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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 Generation Progress, we are a recognized publication of American University.

“Ensuring accuracy and respect in reporting about transgender people shouldn't be such a difficult hurdle to clear. A journalists craft is dedicated to details—to disregard gender identity is to neglect the facts of the story.” - Lori McCue, p. 17

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 Ellyse Stauffer

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.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Lori McCue MANAGING EDITOR: Claire Dapkiewicz ART DIRECTOR: Ellyse Stauffer WEB EDITOR: Alexa Marie Kelly


p. 14

STAFF EDITORS: Jess Anderson, Allison Butler, Pamela Huber, Linda Nyakundi CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Casey Chiappetta, Rhys Leahy WRITERS: Haley Hawkins, Jimmy Hoover, Pamela Huber, Chloe Johnson, Alexa Marie Kelly, Brigitta Kinadi, Maya Kosover, Michael Mansheim, Lori McCue, Jane Morice, Linda Nyakundi, Nadine Rotundo, Lexie Tyson

ART: ART ASSISTANT: Kade Freeman DESIGNERS: Kade Freeman, Ye Lim Lee ILLUSTRATION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Tyler Berg, Kade Freeman, Rain



Freeman, Evan Mills

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by Brigitta Kinadi An artistic revival on H St.

04 WHEN YOUR PROPERTY DOES THE TIME POLICING FOR PROFIT by Pamela Huber Civil asset forfeiture in DC and around the nation

08 DC'S NATIVE SOUND WHERE'S GO-GO GOING? by Michael Mansheim and Jane Morice The past, present and future of DC's very own music genre

10 REAL FOOD AND WAGES IN TDR FUNDING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU by Haley Hawkins Bon voyage to Bon Appétit

by Jimmy Hoover A local activist tells her story


by Tyler Berg A view from the street


by Evan Mills

by Alexa Marie Kelly

A look at DC's height restriction laws

The philosophy professor talks identity, Iranian film and his DC bakery



by Lori McCue

by Chloe Johnson

The politics of pronouns

The little Smithsonian that could



by Linda Nyakundi

by Maya Kosover

Forcing large retailers to pay

Lessons from the graveyard shift




Photo courtesy of the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

By Brigitta Kinadi

As dusk creeps into the H Street corridor, the Art Deco marquee of the Atlas Performing Arts Center lights up in beaming blue and white. The street comes alive with conversation, and chattering Washingtonians crowd into bar patios. The historic Atlas marquee, which towers over the row of colorful lowslung buildings, is the unmistakable centerpiece of the street. The Atlas’s large physical presence reflects on its cultural footprint on the H Street corridor. In 2006, the former movie theater reopened as a 60,000 square foot performing arts facility. Its rebirth marked the beginning of the area’s recovery from the 1968 riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. For many residents, the presence of the Atlas parallels the revival of the H Street corridor. “The Atlas played a huge part in the redevelopment of H Street because it actually brought people to the area,” said David Simmons, who works at the Atlas and has lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years. “The only restaurants that existed when I first moved here [were] a Popeye’s and a dingy little Chinese take-out place with Plexiglas. No one used to come here.” The Atlas Theater was one of four movie theaters on H Street when the area was a thriving commercial district in the 1930s. It was forced to close in 1978 following years of decline. When it closed, the building was abandoned and eventually boarded up and covered with graffiti. In 2002, Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger, lawyers interested in the arts and community development, purchased the theater. Four years later, the Atlas Performing Arts Center opened. “When Jane Lang was first brought here, she took one look and said, ‘No way.’ It was too big, too messy and, with conditions of the neighborhood back then, it was too hard,” said Jen DeMayo, director of community at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. “But after thinking it over, she woke up the next morning and realized that the theater could be the catalyst for the revitalization of H Street.” DeMayo, who has lived in the area since 1999, says that reopening the Atlas Theater was a pivotal moment. For residents who grew impatient with the city’s development plans for H Street, the Atlas “was a promise that was actually kept.” “At the time, there was a lot of talk of new projects, but the Atlas was one of the very few that was actually completed,” DeMayo said. “People take pride in that. And when we started seeing local families bringing their children here for our programs, it was obvious that the neighborhood was willing to invest in Atlas. Many young people from outside the neighborhood see H Street as a vibrant nightlife destination, a hip alternative to Adams Morgan and U Street. What most don’t realize is that H Street is also a residential area, and many longtime residents and even some newcomers raise their children in the neighborhood.


The three-block stretch around the theater is commonly known as the Atlas District.

“It’s important to us that Atlas offers opportunities for children here to be exposed to the arts very early on in their lives,” DeMayo said. The Atlas targets families with programs like “Theater for the Very Young,” which offers theater arts education for children ages 5-8. Another popular program is “Boogie Babes,” which brings children’s musicians to the Atlas Performing Arts Center every Friday. American Youth Chorus, the youth branch of the Congressional Chorus, is also based in the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Established in 2008, the American Youth Chorus has more than 80 members from ages 8-14. The chorus was founded on the belief that all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, should have the opportunity to receive musical education. “Families pay tuition based on household income, and the chorus offers full scholarships for some children,” said Simmons, who is also the artistic director of both the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. The American Youth Chorus rehearses at Atlas twice a week, bringing in a flood of children in school uniforms and bright polo shirts on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Since its creation five years ago, the chorus has performed in the White House, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress. “A few years ago, we performed at Hillary Clinton’s Christmas party,” Simmons said. “Some of the kids that performed lived in public housing in Southeast DC. These kids were now in the Secretary of State’s diplomatic reception with ambassadors from all over the world. That night, they got to see a world that most people would never see.”

Parents in the neighborhood appreciate that the chorus gives their children a creative outlet. “The chorus is great because it’s not your typical babysitter afterschool activity,” said Mary Masters, mother of an 11-year-old girl in the youth chorus. “It gives them a chance to develop their artistic sides, and also builds confidence and character.

“The Atlas played a huge part in the redevelopment of H Street because it actually brought people to the area.”



By Pamela Huber // Infographic by Ellyse Stauffer

Saturday, June 1, 2012: It is 3:30 am at the Takoma Park IHOP, and a sleek white Dodge Challenger pulls into the parking lot. A black streak stretches from the car’s trunk over the roof and down to the hood, blending with the tinted windshield like lacquered armor. Like many longtime residents, Masters believes that the reopening of the Atlas Theater has made great contributions to the revival of the H Street corridor. Today, H Street is lined with an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, like a Mexican restaurant with a miniature golf course, a gastropub that specializes in mussels and a sushi bar that offers karaoke and bingo on weeknights. The three-block stretch surrounding the former movie theater is now commonly known as the Atlas District. “Atlas is a jewel in the H Street and Capitol Hill area,” Masters said.•

Brigitta Kinadi is a senior studying journalism and international studies.



jury of 13 Methodist clergymen in Lebanon, PA, suspended their pastor, the Reverend Frank Schaefer, of his duties for 30 days for conducting the wedding of his son to another man six years ago. Schaefer, pastor at the Zion United Methodist Church of Iona, was charged with conducting a same-sex ceremony and violating the church’s discipline, according to the Lebanon Daily News. If he violates the terms of his suspension and officiates a same-sex marriage or violates any portion of the Methodists’ Book of Disciples in the thirty-day time frame, he faces a more serious consequence: loss of his title and status as pastor. New York Magazine reports that despite the controversy his actions have created, Schaefer is unrepentant and doubtful that he will be able to adhere to the mandate set out in his sentence. “If a gay couple asks me [to officiate their wedding] in the next thirty days and they qualify, yes, I would do it,” Schaefer said during his trial. “We as a church and as individuals need to stop judging people,” he added. “We need to stop treating them as second-class citizens.” -Jess Anderson

The driver, DC firefighter Keith Chung, pulls into a handicapped spot and exits the vehicle. The restaurant's security camera captures the ensuing action in grainy detail. After a few minutes, DC police officers approach Chung’s car, and one writes him a ticket for improperly parking. When Chung returns, he finds the ticket, opens his car door and drops the paper on the ground as he slides into the driver’s seat. The police officers approach the car, and, according to the police report, Chung refuses to produce his license or exit his vehicle, all the while shouting expletives at the officers. The officers charge Chung with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, possessing an open container of alcohol, willfully disobeying an officer and littering. DC’s Public Defender Services stated in court testimony that, “officers claimed to find a firearm on the person of one of the passengers in Mr. Chung’s vehicle” and that “Mr. Chung was initially arrested for being present in a motor vehicle containing a firearm, but he was not charged in connection with the incident.” Metropolitan Police Department officers seized Chung’s car the same day as the arrest. On June 2, Chung sought the return of his car, and instead discovered DC’s complicated laws on civil asset forfeiture. *** Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property, money, cars and homes without convicting or even accusing the owner of a crime, on the basis of the property’s alleged connections to illegal activities. Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, which requires a property owner be charged and convicted of a crime before law enforcement can permanently seize the property, civil asset forfeiture circumvents due process by charging the property itself, rather than the owner, with a crime. And while criminal asset forfeiture requires substantial evidence of assets’ connection to illegal activity, civil asset forfeiture in DC only requires officers to offer a “probable cause” for a connection to illegal activity. Darpana Sheth is an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm aimed at protecting constitutional rights. “[Civil asset forfeiture] is one of the strongest threats to private WWW.AWOLAU.ORG » FALL 2013



property rights in the country today, and it’s also an affront to due process and the rule of law,” Sheth said. Civil asset forfeiture frequently violates the Constitution's Fourth and 14th Amendments. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that warrants for seizures be based on probable cause. The 14th Amendment protects due process, which ensures states respect all of a person’s legal rights, including the rights to receive notice of legal actions or charges, grieve or complain against those actions or charges in court, and appeal that court’s decision. Continuing this bizarre inversion of due process, most state laws do not require police to prove property’s connection to illegal activities, but rather make the owner prove its innocence. Owners must pay hefty penal sums, or “bonds” simply to challenge a seizure and postpone forfeiture. According to IJ directors Dick M. Carpenter II and Lee McGrath in their report, “Rotten Reporting in the Peach State,” “to the rational property owner, the value of the property seized often simply isn’t worth the cost to reclaim it.” William Claiborne is an attorney at law who has filed a class action lawsuit against the DC's government on behalf of 19 plaintiffs who have had their cars or money seized for forfeiture or investigative purposes. Claiborne’s lawsuit focuses on the District’s failure to supply proper notice to property owners of the seizure. “They don’t give you anything at the point of seizure that tells you where to go or what to do,” Claiborne said. “The law says if you take somebody’s property, you’ve got to give notice that says, ‘We’ve taken your property, we’re gonna have a hearing, you have a right to come to the hearing and be heard.’ Well, they never have a hearing because they don’t actually give you notice.”

“They strip income from people who are least situated to get it back, from the most vulnerable members of society tthat have the least ability to fight back.”

It can take the government years to take a forfeiture case to court. In the meantime, owners cannot access their seized property, which severely disrupts their everyday lives, jobs and well-being. These hearings allow owners to contest their property’s seizure and keep their property while awaiting a forfeiture trial. The hearings are necessary for several reasons. “If you’re an innocent owner, [a hearing] gives you an opportunity to get your car right back,” Claiborne said. “And even if you’re guilty of the offense, at least you get a right to drive your car around until there’s a final determination, because it’s very unfair to just snatch somebody’s car and hold it without a trial.” DC law requires owners to pay a bond between $250 and $2,500




2012 2010 2008








1 Source: Institute for Justice

just to request a hearing to challenge the seizure of a vehicle—in Chung’s case, $2,075. Paying the bond does not insure Chung will get his car back. It simply grants him a hearing to request a preliminary injunction, which will let him continue to use his car before the forfeiture case goes to trial. *** Forbes contributor Stephen Dunn, a tax expert and attorney who specializes in civil asset forfeiture, explains in his article “Nothing Civil About Asset Forfeiture” that the legal processes leading to a preliminary injunction can stretch on for weeks or months. DC lines up with federal law under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. CAFRA requires the government, within 60 days of seizing property, to send written notice of the seizure to the owner. The owner has 35 days to file a claim for the property. Then the government has 90 days to charge the owner with a crime or file a civil forfeiture lawsuit. If it does neither it must return the seized property. Overall, the process can take over 6 months, but some have experienced longer cases. It took DC resident Frederick Simms 11 months simply to request a preliminary injunction to have his car returned while awaiting a hearing on whether the forfeiture would hold up in court; the hearing occured two months later. Overall, Simms, 26, couldn’t use his car for more than a year. MPD seized Simms’s car without a warrant on May 29, 2011 because police claimed to have found a firearm in it. Simms was acquitted of all related charges in DC’s Superior Court in December 2011. But his car remained in an impound lot. Simms’s public defenders state in their motion for preliminary injunction, received May 1, 2012, that “the police have kept Mr. Simms’s car without providing Mr. Simms any opportunity to contest the initial seizure and subsequent retention of his vehicle pending any forfeiture proceedings.” The resulting hearing occurred on July 6; Judge Emmet Sullivan returned Simms’s car, stating that “the District’s failure to provide Mr. Simms with a post-seizure hearing to challenge the deprivation of his vehicle pending the conclusion of civil forfeiture proceedings violates his constitutionally-protected due process rights.” In the year without his car, Simms spent $40 a day on public transportation to travel to a $12-an-hour paying job. He could not drive his daughter to daycare or run errands with his fiancée. “This whole situation has been a huge burden on my entire life,” Simms says in his testimony. “It has been costly, time consuming, and embarrassing.”

The District’s failure to offer Simms the opportunity to contest his car’s seizure joins a long list of injustices enabled by civil asset forfeiture: the government requiring a bond payment to hold a hearing for such an opportunity; police failing to provide proper notice of seizures; seizures requiring only probable cause of an asset’s connection to a crime; property’s “guilty until proven innocent” status; and courts placing the burden of proof on owners rather than the government. Police frequently seize an innocent owner’s property because someone else connected it to a crime; the system’s set-up prevents innocent owners from easily getting their property back. *** The Reagan Administration created civil asset forfeiture to combat the war on drugs. By seizing property and money immediately, law enforcement prevents drug lords and money launderers cfrom continuing to use those assets in criminal activities while awaiting trial. This limited their power and strengthened the government’s case against them. “It is clear from the legislative history of CAFRA that Congress intended to limit civil forfeitures to alleged structuring connected with an underlying offense of drug trafficking or money laundering,” Dunn writes in his article. And it worked. Instituted under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, civil asset forfeiture helped bust major drug dealers and white collar criminals. Federal agents studied structuring—manipulating the transfer of money and assets so as to intentionally avoid IRS flags to divert suspicion—to find corruption within corporations. Once courts forfeit assets, the government can pocket seized cash and auction off property, cars and real estate for profit. “In most of these states as well as at the federal level, these laws give law enforcement agencies a direct financial incentive to seize property because most of the proceeds from forfeiture… [goes] directly back to the law enforcement agencies,” Sheth said. This statute allow for the ideal war-on-drugs campaign: law enforcement can seize drugs, drug money and tools of distribution (including transportation) with only probable cause as evidence. The drugs not only exit the market, but can be used as evidence in court cases, and the profits from the seized drug lords goes towards fighting more drug lords. This is rare. The victims of forfeiture abuse are not drug kingpins, but most frequently the poor and needy unable to pay their own legal fees. Since civil asset forfeiture does not allow for a right to an attorney, the indigent cannot afford to fight back against unjust property seizures. “The whole system is rigged to what I call an ‘income-stripping device,’” Claiborne said. “They strip income from people who are least situated to get it back…. from the most vulnerable members of society that have the least ability to fight back.” Claiborne says citizens are often pulled over for simple traffic violations. The criminal offenses then connected with seized property vary, but frequently will be related to drug possession or supposed money laundering related to the drug trade.

The Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs reports that between 2009 and 2011, wards with higher African American populations witnessed higher arrest rates overall, and arrest rates related to drug crimes. Claiborne said that a cop “can stop anybody he wants to” and that the arrest rates and subsequent seizures are “very unfair.” “The day they start doing this over at George Washington or Georgetown, hey let me know, I won’t say it’s unfairly aimed at the most vulnerable members of society,” he said. *** The Institute for Justice reports that the District has raked in millions in the past decade through forfeiture. “Under current DC laws there are no reporting requirements and so there’s little transparency about how the District is actually engaging in forfeiture and in how much they’re profiting from it,” Sheth said.

“There's little transparency about how the District is actually engaging in forfeiture and how much they're profiting from it.”

Even though reports vary as a result, we know that the District forfeiture program floods MPD with millions of dollars annually. From 2010 to 2012, DC seized 339 vehicles, as well as money from over 8,500 individuals, for a total profit of over 4.8 million dollars. And through a loophole called the equitable sharing program, the District has received another $8.2 million since 2000. “[The equitable sharing program] allows state and local law enforcement to circumvent their own stricter local laws in order to receive a bounty of 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds simply be referring forfeitures to the federal government,” Sheth said PDS has filed a lawsuit against MPD on behalf of approximately 375 car owners like Chung and Simms. The lawsuit is currently stilled in the court system due to negotiations between PDS and MPD. The negotiations resulted in MPD promising to limit its use of civil asset forfeiture pending the hashing out of legislation on forfeiture reform. *** Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, a democrat from Ward 3, introduced a bill, both in 2012 and again in 2013, aimed at reforming civil asset forfeiture laws in the District. PDS supports Bill 20-48, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2013. DC Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan supports Bill 20-419, the Civil Forfeiture Procedures Amendment Act of 2013, which was introduced by DC’s Executive branch in response to B20-48. A working group is negotiating and compromising between the two bills in an effort to create legislation that can be passed before the December recess. Sheth is working with the group to bring




about meaningful change that would improve IJ’s current grading of DC’s forfeiture laws: “F.” B20-48 would shorten the time period between seizure and an owner’s ability to apply for an injunction and would require law enforcement officials have “clear and convincing evidence” to seize assets. It would also switch responsibility from owners proving their property’s innocence to the District proving the property’s guilt. Finally, it would place profits from forfeiture in the District’s general fund rather than just MPD’s budget.


The working group has agreed that Simms’s case has proven the need for prompt hearings following seizure, but the exact number of days between seizure and the hearing are still up for negotiation. The group has also agreed to transfer forfeiture proceeds to DC’s general fund, although the equitable sharing loophole is still up for debate. Attorney General Nathan argues in his testimony against B20-48 that transferring forfeiture profits away from MPD would have devastating effects, including potentially leading to a suspension from the federal equitable sharing fund. Oregon and Utah’s share in the program were suspended when they enacted laws that took forfeiture profits from law enforcement and put them into general funds. Sarah Stillman, a writer for the New Yorker, approves of allocating forfeiture proceeds to general funds, citing evidence from a national analysis of individual state laws. She writes in her article "Taken" that “States that place seized funds in a neutral account, like Maine, Missouri... North Dakota, and Vermont, have generally avoided major forfeiture-abuse scandals. Problems seem to arise in states—such as Texas, Georgia, and Virginia—with few restrictions on how police can use the proceeds. Scandals, too, emerge from the federal Equitable Sharing program, which allows local police to skirt state restrictions on the use of funds.” Transferring profits to the general fund would hopefully reduce unfair seizures fueled by financial gain. “Right now, the police are the ones to make the call about whether they seize, they’re the one’s that make the call about whether to forfeit, and they’re the ones that make the call about whether the property should be forfeited, plus they get to keep the money,” Claiborne said. “So you have the same agency doing everything and that’s as pure policingfor-profit as you can get.” As for the switch in the quality of the evidence required by police, Attorney General Nathan says that “Enacting this Bill would create a bizarre double standard under which forfeitures governed by DC law, which typically concern lower value property, would be more difficult to prove than forfeitures governed by federal law, which typically concern higher value property.” Sheth responds to this quote: “I’m not sure that that makes sense….Right now... essentially, you have an officer on the street who thinks, ‘Ok, this property might be involved in a crime’ and it’s really just that determination of probable cause that can subject it to forfeiture.” While the working group might disagree on the nitty gritty details, meaningful reform does look imminent. ***


Police released Chung’s car in July of 2012 after a preliminary injunction was granted. For two months he had carried 100 pounds of firefighting gear every day on public transportation, waking up at 4:00 a.m., rather than his usual 7:00 a.m., in order to reach different stations around the city. He struggled with supporting his extended family that relied on him for trips to the grocery store, school and medical appointments. He had to turn down a parttime job in Baltimore because he could not get there, although he desperately needed the extra money to pay $600 a month in loans on the car he could not use. He was never charged with a crime. •

Pamela Huber is a sophomore studying literature. She is a staff editor for AWOL.




he pizzly bear: half polar bear, half grizzly bear. It’s like a creature from some post-apocalyptic land—a hybrid of two animals forced to breed by an evolving, warmed-up world. But it didn’t take the end of days to find one. Global warming has caused massive summer ice melts that force polar bears farther south every year in search of stable hunting grounds. And as development in Canada pushes grizzly bears north, the two cousin species interbreed. According to Christine Dell'Amore of National Geographic, wild pizzly hybrids were spotted in 2006 and 2010, and scientists fear that sightings will only increase with time. An increase in hybrid breeding could mean a loss of polar biodiversity, as pure-blooded polar bears breed with other hybrids or grizzly bears and eventually become extinct as a distinct species. Scientists fear that many aquatic mammals, including different species of endangered whales, may begin cross-breeding as well as Arctic ice barriers melt away; and, since hybrids are not protected under the endangered species act, nothing stops hunters from mounting heads of these rare wonders above their fireplaces. The endangered polar bear has long stood as an icon of the consequences of global warming, and many seem resigned to let the species disappear. However, south-bound polars and pizzlies mean potentially higher rates of polar bear attacks. Additionally, given the fact that grizzlies will maul prey and leave it to die, and polar bears are more unpredictable and have been known to attack humans without provocation, it is possible that these hybrids could behave unpredictably towards humans. At the most extreme, they may even maul people for fun: a reason enough to care about some melting ice. -Pamela Huber

Be'la Dona performs at Crank and Groove. Photo courtesy of Alexander Morozov

Go-go music can be compared stylistically to funk, with heavy emphasis on bass and drums. The genre is also notable for its West African-influenced call-and-response vocals. But the most distinct element of go-go is the pocket—a steady drumline that is consistent throughout the entire song. The pocket keeps the song in line; the other instruments, particularly the bass, follow the pocket. The go-go pocket is constantly evolving, but it must stay consistent throughout a particular song. According to well-known go-go musician Christylez Bacon, who presented his go-go story at Crank & Groove, “If you’re not in the pocket, you might as well be invisible. If you’re not in the pocket, you aren’t in the go-go.” Patrick “Go-Go Grover” Washington, another presenter at “Crank & Groove,”described the pocket as “the space in between the drums we all live in.”


WHERE'S GO-GO GOING? By Jane Morice and Michael Mansheim

The spotlights shine on women in tight black outfits and high heels belting contemporary hits to an enthusiastic crowd. The all-female band backing them grooves to the beat. The audience loves every second of it—people are on their feet clapping, dancing and smiling from ear-to-ear. This isn’t a show at the 9:30 Club, however, or any other mainstream concert venue in the DC area. It’s a performance by all-female go-go group Be’la Dona at the “Crank & Groove: A Go-Go Love Story” event held at the historic Atlas Theatre over the weekend of Sept. 13. Arranged by Speakeasy DC, the event was the place for go-go performers, experts and aficionados to share their go-go stories.

Go-go originated as a response to disco, and could even be considered a response to the hip-hop and rap culture that has dominated airwaves across the country and the world. Yet traditional go-go music hasn’t infiltrated mainstream radio airwaves, making it unique to DC. It is a cornerstone of the city's culture despite changes in the music industry and its trends. The singular example of go-go’s potential to infiltrate the mainstream hip-hop culture is Wale, a rapper and DMV native. Raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Wale (born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin) was involved in the go-go community before he transitioned into his career as a rapper. His music is influenced by go-go, and select songs have distinct go-go elements. Wale gained local fame in the

“While anyone in the world with an internet connection can discover new music every day, go-go has remained a sort of well-kept secret within the DMV area's black community.”

Nina Mercer, a playwright and professor at Medgar Evers College, shared her go-go story at Crank & Groove. Mercer grew up heavily involved in the go-go community. Her father semi-managed the popular band Experience Unlimited and was a legal representative for local musicians and record labels. Nina eventually became a dancer for the band as a teenager and provided choreography. Go-go allowed her to perform often, and by 16 she was able to choreograph dances for music videos and feature films. A summer job through a youth employment program dancing and bringing performance to parks in all four quadrants of DC gave her the opportunity to perform and craft her skills as a professional artist.

mid-2000s with his song “Dig Dug,” a tribute to the late percussionist Ronald “Dig Dug” Dixon from the go-go band The Northeast Groovers. The song was hugely popular among locals, gaining airtime on radio stations and subsequently catching the attention of British producer Mark Ronson. Working with Ronson garnered him industry attention, and Wale was able to sign with Interscope records in the late 2000s to release his first album, Attention Deficit in 2009. The album included a straight go-go song called “Pretty Girls.” Natalie Hopkinson, a writer for The Washington Post and The Root who wrote her doctoral dissertation on the culture surrounding go-go, certainly considers Wale to be a member of the go-go culture.

“My love for the music and the culture expanded beyond professional expression,” Mercer said. “My [fellow dancers] and I would go out and that would give us confidence.”

“[Pretty Girls] was on the radio and topped the charts for a long time, and he really didn’t do a lot to it to change it to make it a hit for his album,” Hopkinson says. “It was a go-go song. And then he’s embraced the culture in a way that other hip-hop artists haven’t.”

Go-go is a musical phenomenon. While anyone in the world with an internet connection can discover new music every day, go-go has remained a sort of well-kept secret within the DC-Maryland-Virginia area’s black community.

Wale’s second major-label album, Ambition, was his first on hip-hop mogul Rick Ross’s label Maybach Music Group. Compared to his first studio album, Ambition all but abandons go-go influences, like the inclusion of a pocket. Out of 17 songs on the album, only three have




an inkling of any go-go inspiration; these include the opening song “Don’t Hold Your Applause” and “Sabotage.” By distancing himself from his go-go roots, it is possible that Wale was simply making a mainstream rap album with his new label. Yet his third album, The Gifted, released in June 2013, has recognizable go-go influence, particularly in the songs “Clappers” and “LoveHate Thing.” “Clappers,” for example, suggests a pocket, yet the beat does not carry through the song. Furthermore, at the end of the song, Wale repeats the phrase “Rest in peace to Chuck,” a shoutout to the late musician and go-go star Chuck Brown. Brown’s death in May 2012 sparked a noticeable resurgence in the DMV’s interest in go-go music. Brown, affectionately known as the “Godfather of Go-Go,” truly transformed the genre from a stray offshoot of funk music into a genre and culture all its own. Go-go music has evolved since Brown, fueling a debate over the music between “old heads” and “new heads.” So-called “old heads” believe traditional go-go styles and venues must be preserved and performed for posterity. Any of Chuck Brown’s songs, especially hits like “Bustin’ Loose” and “Block Party,” exemplify the sound “old heads” are trying to preserve. The “new heads,” which include the youth fueling the present and future of go-go, have created quicker and more “hardcore” styles of go-go, including the subgenre “bounce beat.” Bounce beat has a faster tempo, with a heavier base and greater use of vulgar language. One of the more popular bounce beat bands, TCB, has “made over” current hip-hop songs, keeping the lyrics but transforming the accompaniment to include a pocket. Although traditional go-go music is unique to DC, one group from Reston, Virginia has shown signs of infiltrating the mainstream. RDGLDGRN (pronounced Red Gold Green) has been touring nationwide and plans to make international appearances with a genre they call “indie go-go.” The group’s style, according to its Facebook page, “takes hip-hop infused punk and indie rock to create something refreshingly unique.” While RDGLDGRN has had some success connecting with listeners outside the DMV area, the band said in an email that “the only people that recognize the go-go influence in our music are the people who have heard go-go at least once before. No one else knows what they're hearing, they just know they like it.” After all, the music is not traditional or “pure” go-go—it contains rock and hip-hop elements that give it a greater chance of reaching an audience outside the DMV area. Though go-go has always been considered an open community for expression in DC, its past is rocky. Indeed, as an “underground” genre that hasn’t penetrated music scenes outside the DMV, the violence and drug culture that surrounds non-commercial music was highly concentrated. Mass numbers of drug-fueled fights and casualties around the go-go scene led to heightened police presence that persists to this day. In 2010, the Washington City Paper published a story detailing DC Metro Police Department's biweekly “go-go report,” collected by its “hush-hush” intelligence branch. This report details where known gogo shows are going to occur, which bands are playing, and what time the shows are slated to start and finish. At the time of that story’s publication, hardly anyone—particularly go-go musicians and their


management—knew that the “go-go report” existed. But they weren't surprised. Quoted in the City Paper’s story, Ben Adda, go-go band TCB’s manager, said that he felt targeted by MPD. The go-go report’s continued existence, well after the violence surrounding go-gos has greatly diminished, is a strong indicator of MPD’s wariness of go-go and the individuals involved in the go-go community. To this day, select music venues in DC refuse to allow go-gos, and some have been shut down by law enforcement injunctions. Hopkinson said she knows of at least one case in which the Petworth neighborhood commission denied a new music venue its liquor license unless it banned go-go.

“Kids aren't letting it go, and [go-go] continues to be the signature of DC, but we have to make it happen. It takes a whole community of people to say that we aren't letting this go.”

Go-go was always—and continues to be—an industry, with specialized designers, artists, promoters and musicians benefitting from packed shows every night of the week. For many African-Americans living in DC, especially during the “Chocolate City” era, go-go provided opportunities for expression and employment that didn’t exist elsewhere. In the 1980s, when mass incarceration was on the rise and there was a distinct lack of economic opportunity and mobility in the DMV, go-go enjoyed popularity as an apolitical musical escape mechanism. Perhaps go-go never achieved widespread popularity because it was born of problems too DC-centric to foster growth outside the community. Many forces are poised against go-go culture: gentrification and the changing culture of the neighborhood schools where many musicians and artists met and grew up, and the backlash against violence associated with go-go. There are, however, some bright spots in go-go’s future. Hopkinson noted that shows are still packed every night. “Maybe they might hide for a while, and they might change the name—in some places they call it this and other places they call it that—but they’re very old, and go-go is one of those things, the whole thing is not a new invention,” she said. Mercer said she’s positive about the future of go-go as a genre and as a community. “Kids aren’t letting it go, and it continues to be the signature of DC, but we have to make it happen,” Mercer said. “It takes a whole community of people to say that we aren’t letting this go.” •

Jane Morice is a junior studying journalism and Michael Mansheim is a junior in the School of International Service.



Christine Hamlett-Williams grew up on a farm in North Carolina and was raised knowing that fresh food is good food. It’s better for your health and your taste buds, or, as she puts it, “frozen and processed—that’s not real food.” This ideology led Hamlett-Williams and other AU campus dining employees to become activists in the Real Food Real Jobs campaign in 2012. The campaign combines advocacy for fresh, locally-grown food with an interest in fair employment practices in the food service industry. These two issues go hand in hand. According the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, food service workers account for more than 15 percent of the US labor force, yet 86 percent do not make a wage high enough to maintain a normal standard of living and face high levels of food insecurity––meaning they may not know how they will get their next meal. According to a 2012 report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, more than 13 percent of food service workers are on food stamps, which is almost double the rate for workers of all other US industries combined. In DC, the living wage is a topic sizzling with debate. According to The Economist, the District has an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, higher than the national average of 6.9 percent. In June, DC lawmakers approved a measure called the Large Retailers Accountability Act that would force large companies in the area to pay a 50 percent premium over the city’s minimum wage, meaning they would have to pay employees a baseline wage equal to 150 percent of the District minimum wage. Wal-Mart was one these companies, and the corporation threatened to withdraw its plans for retail locations in DC. Mayor Grey has since vetoed this measure. The emergence of this type of legislation, however, validates campaigns like Real Food Real Jobs that advocate for a living wage and fair working conditions. “We’re fighting for a fair wage,” Hamlett-Williams said. “Because if you get barely paid, you go home and you can’t even cook your children the quality of food [you] have at work, because you’ve got to buy something cheap.” Last year, students and workers combined forces to improve working conditions. Samantha Ruggirello, a member of AU’s Student Worker Alliance, attested that conditions were poor under AU’s former contract company, Bon Appétit. “[There were] large amounts of disrespect,” Ruggirello said. “There would be people who would be told to do three peoples’ jobs when they only had one.”

In one instance, campus dining employee Kevin Nelson, who now works at Elevation Burger on campus, faced severe repercussions of unfair employment practices under Bon Appétit. Nelson, who worked in the Terrace Dining Room last year, was forced to work through his company-mandated break one day. Afterward, he asked his supervisor for permission to take food home since he hadn’t had time to eat. His supervisor granted him permission, and Nelson took food home. Bon Appétit subsequently fired him for theft. After remarkable student upheaval, including signs and chalked messages on the sidewalk asking “Where’s Kevin?" Bon Appétit rehired Nelson within a matter of weeks. As a result of these injustices, AU campus dining employees, with the help of the union Unite Here, came together last year to develop a contract protecting worker’s rights—a contract ratified by Bon Appétit. “Being part of this contract renegotiation will hopefully make all of us more aware of our rights,” Nelson wrote in an article on Unite Here’s website. “Hopefully, we can use this force and momentum to carry this movement forward.” The new contract carried over to this year when food service company Aramark became the official food provider of the university. “Our employees at AU are represented by a union and covered by a collective bargaining agreement,” said Adam Fox, marketing manager for AU Dining. “We follow all terms and conditions of that agreement, which includes clear provisions for how to address sustainability and employment issues.”

“Eighty six percent of food service workers do not make a living wage and face high levels of food insecurity—they may not know how they will get their next meal.”

Officially, Aramark has hired back every employee from last year, including Hamlett-Williams, who has worked at AU for over 30 years. “I’ve seen food service change dramatically since I’ve been here,” Hamlett-Williams said. “From food being made from scratch to being processed.” Jon Berger, the mid-atlantic regional coordinator for Real Food Challenge, an organization which mobilizes students to advocate for healthy and fair food service, echoed this point. “There has been a general shift from fresh to processed, frozen foods,” Berger said. “This also means that food service workers become replaceable.” In response to this trend, Aramark boasts goals of sustainability and local food sourcing.




“Many of our partner institutions are defining sustainable food and developing purchasing policies according to what is most important to their campus community,” Fox said. “Here at AU, we work with a number of local, regional and national growers, producers and distributors," Fox continued. "We aim to source as much food as we can locally, within a 250 mile radius and within the region when available.” So are they living up to their promises? Hamlett-Williams said it’s too early to tell for sure, but she has seen some improvements, especially when it comes to voicing her opinions. “I can speak up,” she said. “If I see something wrong, I speak up.”

“All of us work for money, for a paycheck, but I'm not here just for a paycheck. I love my job. I enjoy it. I look at [the students] as my grandchildren.”

To allow all AU dining employees this freedom, employees have already begun meeting with Aramark management to demand contract adherence, with support from students and faculty. On Oct. 24, Anthony Johnson, an AU dining employee and activist with the Real Food Real Jobs Campaign, spoke briefly at this year’s Food Day, an annual celebration of grassroots organizations advocating for fresh, local-grown food and fair food service practices. “We want to live up to our working potential,” Johnson said. “And we want to provide good food for the students because we really care about you guys.” Like Hamlett-Williams, he believes employee autonomy is the foundation of a good work environment. One of the most interesting aspects of the movement last year was the communication among campus dining employees, students and faculty. The AU community rallied behind dining employees, which is meaningful because students interact with the workers every day. “All of us work for money, for a paycheck, but I’m not here just for a paycheck,” Hamlett-Williams said. “I love my job. I enjoy it. I look at [the students] as my grandchildren, and I would not want to send my grandchildren off to college and [have] that college say one thing and do another.” •

Haley Hawkins is a freshman studying journalism.




ven before the new Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) took effect on Oct. 1, it was a hotly debated topic. What often remains unsaid, however, is how this law will affect domestic violence survivors. In eight states and the District domestic abuse can be considered a pre-existing condition: a health condition that a person had or has received treatment for before buying a new health insurance plan. These can include cancer, asthma and, in some places, prior experience with domestic violence. A pre-existing condition could cause insurance companies to charge the individual more, or even not to insure them. Not much data is available on exactly how many insurance companies would deny someone under these conditions. In most cases, their underwriting requirements were kept concealed. However, the fact that the possibility existed was enough to make people afraid to report the abuse they suffered for fear of losing their health insurance. Angered by this, many senators, notably Sen. Patty Murray, pushed for legislation in 2009 that would protect these survivors. Their attempts ranged from bills that said domestic violence could not be considered a pre-existing condition to ones that prohibited any use of pre-existing conditions when creating an insurance plan. These efforts proved unsuccessful, and come 2013 there was no legislation in these states or D.C. that would penalize the practice. The Affordable Care Act not only prohibits insurers from withholding coverage based on any pre-existing conditions, but also explicitly dictates that evidence of prior domestic abuse cannot be considered a pre-existing medical condition. This provision, which will begin Jan. 1, 2014, will certainly have a cost effect, and which has led to a great deal of controversy. Many organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, have countered by emphasizing the benefits the law will have for survivors of domestic violence. Obamacare also stipulates that most health care plans provide screening and counseling services for domestic violence victims. Along with other routine questions, doctors will ask patients about domestic violence and if they are being abused. If patients disclose that they are in such a situation, doctors will explain that what they are going through is abuse and provide resources for patients. This practice has been around since before the act, but was not widespread. These screenings, though, can be crucial in providing a safe place for victims. Critics of the ACA note that this provision focuses on women, but men can also be victims of domestic violence. The effectiveness of the act’s domestic violence provisions, however, are yet to be seen. -Lexie Tyson


LIKE THE EAGLE IN FLIGHT Words and Photos by Jimmy Hoover

“I KEPT GOING” It was the middle of the night when she left San Salvador, that stained Salvadoran city she called home. Daysi Perla watched the fading lights of the Parque Libertad, site of the Massacre of 1977. The images of soldiers descending on the crowd would never leave her. The cries of women and children at the foot of the El Rosario Church begging to be let in by the friars would stay with her always. As the bus trundled on through the dust-caked road, making its way north into Mexico, Perla thought of her son. Francisco Perla was eight years old in 1990, the year his mother left for the United States. Born two years after the Salvadoran Civil War broke out, he learned about the world through the lens of violence and danger. She would not let him come with her. He was sent to live with his grandmother in La Union. “I never wanted to put my child in danger,” Perla says. “I didn't want to show him any of this.” Perla arrived in Mexico City days later. Hawkers and peddlers swarmed the streets. She soon found that unlike Hondurans or Guatemalans, she and other Salvadorans could pass for Mexicans from Veracruz due to their similar accents, called “jaracho.” But her luck didn’t last. Just moments before she was to board her bus to the border, a man approached her at a public telephone, shouting indiscernible questions. She waved him off, and he left. When she looked down at her hand, Perla realized the bus ticket she had been holding was gone. It was May in Mexico City, and the sun beat down in the Federal District, by far the biggest city she had seen. She was alone. Her trip would get more arduous but she found inspiration elsewhere.

"I have faith in God and in good people,” Perla said. “And I met someone who told me I could stay in their house. They gave me a bed. They gave me food. I worked there for a little while, and afterwards, I kept going." Eventually she found herself on a different bus, but her destination was the same: the United States. When the bus finally stopped, a man toward the front ordered everyone out and told them to run. She can't recall the images from that night, or even when she crossed the border, just the heavy falling of breath in the desert night. Somewhere in south Texas, they reached a bus station. … In the center conference room of the Central American Resource Center of Washington, DC, a Columbia Heights nonprofit, Perla wears the years with a quiet smile. Before her sits a stack of fliers and a call list. Perla began volunteering for CARECEN shortly after arriving in the city in the early 1990s. For the past few days in October she’s been rallying the local community for the immigration reform march set to take place the following week on the National Mall. But by the fourth day of the government shutdown, the event’s organizers are on high alert. Around the country, news agencies are breaking stories about closed monuments and the wrath of visitors. The Mall is a ghost town. … Three months after emigrating, in September 1990, she found a job as a nanny for a well-to-do Chevy Chase family. The pregnant wife was due before the end of the year and needed help that her working husband couldn't provide. Perla stayed with the family for eight years, through the birth of another baby girl and the children’s days in elementary school. She cooked for them and bathed them, even taught them Spanish.



AMERICAN AMERICANWAY WAYOFOFLIFE LIFEMAGAZINE MAGAZINE A DREAM DEFERRED In April of this year, not far from Perla’s 14th Street apartment, a group of senators gathered on Capitol Hill to "hash out" a solution to the crisis of 11.7 million undocumented immigrants and backlogged visa queues. The so-called "Gang of Eight" drafted an immigration reform act that would grant those 11 million the opportunity, or "pathway" to American citizenship. Marcy Campos, the director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service at American University, and professor of a course called "The Latino Community of the DC Metropolitan Area,” described the recent hubbub surrounding the debate. "It's the timing; it's the demographics; it's Obama, and it's also all the organizations that are playing an active role in organizing,” Campos says. “There's a lot more unity, there's a lot more activism." CARECEN members protest at the October 8 immigration reform march on the National Mall.

"I took care of them like they were my children,” she remembers. But they weren't hers. Her child came to her once a month, materialized on a post-card with the pencil scratchings of a young boy, or a distant voice crackling through the phone. She remembers the ache: "It was really hard when I couldn’t come, and he would tell me, 'Mommy, it's Christmas and you're not with me. Mommy, it’s Mother's Day and you're not with me. Mommy, I don't remember what you look like.’" Years after arriving, she risked everything and returned to El Salvador to tend to her sick mother in La Union, the fishing port city where her family lived. But what she thought would be an emotional homecoming, a filial reunion, ended in a bitter realization. Francisco now stood at equal height with Daysi. His frame was bigger than that of the small child she had cradled under her bed when government forces besieged San Salvador for three days, and she had to shield him from stray bullets. Now, he wouldn’t meet her eyes. He resisted her touch, the 2,000 miles still present even as she stood within arms length of him. Perla flew back to Washington, wrought with grief. "I'm paying a very big price to be here," she told herself in the days after her return. "I'm losing my child." *** By 1998, it was time to leave the family that employed her. The girls were older and no longer needed her. But again, she felt the pang of departure, of leaving. "It wasn't the way I wanted it to be, but it was necessary. I spoke with the oldest and asked for her forgiveness. Their entire lives were with me, and all of a sudden I wasn't there,” she said. After bouncing around jobs in the kitchens of different Washington businesses, Perla graduated from Carlos Rosario charter school with a certification in culinary arts. She went to work for Teen Bridges, a program of the Latin American Youth Center, where she remains today, teaching basic life skills such as cooking and grocery shopping to underprivileged and formerly abused adolescents of the District's child welfare agency. But she still volunteers for CARECEN when she finds the time.


The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would make nearly impossible the 1990 trip Perla took across the border. The Act calls for the installation of 350 new miles of fencing, armed security personnel and new towers—all at a $46 billion price tag. But it would also bring the immigration quotas for visas up to date and do away with the cap on numbers from certain countries like El Salvador. To the dismay of millions, the bill is languishing in the House of Representatives, where the once fiery debate for reform has been sequestered by a swath of political issues, from the use of chemical weapons in Syria to, most recently, the shutdown of the federal government. Campos, who says that back in the spring she couldn’t go a day without reading about the debate, says the once-bubbling media attention has fizzled. "A lot of things have happened in between then, and it's slowed down a lot," she says. Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, a political non-profit organization, opposes the bill. She said giving a pathway to citizenship to the country's nearly 12 million undocumented residents would be giving amnesty to criminal behavior. "At a time when our country is facing unemployment and underemployment, we think that Congressmen and women should be focusing on Americans and not illegal and legal immigrants,” Williamson says. Williamson supports systemic reform, but her suggestion for change is a different beast. Even though President Obama set a record when he deported 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in his first term, Williamson still decries what she considers the failure of "interior enforcement." She supports the increase of programs like Secure Communities that mandate the collaboration of local and federal law enforcement agencies with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the deportation enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security. Williamson said FAIR would also like to see a nationwide implementation of the E-Verify program, which is designed to weed out undocumented immigrants from the workplace. Williamson said that visas and other legal avenues for immigrants should be reduced as well. Once the incoming numbers are lowered,

she said that sending people back to their countries after their statuses expire is the next step. She suggests "biometrics:" a strategy embraced by various House Republicans that calls for fingerprinting and database indexing to track all legal newcomers to the country. "The most important aspect of entry-exit is the exit portion," she says.

WAITING ON WASHINGTON Perla believes that in some ways, it is her duty to rally support for the upcoming march. “I think it's important that while the Congressmen are fighting, the Latin American community takes to the streets, so that they know we are here and we aren't leaving,” she explains.

the nonagricultural workers covered by H2B visas face an interesting challenge. Not only must an American employer sponsor them, but the sponsor must also prove that "there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.” Fewer than 4,000 applications were certified in 2012. The years have taken their toll on Perla and her son. Francisco, now a husband, father and ornithologist for a reforesting organization, has put immigrating to the U.S on the back burner. "He's not going to come stay. He's coming to get his residency and leave," Perla says, her voice weary. “I know that I have a very fragile relationship with my son,” she adds sadly. “I failed being with him, seeing him grow… This is the price I've paid. He doesn't know me and I don't know him."

She also has personal impetus for wanting change on the immigration front: she's waited for Francisco for 23 years. In 1990, Perla applied for Temporary Protected Status, a new provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that guaranteed amnesty for immigrants hailing from war-torn and disaster-struck regions. When Temporary Protected Status ended for Salvadorans in 1992 during the Clinton administration, so did her son's hope for residency. Grandfathered into the system, Perla was granted asylum in 1996 under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. By the time she finally got her green card in 2003, her son was no longer a minor, and thus a low priority for the US Citizenship and Immigra-

“While the Congressmen are fighting, the Latin American community takes to the streets so they know we are here.”

A MARCH IN OCTOBER Tuesday, Oct. 8: the day of the immigration march. Earlier that week, the Obama administration had announced it would open the occasion. Perla takes the 11:15 a.m. bus to 12th street and Independence Avenue. She walks past rows of American elm trees, past bearded men wielding signs equating immigrants with sin and toward a collage of flags, colors and smiling faces. In the otherwise quiet morning on the National Mall, chants swell in Spanish and English, breaking the morning air. In her CARECEN shirt, she scans the crowd. All around her are the logos and signs of organizations. But the CARECEN shirts distributed one week before are nowhere to be found. The clock strikes noon and Nancy Pelosi takes the stage, a miniscule figure under the “Camino Americano” banner. “The blood of immigrants runs through all our veins,” Pelosi shouts into the microphone, stoking cheers and whistles from the crowd. Perla makes her way past TV reporters and cameramen, toward the left side of the stage. Still, no one.

tion Services. “I'm still waiting to find out if my son will get his residency status… He has always been waiting, to come legally,’’ she says. “He has never wanted to come the way the majority of them come to this country. He never wanted that.”

But then, just as Pelosi descends in time for a photo-op, and as the host announces the next band, she spots them: a small group of white shirts with bright orange letters behind the jumbotron. There in the middle, a sign reads “CARECEN.” She sees the smiling faces of the center’s staffers, volunteers, and community members. As the Mexican band, Los Tigres del Norte, bellow their famous ballad “De Paisano a Paisano,” she joins them.

A PRICE TOO HIGH Though safeguarding American jobs for Americans is an imperative, all too often tax-paying workers are estranged from their families as a result of dated policy. After he turned 21, Francisco Perla idled in the backwaters of the immigration pool. Now 31, his best chance at coming to the United States is through employer-based preference, a tightly bound system where supply at the current quota rate has no chance, nor intention, of meeting demand. The US quota for H1 visas, or visas for high skilled workers, capped out after five days last fiscal year. H2B visas, for which Francisco is eligible, have had similar outcomes in four of the last ten years. But

Como el águila en vuelo Como la fiera en celo Desafiando fronteras Defendiendo el honor He pasado la vida Explorando otras tierras

Like the eagle in flight Like the beast in heat Defying borders Defending honor, I’ve spent my life Exploring new lands

Para darles a mis hijos Un mañana mejor.

To give to my sons, A better tomorrow. •

Jimmy Hoover is a senior studying spanish and journalism.





THE DISTRICT AT ITS HEIGHT By Evan Mills At 169 meters, the Washington Monument is by far the tallest structure in the District of Columbia. It is the first thing visitors see driving north on I-395 into Washington and it's clearly visible from almost anywhere in the city. It is a symbol and a landmark of our capital city. It dominates our horizon. Passed in 1910, the Height of Buildings Act created a limit of 130 feet on all buildings in the District. Allegedly the law was created to reinforce Thomas Jefferson's vision of the nation's capital as "an American Paris," with low slung buildings.

Ever-present construction frames the Capitol Dome.


The monument dominates the downtown DC skyline and remains lit as offices close up for the evening.

The specific laws are dense, but the fact remains that no building in DC is anywhere near as tall as the Washington Monument, and most are dwarfed even by the Capitol Dome. Endless blocks of rowhouses and low lying art deco apartments line the narrow streets and give Washington its distinct character. The building height restriction has shaped the layout of this city and gives DC a very unique and low profile. As housing costs continue to soar and rent becomes more and more impossible for average citizens to meet, the height restriction becomes increasingly contested. The question remains: Has the time come to open the door for upward growth in Washington?

Evan Mills is a sophomore studying film and media arts.






By Lori McCue // Infographic by Kade Freeman

Twenty-year-old Ascher Thomas asks that you use plural gender pronouns to refer to them. And today, they’re so angry. Their slight frame shifts in their seat as they pull their hands out of the pockets of their loose fitting jeans, tucking their feet, clad in fashionably over-sized sneakers, under the couch. Thomas fidgets with their short braided hair, visibly struggling to get their thoughts out. They can barely articulate their rage at the situation of Private Chelsea Manning, the army whis-

“People internalize the message that it's acceptable to treat trans women like this: to call people the wrong name or deliberately use the wrong pronoun.”

tleblower vilified by the media after her announcement in August that she is transgender. Though her gender was assigned male at birth, she identifies as female. “No one gets to say, ‘Oh, since you’re not a real girl yet, I don’t have to change how I refer to you, because you still look like a man,’” Thomas says, referring to news outlets, such as CNN, that have continued to call the private “Bradley Manning.” The network says that its policy is to use masculine pronouns because Manning “has not yet taken any steps toward gender transition through surgery or hormone replacement,” according to Emanuella Grinberg’s article entitled “Chelsea or Bradley Manning: Addressing Transgender People.” Manning announced her gender identity just one day after being sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for espionage, theft and computer fraud for leaking Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield documents. News organizations were divided on how to refer to Manning in the days that followed: the Huffington Post began using female gender pronouns in all of its coverage immediately, while NPR waited a day after Manning’s announcement to use the name Chelsea. A 2011 survey conducted by the Williams Institute in California reveals that there are 700,000 Americans who identify as transgender. This growing community has forced the media to evaluate how it terms and names these subjects, whose gender identities may not be apparent. And while transgender characters have appeared more frequently in entertainment programming—such as transgender actress Laverne Cox’s character in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and Alex Newell as the transgender character Unique on Glee—many say the media’s refusal to acknowledge Manning’s preferred gender identity diminishes the growing visibility of the transgender community. “You’re speaking over others whose voices need to be heard,” Thomas says, “and you’re just being a jerk.” Some of the coverage of Manning since her coming out has been insensitive at the very least. FOX News Channel’s morning show, Fox & Friends, for example, teased an Aug. 27 segment about Manning with the Aerosmith song “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” xoJane’s social justice editor s.e. smith (whose name is stylized using lowercase letters) says the response to Manning is proof that transphobia is alive and well in journalism.


“People internalize the message that it’s acceptable to treat trans women like this: to call people the wrong name or deliberately use the wrong pronoun,” smith says. “In the more immediate sense as a tribute to our transphobic society, they enable things like harassment and sexual assault of trans women in their gender identities.” smith identifies as genderqueer, and uses the personal pronoun “ou.” In July, the blog Gawker picked up a story smith wrote about cultural appropriation of yoga and misgendered the author by using feminine pronouns in its post, “Should Atheists Be Allowed to Do Yoga?” When xoJane’s media team reached out to correct the error, Gawker published their emails below the blog post with a sarcastic, “Okay.” In a July 10 Slate article titled, tellingly, “What is a ‘Preferred Gender Pronoun,’ and Is It Always Obnoxious?” J. Bryan Lowder commented, “There is something self-defeating about expecting the world to essentially read and sign a disclaimer before engaging with you, especially when the situation is impersonal.” But a growing segment of youth seems to agree that this gesture of common courtesy is important for this more malleable definition of gender. In a June 2012 survey of 10,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17 conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, respondents were asked to identify as male, female or transgender, or to fill in their alternative gender. As reported by Ruth Tam in The Washington Post, 1,000 chose transgender, and about 600 wrote in an array of alternative responses, from “gender neutral” to “gender fluid.” Fluid gender identity may be gaining mainstream acceptance among young people, but to the rest of the country, transgender identities might be a new idea. smith says journalists have a special responsibility to be accurate with their reporting of these communities. “Media and pop culture are often the primary introduction to the very concept of ‘transness,’ and oftentimes the information is presented irresponsibly,” smith says. Complicating the issue is the fact that Chelsea Manning—a woman recently convicted of committing crimes against the United States—presents a problematic standard bearer for the transgender community. Sarah McBride, special assistant for LGBT progress at

the Center for American Progress and a transgender woman, cautions against making judgment calls against these two different parts of Manning’s identity. “I think this gives us an opportunity to show that trans people are just as complicated as non-transgender people,” McBride says. “The moment that we allow a person’s actions to warrant disrespectful treatment and the removal of their identity, we acknowledge that everyone’s identity is therefore entirely contingent on their actions, and you remove that person’s agency and the agency of the entire trans community.”

be such a difficult hurdle to clear; it simply requires the journalist to remain attentive during the interview process. A journalist’s craft is dedicated to details—to disregard gender identity is to neglect the facts of the story. “Ideally, every journalist would check by directly asking a subject’s correct gender pronouns,” smith says. “Especially when preparing any kind of story on a subject that relates to trans activism, journalists have a particular obligation to be careful, because they’re more likely to be working in a community where nontraditional pronouns are much more common.”

Angie Chuang is a former race and ethnicity reporter at the Oregonian and a journalism professor at American University. She says the current confusion over how to term the transgender community is not unlike older debates on terminology for ethnic communities. “In general, mainstream journalism does not adapt well to things

“I think [Chelsea Manning] gives us an opportunity to show that trans people are just as complicated as non-transgender people.”

that are new and unfamiliar,” Chuang says. “Unfortunately national news media has not had a lot of experience writing about transgender people. This is a very new thing—especially compared with other groups that the news media has struggled with representing.” Indeed, evidence exists that transgender people have been around for as long as cisgender people (those whose gender identity corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth). Use of preferred gender pronouns grew more widespread in the 1990s when writers like Judith Butler in her book Gender Trouble and Kate Bornstein in her book Gender Outlaw problematized the assumption of universal or inherent genders. Regardless, many journalists seem to agree that the media is not ready to embrace nontraditional gender pronouns yet. It may be some time before s.e. smith’s preferred “ou” and Ascher Thomas’s “they” find their way into journalism. smith says it has to do with a sort of trauma cisgender people feel when asked to confirm their gender. “They’re offended at the idea that someone doesn’t want to make assumptions based on gender,” smith says. “Many cisgender people are made uncomfortable with the fact that trans people exist, and they want to live in a world where gender is uncomplicated. Obviously in a world where gender is multi-faceted, on a spectrum, that’s

Sensitive reporting about transgender people and those who identify outside the gender binary is the first step toward removing the stigma associated with these groups. Chuang says the second step is bringing these communities into the newsroom. “I think having some more ‘out’ transgender journalists will help,” Chuang says. “It would also be nice if there was somebody who had firsthand knowledge, [so] when you’re faced with these kind of questions so you could say, ‘I’m struggling with this whole pronoun thing, can you help me out?’” Thomas admits that fluid gender identity is a hard concept for some people to comprehend. They grow quiet, gesturing with their hands as though literally trying to grasp their thoughts. “There’s not always a way to convey what [gender] you want other people to perceive, because what you convey might not match up with what they see,” Thomas says finally. “But the most important thing is that no one but me gets to decide if I’m taking the appropriate steps in my gender expression.” •

not going to be the case. So the result is people tend to lash out.” Ensuring accuracy and respect in reporting about transgender people and those who identify outside the gender binary shouldn't

Lori McCue is a senior studying journalism. She is editor-in-chief of AWOL.


of 102 epipsodes of television featuring transgendered characters between 2002-2012 61% of episodes used anti-transgender language

40% cast as “victim”

21% cast as villian/killer



20% cast as sex workers

considered fair, accurate, groundbreaking problematic

-good portrayal

in the 2013-2014 television season, there was... transgender character on broadcast transgender character on cable transgender character on streaming


54% contained negative representations

Source: GLAAD




minimum wage, considering the movement's significant historic role in improving the lives of workers. Over the years, critics of raising the minimum wage to meet a more “living wage” standard have argued that it eliminates low wage jobs when small businesses cut costs by firing employees. This claim, however, is an unreliable. In its attempt to raise the minimum wage, the Large Retailers Accountability Act tried to bypass any mention of small businesses and direct the legislation at those unduly benefitting from a depressed minimum wage—big corporations.


THE BARE MINIMUM By Linda Nyakundi // Illustration by Ellyse Stauffer

The fact that Wal-Mart has repeatedly found itself in this position is indicative of a larger economic struggle: low-wage workers propel large corporations to sky-high profits while earning barely enough to survive. As a result, efforts by public officials have shifted from merely raising the minimum wage to attempts to force large retailers who employ the majority of America’ s lowest paid workers to raise wages.

This past September marked the end of The Large Retailers Accountability Act of 2013, known alternatively as both DC’s living-wage bill and the “Wal-Mart Bill.” The bill, passed by an 8-to-5 vote, was an attempt by the DC City Council to raise DC’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $12.50 for large retailers like Walmart and Target

A look at the numbers only emphasizes the importance of holding corporations like Wal-Mart accountable. A report by the National Employment Law Project found that 66% of low-wage workers are employed, not by small businesses, but rather by large corporations in a strong financial position.

The legislation named “large companies” as those with at least one billion dollars in revenue and stores at least 75,000 square feet in size. However, some saw the bill as a specific attack on Wal-Mart’s imminent plans to open stores in the District, and Mayor Gray vetoed the bill.

In fact, with a workforce of 1.4 million people, Wal-Mart is the largest low-wage employer in the nation, just beating out McDonald's and Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. That workforce helped deliver $469 billion in revenue for the company in fiscal year 2013. These high profits are made by a highly productive and effective low wage workforce, which is why the legislation was an essential step in making sure that the exploitation of workers by large corporations is not protected by the minimum wage.

“The bill is not a true living-wage bill because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce,” Gray explained in a letter written to the council following his veto. His sentiments mirrored those of Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo, who repeatedly spoke out against the LRAA as ineffective public policy. In a letter to the editor of Georgetown’s The Hoya, Restivo wrote, “the legislation does not create a level playing field and imposes arbitrary costs on only a handful of businesses in DC That’s bad public policy.” Wal-Mart waged a strong campaign against the bill, creating the advocacy group Don’t Block DC Progress to petition for support. After the council passed the bill, the company even went as far as halting plans to open three stores in the District. The Mayor’s veto set back into motion the company’s plans to expand into DC. But what Mayor Gray failed to realize by defeating this bill is that it offered a rare opportunity to endorse and enforce a policy that requires large corporations—including big box stores like Wal-Mart—to treat its workers in an ethical manner by paying them a fair wage to live on. Timothy Noah, journalist and author of The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, has spent years covering ever-increasing income inequality in the United States and cites the lack of upward mobility for low wage workers as key component of this growing divide. He says that the decline of the labor movement is partly to blame for the inaction or lack of momentum in raising the


This was not the first time Wal-Mart waged a minimum wage battle with a major city. In 2006, the corporation similarly threatened to abandon plans to build stores in Chicago when the city council voted to force big retail companies to pay employees $10 an hour with benefits. Former Mayor Richard Daley stepped in and vetoed the measure. As of this year, Wal-Mart has nine stores in Chicago.

“Just paying rent, putting groceries on the table, paying for quality daycare for their kids is a virtual impossibility for a parent earning the minimum wage in the DC region.”

Large corporate detractors argue that increases in the minimum wage would force businesses to cut their payrolls and reduce employment opportunities. Wal-Mart employees currently earn on average $8.81 per hour—28 percent less than those who work for other large retailers. Compare this amount to its rival retail chain Costco, which on average pays its employees $21.96, yet somehow still manages to make a profit. The myth that requiring Wal-Mart to pay $12.50 would hurt its bottom line is nonsensical. Established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the minimum wage was meant to ensure the welfare of workers with a baseline wage

of 25 cents. Since its inception the minimum wage rate has been raised 22 times, but in that time it has failed to keep up with the cost of living. While the minimum wage rose from $1.60 to $7.25 between 1968 and 2009, its real purchasing power decreased due to inflation. When adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage fell from $10.70 to $7.90. As a result, minimum wage has become less of a tool to ensure the welfare of workers and more of a means for enforcing and maintaining greater income inequality. What once strived to serve as a “living wage,” it has become nothing but a guarantee of the bare minimum. At the moment, the only city to have made some noticeable strides is San Francisco, with the highest mandated minimum wage in the country ($10.55). This is illustrative of where the minimum wage debate has been stuck—at the super localized level. In his State of the Union speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that the minimum wage should be increased and indexed to the cost of living. Additionally, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller have introduced legislation to establish a new minimum wage of $10.10, a number in line with a study by the Center for American Progress that advocates a minimum wage of one half of the average income.

“Low-wage workers propel large corporations to sky-high profits while earning barely enough to survive.”

Karla Walter, associate director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, thinks large retailers have the power to raise wage and benefit standards in D.C. and across the nation and must do so. “Its extremely important that large retail employers pay family-supporting wages and benefits,” Walter says. “Currently, many retail workers struggle to afford even the basics. Just paying rent, putting groceries on the table, paying for quality daycare for their kids is a virtual impossibility for a parent earning the minimum wage in the DC region.” This refusal to pay a living wage has placed quite the burden on workers and even public programs. A report by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that workers at a single 300-employee Walmart Supercenter store rely on almost $1 million in public benefits. The report found that workers at a Wisconsin Walmart had to turn to state welfare programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunch programs, and Section 8 housing and others due to low wages and benefits. The current state of the minimum wage further punishes hard-working Americans as they put in many hours but receive little returns—all while the major low-wage employers enjoy record profits. Conditions such as these are why legislation like the LRAA is not arbitrary but necessary in ensuring that workers can not only survive but also thrive. •



umans and animals share a unique relationship of mutual companionship, making pet therapy and service animals extremely effective. The psychological component of animal therapy provides benefits most standard therapies do not offer. Patients of all ages are reaping the benefits of therapy animals' intelligence and ability to empathize. According to Psychology Today, having pets make an individual healthier in general. Pet owners are at lower risk of heart attack, and on average live longer than people without pets. Dog owners also tend to walk farther, improving mental wellness, blood pressure and more. And as pet lovers can attest, animals just make us happier: A study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that petting a dog can release a number of hormones that are responsible for positive feelings, including serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. Today, many different animals are being used for pet therapy. While dogs, cats and horses were traditionally chosen, birds, fish, and even dolphins have been used as well. These different animals are used in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, farms, and even college campuses. Here in Washington, DC, we have some organizations that offer pet therapy locally. The Children's Inn on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is the home of Viola, a yellow Labrador Retriever that lives at the Children’s Inn and provides pet therapy to the patients and families. Viola, better known as Vi, is a retired Seeing Eye dog that joined the team of doctors in 2008, after passing the Delta Certification test for Certified Animal-Assistant Therapy Dogs. Vi was donated by Mars, Inc., along with a lifetime supply of dog food and veterinary care expenses, allowing her to continue to lift the spirits of children receiving treatments at the Inn. As well as offering comfort and companionship, these therapeutic approaches can teach lessons in responsibility and friendship. Animals can even alert high risk individuals living alone of impending seizures or diabetic related problems. Another local establishment exploring new kinds of animal therapy is the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program in Clifton, Virginia. NVTRP works with a team of trained therapists and horses and specializes in hippotherapy, a form of physical and speech therapy guided by horses. Horses have unique personalities, allowing the therapist to choose the perfect horse to fit the patient’s needs and objectives. A pony will best allow the therapist to utilize a hands-on-patient approach to work on balance and spatial awareness. A stubborn horse can teach an individual crucial lessons in patience. A gentle horse can provide a patient with improved self image and communicative skills. Raising public awareness is crucial to continue to promote funding for these important therapies. There is endless evidence of the value of pet related therapies and the benefits they can provide for many diverse populations and disorders. -Nadine Rotundo

Linda Nyakundi is a senior studying political science. She is a staff editor for AWOL.






The U Street Historic District has widely been considered the center of DC's music and art scene as far back as the 1920s. The area extending from 9th St. to 18th St. and Florida Avenue has acted as a breeding ground for creation and individualism in Washington for decades. Looking through the eyes of local artists gives context to the impact the jazz and street art movements continue to have on the District of Columbia.

A mural in the U Street metro station celebrates the DC jazz scene.


Insightful words of Le Corbusier stand out on Florida Avenue, near the U Street historic district.

Tyler Berg is a freshman studying journalism.





FARHANG ERFANI By Alexa Marie Kelly // Photo by Rain Freeman

Professor Farhang Erfani teaches philosophy at American University. Born and raised in Iran, Erfani and his family fled the country during the Iranian Revolution, forced out as exiles. They lived in France before moving to the US to open a French bakery, Le Caprice DC in Columbia Heights. Erfani studies and teaches about the philosophy of Iranian film. He explains that because of the country’s “barbaric” censorship, women cannot be touched on-screen. Since laws regarding children are less restrictive, Iranian directors often rely on child actors to portray

There are shoes... That’s right.

complicated situations.

What was it like, growing up and leaving [Iran]?

So do you have a particular example from a film that has sparked these kind of discussions?

The way I left...I was about nine, so it’s been a while. Some of my first memories are of the Iranian Revolution and being on my father’s shoulders, just seeing the sea of people and seeing the society turn upside down. My parents were lawyers, and they refused to practice the Islamic law that they found unfair, so they were disbarred and eventually became dissidents and exiled. Like all other exiles, they were literally shooting at us as we were fleeing the country. When you leave on those terms, there’s always a sense that you can’t look back. Iran always stays

The one that we use at the beginning of the semester is called Children of Heaven, and it’s about a brother and sister who end up sharing one pair of shoes because they lost one, and they actually schedule in a way that one wears the pair of shoes then comes home, the other one gets to wear it. Even though it’s a brother and sister they become a proxy of


a husband and wife practically, that have to organize their lives around conditions that exist in order to make life work. A lot of it in film theory, or philosophy of film, is about is the situation believable? For you to start saying, 'I’m putting myself in their shoes.' There is a gap there with the children. You don’t get to say, ‘Oh yeah, when I was eight I did that too.' So it forces you to force yourself to identify with them because you know what they’re trying to do. So it’s more than suspension of disbelief. But it challenges the commonplace assumption that in order for identification to work, that you need to have something that’s readily recognizable as ‘normal.’ Well this is evidently not the case. As in, the assumption that in order for you to believe it, you say, ‘I’m kind of like this.’ You have to put yourself in their shoes. And I picked that in part because literally...

there for me because it’s a not a sense that I left that behind. We were forced out.

So you consider yourself part of that second wave (of immigrants)? I would be in a sense because I was not kicked out as an adult but as a child. So it’s different, but my consciousness was shaped by that experience. My parents will only say they’re Iranian. At best, I would say Iranian American, but without the hyphen. The hyphen has a fusion that I don’t sense. A gluing together of the two.

opening, and it’s, you know, it’s been I want to say just as hard as I expected but harder. It’s wonderful because it’s home. I didn’t see them except for visits for many many years, and then now they live a block away, and I get to see them daily.

Do you bake? Thankfully, no. It’s better for the bakery if I don’t, and there are enough other tasks at which I’m better suited than baking.

Such as? What about French, do you consider yourself French at all? I have citizenship, but no. France is always part of me in a sense. The French language very much is part of me. I read it daily. It was a country where I spent about a third of my life, so it’s important to me. In France, they have what they call the law of assimilation. They have no hyphens. You are purely French. Regardless of what you do, they remind you that you’re not it. So the forms of racism and dis-

“I would say [I'm] Iranian American, but without the hyphen. The hyphen has a fusion that I don't sense. A gluing together of the two.”

crimination were overwhelming. Here you just take it as a fact of life, and you deal with it. There it was crushing. Because there was no real future.

What sort of things did you face there? Oh all kinds of discrimination, but the issue was actually the future. As in, I could have never become a university professor there. Or almost impossible.

Tell me a little about your bakery. Actually it goes with the same identity issue. The bakery was a family dream nearly two decades in the making. At the end of high school, when I came to the US, the idea was they would follow not long after. My brother came to the US; my sister then moved, but [my parents] still weren’t done in France. They had a tiny little business. It wasn’t a bakery, and my mother always liked being a baker. She was always a good amateur one so she started training there.

What was their business? Just a small retail shop in northeast France, and by the time they could sell it and come here, it turned out to be 2009. It was 14 years after I came. It was supposed to be almost immediately after I came. Even when it came to looking for jobs after grad school, I only looked for big cities, not only for my own sake but because I knew sooner or later this bakery would come, and I needed to be in a place where it could support a bakery of this kind, and DC was perfect for it in some ways. When they came, it took another two years before the

All the dealing with the world outside the kitchen. Starting from building the website, being there to deal with vendors, anything that it takes. And just helping like going to do the big wholesale shopping to going to lift the 50 pound bags of flour. Because if it’s not me my father does it, and during the school year he does most of it, cause I don’t have as much time. My students come there all the time.There’s a long standing tradition of philosophy in cafes. The French like that. That part of France I like. I like students. This is what I love about AU most. I would never trade this student body for anything else I ever had.

Why are we the best? I would say these students may not be at times on paper the most interesting, but they are always the most interested students I’ve ever seen. The issue is not, who are you already? Because that’s why you’re in college, you got to form that. What I found amazing about AU is that they are interested in everything. So if you pitch it right, they will go as far as possible. There have been times when I thought, okay, they are just going to start throwing books at me because it’s too hard. But I kept raising the bar, and I’m floored by how students follow everything. For me in a sense philosophy saved my life because when I was a refugee, I was so confused. I grew up on Erfani Street. That’s how privileged we were. Going from there to being a refugee and lost in camps, it’s a long journey. When everybody was in absolute agony and pain of exile, my parents asked questions, and we didn’t have answers but they kept asking questions, and asking questions even though there are no answers. A lot of other people I grew up with, other very intelligent people my age, or who would be my age, many of them didn’t survive the experience, and I recognize that I am unusually lucky for a refugee. Days that I teach I wear black, not as in mourning, but as a remembrance of all the other ones who were as smart if not smarter than me but didn’t make it. So it humbles me. It sort of brings me back to the obligation or I survived it. I got so lucky. It is the cliché that the journey matters, not the destination, but for me it was truly the space that allowed me to work through not knowing who I am anymore. I never think of it as, “This is abstract and not practical.” It was the most practical thing for me in the world. It saved my life. In Iran, it is considered one of the highest pursuits. Here it’s sometimes been dismissed. I don’t get it. • Alexa Marie Kelly is a sophomore stuying public communication. She is AWOL's web editor. WWW.AWOLAU.ORG » FALL 2013


AMERICAN WAY LIFE MAGAZINE AMERICAN WAY OFOF LIFE MAGAZINE The architecture of the Anacostia Community Museum is inspired by the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and African kente cloth.



By Chloe Johnson // Photo by Rain Freeman

Across the Anacostia River lies the leastknown Smithsonian museum. For years, this small, isolated museum was one of the only branches of the Smithsonian dedicated to the African American experience. Since its founding in 1967, the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture has been unique. Then, in 2003, the federal government broke ground on a much bigger venture—the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The project soon began amassing new collections, exhibits and a multi-million dollar facility on the National Mall. The Smithsonian suddenly had two very similar branches. "They couldn't have two museums with the same mission," Anacostia Museum Director Camille Akeju said. So, in 2007, Anacostia’s museum changed its name to something significantly less ambitious: The Anacostia Community Museum. Ever since, it has turned its gaze inward. The museum's driving force also shrank in a thematic sense: It is no longer the "Center" for black history and culture. Now the museum seeks to tell urban and African American stories, "from a community perspective," according to Akeju. The museum’s director, however, remains optimistic about the new direction. "It's not often that a museum gets to reinvent itself," Akeju said. "We have to stay true to the community we're housed in." The museum’s revamped mission seeks to connect the issues facing Anacostia with issues in urban areas worldwide.


similar issues of pollution in rivers around the world. Pittsburgh, London and Shanghai are all included. “These are contemporary issues that resonate through the world,” Akeju said. “It lets people know that other communities are going through the same thing.” The ACM is the only museum in the Smithsonian system that runs year-round elementary education programs. In conjunction with its last exhibition, the program took local elementary and middle schoolers to clean up the Anacostia riverbed and learn about environmental science. For its next exhibition on beadwork in South Africa, children will focus on the arts. The museum also runs various preservation programs, including an ongoing project to record the oral histories of surrounding residents. And yet for all these services, it sometimes seems as though the value of the ACM is ignored. Akeju said resources, space and staff are all tight. “[The ACM] has a lot of potential that isn’t being used,” said Kathryn Gillon, an AU student and former ACM intern. Gillon believes that some of these problems stem from the museum’s location: “It’s just really inaccessible.”

Most recently, the museum connected with the community through its exhibition "Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement." The exhibition mainly focused on the Anacostia River, tracing the ways that surrounding communities have "used and abused" its resources, Akeju said.

The museum is a 15 minute drive from the nearest metro station, or about a half hour walk. Additionally, it is nestled among houses, in a site that Akeju calls “beautiful,” but not as practical as, say, the National Mall.

In connecting the local community to the outside world, the exhibition also mentions

Furthermore, the resources available to visitors are not widely advertised, Gillon said.

“There’s a free shuttle from the Mall on weekends,” Gillon said. “Nobody knows about it.” In this way, despite its best efforts, the museum reflects the most unfortunate aspects of its neighborhood. The ACM suffers from the same lack of services and infrastructure as Anacostia itself. Transportation in the area is so scarce that visitors can have a hard time catching a cab to or from the museum. “There’s no economic incentive to go over the [Anacostia] river because drivers think they won’t get a fare back,” Akeju said. “It’s ridiculous; plenty of people in Southeast would like to take a cab, but they can’t because there are never any around.” Gillon agreed that while the museum does provide a lot of resources, “a lot can be done to make it better.” “What we need to do is re-brand ourselves and then get the word out,” Akeju said. But the process won’t be easy. Money is tight. Akeju explained that the museum requires “about two or three big donors that really believe in the mission of the museum.” ACM’s new mission provides a chance for it to rise to the prominence of other Smithsonian institutions. The museum sits far from the center of the city, the Mall and the soonto-be-opened NMAAHC. For now, it will continue to serve its neighborhood, but in the future its influence may grow. “There is such an opportunity for this museum,” Akeju said. •

Chloe Johnson is a sophomore studying journalism.


Cemetery Supervisor John Shackelford on site at Ohev Sholom Cemetery


John Shackelford has been the supervisor at Ohev Sholom Cemetery for 15 years. The 73-year-old Anacostia native mostly ignored my questions about his experiences at the cemetery and instead chose to enlighten me—a 20-something aspiring journalist who apparently need some guidance—with life advice.

1. Living a “street life” ain’t so glamorous. “Living the street life supposedly teaches you how to ‘do people.’ Look around: All you’ll be doing is time.”

2. Be honest. Always. “An exciting truth will always go farther than an exciting lie.”

3. History is not dead. Appreciate it. “There are a lot of books on Anacostia that might tickle your funny bone… There’s a lot of history out here in Southeast, and a lot of these youngsters don’t know nothing.”

4. Any time you can get a family together, it’s a blessing.

6. Think about being an accountant. “If you find out you’re not cut out for [journalism], think about being an accountant.”

7. Have kids, and have them now. “Right now as a young [person], you do you and start gettin’ to the spot. But pretty soon you’re gonna have to start raising your kids – you gotta do your eight hours at work and come home.”

8. Don’t sacrifice your love off the game for more money. “These guys makin’ all this money, they don’t seem to be playin.’ I mean, really playin.’ They’ve got no heart in the game and it’s not about winning anymore. Now, it’s about come the 15th or the 30th of the month, they have a check waitin’ in the bank.”

9. You need three kinds of education: school, religion and home upbringing. “No education, ain’t nothing left for you.”

“Every time my family gets together for the holidays, we roll in with a rented bus and everything.”

10. Ghosts aren’t real, but spirits are.

5. Don’t settle for jobs in construction, landscaping or janitorial services.

“A ghost is something you can see in your awakened life, some image coming out of some mud hole in the ground. I haven’t seen one of those yet. But a spirit – that’s something you feel. Kinda like what we’re doing now. You feel a spirit when you can relate to somebody.” •

“Any young person take a job like this… well, there’s something he can do better. And if he does come around, Imma work the hell out of him.”

(After Shackelford's 15 years of working in a cemetery, I had to ask.)

Maya Kosover is a senior studying print journalism






AWOL - Issue 014  

AWOL | Fall 2013 | Issue 014

AWOL - Issue 014  

AWOL | Fall 2013 | Issue 014