AWOL - Issue 012

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MISSION: AWOL is a progressive magazine run by American University students in Washington, DC. Founded in the spring of 2008 with support from Campus Progress, we are a recognized publication of American University.

“It was hard to ignore the plea from the young Burmese to take back their stolen identities. There was a cry for stabilization all over the diaspora, praying to return to their families and culture in Burma.” - Emily Edwards, p. 6

We exist to ignite campus discussion of social, cultural and political issues, and serve as an outpost for students to explore solutions to local and global problems. We hope to build bridges between American University and the world around it, ultimately making our campus more inquiring, egalitarian and socially engaged.

Illustration by Hannah Karl

AWOL is not affiliated with any political party or ideology. Our stories have an angle, which is different from having an agenda; our reporting is impartial and fair, but our analysis is critical and argumentative.

EDITORS: EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Ashley Dejean MANAGING EDITOR: Lori McCue SENIOR EDITORS: Claire Dapkiewicz, Zac Deibel, Meridian Ganz-Ratzat STAFF EDITORS: Jess Anderson, Pamela Huber, Katie Hyde, Eleanor Greene


p. 9

ART DIRECTOR: Hannah Karl DESIGNERS: Jess Anderson, Katie Hyde, Alex King, Julian Morris-Walker ILLUSTRATION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Carolyn Becker, Nicole Brunet, Jared Angle, Eleanor Greene, Pamela Huber, Chris Lewis

WRITERS: Jess Anderson, Jared Angle, Dinah Douglas, Emily Edwards, Maris Feeley, Eleanor Greene, Pamela Huber, Taylor Kenkel, Rachel Lomot, Ethan Miller




Want to join AWOL? Write to us:


AWOL is published with support from Campus Progress / Center for American Progress (online at and the support of AU Student Activities. Campus Progress funds, trains and mentors students running


a diverse and growing group of progressive campus media organizations.


Grants and assistance can help you build and maintain a web site, expand print runs and promote your organization on campus. For more, visit









by Jess Anderson

by Pamela Huber

A writer's homeless experience

Returning to South Dakota's Black Hills



by Emily Edwards

by Contributing Photographers

Understanding the Burmese community in DC

A community beat


19 THE FORGOTTEN DC SCHOOL THE STRANGE SAGA OF SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY by Eleanor Greene Lamenting a forgotten institution



by Rachel Lomot

by Dinah Douglas

Putting a gridlock on human traffic

The writing professor discusses her process and her work with 826DC

How harm reduction methods work

22 ETHIOPIAN PUNK ROCK IN THE DISTRICT SMELLS LIKE ETHIOPIAN SPIRIT by Ethan Miller The food makes you sweat, and so does the music


I got some funny looks, lugging a battered, bulging black trash bag throughout Washington, DC. My appearance didn’t help, of course: grungy clothes not-quite-clean, hair greasy, and radiating an odor earned from four days without showering. But most people were very careful to make sure they didn't react, which didn’t really faze me at first. After a while, I realized that the non-looks I was getting were different. Sometimes I would blatantly stare at the faces that passed me by and watch the transformation that would take place—first the eyes would fix on some obscure point far beyond my body, then the mouth and jaw would grow rigid, the neck swiveling neither left nor right, but instead keeping the whole head perfectly still, as if the slightest movement would be taken as acknowledgment. It was when they thought I wasn’t looking that people would stare. At one point, I found a peaceful bench situated across from the Reflecting Pool and decided to take a nap. After a solid 30 minutes, I met up with Becky, my partner for the day, who had been journaling on the grassy slope behind me. I listened, amazed, as she described the different reactions something as innocuous as sleeping on a bench had produced. Many adults would look at me askance, or literally stop and stare down at me, while children would point and ask questions. Many times I apparently stopped conversations all together as people hurried past.

Photo by Becky Short


UNHOUSING AN UNDERGRAD Written by Jess Anderson

There are a lot of things on my bucket list: skydiving, traveling, trying all 75 milkshake flavors at Z-Burger. And then there are a lot of things I never would have considered doing, like sleeping in an alley, learning dance steps from a complete stranger in a McDonald’s bathroom, begging for money on the side of the street. But as a participant in the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Homeless Challenge Project, these experiences were more or less a requirement. So was sleeping outside and, most importantly, talking to others from those who spoke to empty spaces or the voices in their heads, to those suffering from addictions and their consequences, and those who were simply down on their luck. The objective of the HCP was “to see the world through the eyes of a homeless person.” And that's what I and seven other participants set out to do.


Over the course of my 48 hours I would curl up in a doorway or some other nook or cranny, sometimes sleeping, sometimes watching. Oddly enough, I never really felt self-conscious, not even when I decided to nap on the Samuel Hahnemann Monument. My time on the Reflecting Pool bench taught me that I was just a part of the landscape to be observed and a piece of scenery interesting to some but not others. It’s extremely difficult to tally the number of homeless in a given area. Totals are often underestimated because they are based on the number of people utilizing shelters. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that approximately 3.5 million people in the United States experience homelessness annually. In the District of Columbia, that number is about 12,000, but for those under the age of 18 it's around 500 people. A young white face like mine isn’t really very common on the streets of DC, and is probably the only reason for the small $17.32 fortune I made that afternoon, which is now in my own small fund for giving back to those who actually need it. The fact that I wasn’t a middleaged black man, that I wasn't what people expected to see when they saw a homeless person, was enough to make them take notice. People stereotype the homeless all the time. Maybe it's impossible to prevent, but I’ve learned that we have to try, because the public misconception is so far from the truth. Yes, from my limited personal experience I can say that, in DC, a large portion of the people you see on the streets are male. They are black. But there are also homeless white people and homeless women wandering around. And then there are the homeless people who we don’t see as often: the children and the families. Even if we don't see them, they're there: on friends’ couches, in cars, in shelters, in cheap motels. Oftentimes the parents have part- or even full-time jobs, and the children go to school.

In fact, there are about 1.6 million homeless children enrolled in the national school system right now. Approximately 1,000 of those are in DC alone. You might ask how someone who works hard and isn’t battling any sort of alcohol or substance addiction can still be without a place to live. After all, this goes against the “American Dream.” The answer is simple: lack of affordable housing, waiting lines that span decades for what little public housing there is, and low-income jobs in a struggling economy. The answer to homelessness isn’t as simple as, “They all should go out and get a job!” While prowling around DuPont Circle a few weeks before participating in the HCP, I met a guy looking for exactly that. When I met Eccrim Sherriff, he had been homeless for three months. “Get a job. You know, that’s base one,” he told me. “Because if I could have a job I can pay for my own accommodation, and I can have food.” Sherriff said he had been to job interviews before, but was unemployed because many employers don’t listen to candidates without permanent addresses or who come in looking less-than-presentable.

“A smile and a word of kindness can literally save someone’s life,” Colter said.

Organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen and Martha’s Table help the homeless by providing them with a meal and clean clothes, but employers often refuse to see past the stigma of living on the street or in a shelter. “Being homeless doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of doing things,” Sherriff said. He says he knows plenty of smart, capable homeless people. “If you go down that side [of the street] you see that there are a load of talented people,” he said, pointing down the circle. “Someone well-educated who knows art. Someone who is a good public speaker. There’s such a combination of people, but because they’re homeless, they became confused, but being homeless doesn’t mean that you are useless.”

Photo by André Colter Students sleep on sheets of cardboard at the McPhearson Square metro station on the corner of 14th and I.

was saying. The thing that struck me the most, however, wasn't his obvious intelligence or his casual mention of a government conspiracy that cost him his job. It was the way that his thin, bespeckled face would light up, beaming with some kind of inner joy when he spoke of the things he used to do, and the complexities of his craft. André Colter is a guide for HCP and helps those partaking in the experiment navigate being homeless. He himself has homeless on and off for 10 years. You wouldn't know that by looking at him, though—the guy has enthusiasm for life, and his smile never seems to leave his face. A few years ago he decided go back to college, and now he's in his third year of business administration. Recently, he walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, a memory he never thought he’d have the chance to make. Colter says finding happiness has been a struggle for him due to anger issues, suicidal thoughts, trouble with money, alcohol and drugs. “I refuse to go back," he said. "Too many people have invested in me." But his past is still always on his mind. He stresses the importance of human contact in the life of a homeless person, and credits the basic kindness of others for helping him get on the right road. “A smile and a word of kindness can literally save someone’s life,” Colter said.

On Sunday, I went to the Church of the Epiphany for the early service.

He says many homeless people in the city are ignored by those passing them everyday, but says acknowledgment can go a long way.

Many at the church were homeless and lined up hours before the church even opened. The church restrooms were a far cry from the alley I’d peed in earlier that morning, and the pews provided a warm, safe space to sleep. Though a carport is quieter than the entrance to a metro station, the ground is just as hard.

While some people feel hesitant about that acknowledgement, he says it's pretty simple: treat them as you would anyone else; ask about their day, their weekend. Ask directions somewhere. A homeless person who spends their days crisscrossing the city will probably be a lot more helpful than your iPhone.

While half the congregation napped, the rest of us split off into groups for activities. I joined the arts and crafts session. Others went to the Bible study group or the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous session.

My other HCP guide, Anthony Crawford, echoed what Colter told me.

At the session, I met Allan, a former physician. And, to be honest, I can’t really tell you very much of what he said. He used too many medical terms and big words ending in ‘ology’ for me to really follow what he

“It doesn't always take money,” he said. “Everybody has a story out there. Some are worse than others.” All that really matters, he said, is that someone out there is willing to listen and willing to care.

Jess Anderson is a is a freshman studying journalism.




A gathering of Min's father's chapter of the National League for Democracy in Burma.

Photo courtesy of Min


OUT OF ASIA, INTO THE DISTRICT Written by Emily Edwards

“My last memory of my childhood was being in my house in Burma… we used to practice how to gather each other and go into a tunnel under the house. The day, I don’t know if I saw a real person, or if it was an angel, but I saw something outside. So I grabbed my sister and we went into the tunnel, and then, bullets—it sounded like an explosion. We packed up our stuff and left the country.” Min sits next to me on a bench outside a restaurant in Dupont one afternoon. She’s wearing her real estate company’s sweatshirt and jeans. She is calm, and good-natured, and as she sits and tells me the

right for freedom and democracy was quashed by the military. In 1990, Min’s family fled the county, and Daw Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. She wouldn’t be released until 2010. American University has long been affiliated with the struggle in Burma. “In fact, AU was involved long before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was known on the world stage, and it's not inaccurate to say that AU played a role in placing her there,” says Christine Gettings, who helped coordinate Daw Suu Kyi’s visit to American in September. “Many student activists involved in the Burma movement were AU students

story of her childhood, I wonder how she can be. “I knew I grew up in the jungle," she says. "Then we went into Thailand, but the military still chased us. Out of nowhere, just shooting. You didn’t cry for your mom or dad, you just laid on the ground.” Min spent her childhood on the run, moving from refugee camp to refugee camp in Northern Thailand. Her father, a prominent general in the Burmese military, “wanted to fight for what was fair. He got in-

Hundreds of native Burmese flocked to Bender Arena to hear their matriarch, The Lady, speak in person on her first trip to the United States in 40 years.

volved in the National League for Democracy, which put [their] family in jeopardy.” The National League for Democracy, or NLD, was formed in 1988 after the 8888 Uprising, a revolt lead by students in Rangoon to protest the extremely detrimental Burmese Way to Socialism ideology which had left Burma one of the most backwards countries in the world. It was during this time that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi started to become recognized as a national icon for leading the NLD, her prodemocracy political party. Two years later, the party won 80% of the seats in the Burmese Parliament, but this progress towards Burma’s


and AU alumni have founded non-profit organizations working on Burma advocacy, education, and human rights both here and in Thailand.” Indeed, four American University student activists were arrested inside Burma in 1988 for distributing pro-democracy literature. Daw Suu Kyi’s visit to American University in September is far more significant than many outside of the community realize. Hundreds of native Burmese flocked to Bender Arena to hear their matriarch, The

Lady, speak in person on her first trip to the United States in 40 years. The speech was made almost entirely in Burmese. The importance of her language choice was not obvious until I began meeting attendees outside Bender Arena that morning. Most people donned traditional Burmese longyi, but more importantly, many of the elders did not speak English. Although a majority of the attendees were either American citizens or had lived in the country as long as Min, almost 20 years, language still connected them to their courageous leader and, in turn, to their home. “The speech was a mother’s love; she came to see us," says Min. "It wasn’t pressuring or promising, but it was very motivating. It brought me to think to bring my Burmese heritage out more. When you’re in this country, you respect this country, but you don’t forget your home." But Min explains her complicated adolescence is related to her struggle with her Burmese identity. “I used to write about my experiences in Burma in middle school," she says. "I wanted to write a book for my children. But American culture, you have to act a certain way, dress a certain way. I was a teenager without a culture. I began acting out, and even though I still wanted to please my parents, they thought I was a bad child.” Min says although she lives here in the U.S., she still strongly identifies as Burmese. And through Min’s parents and siblings have all chosen to become American citizens, she has not. “I want to go back," she says. "I want to take my kids; I can’t teach my kids about the culture properly. My husband isn’t Burmese, so we don’t speak it at home.” While some Burmese Refugees want to return, others worry about their family still living in Burma. “From where I stand, many are concerned about their families back home in Burma and access to education, economic opportunity, and political freedom,” added Gettings. After Daw Suu Kyi’s speech there was an opportunity to ask questions, many of which pertained to citizenship and potential dual citizenship. Daw Suu Kyi explained that it is a common law for countries to not allow for dual citizenship, explaining that it was “the law of the land.” But the question was asked so many times, it was hard to ignore the plea from the young Burmese to take back their stolen identities. There was a cry for stabilization not just for the sake of the Burmese within the country, but all over the diaspora, praying to return to their families and culture in Burma. For many, the problem lies within the Burmese Embassy. For some of Min’s family members, taking on a new name and getting American citizenship also meant access to an American visa and access into Burma. Min is not so lucky, and is unable to attain a visa to visit her own country due to fear surrounding the Embassy and that she will be sought after by the military. “I am a little afraid of the Embassy," Min says. "I’m always the one outside with a sign protesting, and I don’t know what pictures they have of me. They know who I am.” The recent Burmese elections have left the world stunned and awed. Not only was it a quiet election, but the NLD party also won a large portion of the empty seats in Parliament. This led to a lessening of sanctions by many Western countries, including the United States.

And although the majority of the pro-democracy supporters around the world view this as a giant leap, many at the speech last month asked questions about how much they can trust the NLD without Daw Suu Kyi. “Every time I see her, I think, ‘What would happen if something happened to her?’" Min says. "When she stepped off the stage, she had to have someone walk her. She is getting older.” Many of the questions reflected the diaspora’s general exasperation with a Daw Suu Kyi-less government. “The world has acknowledged the struggle and horror

“I appreciate the Buddhist culture,” Min says. “It’s respectful, and I want to get in touch with my roots.”

in Burma. Because of that acknowledgement, I feel confident that if something happened to her, as long as we have the NLD, I’m OK.” However, not all Burmese-Americans are so convinced the country will make the turnaround that they’ve demanded. Jane, a Burmese-American, runs the ever-popular restaurant Burma in Chinatown. “If they’re thinking of going back, maybe they have never been before,” Jane says. “If I get robbed in America, I call the police. If I get robbed in Burma, who do I call? I don’t know why anyone would give up living like an American to live in Burma. You have opportunities here; in Burma, there are no factories, no jobs.” Jane’s son goes to university in America, and she says she has no intention of returning. The restaurant also hosts meetings of the US Campaign for Burma, a group that advocates and fights for Burma’s freedom, once a month. “There used to be more people at the meetings, but now there are only a few. People have their own jobs and families to take care of.” But for many, the desire to return is strong. Min says once her husband is working again, they will save the money for her to move back with her children. Even after admitting to having posttraumatic stress disorder directly related to her time in Burma, she still has every intention of returning. “I appreciate the Buddhist culture," she says. "It’s respectful, and I want to get in touch with my roots. I saw monks walking and praying at the speech, and that hit home to me.” As for now, she waits as her sister, an American citizen, travels in Burma, and contemplates her decision to not become a citizen. But her attachment to her culture is so intense, that to surrender her citizenship “would be like giving up all [her] rights.” Generally, the diaspora has a hopeful outlook for Burma. The community watches eagerly, but with skepticism, to see the next move for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy. The BurmeseAmericans in DC will continue to monitor the developments back in their home country, but until a drastic change, they wait.

Emily Edwards is a senior studying international development and economics.






It’s 1 a.m. She’s been standing on the corner for four hours. She cannot go home. She cannot call the police. She cannot tell her friends. All she can do is wait in fear. The customers will come, and she will do things she has learned to do. The customers will give her money, but she won't see any of it herself. She is 12 years old; she is a slave. *** This is everyday life for too many youth in the District. Washington DC has the second highest rating of sex trafficking in the US, right after New York City, according to Deborah Sigmund, founder of Innocents at Risk, an organization based in DC bringing attention to sex trafficking. The group, which works to give a voice to young boys and girls who are trafficked, has found that right here, in the nation’s capital, sex trafficking is a $100 million industry. Trafficked children are essentially invisible in the US, but some activists are working to change that. This year, DC hosted the Stop Modern Slavery Walk. About 2,000 participants walked to raise awareness about human and sex trafficking, a small amount compared to other walks, like the AIDS Walk, which had around 5,000 participants in the District last year. “The problem is that we take freedom for granted,” said Ashley Marchand, lead organizer of the Stop Modern Slavery Walk in the District. “In America we assume people have freedom.” But the issue is steadily gaining visibility. On Sept. 26, President Barack Obama gave a speech on the importance of fighting human trafficking, giving the issue national prominence for the first time. *** Marchand says the police often fail to investigate cases of sex trafficking and many perceive the girls on the streets to be 25 or 26. But she says many of them are closer to 14. A big problem in DC with domestic sex trafficking is that, until recently, the local police force has been uneducated about sex trafficking. Detective Thomas Stack from the Montgomery Police Department is a prime example. He went from knowing almost nothing about sex trafficking to educating police forces across the country. “Go back 10 years, I didn’t know what it was; I had to be trained. I had to learn,” Detective Stack said. Until recently, police in the area were uneducated about sex


trafficking and perceived it to be prostitution. Detective Stack said most officers didn’t see sex trafficking as a serious issue. “It’s not Julia Roberts, it’s not Huggy Bear. They had no idea this was going on,” Detective Stack said. However, Detective Stack has seen improvement from human trafficking and prostitution trainings. He says police forces are quickly learning about the subject and dedicating themselves to the anti-sex trafficking movement. Once the police know, they act. Organizations like Courtney’s House and Polaris Project have also begun holding human and sex trafficking education seminars for local police. Tina Frundt is the founder of Courtney’s House and says when police aren’t educated about the reality of sex trafficking, girls end up being thrown back on the streets or treated as criminals. In the past, police treated victims of sex trafficking as criminals and threw them in jail for crimes they were forced to commit. Detective Stack says the situation is improving and police trainings have helped reduce the number of girls and boys seen as criminals. Detective Stack says that’s only part of the battle: many trafficked children also have an intimate relationship with their pimp. He believes that in order for police to help them, exploited youth have to be willing to trust law enforcement and stand up to their pimp. “A lot of these girls have been brainwashed to not work with law enforcement; they don’t trust us. They naturally don’t trust the badge,” Detective Stack said.

SEX TRAFFICKING IN THE US The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates that 100,000 children in the US are victims of sex trafficking. This graphic below illustrates the number of calls for help the resource center's hotline has received by state since 2007.


1561 321 582




196 618


273 1189



Infographic by Hannah Karl & Julian Morris-Walker

NEWSWIRE “A lot of these girls have been brainwashed to not work with law enforcement, they don’t trust us. They naturally don’t trust the badge,” Detective Stack said. In order to convict their pimps and get help, trafficked children need to be able to admit they are victims, according to Detective Stack. “It’s a two-way street; it’s a bond that need to be made, the girls need to trust the police enforcement,” Detective Stack said. Frundt is a survivor of sex trafficking herself and created Courtney’s House as a safe haven for girls like her. She and the other workers there help guide survivors of sex trafficking. They offer a drop-incenter for survivors to come talk, eat or take any other donated items. Polaris Project is a national organization dedicated to educating police on the laws and signs of domestic trafficking. They created a national police force, which victims can call toll-free to report their stories. This national police force is trained to understand sex trafficking and not blame young girls for their situation. *** Sex trafficking is an underground and profitable industry, and particularly prominent in DC due to the transient nature of the city, according to Lindsay Waldrop, an AU alum working for ICF International, an organization working to provide policy solutions for all kids of trafficking. “With a hidden crime it’s hard to get numbers,” Waldrop said. In 2011, DC’s National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 376 calls on its hotline. It found 95 cases of human trafficking in DC, 57 of which concerned minors. ICF International claims diplomats are among the biggest contributors to DC’s human and sex trafficking industry, and one of the main reasons why this problem is so prevalent in DC. Diplomats have immunity, meaning they have safe passage and are not considered susceptible to a lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws. Although they can be expelled, such action is uncommon for underground crimes such as sex trafficking, according to ICF International. Because of this, diplomats can come from all over the world and bring young boys and girls to be trafficked here in DC without much complaint or problem. But one of the primary reasons sex trafficking is such a big problem is because it’s easy, according to Sigmund. She says what makes this underground industry different is you don’t need drugs or money. “To get into human trafficking, you just need a child,” Sigmund said.

Rachel Lomot is a sophomore in the School of International Service.



n October 29, the US Department of Energy unveiled Titan, a 20-petaflop supercomputer that it hopes will claim the title of fastest in the world. The Department of Energy sponsored the creation of Titan by Cray Inc. at Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee. The project upgraded Jaguar, the facility’s previous supercomputer, in an attempt to definitively edge out supercomputer competition abroad. Titan takes up 20 large computer cabinets of space, and its internals include 299,008 CPUs and 18,688 graphics processing units powered by seven megawatts of energy—or enough to power a small town. If it operates as expected, Titan will clock in at 10 times faster than Jaguar and edge out the current record-holder, the 16.92 petaflop IBM Sequoia in California. Twenty petaflops of computing power means Titan can complete 20 quadrillion calculations per second at peak performance levels, or the equivalent of all of Earth’s 7 million people each completing 3 million calculations in one second. No word yet on how many pages of lolcats and animal gifs Titan can load per second. –Taylor Kenkel



his past election season, Maryland ballots featured a referendum on whether to uphold or reject the Civil Marriage Protection Act. The act allows same-sex couples to obtain civil marriage licenses and allows religious groups to opt out of performing ceremonies. The referendum, listed as Question 6, received unlikely support from the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Richard T. Lawrence. In a “thoughtful and nuanced argument,” according to the Baltimore Sun, Lawrence detailed why he supported the initiative. He gave his speech during his regular Sunday homily at the end of October. Lawrence’s argument referenced the fact that the Catholic Church pays spousal benefits to divorced individuals and to individuals with other non-church-sanctioned marriages. Additionally, Lawrence argued that the Church allows couples to marry who will not be able to procreate but are straight, undermining the common claim that the Church only sanctions marriages formed with the intention to have children. The churchgoers responded to his homily with an energetic standing ovation. Even though the homily was removed from the parish website, Lawrence remains “in genuine awe of all those couples—straight, gay and lesbian—whose… faithfulness to each other is…a believable sign of the absolute faithfulness of God to us all.” –Zac Deibel






Nestled in the southwest corner of South Dakota, the Black Hills rise out of the Great Plains like a new forest growing from its burnt ancestor. The surrounding scenery is light and dry like kindling, but the hills rise into view covered in lush dark pine trees. The ubiquitous “black” of the Black Hills is actually a deep evergreen. These hills, the Lakota’s most sacred land, pulse with life. In the heart of the Black Hills, the forest gives way to a wide clearing. This privately owned land, The Reynolds Prairie Ranches, is called Pe’ Sla by the Lakota and is an especially sacred site within the Black Hills. According to the Lakota, Pe’ Sla is where the Morning Star fell to earth and killed seven women. To honor them, the Morning Star placed the soul of each woman into a star of the Pleiades constellation. When the government seized the Black Hills from the Lakota in 1877, they sold off parcels of the future national park, including Pe' Sla, to private owners. The Lakota believe that the Black Hills were stolen from them; now, they are uniting to buy Pe’ Sla back. Pe’ Sla is only the beginning of the Lakota story; this purchase represents an entire movement towards the resurgence of a rich culture and strong communities.

LAKOTA IN THE BLACK HILLS The true name for the “Great Sioux Nation” is Oceti Sakowin, meaning "Seven Council Fires." Sioux itself is not a word in any language, but is


short for Nadowessioux, a combination of Chippewa—an enemy tribe— and French words, meaning “dirty snakes.” Sioux has come to describe the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota peoples of the Oceti Sakowin. In 1851, the Lakota signed the Fort Laramie Treaty with the United States government, outlining their territory. The land stretched across

To Bellecourt and many American Indians, the Lakota's most sacred land was taken from them for the yellow rock in the ground.

the entire west side of South Dakota, reaching into North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska, with the Black Hills at its center. The government re-negotiated the treaty in 1868, officially creating the “Great Sioux Reservation,” shrinking Lakota territory but keeping the Black Hills in the reservation. The treaty stated, “No white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the territory, or without the consent of the Indians to pass through the same.” Then, in 1874, General Custer found gold in the Black Hills. Despite the fact that the Black Hills belonged to the Lakota

under an internationally recognized treaty, the American government passed an act of Congress in 1877 to seize them. “In return for the land, the government promised them that they would be able to sustain life forever,” said Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder and director of the American Indian Movement. “When they find gold or they find uranium or they find rich farmland or water, the grass quits growing, the sun quits shining, the river quits flowing. The corporations come in and steal everything.” To Bellecourt and many American Indians, the Lakota's most sacred land was taken from them for the yellow rock in the ground. The next 23 years were marked with battles over the land promised to the Indians in the treaties. The Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 marked the end of the Indian wars of the 19th century. Many considered the slaughter of surrendered, innocent, unarmed Lakota—mostly women, children, and elderly—as revenge for the Indian victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1786. Since then, the fight for Indian land has been a legal one. In 1979, the US Court of Claims wrote, “A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history,” in reference to the government taking the Black Hills. In 1980, the Supreme Court ordered the US government pay $105 million in reparations to the Oceti Sakowin for taking the Black Hills. The Oceti Sakowin continue to reject this ruling, stating that the Black Hills were never for sale and that by accepting the money, they would cede their claim to the land. James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, toured the United States in April and May 2012. “The Black Hills in South Dakota… hold profound religious and cultural significance to tribes,” Anaya said. “It is important to note, in this regard, that securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples' socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity.” Much of the media and Lakota community interpreted this as a call for the US government to return the Black Hills to the Lakota. However, the idea of returning the entirety of the Black Hills to the Oceti Sakowin angers many Americans because those hills hold a national icon, Mount Rushmore.

PE’ SLA Now the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is moving forward to purchase Pe’ Sla for the Oceti Sakowin. Currently, the Reynolds family is selling 1,942 acres of the Reynolds Prairie Ranches, located within the Black Hills. Most of Pe’ Sla lies in its boundaries.

“Because this was considered a sacred site, an appraisal really didn’t have a lot of meaning.” Schmidt said. “You can’t put a value on a spiritual site.” The Rosebud Sioux Tribe had intended on bidding on one of the five parcels of land for sale; when the auction was cancelled, the tribe offered to purchase the entire 1,942 acres. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe reached an agreement with the Reynolds family of $9 million for the entire 1,942 acres of Pe’ Sla. The deal required an immediate $900,000 down-payment which Indian Land Tenure loaned to the tribe; the tribe has already paid back that loan with interest. The tribe has until November 30th to pay the remaining $8.1 million and will take out another loan to do so. Vernon “Ike” Schmidt, the executive director of Tribal Land Enterprise, an organization with the purpose of acquiring land for the reservation, said the final price settled upon was probably three or four times the fair market value. “Because this was considered a sacred site, an appraisal really didn’t have a lot of meaning.” Schmidt said. “You can’t put a value on a spiritual site.” Members of the community differ in their opinion of the sale. It angers many who do not believe in buying land that already belongs to them according to the treaty. “It’s a shame what happened, and it’s a shame that… tribes have to buy [Pe’ Sla] back in order to preserve it as a sacred site, to have it not be developed commercially or residentially,” Schmidt said. “We have to turn around and buy our land back in order to preserve the sacred site.” While divisive among the Lakota community, the unity around the Pe’ Sla purchase is unprecedented.

BEYOND THE LAND Land claims are not the only part of the Lakota story making headlines. In the past year, the media has frequently reported on the Lakota community, particularly on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

James Anaya released a statement calling on the US and South Dakota governments to consult the native communities in regards to the auction.

Much of the media portrayal focuses on the negative statistics of reservation life. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, unemployment fluctuates between 85 and 95 percent, and most jobs are provided by the tribal government. Ninety-seven percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line. More than half the reservation's adults battle addiction and disease such as alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and malnutrition. The teenage suicide rate is 150 percent higher than the national average, and the average life expectancy—48 for men and 52 for women, as of 2007—is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Haiti.

The auction was scheduled for August 25, but the Reynolds family cancelled the auction August 24. They have not explained why.

But a cultural resurgence and a force of dedicated individuals are changing these statistics. Rather than continuing to depend on an

The Reynolds family has owned the land for 100 years and has always allowed the Oceti Sakowin to perform annual spiritual ceremonies on their property, but the Oceti Sakowin fear future owners might not.




CULTURE BLOOMS IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY The Lakota cultural resurgence is present not only on the reservations, but also here in Washington, DC. On a clear September morning, a small teepee village resonates with the sound of drumbeats beneath the Washington Monument’s watchful eye. A banner reading “Prayer Vigil for the Earth” is spread between two teepees. Inside the circle, there are American Indian children dancing in their traditional dancing clothes beside a fire and a large drum. People of all ethnicities and faiths are observing. “The native people dancing with the non-native people, it was very moving,” said Sharon Franquemont, who organized the event. She is the daughter of a Lakota man and says Lakota blood runs through her veins. Franquemont began the Prayer Vigil for the Earth in 1993 after having a vision on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

Lakota children dance at the Prayer Vigil for the Earth on the National Mall in September 2012. unreliable government, indigenous individuals have begun many initiatives from within their communities. In the 1970s, American Indians made their voices heard with the American Indian Movement. While controversial, AIM was proactive and encouraged more self-reliant communities. “When the American Indian Movement formed in July of 1968 we discovered that 75 percent of all the energy resources, which includes gold and uranium and silver and good farm land were still on our land,” said Bellecourt. “We would never give up another inch; we would give our life for what we believed in.” Bellecourt does not believe in relying on the government for basic needs such as housing, education and health care promised in the Fort Laramie Treaty. “We have our own job training programs, we have our own housing programs, we have two clinics,” he said. “We can’t depend on anybody anymore; we have to do it ourselves because the government can cut you off at any time.”

Among the different tents are representatives of many faiths, from Christianity to Buddhism. The Vigil is not exclusively for American Indians. “The purpose is for people to share, for 33 hours, their prayers and traditions in an atmosphere of respect and love,” Franquemont said. “And so it’s a chance for humanity to practice peace with each other, particularly around religion and spiritual traditions.”

“We would never give up another inch; we would give our life for what we believed in.”

Bellecourt says his job training programs are widely successful. He has trained 45,000 people, taking 35,000 off of welfare over the course of 35 years.

Franquemont believes that the Vigil gives hope and encouragement to the youth, but that the Vigil is bigger than just cultural resurgence and empowering youth.

Other efforts are taking place that focus on traditional Lakota practices, particularly to treat mental health conditions and addiction. Healing ceremonies, such as inipis, or sweat lodges, are frequently used for addiction therapy. Additionally, the Sweetgrass Suicide Prevention Program, a grassroots community effort, utilizes traditional cultural methods for healing.

“A quote of my Native American father, I think, summarizes what we’re trying to do: If you prick the finger of a white person, the blood runs red; if you prick the finger of a yellow person, the blood runs red; if you prick the finger of a black person, the blood runs red; and if you prick the finger of a red person, the blood runs red,” he said. “So that proves that we’re all one; skin color doesn’t mean anything. And that’s what this vigil is about: for us to remember that we’re really all one as we welcome Mother Earth—to learn to treat each other with love and respect.”

The dedicated members of the Lakota tribe and the resurgence of traditional Lakota culture have created more hope on the reservations than ever before. While many remain divided over the course their communities should take, each community is making strides towards better living standards for all, and they are doing so by their own choice, rather than by the will of the government.


“There was a vision that the 500 years beforehand had been so rough on indigenous people all around the world, that we’d like the 500 next years to be very different, and not just for indigenous peoples, but all peoples,” she said.

Pamela Huber is a freshman studying literature.


THE MERIDIAN HILL PARK DRUM CIRCLE Photos by Jared Angle, Nicole Brunet & Chris Lewis // Words by Katie Fiegenbaum Every Sunday afternoon during spring and summer, there's a place in the city where people get together to play drums and dance. Anyone can join, and many passers-by do, then come back again and again to become the regulars that fill up the park and create a community. Located between the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights is Meridian Hill Park, unofficially known as Malcolm X Park. Near the steps in the center of the park, stone benches build the foundation of the drum circle, though the crowd often spills over. From here, one can look out upon the Washington Monument and downtown DC.

J.A. The drum circle has been going on for at least 50 years, and is believed to have formed from the drum circles that happened during the marches and protests of the civil rights movement.




C.L. The circle generally happens between 3–9 pm during the warmer months. On especially nice days you can't even save a friend a spot because there are so many people.


John Porter purchased the park and the land surrounding it in 1819 and named it "Meridian Hill" because it's located on the exact longitude of the original milestone marker of DC. The land was purchased by the US government in 1910.

N.B. At the edges of the circles, people watch, chat, hula-hoop, cheer and sing along. One local says he's been coming to the drum circle sporadically for the past three years just to hang out and have fun. He says he likes that you can find people from all walks of life there.





As the drummers (and other musicians) play, others dance, showing off their moves and competing in dance-offs.


C.L. Though it's called a drum circle, many people bring other instruments or just use their hands and feet. "It's hard to get a bunch of people together and play a melody," said one drummer.


For many, drumming is therapeutic. One drummer said it's important to "try to get out of our digital self, and to know how to have fun when the TV doesn't work."

J.A. Jared Angle is a junior studying print journalism and international studies. Nicole Brunet is a freshman studying film and media arts. Katie Fiegenbaum is a junior studying international communication and Arabic. Chris Lewis is an AU alum and former editor-in-chief of AWOL.




Was your career path always clear to you? Yes and no. I always wanted to be a writer because of how much I loved reading books and telling stories. I always sort of studied those things: writing, storytelling, literature. Being in an MFA program and being in that track solidified that feeling that I should be a writer.

Do you have a favorite topic to teach? I have a lot of favorites! I love creative nonfiction and all that that means. The term is loaded; it includes everything from memoir and literary journalism and feature stories. I like teaching that range of nonfiction and all the hairy questions that come up for students. In my college writing classes I like teaching pop culture-related things. My spring course is going to be humor-centered and it’ll be open to first year students or anyone with the LIT-100 prerequisite.

What draws you to teaching writing? I think one of the myths about writing is that it’s an intangible thing that kind of just happens to you. That good writing is inspired and magical. I do think that it can be inspired and magical, but usually it’s a lot uglier than that. I like being involved in that ugliness with my students. My classes challenge them to think outside the box. Everyone can be a writer and everyone can do it well. People think they have it or they don’t. I like helping students feel empowered to supersede that notion.


ALISON THOMAS By Dinah Douglas // Photo by Hannah Karl

What is the best thing an aspiring writer could do to improve, outside of the classroom? Probably a mixture of things. Definitely reading, definitely writing of any kind, for oneself or to others. Asking questions about things that are in others’ or your own writing is one of the best ways. Really, it’s just a practice thing, getting what is in your brain on to paper. The more you do it, the more effective you become as a writer.

What is the inspiration for your book Our People? Alison Thomas is a professor in the AU Department of Literature, teaching college writing and creative writing, including a humor-centric writing colloquium for Spring 2013. Her recent nonfiction work, “A Telescope at the Sky,” was featured in Best American Essays 2011. In addition to teaching at AU, she is involved with 826DC, a branch of the national nonprofit in Columbia Heights, which published Dear Brain, a student writing anthology earlier this year. Professor Thomas recently took time to chat about the ugliness of writing, the curiosities of the creative nonfiction genre and publishing with high schoolers and 826DC.

How did you come to teach at AU? I did my undergrad at Cornell in English and Spanish. Then I came to AU for the graduate literature department’s MFA in creative writing. The MFA program has a track where you can formally learn about teaching and get your feet wet a bit. When I first started teaching I was a grad student, and when I was first hired I taught a little here and at George Washington in their graduate program. AU hired me full time and this is my fifth year.


That was my thesis project. It’s a fiction book and a collection of short stories, sitting in a drawer now. I’ve become more obsessed with creative nonfiction in the past few years. My most recent publication was in creative nonfiction. This most recent work was really trying to explore what creative nonfiction is, who gets to say what, what is truth and what is lying. What justifies people talking and writing about themselves. The piece is called “A Telescope at the Sky” which was in the journal Fourth Genre. They publish experimental nonfiction; I believe the subtitle is “explorations in nonfiction.” They are really pushing the genre and asking questions about the genre. It’s interesting especially to me because the classes that I teach involve exploring creative nonfiction.

Your experience makes you an obvious match for 826DC. What got you involved with that organization? Can you describe just what you do there? 826 is a nonprofit, they call themselves a literacy nonprofit. DC is just one chapter of a national organization. They have chapters in many different cities, like New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, and

“I do think that [writing] can be inspired and magical, but usually it’s a lot uglier than that. I like being involved in that ugliness with my students.” its home base is in San Francisco. It was started by Dave Eggers, who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and recently the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, as a place where kids could go to get tutoring services for homework and also where students could work on their writing skills, specifically. It offers lots of different kinds of programming, workshops and field trips. Volunteers will go into classrooms to support writing curricula for kids of all ages, really. I was interested in it for a number of reasons, especially as a support tool for any teacher to have access to. Public schools sometimes need that support for what students can do after school, so we provide them with some options and support with what they do. I started a year and a half ago. I’ve given workshops for local high school students, like helping them with college applications and the essay. Last school year I worked on a young adult book project at Ballou High School. I worked with another writer in the school and worked with students who were in the poetry club. We met with them weekly, and they wrote poems of their own, learned about revisions and workshopping, and at the end of year they put out the book, Dear Brain, which I think is a great name!

What was the most challenging part of putting together that anthology of student work, Dear Brain?

They really depend on volunteers for everything—whether it is volunteers that come in after school hours, or volunteers who run workshops and come in to be support staff. They are super involved and it’s a great thing. I actually have two former students who have worked with 826. The other thing about 826 is that they’re all really fun to go in. Each one has a storefront and 826DC recently published Dear Brain, they all have a different theme. Ours is the an anthology of student work. Museum of Unnatural History. Everything they sell is kind of quirky, something an unprofessional anthropologist might buy. It’s like Indiana Jones’ store. There’s lots of fun things for kids to touch. Like, you can buy these little glass vials of this sparkling substance, called unicorn tears. A lot of work is put into inventing these products and they rely on these people and the volunteers to develop and to sell those products that fund the program. One of my former students built a cave in the store. Students that end up volunteering get a lot out of it, inventing products, working the store, tutoring, doing workshops. Lots of cool options.

There were a lot of things that were difficult. Working with these Dinah Douglas is a second year masters student studying political students was challenging first because I had only worked with communication. college students before. We had to make connections with each other. And it wasn’t exactly a teaching situation, which is what I was used to. In this situation I was hanging out with the poetry club, which was an after school activity. Since it was after with a Google Android operating system. school, it had to be fun but also had to be Sony also paired up with 007 to launch an opportunity for the students to do and phones in Casino Royale and Quantum of learn something different. It was challengSolace. Sony isn’t the only brand repreing but in the end very rewarding because sented in Skyfall. The 23rd Bond bomof the relationships formed and the work bards viewers with a number of brands, that I saw them do with developing their including Sony Vaio, Tom Ford, Coke own voices. The students participate a lot Zero, and more. The most disturbing, in poetry slams and they are so into it, and n the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, to anyone who has heard the phrase so great. They love performing. They love Bond will be up to his old tricks—using “shaken, not stirred,” is that James Bond performing their work out loud. We wanted gadgets the likes of which haven’t been will be giving up his signature martini to bridge the gap between the spoken word seen by average citizens. Instead of us- order in favor of a new drink, Heineken and written word. ing the popular iPhone 5 or the Samsung beer. But which is more unbelievable: Galaxy S III, the top two smartphones in Bond drinking from a green bottle, or 826DC cultivates close ties to local schools and the community. What are some the country, he opts to use a Sony Xperia T, using a Sony? -Eleanor Greene




ways anyone interested can get involved?






Quick: name five schools in the District. Could you do it? There are some schools we naturally think of when we think about our fellow collegians in DC: our neighbors at UDC and Georgetown, our competitors at GW. Add to that those schools that are on the Metro lines: Catholic, Howard, Gallaudet, GMU, UMD. There is one school you surely don’t remember. Southeastern University, which was located at the Waterfront-SEU Metro stop. But looking at a Metro map, you’d never know it. Southeastern has nearly fallen off the map. In the spring, Waterfront-SEU was the name of the stop on the green line before Navy Yard. The new Metro map, phased in during May and June 2012, dropped the “SEU” at Waterfront. In its article about Metro’s changes, the Washington Post neglected Southeastern DC once again, not mentioning the switch. Of course, by then it was old news. After all, Southeastern closed in 2009. Founded in 1879 as YMCA College, the school was renamed “Southeastern University” in 1930. It completed a quadrangle of geographically named colleges, joining fellow YMCA school Northeastern in Boston;


Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois; and Southwestern in Georgetown, Texas. These three schools collectively now have an enrollment of over 25,000 students. The enrollment at Southeastern had hovered between one and two thousand students for years, but it was the September 11th attacks of 2001 that are credited with slashing enrollment to the point of no return. Southeastern had depended on international students who were no longer flocking to the states, and some were facing stricter immigration laws. In the mid-eighties, a third of the student body was Nigerian, and another third were international students from Iran, Taiwan and some African and Caribbean countries. Southeastern attracted such a large foreign student body by being relatively cheap and having relaxed policies that allowed ample time for foreigners’ families to send them money, sometimes up to 10 months. In an article published in the Post in May 1983, Southeastern’s Dean of Students, Vijay Chauhan, said the university was used to the financial uncertainty that came with having many foreign students.

But in post-9/11 America, the future of the school remained unclear. The tuition dollars needed to run the university were dwindling as international enrollment decreased. The school, which had before been funded largely by students from countries made rich by the oil industry, now saw a shift in demographic to local, low-income students. Kathryn Ray is a librarian at Bender Library. She's lived in the District her whole life and studied the city while going to college at George Washington University. She says though the security fears and legislation that came after 9/11 led to a decrease in foreign students in general, she can’t imagine it had as big of an impact at American as it did at Southeastern. She explained that the difference is that AU has established connections with other colleges and universities globally, while Southeastern was “randomly waiting for international students.” This would explain the financial uncertainty Chauhan described even in the 1980s. In spring 2009, it was announced that Southeastern, which had been floundering in the eight years since the attacks, would not be offering fall classes. At this point, they had only 30 full-time professors, and hired roughly 150 adjuncts each semester. In late June, 300 of the 645 students graduated. At least 200 had applied for transfer, mostly to other colleges in the area, including UDC and Trinity, according to the Post. An accreditation report said that only 14 percent of Southeastern’s first-time degree seeking students graduated in six years. For perspective, 74 percent of first-time degree seeking students at American graduate in four years. *** Between 1900 and 2000, 20 institutions of higher education closed in the District. It seems like the institutions we attend are and should be strong and ever-present, but the concept of “too big to fail” is simply not the case. Southeastern is the first of what could be many schools to close here in the twenty-first century. Across the country, at least 58 colleges and universities have closed since the year 2000. It turns out closing schools isn't so uncommon, especially in economic downturn. Three years after its close, there isn’t a trace of Southeastern left in DC. But it’s not just the Metro stop that’s changed. Its former website,, is now the homepage to another Southeastern University, located in Lakeland, Fla. Its transcript records and some professors have been adopted by The Graduate School, which trains federal employees. Southeastern’s main building remains empty, with entrances fenced off, and windows dark on a suburban street between the National Air and Space Museum and the Arena Stage. It’s hard to imagine a place where people learned and made friends, where others earned their livings teaching and where foreigners felt at home in the United States, could disappear so suddenly, losing both hope and accreditation in less than a decade. The moral of Southeastern’s story is that nothing, anywhere, is sacred. Nothing is too big or too small to fail. And schools, like the lives of the students who attend them, are transient.

Eleanor Greene is a sophomore studying print journalism.


HELPING HEROIN USERS GET CLEAN Words & Photos by Jared Angle

A shift away from injection heroin use and the efforts of needle exchange operations in Washington, DC, have contributed to a decrease in the number of new HIV infections in the second half of the 2000s. But at the Kolmac Clinic Silver Spring addiction treatment program, which provides treatment for opioid addicts, there’s been a shift in the clients they serve. The staff notes they’ve been seeing fewer heroin addicts, but the abuse of prescription opioid drugs such as Vicodin and Oxycontin is on the rise. Not only that, but their clients are younger. “Clearly, the use of opioids has increased,” said Moe Briggs, regional clinical director at the Kolmac Clinic. Despite this decrease in heroin use, the health problems associated with intravenous heroin are highly visible in parts of DC, primarily

“It’s challenging for those who have friends and family members injecting drugs,” she said. “We hate what drugs have done to their lives.”

in Wards 3, 4 and 5, and occasionally in 6 and 7, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Intravenous drug users (IDUs) in the United States represent seven percent of new HIV infections in males and 14 percent for females according to a report by AVERT, an international HIV and AIDS charity. These infections spread when infected drug users share used needles with other IDUs . In Washington, DC, there were 42 new HIV infections in IDUs in 2010, down from 150 infections in 2007, according to a 2011 report by the Department of Health. The report attributed the change to the DC’s expansion of needle exchange services. Infections in IDUs accounted for roughly five percent of all new infections in DC during 2010. In total 588 people—or 10.1 percent of people— in the District




living with HIV were infected IDUs.

all lead to vein damage and skin abscesses when the drug is injected.

Groups such as Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS) in Northeast DC and the now-defunct Prevention Works have contributed to the drop by providing drug users access to clean needles by

HIPS educates IDUs on the prevention of injuries associated with injection drug use, and also provides syringe kits. These kits contain sterile water and clean metal containers that allow users to boil powdered heroin down into an injectable form, and cotton filters to separate impurities from the heroin.

People are misinformed about drug use because it is an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss.

allowing IDUs to dispose of used needles in return for sterile ones. Such needle exchange programs are harm reduction methods used to decrease the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Organizations like HIPS have access to federal funding for certain ser v ices, but are not allowed to use federal funds for needle exchanges. A counselor receiving federal funds can legally provide certain services that HIPS operates, but must refer IDUs seeking needle exchange services to a separate syringe specialist within the organization. Executive Director Cyndee Clay says this overall reduces the number of needle exchanges that are performed. The decades-long ban on federal funding was repealed in 2009, but reinstated again in 2011 as a part of the 2012 Federal Budget bill. Without access to federal funds, needle exchanges in the District area must operate from private funds. Through their needle exchange program, HIPS distributed roughly 145,000 needles last year and Clay expects that number to double in 2012. The needles, bought in bulk, cost between seven and eight cents each.

Some dealers sell high-purity heroin for a more desirable product. But Gray said that if the heroin is too strong for a user’s tolerance, they may suffer an “automatic overdose on the spot.” Other dealers dilute or “cut” their heroin with a variety of substances to maximize their profits. But Gray says lower potency does not mean lower risk. “How much you break it down or what you put into it can have an adverse effect,” Gray said. According to a pamphlet on the MPD website, heroin is sometimes cut with sugar, starch, powdered milk or the anti-malaria medicine quinine. But it can also be cut with fentanyl, another medical opioid with a potency 30 to 50 times that of heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control. MPD’s primary role during interactions with IDUs is to confiscate illegal drugs and investigate drug trafficking and violent crime, but MPD officers are given first responder training that allows them to recognize the signs of a heroin overdose and provide medical assistance.


While using heroin and other opioids is illegal, Clay says needle exchange and other harm-reduction services are important.

But the risks of intravenous drug use aren’t limited to the transmission of blood-borne infections such as HIV or hepatitis, which can be prevented by providing clean needles.

“Syringe exchange has been proven time and time again,” Clay said, pointing to the decrease in HIV rates among IDUs since the D.C. Department of Health expanded syringe access.

Other factors such as dirty water, bacteria and impurities in heroin can

The range of services that IDUs can access at a needle exchanges gives this service its own important role alongside the medical community and addiction treatment programs, according to Clay.



he abortion debate has flared up again—and this time it wasn’t because a Republican man threw in his two cents on the matter. A woman in Ireland died in November after she was denied an abortion that would have saved her life, the Washington Post reported. Though abortion is banned by the Irish constitution, the procedure is legalized when necessary to protect the life of the mother. An estimated 4,000 Irish women per year seeking abortions travel to England, where the procedure is legal—an option that is difficult, of course, for women in failing health. Since Savita Halappanavar’s death, thousands of Irish have held candlelight vigils for reform. And in the United States, where we've just reelected our pro-choice president, it's a vision of a radical conservative policy that could have been. –Lori McCue


Intravenous heroin users face risks when they are unaware of the potency of their heroin, says Officer Keith Gray, a member of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Narcotics unit and an American University graduate.

Drug users come to these services to get clean needles, but also have the opportunity to take rapid-result tests for HIV and hepatitis C. “[Needle exchanges are] one of the most proven, cost-effective public health interventions for reducing HIV and hepatitis C,” Clay said. Clay says contrary to the concerns of needle exchange opponents, increased needle access has not increased drug use. She believes people are misinformed about drug use because it is an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss. Clay says drug treatment programs are not always successful on the first attempt, and many users enter rehabilitation programs several times before they are successful. “It’s challenging for those who have friends and family members injecting drugs,” she said. “We hate what drugs have done to their lives. We help people until they’re ready for other kinds of help.” Jared Angle is a junior studying print journalism and international studies.


SMELLS LIKE ETHIOPIAN SPIRIT By Ethan Miller // Illustration by Carolyn Becker

Over the summer I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite DC musicians, David “Spoonboy” Combs, play a show backed by one of my favorite bands, Good Luck. While moving with the music in the front row, I happened to look behind the musicians. Instead of some cool punk poster or tapestry, I saw a large portrait of the former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. The show was taking place at Ras, an Ethiopian restaurant on Georgia Avenue, just north of Petworth. It wasn’t the first punk show I had been to at an Ethiopian restaurant. In fact, I had noticed a trend: a lot of shows were being booked at Ethiopian restaurants and other unusual spaces. Throughout high school and my first year of college, most of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) punk shows I went to in DC were in people’s basements or living rooms. Chris Moore, a member of a few local hardcore punk bands who also books DIY shows, said he started booking shows

Moore sees it “as the restaurants helping us out by giving places for our shows and us helping them out by giving them business.”

at restaurants as “a product of not having steady DIY spaces in DC and resorting to alternative places to have them.” Washington, DC, is home to the largest Ethiopian community in the country. And similar to any immigrant community, many enterprising immigrants opened up shops and restaurants catering to their community. The area around 9th and U streets NW, known as the “Black Broadway” before the 1968 riots, is now known as “Little Ethiopia,” home to many shops and restaurants that opened after rising prices drove many Ethiopian immigrants from Adams Morgan. According to Moore, many of the restaurants where he books shows

also host dance nights or live music of other sorts on a few days of the week. “Having punk shows there sometimes brings in business on potentially slow nights,” he said. Moore says owners are usually “pumped” to have the extra money, and happy about having live music in their establishments. Owners declined to comment on this story because most establishments do not have proper licenses to have underage patrons around during the evening, Moore says some bands are taken aback a little bit about playing in a restaurant. Touring bands are usually used to playing in traditional punk spaces like basements, but once they see the exciting, upbeat atmosphere, Moore says they come around. Recently, a Salvadorian restaurant in Tenleytown, Casa Fiesta, has hosted shows as well. Robin Zeijlon, a high school student at the Georgetown Day School, started booking shows at Casa Fiesta in the spring. He says the shows have facilitated a bit of a revival for the struggling restaurant. Now punk concerts draw a new crowd that provides business to restaurant owners. Some may see mostly white punk bands playing shows in Ethiopian and Salvadoran restaurants as the newest form of gentrification to hit the District. But Moore says that's not the case. Instead, he sees it “as the restaurants helping us out by giving places for our shows and us helping them out by giving them business.” Restaurants and punk rock bands may not intentionally be taking part in sociopolitical change—but the Ethiopian eateries are allowing musicians to expand into fresh, new venues and those musicians are helping bring in more revenue.

Ethan Miller is a senior studying economics.