Goddess Mothers and True Heros

“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly

This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines/Life from a Writer’s POV) posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.

“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”  Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine_Baker_1950Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist.  As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty.  As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.

“. . .  the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

220px-Pearl_Buck_(Nobel)Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938).  She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927.  Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen.  Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures.  She adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.

“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)

emmanuel-kellyThis brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements.  When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children.  She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins.  Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.

These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and, in some cases, from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, Originally published on The Bardo Group blog
Video uploaded to YouTube by DrReaps
Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain.
I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.

the dust of their labors

800px-Triangle_Shirtwaist_coffinsits red tongue licked and ate the fabric of their dreams, the warp and weft of their immigrant hopes, it burned like greed, like it was the only one who counted, consuming even their breath and the dust of their labors, which yet lingers heavy in memory

MARCH 25, 1911: Until the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 (9/11), the worst large-scale disaster in my home town, New York City, was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. It is the fourth largest industrial accident in the history of my country. Its victims were mostly immigrant young women with an average age of seventeen years.

According to the essay Leap for Life, Leap of Death (many jumped from the building rather than burn to death), 146 girls were killed. This was the unmitigated result of corporate greed that kept workers earning their bread in an unsafe building, locked in workrooms from which they couldn’t escape, adding injury to the insult of long hours, rude supervisors, and poor compensation with no benefits.

The legacy of this disaster was a turning point in the American labor stuggle for fair wages and workplace dignity and safety.

800px-Dhaka_Savar_Building_CollapseAPRIL 24, 2013: An illegally constructed multi-story building in Bangladesh collapsed. 5,000 people were reportedly at work in the building, mostly women.

According to a May 13, 2013 report by BBC news, 2,500 people were injured and 1,021 people were killed in what is considered to be the largest garment-factory accident in world history.

More than one-hundred years have passed since the Triangle Factory disaster and apparently we humans haven’t learned the lesson of people before things or money.

MAY 1, 2013: Pope Francis spoke out against the working conditions in the factory ~

“A headline that really struck me on the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh was ‘Living on 38 euros a month’. That is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labour. Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation! Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit.” Huffington Post article


©2014, poem and narrative, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved Photo credits ~ Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, U.S. Public Domain; Dhaka Savar Building Collapse by rejans under CC A-SA 2.0 Generic License

Warm Hearts Make the Cold More Bearable

Jamie Dedes:

Kindness is action comparable to poetry in its beauty … this is Corina Ravenscraft’s post today on The Bardo Group … it’s worth your time and thought. Click through to read the entire piece including Corina’s suggestions for helping out.

Originally posted on THE BARDO GROUP:

The recent bitterly cold weather has gotten me thinking more lately about those stuck out in the elements, without a warm place to go. I wonder, as I am driving home from work at two o’clock in the morning, “How many of them will die tonight from the cold?”

I recently watched a documentary film called “Invisible Young“, which explores the homeless youth in Seattle, WA. I was surprised that some of the kids became homeless as young as age 13. :( The thing that struck me the most about everything else in the film is that when asked what was the hardest part of being homeless, so many of them replied, “Feeling invisible, like we don’t exist. No one meets your eyes when you’re homeless. You just feel like no one even sees you.”

The film, "Invisible Young" by Steven Keller
From https://www.facebook.com/pages/Invisible-Young/169954176370103?id=169954176370103&sk=photos_stream

Homelessness is a HUGE social problem that not many people want…

View original 663 more words

Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance: Ain’t I a Woman

373px-Carte_de_visiteOne of the many guises in which poetry presents itself:  Here American actress Alfrie Woodard delivers New Yorker Sojourner Truth‘s spontaneous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner gave this speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in May of 1851.


African-American Abolitionist and Women’s Right Activist

Thanks to Laurel D. for sharing the video.