Mia Shelton

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The Dignity in Dying

Imagine being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Your faculties start failing you slowly; your eyesight, then you motor ability. You start forget names and people. You need help eating and walking. You are in constant pain and don’t see and ending near. You are desperate for relief, but you know the pain it would cause your family. This is what many people’s life is like who is suffering from one illness or another. For many the only way they believe they can get relief is if they die. They make the decision that they can’t go on with this pain any longer. They are on a downward slope and it will never incline. They consult their doctor and make the decision to end this pain and suffering forever.

Physician-assisted suicide is a topic that sparks much debate. Many feel it is inhumane and cruel, others feel like doing this will hinder their loved ones chances of entering their internal resting place, while the remaining support the idea because they don’t want their loved one to suffer at the hands of their selfish desire to keep them alive. I think about this topic a lot because two years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I think about how I would feel if she told me she wanted to turn to physcian-assisted suicide. I know she would be in pain, but I want to call her every day and hug her on her birthday. However, I don’t want her to suffer. Even if she did want to do it, she couldn’t because it’s not legal in North Carolina.

Physcian-assisted suicide is only legal in five states; Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, and Montana. Patients must also meet certain criteria to be a candidate for doctor assisted suicide. Individuals must have a terminal illness as well as a prognosis of six months or less to live. The specific method in each state varies, but mainly involves a prescription from a licensed physician approved by the state in which the patient is a resident.

Many people are in support of physcian-assisted suicide and believe that everyone has a right to decide how and when they die. There is a campaign called “Dignity in Dying,” that fights for the right for UK citizens to have the option of physician-assisted suicide. Due to the fact that many people are against physician-assisted suicide, legalization is hard. On the “Campaign for Dignity in Dying” website there are many stories from terminally ill people who can’t qualify for physician-assisted suicide. Hearing their stories makes me hurt for them. One man’s story really touched my heart. UK citizen Noel Conway tells his story of being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

“I have the classic form, which is known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The life expectation for ALS is 2 to 5 years from the date of diagnosis. However, I know that my symptoms began at least two years before this date when I started losing weight, felt a pain in my lower back and increasingly began to have difficulty walking.”

The news got harder for Noel when he learned from his doctor that he only had six months to live.

“The consultant had to been frank and given me all the information that was then known about MND. He said I had between six and 18 months to live though it could be longer or shorter.” Noel started considering physician-assisted suicide after learning this but was met with many obstacles.

“I’m aware of the ferocious opposition to any change in the law by disability groups, though not necessarily by disabled people themselves.”

“Seeking to end one’s life when one is terminally ill with six months or less to live is quite obviously not the same as saying disabled people have less value than others. I do not accept the view that if there were a change in the law this would create overwhelming pressure on elderly people to agree to an assisted death to avoid being a burden on society.”

“The changes we are proposing require an individual to proactively request help with end of life and judicial oversight to confirm there is no undue external pressure on him or her. To argue, as some have, that the moral climate will have been so tipped to place indirect pressure on people is spurious and hypothetical and not borne out by practice in those countries where there is such a law.”

Many people like Noel have to struggle and fight for their right to decide to stop suffering. wBy allowing this option to people, we are giving them the best gift we can give them, freedom.

The Painful Secrets Behind the Passion

It’s an amazing feelings, going out on a first date with a handsome guy. You have so much in common. He is sweet, charismatic, and funny. One date turns into three, then five, then seven, now you are exclusive and you tell everyone you know that you have a boyfriend/significant other. Months go by, you are in a blissful haze of love, lust, and joy, and you think nothing can go wrong. Soon the honeymoon phase is over and you notice a side to your partner that you never have before. A side of jealousy, rage, and possessiveness. Then one day an argument goes too far and you get hit. You are shocked, scared, and numb. You don’t know what to think. They say it was an accident, they didn’t mean it and it will never happen again. You work through it because you love them. A few months go by and it happens again, then again, soon it becomes a habit. They stop apologizing and tell you, “you shouldn’t have made them angry, or you brought on yourself.” This becomes your life. You don’t know how you got here, how could a relationship that started out so great and a partner that loved and cherished you, turn so abusive and oppressive. This is a reality for a lot of teen relationships and it needs to change.

February is teen dating violence awareness month. Many people put a big focus on day Black History and ironically Valentine’s day when it comes to February. Both of which are important, everyone deserves to be loved and a day devoted to just how much someone loves them and everyone, especially the black community, needs to learn about and celebrate the history of this country. However, teen dating violence is something that needs to be addressed because it affects the lives of many teenagers and young adults. Teen dating violence (TDV) is defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teenaged dating partners, occurring in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and digital. Every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner. 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt by a boyfriend/girlfriend. Across studies, 15-40% of youth report perpetrating some form of violence towards a dating partner.

Crystal Sanchez, a teen dating survivor, shared her story in an entry to the Huff Post. “My story begins at the age of 14 and continues off and on until I was 22. I found out that he had cheated on me again. I broke up with him during lunchtime. He became enraged. After class had begun, I heard the door swing open, which was at the front of the classroom. He stayed at the door and looked toward the teacher and said to him in front of the whole class, ‘I need to speak to that fucking whore right there.’ He pointed at me, then he turned to me and said, ‘Bitch, get your fucking stupid ass out here now.’ I walked out because I was mortified. I never imagined such shame and at 15 years old, understood it even less. As we walked down the hall, he spit in my face, pulled my necklace off my neck, threw it in the trashcan and he threw me up against the lockers. He threatened me. It was in those moments when I felt most alone. It was those incidents that left long-lasting emotional scars.  My dignity was stripped and self-worth eroded. I began believing I deserved the abuse, and thought everybody else believed I was who he said I was. The hell became so familiar that it was easier to stay rather than leave. It was easier to live with the shame and guilt in secrecy. It was easier to stay and suffer in private than to try to leave and be humiliated in public.”

“I tried to leave a few times, he would threaten to commit suicide, or worse. The relationship took an emotional toll to the point where I was getting severe panic attacks. I ended up in the hospital a few times and was put in counseling but I never spoke about the abuse. I didn’t want anybody to know. I lied for and about him. I told nobody. Nobody knew I had been threatened with a gun. Nobody knew I had been punched so hard I was almost knocked out. Nobody knew about the head butts each time he didn’t agree with something I did or didn’t do. Nobody knew about the many deliberate close call, head-on collisions while he was threatening to ‘kill us both.

“After almost eight years of abuse, I knew I had to leave. Not because of some fight or big blowout, I was just done. I was tired.  I can’t explain it. I just didn’t want to feel that way any longer. It took many years to repair the mental and emotional damage, but I’m here to say that it is possible. I am not bitter or resentful, I forgave him the day I left, but I knew I wanted more out of life. Although I had been stripped of all remnants of self-worth, I found an ounce of esteem that told me I deserved better.”

“In those moments, I desperately needed somebody who understood. Somebody who could guide me back to myself, my voice, and my truth. But I chose to keep my secret hidden, I chose to protect the people I loved, I chose to find my own way. It took years to heal, but I did it. I found my voice and rebuilt my foundation on self-acceptance and self-love. I now live an extraordinary life full of purpose, with a grand vision to change the world.  I have married the man of my dreams which would not have been possible if I hadn’t worked to change my beliefs about myself. Today, my mission is to help survivors of domestic violence reclaim their power, forgive themselves, repair their brokenness, heal their soul, and discover their magic. For all of those times he said I was ugly and worthless, I have made it my mission. For all of those times he called me a tramp and a whore, I have made it my mission. All of those times he felt strong because I looked weak, only made me stronger. And for all those times he tried to strip me of my spirit and I felt I had no value, I made it my mission.”

Many people have been through or are going through a relationship like Crystal’s. It goes unnoticed because a lot of times, people don’t know the signs of teen dating violence. There are five warning signs that tell whether or not a teen or young adult is involved in an abusive relationship; extreme mood swings, isolation, physical harm, bad grades and sexual activity. If we start to educate ourselves about teen dating violence and how to identify it and prevent it, we could keep teens and young adults safe.

Another reason people don’t know that a teen is involved in an abusive relationship is because they keep it to themselves. Like Crystal said, it was easier to keep quiet and deal with what was going on than to tell. This has to change as well. No one will know that you need help if you don’t tell them. There are many different ways to ask for and get help. One way is to call the police. Telling the police can be a very beneficial because at the least it starts a paper trail. By telling the police you start a log of events that can later be used for your defense. Also by telling the police you can press charges that can range from assault, battery or domestic violence. The consequences of this for the inflictor are jail time, fines and a criminal record. If you don’t want to call the police, you can file a restraining order from the court, which guarantees that they can’t come within a certain distance for you or your property, which will keep you safe.  You can also file a personal injury claim, which is where you are given money to pay for injuries and harm you suffered from the abuse including; medical bills, rehabilitation, emotional stress etc. Ask for help. No one deserves to be beaten or berated. Its only half the battle to get people to help and support you, the other half is asking and accepting it.

Teen dating violence is something many teens and young adults are experiencing and it is unacceptable. People need to know that they can’t put their hands on their partner. We need to be more aware of this situation. I know that people have this mind set of  staying in their own lanes and not getting involved, but this is the time to merge. We need to help these victims and help prevent others from going through the same. There are many resources available to provide information and support to victims and assist service providers and communities to decrease the prevalence of dating violence among young people. Anyone can make this happen by raising awareness about the issue, saying something about abuse when you see it can make a difference. Everyone deserves love, but no one deserves to be abused.

Retroactive: The Pop Culture that Shaped Us

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Jeffrey Kopp (A&E Editor)

Movie: “Tarzan” (1999) – This is a film that hits me in the feels every single time that I watch it. The soundtrack by Phil Collins adds so much emotional depth to the movie; “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be in My Heart” are the definite standouts. This is by far my favorite Disney movie of all time; just thinking about it makes me want to find my copy of the VHS tape and take a trip back to the jungle.

Song: “Hey Ya!” (2003) by OutKast– The lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture” has been repeating on a loop in my head since 2003. The catchy beat immediately transports me back to the simpler times of elementary school; the deeper meaning behind the song flew over my head as a child, but I’ve been able to appreciate it more as an adult. This is a song that has stood the test of time and is definitely one of my all time favorites.

TV Show: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-Present) –  Every generation has something that culturally defines them. In the case of millennials, that is Nickelodeon’s most iconic cartoon. I have so many fond memories of watching “SpongeBob” with my parents and friends, laughing at the absurd scenarios and jokes that have evolved into memes in recent years. Without any doubt, “Pizza Delivery” and “Band Geeks” are two of the greatest episodes in television history.

“Breakaway” album cover courtesy of Walt Disney/RCA

Stephanie Trefzger (Assistant A&E Editor)

Movie: “Twister” (1996) – Granted, I only saw this movie once as a child, but it probably had the biggest impact on my life.  It scared the absolute hell out of me, and I had nightmares about tornadoes ripping through my house. In an attempt to assuage my fears, my mother encouraged me to learn more about tornadoes, and suddenly I was obsessed with weather.  Despite the science in the movie being outdated, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inspire a love and fascination for storm chasing in me to this day, and it has been my dream job for the better part of my life. If only my mother would let me.

Song: “Breakaway” (2004) by Kelly Clarkson – I love drama, and this song, as well as the album by the same name is full of it.  When I was in the car and I heard the opening notes, I would immediately stare out the window like Clarkson describes and acted like I was in a music video.  This album is also part of the reason I have trust issues; upon its release in 2004, it was the only Christmas gift I asked for from my parents. My dad, however, bought 2003’s “Thankful.”  While this is an excellent album, I felt disappointed and betrayed.

TV Show: “Shark Week” (1988-Present) – Ok, so this is more an annual event than an actual TV show, but I got super hyped for it every year (and still do).  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I have always loved the ocean, and after my disillusionment with dolphins, I became enamored with sharks instead. Due to my obsessive nature, I learned and accumulated enough knowledge about them over the last few years that I am able to take the fun out of any shark movie fairly quickly.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Hunter Heilman (Editor-in-Chief)

Movie: “She’s the Man” (2006) – At the time, “She’s the Man” was basically the funniest film I had ever seen in my entire life. This 2006 teen adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was Amanda Bynes at her most charming, the 2000s at their most iconic, and teen comedies at their most genuine. Everything about this movie is peak nostalgia and perfect memories of a much simpler time.

Song: “The ABBA Generation” (1999) by A*Teens– There is no album I have listened to and loved more in my life than Swedish pop group the A*Teens’ 1999 debut album, The ABBA Generation. Comprised of nothing but ABBA covers, I was exposed to the magic of both teen pop and disco music all in one go. Personal favorites of the album are “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” the latter of which still remains my favorite music video of all time. I love this album so much I can get emotional over it.

TV Show: “What I Like About You” (2002-2006)– I had a bit of a thing for Amanda Bynes when I was younger, as I simply found her to be the funniest person working in media targeted to people my age. I didn’t discover “What I Like About You” until shortly after it was canceled in 2006, but like “She’s the Man,” it showcased Bynes’ talents as more than just a child star. The chemistry in the hilarious cast and absolute lunacy of much of the show’s plot only cemented it more as my favorite sitcom ever.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Kathleen Cook (Sports Editor)

Movie: “The Lion King” (1994)– I loved the songs and the characters – Timon was my favorite. I’ve actually never watched the scene where the dad dies though.

Song: “Come in Eileen” (1982) by Dexys Midnight Runners– I thought it was actually “Come on Kathleen,” because my mom would always sing “Kathleen.” I was heartbroken when I first heard the song without my mom singing it and realized it was Eileen and not Kathleen.

TV Show: “Dragon Tales” (1999-2005)– I had the stuffed animals for all of the characters and had a dance routine I would do to their song.

Album art courtesy of Universal Records.

Alex Sands (News Editor)

Movie: “Beethoven” (1992)– I had three St. Bernards growing up and they all were as crazy as Beethoven in this film. They’re big slobbery messes with really big hearts and lots of love. The film is not only a nostalgic early 90s film, but it hits home.

Song: “Leave (Get Out)” (2004) by JoJo– I recently rediscovered this banger song. The only problem is the real version is not on Spotify. So whenever I want to listen to it in the car, I force myself to listen to D-Money’s remix. You may ask “Who is D-Money?” I don’t know, but he should stop rapping.

TV Show: “Lizzie McGuire” (2001-2004)– I would like to give a shout out to Bitmoji for fulfilling my childhood dream of having my own animated version of myself like Lizzie McGuire. I was a die-hard Hilary Duff fan when I was kiddo and watched the episodes over and over. To this day, I still ship her and Gordo.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Josh Worley (Video Editor)

Movie: “Gone With The Wind” (1940)– Growing up, I first remember watching this movie with my grandma. The movie takes place in a time period that I am most fond of from a historical perspective.

Song: “Africa” (1982) by Toto– Whoever says it’s not, can choke.

TV Show: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)- The greatest cartoon to ever grace this universe. There were deep moments that, when you were a kid you didn’t really think about, but they hit home now.

Photo courtesy of Jive Records.

Hailey Turpin (Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Peter Pan” (1953)– I wanted to be apart of Peter’s Lost Boys and I would jump off the couch to try to fly like him. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Song: “Oh Aaron” (2001) and “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” (2001) by Aaron Carter– My sister and I religiously listened to Aaron Carter back in the 2000’s. I have no other words besides talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique.

TV Show: “The Fairly Odd Parents” (2001-Present) and “My Life As A Teenage Robot” (2003-2009)– As an elementary school kid I was very particular about the shows I watched, and those two were the most interesting to me! The graphics and storylines were so good, and still are. I will always love Chip Skylark.

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Pooja Pasupula (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Toy Story” (1995)– While Toy Story is not my number one favorite Pixar movie, it’s the movie that always reminds me of my childhood and brings me the most nostalgia. This movie was always playing on every TV when I was a child and there are so many iconic characters and scenes encased in it. It made childhood seem like the best thing ever to be apart of. The whole series is centered around the inescapable circumstance of growing up, and being hit with that inevitability as a child was always hard for me. The whole series brings back memories of clinging to childhood and not wanting things to change.

Song: “… Baby One More Time” (1998) by Britney Spears– A timeless classic that never fails to make me smile or sing along. I was never exposed to music as a child and when my aunt found out she started to play Spears’ album around the tiny townhome she shared with my family. It’s the first song I have any memory of. At the age of four, I had no concept of what dancing was, so I would skip around our townhome to the beat of this song as my way to jam along to it. Hearing this song throws me back to that memory and the nostalgia of what the 90’s/early 2000’s era felt like.

TV Show: “Teen Titans” (2003-2006)– I’ve always been enamored with superheroes and watching this show as a child was what sparked my adoration for them. While Wonder Woman and Batman have been my core favorites for most of my life, the Teen Titans were my first love. I used to feel very vulnerable and helpless as a child, but watching teen superheroes kick ass gave me hope to one day be as strong and brave as they are. They were who I looked up to and idolized.

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video.

Leysha Caraballo (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Elf” (2003)– Watching “Elf” every Christmas season with my family was one of my favorite traditions growing up. Will Ferrell is so over the top ridiculous, as usual, but in a heartwarming way in this movie.

Song: “Numb” (2003) by Linkin Park– Linkin Park’s “Numb” showed me that music didn’t have to fit the pop music mold. I may have been a bit melodramatic, but I connected to the sound and message of the music. They were my absolute favorite band throughout my adolescence.

TV Show: “That’s So Raven” (2003-2007)– This show never got old for me, to the point where I watched multiple all-day marathons. Raven had sass, attitude and confidence – all of my favorite things!

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Mia Shelton (Opinion Editor)

Movie: Seventeen Again” (2000)– Not the one with Zac Efron, but the one with Tia and Tamera Mowry. I loved this movie because it was a unique and fun concept; grandparents using soap that their grandson accidently spilled his science experiment on that makes them seventeen again was fun to watch. I also love Tia and Tamera and seeing them on television and acting started my passion for acting. Also the grandfather is very cute when he turns seventeen.

Song: Circle of Life” (2004) by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars– I loved it because it had all of my favorite actors and actresses sing in the song like Raven Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Hilary Duff, Tahj Mowrey and many more. Hearing their unique voices combined on one of Disney’s greatest song from its most notorious movie was very moving and fun to sing along to.

TV Show: Kenan and Kel” (1996-2000)– I loved this show, because they always made laugh. Kel’s obsession with orange soda and Kenan’s elaborate plans to make money made my stomach hurt from laughing.

Photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

Emily Hickey (Managing Editor)

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)– When I was four, I watched it every day for a year and insisted that my mom dress me up in my Dorothy dress and put my hair in the two braids. Every time I watch it now I am reminded of my childhood love for the movie and for the amazing soundtrack (that I still know by heart).

Song: “Landslide” (1975) by Fleetwood Mac– My aunt used to burn her favorite songs onto CD’s and give them to my mom, and as soon as my sisters and I listened to “Landslide,” it was immediately our favorite song and has been throughout our lives. When I was three, I put on a performance of the song in front of all of my extended family.

TV Show: “Ghost Whisperer” (2005-2010)– Starting in elementary school, every Friday my dad and I would watch the new episode aired at 8 p.m. Despite after a few years it scared me too much to continue watching it, it’s still my favorite because of the time spent with my dad.

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox.

Daniel Head (Technical Director)

Movie: “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)– Duh! I watched this movie and fell in love with the “Star Wars” universe. I was obsessed with the idea of intergalactic travel and warfare, and loved the characters. Everything about the movie was great to me, and I’m still obsessed with “Star Wars.”

Song: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (2005) by Panic! At the Disco– I loved the sound song, and pretty much all of my friends did too. Just singing along with all my friends makes it memorable.

TV Show: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)– I grew up with it and, again, I was obsessed with science fiction and the characters. I think that just the depth of the characters and the universe was enough to make me look forward to next week’s episode; to see some awesome new world, new alien race, or new piece of technology. A good plot was just the cherry on top for me back then.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Angie Baquedano (Assistant Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Hercules” (1997)– I love Disney and I practically grew up on it, and when they introduced the movie they brought in my love for Greek mythology. The music was exceptional and I had the BIGGEST crush on Hercules (or should I say HUNK-ules).

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) by Elvis– I’ve had this really weird obsession with him since I was a kid. I can’t explain why or how this happened, but it did and I’m actually his wife, so…surprise.

TV Show: “Rocket Power,” (1999-2004) “Cat Dog” (1998-2005) and “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)– It might be impossible for me to choose just one for this. Apart from being a Disney kid, I was definitely a Nickelodeon child.

Album art courtesy of RCA Records/Columbia Records.

Madison Dobrzenski (Assistant Opinion Editor)

Movie: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)– I loved this movie so much as a kid, and to this day I can’t really explain why. I think it’s just because I also didn’t experience a lot of snow, so I empathized with them? I also loved anything Brenda Song was in when I was a kid, so that might have had something to do with it.

Song: “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne– I used to blare this song with my friends when I was in elementary school, despite being absolutely no one’s love interest, because we were like 12. I can still throw down to it to this day.

TV Show: “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (2005-2008)– I loved this show for a lot of reasons. One, there was a smart character with the same name as me. Secondly, I always felt “different” because the show paints Zack out to be the cute and cool twin, but I had a crush on Cody.

Blackout at the Golden Globes

Globes red carpet experienced a blackout. Many stars were banding together in search of all-black dresses and outfits to make a statement against the epidemic of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and beyond. the coordinated wardrobe effort was part of a campaign called Time’s Up. With more than 300 figures in the entertainment industry signed on. The initiative aims to fight sexual harassment, assault and inequality for women in all kinds of workplaces. The campaign has raised more than $15 million for a legal defense fund for people who have experienced workplace harassment and is encouraging Globes attendees and supporters everywhere to wear black as a show of unity and power.

Actress Eva Longoria gave this statement to the New York Times about the blackout, “this is a moment of solidarity, not a fashion moment,” she said, “For years, we’ve sold these awards shows as women, with our gowns and colors and our beautiful faces and our glamour. This time the industry can’t expect us to go up and twirl around. That’s not what this moment is about.

Meryl Streep told Ryan Seacrest of E! News that she wore black to stand in solidarity with others trying to right the power imbalance that leads to sexual abuse. “We want to fix that and we feel sort of emboldened in this particular moment to stand together in a thick black line.”

Many designers were asked to remake originally chosen dresses in black. One such designer was Naeem Khan, “this was a big challenge,” he said. “The logistics of making it and shipping are tough, but I know will be worth it. The gown has been redesigned in a way that is specific to her personality and the empowered message we’re sending for the evening.”

Despite the major financial success and support the blackout produced for the Time’s Up campaign, there is some controversy on whether or not the blackout actually did its job. XX Factor writer Christina Cauterucci believed the protest fell flat. “If all Time’s Up does is raise a few dozen millions for legal defense funds and encourage famous women to sass red-carpet reporters about sexism, it will have done good. But any lasting change will require the participation of men who, as my colleague Willa Paskin noted, barely addressed the protest at all on Sunday and the capacity to sustain their momentum after the black dresses go back in the closet and the memory of Weinstein, God willing, fades. A movement that kicks off with wardrobe coordination risks mutating into a meaningless trend.”

Actress Rose McGowan had also had some not so nice feelings about the Blackout tweeting: “Your silence is the problem, “you’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change.” in tweet directed at Meryl Streep and other actors last month who she criticized for failing to speak out earlier and louder.

Pret-a-Reporter writer Sarah Gidick also felt the blackout missed the mark. “I am a sexual assault survivor who once exclusively wore black. I’m one of the lucky ones — my rapist is in jail. Black was my color of choice for years. I was mourning the person I once was, hiding my body from men. Black sunglasses, black leather jackets, black eyeliner. It sent people a message: “Stay away.” Black goes perfectly with shame. I simply matched the darkest period of my life. Part of my own therapy included learning how to wear color again. I find “solidarity” an interesting word choice when it comes to assault, because nothing is more isolating than being raped. I haven’t observed any tangible change in this fact in the last five years. When Rose McGowan called out actresses planning to wear black to the Globes, I agreed with her. I wonder how many of these actresses who are wearing black have ever spoken to anyone who has experienced abuse and assault. I wonder if these celebrities know about the all-consuming darkness a rape survivor has to learn to see through, or why some of the actresses participating have depicted some of the most triggering scenes in film and television for abuse victims? Is this red-carpet blackout a meaningful moment that will truly make a profound statement, or just a Hollywood stunt?”

I loved that everyone, men and women came together in unity to show support for an issue that needs to be resolved. As a person who has fallen victim to sexual assualt, any support and recognition given to this is better than acting like it never happened. this whole protest was to draw attention to the problem and let victims knows that people hear them and are here to help draw attention to this problem. This blackout is just the beginning. Victims will no longer be silenced and powerful men will not get away with using and abusing their power to exploit and disrespect women. Our voices will be heard!

Jay Z Kills Spectrum

“Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name HOV!” On Nov. 16, Jay Z rocked the house at Spectrum Arena. The legendary Brooklyn rap artist took the stage and brought down the house. Reciting songs from recently released album “44:4” along with his other hits songs like “99 Problems,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulders,” “Empire State of Mind” and “Run This Town.” This concert was amazing and significantly better than his Magna Carter tour, partly because the album was better. HOV’s stage was spectacular, cascading platforms and screens that moved throughout the show. As he took the stage, the screens moved into each other to create a border shaped like diamonds, which, of course, is the sign of Roc Nation. His opening video montage had somewhat disturbing pictures of him in his track suit and gold chain with his eyes slowly being burned out by flames. Then on another screen was just a picture of his face with his mouth slowly being burned out. He came out with orange and red smoke resembling fire performing “Kill Jay Z.” The crowd went crazy.

He had two other video montages incorporated in the show that played during his wardrobe changes. They consisted of the areas around Brooklyn, family moments with his wife and daughter and a looped moment during his wedding where his wife, the legendary Beyonce, walked down the aisle with rose petals falling. Throughout the show he would talk to the audience, giving words of encouragement, “love always trumps hate, you can achieve anything you want to achieve.” He also took a moment to talk about the violence going on in the black community and explained why many are kneeling or put their fists up during the national anthem. “When you see people kneeling and putting up their fists, it’s not about disrespect for the flag, it’s about injustice. It’s about young people losing their lives and being senselessly murdered by people who are supposed that’s supposed to protect, that’s what that all about. It’s not just a black and what issue, it’s a human issue. A sixteen-year-old left house and didn’t come back… was murdered, everyone should be affected no matter what color you are. If you aren’t affected, then somethings wrong with you.”

There is no way you can go to a Jay Z concert and not get so hyped up that you forget your manners and you start standing up in chairs to show him just how hype you are. That was the reality for one fan on the floor. He was so hyped he got up on a chair and started jamming, but of course, security will not allow you to have senseless, dangerous fun, so they tried to intervene, much to Jay’s dislike, he stopped performing to tell security to back off, “you get paid to be here he don’t, he took money out of his pocket to be here, don’t do that.” This is Jay’s reaction anytime security get involved during his shows. During his Magna Carter tour, he told security to stand down because he was about the instruct the crowd to stand up in the chairs and get crazy when he played “Ni**as in Paris.”

It is never a dull moment at a Jay Z concert. This concert gets a 5 out of 5 in my book. It had great energy, a great performer who gave everything and more in his performance, memorable moments and great music. This is what a good rap concert looks like. If you haven’t gone to a Jay Z concert, I sincerely encourage you to make an investment very soon, you won’t be disappointed.

The featured image used in this article is by Matthew Harrison. His original photo can be found at the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/matthew_harrison/4056536709

Texas Terror

Walking into church on a Sunday morning, ready to come together with family and friends. Ready to sing songs, clap, dance even shout if it comes. Then, shots fired, people screaming, babies crying panic ensues. This was the scene last Sunday when 26-year-old Devin Kelley, former Air Force airman, opened fire on worshipers in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. With 26 people dead and others wounded, now is better time than any to start praying. Kelley had a history of abuse and misconduct. According to Kelley’s ex-wife, Tessa Brennaman, he had hatred inside him and also threatened to kill her whole family. “He just had a lot of demons or hatred inside him. He had a gun in his holster right here and took that gun out and he put it to my temple and he told me, ‘Do you want to die? Do you want to die?’” this was the statement Brennaman told Inside Edition about Kelley. Brennaman also told Inside Edition about the time 2013 when he choked her, pulled her hair and kicked her. He also abused his young son, hitting in the head and body and fractured his skull. All things Kelley pleaded guilty to. Kelley was sentenced to 12 months in confinement for the incident and was discharged from the Air Force.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

These kinds of incidents happen far too often. For example, the Las Vegas shooting on October, 1st, where Stephen Paddock opened fire at a concert on the Las Vegas strip, killed 58 people. Another incident, the Charleston church shooting in 2015, where Dylann Roof opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Church, killing nine. The list is endless. People today feel that they have to right to take people’s lives because they don’t like their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender or just because they feel like it. A big reason for these constant string of shootings is the fact that anyone with the right amount of money and right color skin can buy a gun. No one does thorough background checks on buyers, or checks to see if they have a history of mental illness. That is how all of these demented sociopaths and psychos get guns, or the case of Devin Kelley, the Air Force just forgets to enter their criminal history into the federal database, making it possible for him to walk into any run of the mill gun shop and buy a gun, or in his case, a Ruger AR-556 rifle and two hand guns. We need a change! People are so quick to jump down your throat and get angry when we say we want more gun control, this is why! People can’t do simple things like, go to church or have fun a concert without coming home, dead, injured or traumatized. From now on I guess we need to put disclaimers everywhere saying, “hey, go to church, sing, dance, shout, converse with friends, but make sure to wear your bulletproof vest and don’t forget to duck because you might get shot!”

In response to the tragedy President Trump had this to say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today’s murderous attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This horrible act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they loved. Our hearts are broken. But in dark times such as these, Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms, and through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong. My Administration is providing its full support to the state and local authorities investigating this horrible crime. I have spoken with Governor Abbott, and we offer our thanks to the first responders who ultimately stopped the suspect and rendered immediate and lifesaving aid to the victims of this shooting. I will continue to follow developments closely. All of America is praying to God to help the wounded and the families. We will never leave their side.” Out of that entire well thought out and heartfelt speech, there was nothing in about what President Trump or his Administration where going to do about gun control and how to make sure things like this don’t happen. We need a better vetting process. We need to make sure that people are being thoroughly checked out to make sure we aren’t selling guns to people with mental health issues or criminal backgrounds. We also need do our jobs and make sure to put a person’s criminal history in the federal database, so we don’t accidently sell the wrong person a gun. Of course, there are always other ways for people to get guns undetected. However, we are making sure to hire the right people who are selling our guns and thoroughly vet the people buying them, these incidents can be lessened. Let’s make America safe again.

I Prevail: Rage on the Stage


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

When the bass is so deep down your throat, you can barely swallow and the screeching of the singers that resembles that of the Predator is drilling its way into your ear drums, you know you are at a rock concert. I Prevail is a rock band from Rochester Hills, Michigan that consists of five members, Brain Burkheiser (clean vocals), Eric Vanlerberghe (unclean vocals), Steve Memoian (guitar), Jordan Berger (guitar) and Lee Runestad (drums).  Their “Rage on the Stage” concert was the perfect concert for a person with little to no knowledge of rock music, like me. Once you get past the demonic vocal outbursts and ground shaking bass, you start to appreciate the phenomenal instrumentals and enthusiastic performing. As a person who is new to rock music and unfamiliar with the experience and atmosphere, I was extremely taken back by the hype of the crowd. In the concerts that I am used to seeing, if you were hyped you would scream or chant, but at rock concerts you join in this thing called, “the wall of death,” where a large group of people swarm together and spin, push, shove and get rowdy in the name of getting “pumped up.” It resembles a human whirlpool and street fight all in one.

The band opened with their song, “Come and Get it.” The room was filled with rotating colored and strobed lighting, that for a moment made you think you were having a panic attack. The bass was so deep and it shook the ground so hard you had to hold on to something to stand. The stage, which was rather small, had a large wrestling ring in the center, where the drummer sat in the middle. It was rather obvious that the theme of the show was WWE Raw inspired. In an explanation as to why they chose to put a large wrestling ring in the center of the stage, vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe had this to say, “I know you are probably wondering why the f*** we have a ring on our stage, and the answer is… because I f****** felt like it!”

They played songs from their second album “Lifelines,” but added some surprising twists. The energy of the crowd engulfed the room. Everyone nodded, screamed, danced, jumped. Everyone, including myself had a blast. They had a segment in the show where they invited a fan on stage the pretend to be a “healer,” a trash talking bad a**, who would come on stage and talk trash. They prerecorded the insults and had the fan pretend to say all these crazy things about the audience and their city. In a response to the insults, the band added some trash talking themselves; the fan came with his mother, Barbara, and they proceeded to do a cover to Lil Jon’s “Get Low,” and they incorporated Barbara into the lyrics. The crowd went wild, and they sang along to the entire song.

The band even added a section in the set where vocalists Eric Vanlerberghe and Brian Burkheiser argued about who would make the better wrestler. During his plea, a fan threw her bra at Eric after he said he would make a better wrestler because he is sexy. They then proceeded to play the instrumentals to “Eye of the Tiger” and ended the song with the bridge of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” The band’s playful banter, phenomenal instrumentals, great vocals and pure chaotic energy, made for a great time. I Prevail is the perfect band to introduce you to rock music. They have a great sound, great songs and great vocals.  They and their show definitely get two thumbs up from me.

“On Location”: An architectural experience of innovative design

Photo by Nikolai Mather

The “On Location” exhibit is a visionary collection of innovative architecture. It is comprised of four architectural practices: AGENCY, GELPI Projects, SILO AR+D and studio: indigenous.  UNC Charlotte School of Architecture professor Mark Manack put together this exhibit with his esteemed colleagues from all over the globe. Posted on the exhibit are notes about the exhibit, the names of the four practices, where they are located, who created them and a small description of the design and process of the practices. Designer Michael Abrahamson gave a description of the exhibit, explaining the reasons behind, history of and expectations of the exhibit:

“The purpose of this exhibition is that these architects are at work developing new ways of collecting information about their regions. In addition to vernacular construction, these four practices look also to the geographies- political, social, material, spatial- that define locales. They do this not only to apply their findings to design. To be “on location” in their sense is also to engage first-hand in efforts to make change through architecture.”

The exhibit consists of pictures and projections of structures showcasing these four practices. It is placed on boards so you can walk around and read the descriptions and watch how the artists made the structures. You can also see blueprints of the structures. The SILO AR+D architecture practice has three different locations of implementation: Charlotte, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio and Fayetteville, Arkansas. The principals of the practices are Manack and Frank Jacobus. Manack and Jacobus describe SILO AR+D as “an architecture, research and design practice simultaneously involved in professional and academic activities. [Their] work deliberately engages a variety of contexts, clients and communities.”

The structures displayed in the SILO AR+D exhibit put a lot of emphasis on lighting, angles and triangular shapes. One structure, “Super Sukkah,” in St. Louis, Missouri, consists of multiple glowing glass triangles of various angles towering in an abstract shape that, to me, is a cross between a pentagon and a large equilateral triangle flipped on its side. Even the “North Church” structure, which resembles almost a classroom setting with a podium, an alter table and pull pit chairs, has a collage of triangles inside several larger triangles outfitting the ceiling.

Photo by Nikolai Mather

Studio: indigenous is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The principal is Chris Cornelius of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning. Cornelius describes studio: indigenous as, “a Native American- owned design studio. [Their] approach to all projects is centered around the cultural values and worldviews of indigenous people.” A common thread of the work is narrative. This stems from the native cultural ritual of storytelling.

One big structure represented in the exhibit is “Wiikiaami.” This is a large structure that resembles a wigwam. It’s made of a copper-like material with wire, poles and numerous transparent grates. At first glance, I couldn’t figure out what the structure was supposed to resemble. After realizing that studio: indigenous is Native American-owned, it  occurred to me that it as a wigwam. My hunch was later verified when I found out that “Wiikiaami”  means wigwam in the Myaamia language. On the board there are blueprints, pictures and diagrams of “Wiikiaami.” Adjacent to the board is a projector that displays how the structure was created and how it was built.

AGENCY is located in El Paso, Texas. Its principals are Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller of Texas Tech University El Paso College of Architecture. Kripa and Mueller describe AGENCY as:

“a collaborative interdisciplinary practice engaging contemporary culture through architecture, urbanism and advocacy. AGENCY positions architectural design as a systemic instrumentation of material ecologies, social constituencies, political policies, and ethical thought, embracing a transformative role and enabling new paradigms of cultural production.”

Photo by Nikolai Mather

One impressive structure that takes a mundane object and turns it into something innovative and spectacular is “Flash,” a large group of traffic cones that are glued upside-down on the underside of a pavilion. This may seem unimpressive, but that changes when night comes. The cones glow in the dark, illuminating the structure.

GELPI Projects is located in Miami, Florida. The principal of GELPI Projects is Nick Gelpi of Florida International University School of Architecture. Gelpi describes his practice as

“design practice dedicated to examining the relationships between materiality and building concepts by focusing on the material consequences of form. [Their] design practice explores buildings in the city spatial installations, furniture, material experiments and mockups by examining architectural thinking across diverse scales.”

This collection is very different from the others. The materials are more industrial and sturdy. One of the structures, “EXOCTIC CONCRETE HOUSE,” is a house made entirely out of concrete. A personal favorite of mine in the collection is the structure, “HOUSE PAINT PAVILION.” It is the inside of a small wooden house, but it is empty and the walls are striped with different colors and hues.

All of these collections are very innovative and experimental and really show you that any type of material or object can be a masterpiece. To learn more about these four practices and view these pieces first-hand, stop by the “On Location” exhibit in the Storrs Gallery until Nov. 17; it’s worth the trip.

A Trip to the North Carolina Zoo

The Aviary
by Mia Shelton

Exotic birds, tropical plants and mesmerizing view are, all things can be experienced in the Bird Aviary at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, North Carolina. When you step into the aviary, you will be greeted with humid air, mysterious bird calls and friendly staff. You will see all sorts of exotic birds and animals, like Chilean Flamingos, Eclectus Parrots, poison dart frogs and many more. A fellow writer and myself got the pleasurable opportunity to interview bird keeper, Wendy Wadsworth and Horticultural expert, Denise Rogers, who shared with us the history, inner workings and experiences of the aviary.

The aviary opened in 1982. It houses 3,000 plants of 694 different species and 100 to 120 birds of 40 to 45 different species. These plants and animals require and abundance of consistent upkeep and care. There is staff on duty seven days a week year round to assist with the care of each of bird and plant. They also clean, maintain and prep the environment to make sure they are ready for presentation. Keepers clean outdoor ponds and indoor pools where the birds play. They also monitor the medical, behavioral and breeding behavior of the birds to make sure they progressing properly and safely. When feeding these birds eat anything from mealworms to pellets, to raw meat. Horticulture staff washed down the walk ways of the aviary to clear it of leaf litter and bird feces.

It can be difficult to care for these birds sometimes. For keepers have to treat their ailments, they have to catch them first, which according to the keepers can take five minutes to five months, in extreme cases. There have even been situations where birds have to be relocated. For example, Wendy shared with me that a male Victorian Crowned Pigeon that had to be relocated because she had a problem with “wing slapping.” This is an act in which he would walk up next to another bird or staff and slap them with his wing. This behavior was completely natural and is acceptable in his natural habitat. However, in the exhibit this behavior was problematic because it can cause serious injury to another bird or person.

Many people take issue with the idea of animals being in captivity. When asked about how she would approach this opposition, Wendy said: “It is really about their animal ambassadors for their species in the wild. We want to educate people about these environments. We also want to give people the opportunity to experience a tropical rainforest because they may never get to travel to a tropical rainforest.” Wendy also talked about programs that have animals in captivity because their species is declining. One of these programs is the MAC program. The Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Project,  is a project that is working to conserve threatened and endemic bird species of Marianas Islands. The goals of the program are to establish a captive breeding population of the golden white eye as an assurance population and to translocate birds from Saipan to the island of Sarigan. To learn more about the MAC program and NC zoo involvement. To the North Carolina Zoo website.

The North Carolina Zoo is an amazing that filled with exotic animals, plants and fun. A family favorite outing full of adventure and knowledge. I asked the Wendy and Denise how they would describe their exhibit and they said “we love our Zoo and we love our aviary.”


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

Rocky Coast
by Hunter Heilman

The polar bears never came out to see us.

Then again, who could blame them? They’re arctic creatures living in central North Carolina where the high for the day was 80º and the humidity was through the roof. At the North Carolina Zoo, many of the animals outside of their own climactic habitat are given large indoor areas to reside in that more accurately reflect their natural habitat, and it seems that Anana and Nikita, the male and female polar bears at the North Carolina Zoo, chose that over stepping into the muggy heat.

“Rocky Coast” is just one of the dozens of areas that the North Carolina Zoo offers to its visitors. This specific sections focuses greatly on arctic and sub-arctic animals, with the main attraction being the polar bears. Walking in, you’re greeted directly by the playful Harbor Seals and Sea Lions that possess seemingly endless energy at all hours of the day. Swimming laps around their tank in formation, the Harbor Seals are playful, charismatic creatures that you could watch all day if you really wanted to.

Rocky Coast also gives way to a barrage of Arctic seabirds, with its main attraction being the Puffin. As there were so many birds in this large, indoor exhibit, it gives a lot of way to see some truly interesting things. Most of the birds were just relaxing, like any of us would be on any given morning that we didn’t have to go to work. But like every group of people, there are your outliers that draw attention to themselves. Two of the seabirds engaged in a playful water fight for quite a long time, spasming in the deep waters to create as much of a splash on the other bird as possible. While another bird just simply stood facing the corner flapping its wings roughly every 30 seconds. These birds are not only gorgeous creatures to gaze upon, they have quite a bit of spunk and personality within them as well.

And then we find my personal favorite of the animals in the Rocky Coast area: The Arctic Fox. These might not have been the most energetic animals of the bunch, but their beauty could not be understated in the slightest. The striking features of this animal are almost jarring to see in person at first, but it’s a rare beauty you don’t find in most animals. It was a lazy time of the day for the foxes, with only one really doing any moving, even though their movements were solely to move from one sleeping place to another. They were precious animals that I could’ve stuck with all day.

There’s also the Peregrine Falcon, who poked their head out every now and again, but stayed hidden from viewers during most of our visit. For what we could tell, they were sleeping and didn’t seek to be disturbed. According to the zoo website, “The Peregrin [sic] falcon is the fastest living animal in the world, able to reach speeds of 200 MPH in a dive,” and its intimidating nature shows it means business in a single look. Majestic is the word that could be used to describe the Peregrine Falcon, with a beauty and ferocity about them that lets you know they are not to be messed with.

But then there’s the main event: polar bear city. Situated in a beautifully designed habitat, the two polar bears, male Nikita and female Anana, live separately throughout the year until mating season, which according to program coordinator Steve Gerkin, is typically housed in the first few months of each year. Since Nikita was brought to the zoo in January 2016, the zoo has anticipated the possible arrival of a polar bear cub from Anana, but according to Gerkin, as baby polar bears are so small, there is no possible way to tell if Anana is pregnant until it’s time for her to give birth, so the zoo is always prepared for the possibility of a new addition to the polar bear family at any time.

At the largest zoo in the world, there’s a lot to see, but the Rocky Coast might be one of the more interesting additions to the zoo. It’s a beautiful and striking exhibit that, even if we didn’t see any polar bears this specific day, provided an ample amount of fun and knowledge.


Photos by Madison Dobrzenski.

Cypress Swamp
by: Jeffrey Kopp and Stephanie Trefzger

We ventured into the swamp, a little overwhelmed by the heat and humidity, which we distracted ourselves from with “Shrek” memes. We kept up our guard, fearing an attack from the alligators and cougars that were all around us. Sure, we knew that there was no chance of an actual mauling, but the uneasiness was still there. Camouflage proved itself useful for a somewhat terrifying reptile; it didn’t even have to move, but the alligator snapping turtle’s spiky shell was enough to make us retreat from the window and onto a wooden bench nearby, where we awaited the arrival of Chris Shupp, an Animal Management Supervisor for the Cypress Swamp.

Like the polar bears, the gopher frogs were nowhere to be found.  But unlike the polar bears, there was no reason for the frogs not to be there. But maybe we just couldn’t see them.

The habitat in which they were kept was small, about the size of a ten gallon fish tank. It contained many plants native to the North Carolina Sandhills, including the pines of the native longleaf pine tree and the coarse, sandy soil of the region. The dim and humid pavilion may have helped to hide the already hard-to-find amphibians. Chances are the frogs were there but we couldn’t see them because evolution didn’t want us to.

The continuation of evolution is one of the goals of zoo’s conservation project  They aim to raise awareness of the Sandhill region and the many creatures that live there.  According to Shupp, this means making people aware of “habitat loss and fire suppression,” which are major contributing factors in the decline of species.  Fire, contrary to popular belief, plays a crucial role in the health of a wooded ecosystem. It returns nutrients to the soil and opens up the area in which the animals live.

Shupp and his team at the zoo are doing their parts to rebuild gopher frog populations by buying up land formerly used for development and letting it grow back to how it used to be while monitoring the number of species in the area.  However, on a more local level, the team is building the zoo’s gopher frogs a new, larger enclosure that they will share with another sandhill native.  The new enclosure is built with tunnels and hollows, perfect for the frogs to hide in during the day, and will, of course, contain the same plant the frogs would come across if they were in the wild.

Every expectation we had as we entered the swamp was shattered.  There was no danger; the uneasiness eventually melted away; and there were no frogs in sight.  But the biggest surprise was the attachment we garnered towards the frogs, which we previously hadn’t even heard of, and the level of investment we suddenly felt towards their conservation efforts.  Maybe Shupp was right: the most important thing is “making people aware of what’s in their own backyards.”

 

 

Trump’s Response to Harvey’s Havoc

On Friday August 25th, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas and parts of Louisiana. Thousands of people
from Austin, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana have lost their homes. Dozens were injured and at least 70 have lost their lives. Lives like the Saldivar family in Austin, a family of 6, who drowned in their car when they got swept by a currant as they tried to reach higher ground. The unidentified mother in Beaumont, who got swept into a canal while trying to save her daughter from drowning. Hurricane Harvey is believed by scientists as the worst rainfall disaster in US history. Thousands of people from all over the country are coming to Texas’ aid. Many are sending money, dozens of Texans, military men women and Louisiana natives have volunteered during the storm and after to find and rescue families. Thousands of Texans without homes are in shelters from Dallas to Lake Charles, Louisiana and there is still a lot to do. Many people are looking to government officials for help, including the president. President Trump got off to a rocky start with many people when he was asked by a reporter what was his message to Texans preparing for and dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey. His response was, “good luck.” Not exactly the response we were looking for, Mr. President. Things took a turn for the better when he and the First Lady Melania came to Corpus Christi and Houston to mingle and hand out meals to victims. According to the New York Times, Mr. Trump’s aides say he is trying to avoid the mistakes made by former President George W. Bush in 2005, when he took a relatively hands-off approach to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. This seems to show in Mr. Trump’s actions. On Friday, September 1st, Mr. Trump signed a proclamation declaring Sunday, September 3rd would be a “National Day of Prayer” for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. He has even pledged to donate $1million of his fortune to recovery efforts in Texas. On his return to Texas, Mr. Trump has asked Congress for $8 billion for relief efforts. However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have said that is will take an estimated total of $180 billion to repair the damage done by Hurricane Harvey. Despite some of his generous efforts, there has been some controversy on his statement about the hurricane being a “wonderful thing.” Upon reflection of the situation it is still unclear whether or not Mr. Trump is saying this hurricane is a good thing because it has brought people together, or was his presence in the shelters and meeting the victims a wonderful thing. In any case, I believe I speak for many people in Texas, me having family in Texas who have been going through hardships, when I say nothing about this disaster is wonderful. My friend being separated from her five-year old daughter is not wonderful. My paralyzed uncle being removed from his flooded home and almost refused care because of the inadequacy of the hospital he was sent to is not wonderful. Thousands without heat, water, electricity or homes is not wonderful. So, I would suggest to Mr. Trump to do, what I am sure is beyond his capabilities given previous events, to choose his words carefully. Despite the controversy, Mr. Trump’s assistance is very much appreciated. Although Texas still has a long road ahead on the road to recovery, with donations and help from people all over the country things will get well soon. 

Op-Ed: Pepsis and Protest

There has been a huge uproar over a commercial that Pepsi released featuring reality personality and supermodel Kendall Jenner. The commercial focused on topics of diversity, unity and more importantly, the Black Lives Matter movement. In the commercial people of all races, genders, ethnicities and walks of life stopped what they were doing and joined a large group of people in protest. The commercial showed Jenner, who was in the midst of a photo shoot, stop, take off her make-up, wig and clothes and join the protesters. She then goes and grabs a Pepsi and walks up to an officer in line and hands it to him. Upon his acceptance of the Pepsi, the crowd cheers. Although there is no dialogue or conversation in the commercial, we do hear the Skip Marley song “Lions” playing throughout the commercial.

Many people have had a negative reaction to the commercial, accusing Pepsi of trivializing the Black Lives Matters movement. They also feel that the commercial makes light of the experiences of protesting.

Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice King, tweeted about the commercial saying, “if only daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”

People are also throwing blame at Kendall, saying she is not the right person to represent the movement and accusing her of making light of both the movement and the experiences of protesting.

Pepsi has since released an apology stating, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company wrote Wednesday in a statement. “Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

As a black person, I found nothing wrong with this commercial. I believe people are being very closed-minded and hypocritical and that they don’t understand what Pepsi was trying to do with the commercial nor why things like this commercial can beneficial. First off, we need to acknowledge the fact that Pepsi and Kendall Jenner intentionally put themselves on the line to show their support for a movement that is designed to rectify an issue that is claiming the lives of many African-American people in the United States. This is a big deal because not many, if any, big and established non-black organizations and personalities have come to the aid and support of the Black Lives Matter movement and quite frankly this reaction and backlash shows why. We ask and beg people to support the movement, and then when they do, if it’s not in the way that we would want, we judge, berate and bully them.

It is expected for black people to come out in support of their out own community and quite frankly that’s why there has been limited changes. No one cares! Everyone is going to support their own, but people start caring when more people of different races and walks of life come out to support and take a stand, it gets noticed and that was Pepsi’s main point in the commercial. The Pepsi can that Kendall handed to the officer was supposed to be a symbol of peace like in the case of the ‘flower child,’ where a female protester stuck a flower on a gun barrel during a protest. If everyone unified and came out to take a stand, peacefully, we can’t be ignored and things would have to change. If it wasn’t for the help of President Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t have gotten the rights for blacks that we have now. In order to succeed we need help from someone else. We can’t do it alone anymore.

A riot is “a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets.”

A protest is “an expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent or avoid.”

There have been more riots than protests in a lot of the demonstrations for the Black Lives Matter movement. This by no means warrants the brutal and inhumane actions for the police during these demonstrations, but it does explain the lack of support. If during our demonstrations we are trashing local businesses, harming our own people and behaving like belligerent people, why would anyone help us? If we are hurting our own why would others think we want to help our own?

The protest in the commercial was both organized and impromptu as well. Those who were already march had a planned they stuck to it. They had their signs and chanted their lines, but they never once grew hostile or showed animosity. Instead, the more people that joined the more fun it became. Different people coming together, girls with blue hair and hijabs, boys with braids and Mohawks dancing, chanting, marching, making a difference together.  That is what we need more of. We need more people to stand up and come together. As Skip Marley says, “we are the lions, we are the chosen, we gonna shine out the dark, we are the movement, this generation. You better know who we are.” We are one, so let’s stop being so cynical and closed-minded and become one.

Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola vending machines side by side in New York in 2010. (Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/TNS)

Op-Ed: Presidents and Protests

The crowd at a No Ban, No Wall protest in Raleigh, from early February 2017. Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

Ever since the announcement that Donald Trump was going to be the 45 President of the United States of America, tempers have flared and chaos has ensued. Numerous protests and marches have formed across the country, from the Women’s March to the “Not My President” protests. Although this reaction is intense and horrific, it is not the first time we have seen this type of reaction from a presidential election. Many Trump supporters feel that this reaction is unnecessary and feel that anti-Trump supporters need to “get over it.” Let us not forget the backlash and racial protests and comments former President Barack Obama faced after winning both the elects in 2008 and 2012.

After the results of the 44 presidential election, reactions across the globe varied. Most people reacted optimistically and positively to the results.

Barack Obama’s election was called a “historic opportunity for a strong working relationship between the United Nations and the United States… I am very optimistic that we will have a very strong relationship, a renewed partnership under his administration,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa, wrote to Obama saying, “Africa has embraced Obama as something of a native son.”

“Obama won, the map of the United States was transformed and for Mexico an extraordinary opportunity has opened… because it will be infinitely simpler to be a neighbor, partner and friend of the United States with Obama,” said Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda, of Mexico.

Of course, not everyone shared in the enthusiasm. Italian, right-wing senator, Maurizio Gasparri provoked some controversy when she said, “Obama would be soft on terrorism and the with Obama in the White House perhaps Al Qaeda is happier.”

Several foreign civilians also had a few negative comments to make about Obama. “He has so many things not preferable in a president … He is black, and his middle name is Hussein, and all that stuff,” said Mane Karapetyan, a public relations student in Moscow, Russia.

Although the global reactions and opinions of the election had some effect on the relationships between Obama and his global counterparts, the more lucrative effects happened here in the U.S.  In Kentucky, a life-sized doll that resembled Obama, was found hanging from a noose in a tree on the University of Kentucky campus. In New York City, a black Muslim teenager was assaulted by four white men, who were shouting: “Obama!” In Snellville, GA, a vandalized Obama sign and two pizza boxes filled with human feces were left on a black family’s lawn. Countless other racial and gender-related attacks and threats continued to occur during both of President Obama’s terms.

UNC Charlotte instructor and multicultural researcher, Joshua Burford, shares his opinion on the Obama presidency saying, “He was the first sitting President to acknowledge communities,” said UNC Charlotte instructor and multicultural researcher, Joshua Burford. “He even sent handwritten Christmas cards to LGBTQ center directors,” including Burford himself.

In contrast, Trump received different reactions both overseas and in the United States. From a positive standpoint, Trump gained support from a handful of foreign diplomats. “The Americans are taking their country back,” said Netherlands’ anti-immigrant nationalist leader, Geert Wilders.

“The American people are free! Good news for our country,” said French Presidential candidate and Leader of the National Front Party, Marine Le Pen.

“What a great news. Democracy is still alive,” said Prime Minister Orban of Hungary.

“President-elect Trump is a true friend of the State of Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

From a negative standpoint, Trump has received significantly more negative reactions than President Obama. Countries like, Syria, Venezuela and Colombia have stated that Trump has criticized their culture, religion, and political standings. They are also concerned that these criticisms will hurt their trade relations and protection from those seeking refuge in the United States.

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of a prominent group of lawmakers in the European parliament and former Prime Minister of Belgium, called Trump’s victory “a wake-up call for European leaders,” adding, “Donald Trump has declared several times that our priorities are not his.”

On the home front, many people are outraged about the results. Protests quickly hit the streets to express their opinions. “Not My President” protests broke out all over the country.  Even the “Women’s Marches” that occurred all over the country took place the day after Trump was sworn in.  

“To be quite frank, if we get Trump in office and we get a Republican Senate and Congress, I think we’re going to be screwed. I think the state of minorities is going to be in flux and we may not be able to fix it afterwards,” said Harlem native Danielle Jones.

“It is scary, he doesn’t believe any of the things he says,” said Burford, of Trump.

President Trump responded to the protests and negative backlash with a tweet saying, “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” That is a very hypocritical statement coming from Trump, seeing as he himself protested Obama saying he was not a citizen, he needs to produce his birth certificate and a boatload of other preposterous and “unfair” comments.

Trump supporters need to pull their hypocritical heads out of their delusional backsides and rejoin reality. Presidential protests and harsh comments did not just fall from the sky out of nowhere. They were always there. The same way Obama supporters had to deal with being scrutinized, bullied and berated, they can deal with the same treatment. Maybe it is time for Trump and his supporters, to get a taste of their own medicine.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about trade as Vice President Mike Pence looks on before signing Executive Orders in the Oval Office of the White House March 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C. .(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Op-Ed: Double-Standard Patriots-ism

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Super Bowl LI champions, the New England Patriots. A lot of people seem to have an issue with the fact that several African-American players do not want to go to the White House because they don’t feel welcomed. Tight End Martellus Bennet tweeted before the Super Bowl game that “America was built on inclusiveness not exclusiveness.” Defensive back Devin McCourty stated “Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”  Running back LaGarrette Blount stated in an interview on the “Rich Eisen Show” last Thursday “I don’t feel welcome in that house. I’ll leave it at that.”

Some people feel out of respect and tradition the Patriot players need to go to the White House. However, I think these same people forget Quarterback Tom Brady skipped out on going to the White House during the Obama presidency and no one made a fuss about it. On his show “Undisputed,” sports commentator Skip Bayless spoke with Rapper Nelly on the topic. Bayless felt the team should have taken a vote on whether or not the players should go to the White House or not. Nelly quickly chimed in stating “You didn’t make the vote when Tom Brady — when the head of your team decided that he wasn’t going to come…if he’s not going, he’s the captain,” Nelly said. “He’s the head. He already decided. He opened this box up. Tom Brady started this. He started it. Let’s just get it out of the bag and I’m not faulting him because I love Tom Brady, but he started it.”

Nelly also talked about how it wasn’t a part of the players’ job description to go to the White House. Speaking from the perspective of a player, Nelly said that “Going to the White House, I don’t get paid for. Going to the White House is not in my contract. I’m done. I did my job. How you look after the football season, that’s on you because you chose to go that way. As an owner, you chose to come out and say — you didn’t ask me. We didn’t make a team vote when you said, ‘I support this man.’ Tom Brady didn’t — we didn’t have a team vote when you were blatantly showing that you were supporting Trump.”

I agree with Nelly; why is it only now we have to make a vote on whether or not players have to go to the White House when they didn’t take one last year when Brady decided he wasn’t going to the White House. I have always noticed that reactions are a lot different when one a person of color does something that a non-Hispanic white person does. When people disrespected Obama during his terms it was fine, but now that these players are doing with Trump now it’s an issue. Trump is big on freedom of speech, as we see in all of his responses about anything, so he shouldn’t have a problem with these men exercising the same right and neither should anyone else. Like Nelly said, Tom Brady started this.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and New England Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount (29) celebrate during the post-game ceremony for Super Bowl LI after they defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/TNS)

Op-Ed: Meryl’s Speech

Meryl Streep backstage at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Meryl Streep backstage at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Although there were many memorable and well-regarded events that happened at this year’s Golden Globes, the most talked about ordeal of that historic night was the speech by well-renowned and iconic actress, Meryl Streep. Streep was awarded the Cecil B. Demille Award that night at the Globes. The Cecil B. Demille Award, is an honorary Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment. Most of us thought we would get the same old run-of-the-mill responses: “I am truly honored for this award,” “I would like to thank (insert name here),” or some other overused acceptance speech line. Well, we were wrong. Though we did get a few redundant lines here and there, the rest of Streep’s speech was her discussion of the President-Elect, Donald Trump.

Though she did not mention him by name, she discussed the time he shamelessly mocked disabled New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski.

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.”

Streep expressed how hurt and saddened she was after Trump’s antics and talked about how important it is for her fellow actors and actresses to use their platform to evoke change and to help protect journalists’ rights of freedom of speech.

Everyone has their own opinion of Streep’s speech. I personally loved it. No, I am not a Trump supporter, but you don’t have to like someone to hold them accountable for their actions. I love when people with a powerful platform stand up for what is right for everyone and inspires people to come together and protect each other despite gender or race. In the early part of her speech, Streep talked about how diverse “Hollywood” is. All of the actors and actresses we see in the movies and television shows are from different places. Different states, different countries and they have different ethnicities. They all get recognized for their outstanding performances and work and no one notices or pays attention to the fact they are foreigners. So, if Trump deports all of the “foreigners,” what will this country have then?

As stated before, everyone had their own opinion on Streep’s speech. Well-renowned actor and fellow Cecil B Demille recipient, Robert de Niro is in agreement with Streep’s “sentiments about punks and bullies. Enough is enough.” Actor Alec Baldwin respected what Streep had to say and agreed to the issues she spoke of, but he felt it was inappropriate for her to discuss this topic at an awards show. Of course the biggest rebuttal to Streep’s speech was from none other than the President-Elect himself. The President-Elect retaliated by calling Streep, “overrated,” which sparked further retaliation from other actors and actresses who came to Streep’s defense. Actor George Clooney responded to the President-elect’s response by saying that “The right time for actors to get involved is when their platform can spotlight important issues that don’t get enough attention.”

I personally find it ironic how the most overrated person in the country has the audacity to call a woman of great talent, elegance and prestige overrated. A woman who is far more successful and accomplished, in my view, than this man.  The man with numerous failed business ventures, who has bragged about sexual assault and who added fuel to an already blazing fire of racial hate. A man who created an increasing storm of hate crimes around the country since his entrance into the presidential election.

In response to Baldwin’s remark about it being inappropriate that Streep chose to use the Globes to discuss her topic, I disagree. I believe if you have a platform that can evoke change, use it. If Streep had chosen to write a tweet or make a Facebook video talking about this, it would not have gotten this much attention. It was the best time to talk about it because that was her special moment on stage and everyone was watching. There is no point in having a large, respected platform, if you are not going to use it to make positive change.