Friday, January 13, 2017

Dr. Belinda Biscoe, MLK Day 2017 inspirational speaker

Adapted from the Casady Courier News

On January 9, 2017, Casady's Middle and Upper Division community service clubs welcomed Dr. Belinda Biscoe, University of Oklahoma Associate Vice-President for University Outreach Public and Community Service and founder of Positive Tomorrows, as the featured speaker in Chapel as our students prepare for a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 16, 2017.
On Monday, Casady will recognize the National Day of Service with no classes so that our community may participate in activities for organizations and causes that are dear to them. 

Managing volunteer opportunities for Upper Division students is the School's Youth Active in the Community (YAC) Club. Students may participate in the "Roots of Service Quilting" in Harper Wing to embark on a quilting project in the morning, and students have signed up to volunteer at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in the afternoon. 

Middle Division students and their parents are invited Saturday, Jan. 21 to the Food Bank for a special family volunteer day. Volunteer forms are available through Mrs. Goodwin, Ms. O'Melia, or on the Food Bank website.

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Dr. Biscoe shared a few stories of growing up in the segregated south in Atlanta, Georgia to help students have windows of understanding to what inspired her to be a social justice advocate for all groups.  
During her youth, Dr. Biscone and her peers opened some painfully closed doors.  For example, she was the homecoming queen of the first interracial football game in the history of the state of Georgia.  Her team won and she received a commemorative football, which she showed to the students as she stated, "I have never attended a football game as quiet...we were all afraid to utter a word."  She added, "with painful and bitter experiences we have two choices; one is to harbor resentment, which can destroy us, or we can choose to re-frame these experiences and transform them in ways to make a difference in our world."   

Then, Dr. Biscoe related her experience meeting Dr. King and mustering the courage to thank him and shake his hand.  She related lessons learned from Dr. King and how he motivated her to become a worker for social justice throughout her life.  For example, she is the founder of Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless children.  She chose this example because of her awareness of Casady's outreach work at Positive Tomorrows.

Dr. Biscoe ended her speech with a quote, by unknown, "You cannot choose your ancestors, but neither can your descendants" and a challenge, "What will your descents say about the kind of ethical and just world you left for them.   Follow Dr King's dream for a just world for us all."

Displaying Dr.  Belinda Biscoe.jpgCasady YAC thanked Dr. Biscoe for her time and inspirational speech with a "silhouette of peace" for her office.  Silhouettes of Peace were made by Casady after school program children for Peace Week 2017.

Dr. Biscoe's speech was followed by YAC and MD Service Club announcements of volunteer opportunities available this coming week to honor the memory of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. making a day OFF from school into a day ON service, Monday, January 16, 2017, National Day of Service.  JOIN US

MLK Day, A National Day of Service
Casady UD YAC Service Opportunities 

January 16, 2017

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20th MLK Day Prayer Breakfast, Monday, January 16, 7:00 am.  Program starts at 8:00 am @ Reed Conference Center (5750 Will Rogers Road, Midwest City, OKC 73110).  $10 tickets must be purchased in advance at Midwest City Community Center (100 N. Midwest Blvd. Phone 739-1294) or at the door  Event organizers expect 400 people to attend.  

Expected Casady attendance Mrs. Clay, MiAngila G.

Morning MLK Day, Roots of Service Quilting at Harper, Monday, January 16, 9:30-11:30   We will finish some quilts and start new ones.  Mrs. Shirley Small, master quilter, facilitator.  Mrs. Clay supervisor. Snacks and drinks provided.  Sign-up at Expected attendance: Mrs. Clay, Mrs. Small, Anna B. Sahanya B.

Morning  MLK Day, Students Rebuild, Youth Uplift Challenge: Caring Hands Project @ Wing, January 16, 9:30-11:30. Walk-Ins welcome.  No pre-registration needed  Supplies and snacks provided.  Project Chair/Challenge Taker: Gabrielle Moore, Site supervisor: Mrs. Clay.
YOU MAKE a HAND to LEND a HAND. For every hand sent in, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1.90—up to $500,000—to Save the Children’s programs empowering youth in Nicaragua and Indonesia to rise into a life they dream for themselves.
Why hands?  Hands are how we lift each other up, how we connect, how we work, how we give, and how we receive. Hands represent who we are and the unique contribution we all have to fight poverty.
If you cannot attend the MLK Day at the Wing, make and decorate Caring Hands at home and bring them to Harper to the CYCLONE GIVING TREE. YAC will collect the hands and mail them to the Bezos Foundation.  YAC will be making hands until April 21-23, Global Youth Service Days!  Students from all over the world and Boys and Girls Club at Memorial Park will be making hands with us those days!.
Why $1.90 The children facing poverty in Nicaragua and Indonesia LIVE on less than $1.90 a day.

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MLK Day Afternoon, 1:30-4:00 PM at the Volunteer Center of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma:   We will pack Food-4-Kids Bankpacks.  Wear closed toe shoes and Disney Attire. "I have a dream, a Magical Wish, Zero Oklahoma Hungry Children"  Sign up and get volunteer releases at Harper or at Limited to 40 volunteers ages 8 years old and older. LD and MD volunteers should be accompanied by parents   Mrs. Clay, supervisor.  Snacks and drinks provided by the Food Bank. Expected attendance: 22 volunteers scheduled to participate.

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JOIN the Middle Division Service Club 
Saturday, January 21, 2017

1:30-4:00 pm
Pack Food -4- Kids 
at the Volunteer Center at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

MLK Day 2016
Memories at

Sign-up at the Middle Division Front office or at Mrs. Omelia's Room

Wear closed-toe shoes.  
Mrs. Cherylynn Omelia,, Site Supervisor

Bring signed permission to volunteer, required for all volunteers under 18 years of age.  

Casady Remarks on the Occasion of
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
January 9, 2017

Good morning, before sharing my remarks with you, I want to first thank Carmen Clay for extending this invitation to serve as your speaker for this special occasion as we celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I must tell you that this feels more like old home week for me as opposed to me visiting as an outsider. My two daughters attended Casady for pre-school and elementary school. They are both bright, talented and successful young women. One is a cognitive psychologist working as Director of Research, Innovation, and Policy at the Atlanta Speech School in Atlanta, GA. My other daughter just opened her medical practice in Broomfield, Colorado.  I am confident that their early education at Casady helped prepare them for success in life and their careers. So thank you Casady teachers, administrators, and others who touched their early lives.

I now want to take this opportunity to share three points this morning about the importance of this holiday and Dr. King. First, I want you to know why this day is of significance to me personally and professionally. Next, I want to share lessons that we can learn from Dr. King’s life and legacy. In addition, I want to leave you with a charge to apply these lessons to your life and journey.

So, why does Dr. King’s life mean so much to me personally and professionally? As an African American baby boomer born in Atlanta, Georgia during the days of segregation and Jim Crow laws, my memories of life in a segregated world are poignant. As most of you know, Jim Crow laws required the segregation of blacks and whites in public places. Blacks were also denied the right to vote in elections.

I want to share a few stories from my personal journey to provide context from the past. These personal stories also provide a window to help you, as students, understand what motivates me as a social justice advocate for all groups. With painful and bitter experiences, we have two choices, one is to harbor resentments, which destroy us, or we can choose to reframe these experiences in transformative ways to make a difference in the world.

With that said, let me begin. My common education experiences, K-12 were in segregated schools. I was grateful that my parents were college educated and most of the blacks in my neighborhood were educated. Because all of our neighborhoods were segregated, some people in my neighborhood were wealthy and lived in mansions, most were middle class like my family, and a few were very poor and on welfare. What we had in common was our race, which determined where we all could live, where we could go to school, what public restrooms we use, including what public spaces we could access or use. As a child, my parents were avid moviegoers. I remember sitting in the balcony of the movie theater, or as it was called in those days, the buzzard’s roost, since African Americans were not allowed to sit on the main theater floor. I remember as a child, climbing, what seemed like hundreds of stairs, behind the theater before reaching the top. African Americans looked out from the balcony over a sea of white people who sat below on the main floor of the theater.

I remember how much I loved the state fair as a child. On one trip to the state fair with my dad, sister and brother, I remember walking under a tram ride above us only to be spat on by white kids on the ride. They all laughed hysterically. When we asked my daddy, as we say in the South, whether we should report these kids to the authorities, he simply said we would be the ones arrested. I remember how sad and helpless I felt.

If we still lived in a segregated world, it is very unlikely that my daughters would have been able to attend Casady, although it is a private school. These doors of access and opportunity were often denied in public and private spaces. I remember being denied access to the arts in public places. As black students, we were allowed to attend the symphony only once a year. On this day, we wore our best clothes to school and buses transported us across the city to the symphony.

I remember learning to swim in my 20s because Blacks were not allowed to go to public parks.

As an older baby-boomer, fortunately or unfortunately, I found myself trekking through time when my peers and I were often the first to open painfully closed doors. I remember being elected homecoming queen at my high school and while most young women would consider this an exciting honor, my election was fraught with anxiety and stress. You ask why. The city of Atlanta and the State of GA decided to have the first inter-racial football game in the history of GA. Of course, the game was held at the white high school stadium. I remember walking in the stadium and seeing police officers with cocked rifles on both ends of every bleacher. To this day, I have never attended a football game this quiet.
Whether you were a black or white kid, we were afraid to utter a word, let alone a shout.  Our team won and I still cherish the football, which the captain of our team gave to me after the game. This game occurred decades ago; but I remember this as though it were yesterday.

When the first semester of my freshman year ended, I flew home from Nashville. As my plane landed in Atlanta and I headed to catch a taxi home I remember seeing right before my eyes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was mesmerized, but somehow mustered the courage to approach him there in the Atlanta airport. I thanked him for his amazing work and his courage in the name of social justice.  He reached out to shake my hand with his head bowed and unbelievable humility. I still remember thinking how surprised he seemed that I recognized him and acknowledged his contributions to us all. Several months after that hand shake, Dr. King was assassinated and my campus along with many other erupted in riots. A building on my campus was burned to the ground and the National Guard was deployed to Nashville. I remember looking out of my dorm window as a national guardsman shot out the streetlights.

These were painful and stressful times, forever emblazoned in my mind, heart, and soul. These experiences in the Deep-South during my formative years coupled with the generation of baby-boomers I was born into, as well as, my family and community shaped who I am today.

These experiences fueled my desire for social activism. Therefore, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as a pre-teen, I remember going into inner-city neighborhoods registering African Americans to vote. I vote in every election and even voted by absentee ballot in college.

I mentioned earlier important lessons I have taken from Dr. King’s life based on my journey and life. These are lessons you, too, can take from his life. While there are many lessons, I will highlight a few---

  • When you hit barriers and challenges to your dreams do you persevere or do you give up---I say to you persevere-I could have fallen victim to a society that said I was less than because of the color of my skin, instead I chose to pursue my dream to become a research psychologist and today I have been appointed by President Boren as the first African American female Vice President at OU.

  • Another lesson from Dr. King—He once said It is not possible to  be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people—So, the lesson here is always stand on the right side of justice. Even when it is difficult.

The last comments I want to share are important messages from Dr. King—

  • First, treat every human with dignity and respect regardless of differences-Every major religion speaks to doing unto others as you would have them do unto to you—In fact Dr. King urged us to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or any other differences.

  • Lead an ethical life—An ethicist I met once said, “The real test of ethics is our willingness to loose—This is shown by holding to core beliefs, principles, and practices, and the courage and strength to honor those beliefs and principles, despite peer pressure and despite personal, social, or economic pressures”; and a final lesson is to

  • Commit to civic engagement- Despite the unfair world and mean-spirited world that I grew up in, at a young age, I promised myself to reframe those experiences and to use my life as a vessel to promote social change and to use my personal and professional life to improve the quality of life for others. While I have a plethora of examples I could share with you, I will share one. I am the founder and conceptual framer of Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless youth and their families. I knew that homeless children in the 80s were not being educated and that their families needed interventions and support services to address root causes of their homelessness. Consequently, in 1989 I brought together close to 50 stakeholders from around Oklahoma City to address this issue. The road was rocky. I received the initial funding to launch Positive Tomorrows from outside of our Oklahoma. This year Positive Tomorrows will celebrate its 28th anniversary. In talking to Carmen, I know that many of you volunteer time and resources to support this school. Thanks for what you do to keep this dream alive. I have always chosen to be a servant leader.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote that I have always found very meaningful to me. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find who deserves attribution for this quote. The quote is this—You cannot choose your ancestors, but neither can your descendants. So, I want you to leave this morning asking this question-- What will your descendants say about the kind of ethical and just world you left for them? Follow Dr. King’s dream of a just world for us all.

Thank you—
Belinda Biscoe, Ph.D.
The University of Oklahoma