Category Archives: Blog

I was featured in the Washington Jewish Week

Well, I’ve had my day in the sun. This month, the Washington Jewish Week featured me in their “You Should Know…” section. I got quite a rush (and had more than a few nervous moments) at the thought of sitting on the other side of the interview table. The reporter, Hannah Monicken, put me at ease. The result is a laid-back conversation that touches on my passions for teaching and Jewish farming.

Click below to check it out:

Photo by Hannah Monicken, taken in the Gallaudet garden!

“You Should Know … Rhea Kennedy,” Washington Jewish Week

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What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part II

Continuing on from Part I, I give you:

Good Girls Revolt

In the Amazon series Good Girls Revolt, it’s 1969 and News of the Week only runs bylines with men’s names. The media is all about guys like Doug and Randy and Sam. This show, though, is all about Patti and Cindy and Jane. I watched the ten-episode Season 1 soon after it came out last fall, and I’m still thinking about it.

The three main characters work at News of the Week — a fictitious magazine — as researchers and a caption writer, each supporting a man. Patti is a striver whose passion for news wins over her personal life every time. Cindy writes photo captions and feels more at home in the newsroom than at home with her law student husband. Jane was the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, but now bows to the editorial control of male editors.

The story line clings to those three, but others make welcome appearances along the way. The first cameo is Nora Ephron, who pops up in Episode 1, faces sexism, and … well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s say she’s about nine episodes ahead of her time.

The dialogue moves fast. Patti or Jane talk out who they need to probe, dial a source, and get the job done. They’re the Ginger Rogers of the newsroom, doing everything the men do, but behind the scenes and in huge hair.

Does this sound like a ladies’-view version of Mad Men? If you think so, you’re in the company of many, many reviewers.

Patti, Cindy, and Jane face their own battles and injustices, but with refreshing results: They don’t take out frustration on fellow women. When Nora joins them, Jane gamely shows her around. When Jane hits a wall getting a source to go on record for her reporter’s story, Patti steps in to nab the right interview. Next to these alliances, Don Draper’s friendships with men look downright catty.

I agree with critics who say that the atmosphere is simplified. The race relations, especially, leave me wondering. Could a white man who buys into mainstream culture dig an FBI conspiracy against the Black Panther Party? Would a black woman in an all-white, male-dominated newsroom find her biggest challenge is awkward small talk? The women are also so selfless and forgiving. Crab mentality and gender stereotypes aside, would that come easily to anyone in the competitive world of journalism?

The best part? For me, it’s the DC connection. That comes in the form of Eleanor Holmes Norton. Today, she’s a congressional delegate for DC in her third or fourth decade as a DC statehood crusader and law professor. In 1969, she’s a self-possessed attorney with the ACLU. It is the Norton character who looks into the researchers’ wide eyes and tells them they have a case.

Occasional complications and nuances help move the story along. Patty is a complicated soul, as she grapples with her obsession with getting the story and advocating for herself. She also shows tender feelings for her reporter lover boy while resisting commitment. The male characters are also well-developed. Aside from the chorus of horn dogs and misogynists, several show the pull between the waning ways of the 1950s and the social justice groundswell of the ’60s and ’70s. In another notable twist, the feared and revered publisher happens to be a woman named Bea. She shows up one day to treat the male cadre of reporters and editors to a three-martini lunch. Bea’s appearance shows that gals can be both powerful and sexist.

I haven’t come across a parallel of Erin Ramsey’s essay urging people to see Good Girls. I will give my own endorsement, though. Give the show a chance — especially if you’re a writer, journalist, or witness to injustice.

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Publication: Abundant Grace

Abundant Grace book cover

I’m honored and thrilled to see my short story, “Digging to Switzerland,” in print. It appears in the anthology Abundant Grace: Fiction by DC Area Women (Paycock Press), edited by Richard Peabody.

 

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NaNoWriMo 2016

A hand holds a pen with ribbon tied to it over a notebook

Ah, November.  A blank page on which to write.

Today marks one week into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). This year, I’ve made a commitment to the scribbling craft. The pledge? To write every day.

The force rolling me along is four fellow writers (a.k.a. The Furious 5). Each day, we email the group to report on how much time we’ve written, and sometimes what we worked on. Despite the “novel” aspect of NaNoWriMo, our group sets no requirements for genre. Among our quintet, we’ve already covered fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Timing is also flexible. As one member put it, you can write for “5 minutes or 5 hours.”

If this November is even a fraction as productive as last year, I’ll consider it a success.

What writing commitment could you make for 30 days?

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Rant moratorium?

I see them every now and then – furious complaints or snappy comebacks about student behavior, posted or shared by college professors on social media. Sometimes they’re pretty funny. Overall, though, they bring me down.

Here’s a thought: What if we abstained from posting nastygrams about our students, just for this semester?

Students have thrown some curveballs my way, but many have left me open-mouthed in amazement. I’m talking about students who revealed they were the first person in their family to set foot on a college campus; a student who wrote a gorgeous short story out of the blue, because something in the assignment touched him; students reading ahead in the assigned book because they got so into it.

If I succumb to the seduction of a social media rant, I degrade those stories. I feel only the anger of the injustice and the momentary boost from Facebook cheerleaders.

If you’re not convinced that a rant moratorium has merit, consider this: Acting like a cad isn’t just for students.

In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay presents a beautifully humble essay on her first year of teaching college students. She writes:

Sometimes, during class, I catch students staring at their cell phones beneath their desks like they’re in a cone of invisibility. It’s as funny as it is irritating.

…Sometimes, when students are doing group work, I sneak a look at my own phone like I am in a cone of invisibility. I am part of the problem.
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Publication: Family Farm Camp in the Jewish Daily Forward

IMG_3882

In a new article for the Jewish Daily Forward, I visit a family camp at the Pearlstone Center. Check it out:

Pearlstone Does Farm-to-Table Family Style

 

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Advice for allies

Attendees at Beyond the Hashtag event held on DC's U Street in July 2016. Photo by Rhea.

Attendees at Beyond the Hashtag, held on DC’s U Street in July 2016. Photo by Rhea.

 

How to be an ally when I see LGBTQ people killed in a mass shooting in Orlando? How to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community as black men and women are killed by police?

As a straight, white woman, I’ve grappled with the ally role. In the hopes of evolving as an ally, I sought advice. In this post, I want to share that with you. This post is about listening to and amplifying the ideas of people in the thick of it (because it’s not my place to try to articulate ideas). It’s also about what allies are saying to each other.

Many thanks to those who offered their advice and shared their experiences.

While this post focuses on how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community and the black community, I acknowledge and mourn for law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

 

Readings to start

Personal comments

I recently asked my Facebook universe, “What is the best advice for allies of the LGBTQ community and black community? Feel free to share readings and your own thoughts.”

Bold below added for emphasis

Valeria wrote:

 The first that I can think of is for non-POC [people of color] members of the LGBTQ community to use their privilege in being vocal advocates for all the Trans women of color who have been murdered (and continue to be murdered!). Definitely supporting and advocating for policies that protect them.

You can find information on policies against violence from the National Center for Transgender Equality. This also addresses the intersectionality of being trans and a person of color. GLAAD addresses more subtle forms of violence with resources for allies and for journalists.

 

Also from Facebook

David wrote:

As a “person of privilege,” the thing that’s seemed most appreciated is asking communities what I can do, rather than assuming I know best.
Some answers, no asking necessary:

Especially for white women

A friend recently shared White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them, by Robin DiAngelo. That concept led me to  White Women, Please Don’t Expect Me to Wipe Away Your Tears, by Stacey Patton. These pieces carried uncomfortable but but important messages for me.

From a friend of a friend on Facebook

A colleague and friend recommended I look at Sami Schalk’s posts, which included the one below.

Note: The author made this Facebook status public to share. I’ve removed the names of people mentioned in the status because I haven’t obtained permission from them. 

I want to take a moment to acknowledge white and non-black allies. Here are some things allies have done for me recently that are meaningful. I share these not so much to give these folks their anti-racist cookies but more to demonstrate ways that ally behavior can occur. Note that these are ally behaviors I have been direct witness to but equally important are the things white allies do among other white people with no people of color to witness their acts.

Today, after a traumatic day yesterday for national and personal reasons, [JW] sent me a simple text telling me they were thinking about me and love me. (This immediately made me cry)

Today, when I commented on posts by [LM] and [SG]asking them to edit so images of violence against black bodies would not appear in people’s news feeds, they each immediately responded simply and directly with: thank you for telling me. I’m sorry. I will change it. No qualifiers. No arguing. No self flagellation or self congratulations.

Today, after I posted several suggested reading links in the comments of one of my posts, [CO] reposted them all and gave me acknowledgement for gathering the information she shared.

Yesterday, after my first post about recent events, [LR] messaged me privately asking if she could share my words, with or without my name attached, so she could center black voices on this matter.

Earlier this year when I was getting a lot of online harassment, [JN]and [MK] monitored my Twitter account and blocked people for me until things quieted down so I didn’t have to read any more racist attacks against me.

Over a year ago (but it was a nice moment that sticks in my head), I was at a party where a white woman I didn’t know came up to me and first asked me if I sang gospel and then proceeded to touch my hair without permission. This occurred in front of three white friends and afterward, [MPB] said he never knows what to do in situations like that and asked what I would want white allies to do when that occurs. I said I personally just want someone to get me away from that offending individual as quickly as possible and continue to keep them away from me. I don’t need white allies to fight battles for me in front of me, but there are ways to deflect and protect that are hugely useful. (note this is my personal feelings on this, other POCs may want something different when racism occurs in front of them)

Allies, show your support, be willing to learn, apologize when you hurt someone (even accidentally), educate yourselves, ask the POCs around you what they need, acknowledge and center POC voices and labor. Every action matters. Every silence is not merely a missed opportunity, it is violence. Resist complacency even when you are scared. Even when you don’t know what to do. Even when you have made mistakes. Keep trying. It matters.

This is Rhea again. If you’re still reading, thank you. I hesitate to paraphrase or summarize these sources. A message I see over and over, though, is that hate and inequality manifest in microscopic and monumental ways. I also get the message that allies can help to chip away at these problems. I hope that’s true.

 

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