Friday, September 30, 2005

Beyond FUN: Multicultural Kids

Entrepreneur Nancy Moody, mom to two adopted daughters from China, founded Multicultural Kids to fill the growing need for educational products that teach children about their diverse world and their unique place in it. Her colorful site offers products “reflecting more than 50 races, countries, or cultures,” and features books, videos, music, carfts, puzzles, dolls, giftware, and teaching materials. Classroom teachers, home-schooling parents, and daycare providers working with children from preschool age through grade two will find many helpful resources here. Ordinary parents (like yours truly!) will, too.

“Young children are so receptive to learning about themselves and others,” Nancy Moody notes. “If we can expose them to diversity at a young age, we are certain to foster an appreciation of the differences in people, as well as the similarities.” Diversity-related topics such as self-esteem, adoption, differently-abled kids and, “most importantly, the unconditional love that a parent feels for their child, regardless of how a family is formed” are also featured in the Multicultral Kids selection of products.

My favorite: the eight-pack of large multicultural Crayola Crayons with a rainbow of skin tone colors. I’m also intrigued by the bilingual versions of popular fairy tales: Sleeping Beauty (La Bella Durmiente), Little Red Riding Hood (Caperucita Roja), Cinderella (Cenicienta), The Little Mermaid (La Sirenita), …. This site goes on and on!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beyond THE FUTURE: International Network of Education for Democracy, Human Rights and Tolerance

Looking for an international, intercultural tolerance resource? Check out the International Network of Education for Democracy, Human Rights and Tolerance site. Its list of links alone features organizations from Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and North America.

The International Network of Education for Democracy, Human Rights and Tolerance consists of “several NGOs (non-governmental organizations), scientists and experts from countries in West and East Europe, Israel, Philippines, South America and the USA” who have “developed interesting and original approaches towards fostering tolerance, democracy and human rights.”

Its goal: to identify best practices, programs, concepts, and models in tolerance education, exchange those ideas and materials within an established network, then disseminate those same ideas and materials for effective public use. Featured books have titles such as Tolerance Matters and Hate Hurts: How Children Learn to Unlearn Prejudice. Consider this quote from the “Challenges” page of this impressive site:

“Cultivating humanity,” as the famous American philosopher Martha Nussbaum points out, presents a major future challenge. It is not surprising that education takes the most prominent role here. After all, education for democracy, tolerance, and human rights seems the most promising field of action in terms of “cultivating humanity.”

Monday, September 26, 2005

Beyond FINESSE: Photographer Lisa Turay

My strong Dutch genes won out when I shopped around for a masthead photograph: “Yellow Tulip” by Lisa Turay not only pleases those of us who fancy tulips, it captures the essence of tolerance in action, of acceptance despite differences, of the dimension an unusual color adds to a tapestry or a unique perspective brings to a conversation. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Beyond FACTS: Population Reference Bureau on “New Marriages, New Families”

So how many mixed-race couples are heading to the altar, anyway? Is there really a market for biracial wedding cake toppers? Turns out there is! According to the Population Reference Bureau’s informative report “New Marriages, New Families: U.S. Racial and Hispanic Intermarriage,” the 2000 census revealed an increase in the number of American children living in interracial families from 900,000 in 1970 to more than 3 million. That’s a result of an increase in interracial marriages from less than 1 percent of all married couples in 1970 to more than 5 percent of couples in 2000. As interracial marriages have become more common, so has tolerance for these unions: “The percentage of whites who favored laws against marriages between blacks and whites declined from 35 percent in the 1970s to 10 percent in the 2000s.” While there’s still a long way to go on the discrimination front, it’s encouraging to read numbers that indicate at least some sort of progress!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Beyond THE FIVE & DIME: Melting Pot Gifts

Personalized antique: An original biracial wedding cake topper

Michelle Emerson founded Melting Pot Gifts after shopping for greeting cards and finding none for people in interracial relationships. While her site has grown to offer not only cards but artwork, Real Kidz dolls, and other products, she wins my vote for her collection of mixed-race wedding cake toppers and figurines. I could have used her help fifteen years ago! I got all sorts of odd looks back then when I walked into bridal shops and asked for a biracial bride-and-groom cake topper. Flowers just would not do, and I finally bought a “traditional” bride-and-groom topper and asked an artist friend in Nashville, Jeanne Forsythe, to touch it up for me. Later Jeanne confessed to having suffered a serious case of anxiety when faced with the task I’d dropped in her lap. She did a great job, though, right down to my husband’s mustache. Thankfully such headaches for brides (and their helpful friends!) can now be avoided. Gotta love Internet shopping…and sites like Melting Pot Gifts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Beyond FORTITUDE: Jonathan Kozol

Jonathan Kozol's latest on racial inequalities

I met Jonathan Kozol in Harper’s Magazine this weekend. The September 2005 issue features a 14-page excerpt from his new book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. Jonathan Kozol is not a newcomer to issues of race. As a Harvard grad, he took a job in 1964 as a fourth-grade teacher in a Boston city school. Since then, he has worked as a teacher, writer, and an incredibly patient activist determined to raise awareness of the pathetic conditions of our country’s urban schools and the impact of these conditions on the children expected to learn and excel despite them.

Is it a surprise that most of the students in our poorest schools and most of the inhabitants of our poorest neighborhoods – including those in New Orleans – are people of color? Jonathan Kozol minces no words in this regard and lists 2003 demographics like these: In Chicago, 87% of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; in Washington, D.C., 94%; St. Louis: 82%; Los Angeles: 84%; Detroit: 96%. In the Bronx, that percentage “in most cases” was more than 95%. “Even these statistics…cannot begin to convey how deeply isolated children in the poorest and most segregated sections of these cities have become,” Kozol writes.

Many assume that such schools, while not segregated as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Thurgood Marshall may have envisioned them, are at least “separate but equal.” Kozol again is blunt: “The present per-pupil spending level in the New York City schools is $11,700…compared with a per-pupil spending level in excess of $22,000 in the well-to-do suburban district of Manhasset, Long Island.” Crumbling schools with bathrooms that don’t work and no playgrounds, where children are taught in large rooms that house more than one class at a time and lunch in windowless basements or rat-infested cafeterias demand our attention. Jonathan Kozol has cared enough to visit and write about these schools and the children who attend them. It’s time for us to care enough to listen.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Beyond FUN: Real Kidz

Courtney Helm, a Brooklyn mom with a biracial nephew, designs dolls that reflect the unique qualities of children of mixed-race heritage. Her Real Kidz line currently features five biracial characters, including some with Asian or Hispanic backgrounds. All retail for $15.99 and are available directly through the Real Kidz site. And all have a message that resonates with children of any color or combination of colors: “My parents created me out of love and I am a perfect mixture of both.”

Real Kidz dolls, designed “to accurately reflect the real world,” fill a real need.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The nature of tolerance demands not only a comprehensive approach, but a comprehensive definition. provides both:

“We view tolerance as a way of thinking and feeling — but most importantly, of acting — that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them.” So reads one section of the site. Keep digging and you’ll find pages of material divided into four targeted groups:

Teaching Tolerance offers teachers lesson plans, classroom activities, kits and handbooks, even the on-line Teaching Tolerance magazine.

Parenting for Tolerance offers guides and resources that encourage parents to discuss tolerance issues with their children.

Mix it Up dishes out innovative ideas and resources for teens who want to battle stereotypes and raise awareness of tolerance issues among their peers.

Planet Tolerance provides some fun for the little ones, including stories and games that teach while they entertain.

“ is a principal online destination for people interested in dismantling bigotry and creating, in hate’s stead, communities that value diversity.” I learn something new with each visit. Look for more on in future posts. I haven’t even mentioned the front page yet, and it’s a doozy.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Beyond FAREWELL: In Memory of Hannah Amgott

IN THE YEAR OF THE OX: A tale of love, hope, survival, and the evolution of an adoptive mother

Hannah Amgott, author, poet, counselor, and adoptive mother to Elyse Lian Xia Amgott and Justin Mario Chavez Amgott, passed away last week. She will be missed by many, including those of us who worked and chatted and joked with her from many miles away and who now regret never meeting her “in person.” I helped edit Hannah’s first published book of nonfiction, her unique memoir In the Year of the Ox from Pearl Street Publishing of Denver. The Pearl Street site offers a detailed tribute to Hannah; I’d like to draw attention to the insights Hannah provided into international adoption and the challenging but incredibly rewarding path she and her husband, Steven, followed in their quest to adopt their daughter from China. Shortly after the writing of this book, Hannah and Steven set off again—this time to Guatemala, where they adopted their son.

“The road to adoption in China begins with abandonment,” Hannah wrote. “Those Chinese infants who survive and are adopted internationally have an abiding need for a sense of history, belonging, and grounding. Throughout the writing of my book, I had one aim in mind: to craft something lasting and meaningful as a legacy for my daughter.”

Through journal entries, letters, and poetry, this book conveys the scope and impact of milestones and emotions experienced over a twelve-year Chinese zodiac cycle, a cycle that celebrates obstacles overcome, triumphs achieved, and the influences of varied people and experiences along the way.

Hannah will be missed, but her writings live on, as does the love she showered on her family. Differences in color or culture or nationality only enhance the total picture when viewed in the bright light of a mother’s love.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Beyond FICTION: THIS IS THE PLACE by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A novel take on the tragedy of intolerance

Discrimination comes in many forms and is directed at a wide variety of people. In This is the Place, author Carolyn Howard-Johnson examines religious intolerance in 1950s Utah. Carolyn’s love for her home state resonates throughout her story of a child brought up in a half-Mormon, half-Protestant family who’s made to feel like an outsider on both fronts. Carolyn notes that her main character “finds intolerance is cyclical. It not only destroys the spirits of those who practice it but those who feel its sting often lash back at the very same people who used it against them.” This book makes clear the impact of discrimination of any type as well as the crucial need for open discussions and increased awareness of intolerance in our world.

Visit Carolyn Howard-Johnson for more details on This is the Place and other works from this prolific author.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR: Dis.course

Catharine Wright teaches in the Writing Program at the Middlebury College Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research in Middlebury, Vermont. She also runs a stellar diversity blog: Dis.course. Check out linked student blogs on tolerance issues, a comprehensive list of recommended reads, and posts on hot topics such as Color and Power, Socioeconomics, and Ethnicity and Race. Wright states that the original goal of the blog was to expand on her Writing Across Differences class. “It seems necessary that individuals have outlets for this sort of written expression beyond a class,” she notes, “that there exist college-wide forums, indeed, nation-wide forums for writing that aren’t assigned or evaluated, but that encourage direct speech about social issues simply because of the individual and collective need for it.”

Currently at the top of the linked page is a reference to one student’s recent entry on her own blog, Politics of Identity. Ariana Figueroa’s detailed and moving post of August 28 reveals the type of identity struggle many people of mixed-race heritage endure. Ariana’s personal search for self-identity places her between two worlds (one Southern, the other Cuban) she literally barely understands.

Look for more “Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR” posts on college and university programs that promote diversity on campus. As higher-ed student populations across the country continue to diversify, the need for programs that teach tolerance and raise awareness become all the more critical. Kudos to Catharine Wright and faculty members like her for their determination and their devotion to such a worthy cause!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Beyond FINESSE: Rin Photography

Pink Rose by Rin Photography

Sorry for the diversity diversion. I'm experimenting with incorporating imagery into posts and thought I'd start with one of my favorite photographs from Erin Kellem, photographer extraordinaire and fellow native upstate New Yorker. Erin and I met on a flight from Syracuse to Chicago four years ago. A few months later, she and her husband traveled to Paris on September 10, 2001. Check out all her beautiful work, including her haunting collection of photos taken on 9-11, at Rin Photography. When I e-mailed Erin shortly after her trip, she wrote that people in Paris had been kind and sympathetic to Americans at that difficult time.

During our present difficult time, I'm going to let the varied shades of pink in a single rose symbolize the beauty of diversity while I take a couple days off. Enjoy!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Beyond FEATURES: Colorblind Society II

With all the bad news coming out of New Orleans, here's some more: biased journalism. Check out the September 1 post from The Colorblind Society. The results of the brief survey of recent photo captions in the media at the end of the post don't surprise me, I'm afraid. Maybe some day we'll live in a truly colorblind society, but we've got a long way to go.

Lots of prayers going out to people of every color in New Orleans right now, including those arriving to help.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Beyond FINANCES: Hurricane Relief

Now's the time to put your money where your heart is. Click on American Red Cross and donate today to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.