March 4, 2014 is Fat Tuesday and I was curious about the history of the Mardi Gras celebration. In the United States the mention of Mardi Gras brings to mind New Orleans, LA where is celebrated in a grand way. The history of the Mardi Gras celebration actually goes back many years in many European cities and countries since the Middle Ages. The celebration is the last opportunity for feasting and celebration before Christianity’s Ash Wednesday and Lent.The modern version of the Mardi Gras parade started before the Civil War. In 1857 the first group or “krewe” organized the parade [
The king cake is one of the traditions for Mardi Gras. It is colorfully decorated and has a small plastic baby hidden somewhere in the cake. During the celebration when the cake is served, whoever finds the plastic baby in their portion is designated to host the next celebration, a wonderful way to carry on the history of the Mardi Gras celebration.
November is Native American Awareness month. I can not think of a more fitting month for this awareness since Thanksgiving is also celebrated in the month of November, Well known to most Americans but probably not as much to people from other countries, our Thanksgiving and its history evolves from the Pilgrims giving a celebration and day of thanks for the Native Americans. In the United States,Thanksgiving is commonly observed on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
According to Wikipedia, “”the event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and was attended by about 53 Pilgrims and 90 American Indians. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.”Although the holiday was first celebrated in 1621 on the Plymouth Plantation as a harvest feast after a successful growing season, it was sporadic in the following years as an impromptu religious observance and later as a civil tradition. It was proclaimed as a national holiday in 1863 during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the holiday. Thanksgiving remains to the one of the major federal and public holidays and the beginning of the holiday season that runs through Christmas and New Years Day.
The nomadic ancestors of modern Native Americans hiked over a “land bridge” from Asia to what is now Alaska more than 12,000 years ago and many thousands of years before Christopher Columbus’ ships landed in the Bahamas. Scholars estimate that more than 50 million people were already living in the Americas by the time European adventurers arrived in the 15th century AD. Some of these 10 million lived in the area that would become the United States.
Although most Native Americans now live their daily lives in modern-day customs, many choose to remember their traditional history and celebrate at Pow Wows that are held regionally all over the USA. The celebrations are alive with rich Native American traditions customs, and native regalia. The photos and videos shown in this blog post were from the Stone Mountain Park, Ga. Pow Wow in November, 2013.
Veterans Day is celebrated every year on November 11 in the United States. This federal holiday recognizes all men and women that have served in the armed services. In 2013, the day is being recognized on the November 12 because the 11th falls on a Sunday. A similar holiday, Memorial Day is celebrated in May to remember the men and women who died while serving. Often the two holidays are confused. .
According to Wikipedia, “It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.)”
Veterans Day and its history dates back to June 4, 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge was asked by the United States Congress to issue a proclamation to observe November 11 with the proper ceremonies. On May 13, 1938, a Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) made November 11 each year a legal holiday and “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Recognized a s a federal holiday in the USA, Veterans day is also celebrated locally in most cities and towns with ceremonies and parades with displays of American flags and other patriotic items. Many restaurants offer free meals to veterans in recognition of the holiday and to honor the sacrifice they have shown to their country.
It is a large continent but how many countries in Africa are there? I must admit that I did not know so I looked it up. There are 52 countries total. Nigeria is by far the largest with a population of 146,255,000. The second largest is Ethiopia with a population of 82,544,800 followed by Egypt-81,713,500, democratic republic of the Congo – 66,514,000, and South Africa with a population of 48,782,800. The size of some of the countries vary widely from Nigeria’s population in the nine digits to the lowest population of 206,178 in Sao Tome and Principe. Several of the other countries with the lowest populations are Djibouti – 506,221 and Equatorial Guinea – 616.459.
Some authorities consider there to be 47 countries instead of 52. The difference in this number is the four islands, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, the Comoros, the Seychelles, and Mauritius. The 47 are on the mainland of Africa. Occasionally there is a dispute about some of the island countries not being African, but in general all have strong historical ties to Africa so therefore are generally included.
Recently I learned something I was not familiar with, the official holiday Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19th, it marks the end of slavery in the United States. It has been a tradition in the African American community since the late 19th century. Considered a state holiday or special day of observance in 42 of the states, the 8 states that do not recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.
The popularity of the holiday has varied over the years. In the early 20th century there was a decline in the Juneteenth celebrations because of economical and social forces. During the Depression, many blacks were forced off farms and into cities to find work. The employers in urban environments were less likely to permit leave for the celebrations. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the celebrations were considered a reminder of the historical struggle of their ancestors and declined because of this. In 1968, Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s Poor People’s March call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor. Afterwards many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth official holiday celebrations in their communities. During the 1980s and 1990s the Juneteenth popularity continued to grow. African American communities and organizations throughout the country have an interest to see that the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten and recognize roots tying back to Texas soil from which all remaining American slaves were finally granted their freedom.
What are the challenges for education in Africa? I have wondered about this and have heard of various charities, including Oprah, that are opening schools and reaching out to Africa to help establish educational priorities. Being a former educator, I was wondering what are the statistics and facts concerning this.
“Although literacy rates have greatly improved in Africa over the last few decades, approximately 40% of Africans over the age of 15, and 50% of women above the age of 25 remain illiterate.
Illiteracy among individuals over the age of 15 stands at 41 per cent; gender disparity in education prevails in 75 per cent of countries.In the period 2000–06, Seychelles had the highest adult literacy rate (92%); Mali and Burkina Faso had the lowest (24%).
Early childhood development is, in most countries, left to private sector actors primarily working in urban areas in aid of more advantaged social groups.
Almost 50% of countries may not attain the goal of universal primary education by 2015; nearly 40 million children are not going to school.
Liberia has the lowest primary student-teacher ratio of 19; in Mozambique the ratio is 67. Cape Verde has the highest gross enrollment rate in secondary education (80%); Niger has the lowest (11%).
Enrollment in lower secondary school rose to 46% in 2003 from 28% in 1991. The gross secondary school enrollment rate exceeds 20% in half of the countries, yet remains below 8 per cent in in 10 countries.”
Approximately ten years ago, the daughter of a close friend of mine from high school started a small school in Dianti Beach, Kenya, Africa. As it was explained to me, the Amani school was to meet the need for those children that had been kept out of public school because they could not afford the fees and were behind for their grade level. I became friends with Consolata Muysawa, one of the teachers and we exchanged our students art work.
The story for the Amani School has progressed with great strides. In the last 10 year the school has expanded from very modest beginnings of a thatch roof on four poles to four permanent buildings that contain a nursery, two kindergarten classes, primary education up to grade 5. There are adult education courses in the evenings. In addition to reading and writing in both English and Swahili, the students are taught math, social studies, art and physical education. The property is also home to Maweni Village’s only fresh water well, three sanitary latrines. There is a kitchen that enables Amani’s free lunch program. Just recently, a clinic was opened in the village which affords free medical care to all students of the Amani School. There is a continued need for support for the Amani School and other educational charities and programs in Africa, but you can make a difference by donating and helping spread awareness.
Africa is a country rich in culture and natural beauty. Its’ history dates back over 5 million years ago as the birthplace of the human species. Diversity is widespread across the continent. Many different languages are spoken and there are hundreds of distinct religions. People live in a variety of different types of dwellings and there is a range of economic activities.
According to Africaguide.com, “Over the centuries, people from other parts of the world have migrated to Africa and settled there. Historically, Arabs have been the most numerous immigrants. Starting in the 7th century AD, they crossed into North Africa from the Middle East, bringing the religion of Islam with them. A later movement of Arabs into East and Central Africa occurred in the 19th century. Europeans first settled in Africa in the mid-17th century near the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern end of the continent. More Europeans immigrated during the subsequent colonial period, particularly to present-day South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Algeria. South Asians also arrived during colonial times. Their descendants, often referred to as Indians, are found largely in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.”
Cultural activity in Africa is centered around the family and the ethnic group. religious and social patterns are reinforced by art, music and oral literature. Although the westernized minority was first rejected by African traditional culture. a cultural revival occurred. There is support by most African nations for national dance and music groups and museums. Artists and writers are supported to a lesser degree.
The first reference I had ever heard using the term “random acts of kindness” was in a movie I saw many years ago, “Pay It Forward“. In the movie, a young boy encourages others to perform random acts of kindness after his teacher did something very nice for him. Part of the project is not only the act of kindness but for the person to also “pay it forward” and encourage the person involved to also repeat the action for someone else. The idea is that this will make the world a better place one person at a time. I was amazed at the concept and loved the movie, but years later when I was teaching inner city school, it was announced that there would be an assembly. The speaker was one of the directors with the Pay It Forward organization. I discovered that the organization worked with the students to encourage kindness and sharing through random acts of kindness. I had the overwhelming reaction of what a wonderful idea not only the organization is but that they would target inner city schools where often fighting and bullying is common place.
I remember acts of kindness that have been bestowed on me through my life many were by friends and family, but the ones from people you don’t know and are so unexpected are pressed into your memory. Once when I had to take a leave of absence from my teaching job, a church in the community left me a gift bag and an encouraging note saying that thing would get better, just have faith. I did not know anyone in this church nor had ever attended their services. I still carry the note in my wallet because I want to be reminded of the feeling it gave me.
Other examples of random kindness can be found through volunteerism. There are many volunteers that unselfishly give their time on a regular basis to encourage helping others. This includes people who volunteer in food banks, churches, the Red Cross, the United Way and many others. the important thing to remember is that everyone can take part and it does not cost anything to participate. Kindness encourages the world to become a better place.
Please visit the Random Acts of Kindness blogspot:
As I have written in this blog about different countries, religions and their traditions, holidays and celebrations, I realized the history that has been carried on generation to generation. One of my favorite celebrations that is relatively new compared to the other holidays I have written about is Earth Day.
Earth Day first came about on April 22, 1970 at the height of the hippie movement and rode on the stream of consciousness caused by it. It has become know as a day to recognize the preservation and conservation of our earth for future generations. According to the Earth Day website,
“At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.”
In the 43 years that have passed since the first Earth Day, the consciousness on conservation and preservation has grown and has made grade strides but still there is much room for improvement. Earth Day should be promoted widely to help pass the word that we all can have a part in preserving our environment by recycling, conserving water, food, and energy and encouraging others to do so.
This week I wrote a review for one of my other blogs about a really cute book for young children entitled People Are Like Lollipops, by Annie Fox. I suddenly remembered that the book should probably be on this blog but to also be included in a list of books for young children that all have the same common theme of teaching diversity in a simple and easy to understand method. Fortunately there are many more books available than I realized but I will start with a list of ten that I find particularly interesting and add to it from time to time as I find new ones.
Books That Teach Diversity
1.My book –Roland’s Stupendous Imagination And The Native Americans