July, 2010

The New Vermonters: Seeking Respite, Global Refugees Resettle in Vermont


Morning sun glints pink-gold off the Winooski River through a chartreuse curtain of leaf buds in Burlington’s Intervale. Dandelion seeds float across an emerald field of hay grasses yearning their way skyward. Emerging from the tree line as they trek down the hill to the riverside plain, bright spots of color appear, clustered in groups of three and four. Patterns emerge: a bright pink shirt, a blowing red and black skirt, striped hats, floral scarves. They grow closer, padding gently along two parallel tracks of flattened grass towards a rectangle of plowed brown earth near the river. Their voices are hushed and musical, blending with the enchantment of the moving water, the gentle breeze, the morning birdsong. A red-winged blackbird considers the new arrivals, then sets off in a joyous frenzy of darts and dashes: whoever they may be, their passage has kicked up a fresh wave of winged breakfast.

The first colorfully-dressed arrivals now reach their farm plots, while more trickle down from the parking lots at the Ethan Allen Homestead. They spread out across the plowed acreage, seeking their own stake-and-string-marked squares of ground, singly or in couples, husbands and wives, cousins, friends. They rake, pull up clods of grass and cast them aside, or kneel to set in rows of onions or cabbage seedlings. They open tote bags and pull out bottled water.


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Three Ladies



Of Primary Importance: Where Do the Democratic Candidates for Governor Stand on Women’s Issues?


Vermont has five Democratic candidates for governor vying for their party’s nomination in the August 24, 2010 Primary Election: Susan Bartlett, Matt Dunne, Deb Markowitz, Doug Racine, and Peter Shumlin. Vermont Woman posed five questions to the candidates, with a focus on the issues facing the women and children of Vermont in particular; their written responses follow.

Note: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 is the last day to register to vote for the Primary Election. If you have questions about the election or registering to vote, please call your town or city clerk. Or, call the Elections Division, Office of the Secretary of State at 1-800-439-8683, email mhodge@sec.state.vt.us or write to the Elections Division, Office of the Secretary of State, 
26 Terrace Street, Montpelier, VT 05609-1101.


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Vote Sign

Behind the Masks:
Bread & Puppet’s Elka Schumann


Bread & Puppet is a name that, through the years, has evoked the image of larger-than-life masks and figures emerging at dusk on the crest of a distant hill in silent procession. It has been personified by the perennial spectacle of the troupe’s founder, Peter Schumann, in the guise of Uncle Sam, soaring high on impossibly tall stilts and blaring “When the Saints Go Marching In” on not just one, but two, trumpets.

A description of Bread & Puppet from its museum literature celebrates the unique contributions of the internationally renowned group and the artistic genius of Peter Schumann. But a name that is glaringly infrequent in mention is that of his wife, Elka.

Elka Schumann’s influence on all that is encompassed under the signature woodcut print banner of Bread & Puppet is profound and extensive. She is curator of the museum, operator of the press, and author of its publicity materials, yet she refrains from broadcasting her own role in the group. But anyone who knows her does not find that surprising in the least.

As former puppeteer Clare Dolan puts it, “Elka is a highly intelligent, engaged, kind and generous person with strong opinions and a fascinating life history. I keep telling her she has to write her memoirs. Now that would be a book I’d love to read. However, she is also a very modest person, self-effacing and private, so probably that is a book I will never get to read.”


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Photo of many puppets

Sunshine Laws:
Diminish Your Risks for Skin Cancer


Skin is our body’s largest organ. It is also the only organ with direct exposure to the sun, and therefore at risk for a type of cancer that forms in the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin. Skin cancer is primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UVA or UVB) rays, either from the sun or tanning beds. Sunscreens which block one or both of these types of rays can help protect against skin cancer, but are not officially recommended by regulating agencies, which remain concerned about chemicals in the sunscreens, as well as potential deficiencies in Vitamin D.

The Epidemic of Skin Cancer

Though once more common in people over 50, skin cancer is now showing up in younger people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults (15-29 years old). Dr. Mitchell Schwartz of Dorset Street Dermatology in South Burlington says he is “seeing it in children even in the single digits.” And in July 2008 a National Institutes of Health study found that melanoma rates among young women in the United States almost tripled between 1973 and 2004. In the last 15 years, there has been a 350 percent increase in the incidence of skin cancer in the U.S., and it is the leading cancer in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.


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Picture of a person

Editor’s Perspective
and Publisher’s Message


Here Comes the Bride – and the Border Patrol Agents

Ahhhh, weddings! We’ve all been to our share of them, and no doubt have witnessed at least one in which something didn’t go quite the way of Bride Today… The tipsy best man making not one of his best-mannered toasts, a waiter spilling the plate of filet mignon on the mother-of-the-bride’s lap, the border patrol busting in just as the bride is throwing her bouquet toward a throng of her starry eyed gal pals…

What? This last one hasn’t happened to you?

Unfortunately, something like this did happen on June 5 to Danielle and Thierno Diallo, who were celebrating their marriage at a reception in St. Albans. Danielle, who is white, is originally from Winooski, and Thierno hails from the African country of Guinea, and is not white. He has permanent residence status in the United States, and is longtime player and part-time coach for the Vermont Voltage semi-pro soccer team based in St. Albans.


Publisher’s Message – Intensity of Love

I’m old enough to have experienced the deaths of many loved ones, but not much had emotionally prepared me for the almost sole responsibility of assisting my brother Brad through the maddening swings of his compounding health crises, to his death three weeks ago. It all began with the optimism of his full recovery – and therefore, a clear path of decision-making and a care plan was possible. Swiftly, however, his health problems moved into crisis – system by system narrowing his care to day by day to fit his needs. Soon emotional chaos took me over.

At what point did I falter? At what point did I start to create distance? Who was that person inside me who considered running away? At first it was loss of control; then fear. Fear so raw nothing helped; no words, no Gods, nothing. The mirror reflected no one I recognized and no one I wanted to be. The only truth I knew was that there was no escape; my personal setbacks required a quick turnaround.


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Margaret Michniewicz and Sue Gillis