Foundations for Writing

A St. Cloud State Site for English 191

October 13, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

An MPR Podcast: “‘I’ve never told anyone’: Stories of life in Indian boarding schools”

A young girl prays at her bedside at a boarding school. A new book
by an Ojibwe author tells the stories life for American Indian children
in boarding schools designed to purge their language and culture.

Here’s the lead for the MPR podcast and article:

Denise Lajimodiere’s interest in the Indian boarding school experience began with the stories of her parents.

“Mama was made to kneel on a broomstick for not speaking English, locked in closets for not speaking English,” she said. “They would pee their pants and then the nuns would take them out [of the closet] and beat them for peeing their pants.”

Lajimodiere is Ojibwe, and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. She was an educator for 44 years, working as an elementary school teacher and principal before ending her career recently as as an associate professor of educational leadership at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Her parents were separated from their families and sent to federal government-run boarding schools as children. Thousands of Native children met the same fate during the boarding school era, which scholars estimate lasted from the late 1800s to well into the middle of the 20th century. (


October 12, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

A podcast on “Why a suburb’s integrated schools are still failing black students”

In this Washington Post podcast, “Laura Meckler goes back to her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, to try to understand why integration efforts in schools there are still not closing the achievement gap” (

October 9, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

‘Taking ownership of what we look like’: Natural-hair movement takes root | MPR News

MPR has an interesting story (that you can listen to via a podcast or read) about the movement among parents of multiracial families learning to dress the natural hair of their adopted children. Some of you asked me what I meant by “natural hair.” According to MPR, ““Natural hair” means hair that hasn’t been chemically straightened or relaxed.” And “natural hair is becoming the fashion for African-American women.”

The article focuses on the need for learning techniques for managing natural hair since “Wearing natural hair for many black people has not always been the norm.”  This snippet of MPR’s article explains why:

Taylor said wearing your hair in its natural state has been a struggle, especially for black women. There’s a need to assimilate into mainstream culture and look the part.

“It’s Eurocentric. Let’s just be honest. It’s a very Eurocentric perspective,” she said. “It’s not just America, it’s any colonized country. We’ve had to subscribe to this colonizer’s beauty standard in order to get access to things, in order to get jobs, in order to be seen as acceptable.”

As people began to wear their hair natural, it became more accepted, but access to learning tools were still pretty limited to online.

“For the longest time we’ve had to change our hair texture to fit into mainstream society,” she added. “Now we’re reclaiming that power, but at the same time, it’s hard because you’ve never had any experience with it.”

To read the full article (or listen to the podcast), head here:

September 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“Clean, affordable drinking water is a racial issue.”

Anna Clark points out that drinking water is an issue outside Flint, Michigan, and disproportionately affects communities of color—noting especially Detroit and Chicago.

When it comes to water, you’d think the cities of the Great Lakes would be the envy of the country. In a time of scorching drought and climate change, the northern coast is a place of abundance. The lakes hold an astounding 84 percent of all the surface freshwater in North America.

But even here, we struggle to deliver safe, affordable drinking water to millions of people, often communities of color. Throughout the region, these low-income neighborhoods face high water bills, contamination risks and large-scale shut-offs — all the manifestation of a history that many would like to forget. The “separate but equal” policies of the 20th century are still with us — and they explain why communities cannot take safe drinking water for granted, even amid the magnificent Great Lakes. (

Clark also points out two midwestern cities that are pioneers in removing lead pipes from their water systems: Madison, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Michigan.

September 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“Black girls say D.C. school dress codes unfairly target them. Now they’re speaking up.”

The Washington Post reports on black girls speaking up on dress codes.

For generations, girls have been sent to the principal’s office for violating dress codes: Shorts must reach past fingertips. Shirts can’t be too low-cut. No spaghetti straps. No cleavage.

But these rules are often enforced in uneven ways, and black girls are disproportionately targeted, students from the District said in a report last year from the National Women’s Law Center. Now, some of those students are beginning to speak up — organizing walkouts, lunchtime protests and meetings with administrators to call out dress codes they see as unfair.

In a new report released Wednesday, the National Women’s Law Center highlighted some of these recent shifts and rated D.C. public and charter high schools based on the strictness of their dress code policies. (

September 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

US beauty contests and standards of beauty—and state congressional action

In the US, black contestants in beauty contests are wearing “natural curls.” The Washington Post reports on this trend and also on legislative changes regarding “natural hair” in state legislatures:



This year marks an unexpected sweep in the beauty pageant field: For the first time, Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA are all black women. Two of the three won their crowns wearing their natural curls.

It has been a notable few weeks for natural hair on other fronts, too: Last month, the California Senate passed a bill that clarifies that traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyle, are protected from discrimination in schools and workplaces (and has the unusually winning acronym CROWN: Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair).

This follows a similar move in February, when New York City’s Commission on Human Rights issued guidelines that codify mistreatment at work and schools based on hair texture or style (mentioning traditionally black hairstyles in particular) as racially discriminatory. (

September 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“Black Brazilians are ditching hair straighteners and white standards of beauty”

Women in Brazil are also moving to natural hair and abandoning “white standards of beauty.” According to the Washington Post,

Bruna Aparecida smiled cautiously at her reflection as a hairdresser snipped the last strands of her straight hair. Her head was crowned with curls.

“I didn’t know myself without straight hair,” said Aparecida, 27, who used chemical relaxers for nearly a decade before deciding to go natural. She used to be the only black woman at the bank where she works who had kinky hair. Today, she is one of six.

“It’s all the rage this year,” she said. “Many of my friends are doing it.” (


September 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“Protests over black girls’ hair rekindle debate about racism in South Africa”

Here’s the lead of an article from the September 3 Washington Post about protests concerning school guidelines regarding natural hair:

In recent years, staff members at the prestigious Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa’s administrative capital had taken to telling black students to “fix” their hair, according to some current and former pupils. Exactly what “fix” meant depended on who was issuing the order, the young women said: Some were told to use chemical straighteners, while others got a reminder about the school rule limiting cornrows, dreadlocks and braids to a centimeter or less in diameter.

To many of them, nothing needed fixing in the first place.

Last month, propelled by the long-simmering belief that such criticisms were discriminatory, a group of current students took action. Protests were staged on the leafy, gated campus over the hair fracas and other incidents reported at the school, including teachers allegedly discouraging students from speaking African languages. (

We’re seeing some of these restrictions—and resulting protests—popping up in the US, especially in private schools.

September 20, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“After panel canceled, CAIR director calls protesters a ‘small fringe group of haters'”

According to the St. Cloud Times,

The panel discussion on dismantling hate crimes wasn’t meant to be controversial.

It was planned as part of a series of forums hosted by the St. Cloud Human Rights Commission, which has previously hosted public forums on housing, bullying and the city’s community policing agreement.

But instead of being able to host a community discussion Wednesday evening, the event at St. Cloud Library was postponed over safety concerns — and now organizers are “working with community partners, local law enforcement, and the FBI to plan a future forum that is safe,” states a news release issued by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. (

The article has lots of helpful details that can give you a fuller picture of the cancellation of this local event.

September 19, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

More states are trying to protect black employees who want to wear natural hairstyles at work

Here’s the lead of an interesting article about restrictions on natural hairstyles in the workplace as well as state legal bans (and potential bans):

In 2017, at a gala luncheon hosted at the opulent Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, Minda Harts found herself seated next to a recruiter for corporate board positions. Over cocktails and a plated fish entree, the two talked about race in the boardroom; the recruiter, a white woman, complained about the challenges of finding black women to be corporate directors.

To test how she’d respond, Harts, who founded a career development company for women of color and had a book on the topic released in August, asked the recruiter who she would feel more comfortable putting forward as a candidate for a board: a woman of color with a sleek ponytail, or one with a natural hairstyle such as locs or an Afro. The recruiter said the woman with the ponytail, Harts recalled. “The phrase she used was ‘clean-cut,’ ” Harts said.  (

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