February 19, 2021
My kid is in a breakout group today in virtual school. There are 3 boys, 1 girl. One of the boys said “hi” to the girl twice. She responded “I ALREADY SAID HI. THIS IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. LET’S GET TO WORK.” And now she’s my life coach.
--Deena Lang, @itsdeenalang
weekly survival tip
If you thought using emojis would help you stay young and, you know, keep up with the cool kids, think again. You have to use the right emojis to do that. And, according to Gen Z, that laugh-cry one we all love so much is officially out. 😭 (yup, we’re probably pushing it, oh well! 🤣
OK, let’s start with some good news. Testing of the Covid-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 has begun! The trial is being conducted at Oxford University wih 300 children aged 6-17 using the vaccine researchers there developed with the drugmaker AstraZeneca. Trials for younger children using the vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen will begin this spring. Woop woop! It also looks like vaccine distribution has significantly ramped up since the Biden administration took office in late January. There are still hurdles to overcome and, at least from where we sit, there really isn’t any way the vaccine rollout could ever be fast enough. Get it in our arms! But faster is definitely a move in the right direction. And yet, (there’s always one of those, right?), Fauci is walking back his comments about an “open season” in April for most Americans to get the vaccine. Now he’s saying it’s looking more like it’ll be late May to early June for us regular Janes and Joes… For his part, President Biden said vaccines will be available for every American who wants one by the end of July and that by next Christmas our lives should be looking a whole lot more like they did before this awful pandemic began. Every finger and toe and hair on our bodies are crossed for that. How about you??
Next, what is going on with this whole Britney Spears conservatorship thing? You’ve probably heard about the new documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” which explores why the 39-year-old pop star is not in control of, well, really anything in her life – the fortune she’s amassed, her medical care and even her personal life. Instead, her father makes all decisions for her. The story is a fascinating and, frankly, profoundly sad one that delves into the ways patriarchy, misogyny, and our obsession with celebrity has impacted one person’s life in indelible ways. A few good places to start reading up on it all: This piece from Vox is a pretty in-depth explainer about the conservatorship and the #FreeBritney movement that her fans started. The Atlantic also digs into the story with an article that examines how especially cruel the media treatment of Spears really was and how socially acceptable it became to revel in women’s suffering and public mental breakdowns especially, the author notes, that of beautiful and famous ones. She also highlights the important point that Spear’s spiral came soon after the back-to-back births of her two sons and notes that postpartum depression could well have been a factor. But no one was talking much about that then or giving women any extra empathy or understanding as a result. Finally, you might also read this opinion piece from NBC News that argues the reason we are still so riveted by Spear’s story is because it’s really one that touches on the universal human desire to be free. At the heart of it all is not just Spear’s personal liberty but also what the author describes as “the dubious legal mechanisms that established the conservatorship” in the first place “and, perhaps more importantly, maintain it over a decade later.” That, again, goes back to the ways men have tried to control women throughout history. And there’s your Friday dose of food for thought.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the polluted air outside that city dwellers have to worry about. According to a study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the air inside some subway stations in New York City, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia is polluted with so much particulate matter, that it is many times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. In fact, the Christopher Street station on the PATH system that connects New York and New Jersey, had levels of PM2.5 (minuscule airborne particles) higher than any other subway station in the world. There the “maximum real-time particle concentration” was “77 times higher than the ‘typical concentration’ of air pollution in outdoor city air and 42 times the 24-hour standard.” Pollution from PM2.5 can lead to severe health impacts including heart attacks, worsened asthma and even premature death. Such toxic air also disproportionally impacts poor people and people of color, as air pollution in American cities often does, said Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists in this Guardian story about the research findings.
Her comment is a critical one, making a connection between environmental degradation and racial and socioeconomic inequality; a connection that Robert Bullard, distinguished professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University, has been making for decades. Known as the “Father of Environmental Justice” Bullard pioneered the concept, which evolved out of the civil rights movement, and describes the ways “environmental benefits and burdens are distributed unequally throughout society, often along racial, gender, and class lines.” Bullard’s groundbreaking research exposed the ways pollution in this country tracks along racial lines. Check out this Q&A from Vice to learn more about him, the movement for environmental justice and what comes next.
Although your children are probably spending time this month learning about Black history in school, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more you can do with them at home. This list of some free online resources – ranging from interactive art activities to videos to read-aloud storybook sessions – are a great place to start. The learning tools listed all come from four national museums and non-profits including Common Sense, a nonprofit focused on children and technology, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The New York Public Library and PBS.
You might also want to check out this run-down of three age-specific immersive and augmented reality (AR) experiences for children related to Black History Month. They include a virtual tour of significant milestones in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, a children’s book about two brothers exploring who and what they can be with AR imagery and an AR exhibit featuring famous Civil Rights activists throughout history.
And, if in the end you do want to make some purchases for the occasion, we’ve got a couple good options. These books will help your children learn and talk about race and anti-racism and these t-shirts, sweatshirts, pajamas, masks, wall art and coloring pages will help them, literally, walk the talk.