Discover more from LD Lewis—LEEP Ink Newsletter of Events
Interesting events and themes for April 2023
April is the month spring (or fall) gets underway, with a rare treat on April 20, 2023—a total solar eclipse featuring the perfect alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. The last time this happened was in 2013, and it won't happen again until 2031. Timor-Leste, Exmouth in Australia, and ships near each in the Indian Ocean will go completely black for a minute or longer.
Themes this month include Arab-American Heritage Month, Autism, International Black Women's History Month, Earth Month (and Earth Day, April 22), Jazz Appreciation Month, Mathematics & Statistics Awareness Month, Poetry Month, and Soyfoods Month.
Major religious holidays include Passiontide (April 2-9), Easter (April 9), Passover (April 5-13), Ramadan (March 22-April 21), and Eid Al-Fitr (April 22-25). I covered these in detail in last year's A Whole Lot'a Holy Part II.
Countries celebrating national holidays of merit include Liberty Day in Portugal (April 25, 1974) and Liberation Day in Uganda (April 11, 1979). Iran celebrates its Islamic Republic Day (April 1, 1979). Senegal celebrates Independence Day(April 4, 1960). Ireland marks the anniversary of the Easter Rebellion (April 24, 1916), and the Philippines celebrate Araw Ng Kagitingan, or the Day of Valor (April 9, 1942).
All in all, April features nearly 600 events. It is one of the more robust months of the year, and I chose an eclectic mix for this issue, ending with a spotlight on school shootings. Why such a morbid topic? As I updated the entry for the anniversary of Columbine in LEEP that I originally wrote in 2016, I re-ran the numbers for school shootings internationally. They're sobering and shocking. I felt they needed to be shared.
Ready for your April preview? Let's start with poetry.
POETRY AND THE CREATIVE MIND AWARDS
Date: April 26, 2023
Location: New York City, Lincoln Center, United States
Champion: Academy of American Poets
The Poetry and the Creative Mind Awards are a gala celebrating the vital role of poetry in culture and its impact on readers and artists everywhere. It features an array of actors, dancers, artists, musicians, and other public figures on stage, sharing their favorite pieces of poetry. Throughout the night, poets are honored in 12 categories, including awards for translations, student poetry, climate poetry, and its highest award, The Wallace Stevens Award recognizing outstanding and proven mastery in poetry.
The awards began in 1934 and continue attracting some of the world's most well-known celebrities, artists, writers, and poets. With each merit, winners are awarded between US$1,000 for the smallest to US$100,000 for The Wallace Stevens.
Dates: April 20 - May 1, 2023
Champion: Baha'i Religious Observance
Ridvan is the name for paradise in Iraq. In the Baha'i faith, the festival known as Ridvan celebrates the faith's founder, the prophet Baha'u'llah, who spent 12 days at Baghdad's Ridvan garden in 1863. At Ridvan, he proclaimed himself the messenger of God, and the faithful believe Baha'u'lla is the most recent manifestation of Him. The first, ninth, and twelfth days of Ridvan are considered holy and faith holidays for believers.
The Baha'i faith is a derivative of Shi'ite Islam. It shares a similar evolutionary path to Mormonism's emergence from Protestant Christianity during the mid-nineteenth century; each is consanguineous to traditional faiths but includes unique prophets, books, and traditions not shared within the originating faiths.
Ridvan is a key holiday for believers of the Baha'i faith. Though they evolved from Islam, Baha'is do not observe Ramadan. Rather, they have a multi-day fast in March each year.
JELLY BEAN DAY
Date: April 22, 2023
Champion: Unofficial Event. No Sponsor.
National Jelly Bean Day celebrates the American Civil War-era candy.
Jelly beans, originally "Boston beans," are a product of the American Civil War, introduced in 1861 by Boston candy maker William Schrafft. As part of his marketing campaign, he encouraged patrons to send jelly beans to troops in the Union army.
The first mention of jelly beans in the press was in an advertisement on July 5, 1905.
During the 1930s, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, and eggs became a staple of Easter celebrations. By the 1980s, jelly beans had achieved high office, with President Ronald Reagan insisting upon a bowl of jelly beans in his office.
Date: April 28 (Date may vary by country)
Champion: National Arbor Day Foundation
It was on January 4, 1872, Detroit native and journalist J. Sterling Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called "Arbor Day" at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture in Nebraska. He and his wife loved trees, and especially in the wind-prone areas of the American Midwest, the trees became essential in providing shelter, keeping soil secured, and for fuel.
After some debate, the first American Arbor Day occurred on April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for planting the most trees, with over one million trees planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.
In the United States, Arbor Day occurs on the last Friday in April in honor of J. Sterling Morton's birthday, April 22, 1832. Many nations celebrate their version throughout the year on different days.
BEAVER AWARENESS MONTH
Date: April 1-30
Location: United States
Champion: Beavers, Wetlands, and Wildlife
Beaver Awareness Month highlights the "engineers of the wild," the beaver, and educates people on this animal’s critical role in ecosystems.
Less than ten percent of the original North American and Eurasian beaver populations still exist. Beaver dams filter silt from streams, create watering holes and wetlands and connect streams and rivers to organic floodplains. Their absence has caused increased pollution, depleted estuaries, and reduced natural fertilization, which occurs with flooding.
Beaver Awareness Month began in 2022. International Beaver Day is April 7.
Date: April 14 , 2023
Location: United States
Champion: Historical Anniversary
The twenty minutes it took for the dust storm to pass is all it took to destroy millions of lives.
Heralded as the “worst manmade ecological disaster in American history,” the Dust Bowl plunged America’s heartland into the dark ages with violent winds, dust storms, and drought.
At the beginning of the 20th century, farmers dug up the natural grasslands and prairies, replacing the sawgrass and natural vegetation with wheat, corn, and barley. After years of drought, the topsoil disappeared, and the Great Plains evolved into a veritable desert.
April 14, 1935, started relatively normal with light breezes and moderate temperatures. By early afternoon, the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles would completely change. Temperatures dropped quickly, and to the southwest, a massive black wall appeared on the horizon. As it drew closer, it became clear what it was. Thousands of feet high and over 1000 miles in width, the wall of sand barreled over the land with the speed of a freight train, plowing through everything in its path. People caught in it found the dust so thick they could not see their hands before their faces.
Winds reached upwards of 60 mph (97 km/h). The air was thick with dirt—the sun snuffed out, and it was impossible to tell if it was night or day. The dust weighed heavy, crushing the lungs of cattle and clogging up water wells as the wind and sand blinded hundreds of people caught in the storm.
When it was all said and done, 2,209 people died, 396 of whom were children, and another two million people were displaced. Entire towns disappeared from the map, and the dust storm became known as Black Sunday.
BLUE FOREST BLOOM
Date: +/- April 7-25
Location: Hallerbos, Belgium
Champion: Hallerbos Nature Reserve
The Blue Forest Bloom features millions and millions of bluebells blooming at once in Hallerbros, Belgium. It’s a sea of blue melding with green in an ancient forest, attracting thousands of tourists yearly. You can check out the webcam for the best viewing time (usually active from late March). These flowers can be in full bloom as early as late March, with the middle of April the best time to see them.
Date: April 23, 2023
Champion: Spanish National Holiday; Historical origins.
Books & Roses
Lover's Day or National Book and Lover's Day has been a holiday in Spain since 1714. The tradition is for a woman to buy her love a book and for a man to buy his love roses—like Valentine's Day with a cerebral twist.
The event falls annually on the day following the death anniversary of writer Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote), April 22, 1616, and on the anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, April 23, 1616. It's also Saint George's Day. The books are a tribute to Cervantes and Shakespeare. The roses come from the legend of Saint George. He is said to have killed a dragon, and a red rose appeared from a drop of its blood.
Saint George the Dragonslayer
Saint George, "the Dragonslayer," or George of Lydda, is the patron saint of England. He was born into a wealthy Christian family in Turkey around 280 AD and lived until he was executed at age twenty-three.
In 303 AD, the Roman Empire grew increasingly concerned with the proliferation of Christianity and ordered all Christian soldiers expelled from its armed forces. The Emporer then required all remaining Roman soldiers to perform sacrifices to the pagan gods. Saint George, a soldier by this time, refused to relinquish his faith or participate in pagan rituals. George was martyred in Lyyda, Palestine (Lod, Israel since 1948) via beheading on April 23, 303.
Within the next forty years, the entirety of the Roman Empire would convert to Christianity following the conversion of Emperor Constantine just nine years later, in 312 AD.
The legend of Saint George would grow with the Eastern Orthodox churches. There it is said he saved the king of Libya's daughter from being sacrificed to a dragon in exchange for the population converting from paganism to Christianity. As a reward, the king built a church on the location where Saint George is said to have killed the dragon.
JUAN SANTAMARIA DAY
Date: April 11 , 2023
Location: Costa Rica
Champion: Historical Anniversary
The following is how Juan Santamaria became a hero in Costa Rica and throughout Central America.
Mercenary and American pro-slavery advocate William Walker saw that slavery would end soon in the United States. His answer was to overthrow and colonize Central American nations and establish slave-holding states to continue the practice. Walker briefly succeeded. Nicaragua was in the midst of a civil war when he arrived in 1855 with mercenaries. He recruited additional men from the local population and began engaging in the fight as the "Filibusters."
Within a few months, he took control of Nicaragua, running a fraudulent election that made him president for nearly ten months. Walker immediately revoked Nicaragua's emancipation act of 1821 and encouraged southern US slaveholders to relocate, with their slaves, to Central America. To expand his new slave state, he set his sights on Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
The three nations were not willing to play Walker's game and mounted a defense led by General José Joaquín Mora Porras and General José María Cañas. By 1856, an unlikely hero emerged during the second Battle of Rivas on April 11: Juan Santamaria.
Santamaria was a soldier, a peasant, and a patriot. Born in the village of Alajuela to an unwed mother, he hustled to make a living, selling sweets, working as a day laborer, coffee picker, and finally, as a lead drummer in the Costa Rican army.
On April 11, 1856, General Cañas of El Salvador surrounded Walker's men in a wooden fort. As long as the Filibusters remained in the fort, they held the high ground. Cañas decided to burn them out. Knowing it was likely a suicide mission, Santamaria volunteered after requesting his mother be cared for if he fell. The general agreed, so the young man grabbed a torch and ran toward the fort, setting it ablaze before a bullet found him and killed him.
Santamaria's single action of bravery is believed to have led to the defeat of the Filibusters, halted the expansion of slavery into the region, and assured the independence of Costa Rica. Juan Santamaria Day is a national holiday in Costa Rica and a day of celebration throughout the region.
APRIL SPORTING EVENTS
African U-17 Championship (Football); April 29; Algeria
Antiqua Sailing Week; April 29-May 5; Antigua
Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Auto Racing); April 28-30; Azerbaijan
Boston Marathon (Running); April 17, United States
European Championships (Weightlifting); April 15-23; Armenia
Final Four (Basketball); April 1-3; United States
Frozen Four (Ice Hockey); April 6-8; United States
Grand National (Horse Racing); April 15; United Kingdom
London Marathon (Running); April 23; United Kingdom
Masters Tournament (Golf); April 6-9; United States
Paris Marathon (Running); April 2; France
Triathlon World Championships (Endurance); April 29-May 7; Spain
Women’s Finalissima (Football); April 6; United Kingdom
World Cup Series (Pentathlon); April 25-30; Hungary
World Snooker Championship; April 15-May 1; United Kingdom
Wrestle Mania (Wrestling); April 1-2; United States
COLUMBINE MASSACRE & THE ALARMING INCREASE IN SCHOOL SHOOTINGS
Date: April 20,  2023
Location: United States
Champion: Historical Anniversary
On April 20, 1999, two students from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, United States, entered the school, heavily armed, and proceeded to murder twelve of their classmates and a teacher. The two shooters then shot themselves. The event, known as the Columbine Massacre, shocked the American public and became an ominous foretelling of future events.
When did school shootings start?
On November 12, 1840, University of Virginia law student Joseph Semmes shot and killed his professor John Anthony Gardner Davis. That is the first known school shooting in the US.
The first known school shooting at an American K-12 school occurred in 1853. Former student Matthews F. Ward murdered teacher William Butler. Ward was "defending" his brother's honor after he had been disciplined the day before.
Until the 1960s, school shootings were usually individual disputes with 0-2 fatalities, like the above—until August 1, 1966, when a gunman climbed onto the observation deck at the University of Texas at Austin. For the next 96 minutes, he picked people off with a sniper rifle, killing 17 and wounding 31.
Columbine shocked Americans and heightened awareness of school shootings in the United States. Since Columbine, school shootings have become more frequent.
Some of the worst school shootings in history include
Sandy Hook (US-CT)—December 14, 2012—26 killed
École Polytechnique (CA-QC)—December 6, 1989—14 women killed
Dunblane (UK)—March 13, 1996—18 killed
Uvalde (US-TX)—May 24, 2022—21 killed
Virginia Tech (US-VA)—April 16, 2007—32 killed
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (US-FL)—February 14, 2018—17 killed
Erfurt (DE)—April 26, 2002—16 killed
Winnenden (DE)—March 11, 2009—16 killed
Realengo (BR-RJ)—April 7, 2011—12 killed
Azerbaijan State Oil Academy (AZ)—April 30, 2009—12 killed
Historically, the three worst school shootings were politically motivated, organized terrorist attacks.
Chechnyan terrorists attacked the elementary school in Beslan, Russia, on September 1, 2004, killing 333 people; over half were children.
The Taliban attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, on December 16, 2014. With guns and grenades, they killed 145 people.
Al-Shabaab attack on Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, on April 3, 2015, killing 147 people.
Have school shootings increased?
The short answer is yes, particularly in the United States—one could say exponentially.
During the decade of the 1970s, in the United States, there were 29 school shootings, the worst being Cal-State, Fullerton, with seven dead and two injured.
During the 1980s, there were 40 school shootings.
The 1990s experienced 63 school shootings, including Columbine.
Between 2000 and 2009, another 60 school shootings occurred.
Between 2010 and December 2019, the number of school shootings in the United States reached 427.
Between January 1, 2020, and June 2022, the United States experienced 504 school shootings despite over 30 percent of schools nationwide being closed for a portion of 2020-2021 due to COVID-19.
As school shootings have drastically increased in the United States, legislatures in conservative states have made gun ownership easier. Opponents argue such laws are counter-intuitive, stating that school shootings will continue to rise as access to guns becomes easier and safeguards such as training, requiring permits, background checks, limiting magazine size and waiting periods fall by the wayside. Most guns used in crime within the US and Mexico originate in American states with lax gun laws. They're bought "legally" and smuggled into other states with strict gun laws or into the nation of Mexico, where they are harder to come by.
The United States continues to lead the world in school shootings, gun ownership, and gun deaths.
America's affinity for guns is the number one question/concern people raise with me overseas. For more information, see this excerpt from the March 3, 2023, episode of The Problem with Jon Stewart. The segment highlights the political issues applying to gun ownership in the US, the circular logic of lawmakers, and why Americans get so loopy about their guns.
Thanks for sharing your time with me, and I hope you found this issue informative. Please share, like, and I love comments if you have the time. The next issue of LEEP Happenings will either cover events in May 2023 or Funky Fundraisers. It depends on which issue I finish first. Until next time!