Happy Birthday, Biddy Mason!

Posted by Guest Blogger on August 15, 2020

“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.” (Biddy Mason)

Bridget “Biddy” Mason lived her entire life with her hands always open to give. In return she received many blessings.

Biddy was born enslaved on August 15, 1818 in Macon County, Georgia. Although she was forbidden to learn how to read or write, she was able to learn skills that served her well throughout her life: How to tend to livestock, use herbs and roots to make medicine, nursing skills, and midwifery. When she was eighteen years old she was given as a wedding gift to Robert and Rebecca Smith. The Smiths, who were devout Mormons, decided to leave Logtown, Mississippi for a settlement in Salt Lake City, Utah. On March 10, 1848, Biddy, who had just given birth to her third daughter, had to walk behind the 300 covered wagons. During this long journey, Biddy tended to the sheep while carrying her infant daughter Harriet in her arms. Daughters Ellen and Ann walked beside her. She also cared for anyone who go sick along the way. The Smith household lived in Utah for three years. When the Mormon church leaders decided to establish a new post in San Bernardino, California, Robert Smith decided to move his family again. They arrived in San Bernardino in 1851.

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Topics: Los Angeles, Upstander

Civic Imagination, Civic Action

Posted by Mary Hendra on June 1, 2020

Over the last 2 months, I've had the immense pleasure of interviewing three individuals with unique and powerful perspectives on civic engagement.

  • Dolores Huerta, civil rights icon and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, whose activism for 7 decades inspires and compels others to act.
  • Eric Marcus, whose interviews of LGBTQ civil rights activists (now shared through the Making Gay History podcast) illuminates the courage of individuals to raise their voices even when others don't want to hear them.
  • Henry Jenkins, whose research on the intersection of participatory culture and pop culture provide new insight into understanding civic participation in a digital age.

But perhaps the most inspirational are the stories that come from LA Facing History Partnership Schools each year around this time - individuals and groups whose upstanding make a concrete difference every day in the lives and future of our Southern California students and communities.

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Topics: Upstanders, Los Angeles, Upstander

Deborah Johnson and Zandra Rólon, Discrimination Case, 1984

Posted by James Waller on June 26, 2019

Happy Pride! As we end this series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, I encourage each of you to continue to learn and follow the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. The fight for social and legal equality for LGBTQ people is on-going and ultimately reflects on our values as a people and a nation by determining who among us deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

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Topics: Upstander, LGBTQ

Chuck Rowland, Founding Member of Mattachine Society, 1950

Posted by James Waller on June 19, 2019

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. For many, this infamous clash between the trans and gay patrons of the Stonewall Inn and the New York City Police Department, which already had a long history of harassment against the gay community, signifies the start of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the United States. Celebratory and educational events are happening throughout the country to mark this monumental event. The Making Gay History podcast, hosted by Eric Marcus, is dedicating their entire fifth season to stories on and around Stonewall. As important as Stonewall is to the movement, there are many other stories to uncover as we celebrate Pride Month.

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Topics: Upstander, LGBTQ

Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Conducting Scientific Research

Posted by James Waller on June 12, 2019

This June, we are proud to continue our focus on Upstanders with a special series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, co-hosted by ONE Archives Foundation and in collaboration with the podcast, Making Gay History. Each week, we explore the content, themes, and questions raised in one past episode of the podcast. 

 

As I continue my dive into the history of of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in Los Angeles, it is becoming clear that it is a history of a diverse group of self-determined people and their allies fighting to ensure that society fully understands and accepts LGBTQ individuals.

You may remember this quote from Edythe Eyde, who we met last week:

“With the advancement of psychiatry and related subjects, the world is becoming more and more aware that there are those in our midst who feel no attraction for the opposite sex.” (Edythe Eyde, Making Gay History)

Eyde highlights the importance of the psychiatric and medical communities in forming current/popular social beliefs. Incredibly, universal sodomy laws were prevalent in the United States until 1963, which tells us that homosexuality was widely viewed as morally and socially abhorrent. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1952, confirming these general societal beliefs. (More information can be found here.) Psychiatric research studies on human sexuality conducted in the 1940s and 1950s initiated the gradual change of regarding homosexuality as a natural expression of human sexuality rather than a pathological disorder.

Today for LGBTQ Pride Month we learn about the ground-breaking work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker.

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Topics: Upstander, LGBTQ

2019 Upstanders from LA Partnership Schools!

Posted by Liz Vogel on May 23, 2019

Each year, we invite our Los Angeles Partnership Schools to nominate an individual or group that has demonstrated the qualities of an Upstander in their school community. This year’s theme was allyship which kicked off at our Summit on School Culture last fall. Many schools had difficulty choosing just *one* person or group to nominate! Facing History is proud to recognize the effort and action of the following Upstanders in communities across Los Angeles.

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Topics: Upstanders, Los Angeles, Upstander

What does "upstanding" look like to you?

Posted by Mary Hendra on May 15, 2019

As we've seen in our Upstander series this spring, "upstanding" takes many shapes.  We've shared stories that range from the very visible Nipsey Hussle to nameless "allies" making themselves visible in a march against hate, from individuals who have dedicated their work to shaping or re-shaping their community like Jessica Smith-Peterson and Arianne Edmonds to students just beginning to leverage their voices for change. What does "upstanding" look like to you?

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Topics: Upstanders, Upstander

9th Grade Upstanders

Posted by Jason David on May 7, 2019

I recently had the kind of conversation an educator needs at this time of the year.

Claudia Bautista is a dedicated and skilled teacher at Santa Monica High School. She described a group of ninth grade students who took on a service learning project, and in challenging an injustice they saw on their own campus, exemplified youth agency and the promise of civic education.

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Topics: Upstanders, Los Angeles, Upstander

Arianne Edmonds and Jefferson Edmonds: an LA Upstander Family

Posted by Gayle Cole on May 2, 2019

Arianne Edmonds has upstanding in her DNA. Her great, great grandfather:

  • testified at a Congressional hearing despite threats of violence
  • started one of the early newspapers in Los Angeles for the Black community
  • advocated directly for increased voter registration by African Americans

Facing History and Ourselves sat down with Arianne at the California African American Museum on April 29, 2019 to discuss her journey to bring the story of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds to more people.  

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Topics: Reconstruction, Upstanders, Los Angeles, Upstander, Slavery

Knock Down the House

Posted by Mary Hendra on April 29, 2019

Sometimes we think of learning how to be an upstander from those who have achieved amazing success.  I had the opportunity to see an early screening of Knock Down the House - releasing May 1, 2019 on Netflix - and it has me thinking instead of all we can learn from those who stand up, not knowing whether or not they will even succeed.  In this week's blog for our season of upstanding (#LAUpstander), I’d love to hear your thoughts on upstanding in film and what we learn from those upstanders whose success is by no means guaranteed.  

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Topics: Film, Upstanders, Upstander

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This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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