Stones Where Hearts Should Be

Shame on you, Sweden, how could you be so cruel? According to the Associated Press, carried to Sweden by her son and grandson through mountains, deserts and forests, 106 year-old Afghan woman, Bibihal Uzbeki, is facing deportation after her asylum application was denied. The family was part of a huge influx of those arriving in Europe in 2015 from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. The severely disabled woman, who can barely speak, suffered a stroke after hearing the news. She has been living with 11 family members in the village of Hova in central Sweden. They had been living illegally in Iran for eight years, fleeing Afghanistan due to war and insecurity before taking the arduous journey. According to the Swedish Migration Agency, “Generally speaking, high age does not in itself provide grounds for asylum.”

Those whose applications are rejected are permitted up to three appeals which can take a long time. Other family members are at various stages of appeals.  They claim the plight of Afghans is being ignored by Swedish officials. Many European countries deny asylum to Afghans from parts of that country they consider “safe.”

According to Sanna Vestin the head of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups, “The reasoning of the migration agency is that it is not unsafe enough in Afghanistan, though many of the big cities there cited as “safe” are not at the moment.”

I wonder how many members of the Swedish Migration Agency would agree to live in any part of Afghanistan? According to Biblihal’s son, Mohammed Uzbeki, it’s difficult to prove that the family faces a specific enemy upon return. “If I knew who was the enemy, I would have just avoided them,” he said, citing the Islamic State group, the Taliban, and suicide bombings as possible dangers.

Like so many of my fellow Americans, I am the granddaughter of immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Russia.  My Russian grandparents and their children, my father and his sister, once endured having a cross burned on their lawn when they lived in the South, which caused deep trauma.  I  am deeply ashamed and embarrassed at the demonization and cruel treatment of immigrants in this country by the current administration, who, like Sweden, seem to have stones where their hearts should be.

Rethinking Chickens

An on-air comment by Micah Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, about how much she loved her three chickens, one ironically called “Nugget”, made me ponder our relationship with the poultry that’s beating out beef in popularity with Americans.

Years ago I saw a PBS special about a man who loved chickens who had a large, luxurious “coop” and an assortment of truly beautiful bantams. He told stories of traits shown by the chickens indicated a higher level of intelligence that surprised me. I was so touched that it gives me pause each time I look at a crispy thigh or watch hungry kids scarfing down nuggets of sometimes questionable contents. Images of the life of chickens in factory farms fill my mind.

While living on sabbatical on a Greek island in the seventies, I developed a bad attitude about chickens, particularly roosters. Mykonos was on a different schedule than America’s. Businesses shut down in the middle of the hot days for siesta. (Imagine if Americans shut down for a nap after lunch!) Slowly re-opening in late afternoon, mostly for the tourists clogging the narrow streets, dinner wasn’t served until around 11:00 pm followed by dancing ‘till dawn in the tavernas. Dancers took to the streets under the midnight blue sky with hundreds of shooting stars twinkling across the universe. Walking home via the donkey trail, ready to sleep, the sky glowing a soft pink, one by one, roosters across the valley began a cacophony of ear shattering cock-a-doddle-do-s which didn’t help falling asleep and made me cranky.

As a child, I’d accompany my mother to a local farm where she’d select a chicken, we’d watch as the farmer chopped off its head leaving a headless body to run around the barnyard spurting blood, no doubt the source of my adult avoidance of horror movies. I once raised an Easter chick that ended up on the dinner table; I had to leave the room.

Recently I met a woman with a remarkable chicken story. It used to be that when grandmothers met they’d share pictures of their always adorable grandbabies. Nowadays with the seduction of smart phones, some grandmothers now include endless photographs of their companion animals, often in costume. She had photos and videos of her rescue cat and dog. And a chicken the dog had gifted her with, dangling squeaking and protesting from his softened mouth. The chicken took over the fenced city backyard and spent her days playing with the cat and dog. They all got dressed up for holidays though the chicken was usually not cooperative. Twice a day, they all came in to eat and cuddle. The chicken slept outside in the beribboned coop the woman had built for her.

One morning, the woman decided to sleep in. Not long after the silenced alarm would have gone off, she was awakened from a delicious slumber by a tapping sound. Raising the blinds, she looked out onto the back yard. There was a storage shed beneath the window. She stared at the face of a disgruntled chicken who’d somehow gotten up on the shed scolding the woman for neglect. No one knows how she got up there though maybe she’d taken secret flying lessons.

Maybe the roosters are trying to tell us something. Maybe sharing their hens’ eggs is ok but a short life of never moving or seeing the sky before being slaughtered for nuggets cannot be ok. Maybe we need to listen to them.

If you find yourself enticed by Tyson and McDonalds, pause, take a deep breath and think of that plucky, un-plucked chicken who has so much to teach us. Show gratitude for their giving us their eggs.

We All Live in Ferguson, MO

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be white, even for one day,” my friend said wistfully. We talked after yet another experience in a series of both subtle and overt snubs clearly related to her dark skin, that I’d witnessed during our thirty years of friendship.

Sometimes when the actions of a rude clerk were impossible to ignore, I’d gently chide the person, hand them a “Thank you for your kindness” card, and say, “You really need to be kinder to people.” But I simmered with barely suppressed anger at what my friend, and all black people, regardless of status, endure on a daily basis. She couldn’t imagine not being on the alert wherever she was, given what’s on the news these days, thinking that at any moment some crazed old white guy with an arsenal of guns might decide that this was a good day to shoot someone with dark skin.

Is she another “angry black woman” with a chip on her shoulders braced for possible insults? You bet she is. But she’s really a woman scared; no matter what she says, teaches, or does; no matter the extent of her sacrifices for her family, she still can’t keep her sons protected regardless if they’re presidents or twelve-year olds. And their daughters too; for black women are the fastest growing prison population.

Aside from my friend’s many personal experiences of racism, here’s one of the reasons why she’s so chronically traumatized: each racist slight keeps her wounds open and fresh.

When her 19-year-old son was a top student on scholarship at a small southern college, he was arrested for murder while walking down the street. It took her several weeks to raise the money for bail and to find a local lawyer who was able to prove her son’s innocence and get him out of jail.

But whatever happened to him in jail, and God only knows whether or not he was violently raped as so many are (an estimated 250,000 a year!), he was so traumatized by being held behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit that he dropped out of school. He has since gone from job to job, self-medicating himself with alcohol and drugs for PTSD.

This once promising young black man is seemingly doomed by the trauma of that incarceration; that of an innocent man and its effects on his family. An estimated 50,000 innocent people a year are imprisoned.

His mother too, has never been the same since, and never will. It has taken her years to pay back the thousands she’d begged and borrowed to get him free. Not every young, black male who is profiled and arrested has the good fortune to have a mother fighting for his rights.

Once while vacationing in the Bahamas with two friends from work, one white and one black, we were told by some local people that they’d assumed we were all prostitutes, as “generally black and white women did not usually vacation together.”

Why are white people so afraid of black people, especially young, black males?  Is it some twisted psycho-sexual fear of them stealing their white women, as the number of whites in the population declines? Is it some primordial fear that with slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration, on some level whites are afraid of retribution ever since slavery? Is it the media that profits on highlighting young blacks as criminals, despite any evidence to the contrary, criminalizing a generation?

Most whites, good, kind people, would be baffled and dismayed if it was pointed out to them that it is passive, unconscious racism bubbling just under the national new hobby of Frightened Americans, hating Obama no matter what he does or says. They are ignorant of the daily land mines of oppression most blacks face each day. Or that the laws and policies their politicians vote for harm poor people, who ironically are mostly white.

I used to think that it would be possible for blacks and whites to develop deep friendships and understanding of other cultures, if only we could live together in integrated, quality schools, fair housing, acceptable health care, and with the unlimited possibilities available for those with white skin. The kind of friend you call when your heart is broken, your car has broken down or you just need some help. The kind of friend most blacks and whites don’t ever experience.

Now I’m not so sure. How difficult it must be for black people to really trust white people under ongoing oppressive laws and policies and the constant denigration and attacks. Especially on young black males, who are criminalized, disenfranchised and traumatized by torture behind bars.

Many years ago, my family was friendly with a family from Barbados. Our kids were the same age, played together, had sleepovers at each other’s houses, and went on day trips, all piled together into my station wagon. Their mother and I walked our five-year-old sons to the first day of half-day kindergarten with their new backpacks, shiny shoes, and excitement at finally going to school in Media, PA, a town priding itself on its integration.

At noon, we waited for the boys to come home. When they finally arrived, her dark-skinned son was in tears and my son looked confused. What had happened? The crying boy tearfully described how the other students in the class had called him a N*****! Shocked, I turned to my boy and asked him what he had done. He shamefacedly admitted that he too had called his best friend the N-word, a word he’d never heard uttered at home, a word that he didn’t even know what it meant. Our home, where we were once honored to have Martin Luther King, Jr. come for dinner.

How could this be? My sweet, innocent boy? After tears were wiped away and hugs given to both boys, as they went off with a snack to play, their mother and I wept in each other’s arms.

I had to acknowledge that despite what children are taught in the home, the racist culture had permeated their kindergarten class, and no doubt all classes in this mostly white, suburban American town. That culture and its peer pressure had already poisoned the minds of innocent children. Years later when my grown son and I discussed the incident, he had no memory of it.

I doubt if his dark-skinned friend would ever be able to forget; learning at a tender age that whites could not be trusted to stand up for them when attacked by other whites. This is at the core of our national psychosis which grew out of control after 9-11. The resulting militarization and violence of unchecked police forces now wage war against its citizens, especially against young black males.

What’s been happening in Ferguson and so many other places is not an anomaly. It is not a rare thing, highlighting the stain of racism from never-ending slavery to, Jim Crow, to investing in mass incarceration rather than education. Post 9-11 our nation sinks lower and lower into a national, fear-filled psychosis, stomping on all of our rights, justifying them in the name of “Homeland Security.”

When will we wake up?


Judith Trustone is an award-winning author, filmmaker and human rights advocate who directs the Swarthmore PA-based Global Kindness Revolution, which grew out of her work with prisoners. Her forthcoming book, Train Your Mind to Be Kind All the Time: the Global Kindness Revolution, will be available in late fall 2014. Her newest documentary, How to Create a Kindness Circle, is available on YouTube.

“Celling America’s Soul” wins Bronze in 2014 Ebook Global Awards!

Judith Trustone’s Celling America’s Soul: Torture and Transformation in Our Prisons and Why We Should Care just took the Bronze in the prestigious Ebook Global Awards.

Judith proudly made the announcement Monday, August 18, 2014, about her social and political commentary on the state of prisons in the United States, “I’m so excited that the judges recognize the importance of this travesty in America and hope the award brings awareness to more who will make the necessary changes toward renovating our penal system.”

Do you want to know more about this important issue? Read Celling America’s Soul.

Global Kindness Revolution? Of Course!

Please take a moment and peruse this very well-written and informative article by Sharon Day, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force. It aligns with my Global Kindness Revolution and asks if “respect, love and kindness can create a revolution”!

Waiting Room Blues

When did the medical community decide it was imperative to our health that daytime TV was required to dominate every doctor’s and hospital’s waiting room? As we of the Repair and Maintenance Age (RMA) so often do, I recently found myself stuck for more than an hour while waiting for a relative who was having a “procedure.”

I’d brought work to do and a novel to read in case I felt lazy. As someone who writes at home, part of my attempts at discipline mean never turning on the TV before 6:00 pm. So I have little exposure to the daytime “celebrities” who float across the waiting room screens. Keep reading »

Mean Madison Avenue-Why we need a Global Kindness Revolution

This is the first of occasional blogs commenting on various aspects of our culture.  I’m calling them: “Earth Musings”


Why we need a Global Kindness Revolution

Perhaps the young geniuses on Madison Avenue are products of the violent video generation. The tone of recent television ads makes me wonder—are they selling products or promoting meanness and an even greater lack of civility than already exists? Here are several examples:

Capitol One credit card ads star Vikings whose violence and roughness would never make me want to sign up for anything they’re selling. Swinging guillotines? Pouring hot tar over people? I don’t think so. Does this reflect the caveman mentality that permeates our male culture, exemplified by the recent effort of some politicians to take women back to the fifties and earlier?

Then there’s the ad for the Infiniti automaker where a guy in a white car with a smirk on his face makes a giant snowball that sweeps his neighbor’s blue car away in its downhill tumble. The perpetrator congratulates himself and pulls into the now vacant parking space. This is supposed to make me want to buy an Infiniti?

It reminds me of recent Volkswagen ads – whenever someone saw a VW, they yelled “punch buggy” and struck another person in the arm – usually quite painfully. How does this meanness sell cars? Keep reading »

Byard Lancaster, a Warrior with a Horn

Sagewriters’ Music Director is in Spirit

Byard Lancaster, a Warrior with a Horn

August 6, 1942 – August 23, 2012

Sagewriters is sad at the passing of our dedicated Music Director and Jazz legend, Byard Lancaster.

Byard’s dedication to our work, his commitment to encouraging young musicians and writers – especially those “at risk” – and his ability to connect people around the world, leaves a hole that can never be filled.

A talent recognized globally, Byard entertained from Philly to Chicago to Jamaica to Paris, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Guinea Montreal, and anywhere that jazz was performed.

A master musician with saxophone, flute and sixteen other instruments, Byard amazed us all when he performed at a Sagewriters’ fund raising art exhibit in 2009. He played three wind instruments at one time! His workshops inspired many of today’s prominent musicians, and his gentle but determined spirit led the fight for musicians to be able to perform on Philadelphia’s streets.

As Pennsylvania’s Jazz Ambassador, Byard was featured in our documentary, Healing Justice: a journey into Shadow America, where he said, “Why can’t we all get along? We have the tools.

A while back, spending several months near Paris, Byard was working on a jazz opera. He also published several books for musicians.

We are proud that this unique human being graced us with his support and connection to others, helping spread the work of Sagewriters locally and globally, and we will always miss him and keep his spirit in our hearts.

Judith Trustone, Director, Sagewriters and the Global Kindness Revolution

The Long Road Back

Dear Friends and supporters,

First I apologize for my long silence. As some of you know, I was broadsided by a distracted driver over a year ago and am still in treatment for my severe injuries. Sagewriters and the Global Kindness Revolution have been on pause since then. (See below for an update.) I am deeply grateful to those of you who so generously sent me “green energy” through my local bank to help with the bills. Your expressions of support and caring have kept me going. Now, something exciting is happening and I hope you’ll be able to support me once again – it costs only a moment of your time. You’ll have to register but this doesn’t mean you have to do anything more or use Yahoo.

The managing editor of Yahoo Women website,  who is familiar with my community healing work,  has placed my name in nomination for an award in Yahoo’s new “Women Who Shine” contest. To vote for me, go to (A Yahoo! account is required, but if you don’t have one and create it just to vote, no one says you must use it.)

The contest, as described below, was created to honor women in seven categories who are working “under the radar” at the local level or in areas that receive little public attention. The one with the most votes wins, and the deadline is October 29th. So please take a moment and go to the link to support my nomination as a “healer” and pass along the message to all of your network and Facebook friends, as well as those you correspond with through regular mail. Winning this $10,000 award will enable Sagewriters and the Global Kindness Revolution to move forward. And while you’re at it, nominate another Woman Who Shines!

Thank you in advance.

Judith Trustone

(Scroll below the nomination letter for updates on Sagewriters and the Global Kindness Revolution.)

(Letter about nomination from Jennifer Romolini, Managing Editor, Yahoo Women)

Hello Judith!

I’m reaching out to you because the website I manage Yahoo Women is getting ready to launch a new program called Women Who Shine that honors extraordinary women around the country. It’s our way of celebrating the women out there, who are blazing new trails, touching lives, or just being amazing every single day. We are asking readers to nominate their friends, mentors, families or any other women in their community who inspire them.

The categories for our first Women Who Shine program are:  Activist, Athlete, Entrepreneur, Healer, Public Service, Mother, Teacher and Survivor. The nominee who receives the most votes overall will win a $10,000 cash prize and the runners-up in the other seven categories will receive a $250 cash gift card.

…Our honorees will not be the high-profile women or celebs you see in other “Woman of the Year” or “Most Powerful Women” programs. The women nominated will be those who are local heroes in their own communities and it is Shine’s readers, not an editorial staff, who decide who wins.

This is where you come in 😉 In order to launch the site next week and start doing our marketing push the week after, we want to pre-populate it with some awesome, inspirational nominees–which of course made me think of you and all of the wonderful work you’ve done through the years. Would you be game to be nominated for the program in the “healer” category? Your photo would appear on Shine, either in a photo gallery or on the main page and you’d be eligible to win the $10,000 grand prize or at least a $250 gift card.

I’ve drafted a nomination for you and chose a photo, Please let me know as soon as possible if you can participate. Thanks so much. Hope you are well. Jennifer     xx



While Sagewriters is on pause for now, those of you interested in publishing your books have a couple of new opportunities to do so for free, through and their ebook program with 70% royalties, and their pbooks (printed books) with about 15% royalties. Of course you must have an outside person who can edit, format and post your book online; and while your book will be promoted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you will have to do your own marketing. But you will receive royalties.

We no longer have a partnership with Infinity Publishing, which since 1999 was so supportive, and we were able to publish many books through them. Now John Harnish, their former Vice President of Special Projects, is no longer with them. He has published a number of ebooks to help authors though, and his Ebook about Ebooks is available online for $5.00. He gives a history and contemporary look at the publishing industry as well as a step-by-step guide for professionally publishing your book online. The direct link to John’s book is on Amazon.

Another organization is championing prison authors. They’re on a mission to publish 500 free books for prisoners; they will scan them in unedited and make them available to read online, download or print, without charge:

“If you know a prisoner who has written a book, or would like to write a book, we want to publish it. … Prisoners are free to write anything they wish. And there is no charge whatsoever to either place or read/download these books. Prisoners retain full rights to their books if they later wish to place them with literary agents or commercial publishers. For more information about this exciting program, please Click Here.” ( To help or for any questions, or call 202-393-1511. Prisoners can submit their books to: Safe Streets Arts Foundation, PO Box 58043, Tel 202-393-1511, Washington DC  20037.

Sagewriters’ Inside Director, Patrick Middleton,Ph.D.,  is finishing his novel, Hope, which will be available the beginning of 2013; and Illinois writer, Larry Rocky Harris, is finishing his 18 Years on Death Row while he successfully advocates for prisoners’ rights, and is part of a class action suit against the Illinois DOC for prison food (it is moving slowly through the courts).

I’m working on Social Networking for Grandparents: one woman’s guide for the newly old and those on the cusp which will be an ebook when it’s ready. My short documentary, Medium, won honorable mention in an international short film contest sponsored by Kindness: the Movie.

My vision for the future is to obtain funding to create a national network of groups working on Kindness so we can have a positive effect on the body politic, hopefully eventually partnering on some projects with the peace community. Is there anyone interested in helping with this? My documentaries, Soothing and Nurturing Human Spirits and Healing Justice: a journey into Shadow America, continue to be well-received at colleges and organizations working for justice.

Meanwhile, my healing journey continues, and if I get enough votes to win the $10,000 Women Who Shine contest, we’ll be able to purchase more Kindness Cards for distribution to add to the 70,000 distributed so far. If you’d like some to give out, let me know at: Sagewriters, Box 215, Swarthmore, PA 19081.

Thank you in advance for your votes, your support and of course your feedback.

Be in Beauty,

Judith Trustone

Twitter: @TrustOneKndness

Books by Judith:
Celling America’s Soul
The Cat’s Secret Guide to Living With Humans

Books by Patrick Middleton, Ph.D.
Healing Our Imprisoned Minds
: a people’s guide to hope and freedom
: a memoir

Survival of the Kindest: The Evolution of Sympathy

By Faye Flam
Inquirer Staff Writer

TONY AUTH / The Philadelphia Inquirer (

Darwinism is more often associated with the liberal left than the conservative right, but it’s moved a long way across the political spectrum from Darwin’s day, when it was embraced by advocates of free-market economics, colonialism, and similar ideas today associated with the right.

Apparently, Darwinism is still sometimes invoked in arguments for economic conservatism. It’s reflected in a recent e-mail I received from a reader: “Maybe you should write about the current reversing of evolution by humans, using technology. . . . Fitness, in humans, means the intelligence and ability to deliver a healthy child. . . . Today, especially in the USA, the least fit make the most offspring while the more fit have the least children. The most fit pay to insure the survival and future breeding of the least fit.”

Let’s leave aside the part connecting fitness and intelligence for another column, since the term fitness has a very specific meaning in evolution apart from what people try to achieve in the gym. Instead, I’ll focus on the idea that helping people interferes with evolution.

I find this letter so intriguing because it reflects the reaction some people had to Darwin’s publication of On The Origin of Species in 1859.

According to University of Massachusetts historian Diane Paul, people of Darwin’s time realized that evolution was an ongoing process and that our policies and medical advances would influence its direction.

Some preached that charity and social services impeded evolution – a position that came to be called social Darwinism.

Many Christians of the time opposed that attitude, believing mankind should help the poor and the sick.

Paul said Darwin’s writing reflected mixed reactions to the ideas that would later be called social Darwinism. He did, however, hit on an important argument against it in his second book, The Descent of Man: Sympathetic instincts that lead us to aid the helpless are themselves products of natural selection.

That idea has stood the test of time.

“Evolution made us all the things we are by nature – it made us cooperative and selfish,” said David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University. Evolution, he said, left us with the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly.

To read the rest go to:

Survival of the kindest: The evolution of sympathy | Philly | 05/02/2011

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