Samira Thomas

Storryteller and Curriculum Expert

Grades and Happiness.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Friendly Reminder to everyone who hangs with the young folks in our world: grades are cool and all but don't buy into equating them with happiness, and please don't teach your babies that this correlation exists. Our babies are unique and happiness comes in different forms. Grades reflect very few things. Happiness, intelligence, creativity, and success are not included in that list. Worthiness is not included in that list. Grades reflect how much a student is able to play the game, but not how much a person has learned. They teach us that being assigned worthiness by others is socially acceptable. This is fraught with bias as studies have shown, paying heed to existing forms of power in relation to race, gender, sexuality and economic status. By all means, enrich your children's lives and offer them opportunities for support through their learning. This is important. But please don't make better grades the goal. We don't need more people who play this game well.

Three Years of Grief

When I was a young kid (I think around 4 or 5 years old), I remember getting separated from my family and lost in a big convention hall. Others in my family will remember better, but I sense I was gone for some time, because I managed to find a comfy place to take a nap, somehow sure that my family would find me. Memory could be failing me now – if I was tired, it was likely this could have taken mere minutes, I was that kind of kid. But I felt safe, because Mum was out there somewhere and she’d find me. She always found me when I wandered off.

Another year has passed since she was stolen from us – unfairly, cruelly stolen. Three years now that we’ve all carried her memories without the satisfaction of reminiscing with her. Three years with the world feeling a little less secure because she isn’t coming to find me when I get lost. And three years where I’ve been lost a lot. I miss her in ways that even the poets can't capture.

Today I’m thinking of two things: the first is the cost of living in this world that we’ve created. We tolerate violence daily, in part because we don’t see it, or if we do, we feel we have no power to enact peace in the face of violence. I know that I lost my Mum to a brutal ideology that tolerated violence perpetrated against the “other.” We, collectively, have created a world where violence (particularly against whatever “we” perceive as the “other”) is tolerated, even when our words speak to its intolerability, our actions don’t hold this conviction. In many of my social circles, my loss, the violent loss of a loved one, is an anomaly. In other communities, this is not the case. Friends, remember, that to not be touched by the trauma of violence in your lives is a privilege that not everyone has access to, not everyone can claim. For some people in this world, violence knocks on the door each day. The loss of my mother was not mired in victim blaming or questions of her worthiness to be mourned. I am grateful for this as it is not the case for everyone who is taken at the hands of violence. So, today, again, I want to remind you all of this thing called pacifism. I will write more on this soon, but for now, just remember that this is an option, because so often these days, the message we receive is that it is not a viable or pragmatic option. Remember that pacifism is not passive, and it is not just the absence of violence. It is the active protection of peaceful attitudes and behaviours towards one another. It is the rejection of tolerating violence against any(body), including the “other” (or our planet, for that matter). Pacifism is active because it requires us to make choices, not just to “do no harm” but to really commit with our thoughts, our money, and our time towards those actions that make it possible for everyone to live without the ever looming presence of violence.

The second thing I’m thinking is this, very obvious thought: I wish I could hug her again, or dance with her again, or just speak with her again. Call your loved ones. Today is a good day to do it. You just read all my ramblings, you probably have a moment right now to do it. I told Mum I loved her every time we spoke, which was almost every day of my life until she died, and I still don’t feel like I told her enough. When I think of it now, it feels like it could've been the only thing we talked about our whole lives, and it still wouldn't be enough. I have also realized that I have an entire search party of friends and family who will always be there in moments when I get lost, and I am endlessly lucky for each and every one of them. 

New Hampshire Public Radio

I was invited to join Word of Mouth on New Hampshire Public Radio to discuss my piece on Patience. It was my first radio interview. I had a wonderful time chatting with Virginia Prescott about patience and resilience in the context of grief and trauma, and will take this as a valued learning experience. 

Listen here:

http://nhpr.org/post/53116-women-and-concussions-man-vs-marathon-praise-patience

The Art of Life

"This humanistic model is sloppy. It has no bottom line. It is not geared for maximum productivity. It will not increase your arsenal of facts or data. But it rivals with rockets when it comes to flight and the visions it enables. And it will help create denser and more generous lives, lives aware that others are not only other, but are real. In this regard, it adds depth and resonance to what I regard as the shadowy, impalpable world of numbers and data: empirical notations that have no interest nor purchase in interiority, in values; notations that offer the heart no foothold."

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/opinion/dont-turn-away-from-the-art-of-life.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

On not planning to have a baby

"Men and women retire at about the same age, but women have less income to rely upon in retirement; their salaries at retirement are, on average, 29 percent lower. This is partly the result of parenting responsibilities: For women, each child reduces her pay. This is mostly as a cumulative effect from time and money lost earlier. But children have no such effect on men’s salaries."

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/06/female_academics_pay_a_heavy_baby_penalty.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top

A Thought on Serial

I cannot imagine the lifetime of effort it took for this family to heal from the murder of Hae Min Lee, only to find the most painful time of their lives turn into a media sensation over a decade later. I enjoyed Serial. Its implications are powerful and complex. I can't believe it took me so long to stop and think of the pain this family must be going through. I suppose I can chalk it up to being so entertained, though I'm not sure that is enough.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/feb/07/serial-case-hae-min-lee-statement-adnan-syed-hearing-baltimore?CMP=share_btn_fb

Formation and Football

"It’s also not insignificant that she’s electing to parade her substantial wealth and ability to outearn most men in the music industry (including her husband, Jay Z) during the Super Bowl — the flagship event of male virility and violence in this country. That’s incredibly meaningful. It’s a moment where the entire country will be watching, and forced to sit up and pay attention. We can’t overlook the audacity of that — and I think that’s why she is able to command our attention the way she does. There’s nothing else like it, period."

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/arts/music/beyonce-formation-super-bowl-video.html?referer

Thank You - Ross Gay

Thank You
by Ross Gay

If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust, 
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden’s dormant splendor.
Say only, Thank you
Thank you.

Two Feminisms

"These two feminisms – call them confidence feminism and care feminism – are complementary. Both are needed to achieve actual equality between men and women in the developed countries... Either one alone will fall short. It is much cheaper, however, to embrace confidence feminism, through special bias training, women’s groups, and mentorship programs, than care feminism, which requires much more extensive and expensive changes in the way we work...

Why not view disrupting the workplace with the same enthusiasm we embrace disrupting the hotel, taxi, or professional services businesses? Call it innovation for life, for women and men alike. Let’s give them the confidence to advance themselves and the ability to care for each other."

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/davos-2016-a-tale-of-two-feminisms

Obama on Gun Control

“Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers in Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from their lives by a bullet of a gun."

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/05/462033317/watch-president-obama-gets-emotional-talking-about-gun-control

Hermoine Gets a Makeover

In the films, Hermione was played by Emma Watson, a white woman, but Dumezweni's casting continues a tradition of imagining the character as a woman of color — her race isn't specified in the novels and her status as "Mudblood" in the wizarding world puts her in a similar position to many marginalized people in white institutions today.

http://www.vulture.com/2015/12/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-has-a-cast.html

Structural Violence of Canada's Past

Facing the structural violence of our past, and recognizing the legacy it has left for us today.

"Removed from their families and home communities, seven generations of aboriginal children were denied their identity through a systematic and concerted effort to extinguish their culture, language and spirit.

It is clear that residential schools were a key component of a Canadian government policy of cultural genocide.

The legacy can be seen in the myths, misunderstandings, and lack of empathy many Canadians openly display about indigenous people, their history, and their place in society."

Syrian Canadians

They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada with social insurance numbers, with health cards, and with an opportunity to become full Canadians.

This is something we're able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians, but people around the world share." - Prime Minister Trudeau

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2680244051/

"I love the thing that I most wish had not happened."

So many gems in this piece.

“‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that's why. Maybe, I don't know. That might be why you don't see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It's that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien's mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ”

https://www.gq.com/story/stephen-colbert-gq-cover-story