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raceAhead: A Mi’kmaq Basket Maker Wows Vimeo, A Recount in Puerto Rico, Snap Doesn’t Understand HR

December 18, 2017, 7:45 PM UTC

It’s a stressful time of year (and I’m fighting the winter crud today) so I’m going to start our last week together before the holiday break with a short meditation on nature, craft, and tradition.

My Father’s Tools” is a gorgeous, seven-minute video that accompanies master basket maker Stephen Jerome as he creates a black ash rib basket from scratch, using traditional tools handed down to him by his father, and a technique that was honed over generations. There is something uniquely soothing about watching a maker at work, and this quiet film – there is no dialog – begins in the Quebec woods as Jerome searches for just the right tree.

The director is Jerome’s partner and first-time filmmaker Heather Condo, who got the training and support she needed from Wakiponi Mobile studio, a “traveling mediation, training and audiovisual creation studio,” that helps indigenous youth around the world tell their stories. (Condo’s Instagram feed is a delight, too.) Both are members of the Gesgapegiag First Nation, a Mi’gmaq community in Quebec. The film won acclaim as an official selection at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, became the first indigenous film to be a Vimeo staff pick, and has gotten over 124,000 views.

More about the Mi’gmaq (also spelled Mi’kmaq) here.

The film is clearly a tribute and a desire to keep a dying art alive. “There are films that show people making baskets but it’s by white people who are just passing through the reserve and shows about 30 seconds of it,” Condo told the Wicked Ideas online magazine. “It’s nice to have this down for our grandchildren and children to see.” But for everyone else, it’s an opportunity to sit a while and be an apprentice even for a few minutes, sitting in a workshop instead of traffic, listening to the sounds of craft, instead of Muzak at the mall.


On Point

Puerto Rico governor orders review of hurricane-related death countIt’s worth noting, in light of the recent chaos-causing power outage in Atlanta, that parts of Puerto Rico are still without power, and the grid is still operating under capacity. And there still isn’t reliable information about the human toll after Maria barreled through on September 20. And Puerto Rico’s governor is asking that every death on the island be reviewed to determine the exact cause. Many deaths may have gone unrecorded after the storm, particularly hospital patients and other vulnerable populations. It’s an about-face for the governor, who had defended his administration up until now.New York Times

Snap’s HR chief under external investigation for unprofessional behavior
As the founder of the race and diversity beat at Fortune, I spend a lot of time talking to and about human resources professionals and other talent scientists. There’s a lot of extraordinary work being done, particularly if they’re supported from the top. So, I share this cautionary tale from tech darling Snap, Inc., whose chief people guy, Jason Halbert, is turning out to be more than a little problematic. At first blush, he seems exemplary. Halbert is a decorated former military officer who completed two tours in Afghanistan. Yet, he has no HR experience, and no apparent verbal filter, either. Here’s one example of how he handles himself in meetings, according to employee complaints: “He’s mentioned that during military deployments he used sexual fantasies to help him meditate, which brought him to orgasm.” Oh, there’s more. And, he’s still in the role. (Email registration required.)
The Information

How cuts to the affordable care act will hurt “minority” communities
With the enrollment period cut to just 45 days, and grants to pay insurance counselors dramatically reduced, poor communities of color, it's non-native English speakers who will be hit the hardest, predict experts. We know how much the one-on-one assistance meant to getting people enrolled, particularly in communities of color, and I think in communities where English is not the primary language spoken,” one health care program director told The New York Times. It’s a blow. While Hispanic and black communities are largely under- or uninsured, the health care law was an important tool for fighting disparities in coverage.
New York Times

The Woke Leader

Where is the #MeToo love for black women?
It’s complicated. Shanita Hubbard, a writer, social justice advocate and adjunct professor, begins this powerful essay with a searing memory. Once she was a young girl in the hood and had to walk past the smack-talking guys on the corner, who became predators the instant they spied her. Sometimes it was verbal, sometimes it was worse. “On this intersection, like so many others in the world, your body and sense of safety were both up for grabs,” she recalls. We have all normalized so much of routine predatory behavior, that the flood of powerful people standing up for #MeToo accusers has been striking. In the cases of Tavis Smiley and Russell Simmons, where are the high-profile supporters? She also takes on the complexities of the black community, whose men on the corner are similarly targeted for state-sanctioned abuse. “When your community fights for those same people who terrorize you, it sends a very complicated and mixed message,” she says.
New York Times

Beloved tech scholar Calestous Juma has died
I knew Kenyan scholar and professor Calestous Juma only from Twitter, but because he was prolific and responsive, he felt familiar. In that way, his sudden death on Friday felt like a shock. Juma, who was a faculty professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, was a towering figure known for his intellectual rigor and his intersectional work focused on innovation in general and African in particular. And he was fearless. One of his most famous books, The Gene Hunters, (1989) took on the ethics of genetic modification in agriculture, and how it might impact small farmers in Africa. His last book Innovation and its Enemies, which explores why people resist new technologies would be an excellent last minute gift for a Luddite you love. Click through for a quick look at an extraordinary life.

Formerly incarcerated undergrads start a campus group to support other onetime inmates
Turns out, the qualities that get you into prison aren’t always that different from the ones that get you into college. “I’ve always been somebody who went out and got what I wanted,” says one former inmate named Danny Murillo, who now attends the University of California, Berkeley. A chance encounter with another former inmate, inspired the two men to create a group to help others succeed, and to help currently incarcerated men find a pathway to college. The idea is inspiring; their complicated lives, even more so. A must read.
New Yorker


The place where you are, where you are building dwellings, where you are now building a fort, where you want, as it were, to enthrone yourself, this land of which you wish to make yourself now absolute master, this land belongs to me. I have come from it as certainly as the grass, it is the very place of my birth and of my dwelling, this land belongs to me the Mi'kmaq (L'nuk), yes I swear, it is God (Niskam) who has given it to me to be my country forever... Show me where the Mi’kmaq (L'nuk) will lodge? You drive me out; where do you want me to take refuge? You have taken almost all this land in all its extent.
Chiefs and Elders of Mi’kmaq in a letter to Edward Cornwallis, 1749