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Abby Erdmann had a pretty privileged upbringing, which she says she thinks about constantly.

But Erdmann was also something of an outsider, despite her privilege. Growing up in New York in the 1960s, Erdmann was one of three Jewish students in her school. And — by her own admission — she was fat. Some of the kids she grew up with didn’t let her forget that.

York Prep in NYC. Photo by Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons.


“I was aware of being marginalized. In high school, a very popular student drew a caricature of me, and had an arrow to my mouth, and said ‘n-word lips.’ I think that raised my consciousness,” she said.

The resulting awareness would eventually become her biggest asset because that combination of privilege and being an outsider helped Erdmann empathize with all kinds of people.

After she graduated from college, Erdmann became a teacher.

And Erdmann — now retired — wasn’t “just” an English teacher.

When a student in one of her classes said "race is just skin-deep," she wanted to explain to that student that it was so much more than that, but she didn't know how, and she didn't feel comfortable trying. She let the moment pass, but her discomfort sparked something within her.

Eventually, Erdmann came to recognize that she was a white woman in a world that favors whiteness. She had privilege. So, as a teacher, she decided to take her lessons beyond books. She wanted to tackle race too.

Abby Erdmann, center, with two of her former students after a workshop on Talking About Race at Primary Source. Used with permission.

In her classroom, Erdmann taught her students about race in a very unique way.

She offered support to her students of color, but she put most of the responsibility in the hands of her white students: “Because of your privilege, you have tremendous power,” she told them.

She taught her white students that they had the power to listen, to offer support to students of color, and to challenge the power structure that undermines people of color every day.

“The problem of racism isn’t the problem of black kids, it’s the problem of white kids and the white power structure. So I used to work with white kids to teach them how to listen to kids of color when they spoke up, to see their own privilege, to understand definitions of racism,” she said.

This is incredibly important because you can’t challenge what you don’t understand. You can’t fight a problem if you don’t realize it exists. And you can’t do either of those things if you don’t listen to and understand the stories of people who are suffering as a result of that problem.

Erdmann gave her students the tools to understand race and to understand different perspectives, and it changed everything.

Tatiana Fernandez, a former student, nominated Erdmann for an Olmsted Award in 2011. The prize awards exceptional secondary school teachers with $3,000 and their schools with $2,500 to be used as they see fit.

In her nomination letter, Fernandez said of Erdmann: “She always knew how to be a support for minority students in particular and recognized the importance of having difficult and sometimes uncomfortable discussions. Abby was the first person to teach me, as a Latina woman, about whiteness, and be open about things like white privilege, and she was the loudest advocate for those who are normally silenced.”

Erdmann won the Olmsted Award and used that money to start a new initiative, Race Reels, in which films are shown at school assemblies/gatherings to give students and educators a jumping-off point to engage in difficult conversations about race.

For Erdmann, there’s no shame in being white, but there is responsibility.

“Racism is a problem of the 21st century ... and if people like me don’t take it on then who is going to take it on? And it’s not up to black people to fix it; they didn’t make the system, and we’re benefitting,” she said.

She puts the onus on people of privilege, like herself, to dismantle the system.

And while she’s made her share of mistakes along the way, she doesn’t think that experiencing discomfort should mean retreating away from the problem.

She tells her white students, “Guilt is not helpful. Shame is not helpful. Action is.”

With the country so divided, teachers like Abby Erdmann matter. They give us hope for the next generation.

With so much talk around keeping refugees out, with children in poor communities drinking poisoned water, with black bodies strewn across the street, we can begin to feel helpless. Erdmann reminds us that we can make a difference, every day, and that's on us.

What can we do? We can speak up when we’ve been hurt. We can speak up when we see injustice. We can listen. We can be allies. Together, we can challenge what’s broken in our world through acts of empathy and compassion. Together, we can follow people like Erdmann and make this world a better place.

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The last thing children should have to worry about is where their next meal will come from. But the unfortunate reality is food insecurity is all too common in this country.

In an effort to help combat this pressing issue, KFC is teaming up with Blessings in a Backpack to provide nearly 70,000 meals to families in need and spread holiday cheer along the way.

The KFC Sharemobile, a holiday-edition charitable food truck, will be making stops at schools in Chicago, Orlando, and Houston in December to share KFC family meals and special gifts for a few select families to address specific needs identified by their respective schools.

These cities were chosen based on the high level of food insecurity present in their communities and hardships they’ve faced, such as a devastating hurricane season in Florida and an unprecedented winter storm in Houston. In 2021, five million children across the US lived in food-insecure households, according to the USDA.

“Sharing a meal with family or friends is a special part of the holidays,” said Nick Chavez, CMO of KFC U.S. “Alongside our franchisees, we wanted to make that possible for even more families this holiday season.”

KFC will also be making a donation to Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that works to provide weekend meals to school-aged children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

“The generous donations from KFC could not have come at a better time, as these communities have been particularly hard-hit this year with rising food costs, inflation and various natural disasters,” Erin Kerr, the CEO of Blessings in a Backpack, told Upworthy. “Because of KFC’s support, we’re able to spread holiday cheer by donating meals for hunger-free weekends and meet each community’s needs,” Kerr said.

This isn’t the first time KFC has worked with Blessings in a Backpack. The fried chicken chain has partnered with the nonprofit for the last six years, donating nearly $1 million dollars. KFC employees also volunteer weekly to package and provide meals to students in Louisville, Kentucky who need food over the weekend.

KFC franchisees are also bringing the Sharemobile concept to life in markets across the country through local food donations and other holiday giveback moments. Ampex Brands, a KFC franchisee based in Dallas, recently held its annual Day of Giving event and donated 11,000 meals to school children in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

If you’d like to get involved, you can make a donation to help feed students in need at kfc.com/kfcsharemobile. Every bit helps, but a donation of $150 helps feed a student on the weekends for an entire 38-week school year, and a donation as low as $4 will feed a child for a whole weekend.

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

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Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

This week's finds include an adorable baby's first 'Dada,' an appreciative delivery driver, an angel rocking out to 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' and more.

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Ho ho ho, happy humans!

It's that time of the week again, when we gather together the most smile-worthy tidbits of the past seven days and share them with you all. As the lucky person who gets to wrap them up in a nice, shiny, virtual bow, I'm delighted to tell you that this week's list is awesome. They always are—that's kind of the point—but this week I can practically guarantee you're going to be brimming with joy by the end.

Right out of the gate, we've got baby giggles. I mean, come on. Who can resist baby giggles?

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Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.

Moms don't have to be hard to shop for. Here are gifts she'll love.

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Every year, moms put on their elf hats and become Santa's helpers. They shop for and wrap the family's presents, cook the holiday meal, organize the crafts and even set out cookies for the big guy. They're so busy making the holiday season magical for their family that oftentimes they don't get any time to rest.

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