles that sparked empathy and/or action in yourself or someone you know. You can share by replying to this letter, or posting your titles on my Facebook page, or tweeting me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#AcceptanceEmpowers

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Cobalt Chinese Foo dogs. (At least cobalt has violet tones in it.)


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Take Me To Your Leader…Space Aliens and Acceptance

“One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this,” Hawking says in the documentary, referring to a potentially habitable alien world known as Gliese 832c. “But we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.” From: Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, a new documentary streaming now on the CuriosityStream video service.

Why do we assume aliens are evil?

In some ways it’s hard wired into us. As cave people any unknown species or human could spell trouble. The first time a cave person saw a lion he/she probably became the lion’s dinner. So after a while, a lion was an automatic ‘uh oh, where’s the spear?”
 
This likely happened over and over again every time a cave person encountered a new species, or humans outside of their own group. Thus to survive, we learned to fear unknown people, places and things. And that made sense back then.
 
But it hurts us now. Lions and marauders no longer sneak up on most of us in our daily lives.  There are those who live in war zones or pockets of cities where their survival is in danger almost daily, and sadly, their being on high alert is warranted. (Though for many I talk to who live in Israel for ex, they choose to exert limits on their fear. They avoid areas which may be dangerous, but don’t dwell on the possibility that a scud missile could crash into their house any day. Because fear sucks the joy, the life out of life. And if they’re choosing to live there, they may as well make peace with the situation.)
 
But Fear wants to be expressed no matter what. After all it reasons, it has the most important job of all, keeping us alive. And that’s how it hurts us. Fear runs amok, making acceptance difficult if not impossible.
 
It sees danger in every unknown face we encounter. It blocks us from getting to know each other, from seeing the joy, the peace, and the kindness that exists in most of us.

I prefer to view possible aliens like Neil deGrasse Tyson does.

“In our own civilization we know the consequences of a more advanced culture coming upon a less advanced culture. They get enslaved, they get disease-ridden, and they get put in camps or slaughtered. It disturbs me a bit as an astrophysicist to have we humans portray aliens based on how we know we would treat one another.  Rather than on how they might otherwise treat us given our highest and noblest causes. I don’t fear sending out our return address to aliens. Maybe aliens are beyond us in every way, including their capacity to treat one another kindly.”

And I strive to transcend my fear so that my encounters with new humans are bathed in acceptance and kindness rather than fear. (Though I’m batting about 500 at this right now if I’m lucky. )

What tools/skills do you use to be accepting of people you don’t know, or ideas that are different from your own? ( I can always use more tools in my how to be more accepting toolkit!)

Please share your answers by posting your responses in the comments below or on my FB page.

P.S. I now have a private FB group. If you’re not already a member, feel free to join and post your answers there!

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#CreativityEmpowers
#Acceptance Encourages

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Maybe the first aliens will come from this planet and have purple skin! Oh I’ll be jealous about the skin!


Posted in Acceptance, Self-Acceptance, Thinking Outside The Box by with no comments yet.

Am I Doing What’s Needed?

I’ve been struggling with the best way to help move our country forward in light of recent events. Am I doing enough? Am I doing what’s needed?  In the end I always come back to the same conclusion I’ve had for years. FOCUS ON THE KIDS.

So in that spirit, The Patronuses* are launching our next campaign, #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan, tonight! (For those of you who don’t know, Kamala Khan, is the first Pakistani-American, Muslim Ms. Marvel.)

I’m co-hosting an event for the The Comics Education Outreach program. CEO is a non-profit tax deductible group that’s devoted to getting educators to view comics/graphic novels as an integral part of their school’s curriculum—no different than regular non-graphic textbooks/books.

Their first initiative is their Lending Library, which puts graphic novels and comics into the hands of students in need. The library link will take you to their Amazon Wish list. If you can buy a book and send it to them, thank you! If you already have the book and want to donate it, let me know so I can get it to them.

The library will create classroom kits that focus on issues of social change/justice and then loan these kits out to schools in need.  Topics such as civil rights, or gender equality, or what it’s like being different can be shared with kids who otherwise would have no access to these books, and maybe even these discussions.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in CEO’s mission, sometimes I’m frustrated I can’t do more the way a J.K. Rowling can, or a Warren Buffet. But it’s said that a thousand mile journey starts with the first step, and through the Patronuses, and SCBWI (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) who’s sponsoring the event, I am taking some first steps.

What steps are you taking to make your world a better place?

Please share your efforts with me, whether it’s with your own kid’s soccer team, or something for a colleague, or helping refugees, whatever it is, I want to know. MORE THAN THAT, I WANT TO SPREAD THE WORD, AND HELP YOU IF I CAN. So please respond to this letter, or post something on my FB page, or tweet me.

If you’d like to help CEO, please spread the word to your friends by sharing this letter, or posting some info and the library wish list link to your social media channels using the hashtag: #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan. More info about our campaign can be found on The Patronuses FB page.

*The Patronuses are the Chicago Community Chapter of the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance. http://www.thehpalliance.org/what_we_do

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#CreativityEmpowers
#AcceptanceEncourages

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Ok, so it’s not purple, but it makes the point. 🙂


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