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In 2011, Alexander* was arrested and tortured for protesting in his home country of Iran.

(*Name changed.)


He fled to England with his wife and children and applied for refugee status. But even though he and his family were safe, he was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Then, in 2013, something unexpected changed the course of his life.

Alexander told his therapist about his love of poetry, and his therapist encouraged him to join Stone Flowers.

Artwork from the Stone Flowers album "Ngunda." Courtesy of Music Action International.

Created through a partnership between Music Action International and Freedom from Torture, Stone Flowers is a unique project that supports refugee torture survivors through psychological and physical therapy, help in securing protection in the U.K., welfare services information … and music.

Stone Flowers artists come together each week, write songs about their difficult experiences, and perform them as a way to raise awareness and heal their painful pasts. The organization works with people from all over the world, including Iran, Sudan, the Dominican Republic, Kuwait, and beyond.

At first, Alexander wasn't sure about joining the group.

In an article for Therapy Today, Alexander said:

"I was hesitant ... but, once I took the plunge, the warmth of my welcome into the group blew me away. ... There was no pressure from my new colleagues to tell my story — simply a deep, unspoken respect among all the group members for what we'd all been through."

"Ngunda" album release party at Amnesty International Headquarters in London. Photo courtesy of Music Action International and photographer Marc Sethi.

In time, Alexander did tell his story. His pivotal moment came when he finally got the courage to sing:

"I managed to sing a song aloud in my own language. That was so liberating and moving for me. Despite everything I'd been through, with a combination of the music group and therapy, I began to believe in a better future for me and my family."

He eventually wrote a song called "The Memory" about the abuse he suffered in Iran.

Lyrics for Alexander's song, "The Memory." Courtesy of Music Action International.

Music Action International's U.K. founder, Lis Murphy, is involved in the music therapy meetings with Alexander and the other members.

She also helps the performers establish all vocal and instrument arrangements and prepare them for formal recording sessions. Stone Flowers performs at local events in the U.K., including Peace Week in Manchester, the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, and their own album release this past June.

Artwork from the Stone Flowers album "Ngunda." Courtesy of Music Action International.

For Lis, the work is profoundly rewarding. As she explained to me:

"Performing and working with Stone Flowers is a truly amazing experience. To see firsthand how music enables people who have survived unbearable situations, to stand together and share their hopes, fears and joys in communities where there is often hostility towards them is very powerful."

The work they're doing is having a serious effect. Like Alexander, Stone Flowers member Lito fled persecution in his home country (the Democratic Republic of Congo) before he found safety in the U.K.

Lito discovered that performing with his newfound friends reminded him that he has a purpose and that there are better days ahead:

"After the performance I've always tried to keep them feelings with me at all times. Because it's the only feeling that reminds me of who I am and what I am and that I live for now, for what happens tomorrow I do not know — it's out of my reach. Therefore it's fair to say the group has transformed me and gave me a special mechanism and therapy."

"Ngunda" album release party at Amnesty International Headquarters in London. Photo courtesy of Music Action International and photographer Marc Sethi.

The Stone Flowers project is on to something, especially because group singing has been shown to help people cope with stress and trauma by releasing oxytocin and elevating endorphins.

Alexander's life looks pretty different these days. He says his involvement in Stone Flowers has helped him heal his emotional wounds and improve his relationship with his family.

"The group has a power and personality of its own and a power to help with the healing process. … My life partner and my children began to sense a difference in my behaviour; I felt able to be more present with them."

Stone Flowers now has 35 active members and is still going strong with "Ngunda," a new album filled with storytelling songs like the one Alexander wrote.

And it sounds like there may be more albums in the future.

As Lis puts it: "The quality of the creative material that has been produced has exceeded all our expectations. Each individual has something really important to say and the music they have written to express this is incredibly powerful."

Check out this intimate video of a Stone Flowers studio session:


Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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