Monthly Cultural Corner - April

April 6, 2022

Meet James Allen

My full name is James Hutchings Allen Jr. I work in North Hills as an administrative assistant in HR. I came to Penny Lane in October of 2020.

I’m loosely connected to the culture of the mid-west, 1/8th Lithuanian and 1/8th Swiss. It's difficult to pinpoint the ancestry, because my grandparents had moved from their hometowns and relocated in California. My mother’s side of the family was from Michigan, and her mother’s family was Lithuanian. On my father’s side, his dad was from Missouri and his wife’s family was based in Virginia but had moved from Switzerland.

James Hutchings Allen Jr.

I’ve never visited the areas from which my family originated. I grew up in Studio City and spent a lot of my childhood with my grandma who was Lithuanian.

Lithuanian food is an acquired taste. My mom occasionally makes a Borscht, which is pink colored creamy soup. It’s made of hardboiled eggs, potatoes, herbs, and beets. Its best served with some potato pancakes.

I’ve never researched mid-west music or Lithuanian folk. I was an eighties child and was largely influenced by the culture that emerged from the melting pot of Los Angeles. The trajectory of my vinyl collection goes back to 1970’s dub, dancehall and moves forward to mostly electronic and experimental.

One cultural tradition that is shared by many Christians is having a miniature nativity scene during the holidays. For my family this is more essential than the wreath at the front door. This religious display consists of hand painted clay or wood carved figurines and a crèche which is a barn type of stall. The artisanal handmade quality of these displays is something closely tried to arts, toys and other crafts made in Michigan. As a child it was my responsibility to set up the créche on the mantle and pack up the display for storage.

Mid-west culture is different from other regional cultures in the US. My family in Michigan has a distinct dialect, fashion, and features; as soy farmers they hold a traditional value scale and simplistic lifestyle. There are many site-specific traits and conditions that people born in the "goiter belt" region share. Their psychology has been shaped by the rural farm environment and a connection to working with their hands. The Great Lakes could easily define the people there, a typical Michigander might be a workaday commercial fisher who is a rugged outdoorsperson and known to be a hermitic character. Personalities can be remote due to the solitude of boat life or the conditions of their work. These are a few aspects of my Anglo background that are difficult to classify, categorize and measure as such.

As a child I remember both sides of the family had a love for antiques, art, and old furniture. We would go to swap meets, galleries and museums quite often. I still joke about which chairs I can sit in or how often the display teapot will need to be polished. Growing up I never understood the attraction to accumulations of old unusable things; but recently I've come to understand it's an effort to recover a little of history and a catalyst for storytelling.

-James Hutchings Allen Jr., Penny Lane Centers

April is National Autism Awareness Month

National Autism Awareness Month begins on April 1st and ends on April 30. Autism is a complex brain disorder that often inhibits a person’s ability to communicate, respond to surroundings, and form relationships with others. Autism affects people of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), celebrated each year on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis. Autism is one of only three health issues to be recognized with its own day by the United Nations. WAAD activities increase world knowledge of autism and impart information about the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism around the world.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Every April, Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to learn about the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it.  Communities around the nation come together to support families and children by reinforcing strategies that are working. Outreach programs, resources, and activities offer tools for identifying abuse and neglect. With each opportunity, we bring hope to families and come closer to an end to child abuse and neglect.

April is National Parkinson's Awareness Month

National Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April encourages us to participate in one or more events near you supporting further research bringing us closer to a cure for this disease.  Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder. Over time, this slowly progressing condition causes tremors, gait and balance issues, limb stiffness or rigidity and a slow muscle movement. While each person responds differently to the disease, complications often become serious.

There is no cure, and more research is needed. Awareness, treatments, and education go a long way to supporting those affected by the disease, but they are not a cure.

Ramadan 2022 April 1 – April 30th

Ramadan is the most important month in the Islamic calendar. It serves as a reminder of the month when the Qur'an (the Muslim holy book) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed “Peace Be Upon Him”. During this month, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. This is called fasting.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (sawm), prayer, reflection and community.  A commemoration of Muhammad's first revelation, the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next.  

The spiritual rewards (thawab) of fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Accordingly, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also tobacco products, sexual relations, and sinful behavior, devoting themselves instead to salat (prayer) and recitation of the Quran.

National Deaf History Month (March 13 to April 15)

National Deaf History Month is recognized and celebrated every year from March 13th to April 15th to recognize the accomplishments of people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Deaf History Month appears to have started on March 13th, 1996, when two deaf employees working at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. started teaching their colleagues sign language. This occurrence progressed into a week of deaf awareness created by the library. Quickly after that, deaf awareness week evolved into a month-long period devoted to promoting a greater understanding of the deaf community. In 1996, the National Association of the Deaf proposed the week become a full month, and officially in 1997, the first annual, nation-wide National Deaf History Month was in effect.