Guest Speaker Amanda German
The Forbes Funds was joined by guest speaker Vanessa German, Citizen Artist of ArtHouse Creative Community Center of Homewood. This conversation included German summoning poetry, exploring institutional courage, the role of love in community spaces, and much more. In addition to this digest, be sure to review the recording to experience German’s dynamism and inspirational candor for yourself! A recording of the call can be accessed at this link or above.
German’s Community Solutions Approach
In opening her presentation, Vanessa German gave a brief physical description of herself, fostering a more inclusive environment for the shared digital space. German followed by sharing a poem called “my mother,” which captured the wonder of living in the light of your own shine, as well as the bravery and creativity needed for making changes. The poem closed with “and you will need to make changes,” leaving listeners with a call to action to center love, and channel bravery and creativity in their own lives. German’s work of centering love involves moving beyond merely having a mortgage or working a 40 hour week into a more wholesome and generative human experience.
Following this introduction, German shared her own story of coming to be a citizen artist along with her experience of, in her own words, “staying alive on land where you were never meant to even behold or have anything, not even your own self, your own being. So how do you really reckon and live with being alive in a world that shrugs off both your life and your death.” In times where German felt hopeless, she gave herself a command to do something every day that “just felt right,” and asked listeners what they would do if they consciously created an ecosystem that is abundant for our entire dimensional being to thrive in.
German maintains a three-year experimental residency at The Frick, where she explores social healing and the American reckoning. One of the questions she contends with in her current work is “what is the opposite of a lynching?” to engage in the place of ritual, spectacle, social healing, and wonder.
Her remarks also included questions such as “how I can fully, truly, utterly inhabit my humanity with love and art at the center of it?” These prompts encouraged viewers and listeners to grapple with their own human purpose. German tasked attendees with other pertinent questions, including “Is it possible for institutions to be loving?” and further, “what is institution courage in the world we live in now?” and “are people in institutions being resourced dimensionally enough to be courageous and actually be loving, and to move with radical empathy inside of their institution, inside of their system.”
These messages underscored the importance of honoring wholeness and consciously creating an ecosystem of humanity and a life that all can feel right in. German’s citizen artistry and loving practice are inspirational and transformational and prompt all who encounter her work to reckon with their humanity.
Policy Updates from Arthur Pang
COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to fall nationwide, yet the impacts of death and loss are still being felt nationwide. In encouraging news, between 1.6 and 4.6 million people were being vaccinated per day in the last seven days. In line with that trend, President Biden announced that all states and all adults would be eligible for the vaccine by May 1st, with hopes of a return to normality around July 4th with adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. As the number of vaccinated individuals goes up, the CDC has eased restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated to once again spend time together indoors, marking some degree of progress toward the July goal.
On a similar note, there is attention on the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it is one of the next slated for approval by the FDA. It has not yet been approved as there was some concern around clotting issues, but in the event of approval for safe usage, the vaccines would substantially boost the number of available vaccines for several countries. Overall, confidence in taking the vaccine has increased, but general dissatisfaction with the roll-out is real as well as disparate outcomes for who is receiving the vaccine.
Additionally, as part of the American Rescue Plan, a one-year $3600 child tax credit is being made available. The $1.9T effort of the American Rescue Plan is one of the biggest expansions to the welfare state to the likes of Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, coming at a time where many families are in need of extra social supports and anti-poverty programming. Despite the popularity with constituents, as it phases out, there may be fraught clawbacks on this funding and reduced expenditures despite their proven ability to support aid recipients.
Other National Issues
Many unaccompanied minors are coming to the southern border on a daily basis, adding to the capacity strain at detention centers where there are COVID occupancy restriction. Some have speculated that this uptick may be a result of Biden being seen as a “migrant president,” encouraging migrants to come to the border.
In other national news, jury selection for the Derek Chauvin trial continues as the indictment for the death of George Floyd proceeds. In a similar vein, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend filed a federal lawsuit against the Louisville police to continue pursuing justice for her untimely death last year.
In response to ongoing hate crimes and violence against the Asian American community, Biden has spoken out to condemn the ‘vicious’ attacks. Further, the House passed gun control measure after action was demanded following these violent acts.
At the state level, proposals to overhaul highway transport have garnered attention from lawmakers. PA currently has one of the highest gas taxes, thus this discussion will likely be many radars as part of the Governor’s Budget.
As reported last week, there is dedicated attention to vaccinating educators as the desire to get back to in-person learning grows in Pittsburgh schools. Vaccination eligibility has expanded to include educators and around half of Pittsburgh Public School employees have received vaccines as of this call.
There are other concerns and COVID-related changes on the education radar as well. There is a sense of dread regarding standardized test scores in the age of COVID, especially with consideration to lack of access to technology that could mark a lost generation. As schools continue to adapt to the impacts of the pandemic, it will be especially critical to attend to knowledge gaps and mitigate them however possible.
Finally, there an opioid metrics dashboard is available for monitoring demographics and prevalency data on hospital transportations, Narcan administrations, and more. The Office of Community Health and Safety is utilizing insights from the data to inform progressive overdose prevention strategies that seek to reduce harm associated with drug use, employ a person-first approach, and address social determinants of health.
Closing Remarks from Fred Brown
“As a result of our past election, our country needs healing on multiple levels. It starts with small beginnings in our homes, and our communities, and our places of work and business.” – Fred Brown
You can register for future Community Solutions Calls and programming by The Forbes Funds at this link. Thank you for tuning in!