George Washington Carver

Today, I want to tell you about one of my heroes, George Washington Carver, agricultural chemist, inventor, professor, artist, pianist, violinist, and singer.  If you enjoy peanut butter, you have GWC to thank for finding more than 326 uses for peanuts, including wood stains.  He was equally inventive with the sweet potato, which garnered many uses, like the peanut, including medicines to mitigate the effects of syphilis.  Remember, Carver was a professor at Tuskegee Normal Institute, now called Tuskegee University.  Many of his students were part of the infamous, “Tuskegee Experiment” that injected syphilis into “Negro” males to watch and record the devastating effects.  That is one of the reason why we, social researchers, have to register our research plans with institutional review boards monitoring research on human subjects.

Well, let’s back up a bit.  If you’re ever traveling in Southwest Missouri on Interstate-44, you will see an exit for Diamond, Missouri.  That’s where “The Plant Doctor”‘s life began.  He and his mother went to live on the Carver Plantation.  One night, George and his mother were kidnapped.  She was killed, and the little, sickly boy was returned to the Carver Plantation, which is now a National Monument, operated by the Department of Interior.  The Monument was established in 1930 by President F. D. Roosevelt, who gave $30,000 toward the building of the Monument.  FDR had met Carver, and greatly admired him.  I had already adored Carver, but after my visit, my adoration deepened.

Because little George was sickly, he was able to stay in the main Carver home while the other slaves worked in the cotton and vegetable fields.  It was there that George learned to sew, knit, crochet, wash clothes, and where he became a musician.  He mastered the violin, piano, and sang, beautifully.  He had a natural with plants, and was able to help the sharecroppers to make their fields more productive while maintaining the integrity and health of the soil.  Carver taught the people about crop rotation.  For example, when the cotton stripped away soil nutrients, GWC helped them to use sweet potatoes and peanuts as a source for money and a source to feed the soil nitrogen and other nutrients.

When George was a teen, (about 15ish), he was denied admission to schools in Missouri, so he headed west to Kansas stopping first in Fort Scott in Bourbon County, Kansas.  He soon found his way to Western Kansas in Ness County, and then to Minneapolis, Kansas and homesteaded near Beeler, Kansas.  He supported himself by taking in laundry while he studied to graduate high school.  When it was time for college, Carver had been accepted into a Kansas college until he arrived for actual registration.  He was told that he could not attend college since he was a “Negro”.

Not to be deterred, Carver headed to Iowa where he was admitted into Simpson College.  His art teacher noticed his great detail when sketching plants.  She suggested that Carver talk to biologist at what is not Iowa State University.  After graduating with his Master’s Degree, Carver taught chemistry and biology at Iowa State.  The young professor and inventor caught the eye of Henry Ford after making rubber out of golden rod plant.  He caught the eye of Thomas Edison who want Carver to come to New Jersey to work for him.   An idealist, Carver accepted the call from Booker T. Washington, then the head of Tuskegee.  Carver wanted to go where he’d “do the most good”.  It was at Tuskegee that Carver lived out the rest of his life teaching, inventing, and helping farmers increase yields and their incomes.  Carver is best known for his work with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans.  Carver lived a simple life and never had living quarters larger than one that held a twin-sized bed, a bureau, and a small desk.  Most of his days were spent in the laboratory and finding ways to help his students “make a mark in the world”.

Carver’s Honors include:

  • Named Fellow, London Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts
  • ‘Springarm Medal for Distinguished Service
  • Collaborator – Division of Plant Mycology: USDA
  • Roosevelt Medal for Contributions to Southern Agriculture
  • Popular Mechanics Top 50 Outstanding Americans
  • National Inventors’ Hall of Fame.

I do have a reference list if you’re interested.

I work at an agricultural experiment station.  If Carver were alive today, he’d be one of my colleagues!  If you want to know more, do some research on his Jesup Agricultural Wagon, on which he’d take his research to the farmers to show them the latest in crop and soil research.  You can see a replica at the GWC National Monument near Diamond, Missouri.

Thank you for reading.

A day in the lives of refugee and other immigrant families settling into new cultures

In this text, I have borrowed from myself.  I was attempting to write a white paper to help educators better understand the students in their classrooms.  I think it’s always best to back up and start at the beginning to understand a journey.

Why do people emigrate?  That is, what makes a family leave its own country and venture into an unknown land, in many cases, across oceans?  In most cases, this movement is considered a “Forced Migration”, which is displacement because of persecution, armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, natural or environmental disaster, famine, ineffectual government, or lack of financial opportunities (Baker, 2014; Goetz, & Rupasingha, 2007).  Often times, the process of migrating is dangerous and may take up to 10 years with many stops along the way (Salgado de Snyder, 2007).  Humans have always migrated, and it, likely, never will stop because of constant changes in governments and other political policies, food supplies, societal mainstream notions, and religious views.

For the past 25 years, immigrants of all statuses, have been part of my daily life living in Southwest, Kansas, both professionally and personally.  I’ve worked with Southeast Asian and African refugees.  I’ve worked with immigrants from all of the Americas (Meso, Central, South and North (I call them economic refugees), and with immigrants who come with professional careers from India, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, China, Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, Canada, and different parts of Europe.  It is an enriching experience to learn from those who come from other backgrounds.

All the immigrants who have come to Kansas in the past 30 years have one thing in common. They’ve come to the United States to seek better ways of lives.  Lives without conflict and strife.  Lives filled with hopes for their futures.  While their stories of how they arrived on the shores or across the borders into the U.S. vary, there are common denominators in the challenges of which they face.  The greatest challenge, possibly, is that of acculturation.  That is, fitting into a new land, learning the folkways and mores of the people, and understanding how their own cultures either blend or clash with the “mainstream”.  They do all this while trying to learn a livelihood for their families’ survival and hoping to move to a place of thriving in their lives.   There are many struggles and challenges of acculturating to new lives in new cultures. Granted, the Canadians with whom I’ve worked don’t have as many challenges because of a common language and European ancestry as the U.S. mainstream. However, the most obviously “different” immigrants do have challenges. For example, these are some of the question and comments that I hear along the way:

  • How and where do our children go to school?
  • Is there a place for me to learn English?
  • Where do we get an identification and address immigration status?
  • What are rules for driving a car?
  • Where do we get the foods of our traditions?
  • What are the rules for schools regarding age of entry, immunizations, school readiness?
  • Where do we find child care provider for our children?
  • Where do we find a doctor?
  • Is there public transportation?
  • Are we safe to walk to where we need to go?
  • “We are starting all over, and I need to purchase items for my home, again, and I don’t know anybody, so I have to make new friends, too.”

 

The United States is heading toward a demographic where there will be no one majority of population by the year 2040 (World Bank).  My observation is that this notion strikes fear in people.

After nearly 30 years of living, working, and playing alongside the immigrants who have come these past three decades, my observation is that they have not come to colonize these lands and the mainstream.  They (immigrants) have come for better lives for their children.  Historically, most are the victims of colonization on their lands of origins.  If you get the opportunity, hear their stories, share their foods, understand their laughter, and most importantly, empathize with the fears that pushed them out of their home soils.

Thank you for reading.

Socio-Ecological and Logic Models

If you’ve read any of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s work, you, no doubt, know about the socio-ecological framework.  In that Bronfenbrenner asserts that we have “spheres of influence” in which we develop who we are and what we like and do.  That’s an easy way to understand why we become that person we see when we look in the mirror.

Another framework that helps us to organize our thoughts, objectives, and ultimate results is called the “logic model”.  I love the logic model.  As an abstract-random thinker (as opposed to “concrete-sequential), the logic model helps me to think linearly.  As a historian, I have the ability to think linearly when I’m looking at time lines of events. But when I approach my day, linear can go out the door.  So the logic model helps us to see a situation that needs to be addressed, decide who and what the players will be (inputs), what the activities around addressing the situation will be (outputs), and the different levels of results (short-term, medium-term, and long-term).  Of course long-term results (outcomes) are the future we hope to see.  Long-term outcomes are the ultimate.  “I put $500 a month in the bank”.  It’s happening, and there is not future tense in the long-term outcome.  I have my logic model workshop participants either tie their shoes or get dressed for the day using a logic model.  Believe it or not, you use a logic model more often than you think!

Now, I have a colleague who worked on a national nutrition program.  Her team, in their infinite wisdom, combined the socio-ecological and logic model in one document to address a working model to bring nutrition to the masses.  I love their model and have adapted it into a model that I call, “adaptive and culturally relevant practices”.  My first go at the title was, “culturally relevant and adaptive practices”, but you can see it made for a terrible acronym!

As some background, my work is to find ways to address inequities that exist among families living in poverty and families of color.  I say if we see a situation, we can find ways to address those inequities with the help of a logic model that’s been embedded with the socio-ecological model. My example is the featured photo today.

Thanks to Major F.M. Hernandez (U.S. Army) and Dr. Charlotte Olsen for collaborating with me on this.

Children Separated from their Parents

My title as an extension specialist in family and consumer sciences (the old “home-ec”) at Kansas State University, means that I support, academically and programmatically, county extension agents on ways to reach under-served audiences in a region of Kansas marked by four counties that are Minority-majorities.

As a background note, for those of you who don’t know about Cooperative Extension, it was an act of Congress in 1914, called the Smith-Lever act.  The idea was that the Land Grant university would put educators in counties to address anything to do with families.   The concept of “extending” the university’s research and academic resources into communities was and continues to be a way to improve the lives of individuals and families.  Extension is alive and well, and we address many topics in Family and Consumer Sciences.  We offer educational topics addressing aging, family systems, financial management, food safety, natural resource management, health/well-being,  and other essential living skills.

So, we, extension specialists, were asked, “How can extension address the issue of children and parents being separated at the borders?”  The conversation ended with, “Unfortunately, we don’t have that capacity.”   At the risk of touching on a “hot” political subject, I beg to differ.

As sentient human beings, we have the capacity to empathize!  We have the capacity to care.  As human development experts, as in my professional life, we have the capacity to understand what a violent separation of a child from his or her parents might mean for that child’s development.  We now know that these children who are separated from their parents are not living in ideal conditions. These are conditions that we, as parents, would never want for our children!

It is here that I might suggest that you, gentle readers, familiarize yourself with ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.  The research was organized by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  To determine an ACE score, a questionnaire asks questions about abuse, abandonment, unloving environments, substance abuse, etc.,  during the first 18 years of life, the developmental years.  A score of “10” may indicate disrupted neuro-development and/or social emotional cognitive impairment.  What does that mean? A life of fighting inner “demons”.  Do you know anyone fighting those inner demons?

Back to the separated children, may we ask ourselves, in terms of adverse childhood experiences, “What does this mean for the children separated from their parents?”  Some may say, “This is what happens when the parents break the laws!”  I’ve actually heard this.  Might we see these dangerous migrations as acts of love?  Might we see these parents, risking their lives looking for improved living conditions, using what they have (guts) to make better lives for their children?  That is how I see it.  I live and work among many families who have gone through the same process to seek improved living conditions.  They happily live and work in my community contributing positive human capital resources to the workforce and sharing their food, cultures, and capacity for joy.

It is here that I will, shamelessly, promote a recent publication of mine.  It’s called Build Intercultural Relationships for Better Understanding of Your Neighbor.  It can be found here: https://www.bookstore.ksre.k-state.edu/pubs/MF3340.pdf

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments, and I don’t expect that all comments will be positive.  That is the risk I take for putting forth my opinions.  However, there is no need to be nasty.  Please remember that.