There's a place they call the Emerald Isle, where the lush green landscapes are home to families with names like O'Gara, Darcy, and Ryan. They live in towns called Cork Hill, Kinsale, and Sweeney's Well, and they stamp a green shamrock on your passport anytime you visit, whether it's for their famed St. Patrick's celebration or to experience the island's warm, tropical climate...

I'm obviously talking about Montserrat, a small Caribbean island with a centuries-old connection to Ireland. Here's the strange, dark, and ultimately beautiful history of this fascinating place:


1. Back in 1678, more than half of the island's population was Irish.


Photo by Graham Clifford. Used with permission.

Oliver Cromwell exiled thousands of Irish laborers to the Caribbean during the 17th century. Many of them were criminals serving time; others volunteered or were forced into indentured servitude, trading years of sunburn and abuse for the promise of a small piece of land.

Many of them eventually flocked to Montserrat, which was under French dominion at the time and had gained a reputation as a safe haven for Irish Catholics.

2. While the Irish at first were treated like any other slave or forced laborer in the Caribbean, they soon started gaining status in their new home on Montserrat.


Image via David William Seitz/YouTube.

"The Irish probably thought, 'I've been an indentured laborer, I've been treated as a slave myself, I want to be prosperous.' And they looked at the wealthy at the time and saw owning slaves as a status symbol," Graham Clifford, an Irish journalist who spent some time in Montserrat, explained in an interview with Upworthy.

3. Over the next century, the Montserratian people got, well, pretty fed up with it.


Image via Leah Tribe/YouTube.

Which is understandable — as frustrating as it is when some foreign empire shows up and forces you into slavery and claims your land and resources as its own, it's even more insulting when the other "lesser humans" that they brought with them start pushing you around as well.

4. So the Montserratians staged a revolt against the Irish majority on March 17, 1768.


Image via mnispirit/YouTube.

As Sir Howard Fergus, a historian and politician as well as the first Montserratian to be knighted by the British Empire, explained in an email to Upworthy, "The day was strategically chosen for planter lords would have been celebrating at the Governor’s residence in tipsy glory, it being St. Patrick’s Day."

5. But someone leaked the uprising plan, and the slaves were swiftly punished, leaving nine dead and 30 more banished from Montserrat.

A Montserratian girl recites a poem about the St. Patrick's uprising. Image via David William Seitz/YouTube.

OK, maybe it's not the most flattering legacy.

Of course, the Irish weren't the first oppressed group to take it out on the next oppressed group on the oppression ladder. And they definitely weren't the last. Still, that legacy remains a major part of Montserrat — in the national colors, in the harp on the country's crest, and in the names and places all across the island.

6. It wasn't until 1971 that the rest of the world began to take notice of this particular bit of colonial history.


Image from mnispirit/YouTube.

Sir Howard Fergus had published an article on the St. Patrick's Day uprising, inspiring the island's lone secondary school to celebrate the unnamed martyrs of the day with a history project — one that ended up attracting national attention.

Over the next few years, this trend of cultural education continued. But eventually, the idea came up to exploit this little bit of Irishness for the purposes of tourism (and maybe for some LOLs).

7. "It was a short step to carnivalising St. Patrick’s Day and making it to a week-long festival rivalling Christmas," Sir Fergus said.

Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

"Montserratians are not so much celebrating Ireland. It is a festival of fun with a tincture of Irishness thrown in."

Still, Sir Fergus clarifies: "Some are however kicking and screaming because they think the original purpose of the holiday was to celebrate the heroes of St. Patrick’s Day."

8. But recently, some efforts have been made to reconnect the Irish and the Montserratians, to share their cultures and their histories.

Skyping across the Atlantic with Montserratian children. Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

Clifford learned about Montserrat in the mid-'90s, and years later arranged a trip to the island with the help of Father George Aggers, an Irish priest who worked with a local parish on the island. They set up a Skype call between the Montserratian children at St. Augustine's School and his own children's classroom at Gaelscoil de híde in Fermoy, County Cork, allowing the children to learn about each other's languages and cultures and connect over their shared heritage and history with March 17.

"I wanted to use the links I have as a way of bringing together people from these distant but strangely familiar communities," Clifford told the Irish Independent.

9. "They do obviously play up the Irish connection for tourism," Clifford said. "But it's still there. It's a mad, random connection."

A Irish-Montserratian music and dance celebration. Photo by Graham Clifford, used with permission.

History is full of ugly details. But we can remember the past while building toward the future. We just have to reach out and connect.

Every culture has its shameful secrets — and in the case of Montserrat and Ireland, those stories are layered in colonial complications. What matters most is that we learn from those mistakes and celebrate the cultures and heroes that came from them.

Here's the first installment of a documentary about the Irish connection to Montserrat:

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

A group of around 20 moms gathered at a Boston area high school to vent their frustrations loudly.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but there are certain groups of people who have faced particularly intense challenges these past two years. Healthcare workers? For sure. Teachers? Definitely. Parents? Um, yes.

Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

Keep Reading Show less