February 2017

Leona Blackbird

~Member Spotlight~

Leona Blackbird was born in New Orleans, grew up in Iowa, went to high school and college in the Carolinas, lived for 20 years, off and on, in Santa Barbara and moved to SLC in 1980. Santa Barbara was lovely, of course, and was her first experience with the West. The “off and on” part is because she was married to a field meteorologist at the time and we spent a few winters in Elko, NV and one in Kalispell, MT.

She has a BA in psychology from Duke–a fairly useless diploma in her opinion. However, it did lead directly to her career. As part of the major requirements, she had to take a course in statistics. When she applied for a job at a weather company in Santa Barbara they asked if she could do a correlation coefficient and she said yes. She was hired on the spot. She started out as a data clerk, learned to program in the 70’s and ended up as systems manager. She worked at that company from 1960 to 1998 and met her husband there. In 1998, after the company had been bought by a large soulless outfit back east, Leona and four others left and started our own company. She retired in 2011, having spent 51 years associated with meteorologists and numbers.

After the husband in question died, she met and married David Blackbird in 1990. It was he who introduced her to humanism. He had read a book by Corliss Lamont and gave it to her, saying that it sounded more like her than him. She read it and immediately joined the AHA. She had not had a religious upbringing, but if you’d asked me if she believed in God when she was 15 or 20 she would have said “Of course–doesn’t everyone?” She had sort of slowly come to realize that she was an atheist, but it wasn’t until she was introduced to humanism that she knew there were others who thought like she did. She didn’t do much with the HoU until they needed a treasurer. She thinks that was in 2002 and she’s been the treasurer ever since.

She is an avid reader. She belongs to two book groups, so she read lots of things that she wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. Right now, she’s reading The Gene–An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which is definitely not something she would have picked up on her own. She reads biographies, novels, mysteries, and anything else that strikes her fancy. She also plays a lot of bridge–not competitively; just for fun and sociability.

She belongs to AAUW (American Association of University Women) both for social reasons and because of their positions on equal rights and educational opportunities for women. She also belongs to Compassion and Choices (the old Hemlock Society) to support death with dignity and aid in dying.

Humanists of Utah is indeed lucky to have Leona as a member!

—Sally Jo Fuller

HoU Happenings

Hope for Humanity

On Sunday, February 12, 2017—the actual date of International Darwin Day, Minister Elaine Stehel, Vice President of the Humanists of Utah, invites you to a guided group meditation and discussion—in lieu of ‘prayer,’ she offers a ‘hope for humanity,’ that we will cultivate loving-kindness and peace, individually and together. Please join us to process through recent feelings of anger and despair, moving toward peace and joy in community. Event will be from 2:00 – 4:00 PM at the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 East 400 South), meeting room to be determined.

Breakfast at The Ronald McDonald House

Sunday Assembly Salt Lake City is a new local secular group building a presence with parties and volunteer activities in our community—we will be partnering with them, the Atheists of Utah, and Salt Lake Oasis more in the coming months. If you’d like to volunteer more with like-minded people in our community, here’s your chance! Join Sunday Assembly to serve breakfast for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area (935 East South Temple) on Sunday, February 19th at 7:30 AM Learn more on Facebook, by searching for “Sunday Assembly Salt Lake City.”

Atheists of Utah Great Minds Gala

The Humanists of Utah are a proud sponsor of the Atheists of Utah’s Great Minds Gala, taking place on Saturday, February 25th from 6:00 PM – midnight. In exchange for their generous donation to our December Banquet benefiting the VOA’s Youth Resource Center, and their generous sponsorship of the catering for our 10th Annual Darwin Day Celebration, we provided a gift basket for their Silent Auction, and we hope some of our Humanists of Utah group members will enjoy attending their gala event, and perhaps even bid on and win some great prizes! Event will be held at Church and State (370 South 300 East). Learn more and purchase tickets at http://www.atheistsofutah.org/winter-gala.

Breakfast at the Youth Resource Center

Continuing with our group’s new community partnership with the VOA’s Youth Resource Center, the Humanists of Utah invite you to help provide, prepare, and serve Breakfast for the homeless and at-risk youth in Salt Lake City, at 888 South 400 West on Tuesday, February 28th at 7:30 AM You can donate food before the event; bring food that morning at 7:30 AM; help prepare the food that others provide; help serve the food that morning at 8:00 AM; and/or help clean up and wash dishes at 9:00 AM If you’re interested in any of the above, please email elaine@humanistsofutah.org to coordinate what you’d like to help with!

—Elaine Stehel
Vice President, HoU
Certified Humanist Minister

President’s Report

Every February for the last nine years Humanists of Utah has hosted a “Darwin Day Celebration.” This February naturally marks our tenth annual Celebration and I’m quite proud of the fact that we have sustained this event that long. I also hope that we keep it going for a long time to come. Plus, in this “new era” we are facing now it will be even more important to advocate and even protect science.

In past years, I have been highly involved in the planning of our Darwin Day events. But this year, I had wanted to be even more active in the planning to make sure we had a special tenth year event. But I have been unable to help much this year as my mother’s care needs are increasing and consuming most of my time lately. But the people who are doing the planning and arranging everything have put my mind at ease. They have stepped up and done a great job and have a terrific event in the works. So, I personally want to thank Elaine Stehel, Sally Joe Fuller, and John Welle for their efforts and thanks to all who are helping to make this a great tenth annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah.

Before the last board of director’s election, I informed the board that this would be my last term as President. I do plan to remain a board member. But it is time for the change and giving the “keys” to someone else will allow me to concentrate my efforts for HoU in a more focused way. I hope to work more closely on our events like our BBQ, Thomas Paine Day/Founders Day and the rest, but especially our Darwin Day event.

For several years, I have been harboring the idea that Darwin Day needed a Foundation to make it an event that is self-sustaining. I know that’s a tall order, but the process exists and I intend on working toward that end. The ideals of Darwin Day as a celebration of science needs to be sustained and increased, especially in this “new era” I mentioned, where rationality will be in short supply.

I hope you’re planning to come to our Darwin Day celebration coming up shortly. I’m excited and have a few things to say about our subject of climate change and all that that entails. Plus, having a forum for the first time should make for an enjoyable change.

That all for now, see you on the 11th.

Robert Lane
President, HoU

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