Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Film & Discussion This Sunday: Collateral Damage

This Sunday, May 3rd at 3 p.m. at the Paul D. Coverdell Center on the UGA campus, the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series continues with a screening of episode 6, “Collateral Damage". This thirty minute segment visits the Marshall Islands, where local populations have been displaced from their traditional way of life by the American military presence and globalization. Today, they contend with the worst of the developing and industrialized worlds: infectious diseases such as tuberculosis due to crowded living conditions, and extreme poverty and chronic disease, stemming in part from the stress of dislocation. How do we move from understanding these social determinants to finding solutions to the damage they inflict?

Following the film, panelists Dr. Chris Whalen (College of Public Health, UGA), Dr. Larry Nackerud (School of Social Work), and Dr. Lynn Beckman (Infectious Disease Program Coordinator, Northeastern Health District) will engage in an open dialogue with the audience. The program will conclude with a light reception of healthy snacks.

Events in this program series are all FREE and open to the public. For further information or to RSVP for this event, call 706-542-5788 or visit

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Place Matters in Athens!

A Report from the 5th program in the Russell Library’s Unnatural Causes Program Series
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon a group of about 50 of us gathered at the Athens Public Library to consider the complex intersection of issues that comprise physical environment or place and its relation to our health as part of the Russell Library’s fifth event in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series. We watched, “Place Matters,” the fifth episode in the Unnatural Causes documentary that considers how policies and investment decisions create living environments that harm—or enhance—the health of residents and what actions can make a difference.

The film looks at several communities across the United States where disadvantaged environmental conditions have damaged the health of those who live there. According to the film, “Studies have shown, for example, that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood leads to a 50-80% increase in risk for heart disease – the number one killer in America. One reason is chronic stress. Worrying about violence, lousy schools, and unpaid bills; living in substandard housing or a polluted environment; not having good access to fresh food, reliable transportation, or safe public spaces – all of these have a negative, even toxic effect on health.” The film also offers a view into some promising projects to address the damage caused by pollution, crime, and substandard housing.

Following the film, program moderator Matt Murphy, Athens-Clarke County’s Affordable Housing Administrator and National Issues Forums Institute-trained moderator, introduced the discussion panelists for the program: Nik Heynen (Dept. of Geography), Robb Nielsen (College of Family and Consumer Sciences), John Vena (College of Public Health), and Crissy Marlowe (Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs). The panelists offered some initial commentary and then Matt opened up the discussion.

Highlights from our discussion (challenging topic!)

  • Panelists and audience members expressed frustrations with tackling the complex issues involved with dealing with the place issues present in Athens and surrounding communities.
  • One audience member asked why Athens seemed to have so much public housing.
  • Another audience member asked what the University’s role was and should be in alleviating the physical environmental concerns in the communities that surround it.
  • Another audience member shared the University’s interest and support for the New town Flower Association’s long standing battle to improve health conditions in their neighborhood in Gainesville, Georgia.
  • Panelist Chrissy Marlowe discussed the process and the challenges for the public for communicating with local lawmakers about policies that relate to zoning, planning, and environmental health issues.
  • The ways in which the public can and cannot influence policy on land use and environmental policy sparked spirited discussion and some frustration.
  • Unlike some of the other discussions in the Unnatural Causes Series, Sunday’s discussion reflected a broader range of concerns and much less consensus on how to tackle the constellation of problems subsumed under the umbrella of place matters.
  • Moderator Matt Murphy mentioned that Athens Clarke County will get some stimulus funds to work on improvements to public housing/affordable housing.
In the end, the group may have had more questions than answers. The dialogue and the deliberation of place matters in Athens will certainly continue. The next program of the series, “Collateral Damage” will take place on May 3rd at 3 p.m. at the Paul D. Coverdell Center located at the corner of D. W. Brooks Drive and Carlton Drive just east of the Coliseum. There is a parking deck next to the Center and parking is free there on Sunday.

Ladies in the House

One of my favorite projects in this job was digitizing the photographs from Hugh Peterson’s office in Ailey, Georgia. He renovated the old sugar house, one of the many outbuildings on his property, and decorated it with personally inscribed photographs of fellow politicians, certificates, and photographs chronicling his time in the Georgia Legislature from 1922 to 1932.

The most interesting photo in the bunch shows the members of the Georgia General Assembly standing on the steps of the State Capitol in Atlanta. It was taken during the 1923 – 1924 session and is a panoramic shot, 28” x 8.5”. The men in the group look dapper in their straw hats and bow ties. It’s amusing to pick out some of the young faces that would go on to shape Georgia politics, men like Richard B. Russell, Jr. and Roy V. Harris.

I also noticed some other faces looking back at me: those of the first women to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. 1923 was the freshman year for Bessie Kempton (Fulton County, 1923 – 1927, 1929 - 1931) and Viola Ross Napier (Bibb County, 1923 - 1926). The fact that they were elected to multiple terms is very interesting as is the fact that they were from the two major metropolitan areas in Georgia at that time, Atlanta and Macon. In the current session of the Georgia General Assembly, there are 38 women in the House of Representatives and 7 in the Senate, something that I’m sure would make Kempton and Napier proud!

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

Friday, April 24, 2009

Film & Discussion This Sunday: Place Matters

This Sunday, April 26th, the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series continues with a screening of episode 5, “Place Matters.” This thirty minute segment looks at the increasing migration of Southeast Asian immigrants and Latinos into two long-neglected African American urban neighborhoods on the West coast, and the subsequent erosion of their health. What policies and investment decisions create living environments that harm, or enhance, the health of residents? What actions can make a difference?

Helping us to connect these topics to our surrounding community, panelists Dr. Nik Heynen (Department of Geography, UGA), Dr. John Vena (College of Public Health, UGA), Dr. Robert Nielsen (College of Family and Consumer Sciences, UGA), and Chrissy Marlowe (Georgia Department of Community Affairs) will engage in an open dialogue with the audience following the screening. The program will conclude with a light reception of healthy snacks!

Events in this program series are all FREE and open to the public. For further information or to RSVP for this event, call 706-542-5788 or visit

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miss Eunice Talks Politics

"Miss Eunice" Mixon has been a fixture in Georgia politics since 1974, when she was tapped by George Busbee to coordinate his campaign for governor in Tift County. She was so successful in this effort and in her ability to wheel, deal, and not mince words, that her involvement with subsequent political campaigns in South Georgia has become the stuff of legend. In addition to this, when we think of public servants, it is the Miss Eunice's of the world we like to think of: gracious and honest, she is a tireless advocate for her community while seeing Georgia as a whole rather than a mere sum of parts. Although she has never held elective office, she has served on the State Election Commission, the Georgia State Bar Disciplinary Board, and the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and also graces the capitol as Doorkeeper of the Senate.

This clip is taken from Reflections on Georgia Politics, for which Miss Eunice was interviewed by Bob Short on October 2, 2008. It gives some insight into Miss Eunice's charm and her way with words, while detailing her initial foray into state politics and the way grassroots politics worked in the 1970s.

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mixin with Mixon: Journey to Tifton

This past Saturday, a contingent from the Russell Library drove down to Tifton, Georgia to celebrate a great grassroots political activist and south Georgia icon: Mrs. Eunice Mixon. The folks in Tifton wanted to show their appreciation for Miss Eunice's commitment to the local community and the entire state. And she's been so good to the Russell Library we couldn't miss the party! They served iced tea and pound cake and invited anyone with fond memories to step up to the podium and tell some tales. Our group ended up with sides sore from laughing and an even greater appreciation for the energy Miss Eunice has brought to politics, policy & education for the last 40 years.

A few snapshots from the road trip...

The celebration was held at the Agrirama -- Georgia's Museum of Agriculture. But first! We cruised into Tifton's downtown on Love Avenue and had lunch at Three Graces restaurant at the Lankford Manor.

When we arrived at Agrirama, we knew immediately we were in the right place... the room was decorated with dozens of pictures of Miss Eunice's life in politics and her signature parasols (which she never leaves home without). And shortly, we found the woman of the hour.

During the event, our own Jill Severn stepped up to the podium to express our gratitude to Mrs. Mixon for donating her papers to the Russell Library and participating in the Reflections on Georgia Politics oral history project. We had a wonderful time and all look forward to mingling with the folks in Tifton again sometime soon!

Bad Sugar, Good Discussion

This week marked our official half-way point in the Russell Library’s 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series – four weeks closer to a better understanding of the social determinants of health in our community! Our focus this week was Episode 4: Bad Sugar, which centers on the exceptionally high instance of Type 2 diabetes among the O’odham Indians in southern Arizona. Researchers suggest that the instance of disease in this Native American community is the direct result of decades of poverty and oppression. This week’s panelists made clear that many of the same problems exist in the Athens community and have resulted in diabetes becoming an increasingly important local issue.

We had four panelists this week, all with great research and outreach experiences that connected to this topic: Dr. Claude Burnett (Director, Northeast Georgia Health District), Connie Crawley (UGA College of Family & Consumer Sciences), Melanie Cassity (Diabetes Education Center, ARMC), and Dr. Alex Anderson (UGA College of Family & Consumer Sciences). The talented Delene Porter, Director of the Athens Area Community Foundation (also known as One Athens) served as moderator for this discussion.

Some Memorable Moments of Discussion…

All of the panelists put an emphasis on the importance of preventative medicine. Dr. Burnett pointed out that the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other developed nation, but typically has worse outcomes than most others. He suggested that if we shifted how this money is spent and put a premium on preventative and primary care then those outcomes could change dramatically.

In speaking about Type 2 diabetes specifically, Dr. Anderson discussed that this is a disease that runs in families, but went on to say that maintaining a good diet, regular exercise, and an overall healthy lifestyle can delay the onset of the disease for many years. If people can prolong the disease they can save their bodies years of additional stress.

Connie Crawley described her own healthy lifestyle to the crowd: homemade meals, daily workouts, stress-free car rides to and from work. Her point: not everyone has the time or the means to live such a life, but making small changes to daily routines can lead to better health.

Melanie Cassity, a diabetes educator here in Athens, emphasized that the film truly resonated with her because she sees many of the same circumstances and outcomes everyday in our community. She suggested that there are great resources available to people in need, but part of the struggle is putting various aid organizations in touch with one another to make the overall process of seeking help easier for the individual.

In responding to a suggestion from the audience, that physical activity should be mandated in public schools, the entire panel expressed agreement that children should be encouraged to exercise at an early age. Cassity made another good point -- that children often imitate what they see at home. If their family members encourage playing video games and couch-sitting, or other barriers prevent them from outdoor exercise (unsafe neighborhoods, lack of walking paths, etc.) then habits learned in school won’t necessarily carry over and make a lasting impact. You have to make comprehensive shifts in lifestyle and habits, not just in a single sector of a child’s life, which takes the involvement of adults as well as children.

Dr. Burnett also described the resources offered by the local health department to combat high blood pressure (hypertension) – specifically a $30 program that provides an exam and all medications for a 6-month period. An amazing resource in preventative medicine - and one of many offered by the health department (click here for more).

Our panelists were great and brought with them an array of informational handouts on local resources for diabetes and other related diseases – we’ll have these available at the remaining events in the series! Speaking of…the next program, Episode 5: Place Matters, will take place this coming Sunday, April 26th at 3 p.m. at the Athens Clarke County Public Library (2025 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30606). This episode takes us into two neighborhoods on the west coast to examine what policies and investment decisions create living environments that harm or enhance the health of residents. For more information on this program and our next batch of panelists, visit or call (706) 542-5788.

To read a recap of this event from The Red & Black, click here.

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What’s all of the flap about Twitter?

The Russell Library has decided to join the flock of folks who are sharing information using Twitter, a social networking and microblogging service that allows us to share brief updates via a short text messages 140 characters in length. These messages are called "tweets.”

We imagine we will use Twitter to:
Remind people about upcoming events & exhibits!
Give a view into what we archivists do on a typical day
Share stories about the amusing people and materials that we encounter at the Russell Library

In order to receive these short updates from Russell, sign up for Twitter at and search for RussellLibrary. When you find us, follow the directions to join our flock.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trips Abroad

A few weeks ago, I began processing items from Congressman Hugh Peterson’s post-Congressional work. He visited Europe in the fall of 1946 to survey Post-War Germany and determine if he could be of help to U.S. Forces on the continent. Although he lost his bid to remain in Congress earlier that year, Peterson still wanted to render a public service to the United States. He was able to do this when General Lucius Clay appointed him to an advisory panel regarding West Germany from 1948 to 1950.

On his trip in 1946, Peterson visited many countries, met a variety of people, and brought different letterheads back to Georgia with him. These pieces of paper hearken back to a time when letters and telegrams were equal to today’s text messages and emails. What one wrote upon signified a great deal about who they were and what they were doing. Below are some snazzy examples of letterheads from Peterson’s trip to Europe in 1946 (and one from a letter he received from Venezuela in the same year). You can still stay in all of these establishments (even the RMS Queen Mary) but I doubt the stationary is as nice today!

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Erwin Mitchell & The Georgia Project

Erwin Mitchell of Dalton, Georgia is proof positive that there are second acts in American lives, and that public service can be a lifetime endeavor of enriching and improving communities. From Solicitor General then Judge on the Cherokee Judicial Circuit, to Congress, and back to Dalton -- public service has been a lifetime endeavor, one that enriches and improves communities.

In 1997 Mitchell lead a campaign to educate the Latino children of Dalton’s public schools. Famous for its thriving carpet industry, Dalton had attracted a Hispanic work force valued by employers but often neglected by the rest of the community. With children caught on the wrong side of a language barrier, Mitchell used his influence and energy to lead the Georgia Project, an initiative which brought teachers from the Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico, to teach not only Latino children but also teach the Anglo teachers how to teach the Latino children. While the Georgia Project is no longer funded, its influence endures in this community.

The Georgia Project Papers were donated by Erwin Mitchell to the Russell Library in February 2009. The video clips included here highlight Mitchell talking about his experience with the Georgia Project, and are excerpted from a 2008 interview of Mitchell by Bob Short, recorded for the Reflections on Georgia Politics oral history series.

For more on the Georgia Project, see this article from the March 1999 issue of UGA’s Georgia Magazine:

For more information on Erwin Mitchell, click here or visit April's Outside the Box post.
Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

History in the First Person

Reflections on Georgia Politics is a project that began in the fall of 2006 at Young Harris College, as a lecture and discussion program hosted by Georgia political veteran Bob Short. In late 2007, the Richard B. Russell Library began producing the program as an oral history series, traveling across Georgia to videotape interviews. Former governors, constitutional officers, congressmen, state legislators, political organizers, and journalists sit down with Short -- sometimes during a quick break between committee meetings, other times for a lengthy period of calm reflection on a back porch -- and share their experiences in Georgia and national politics. These conversations are captured and the Russell Library serves as a repository for the resulting tapes - making decades of political history, strategy, and stories of back-room-politics accessible to the public.

These personal perspectives on public policy and leadership have resulted in the creation of a unique resource that will continue to grow and benefit students of Georgia's history. In the weeks and months to come, and for as long as this project continues, selections from these interviews will be posted regularly to this blog along with commentary from project supervisor Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History for the Russell Library. In addition, you'll see announcements for further developments in the project, its newest directions, and manifestations in exhibits and other displays.

Up Next: Interview with Erwin Mitchell

Expressing Opinions on Health Disparities

Click here for an opinion piece written by UGA student Jordan Sarver, commenting on health disparities and reflecting on the opening event from our Unnatural Causes program series.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Working Toward a Common Language

This Sunday marked our third event in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series. We screened Episode 3: Becoming American, which examines the “Latino paradox” – that recent Mexican immigrants tend to be healthier than the average American, but those health advantages erode in as little as five years after they enter the U.S. The episode examines what causes immigrants to become less healthy as they become more American.

We had three amazing panelists on hand to talk with the audience about immigrant health and experiences throughout Georgia: Sharon Gibson (UGA Cooperative Extension & FACS), Sister Margarita Martin (Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela), and Coti Perez-Espinoza (Positive Impact Atlanta). With varied experiences, these women were able to cover a broad range of topics and carry on an engaging discussion, moderated by planning committee member Patricia Thomas (Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, UGA).

Some Memorable Moments of Discussion…

Sister Margarita opened by commenting that the film skipped over one very important element - the ominous threat of deportation in immigrant communities, especially here in Georgia. Recent legislation has made it easier to deport, while making something as simple as obtaining a driver’s license nearly impossible for illegal immigrants. When people constantly live in fear of being ripped from their American-born children, they tend not to seek help from healthcare providers who might report their illegal status. Such situations put not only these individuals and their families at risk, but also the wider community they come into contact with.

One attendee asked if the Mexican government provided any assistance to its citizens living in the United States – advocating for their rights, or sending teachers over to help educate this population.
  • Sheryl Vogt mentioned the Georgia Project, founded by former Georgia congressman Erwin Mitchell, which promoted the exchange of teachers between Mexico and Georgia. This endeavor ended because of cuts in funding and increased restrictions of teacher certifications for those teaching at schools in Georgia. (Congressman Mitchell just donated the Georgia Project Papers to the Russell Library).
  • Panelist Coti-Perez commented that the Mexican Embassy does sponsor a healthcare week annually, during which time all citizens are invited to attend free health screenings in Atlanta.
Another member of the audience suggested that extending greater health care opportunities to illegal immigrants would, in the end, decrease the tremendous spending the in overall healthcare system. When someone has insurance, they don’t wait until an illness is incapacitating before visiting a doctor or rely on emergency room visits. Increases in preventative medicine and regular checkups, for anyone, reduces the bottom line in healthcare costs distributed to taxpayers.

Several in the audience asked what efforts were being made in Georgia to help aid immigrant communities, specifically those in Athens, and what we can all do in the future to help. A few suggestions from the panel:
  • Write to Your Representatives – ask them to advocate for immigrants’ rights, to make healthcare for these populations (including non-legal residents) a priority that benefits our entire society. If you feel local representatives won’t take you seriously, take it to the top – President Obama!
  • Be the First to Reach Out -- Sister Margarita shared positive stories of the interactions between students from UGA (who act as tutors) and the children who participate in her afterschool programs. “These children are their parents’ treasures,” she said, and when the parents can see that not all “gringos” are out to harm them – but in fact some are committed to helping their children achieve in school – that builds a base of trust that can lead to communication.
  • Working Toward a Common Language – Many addressed the apparent language barrier. Sharon Gibson submitted one way the Cooperative Extension encourages use of the English language – employing useful reading materials that engage! When you teach someone to read using a document that teaches them other useful skills – such as how to protect their families from pesticides – they are more willing to spend what little free time they might have available to learn the language.
The next program of the series, Episode 4: Bad Sugar, will take place on April 19th at 3 p.m. at the Athens Clarke County Public Library (2025 Baxter Street, Athens, GA 30606). This episode follows the lives of O’odham Indians, living on reservations in southern Arizona – a population with perhaps the highest rate of Type 2 diabetes in the world. For more information on this program, visit the Film & Discussion Series webpage or call (706) 542-5788.

Click here for more images from the event!
Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library