Thursday, August 13, 2020
Grandmothers and Others Seek Change, Legacy to Leave New Generation
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Anita McCann joined in the conversation with JoEllen Collins and others because of her own family, depicted here at the Black Lives Matter rally in June.
   
Thursday, July 23, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

When JoEllen Collins’ first daughter was born in 1968, the nation was in an uproar over the Vietnam War, women’s rights, civil rights, racial equality and the environment.

Believing she could help effect change, she began meeting with a group of young mothers--many nursing their babies--to discuss things they could do to make different the world in which their newborns had just emerged.

Now, at 83, the Ketchum woman has again started a group to discuss some of the issues rocking the nation today in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic. She initially called it Grandmas for Change, but this week rechristened it Grandmothers and Others for Change because of the younger women—and men--inquiring whether they, too, might take part.

 
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JoEllen Collins, a former Peace Corps teacher and high school teacher, is bent on leaving the world a better place for the young generation.
 

The open, non-judgmental forum, which Collins says offers a safe place to express varied views, meets at 3 p.m. Thursdays at Ketchum’s Rotary Park.

“It’s a way for us to gather together, although not too closely, to review our histories, experiences and concerns about racial unrest and to come up with ways that we can help our grandchildren alleviate the conflicts we have handed them,” she said.

“I am dismayed that we still experience deep-down injustices involving race, political differences, class, the environment and even the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it is time for my generation to rise up once more and listen, learn and communicate with each other in a civil forum.”

Collins was at the Black Lives Matter protest in Ketchum when she ran into fellow Ketchum resident Anita McCann and the fire that had inhabited their bellies in the 1960s was stoked.

 
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Idaho recorded another 500 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday for a total of 16,322. Twin Falls County reported nine new cases, bringing its total to 960.
 

“By doing this, I’m trying to learn what I mis-learned or avoided,” said McCann. “There’s a way to speak out, to bring people together.”

Collins has pulled together a list of topics to examine. They include:

Are we all racists? The difference between racism, prejudice and discrimination. White privilege and white fragility. White progressives and savior ideas. Implicit racism--What are our own stories, from heredity, economics and locations—what we’ve been taught and what we’ve changed.

Also: Jim Crow laws. Changing language. History of oppression towards many groups. What is race, considering such things as intermarriage. Colonialism. Ideas of affirmative action and reparations. Where do we go from here and what can we do?

 
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Blaine County reported one new case for a total of 562 cases. Sadly, the state also reported the death of a Blaine County resident to COVID. The death in Blaine County is the first since April 8. The state now has 135 COVID-related deaths with a big uptick in the past couple weeks.
 

She has also provided attendees with a list of suggested readings including Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”  Also, Michele Obama’s “Becoming,” Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility,” and Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Anti-Racist.”

Last week, the group gathered in the shade of the towering riverside trees in Rotary Park. “We need to understand this history to understand why we’re still dealing with these issues today,” Collins told the group.

Collins said she doesn’t consider herself a racist. But the events and dialogue surrounding the George Floyd killing have caused her to reexamine her own behaviors and language she uses that might be construed as racism. She is adamant that she not pass those on to her grandchildren.

“My favorite book as a kid was ‘Little Black Sambo.’ It created an image that is seen as being worrisome today,” she said. “I realize now how little I understand because of my own biases, but I know there are hidden pockets of myself that are bigoted and I don’t want to leave that legacy for my grandchildren.”

Marcia Liebich told the group that there is a Harvard test that measures an individual’s implicit bias.

“It takes 15 minutes to do the test,” she said.

The group discussed different slurs they’d heard about different groups of people when they were young and talked about the way groups had been economically disincentivized.

“The Irish were called the Black Irish,” said Linden Beck, showing just how far reaching bigotry  extended.

The group discussed Jim Crow laws, which were unfamiliar to a few.

“There was a city ordinance in 1953 and ‘54 that blacks could not spend the night in Glendale, Calif.,” said Collins, who grew up in the Bay area. “We didn’t cover that in school.”

“I was shocked to learn that black women could not allowed to vote in this country until 1965,” said McCann. “These kinds of things have forced me to look back on the 1960s and how we sold out all of a sudden and money became paramount.”

“It’s taken getting together to realize we don’t have many of the facts,” said Collins.

The group talked about growing anti-Semitism and about the caste system that exists in the United States.

“What’s bubbling up in our country is hard to digest but we need to,” said McCann.

Liebich agreed. “It’s not cocktail conversation. It’s a difficult conversation to have. But a necessary conversation.”

“It comes back to education,” replied McCann. “What we don’t understand is fearful to us. Elie Wiesel when he spoke here said the only real way to make change is through one-to-one friendships.”

Grandmothers and Others for Change will meet at 3 p.m. today—and following Thursdays—at Ketchum’s Rotary Park, Warm Springs and Saddle Roads. It is open to anyone.

Want to know more? Email joellencollins1@gmail.com. Or, call 208-720-4160.

 

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