By Guest Blogger: Flor Blake
Back in 2013 my friend Roweena Naidoo, who is the founder of The Blossom Project, an organization that works to amplify the voices of girls, inspiring them to disrupt the status quo and make a positive difference in the world, called me to booked me for an event she had in March 2014. I told her that, of course I was available, it was a year out, so I put it in my calendar.
The closer the date got, she told me that Gloria Steinem was going to be her keynote speaker, and I got really excited, I mean with all the amazing things she has done to move women forward I was ecstatic! My excitement took over and I asked Roweena if I could have 15 minutes with her so I could do a portrait, and she said yes!
The day of the event came and I had my set up ready to go, and I was thinking about what to tell her when she finally came to the door for the portrait. Things ran a little late and I only got 3 minutes and 45 seconds to talk to Gloria, make her comfortable, and do the portrait. With the time limitation I got a little nervous and the only thing I said was, "two of my idols did your portrait and now I get to photograph you" while my friend/assistant yelled "no pressure!" I did the portrait in that limited time with a room fool of people waiting to talk and take "selfies" with her, I kept calm and took my portrait and then we went on with the VIP reception and the event.
She was obviously amazing, poised and perfect. She has done this a million times so the shoot went great. I am pleased with the result and the fact that it was done right around her 80th birthday makes it more meaningful.
I waited this long to share the picture because I wanted to make sure it was what it represented her well. Take a minute to visit The Blossom Project website and donate.
Here's the portrait, I called it "Glorious Gloria" and I love it.
"A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men." - Gloria Steinem
By Madeline LaMee
What will the Future Hold?
The Past, Present and Future of Native American Reservations in the United States
When people from the Americas hear the term “Indian,” we often associate it with the Old West stereotype of medicine men and horseback warriors. This association however, is not so widespread as one might think. To the rest of the word, an Indian is someone from the Indian Subcontinent, halfway across the world from the arid plains of the Old West flicks.
Many do not know that the term “Indian” was coined by Columbus himself, who, upon his first voyage to the Americas, was convinced that he was correct about the earth’s circumference, and that, by sailing West from Spain, he had found an alternate route to India. Although the West Indies where soon discovered to be part of a new Continent entirely, the term Indian is still widely used despite it’s incorrect and somewhat offensive background.
This ironic historical detail resonates deeply in the light of current debates surrounding Native American rights. Although to an outsider, the use of the current politically correct term might seem like an inconvenient overreaction, to many, stopping the incorrect usage of the word Indian is an important step in the reputing of common stereotypes surrounding the Native American people.
Europeans, and later Americans, have an unfortunately long history of forcing their own image upon their subjugated cultures; one must only look at how the great Aztec civilization is portrayed by the Spanish, or how the Celtic tribespeople were detested by the Roman Catholic church to see this fact. In the present-day United States, the process of subjugation has been no different, though this part of history is only now beginning to surface in the eyes of the general public.
The conquest and colonization of the Americas, which began in 1492, did not end entirely until the mid 19th century, when the last of the European Colonies gained political independence. Europeans came for many different reasons: but most came in the name of the Crown, the Church, or personal escape from the poverty and religious persecution common in their home countries. This vast movement of European culture and people to the Americas was accompanied by the mass killing of Native Americans by European disease and violence. In some places, especially in new Spain, the population fell by as much as 90 percent.
At the time, the present day Eastern and Midwestern United States was claimed by the English, Dutch and French as the dregs of the New World (by which they meant that it had less natural resources than New Spain or Portugal). The present South-West was considered the northern corner of the Spanish conquests. Here, the lands were used primarily to support the excess population of the European countries, and not as major food sources as seen in South and Central America.
In the beginning, only a small amount of Europeans came to North America. Some lived in harmony with the natives, but most tried to impose their culture on them and convert them to Christianity. Many times, they would negotiate with the natives for lands and resources. Because many native tribes had not developed a system or concept of land ownership, they were often exploited by the Europeans. One example of this is Peter Minuit, who is said to have purchased Long Island for only 60 Dutch guilders, the equivalent of 24 dollars. Today, it is some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
After the United States fought for it’s independence, it quickly expanded to many times it’s original size. As the colonists pushed out from the east coast, the Native Americans were forced to migrate into the lands to the west, a change in tribal boundaries that caused many ongoing conflicts. Americans soon developed an ideal called Manifest Destiny, the idea that it was their god-given right and duty to spread democracy (and their European culture) from “sea to shining sea.”
By 1853, most of the continental US was part of the new American empire; there was no longer any land for the Natives to escape to. Instead, they lived in small pockets between the growing American settlements. In such close proximity, the tribes and settlers fought constantly, though the settlers won more often than the natives. In one well known example, officially called the Battle at Wounded Knee, American troops shot down Lakota civilians with little to no provocation. Needless to say, they call it the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Around this time, it was a federal goal to assimilate Native Americans into our society. At the time, Native Americans were viewed with the same racist assumptions as African Americans. It was commonly held that they were uncivilized and dangerous.
In 1851, the first Indian Reservation was made in Oklahoma. Soon, there were over 300 pieces of land allotted to various tribes. Instead of being able to stay in their own lands, most tribes were relocated to lands that were unwanted by the US government. Many were relocated forcibly, and had to walk to their new homes under the drilling of US troops. The relocation of the Eastern Tribes is often termed the Trail of Tears because the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw people who participated in the walks died in huge numbers, living in conditions comparable to the Death Walks during WWII.
Although the borders have changed, these reservations have remained intact into the 21st century. Since then, various laws have been passed to ensure the security of the reservations. For instance, tribal governments or “Indian Nations” began forming early on in reservations, but it wasn’t until the Self- Determination act in 1970, that they were acknowledged officially by the US government. Native Americans achieved sovereignty in US elections in 1925. Nowadays, Native Americans enjoy dual citizenship and public education.
I saw the effects -good and bad- of these past centuries of history firsthand when I visited Crownpoint, New Mexico with my church youth group. Crownpoint, a small town in the North-East corner of the Navajo Nation, is to my knowledge, a fairly typical example of what life is like today on a reservation. The people there wear Western cloths and speak English. Most live on a plot of desert were they raise horses or sheep and sleep in a small house or trailer. They were incredibly grateful for the help that our church gave to them, but I wondered often if any of the old men and women remembered the years not so long ago in which missionaries came not to rebuild their houses, but to force their religion onto them.
Still, thanks to the National Indian Education Association, the town has an elementary school, middle school, high school and even a community college. Children all over the area attend school in Crownpoint, but only 60 percent make it all the way through high school. The pastor of the church we stayed at said that the low graduation rate was mostly due to a broad disillusionment in the value of education. There were so little jobs available around the reservation, he said, that even high school graduates could scarcely find jobs. He was also worried about the number of kids that were turning to gang membership and drug abuse.
Despite these worrisome realities, the Navajo are actually relatively lucky in terms of history; unlike many tribes, they retained their ancestral lands, which they consider sacred to their people. Still, they are among the many tribes of Native Americans that are still struggling to reconcile their tribal heritage and modern influences, negotiate with the United States Government for greater autonomy, and ultimately provide a more stable future out of a troubled past. When people make judgements about the modern issues regarding Native Americans, whether it is about Native American Civil Rights or something as seemingly trivial as the newest PC term, I hope that they will take into account not only the present conditions, but the past and future of the Tribal Nations. Nothing in history happens in a vacuum, so it’s up to us to use history to aid our understanding of the world around us.
“Next Step: Your Mission Starts Here” packet Ways of the World by Robert Strayer
Guns, Germs, and Steal by Jared Diamond Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown Encyclopedia Britannica http://www.navajo-nsn.gov
by Angel Wright
The new school year is about to start, for me its my senior year and my fourth high school. I am currently preparing for Link Crew where I will be working with freshmen on their first day of school. My goal while working with these freshmen is to try and provide a safe and fun introduction into a new environment. New environments differ from wherever you go and from my own personal experience high schools can have major differences, even though it is set with the same outcome of graduating and gaining a post secondary education.
Freshman year at my first high school in Tuscon was unique in the sense that I had roots there. This was due to my brothers own educational journey. At that time he had his own truck and drove us. He had helped me figure out where my first class was but then he left me to rejoice with his friends. There was no Link crew and I stumbled through the school clueless until I ran into someone familiar who had the same class that I did. As the year went on I became used to the system of hearing a faint voice talk about our school news. I paid no attention because school spirit was only relevant one day a year when we played football against our rival school. The only clubs that were offered were during lunch, and I decided not to leave my friends to join a club that often times lasted only a month. There were options for clubs and sports but you had to search for them and at that point I just didn’t know about them. I wish I had as I might have wanted to stay when I left for my second high school.
At my second high school in Colorado the grades went from tenth to twelfth so I was subjected to being a freshman yet again. Mostly everyone had known each other because they went to the middle school just a few hundred feet away from the high school. This time around I had no older brother to guide me to class but I had to maneuver through a small school with hidden classrooms and filled hallways. I remember being surrounded by students who lacked diversity and who had lived a small town kind of life. This small town life seemed to be fun and have perks if you lived there all your life or if you had a sibling that once attended the school then someone was going to greet you with excitement. The first semester I did join a couple of clubs that were also held during lunch because one of my eager friend’s urged me to. I’m glad I had someone to help push me into doing things at school that really benefitted me. One thing that shocked me was that the teacher here cared about all of their students and even invited conversation on a regular basis about grades and tutoring. I did have good teachers at my first school but it wasn’t the same. They were there for the day not the student. Although I was more involved, I was unhappy. I am sure now had I stayed I might have gotten on board and befriended many of the students who would be in my small graduating class.
My father was the reason we moved to Colorado in the first place but after we moved he was given a delayed promotion in Denver which was four hours away. I would have to move mid second semester of sophomore year. So there I was landing back in Tucson planning to stay with my grandmother and attend my first high school once again. I had enrolled there and hated it within a week. The material was completely different in every class I took and the teachers only directed their attention for a moment saying I would catch up in no time. I wound up enrolling in an alternative high school just down the street from my house. My cousin had been going there and I thought I would give it a try. This was the kind of school where you sit at a computer for five hours a day and do your classes online with a teacher on site for that subject. I truly believe this is a good alternative for those motivated to get through their schooling faster, but I happened to be unmotivated and this led me to slack in areas I would normally try my hardest in. When it was time to be reunited with my parents I was ready to go somewhere new.
Now my fourth high school for my junior year was different; it was the biggest I had ever been to as the halls were jam packed and difficult to get through. On the first day you only go to your first two classes then to a school wide assembly. I made two friends within those first couple hours who I am very close with now and I was also introduced to the school's tradition of introducing the freshmen and celebrating the seniors. I have never seen school spirit so vibrant at nine o’clock in the morning and from there on everything started to click. When I had met my counselor a few days earlier I would have never expected to be so involved in the club she ran or be waking up at four in the morning so we could go help facilitate for a marathon. The teachers here had so much passion and even more dedication to their students and this truly made me feel welcome. One more semester at my fourth and favorite school will be the longest I have ever attended throughout my high school education. Graduating from this school is going to be my happy ever after for my high school education and I am grabbing every opportunity it offers.
The thing about new environments is that they can be uncomfortable or have an unforeseen great welcoming. Either way the best you’re gonna get from it is what you pull from it and it may sound cheesy but its true. It took me a long time to get used to the change of new high schools, but now that I have I appreciate everything that they were able to give me. Without change and meeting new people almost on a constant basis I probably wouldn't be as comfortable as I am now being myself. Being in a new environment only means having more options.
By Heaven James
A book I read this summer was called Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Stardust is a magical and adventurous story I most definitely enjoyed! I loved the mixture of magic and reality that captures the readers’ imaginations. I recommend this book to anyone who likes some fantasy. The plot of Stardust is a young man named Tristan Thorn promises Victoria Forester, his “true love” that if he passed “The Wall” and bring back the star they both just saw fall from the sky, that Victoria would accept Tristan’s hand in marriage or whatever he desired. Tristan goes on this journey to fetch the star not knowing the star is a girl in the flesh. Tristan conquers and goes through the unimaginable to get back to Victoria, but by the end of the journey he realizes that he practically forgot about Victoria and maybe even his love for her. The story is filled with witches and pirates too! I recommend seeing the movie as well, but like a lot of stories that are transferred on film, the movie leaves out adventures that you would only find in the book. This is one of my favorite stories.
Happy Peace Rose Day!
In 1935, the French rose breeder, Francis Meilland, the third generation in a family of rose growers near Lyon, selected 50 ‘promising’ seedlings from his seedbeds. One was tagged 3 – 35 – 40 and over the next four years Francis and his father, Papa Meilland, watched its development with interest. In spite of war clouds gathering, the unnamed rose was introduced to friends and professional rose growers who gave it an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’. But three months later Hitler invaded France and, with the nursery under threat of destruction, three parcels of budwood were hastily sent out of France, one of which was smuggled out in a diplomatic bag to America.
For the duration of the war the Meilland family had no idea whether any of the budwood had survived. In America their agent planted the rose in his own trial beds and gave it to other rose growers for testing in all the climatic zones throughout the United States. The color was magnificent, a pale, golden yellow deepening to red along the petal edges. The rose did so well that it was decided to formally release it in the United States. Although the war was still raging in Europe, the release date was set for 29 April 1945, in Pasadena, California.
On the same day that two doves were released into the American sky to symbolize the naming of the rose, Berlin fell and a truce was declared. It was sheer coincidence. In naming the rose, this simple statement was read: “ We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire: ‘PEACE’.”
‘Peace’ went on to receive the All American Award for roses on the day that the war in Japan came to an end. On May 8, 1945, when Germany signed its surrender, the 49 delegates who met to form the United Nations were each presented with a bloom of ‘Peace’ and a message of peace from the Secretary of the American Rose Society.
Francis Meilland died in 1958 but his son Alain and daughter Michelle and their children continue the Meilland tradition of breeding roses. After ‘Peace’ became so well known, Francis wrote in his diary:
“How strange to think that all these millions of rose bushes sprang from one tiny seed no bigger than the head of a pin, a seed which we might so easily have overlooked, or neglected in a moment of inattention.”
That’s the miracle of a blossom!
December 14, 2013
What is the world coming to if we find ourselves scared of living a normal life because we never know what will happen?
Instead of blaming the gun or mental health, why don’t we blame the real problem? Us… Society.
Teenagers in high school have some of the highest stress induced situations. We are expected to:
· Have good grades – Students are more likely to report that they worry about things related to school than parents perceive. 44% of all children ages 8 – 17 reported that doing well in school is a source of worry compared to only 34% of parents who report this as a source of stress for their child[i].
· Take honors and AP classes - A study of 6,294 students at 15 high-achieving schools reveals that some students who work hard in school may be compromising their mental and physical health in the pursuit of top grades[ii].
· Be involved in sports and extracurricular activities - The greater the amount of time adolescents report spending in regularly scheduled structured activities, the higher their self-reported level of anxiety tends to be[iii].
· Complete at least four hours of homework - 26% of all students grades 3-12 say homework is just busywork and unrelated to what they are learning in school[iv].
· Spend time with our families
· Have a social life
· And on top of it all get at least eight hours of sleep - Teens need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep each night. 80% of teens don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. At least 28% fall asleep in school, and 22% fall asleep doing homework[v].
After all this, we’re told that a 4.0 GPA and a perfect ACT score are not enough to stand out among the other students trying to get into university. Twenty nine percent of children aged 13-17 report that they worry about getting into a good college and deciding what to do after high school, while only 5% of parents of 13-17 year-olds believe this is a source of stress for their child[vi].
How can anyone live this life? You would have to be a superhero.
Challenge Success out of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education synthesized research and released the following statistics[vii] related to the increased stress that high school students face:
· For adolescents aged 13-15, there is a noted relationship between increased school distress and an increased risk of psychosomatic symptoms, such as headache, stomach aches, and backaches.
· Academic stressors are associated with increases in both depressive and aggressive symptoms in girls and aggressive symptoms in boys.
· In 2011 15.8% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. 12.8% of high school students made a plan about how they would attempt suicide, and 7.8% of students attempted suicide one or more times.
· Suicide is the 4th largest cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24 after accidents, homicide and unintentional injury.
· Adolescents report several reasons why they cheat on tests, including: fear of failure, parents demanding good grades, wanting to keep up with others, wanting to get a good grade, and feeling that the teacher is unfair.
· 73% of students listed academic stress as their number one reason for using drugs, yet only 7% of parents believe teens might use drugs to deal with stress.
· Suburban youth are more likely to report using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate (to decrease feelings of stress and depression) compared to normative and urban youth populations.
The pressures we feel from society, our schools, our parents and our peers are pushing us to react and act out. We are putting ourselves in a metaphorical Hunger Game. We are fighting to stand out, and get to the top at any cost. And if we fail in that quest, what then? All our lives, we have been conditioned to do better, and do more. Who wouldn’t react drastically when they feel that everything they’ve worked for is over? If we continue with the way things are, where will we end up? How can we be expected to live in a society where our best is never enough?
There are so many questions. But if we want the world to change, we must change the way our society is structured, first.
Next year, The Blossom Project will be exploring this topic. We invite you to be part of this conversation: www.blossomproject.org.
The 2013 Blossom Project participants
Emma, Khulan, Sydney, & Sofia
[i] American Psychological Association. (2009). Stress in America 2009. Retrieved from:
[ii] Conner, J., & Pope, D. (2013). Not just robo-students: Why full engagement matters and how schools can promote it. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Retrieved from
[iii] Melman, S., Little, S. G., & Akin-Little, K. A. (2007). Adolescent overscheduling: The relationship between levels of participation in scheduled activities and self-reported clinical symptomology. The High School Journal, 90 (3), 18-30.
[iv] MetLife survey of the American teacher: The homework experience. A survey of students, teachers and parents. (2007). Retrieved from: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED500012&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED500012
[v] National Sleep Foundation. (2006). Press Release 2006: Stick to routines.
[vi] American Psychological Association. (2009). Stress in America 2009. Retrieved from:
[vii] Challenge Success High school Data retrieved from http://www.challengesuccess.org/Portals/0/Docs/ChallengeSuccess-DoYouKnow-High.pdf
On Sunday, 11 February, 1990, a little after 4p.m., Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I watched with my family as he triumphantly raised his fists in the air. There were tears, there were cheers, and a profound sense that I was witness to an incredible moment in history. I fell in love with South Africa that day.
The country's first, fully representative, democratic election was held on 27 April 1994. I was not old enough to vote. But I did accompany my parents, and watched with deep joy as they voted for the first time, for president. I proudly called myself South African that day.
The pride and joy I felt for my country grew tremendously throughout Mr. Mandela's presidency. In particular, his focus on two population groups shaped my social awareness: women & youth.
In his opening address to South Africa's first democratic parliament in 1994, Mr. Mandela said:
“It is vitally important that all structures of government, including the President himself, should understand this fully: that freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”
Recognizing the importance of women and women's leadership, Mr. Mandela committed to an informal quota of having at least 30 percent of his parliament represented by women.
And to honor the women who fought for freedom and forged the path for justice, August 9th in South Africa is designated as National Women's Day.
Mr. Mandela's government reviewed the country's public holidays to ensure that the calendar was reflective of the total experience of all the people. As such, June 16th is commemorated as National Youth Day, for the young people who gave their lives during the Soweto Uprisings of 1976.
Youth have been very important to Mr.Mandela. He was one of the founders of The African National Congress Youth League - the organization that influenced his leadership.
As president, he was keenly aware of the responsibilities that lay with the next generation - he challenged and inspired them. In 2005, in an address to youth at the "Make Poverty History" campaign , Mr. Mandela passed the baton of action to all young people:
"I am proud to wear the symbol of this global call to action in 2005. This white band is from my country. In a moment, I want to give this band to you – young people ... – and ask you to take it forward along with millions of others to the G8 summit in July. I entrust it to you. I will be watching with anticipation".
"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom".
These words have been the inspiration for The Blossom Project. I am proud that this program has been created from the inspiration of a true hero. I will continue to honor the life and vision of this extraordinary man, in all that The Blossom Project continues to do.
I hope that you, too can find inspiration from Mr. Mandela.
Hamba Kahle, Madiba.
Blossom Project Participants
We are empowered high school girls, inspired to make a positive difference in the world.